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Alicia Ritchey

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Autumn has arrived and it feels like Winter is just around the corner, but there’s still plenty of time to get out there and explore while the weather is mild. Here are a few options for a quick day trip or staycation.

1. Landoll’s Mohican Castle

This wooden castle, located in Loudonville, Ohio, evokes serious Game of Thrones vibes. Stay overnight in one of the eleven uniquely designed rooms and enjoy the Gordon Ramsay-approved menu at the Castle’s onsite restaurant. No, seriously, Hotel Hell made an appearance and turned this place around. Additionally, Mohican State Park is located a hop and skip away for you nature lovers.

2. Mansfield Reformatory

Tour the real-life setting of the classic film The Shawshank Redemption and learn the history behind the notorious Mansfield Reformatory. Summer tours are available daily from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. until September 1. Admission is $12 for self-guided tours, and $17 for guided tours on Sundays. Special discounts apply for students, seniors, and military. Ghost Hunts are also a seasonal option.

3. Gervasi Vineyard

Did you know Ohio has 268 wineries located throughout the state? One of my favorites is Gervasi Vineyard in Canton, Ohio, and though it’s perfect for a day trip, I would recommend booking a villa to spend the night. The vineyard offers tours, wine tastings, and the food at its Bistro cannot be missed. The sprawling grounds are stunning, and it’s basically feels you were magically transported to Tuscany.

4. Visit a local brewery

You can’t go wrong with Sunday Funday at Rockmill Brewery and BrewDog. Both have different vibes, but offer up tasty brews and lovely views east of Columbus. Pack a picnic for Rockmill or brunch it up at Brewdog, but since they’re only fifteen minutes apart, why not make it a twofer?

I am not the rugged sort. The most outdoorsy thing I do is drink on patios. Despite this, I still like to try things outside my comfort zone. I won’t be white-water rafting anytime soon, so I look for activities that are somewhere in-between.

An example of my communing with nature would be a recent visit to Olentangy Indian Caverns. Going 55-feet into the Earth makes me slightly nervous (fracking, anyone?), but these caverns are too awesome to ignore. First of all, they’re literally millions of years old. They were formed by the force of an underground river cutting through solid limestone rock which became the maze of beautiful winding passages they are today.

The caverns are also rich in Indian lore and history. There is evidence the Wyandotte Indians used these caverns as shelter from the elements and their rivals, the Delaware Indians. There’s even a “Council Chamber” believed to have been used for tribal ceremonies. Be sure not to miss the large, rock table that was used as the Council Table. Per the official website, the first white man believed to have entered the caverns was J. M. Adams, a member of a westbound wagon train that camped nearby in 1821. During the night, one of his oxen broke loose and wandered off. In the morning the ox was found dead at the bottom of the entrance to the ancient Indian cavern. After exploring the entrance, Adams carved his name and date on the wall. The carving still remains but is hard to see due to being partially covered by Flowstone.

But wait! There’s more! Various artifacts have been found in the caverns, such as tools for making arrows and other stone implements from as recent as 1810. These items were found when the caverns were opened, and some are on display in the Caverns Museum. It really feels like a maze down there, so grab a map, and follow the markers to Indian Lover’s Bench, Battleship Rock, The Crystal Room, and Fat Man’s Misery, which is a passage leading to Cathedral Hall and Bell Tower room…105-feet below the earth’s surface! Beyond are passages and rooms still unexplored. A fourth level where an underground river is flowing to the Olentangy River has been partially explored but not opened to the public.

A surprising element was the drop in temperature as I descended down into the cavern. It’s 54 degrees, so you might want to layer up. You should also wear appropriate shoes. I can attest, the natural condensation and moisture makes for a slippery bedrock. It can also be muddy, depending on weather, so leave the brand-new white shoes at home–unless you like to live dangerously, of course.

The caves aren’t the only thing you can do. There’s also gem mining, an animal encounter, mini golf, nature trails, a gift shop, and plenty of other outdoor activities.

There are also various events held throughout the year like yoga and special tours. Adventurous types should look into the new “flashlight tour” coming this fall. The main lights will be turned off(eep) and visitors will explore the caverns with provided flashlights. This tour will be offered every Saturday in September and October at 6:00 p.m., and children must be at least eight-years-old to participate. Online reservations are required, so claim yourself a space before it completely books up.

Olentangy Indian Caverns is located at 1779 Home Road, Delaware, OH, 43015. Hours are Monday through Sunday from  9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. through October 31. Admission is $9.95 for Adults (13 and up) , $6.95 for children (3 to 12 years old) , and children under two are free.

Listen. No judgement if you choose to spend the long, holiday weekend on the couch, but at some point, you’re going to need to stretch your legs…and I mean by leaving the house, not walking to the fridge. Summer is starting to wind down, so why not enjoy it while you can? Anyway, you have the whole winter to hibernate. Here are some ideas to get you going:

 

  • Travel the world on Sept. 1 without leaving Columbus with the Alt Eats Ethnic Food Tour presented by Columbus Food Adventures! This tour’s itinerary will introduce you to some of the best ethnic food in the city including Nigerian, Vietnamese sandwiches, Somali cuisine, Southern Indian food, and visit a Mexican Bakery. I’ve done a tour with this group before and wholeheartedly endorse them.
  • The 45th year of the Columbus Greek Festival runs Sept. 1-4 on the grounds of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral at the corner of High St. and Goodale Blvd. Gorge yourself on a gourmet food menu that includes moussaka, grape leaves, and cheese and spinach pies (tyropites and spanakopites), and favorites like gyros and souvlaki, and baklava sundaes(!). There will also be shopping, music, and more. Tickets are good for all four days of the festival ($5 general admission and $4 for senior citizens while children under 12 are free). In addition, all members of the military and their immediate families are invited as the Festival’s special guests the entire weekend with a military ID or other proof of service-active-duty.
  • Look, I’m not trying to be a jerk here, but summer is flying by at a fantastic speed. The season’s produce will only be around so much longer, so mosey over to Pearl Market on Friday, Sept. 1 to get your fill. It’s located in Pearl and Lynn Alleys next to the Rhodes Office Tower and has vendors slinging tasty eats, artisan wares, and that locally-grown produce I’m yelling about. Major credit cards and the Ohio Direction Card are both accepted. Stop by the Pearl Market Tent to swipe your card in exchange for tokens that may be used throughout the market.
  • For a unique weekend activity, why not celebrate the end of summer at Ohio Village for the Ohio Cup Vintage Base Ball Festival? This Sept. 2-3, root for the home team as you watch over 20 vintage base ball teams from across the nation as they come together for the Ohio Cup. Special activities will be available all day for kids including historic games and sports, and a chance to try your hand at 1860s style base ball with the Ohio Village Muffins (BEST TEAM NAME EVER). Included with general admission.
Credit: Ohio Vintage Muffins
  • Bring the whole family out to Columbus Commons on Sept. 2 for Family Funday and enjoy carousel rides, inflatables, arts and crafts, and more. Many activities are free and some require a $5 wristband for unlimited fun. This year, Columbus Commons is partnering with Autism Speaks to open the event one hour early for families with children who have sensory sensitivity. They will be keeping the crowds small so they can enjoy all of the event activities in a less overwhelming environment.
  • Celebrate 51 years of local art at the Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival on Sept. 4. The art show, first held in 1966, was organized by local artists and held in local parks before it moved to the Municipal Services Center on Tremont Road, and upon further expansion, moved to Northam Park in 1986. Since then, the festival has grown in size to accommodate 200+ artists, vendors, activity areas, and performances. The event hosts 25,000 visitors.
  • Back by popular demand, the Beer & Beethoven concert-party from VIVO 2016 returns to Columbus for an evening of chamber music, brews, and conversation at Hot Chicken Takeover in the North Market after hours. Get your boozing, I mean, culture on starting at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1. Admission is by donation ($20 suggested) with limited seating. Reserve yours today.
  • It’s literally about to get bananas on Sept. 2 when a swarm of bar crawlers will be out in full force for Columbus Goes Bananas. You heard right: It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time. Come out, dress like a banana, and join the bunch. Must be 21+ (duh) and all ticket sales are final (no refunds).
  • The music festival circuit continues with Breakaway Music Festival Sept. 1-2 at Mapfre Stadium. Featuring over 35 hip hop and EDM internationally recognized, regionally known, and local artists. Headliners include Lil Yachty, Travis Scott, Diplo, Galantis, and Kodak Black. Tickets are still on sale for all admission levels.
  • MOAR MUSIC. This time at Riverfest614 at Genoa Park on Sept. 2. Spend an evening on the Scioto mile listening to performances ranging from R&B to soul, hip hop, and jazz including musical acts: Jagged Edge ; Adina Howard ; Dwele ; Case ; Bun B; and more. Tickets can be purchased here.

Header photo by Andrew Robles on Unsplash

Time to get your dancing shoes on and dust off your best flower crown. It’s festival weekend here in Columbus with the 2017 Fashion Meets Music Festival.
This two-day fest is packed with musical acts, fashion shows, and more, so you’re going to need a game plan. I prioritized my weekend using FMMF’s daily lineup as a template below for anyone feeling particularly overwhelmed by choice paralysis.

FRIDAY

  • Doors open at 4:00 p.m. Bring it on down to Fortress Obetz; the site of this year’s Festival. Don’t know where Obetz is? Relax. It’s a quick fifteen minute drive from downtown. Transportation options include using the Safe Auto Safe Parking Lot for $10/car, or using a special discount code for Lyft (FMMF17). If you plan on going hard, Safe Auto is providing overnight security to protect any cars that are left there overnight.
  • Grab a bite and brew from one of the many food/beverage partners.
  • The first fashion show of the night starts at 5:30 p.m. with a stunning showcase from Horacio Nieto.
  • Experience a fashion forward Escape Room, and enter for a chance to win VIP upgrades and talent Meet & Greets
  • COLT Collection is next on the runway at 6:45 p.m. The fashion brand consists of underwear and signature tee shirts with the COLT name and authentic classic artwork designed by COLT founder Jim French.
  • Michelle Branch goes on at 7:00 p.m. Branch released her third solo album, “Hopeless Romantic,” this past April, but fingers crossed she belts out some of her classics from “The Spirit Room.”
  • More fashion at 8:00 p.m. I’m amped on checking out Kimono Dragons by Francis Roces for the most whimsical and fabulously batshit kimonos I’ve ever seen.
  • Make a beeline to the Peroni stage for my faves Tegan & Sara at 8:15 p.m. I apologize in advance if you hear my caterwauling during “Closer” and every other song on the “Heartthrob” album.
  • Get back to the runway at 9:15 p.m. for Project Runway alum Michael Drummond’s portion of the evening. Do like Tim Gunn and MAKE IT WORK.
  • Afterwards, spread some local love with Ohio’s own Liberty Deep Down at 9:30 p.m.on the Donatos stage.
  • Revel in that Semi-Charmed Life at 10:45 p.m. when Third Eye Blind closes the day on the Peroni stage.

    Photo Cred: Danny Nolan

SATURDAY

  • Doors open at 1:00 p.m. for day two festivities!
  • Get over to the Donatos Stage for local band Orion and the Constellations (amazing name much?) whose set is at 1:30 p.m.
  • FMMF is bringing the beach to the Festival this year with sand hole-games, misters to keep you cool, and a lounging area in which to relax.
  • Identic & Jess Daly kicks off today’s fashion shows at 3:00 p.m. Identic will be making its debut with a gender equal collection!
  • Take in the eclectic sounds of Hank & Cupcakes 3:15 p.m.
  • Thirsty? Time for a quick refreshment. Maker’s Mark bourbon will be onsite with spirits for purchase, and there will also be tastings (to adults 21+), a digital photo-booth, and a station where attendees can take quick calligraphy lessons to decorate their own personal bottles of Maker’s Mark.
  • Arlo Menswear struts its stuff at 4:15 p.m. while Rozes will take the music stage at 4:30 p.m.
  • PMM Designs & Styling + MOSKAL‘s fashion and style segment is at 5:30 p.m.
  • Check out the musical styling of Cobi at 5:45 p.m, and then boogie over to crowd favorite T-Pain who will get things going at 7:00 p.m.
  • Electropop act Lights is a recent addition to the lineup. She’ll get things lit at 8:15 p.m.
  • Hey, what’s up? Hello. Fetty Wap hits the stage at 9:30 p.m.
  • DNCE caps off the festival on the Peroni stage at 10:45 p.m. You still have those dancing shoes on? You’re gonna need them.

Tickets are still available for those of you who are slacking. General admission is $50 for single day and $90 for a two-day pass. VIP options are available at $125 for single day admissions, and $200 for two-day VIP passes. Keep an eye out as there are tons of discounts floating around!

Congrats, friend! You’ve made it to the weekend, and that means it’s time to TREAT YOSELF. I’ve taken the liberty of creating an itinerary on your behalf. Drink an extra mimosa for me and we’ll call it even.

SATURDAY (August 5)

  • Sleep in today. You’ve probably earned it.
  • Stave off that caffeine headache (what, is that just me?) with coffee from Fox in the Snow. Try real hard not to be tempted by the cinnamon rolls and egg sandwich. Or not. I won’t judge you.
  • The forecast is calling for mostly sunny skies, and next up is a spot of lunch and a brew at Hoof Hearted Brewery and Kitchen followed by use of its pool. The pool is open to the public from 11:00 a.m. – 8 p.m. on weekends.
  • Dry off and get yourself to the Short North between 4:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. It’s the first Saturday of the month, so it’s your civic duty to stop by Gallery Hop.
  • Continue your Short North adventuring at the 7th Annual National Mead Day at Brothers Drake. Partake in free tours, mead making demos, bourbon barrel apple pie on tap, and food from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • After you get your fill of culture it’s time to switch to pop culture with a visit to 16-Bit Bar+Arcade. Try to beat George Costanza’s Frogger high score of 860,630.

 

SUNDAY (August 6)

  • You’ll want to sleep in, but drag yourself out of bed for brunch at Hadley’s Bar + Kitchen. You can’t go wrong with the Doughnut French Toast, Monte Cristo, and Avocado Toast, and don’t forget the mimosa.

  • Cap off the day at Huntington Park for the Columbus Clippers vs. Toledo Mud Hens. It’s Bob Evans Family Day where fans can purchase a “Family Day Admission” the day of the game at the gate that will admit two adults and up to four youth, 18 and under, to bleachers, lawn, or standing room for $15 or reserved seating for $25. Doors open at 4:05 p.m.
Four and a half years ago, I was working in publishing and wondering when it would be my turn to feel creatively fulfilled. Much of the work I did was dry (see: academic) and my freelance work had too many limitations. My poor journalism degree was gathering dust, and I was frustrated, so I did what I always do when times get tough–eat my feelings.
It was over a meal at the now-defunct Chez du Bon where my friend Alexis and I vented about our desire to have an outlet, raved about our meals (R.I.P. fried chicken with maple Sriracha glaze), and came to the realization we should blog about our experiences.
There was more than enough content. We’d each spend weekends frolicking about town, trying new restaurants, and sharing recommendations on Monday. There was nothing to lose and everything to gain, so we went for it. We signed up for a free WordPress account later that day, and suddenly there was a place to contain all of our enthusiasm, favorite meals, and the events we attended. My creative frustration faded as our blog Wander & Whine took shape.
Building readership took time, but I was more interested in content creation and the newfound appreciation I was developing for Columbus. I took every excuse to go out and try everything. They say do what you love and the rest will follow, and I endorse this wholeheartedly. It would have been easy to give up after five months of radio silence, but we persisted, and it eventually paid off.
As our site grew, so did the opportunity to make connections with other like-minded creatives. I was surrounded by people who didn’t judge me for standing on a chair to take photos of my food–though, real talk, they ought to. It was also rewarding to meet the artists, chefs (also artists in my book), entrepreneurs, distillers, and a whole slew of people whose energies power the growth and appeal of our city. It brings me great joy to share their work.
Then I discovered Instagram. As @alicia.wanders it became easier, and faster, to post what I was up to as it was happening. This opened a new world where I could share my favorite local haunts (I’m looking at you Belle’s Bread) and express myself visually. I discovered a brand new group of foodies. This collective taught me how to style images, edit photos, and hone my personal photography. Most importantly, we rallied around each other.
Over three hundred blog posts later, thousands of photos taken, countless meals eaten, and many lifelong friends made; I realize what I love most about being part of the Columbus blogging community cannot be quantified. It’s simply the human aspect. Oh, and getting around to using that journalism degree. That’s also nice.

Looking to have a wild time? Here are a few places to unleash your inner-animal lover.

Cat Cafe(s): You know those cat cafes in Tokyo? The ones where cats flit about while people sip coffee, eat pastries, and try not to die from the cuteness of it all? They’ve made their way to Columbus. First, with the opening of Clintonville’s Eat Purr Love Cafe and the new Coffee Cat Corner located in Gahanna. Both spots offer the chance to flirt with kittehs and even adopt them. You can stroll in whenever, but I would advise making a reservation.

The Wilds: If you don’t have the time or money for an African safari then get yourself to Cumberland, Ohio for something pretty damn close. The Wilds is an offshoot of the Columbus Zoo, and its mission is to advance conservation through science, education, and personal experience. There are a variety of tours offered including open-air and closed bus tours. You can also do a horseback safari, fishing safari, and more–like stay in a yurt! Tours and accommodations book up fast, so be sure to plan in advance. The Wilds is open daily from May to September and weekends in October. Winter at the Wilds takes place daily by reservation November through March. Lodging is available year round.  See my review of our tour and more photos of The Wilds.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium: Ah, the classic. And a total no-brainer. The Columbus Zoo is a world-class facility in the heart of Powell, Ohio and never gets old. Whether you’re admiring polar bears, feeding giraffes, or catching a glimpse of the cheetahs, there’s something for everyone.