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Hocking Hills


Hocking Hills

Find Romance, an Adrenaline Buzz or a Family Connection

Andrea Coats and Chad Gordon made their first trip to Hocking Hills the year they met. Both divorced with teenaged children, they needed a romantic escape to focus on each other. A few days in the woods worked — the Medina couple has been together five years.

From time to time, the two return to Hocking Hills in the southeast part of the state, and plan to return again this summer to enjoy the romance of the picturesque region.

“We get a cabin by ourselves with a hot tub and grill. We grill steaks, sit in the hot tub and watch the hummingbirds around us,” Coats says. “It has beautiful woodland scenery, which makes it romantic. It’s a holding-hands, walking-around, being-alone kind of place. That’s my idea of romance. I like to be alone together.”

Gordon says, “We like it as a couple because the seclusion allows us to give full attention to each other. With immersion into nature and escape from urban, suburban and digital routines, it sounds cliché, but it’s like going back in time.”

Choose Your Own Adventure

Coats and Gordon found — and have nurtured — their romance in Hocking Hills. But there are plenty of other things to discover just a short car ride from Northeast Ohio.

With only two hotels in the area — a Holiday Inn Express and a Baymont — most of the accommodations are cabins and lodges. These are convenient for anything from couples’ getaways to family gatherings. While most options include hot tubs, some larger properties offer in-ground pools for swimming or ponds for fishing.

When visitors venture into public, it’s usually to one of the six separate areas that make up the 2,356 acres of Hocking Hills State Park.

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Fabulous Pittsburgh Eats


Fabulous Pittsburgh Food Finds

Drink (in a Church), Nosh (on a Walk) & Shop (Where the Chefs Do)

By Paris Wolfe

My parents are from Western Pennsylvania so I should know Pittsburgh. I know all about yinz, gutchies and gumband. I eat no-bake cookies and gobs. And before I was introduced to “Barney” on TV, I thought everyone said “red up” when they meant “clean up.”

Still, it took until this year before I devoted 24 hours playing in the Steel City. I went armed with my GPS to untangle the web of freeways and one-way city streets. The elegant Renaissance Pittsburgh — in the historic Fulton Building — was my headquarters for the Friday-Saturday stay and offered its own Pittsburgh-centric room touches.

We indulged in sampling of the city’s myriad food experiences. It’s culinary wealth has me eager to return.

Here’s where we went and what we did.

  1. Church Brew Works, 3525 Liberty Ave. (412-688-8200, We left downtown Cleveland at 3 p.m. Friday and, with stops, arrived at the church on time — 5:30 p.m. — to meet my cousin and her husband. After all, doesn’t everyone from Northeast Ohio have family in Pittsburgh?


The Church Brew Works opened in 1996 in a repurposed 1902 Catholic church. The owners maintained as much of the original structure as possible, including the hand-painted ceiling and the pews shortened for seating. The confessionals store alcohol, and the vibrant blue altar is used as brewing space. The building is one of a few repurposed Catholic churches that retains original stained glass windows.


The food and beer — note, two IPA offerings — are as worthy of admiration as the building.


  1. ’Burgh Bits and Bites Food Tours (412-901-7150, Sylvia McCoy is genius with food tours that sample the cultural anthropology of Pittsburgh neighborhoods.
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A Two-Day Cleveland Vaycay – Rock, Art, Brews, and The Dead

Have you noticed? Cleveland is hot.

From innovative restaurants to historic areas and lively entertainment, the city is a great destination for people of all ages.

This summer will be especially busy as thousands arrive for the Republican National Convention in July.

Make some time to enjoy the city’s charm on your own or with visiting family and friends.

Destination Cleveland offers the following two-day itinerary to get you on your way.

Sure, a day or so isn’t much time, but it’s a good way to start. Enjoy.





1979 W. 25th St., Cleveland, 216-664-3387,

Built in 1912, the West Side Market is one of the largest indoor/outdoor markets in the country. This marketplace was once where turn-of-the-century immigrants found their native foods and spices.




(Year-round; schedule changes by season)

1790 Columbus Road, Cleveland, 216-771-4484,

This nationally recognized city sightseeing tour is a great way to tour the heart of the city. The 38-passenger streetcars cover more than 20 miles and 100 points of interest with facts and fun through narrated sightseeing tours. Specialty tours showcasing holiday lights, the stomping grounds of Eliot Ness, Lake View Cemetery and Little Italy also are offered throughout the year.




2516 Market Ave., Cleveland, 216-771-4404,

Great Lakes Brewing Company, composed of a brewery and brewpub, was the first microbrewery in the state of Ohio. The brewery has strong ties to the local community and showcases this commitment by naming its beers after local historical events, people and places. At the brewpub, guests of all ages can enjoy a memorable dining experience from start to finish, including its famous brats and pierogis.




1100 East 9th St., Cleveland, 216-781-7625,

The greatest stories and biggest names in rock ’n’ roll shine on at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum — which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015.

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Sweet Stays – Grab a Winter Reset With These Local Inns

You don’t have to go far to find the antidote to the winter doldrums. Here are three Northeast Ohio inns that pamper both body and soul. Gather with friends. Cuddle with a sweetheart. Indulge in a solo retreat. Any way you want to get away can be a luxurious respite. Close and cozy, consider a mini retreat at one (or all) of these terrific destinations and embrace winter — on your terms.

Red Maple Inn is a hybrid Inn/bed and breakfast, with a touch of Grandma’s house.

General Manager Gina Holk has everything covered. Drop your bags on the carpet and grab a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. You’re home, only better — you don’t have to clean your room. This 18-room rural getaway is like going to Grandma’s if she had rooms for all the cousins, local gifts to buy in her foyer and Jacuzzi tubs in each bathroom.

The Amish carpenter-built Red Maple Inn is warm and homey, yet refined and indulgent. You’ll feel comfortable cozying up in a tapestry chair in a sweater (dare we say Snuggie) in front of the fireplace and overlooking the snowy Amish countryside.

Don’t grow roots into the chair. You’ll want to tour the fourth-largest Amish settlement in the country. Call ahead for details and booking. Guide Robyn Morris loads guests into a white van, distributes a comfort package and trundles guests to a number of places, depending on the day.

Destinations may include an Amish schoolhouse, private homes, a cheese factory, interesting retail businesses and more. Dress warmly for cold days because heating tends to be primitive in Amish buildings. Bring cash because you’ll have an opportunity to purchase handcrafted goods such as cutting boards, jelly, cheese, quilted items and more. Venturing out on your own? Smaller shops may not take credit cards — no electricity, no cards.

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Lights! Camera! Action! Three (Nearby) Towns for a Holiday Trip Fix

Feed your Christmas spirit with holiday travel. Stuff a duffle and zip your puffy coat. Set Sirius radio to carols and ask Siri to map the destination. Find serious seasonal spirit nearby in Frankenmuth, Michigan, or Oglebay, West Virginia, or Ellicottville, New York. In less than two tanks of gas, you’ll be making new memories. If you have the flexibility, consider a midweek stay. There’s more availability, fewer crowds and better pricing.


Oglebay Resort – about 173 miles from Cleveland – is legendary for its Christmas lighting display. Northeast Ohioans sign up for popular bus tours

more than 300 acres along a six-mile drive. This year’s display will be lit Nov. 11 through Jan. 8.

Introduced in 1985, the Winter Festival of Lights is among the nation’s largest. Eighty displays include the Rainbow Tunnel and a 2,000-light Polyhedron Star. Close to 60 feet tall and spanning 50 feet in diameter, the Poinsettia Wreath and Candles is the festival’s tallest. A dramatic new light structure opens this month.

The resort is more than lights and Christmas: It’s a self-contained destination set on 1,700 acres full of recreational activities.

Wilson Lodge has 270 guestrooms, a spa, dining and more. Dining options range from cookouts to banquets to gourmet meals. Weather permitting, the

grounds offer golf, hiking and biking, and a 30-acre zoo, train ride, theater, glass museum, mansion museum and Environmental Education Center. And, of course, specialty shops that are a good place to find holiday gifts.

Guest rooms in the West Wing have been completely renovated, and an outdoor activity area with zipline and ropes course recently has been added.


Ellicettville, New  York – about 177 miles from Cleveland – is best known as the home of Holiday Valley ski resort. Off the slopes, a solid dusting of snow adds Christmas charm to this mini mecca of dining and retail.

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A Capital Idea (Football Option) – Brats, Books, & Beer

Northeast Ohio parents send their kids to Columbus for college. And they turn up again for Parent & Family Weekend and sports.

But vacation there? Without Ohio State sports? Why?

Because the state capital is close enough for a quick trip, and it’s far enough to feel like an escape. This city in the center of the state offers vibrant daytime and nightlife activities for active adults. The new Scioto Mile park adds 33 acres of riverfront parkland to downtown for hiking, biking and kayaking. And for art-minded folks, the Columbus Museum of Art just added a new wing.

Microbreweries, brewpubs, distilleries, wineries and cider houses beckon the thirsty. And the Short North neighborhood calls to shoppers of art galleries and independent boutiques.

German Village alone can consume a weekend. The gentrified, historic neighborhood offers peaceful strolls and interesting cuisine. Stately brick houses and cottages line bumpy brick streets. Circled by ample (more brick) sidewalks, the houses sport details worth notice — a hosta shade garden here, a slate-tiled roof there.

Plan judiciously and you may enjoy a festival or art crawl. This neighborhood is best explored by foot to catch a glimpse of interesting garden art, late-blooming flowers and colorful doorways.

Try a restorative weekend exploring this Columbus enclave and its surroundings. Get started with these destinations. All are within walking distance of anywhere in German Village.

German Village Guest House

748 Jaeger St.;

866-587-2738 or 614-437-9712.

Guest house is synonymous with bed and breakfast at this quiet, European-styled, three-bedroom house with a welcoming back patio. Guests are greeted by cookies and iced tea. An invisible host delivers homemade yogurt, granola, cereals and much more in the morning. Details, right down to a GVGH-monogrammed rubber duck in the shower, are handled seamlessly. Just one minute from downtown, the guest house has no sign and fits right into the neighborhood.

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Niagara-on-the-Lake – Looking For (And Finding) Adventure On a Motorcycle

How do two people — one who is 6 feet 2 inches tall — fit three days of clothing, including theater attire, onto one motorcycle? And, with a black Honda Gold Wing motorcycle — a comfy cruiser — we’re the lucky ones with a trunk and two saddlebags.

The secret: dress in black, wear things twice and roll everything. All told, we had enough space to bring home four bottles of Canadian wine.


We travel by motorcycle when possible to wring every sensual experience from a trip. Riding sensitizes. You see, smell, hear and feel deliberately.

Farmers talk about the influence of subtle climate changes. Check: We feel temperature shifts. Fields smell luscious and ripe during harvest season? Check: We smell them. Niagara Falls’ roar was apparent to us earlier than when we’re car captives. We see details in the seasonal shifts of wildflowers that dress the median strip.

Plus, motorcycles often enjoy better (and cheaper) parking. This was ano-brainer of a trip for us.


The Niagara region is much more than the Falls. It’s a gateway to cultural experiences — food, wine, theater — on the Niagara Peninsula between lakes Erie and Ontario.

While the Queen Elizabeth Way highway speeds visitors between destinations and navigation systems may select it, the Niagara Parkway is the better connector. The 14-mile stretch between the Falls and the Lake parallels the river and offers access to prime destinations such as the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, Floral Clock, Niagara Whirlpool and a few of the region’s wineries.

We’ve done this trip before, so we have a pattern. Leave work early and launch at mid-day. Hug Lake Erie’s south shore roads on the journey north. Enter Ontario, Canada. Then follow the Niagara Parkway to Lake Ontario and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Park our stuff at the hotel or bed and breakfast, and begin our adventures.

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More Than a Winery – Tuscan-inspired escape takes you far away from Canton.

The tree-lined drive into Gervasi Vineyard offers a glimpse of lovely buildings, a peak at neatly ordered vineyards and a view of a perfectly sited, spring-fed lake.

Just beyond the Gervasi Vineyard entrance is the usual jumble of suburban sprawl: housing developments, gas stations, fast food restaurants. Within the 55-acre property lies a piece of Tuscany, private, quiet and elegant. An ideal getaway works when it can transport visitors both mentally and physically. If it’s just an hour or so away — even better.

It’s easy to dismiss a vineyard in Canton. Most people associate Ohio’s thriving wine industry with vineyards that hug Lake Erie. Yet the former tree farm and its rich, glaciated soil nurtures six wine grape varieties specifically suited to Ohio’s fickle growing conditions.

Winemaker Andrew Codispoti says the intangibles make Canton an ideal home for a winery.

“Wine is not only about the product,” he says. “It’s about the whole experience with activities, family and friends. In Canton, we have our own microclimate. We can grow fantastic hybrids developed for areas such as ours. Canton is a great place to produce and sell wine.”


Codispoti is partial to the wine-making aspect of Gervasi Vineyard; after all, it’s his job. It takes several years for vines to mature sufficiently to produce quality wine. The inaugural harvest was 2014. This past summer, Gervasi released Passione and Lascito, their first estate-grown wines. Most grapes or juice come from vineyards in Washington, California and Ohio, selected in person by Codispoti, produced into wine on site.

Since its founding in 2009 when long-time area businessman Ted Swaldo purchased the property, Gervasi Vineyard has grown even more quickly than its vines. Guided by general manager (and son) Scott Swaldo, Gervasi has evolved into a regional destination. About 75 percent of its visitors come from within an hour away.

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