Ohio activities

Among the list of Harry Birt's Store favorites are the maple peanut clusters.

Sweet tooth

A faded sign inside this Darke County institution proudly proclaims the store motto: “A balanced diet is chocolate in both hands.” Sweetness certainly comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors at Birt’s Store in the village of New Weston.

Birt’s grandfather, Harry Birt Sr., unwittingly started a family tradition in the 1920s when he added five cases of white peppermint lozenges, orange slices, and chocolate drops to his general store shelves. The candy arrived via caboose at a nearby train depot, but it was evident that crew members had sampled plenty along the way.

Staff members at Mad River Mountain work to ensure a great skiing and tubing experience for all who visit.

Mad River Mountain

When he was 12, John Buchenroth received a Christmas gift of $10, which was a considerable sum in 1962. It turned out to be a life-changing gift for the Bellefontaine youngster.

Mad River has been owned by Vail Resorts since 2019, when the Colorado-based company purchased all 17 properties previously owned by Peak Resorts, Inc., including three other Ohio resorts. Mad River isn’t the oldest resort in Ohio — Snow Trails in Mansfield opened a year earlier — but it lays claim to being the largest in the Buckeye State, covering 144 acres, with a peak elevation of 1,460 feet above sea level.

Owners Mike and Sharlene Montgomery stay in character while manning the saloon.

Back in time

Mosey down a dirt street, browse through old-time shops, watch a Wild West shootout, or belly up to the saloon bar for a cold sarsaparilla. You can do it all at Dogwood Pass near Beaver in rural Pike County.   

The saloon came first in 2010, and today more than 30 buildings occupy a 2-acre tract at the Montgomery farm. There’s a general store, a jail, a bank, a photography studio complete with vintage costumes, an undertaker, a shooting gallery, a blacksmith shop, a combination church/school, Boot Hill cemetery, and the Montgomery Mining Company, where young and old alike can mine for gems on certain days.

Malabar Farm hosts free, two-hour Haunted Hikes at dusk that take visitors along the lanes by the park’s restaurant, the Big House, the cemetery, and the Ceely Rose House (Photo courtesy of Malabar Farm).

Things that go bump in the night!

Just over a rise in scenic Richland County, Malabar Farm appears in the distance — a stately, historic (and sprawling) main house, rolling hills and fields, and an inviting white barn with horses grazing nearby.

The rural setting conjures up plenty of other eerie lore, cemented in long-dead legends and myths. As a matter of fact, Malabar Farm — now an Ohio state park — has been called one of the 10 most haunted places in America. That’s why park naturalists are resurrecting the popular Haunted Hikes this month: creepy, outdoor explorations of ghostly tales and whispered legends shared on three autumn Sundays. 

LEAKOIL invites its members and other owners of classic Volkswagen buses to gather, gawk, and gush over the classic cultural icons often associated with road-tripping, hippies, and the peace movement.

Kombi nation

Love of kombi is an affliction that runs deep and can span decades — ask anyone who suffers. Specifically, ask those who assemble at the Kelleys Island 4-H campground each autumn for LEAKOIL’s annual weekend camping event, Kombis on Kelleys.

Esquivel said there are disadvantages to owning an old bus, including the “old rust-bucket” itself (as she describes her 1972 camper) and the constant attention it requires. 

“People are always saying, ‘I love your car!’ and ‘Can I look inside?’” she says. “Of course, I always let them. And people offer to buy it all the time, too, but I would never sell it.”

Best friends Katie Helfrich, Kim Fulks, Stephanie Snee, Marella Murphy, Summery Rowlands, and Brittany Buch pose for pictures while embarking on a night out with Canton Food Tours.

Besties’ retreat

Like many moms whose children play sports in school, Kim Fulks of North Canton has formed close friendships with other moms just like her.

They embarked on a night out with Canton Food Tours, a service that local entrepreneur Barbara Abbott established a decade ago as a fun way to explore the city through its assorted eateries.

And as she lightly dips a spoon into a bowl of turtle soup at Bender’s Tavern, Fulks says she relished the opportunity to kick back without a game result, homeschooling chores, or the uncertainty of the pandemic to worry about.

Caches are hidden above ground. They can range from shoebox-sized containers to micro-caches a few inches long, but you’ll know what you’re looking for before you begin.

E-gaming in the outdoors

Geocaching — a smartphone version of hide-and-seek — turns GPS technology into a family-friendly game for getting outside.

When it was created 22 years ago, it was described as a “high-tech treasure hunt,” and though geocaching has evolved over the years, the basic premise remains the same. GPS coordinates are used to track down caches, or “treasure” hidden in containers. From the first cache hidden near Portland, Oregon, the number of caches has grown in two decades to well over 2 million worldwide, according to www.geocaching.com, the hobby’s worldwide coordinator. There’s sure to be a few near you right now.

Kalida Pioneer Days holds the distinction of being the oldest Ohio festival, dating back 150 years.

Something for everyone

Nothing says summertime more than festivals, and Ohioans are more than ready this year to pack up the wagon and picnic blankets and hit the town for a day of food, fun, and music — all in the name of community spirit and a good time.

Kalida Pioneer Days

Kalida Pioneer Days (Sept. 8–11) holds the distinction of being the oldest Ohio festival, dating back 150 years to the first meeting of the Putnam County Pioneer Association, now known as the Putnam County Historical Society. The event, now co-sponsored by the Kalida Lions Club and the Kalida Firemen’s Association, has become a homecoming of sorts, drawing folks by the thousands.

As a girl, Annie Oakley was a market hunter before she became a sharpshooter.

Little Sure Shot

The greatest exhibition shooter of all time — male or female — was a young woman from Darke County, Ohio: Annie Oakley (1860–1926).

“The museum has the largest display of Annie Oakley photographs, firearms, and memorabilia anywhere in the world,” says Katie Gabbard, marketing director at the Garst. “An entire wing is dedicated to her, chronicling Annie’s many shooting accomplishments as well as her lesser-known philanthropic endeavors.”

In fact, very few of Annie’s medals and awards survive today, as she had most of them melted down near the end of her life so she could raise money for charity.  

Young's Jersey Dairy

Cold and creamy

It's no surprise that Ohio ranks in the top 10 of ice cream-producing states. Its rural heritage provides a steady supply of the main ingredient — and several families through history began traditions that remain in place today.

Velvet Ice Cream

Utica, 1914

Immigrant Joseph Dager arrived in Ohio in 1903 and began making ice cream in Utica in 1914. Within two years, he was producing 200 gallons of ice cream every month, and the creamy, velvety texture inspired the name Velvet Ice Cream.

In 1960, an old grist mill became the company’s permanent home. Ye Olde Mill houses a turn-of-the-century ice cream parlor that opened in 1970 and welcomes 150,000 guests each year.