Ohio offers travel options

Bethany Jones

Stuart Miller, Mike’s Place dishwasher of 18 years, stands in front of the Star Wars X-Wing Fighter Plane which has been there since 1997. The X-Wing Fighter made Roadside Ameria’s list of neat attractions. ALLIEY BENDER | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

While many students are about to head to a variety of Spring Break hot spots, others will be left behind, depressed about another cold break in Ohio.

Those students should not lose hope yet. There are some affordable options that could help occupy their time.

Why not hop in the car with a camera and some friends and check out some of the attractions Ohio has to offer.

Roadsideamerica.com lists 291 offbeat tourist attractions in Ohio alone.

Not a lot of time?

For those who are short on travel time, there are still places to visit within an hour of campus.

Start out in Kent, which makes the list of towns on www.roadsideamerica.com because of the Star-Wars X-Wing Fighter plane outside of Mike’s Place.

Mike Kostensky, owner of Mike’s Place, said he did not even know his restaurant was on the list of tourist attractions.

He said he and some friends built the X-Wing Fighter in his barn in Brimfield out of anything they could find, including beer kegs. It took a couple months and was finished in 1997. He said it cost a couple thousand dollars to build.

“They say there’s a dead chicken in there somewhere,” he said.

Kostensky said a lot of tourists stop by the restaurant, and he has a variety of license plates that have been left behind.

He said for a while people kept leaving teddy bears inside the X-Wing. He has no idea why, and said he now keeps it locked.

About 45 minutes away in Cleveland is the world’s largest rubber stamp on Lakeside Avenue. It sits two blocks from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, which is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, and until 9 p.m. of Wednesdays. Tickets are $20 for adults, and visitors can call and get information on a $2 discounted parking rate.

While in Cleveland, people can stop by Lake View Cemetery on Euclid Avenue to see the monument and final resting place of James Garfield. His crypt holds his remains along with his wife.

The monument of John Davison Rockefeller and the grave of Eliot Ness are also at this historic cemetery. Gates are open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and the Garfield monument is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day.

In Alliance, about an hour southeast of Cleveland, and 40 minutes from Kent, is one of the world’s largest non-edible hot dog. The 30-ft steel hot dog weighs over 1,000 pounds and sits atop the Waaa Daa Hot Dog Shoppe. While the restaurant is no longer open, the hot dog still brings visitors to the city.

Central Ohio

People with a little more travel time can head toward Central Ohio for some great picture opportunities.

The Mansfield Reformatory, which closed in 1991, sits about an hour and half away. It has the world’s largest freestanding cell blocks. The movie Shawshank Redemption was filmed at the reformatory along with the Godsmack music video “Awake” and the Lil’ Wayne music video “Go DJ.”

While prison tours do not resume until May, it may be worth the stop just to see the structure.

The reformatory, which is said to be one of the most haunted places in Ohio, also offers overnight ghost tours. For more information go to http://www.mrps.org.

Continue to head down south and travelers will arrive in Columbus, which is home to world’s first Wendy’s, built in 1969.

Sydney Williams, manager of the Wendy’s, said the restaurant is full of memorabilia including a small section of the original dining area.

“We have people that come from all over the country to get pictures taken here,” he said.

In Dublin, a suburb of Columbus, awaits a cement cornfield. The half-acre has more than 100 ears of 6-foot-tall corn. They sit in the lawn of the Witco Corporation, a chemical manufacturer.

In Newark, about 40 miles east of Columbus, sits the world’s largest basket. It is the headquarters of The Longaberger Basket Company, which stands 7-stories tall. It is open for free tours Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. The basket weavers get off work by 2 p.m, so be sure to get there early if basket weaving is of interest.

To check out another large basket, try the village of Dresden in Muskingum County, about 80 miles outside of Columbus. It was Longaberger’s original headquarters, and still has a basket the size of a house. The lobby is available for viewing.

In West Liberty, about 45 miles west of Columbus, is the Ohio Caverns, best know for its pure white stalagmite formations. It is the largest cavern in Ohio, and it receives around 60,000 visitors a year, said general manager Eric Evans.

Tours are $10.50 per adult, and last about an hour. The cave has 30 steps at the entrance and 60 steps at the exit, but Evans said the mile walk is mostly level and easily accessible.

Evans said video cameras are not allowed, but flash photography is. He said reservations are not necessary. The caverns are open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Be sure to bundle up, the temperature stays at a constant 54 degrees year round.

Southern Ohio

Athens, in Southeastern Ohio, is rumored to be one the most haunted places in the world, and was shown on the Fox Family TV show “Scariest Places on Earth.”

Ohio University sits in the middle of this rural county. One of the most intriguing spots in Athens is the old insane asylum, known to many residents as The Ridges, which opened in 1874.

One of the most chilling tales is that of escaped mental patient Margaret Schilling. Her body was discovered on an abandoned top floor of the asylum several weeks after her escape. Her body had left an outline in the floor of the building. The indent in the floor still remains today. The Ridges was shut down in the 1980s but many residents believe Schilling and other patients still haunt the building. To learn more go to http://www.forgottenoh.com/Ridges/ridges.html.

Just north of Cincinnati in Monroe is said to be the world’s largest Jesus statue. The 62-foot Jesus protrudes from the front of Solid Rock Church, a non-denominational parish. Jesus, who has both arms raised toward the sky, comes with a 20-ft cross at his base. This larger-than-life statue overlooks I-75, and is easily visible.

Western Ohio

The world’s largest Campbell’s Soup Company plant is located in the rural town of Napoleon. On the side of the factory stands a gigantic can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup.

Be sure to check out the Allen County Museum in Lima. The museum, 170 miles from Kent, dedicates a small section to strange objects that have been swallowed by people.

Mary Ann Valentine, secretary at the museum, said the display has brought many tourists to the museum. She said buttons, pins, and part of a trach tube are just some of the items on display.

Tourists love the display but they also get swept up in the rest of the museum, she said.

If that museum is not bizarre enough, head over to the Wood County Historical Museum in Bowling Green where the fingers of a murdered woman are display in a glass jar. Mary Bach was murdered and dismembered by her husband in 1883. Three of her fingers were used as evidence in the trial. Other evidence from the trial is also on display at the museum.

Contact enterprise reporter Bethany Jones at [email protected].