Roy’s Central Ohio, Part II: Off the Beaten Path in and from Columbus

If you haven’t read Part I of Roy’s Central Ohio at, it’s at this link.

I found trekking Central Ohio’s highways a very rewarding experience. I saw beautiful autumn leaves change colors, six-feet high stalks of corn turn brown (because they were soon to be harvested for animal feed), and more red barns than I had seen in my lifetime! The state roads are noted every few miles, so if you do happen to get a bit lost while seeking out the treasures I am going to recommend, you are never far from a farmhouse or a roadside gas station. Someone will steer you in the right direction:

No Monkeying Around at the OSU Chimpanzee Center

OSU Chimp
OSU Chimp
If possible, plan a stop at the renowned OSU Chimpanzee Center – roughly 10 miles northwest of downtown Columbus. Before my visit to the center, my only lure to chimps was via television. Visitors who think chimps are relatively docile will find out that even young ones can get rough, and with age, can become even more aggressive, especially when a stranger like myself invades their territory. They are kept behind very strong plexiglas, which they often try to kick out with their feet, but thankfully fail. The souls of their feet are strong enough to withstand the abuse they inflict on the Plexiglas.

Chimps are much like us. The attendant siphoned down a paper towel through a pipe that leads from the viewing room to the chimps. Emma, the biggest ham of the nine chimps residing there, took the towel, and then cleaned the window. As I took pictures of Emma, she froze in her cleaning pose and let me photograph her while performing her domestic duty. Chimps can live over 60 years. Sarah is the oldest one at the center, born in 1959 on the continent of Africa. Some of the other chimps were born in lab settings. The website below profiles each of the nine chimps at the center.

The OSU Chimpanzee Center: 6089 Godown Rd. Columbus, Ohio. 614.457.9259. Call for tour information. Donations Appreciated.

Cherry Valley Lodge: Holidays Within a Vacation
Thirty five miles east of Columbus, you will come to the 18 unique acres of the Cherry Valley Lodge. Walking through the hallways of the lodge, I got the impression that I was in a hunting lodge. It’s decorated in game hunters-themed motifs. Each room offers a view of a botanical garden that can be explored like a park or a shared communal backyard. Many plants and trees indigenous to the region thrive on the property’s two gardens because the rooms are set up in a figure-eight layout. This is the only hotel property in the United States that contains an arboretum and botanical gardens. The lodge gives children free cracked corn for the ducks in the ponds. The serenity at Cherry Valley Lodge is something others search for in the Himalayas!

There is WIFI internet access in all the rooms. A fitness center is also available. Both indoor and outdoor heated pools and a game room with a large television keep the family entertained. The lodge lends out bicycles for riding the bike paths that branch out from the property. Opportunities to shoot hoops or spike a volleyball are also available.

The lodge offers a variety of year round and seasonal getaway packages that are festive-, health- and family-themed. One such package, the Paws and Relax, is for dogs and their owners, and includes spa treatments for both. The getaway that I found most interesting is one that I can’t even take part in. It’s known as the MenoPAUSE Escape! Contact the lodge and/or website below for details about all the getaways.

Cherry Valley Lodge: 2299 Cherry Valley Road. Newark, Ohio. 740.788.1200 or 800.788.8008.

Mansfield’s Kingwood Center: The Garden of Eden Reborn in Central Ohio

Stunning Nature
Stunning Nature
Mansfield, Ohio, about 65 miles northeast of Columbus, isn’t just where John Chapman (a.k.a., Johnny Appleseed) resided, or where a big chunk of the historic Lincoln Highway (US 30) runs through. Those who want to see one man’s attempt to bring the Garden of Eden back to earth need to allot some time for the Kingwood Center. It was founded by Charles K. King whose innovative mind led him to become the Chairman of the Board for the Ohio Brass Company. He built a great house on the grounds in 1926 for $400,000, and then began landscaping 47 acres of his property with all sorts of eye-pleasing plant life – dazzling nature lovers since 1953. The center has theme gardens for herbs, perennials, roses, daylilies and irises, to name a few.

A staff of gardening experts, along with an 8,500 volume horticultural library, will answer many of your gardening questions. Despite being three quarters of a century old, the grand 26-room French Provisional style mansion has been in existence – no hauntings have ever been reported, according to the information staff. The Kingwood Center is one place that celebrates the best of Mother Nature’s lively fare only!

Kingwood Center: 900 Park Ave. West, Mansfield, Ohio. 419.522.0211. Free Admission.

Berlin, Ohio: Amish and Mennonite Central
The largest concentration of Amish and Mennonites is found in the tri-counties of Holmes, Wayne, and Tuscarawas of Central Ohio. Some 80,000 of these sectarians (Amish and Mennonite communities are broken down into scores of different sects) make their homes here. One of the best places to find out about the Amish and Mennonite ways of living is in the Holmes County town of Berlin, roughly 90 miles northeast of Columbus. It’s pronounced Burr-lun.

Even though the Amish and Mennonite communities have a wide array of belief systems, they co-exist peacefully. They often help each other when a new barn needs to be raised, or when celebrating the exchanging of vows. The Amish and Mennonites go to great lengths to keep peace with their non-Amish/Mennonite neighbors. They voluntarily pay an extra $40.00 per year per family to keep the local highways maintained because of past complaints by the public that their horses and carriages do extra damage to the roads. Apparently, the Amish and Mennonites do not press charges against those who wrong them legally because they believe in God’s Providence and forgiveness.

Amish Parking
Amish Parking
Residents in the Amish and Mennonite communities will often keep their doors unlocked, and many don’t even use locks. They live a peaceful and non-materialistic existence. I felt as if I were back in the 19th century while I was taking a three-hour backroads tour of their communities. The tour is offered by Amish Country Tours, in a 15-passenger van. My tour guide/driver was a Mennonite (many of their sects are allowed to drive and have electricity). He took us through twelve+ miles of backroad areas to see real Amish/Mennonite life in action, including an Amish version of Wal-Mart. We met a blind gentleman who runs a general store, but can make brooms with his hands using a specialized machine!

Schrock’s Amish Farm and Village conducts guided tours of an authentic Amish home, train and buggy rides on the grounds, and houses six stores that sell authentic Amish goods. One of the stores is Dutch Heritage Woodcrafts, where solid handmade oak and cherry furniture are available for purchase. At Gramma Fannies Quilt Barn, hundreds of locally made quilts and wall hangings await new homes. It’s Christmas, even in summertime, at Tis the Season, Ohio’s largest year-round Christmas shop.

Many lodging opportunites are available in Berlin, but I stayed at Hannah’s House. This beautiful bed and breakfast has the look and feel of a 19th century mansion, but the home has only been in existence for a llittle over a decade. Yet, inside is a variety of antiquated furniture from centuries’ past. The home contains spacious bedrooms that aren’t numbered. Instead, they have name designations such as David’s Room, Joy’s Secret Suite and Hannah’s Room.

The Amish Country Inn contains amenities – a health/fitness club, swimming pool, plus 50 more rooms. The Dutch Harvest Restaurant offers affordable Amish-style menu selections. While dining at the restaurant, if you ask for a Flasch Mit Brodt, the server will then inquire what kind of sandwich you want. You may desire an Anah Shtuft (side dish) to go with your main course, or Mane Shtuft.

For those wanting to get some great tasting coffee, pastries and free WIFI internet access, venture down to Java Jo, which serves as one of Berlin’s top social centers for the younger crowd. It’s one of the few places in town open well after 6:00 pm, Monday through Saturday. Besides its plentiful selection of coffees, alternative drinks, sandwiches and wraps, Java Jo’s Hot Chocolate is a bestseller. Premium Ghiradelli Chocolate is used for the concoction. I found the large Irish Cream-flavored Café Latte and Chocolate Muffin to be quite filling and delicious.

Schrock’s Amish Farm and Village: One mile east of Berlin at 4363 State Route 39. Open April through October. The shops are open year round. Schrock’s/Gramma Fannies: 330.893.3232. Dutch Heritage Woodcrafts: 330.893.2211. Tis the Season: 330.893.3604. For step-on guide service or group reservations: 877.893.3232.

Amish Country Tours: same address as above. 330.893.3232. Tickets cost around $20.00, but you’ll get your money’s worth!

Hannah’s House. A mile west of Berlin on Ohio State Rd. 39/County Rd. 201. 330.893.2368 or 800.329.9434

Amish Country Inn and Dutch Harvest Restaurant. A mile west of Berlin on Ohio State Rd 39/County Rd. 201. Contact: 330.893.3000 or 800.935.5218. Restaurant contact: 330.893.3333.

More Amish-related information for the Berlin area can be accessed at:

Java Jo: 4860 E. Main St. Berlin, OH. 330.893.9211.

Other things to Consider when Traveling Central Ohio’s Off-the-Beaten Path:
What are Buckeyes?
Buckeyes are trees. The seeds of the Ohio Buckeye, Ohio’s state tree, resemble the eyes of white-tailed deer; thus, the “buckeye” designation. Ohio Buckeyes have palmately compound leaves (with 5-7 leaflets arranged like fingers of a hand) and clusters of small, pale yellow flowers appear at the ends of branches during the springtime. Twelve other species of Buckeyes can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia – ranging in height from large shrub-sized to around 50 feet.

Getting There
To get to the above places from Columbus, review each website for specific directions, and make sure you have an adequate road map of the state, such as the Ohio Atlas and Gazetter.

It’s available at online bookstores like You may contact the State of Ohio’s tourism information division listed below for their official state road map, which is free by request, and very useful.

Ohio Vacation Planning help
Go to for most information you’ll need, or call the Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism at 1-800-BUCKEYE.

Roy A. Barnes is a freelance writer and past contributor to for articles on London, England and Virginia Beach, Virginia. Besides travel destination writing, his poetry and personal experience essays have been published at, e-clips and Live Life Travel.