December Archives

Best Ohio Christmas Destinations

Ohio’s top Christmas Destinations and Holiday Attractions include but are not limited to:

America’s largest year-round indoor Christmas entertainment attraction at Castle Noel.

A Christmas Story House where you get to walk through a movie set location for the popular holiday classic “A Christmas Story,” which has been restored just as it was when it was filmed.

Holiday Parades like the legendary Lebanon Horse-drawn Carriage Parade.

Historic Homes like Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, where you may walk through affluent Christmas past.

Magnificent Ohio light displays like the Journey Borealis at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park.

Christmas Towns like Cambridge and Steubenville: Stroll old-world England in Dickens Victorian Village or among a hundred life-size nutcrackers in the Nutcracker Village.

An immersive Christmas experience at Kringle’s Inventionasium Experience.

Special Events like the Christmas Candlelighting in Historic Roscoe Village.

Christmas on stage with a variety of performing arts across the state.

And, of course, Christmas Trains from the Polar Express to Santa Junction.

That rounds out our TOP-1O ideas to enjoy Ohio’s Christmas and holiday season.

It’s Tom & Jerry Time at the Alpha

   It is a yummy, warming, 129-year-old Wapakoneta tradition
you just won’t want to miss!

The secret recipe for the Tom and Jerry cocktails served at the Alpha Café during the holidays dates back to 1893. Alpha owner Tony Steinke, who purchased the business in 2004 from his grandfather, says every Tom and Jerry cocktail is made to order.

Generations of locals have made this special holiday treat an annual tradition. Taste one and you’ll know why. Served in a coffee mug, Tom & Jerrys are warm, contain alcohol and are also sweet, frothy and have just the right touch of holiday spice.

The Alpha Café has been operating in downtown Wapakoneta for nearly 130 years. The Alpha itself is a beloved institution; from the friendly service to the daily lunch specials, its longevity is steeped in rich tradition. Steinke’s family has owned the Alpha Café for more than 80 of its 130 years.

Architecturally it is a fascinating blend of antique and mid-century modern. The back bar was built in 1893 by Brunswick Balke Collender Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. It is 24-foot-long and is made of hand-carved white oak. The wall on the opposite side of the bar is lined with a matching 8-foot tall wainscoting with arched mirrors and the same intricate carvings. A column supporting a leaded glass partition sits at the end of the bar. It is simply stunning!

Past the bar area, you’ll find the lunch counter. Added in 1962, this diner-style counter with stationary round swivel stools sits in front of the grill and serving counter. You can watch as your food comes hot off the grill. The side wall of the lunch counter area is also lined with booths for that real ’60s diner feel.

Stop by the Alpha Café at 7 E. Auglaize Street, Wapakoneta, Ohio and enjoy the food, appreciate the history, admire the architecture and savor the tastiest 129-year-old tradition you’ll ever try. But don’t wait too long; this holiday treat will be gone before the new year arrives!   You can check out more Grand Lake Region holiday traditions at

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A Very Brady Holiday

A Storybook Christmas Featuring a Very Brady Holiday

Celebrate the holidays immersed in favorite childhood storybooks, iconic toys, and memorable costumes from one of America’s most-loved TV and movie families.

The Decorative Arts Center of Ohio will present “A Storybook Christmas Featuring a Very Brady Holiday,” an exhibition that is sure to evoke memories from treasured Christmases past. The exhibit runs through December 31, 2022.

As part of the exhibition that marks the opening of the holiday season, the festively-decorated Reese-Peters House parlors will include a combination of classic Christmas storybooks dating back to 1850, vintage toys similar to those shown in the Brady Bunch series, and costumes and props featured in the TV show and movies.

“This unique display across five rooms on the main floor blends pieces from different exhibits and creates a powerful vision under one theme,” co-curator Dr. George Johnson said. “It’s the first time we have organized an exhibition this way at the Decorative Arts Center.”

As part of the dynamic display, Johnson says visitors will enjoy stepping into the pages of classic Christmas storybooks that include “The Night Before Christmas,” “Polar Express,” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

“We’ll have a larger collection of pop-up books on display, as well as Christmas favorites like ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and ‘Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,’” Johnson said. “We also have a variety of Golden Books and some religious pieces from the late 1800s into the 20th Century.”

While some of the books will be arranged with pages open so that visitors can read excerpts from their favorite Christmas stories, others will be positioned under Christmas trees as gifts, replicating what Christmas morning may have looked like for the Bradys and other families in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Joining the storybooks are vintage toys that the Bradys would have unwrapped that morning and costumes the characters wore in the TV shows and multiple movies.

Co-curator Randall Thropp manages the Paramount Pictures Costume Archive and is bringing several costumes and props from the Brady Bunch sets. The collection includes a two-piece pantsuit that Florence Henderson wore in the episode where the Brady family takes a trip to the Grand Canyon and a horse sculpture that appeared at the base of the staircase in the Brady home.

“The show was only on for five seasons, yet it’s become a part of Americana,” Thropp said.

Both Johnson and Thropp will host highly-anticipated Curator Talks in which they will share stories about many of the pieces featured in the exhibition.

Thropp’s Curator Talk will take place at 1 and 3 p.m. December 18 and will include an informal lecture on the costumes displayed in the exhibition that were worn by Brady Bunch actors and actresses.

Each talk costs $10 for non-members and $5 for members in advance, and $15 at the door if space is available. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to

A Fantasy of Lights

Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights
At Alum Creek State Park Campgrounds

Butch Bando’s Fantasy of Lights is excited for its 23rd Season as the original, locally owned, and family-operated Central Ohio light show!

Their light show will operate at 5:30pm nightly through the end of the year (Sunday-Thursday 5:30pm-9:00pm and Friday-Saturday 5:30pm-10:00pm).

Patrons will enjoy their new light displays, light wall, and tunnels while remaining in the comfort of their vehicles, creating memories to last a lifetime.

DACC Digital Design students created, from scratch, the official Fantasy of Lights radio station! Their partnership with the Delaware Area Career Center (DACC) allows them to continue to work with students in multiple fields to give them opportunities for real-world application.

From November 25-December 23, Mrs. Claus will return to take their patrons’ letters to Santa! She will be there nightly with Santa’s mailbox and make sure they get to the big man himself.  *Parents: The Fantasy of Lights Elves will scan and email to the address provided on the letter to ensure wish lists are known this Holiday season.

Their show continues to benefit the following local charities: Recreation Unlimited, A Kid Again, 3rd and Goal, SEALKIDS, and Steps for Sarcoma.

The show is at 3311 S Old State Rd 43015; tickets can be purchased through Ticketbud, their website, and their Facebook Page. Monday-Thursday $20 per vehicle, and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday $30 per vehicle. Season Pass is $80 while supplies last.

For more information and directions, please visit their website at

Waynesville – A Walkabout Shopping Town

Waynesville, Ohio has been dubbed one of the most walkable communities in America and the Antique Capitol of the Midwest. This historic village awaits your footsteps no matter if it’s summer, fall, winter, or spring.

The quaint small town is like none other. It’s like an endless outdoor shopping mall set in the 1800s with character galore. Each little building or shop has a history, rich in Quaker heritage and Victorian architecture. The five-block “Old Main Street” is lined with more than 70 Mom & Pop shops featuring a wide array of antiques, crafts, custom woodworking, collectibles, eateries, coffee houses, and specialty shops. Whether it’s the middle of winter or a hot summer day, it’s always buzzing with pedestrians on a shopping binge.

Waynesville offers visitors a nostalgic experience. Many storefronts have had folks peaking through the looking glass since the 1800s. Copper street lamps on brick sidewalks frame the many restored Victorian homes turned into shops with colorful window boxes and street-side benches.

Merchants are often seen unloading their trucks with their newest (or oldest) additions to their inventory coming from estate sales nation and even worldwide. Whether a customer falls in love with a piece from a far-off or nearby place, you may hear comments said aloud like, “This completes…” Whether shopping with purpose, merely browsing or just looking for a nice place to take a stroll, Waynesville is the place to slow roll a day away.

The cute town is littered with special events across the calendar: There’s the Old Main Street Antique Show in May and September, The Ohio Renaissance Festival from August to October, the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival in October, and Christmas in the Village in December to name some.

Visitors may pick up a self-guided walking tour brochure or make an appointment with a local historian and official Towne Crier to undertake an in-depth historical tour featuring tales of its famous haunts during the strolls on Main Street and the Quaker Historic District.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun.

Shopping Amish Country Favs

Sheiyah Market is one of Amish Country’s favorite shopping destinations!

Starting in 2000 as Village Gift Barn, they have been growing ever since and are now home to four stores and a coffee shop. Sheiyah Market is one destination with endless inspiration.

Village Gift Barn is the very beginning of Sheiyah Market. Occupying a three-floor former dairy barn, Village Gift Barn is full of charm and inspiration. A stroll through the store where you will find custom florals, transitional style decor, furniture and more. The experienced and knowledgeable associates welcome you, ready to help with all your decorating needs.

The in-house floral designer can create custom arrangements for your home so you can showcase your unique design personality! They have everything you need to ignite your creative spark, whether it’s for the seasons or every day. Take a step into Village Gift Barn and make your decorating dreams come true.

Continue your decorating adventures with Country Gatherings.  Upon walking into the store, you will be greeted by friendly, experienced associates and varying styles of home decor. Anchored by primitive, modern farmhouse, and vintage styles, Country Gatherings is a decorator’s dream.

Primitive and Vintage lovers will be pleased to see a variety of reproduction styles of furniture and decor accents, such as beautiful handmade pieces and custom furniture from Town & Country. The 6,484 square foot space is packed full of linens, candles, art and signs, and other decor accessories. Believe me; you will spend hours pondering over what exactly you want for your oasis.

DIY lovers, do not fret; there is an extensive variety of Annie Sloan chalk paints perfect for customizing your already loved pieces. Associates are glad to help you design your next space, whether it’s your dining room table or living room mantle.

Calling all fashionistas! Sheiyah Style Boutique is a fashion destination. You can find everything from the latest trends to your favorite classics. Not sure where to start and want some assistance in picking the best style for you? Well, the Sheiyah Stylists are here to help every step of the way, making the shopping experience a fun and exciting way to find that “new look” you have been craving.

The boutique also carries accessories, shoes, and jewelry. The classic brands you know and love, such as Vera Bradley and Pandora. And some newer trending brands such as Brighton jewelry and BedStu shoes and handbags. Sheiyah Style offers in-store and online shopping, so you can shop straight from home!

Do you have a green thumb? The Gardens at Sheiyah is a greenhouse built for all plant lovers. From indoor and outdoor plants, they carry a multitude of plants to enhance your home as well as finding everything you need, from pots, planters, accessories, and necessities, to bring a little sass into your plants. Browse the aisles for everything from common houseplants to rare beauties. Looking for more than just plants to decorate your outdoor spaces? They also carry fountains, wind chimes, and other outdoor accessories to create your perfect oasis. The Gardens is open year-round for your convenience.

Looking to learn more about plants or just want an excuse to play in the dirt? The Gardens offers different classes throughout the year to blend your creativity with your love of plants.

Join their Facebook group, Gardenistas of Sheiyah, to share your love of plants and learn new tips and tricks. Their Gardenistas carry all the knowledge you need to help your plant thrive wherever it may go.

Shopping can be exhausting, so make sure to grab a sweet treat from Buggy Brew Coffee Co! Find delicious coffee drinks, smoothies, teas, and more located right inside of Country Gatherings. However, if you take your coffee – blended, iced, or hot – they have it all. Browse the menu of flavors to make the perfect drink to power through your day. Need a sweet treat to accompany that coffee? The case is always stocked with amazing pastries and baked goods. Make sure after grabbing your goodies to grab a selfie in the Buggy. This cute seating area offers a good resting spot and the perfect photo op to share with your friends.

Whether you’re a fashion lover, ready to decorate your home, looking to add some greenery, or just love to shop- Sheiyah Market is the place for you. Visit the campus for a fun-filled day of shopping with family or friends the next time you’re in Berlin! To stay up to date with all of the events and sales, follow on Instagram @sheiyahmarket or visit

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Winter Hikes in Central Ohio

Some of the Best Winter Hikes and Activities in Central Ohio

It’s easy to want to curl up and hide indoors when the weather turns cold, but if Grove City could make an argument for anything, it would be that this quaint little suburb south of Columbus has some of the best winter hiking options that central Ohio has to offer. Take a moment to challenge yourself to bundle up and get outdoors more this winter, and you’ll be surprised at what winter hikes in Grove City have to offer you. 

Take a weekend to hike the trails at Battelle Darby Creek, which features more than 7,000 acres of forest, prairies, and wetlands. Battelle Darby Creek stretches along 13 miles of the Big & Little Darby Creeks. If you’re in need of a warm-up midway through a hike, stopping into the park’s 18,000-square-foot Nature Center is an absolute must. In the Nature Center, you can learn about the microcosm of the Big Darby Creek ecosystem and watch native fish in the 53-foot living stream that runs inside the center. Directly behind the Nature Center, you can see wild bison graze in the Winter Bison Pasture. This is some of the best times of the year to see the bison. They stand out wonderfully against the pristine backdrop of a fresh snowfall. But if you’re worried that they won’t be close enough for the naked eye to see, there are also two viewing platforms with unobstructed views and mounted binoculars to get a look at these majestic creatures. 

In addition to the bison, Battelle Darby Creek is one of the only places where nature lovers can get out and snowshoe or cross-country ski in central Ohio. There are miles of trails within the park to traverse. It’s the perfect place to visit right after a fresh snowfall. The 3.2-mile Dyer Mill Trail is reserved specifically for cross-country skiing. If you’re really trying to get your miles in, it’s also suggested to hike part or all of the 8.3-mile Darby Creek Greenway to see prairies and woods, along with the two bison pastures within the park. 

If you’re trying to take advantage of one of those rare snow days for the family, Fryer Park is the place to be, with over 110 acres of winter wonderland to explore. Best of all, it has one of the most epic sledding hills a kid could dream of. Ever wanted to try your hand at ice fishing but thought that Ohio wasn’t the place for it? Think again. Rotary Lake at Fryer Park allows for catch-and-release ice fishing. Who would have thought? 

If sledding and ice fishing aren’t your cup of tea, Scioto Grove Metro Park boasts 620 acres of scenic bluffs and open areas to explore. If you’re looking for something a little more low-key, Scioto Grove has some of the best bird-watching a bird lover could ask for.

For these hiking destinations and more, visit Grove City, Ohio.

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Cornering Carousel History

On the corner of Jackson Street and W. Washington Street in Sandusky, Ohio is the Merry-Go-Round Museum. Grab your popcorn, cotton candy, and wooden token — and take a ride through carousel history. The museum is housed in an old post office building which is, fittingly, rounded. Inside there are displays with hand-carved carousel horses and other animals. Visitors can ride the carousel. And at times, there are carvers at work on new carousel pieces.

to Ride the Pictorial!

The Family Trees

Branched into Four Destinations at One

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler

If you think outside of the box—or barn in this case—you’re likely to meet someone who will tell you that your idea is nuts!

Such a tale has become a rite of passage from one generation to another running the family business at Pine Tree Barn in Wooster, Ohio. It all started three generations ago with an idea seeded in Bob Dush’s mind. The sapling was nourished, a family raised, and a multigenerational business branched from that strong trunk. The offshoots formed what may at first glance seem to be an eclectic array of retail offerings, but upon closer look, it makes sense how each business grew together quite naturally.

Here’s how it happened …READ MORE

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The Receiver Becomes The Giver

One of the temporary residents at Hope House Mission touched me with his prayer before receiving dinner when our group recently worked with the folks there.

The gentleman’s words inspired me to find something profound to start this piece to the effect of “When the receiver becomes the giver.”

I found one passage from a book titled, “Begging Monks.” And it read, “…at the moment that giver and receiver meet, both merge into a moment of unity in which the giver becomes the receiver and the receiver becomes the giver…”

I wish I had on that dinner evening what I have now – these words to share back to a homeless man who so movingly prayed aloud for one day to be the giver and not the receiver: You have given us much tonight. Thank YOU!

But the larger question is, why is there so little in an infinite Web that speaks of the receiver becoming the giver? Is it so rare?

This recent journey took us to the doorstep of a crumbling old hotel. As with human life, it began anew.  It even attracted the stay of a U.S. President or so Frank (a temporary resident at Hope House) shared with a brilliant smile at lunch one day, eager to show us around before our orientation. Shortly after we all enter this world, things beyond our control may force some of us (too many of us) down paths others never see due to the privilege of sound guidance and community influence. A good foundation often (but not always) allow for building good decisions that can steer clear of life-altering pitfalls.

Had those of us who benefitted from the privileges based on nothing more than being born into the right family or community instead were born to an overworked single mother, a drug addict, a criminal or abusive environment, we may be more likely to have walked the path that leads to homelessness. The difference between someone tucked away safely in the suburbs with schizophrenia and another who is neglected and left to roam the streets can simply be the difference between getting the right medication and counseling.

Hope House Mission in Middletown, Ohio is out to sever the systemic roots that have a hold on poverty. They are a faith-based ministry that has assisted men, women, and children in Southwest Ohio for over 25 years.  They provide shelter and comprehensive services and programs to help people not only find a place to live and work but to establish the long-term tools to maintain employment, paving the way to a transformed life. It is through the Mission’s resources that the recidivism (repeat guests finding shelter and food at Hope House) rate has dropped over 60 percent in the past five years.

Hope House Mission accomplishes this by helping others find their birth certificate or identification card, goal setting, kid’s activities, various “life” classes including the preparation to obtain a GED, counseling services, physician visits, employment assistance, budgeting tips, transportation services and of course, shelter and rescue missions. They also collaborate with civic organizations and area businesses to help transition folks out of the cycle of poverty. And of course, they need as much assistance as possible from people looking to volunteer and help in these worthy areas.

Perhaps the symbolism of our serving a hearty breakfast for dinner was to create a healthy beginning in which sunken heads may find the nourishment to lift higher and see a way to climb out of the trap of poverty and have the strength and ongoing support to stay the course. So, for a night, a group of us prepared meals and gift bags and served the people temporarily living at Hope House. Because that is work that needs to be done. But at Hope House Mission, they are doing the things best expressed by the old Chinese proverb: “You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.”

By Frank Rocco Satullo

Amish Variety Store in SW Ohio

at Keim Family Market

Yoder’s Bakery & Furniture

Your One-of-a-kind Amish Variety Store

Keim Family Market is an authentic, one-of-a-kind, Amish variety store offering a unique experience and hard-to-find offerings.

Inside, you’ll be treated to everything from fresh-made donuts to handmade dining tables. Feel the warmth and enjoy the aroma across the old-fashioned store coming from the bakers’ ovens. Every morning, Amish bakers are seen in plain sight rolling dough and preparing holiday treats. As soon as the goodies hit the store shelves, they’re grabbed up by customers to bring home.

The peanut butter pretzels usually don’t even make it to the car. Customers are known to rip open their boxes, usually at a bench somewhere along the front porch, sit down and dig in on the spot. The bakery is especially known for its fruit pies, cookies, bread, and cinnamon rolls just to name several other specialties.

For those who arrive midday, there’s a full-service deli with a tasty variety of meats and cheeses to cater to any appetite. It’s not uncommon to see folks pack a cooler to bring home a party tray supply for their holiday gatherings.

The chef in the family will enjoy a trip to Keim’s to tackle that list of special ingredients needed for those cherished recipes. There are aisles of hard-to-find goods with the Keim label. In addition, you can find old-fashioned, tin cookie cutters in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Canned jams and jellies and so much more fill the shelves along with old-time candies and sugar-free foods.

If you need to satisfy a hard-to-please person in the family with a gift, you’re bound to find something interesting on Keim’s shelves. There is a wonderful selection of odds and ends from nostalgic wood toys to gorgeous wicker baskets to Amish-made quilts to scented candles. They also carry the ever-popular choices of wall hangings by P. Graham Dunn.

The indoor furniture selection fills the final third of the main store. If your child needs a new computer desk, look no further. If dad needs an easy chair, you’ll find it here. And if mom wants a dining set that is like no other, this is the place. But that’s not all! Keim has stools, benches, hutches, gliders, bedroom sets, and more.

Outside there are other buildings to browse such as the bargain barn. And although out of season, you’re bound to find a deal on patio sets, gazebos and storage barns.

Bring your Christmas list to this rural Amish outpost at the edge of Appalachia country. Folks make pilgrimages to this quaint destination to fill their shopping needs for the holiday season from Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Portsmouth, Northern Kentucky and West Virginia as it is right on the Appalachian Highway in Southern Ohio. It’s not a quick trip to a big box store. This is a pilgrimage destination for the leisure shopper at a place rich in history and good old-fashioned customer service.

Keim Family Market is located at 2621 Burnt Cabin Road off SR 32 in Seaman, Ohio. They are open Monday – Saturday (Closed on Sunday). Call 937-386-9995 or visit

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A Winter Adventure Wonderland  

In Grove City

Winter is right around the corner, or for some, it may feel like it’s already arrived. But cold weather doesn’t have to mean that you’re doomed to be locked away at home for the next few months.

If you’ve been wondering what kind of cozy winter getaways Ohio has to offer, look no further! Grove City is known for its all-encompassing and exciting adventure options, and best of all, there is plenty of fun still to be had even during the colder months.

Whether you’re looking to embrace snow-covered trails to hike on or want to cozy up in some local shops and restaurants, Grove City has it all. If you’re looking for a little bit of everything and want to get away for a weekend, Grove City has 18 hotels for you to stay at while you explore it all!

One of the best things about Grove City is its plethora of outdoor hiking trails and metro parks. Battelle Darby Creek features more than 7,000 acres of forests, parries, and wetlands. It expands along 13 miles of the Big and Little Darby Creeks. Numerous different animal species have made the restored land their home, including the majestic Bison. Just behind the nature center, you’ll find a protected Bison Pasture where you can safely observe one of North America’s largest native mammals enjoy their winter pasture.

Battelle Darby Creek also allows nature lovers to go hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country ski along miles of snowy trails throughout the park. If you’re into cross-country skiing, the 3.2-mile Dyer-Mill Trail is specifically reserved just for skiers. If hiking is more of your thing, the 8.3 mile Darby Creek Greenway is perfect, especially if you want to get another peek at the two bison pastures it passes by.

Maybe nature isn’t your thing, but you’re still looking for something exciting and adrenaline-pumping? Gather your family and friends and head to LVL UP Sports Paintball Park, home to the largest paintball castle in the Midwest. A colossal, multi-level structure, the paintball castle is open year-round and offers countless opportunities for fun for kids and adults of all ages.

Tuckered out after an afternoon of outdoor adventures? Warm-up with a cappuccino at Transcend Coffee to refuel for the day, and then explore Grove City’s historic Town Center. From local shops to cozy restaurants, you’re sure to find something fun to do before settling down for a delicious dinner.

Grove City has everything from festive home decor shops to candle pouring. Its unique local shops are the perfect place for you to get ahead on your holiday shopping (or in a lot of cases, finish up some last-minute holiday shopping). You’re sure to find something rare that no other place will have. One of the best parts of the Town Center is that it is a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA), so that you can enjoy your drink of choice while popping in and out of shops along Broadway.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, stop by the local brewery, Grove City Brewing Company. Not only do they brew their own beer in-house, but they also have a delicious menu that’s sure to fill your stomach after a day full of adventures and shopping. If you’re more of a wine drinker, they’re conveniently attached to Plum Run Winery, where you can sample a variety of local Ohio wines.

If beer and wine aren’t your things, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from such as the Italian American-inspired cuisine at Cimi’s Bistro, overlooking the beautiful Pinnacle Golf Course, or any of the pizza places across the city. In fact, if you plan to visit more than once, check out the Grove City Pizza Trek. Eat at all the participating locations and grab your hard-earned Pizza Trek t-shirt from the Grove City Visitors Center located in the Town Center on Broadway.

Whether you’re looking for beautiful nature, an adrenaline-pumping adventure, or some unique local shopping and delicious food, Grove City is full of adventure no matter the time of the year.

Plan your winter adventure wonderland at

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The Gift of Not Receiving

It was a party at my grandparents’ house in Cleveland’s West Park area. This was my mom’s side of the family.

Grandpa was beaming, ready to hand his two oldest grandsons surprise gifts. One gift was a kite and the other one was a…

Nobody remembers because we both wanted the kite!

My grandparents were working-class folks who had a happiness that money can’t buy. But Grandpa’s happy face quickly mangled into shock, confusion, and then horror as my cousin and I battled back and forth with dueling words of “I want it – No, I want it!”

It was a noisy and crowded room but my dad must have noticed the hurt in my grandpa’s wordless expression.

Dad leaned over and whispered to me, “Smile, take the other toy, and say thank you.”

I looked away from the kite and up to Dad with a facial plea to reconsider but in an instant, I saw, clearly, it was the right thing to do.

I promptly complied. As soon as I did, relief spread across Grandpa’s face and suddenly I was happier than the kite would have made me.

At least that’s what I told myself.

Dad always helped people out. He basically knew everything about a home, landscaping, animals, plants, astronomy, you name it. I don’t know what he had done for his father-in-law this time but Grandpa was very appreciative and offered my dad money while we were piling into the car to go home.

“No-no, I can’t accept that,” Dad said, clasping his hands behind his back when Grandpa tried to jab the cash into his hand.

“I insist,” Grandpa said.

“I just can’t,” Dad replied, shutting the back car door. I looked out the window intrigued by this benevolence Dad was displaying. First, the kite, now cash, why does he turn away such great things, I wondered.

“Come on, just take it.”

“No, I’m just happy to help.” Dad got in the car, waved, and said, “Goodbye.”

As we backed into the street, Grandma was on the front steps making her signature two-handed “peace sign” wave goodbye that we would come to remember her fondly by.

Dad’s refusal to accept a reward for good deeds left a strong impression on me.

Not long after, we were visiting my dad’s parents at their home in a neighborhood near Cleveland’s Edgewater Park. Dad’s family was huge and many people visited weekly but we must have been the first ones there on this particular Sunday.

I sat on the couch across the room from Grandpa. He got up from his chair, something I rarely saw him leave, and walked toward me holding out a silver dollar. He smiled as he handed it out for me to take.

“No-no-that’s okay, Grandpa,” I said shaking my head.

He briefly held the same confused look my other grandpa had over the kite incident.

After the pause, he took a step closer, leaned in, and held the silver dollar out to me nodding that it’s okay, and said with soft insistence, “Take it.”

I smiled and slid my hands back a little on the couch and said, “That’s okay Grandpa, you keep it.”

“Whattaya think I am some stranger off the street!” He was upset and I didn’t know why.

The only thing I knew was that I was hurting his feelings by not taking it so I reached out, took it, smiled, and said, “Thank you.”

I could tell the moment for him was ruined. He sat back down and my dad walked into the room and sat next to me completely oblivious to what just transpired. Everyone was silent for a while.

For the longest time, I didn’t understand when to accept things or not.

Excerpt from the memoir book, Here I Thought I Was Normal,
by Frank Rocco Satullo

A Christmas Miracle in Medina

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler

A magical Christmas kingdom lights up at Castle Noel in the heart of an enchanted Rockwellesque town that turns everyone into a kid again. Welcome to America’s largest indoor year-round Christmas entertainment attraction. Mark Klaus and Medina, Ohio have a wonderful life together bringing joy to the world.  

This Christmas kingdom will take you on a journey of miracles’ past, present and future. Along the way, you’ll explore the historic sets, props, and costumes of classic Christmas movies, roam the illuminated streets of New York City to see animated Christmas window displays, gaze at the toys of Yesteryear, and enjoy other creative fun sprinkled all around. This place is like a private tour of Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory mixed with Disney magic. And you hold the golden ticket to experience it all at Castle Noel.

But this story began long before Mark Klaus came to town, relocating Christmas from the North Pole to Northern Ohio. The spirit of Christmas has been a part of his life as long as he can remember.  …READ MORE…

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Discover Mohican this Winter!

Welcome to beautiful Mohican Country!  Send for their Adventure Guide and discover why the Mohican area is an amazing four-season adventure destination for family and friends.

Mohican State Park and Forest are home to many recreational trails, including the only IMBA EPIC mountain biking trail in Ohio.  Whether hiking, biking, snowmobiling, or horseback, the Mohican trails are full of scenic views and year-round beauty.

Nearby Malabar Farm is one of Ohio’s most unique and interesting State Parks.  Home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author, screenwriter, and conservationist Louis Bromfield, Malabar Farm State Park is a true working farm.

And of course, the area is perhaps best known for being home to the Mohican, a state scenic river, which runs along the Wally Road Scenic Byway.  Known to be “Ohio’s Largest Recreational Complex”, the Wally is the heart of the popular camping and canoeing industry.

For those seeking high-flying adventure, visit the nearby Snow Trails, Ohio’s premier ski resort. It’s a great place for skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing. It also features Northern Ohio’s only canopy zip line tour, Tree Frog Canopy Tours.

Visit downtown historic Loudonville during Winterfest. It’s a great time to stop in the unique specialty shops or take a day trip to Amish Country for a tour of an Amish home and farm.  Walk the shopped-lined main streets and be sure to stop and enjoy some baked goods. Visit the area’s museums or take in a movie or a play in Loudonville’s historic Ohio Theatre. Listen to live entertainment at one of the many local wineries or breweries.

Whether visiting for the week or weekend, Mohican Country is home to many family-owned and award-winning accommodations. From rustic to royal, there are cabins, cottages, treehouses, a state park lodge, and even a castle ready to explore.

Whether exploring the outdoors at one of the state parks, sipping local wines and brews, or enjoying the day on the trails, each day is another chance to find an escape in a really great place, making memories that last a lifetime.

For more information visit or follow Facebook and Instagram at Discover Mohican.

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Stan Hywet’s Deck The Hall

Featuring Plenty of Nostalgia
and One Million Holiday Lights

Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens presents “DECK THE HALL : A Very Merry Christmas” on select dates in December. Some elements of this Akron tradition have been updated, and social distancing plans are in place at Deck the Hall to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.

Deck the Hall in the historic Manor House is a one-way tour, limited to the first floor. Fourteen rooms will be decorated with nutcrackers, snowmen, playful elves, as well as plenty of nostalgic holiday brands to put all visitors in a festive mood. A scavenger hunt is incorporated into the self-guided tour for added fun. Capacity in the Manor House will be continually monitored and limited to ensure a safe experience.

As in the past, guests will begin the evening in the Carriage House Courtyard, with a large decorated and brightly lit Christmas tree in the center of all Courtyard activities (there is no tree lighting this year). Two animated shop windows are just outside Molly’s Shop: The Gingerbread Bakeshop features bakers in perpetual motion; and a second window is reminiscent of downtown Akron at dusk during the holidays, circa 1920. Rudolph’s Corral (sponsored by ACME Fresh Markets) is nearby, where Santa will host socially-distanced visits with plexiglass between himself and the kids. The Gingerbread Hut and the Salty Reindeer will be selling refreshments, including everyone’s favorite – HOT gingerbread.

Guests may stroll the gardens illuminated with one million holiday lights, stopping by the Great Garden to enjoy holiday music choreographed to the DAZZLE light show. GINGERBREAD LAND is a one-way walk-through tour featuring even more lights, and the greenhouse is open to purchase the healthiest poinsettias around in a wide variety of colors. Back at the Courtyard, Molly’s Shop is brimming with unique Christmas merchandise, with capacity limits in place to ensure a safe shopping experience.

To ensure more social distancing, tickets to Deck the Hall must be purchased in advance at or by phone at 330-315-3287. Purchasing tickets in person is not allowed at Deck the Hall this year. Tickets include a self-guided tour of the grounds, Dazzle, Gingerbread Land, and the first floor of the Manor House.

For more information, visit Stan Hywet is located at 714 North Portage Path in Akron Ohio.

Christmas Season in Roscoe Village


Excerpt from a previous edition of OhioTraveler

Roscoe Village provides the perfect escape from holiday hustle and bustle to the peace and traditions of Christmases past. This historic village, America’s Canal Town, provides a scenic backdrop for holiday fun all month long, as well as during the annual Christmas Candlelighting Ceremonies that for more than four decades have celebrated memories of the magic that makes the holidays so special: family, friends, and tradition.

The village’s earliest history dates to the early 1800s when the small community became a port on the Ohio & Erie Canal. Many of the buildings that once lined the man-made waterway still stand today, lovingly restored some 50 years ago. Today the street is alive with shops, restaurants and historic replicas of the homes and businesses of its first inhabitants. It’s a charming blend of the old and the new, but it’s at Christmastime when the village takes on a unique glow.

From the time you enter Roscoe Village, you know you’ve arrived in a special place. Each window is lit by the light of a single candle, a tradition based on the custom that a candle lit in the window is a sign of welcome to all who enter. The buildings are accented with beautiful wreaths, many handcrafted from dried natural materials and fresh greens. All the special holiday touches – from beautifully lit trees to holiday swags on each lamppost – bring warm reminders of holidays past.

Every December – all of Roscoe Village gathers to celebrate the season in a very special way. The Roscoe Village Christmas Candlelightings are a decades-old tradition that offer a breathtaking reminder of the essence of the Christmas Season. Throughout the day, you can enjoy a special Christmas Tour of the historic village as we share origins of favorite holiday traditions. You’ll have loads of fun visiting the unique Shops of Roscoe Village where you’re sure to find the perfect gifts – from fine jewelry to women’s clothing and accessories to meaningful hostess gifts and stocking-stuffers. There’s even an old-fashioned general store and a candy shop brimming with treats you’ll remember from childhood.

Children of all ages will enjoy visits with Santa at the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum from 2 to 5 p.m. on both Candlelighting Saturdays. From Noon to 5 p.m., the museum will offer crafts, cookies and hot chocolate, with free admission to tour the fascinating American Indian, Chinese and Japanese, and Historic Ohio exhibits. For the age 21-and-over visitors, the museum will offer free tastings of Gluehwein, a German mulled wine.

Take a rest during your day to enjoy fresh sandwiches, soups and salads at Medbery Marketplace or a relaxing lunch or dinner with family at The Old Warehouse Steak & Stein Restaurant. These inviting eateries are housed in historic buildings that date to the mid-1800s and offer a fun, cozy atmosphere surrounded by historic charm.

Enjoy a mid-afternoon snack of kettle-corn or warm roasted chestnuts cooked outdoors near the center of the village. As the cool of evening begins to approach, the fire is lit for warm mulled cider prepared in a huge copper kettle and you can pair your beverage with the taste of ginger cookies made from the Roscoe Village traditional recipe. The cider will surely keep you warm as you anticipate the start of the Candlelighting Ceremony.

As 6 p.m. approaches, follow the luminaries that line the street to gather at the main stage for the Roscoe Village Candlelighting. Join with us as we gather with cherished families and friends around the tree for a ceremony that celebrates the beauty and wonder of the Christmas Season.

Complete the experience with a special Christmas Lantern Tour of the historic village at 7 p.m. You’ll learn of holiday customs and local traditions led by an interpreter dressed in 1830s attire. Reservations for this unique holiday tour can be made by calling 800-877-1830. Visiting another time of the year? Historic tours are offered daily; call for times or check our website when you’re planning your visit.

Every day in December is filled with enjoyable experiences for your entire family. Roscoe Village is open daily this time of year, except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Specific shops or restaurants may have special holiday hours, so be sure to check or the Roscoe Village Foundation website at for details.

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Christmas at EnterTRAINment Junction


Christmas at EnterTRAINment Junction is a magical family experience during which visitors can enjoy 80,000 square feet of holiday fun, all under one roof, all in a climate-controlled environment. This includes the world’s largest indoor G-Scale model train display.

The imaginative Journey to the North Pole-themed walk-through attraction is where visitors are transported to an amazing winter wonderland with snowy landscapes on the way to visit Santa live on-screen from his home in the North Pole. The walk-through features a post office, a sleigh house, a reindeer barn with Rudolph, and an elves’ workshop where Santa’s helpers are busy making toys. Visitors can meet Ms. Claus in her old-fashion kitchen, then, down the hall and into a study, kids can see and talk with Santa live in a virtual face-to-face chat on EnterTRAINment Junction’s exclusive “ZoomFace” virtual teleconferencing system.

Of course, all of the other spectacular EnterTRAINment Junction attractions are part of the holiday-time experience, including the world’s largest indoor model train display, the popular, hand-built 1,000 sq. ft. replica of the historic Coney Island Amusement Park, the weird-and-wacky A-Maze-N FunHouse, one of the world’s largest and most complete marble displays, a giant kids’ interactive play area and the American Railroading Museum.

Visitors entering EnterTRAINment Junction immediately encounter a holiday-themed Main Street area, a 1930s cityscape trimmed in seasonal lights and decorations. Main Street has a sidewalk café, gift shop, several party rooms for holiday parties, and Junction Hobbies & Toys, located just inside EnterTRAINment Junction’s front doors. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful Main Street Holiday Trains displays, including an all-new Polar Express display.

The incredible hobby & toy shop has the area’s largest collection of Thomas the Train merchandise, G-Scale, HO, and N-Scale trains and accessories, plus Lego, Playmobil, a large selection of Melissa & Doug merchandise, and more. Special sale items span the entire Christmas at EnterTRAINment Junction run.

Scuba Claus Is Coming To Town 

At The Greater Cleveland Aquarium  

Knowing that many divers say their time underwater has a calming effect, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that one jolly old elf escapes the hustle and bustle of toymaking by getting into a 230,000-gallon shark exhibit.

Scuba Claus returns to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium in December to dive, relax and spread some holiday cheer. Guests of all ages are invited to explore the aquatic attraction on the West Bank of the Flats and make merry with the man in red during special Scuba Claus Meet & Greet Days.

“After guests tour the Aquarium and complete an animal spotting activity, they can stop to talk to Scuba Claus while he’s underwater,” says Aquarium General Manager Stephanie White. “It’s an opportunity to share a special wish for the holidays, discuss cookie preferences or ask questions about diving.” An Aquarium team member will be on-hand to snap a complimentary digital photo with Scuba Claus. All children will receive an “I Saw Scuba Claus” sticker, temporary tattoo, activity book, and craft.

Ho-ho-hoping a Christmas icon isn’t risking it all by getting into a shark exhibit? “He’s a magical, certified diver who’s visited us plenty of times, so there’s nothing to be concerned about,” assures White. “Plus, he knows which sharks, stingrays, and eels are on the ‘nice’ list.”

Aquarium capacity will be limited and entry timed to ensure social distancing. Advance purchase required. Visit

Money for Nothing

Just a fun holiday story

Ohio Mall Scene circa 1975-ish

Our moms were shopping together at the mall. It was the mid-1970’s, and a time when most kids roamed free. Today, we call them free-range kids. Back then, they were just called kids.

Eddie and I were tired and didn’t want to go to another store. Our moms said we could wait by the fountain. Bored out of our minds, we sat and just stared at the water.

“Look at alllll that money,” I said, dreamily.

“People just give it away so I think, if we wanted, we could just take it,” Eddie reasoned with his early grade-school mind.

“I don’t know. Something doesn’t sound right about that,” I whispered.

Looking for a reason we couldn’t, I came up empty.

“It’s just going to sit there …forever… so why not use it?” Eddie wondered out loud.

We looked around, rolled up our sleeves, and stretched as far as our little bodies could go without getting wet. That is, except for our rolled-up sleeves which were wedged as high up on our biceps as we could push them.  We raked in some coins. Cupped in our little hands, we compared booty to see who had the bigger score. We smiled, looked around, shrugged, and went fishing again.

Before long, it just made sense to kick off our shoes, roll up our plaid pants, and wade into the fountain pool to reach that which we couldn’t before. Nobody said or did a thing. Granted, it was not very crowded. Once we filled every pocket we had, we put our shoes back on and stood to look at each other.

That’s when we realized that what we did probably wasn’t right.

Instinct kicked in. It was time to flee the scene and fetch our moms. We casually squeaked away.

Standing in the doorway of the last store we knew they had entered, we got on tippy toes and looked around. But they were nowhere to be found. When we turned to exit, a security guard stood in our way, arms crossed, frowning upon us.

“Boys, boys, boys, what are we going to do here?” the guard said with what was a straight face. Although something seemed off like he wanted to smile but couldn’t.

“Do about what, sir?” I asked, innocently.

“We didn’t do anything …except take some of that free money out of the fountain,” Eddie said, already singing like a canary.

“Oh, is that all?” security said back.

His eyes were drawn to our pants. It sounded like he snorted something back.

Water dripped from our saturated and bulging pants’ pockets. The wet money weighed them down a bit lower than where we were accustomed to wearing them.

“That’s considered stealing. The mall owns that. You’ll have to put it back,” the guard sounded off sternly.

So, we left a puddle where we had been standing. A trail of water became evident where we backtracked across the mall floor to the fountain. Moments later, maintenance, mops, and caution signs appeared in our wake.

To the security guard’s chagrin, we didn’t just dump the money back into the fountain. Instead, we pulled one coin out at a time, said a little wish, and then tossed it into the fountain.  Eventually, the security guard wandered away. I caught a glimpse of him in the distance, laughing with someone else.

Not long after this, our moms approached us, cautiously. They looked at us, looked around, and back at us.

One slowly mouthed, “Whyyyy are youuuu soooo wet?”

The other quickly interjected with a sense of alarm, “Where did you get all of those coins?”

They looked from us to the fountain and back. Then, as if ice-cold water splashed their faces,  they gasped and their eyes popped wide open!

Excerpt from the memoir book, Here I Thought I Was Normal,
by Frank Rocco Satullo

One-of-a-Kind Old-time Christmas Gifts

A Piece of the Past is an Excellent Christmas Present!

If you truly want to get someone a unique Christmas gift, make a trip to the Amish superstore known as Lehman’s Hardware in Kidron, Ohio. It’s in the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country. But don’t go on Sunday.

Founded by Jay Lehman in 1955 to serve the local hardware store for the Amish in northeast Ohio, Lehman’s stocks a huge selection of non-electric appliances, wood stoves, hand tools, old-fashioned kitchenware, toys and much more in its winding retail store, huge catalog and  e-commerce web site at

At Lehman’s, everything old is new again.

Lining the shelves are thousands of products, from tin toys to weather vanes to butter churns that you probably thought they quit making years ago. Where else are you going to find butter churns, cream separator and glass milk bottles? Or for that matter, copper kettles, cast iron cookware and a coal shovel?

If you like the attractive, practical appliances of yesteryear, then you’re going to love Lehman’s. This family-owned and operated business specializes in antique-styled appliances and retro home furnishings, non-electric kitchenware, old-time toys, hand tools, oil lamps, collectible cook books and much more.  If you think it isn’t made any more, call Lehman’s before you give up! After all, it’s where Hollywood comes to shop for just the right props for their sets.

Today, the expanded retail store features a buggy barn demonstration room, the Cast Iron Cafe serving soups, salads, sandwiches, drinks and desserts, and four reconstructed pre-Civil War era barns inside the retail space.

Ironically, what started out as a business to serve the local Amish has turned into an international operation, shipping products all over the world. Missionaries, survivalists, environmentalists, homesteaders, vacation home owners and the chronically nostalgic, as well as movie producers wanting to create an authentic scene, have made Lehman’s their low-tech superstore.

No one else is doing what Lehman’s does, on the scale that they do it.

The Kidron retail store is open every day except Sunday and is located four miles south of Rte. 30 between Wooster and Canton in northeast Ohio.

Union Terminal Restored

Over the past two-and-a-half years, more than 2,400 craftsmen worked over 900,000 hours to turn back the clock on Union Terminal. The historic undertaking is the first full structural restoration in the National Historic Landmark’s 85-year history and, with its completion, preserves the building’s past and secures its future for generations to come.

Road to Restoration: When it opened in 1933, Union Terminal was hailed as a masterpiece, a temple to transportation. It was built to handle 17,000 passengers a day, a number that doubled as troops traveled to and from war during World War II. Despite the fanfare that accompanied its opening, train travel was on the decline and the station closed in 1972. For the next 18 years, Union Terminal went through phases of vacancy and occupancy before it became home to Cincinnati Museum Center in 1990. In those eight decades, the building suffered compounded the damaged caused by water penetration over the years. The result was a National Historic Landmark in need of dire repair. In 2014 the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the building on its list of the “11 Most Endangered Historic Places” in the United States. The beloved icon needed significant restoration to remain functional.

The community voiced their support of Union Terminal’s major fix in November 2014 with the passage of a five-year, one-quarter of one percent Hamilton County sales tax. The estimated $175.7 million the sales tax would generate was the catalyst for the start of Union Terminal’s $228 million restoration.

Constructing Meaningful Change: Turner Construction Company was selected as the construction manager and GBBN Architects served as the architect and design lead on the project. Their goal was to address structural steel and the exterior envelope that had been damaged by water penetration and natural deterioration over eight decades while also updating mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems to make the building more efficient to operate. After more than a year of probes, analysis and design work, construction kicked off in July 2016.

Fountain and Mezzanine Roof Deck Repair: Union Terminal’s iconic fountain and plaza, so critical to the historic fabric of the building, were carefully surveyed and removed over a period of fourth months, exposing the roof deck below for repairs. After the plaza demolition, crews waterproofed the plaza’s 120,000 square feet using tar heated to a temperature of 375° applied over a thin fabric sheet and then covered with a plastic liner, insulation board and gravel. The waterproofing prevents future water penetration into the museum spaces and structure below.

With waterproofing complete in October 2017, the first of 56 concrete trucks rolled onto the plaza to begin pouring the basin of the 8,000-square-foot fountain. For the next five months, 450 cubic yards of concrete recreated the scalloped cascades and iconic shape of the fountain, paving the way for the application of a two-part polyurea waterproofing and a finishing layer of green terrazzo with a rustic finish, matching the original look of the fountain.

Beneath the fountain and plaza, crews spent six months from November 2017 to April 2018 addressing steel girders damaged by decades of water penetration through expansion joints above. To address the damaged steel in the ceiling of the mezzanine level, eight six-ton, 40-foot steel beams were brought in and customized on site. Using steel gantry systems, the steel beams were hoisted from the lower level to the mezzanine and then glided to their desired locations using compressed air. The installation of the eight beams required an additional 20 tons of steel to build gantry systems and temporary scaffolding.

Union Terminal Façade: On the face of Union Terminal, crews reinstalled the clock after nearly a year of repairs. The hands were removed and restored, complete with new red neon lighting along their edges. New red and amber glass were installed across the clock’s 18-foot face and the internal gears and mechanisms have been updated and repaired by the Verdin Company to ensure the clock stays on time.

Over 225,000 square feet of limestone, brick, terracotta and concrete have been cleaned and repaired. Over 35,000 linear feet, nearly six and a half miles, of silicone caulking has been removed and replaced with mortar closely matching that of the original used on the building, which will also help prevent water from penetrating the masonry into the steel structure behind it. That structural steel was exposed on every vertical and horizontal edge for treatment. The steel was cleaned and painted with a zinc primer and two layers of acrylic paint to prevent future oxidation by stopping water from penetrating to the steel itself.

Drum Wall and West Wall Rebuilt: One of the most significant masonry and structural projects was the rebuild of the curved drum walls that sit just beneath Union Terminal’s half dome. The lack of expansion joints and outdated construction techniques resulted in poor thermal expansion capabilities, causing the wall’s brick and steel to slowly move away from each other, damaging the wall system. Between January 2017 and February 2018, the terracotta and brick walls were completely removed and rebuilt, replacing the interior terracotta wall with a concrete block wall with support steel woven throughout and finally covered with over 17,500 original exterior face brick.

Another major masonry project was rebuilding the station’s west wall, which was built in the 1970s after over 450 feet of the original concourse was demolished. The wall was completely disassembled, exposing original structural steel that has since been cleaned and treated. Masons then rebuilt the wall from the structural steel outward with a concrete block wall supported by steel woven throughout before exterior brick was installed as the final step. This work took place three stories above and just feet from an active rail line.

Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing: Inside Union Terminal, outdated and aging mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems have been replaced, highlighted by three new centrifugal glycol chillers, three hot water boilers and two steam boilers to heat and cool Union Terminal’s 500,000 square feet. Additionally, an updated ice storage system that uses ice to cool the building during the day has been operational since its completion in the summer of 2017. To diffuse the conditioned air throughout the building, 478,000 pounds of new ductwork snakes through the building and 23 new air handling units have been installed on Union Terminal’s rear rooftops, many with the help of a 450-ton crane.

Beloved Interior Historic Finishes: Interior historic spaces were restored to their original look and feel. New terrazzo floors were poured in the Losantiville Dining Room, replicating the pattern of the serpentine lunch counter that once welcomed weary travelers. 22 original canvas murals that ringed the top of the dining room underwent extensive repairs and restoration by art conservators in New York. They have been reinstalled in the Losantiville Dining Room for the first time in over 30 years.

In the Rotunda, the yellow, orange and silver bands of the ceiling, towering 106 feet overhead, have been cleaned, patched and painted. The red Verona marble walls of the Rotunda and concourse have been polished and cleaned, as have the aluminum strips and metalwork that adorn them.

Winold Reiss’s glass tile mosaics were cleaned and repaired over a period of six months as art conservators climbed scaffolding crisscrossing the iconic artwork. Crews completed thorough assessments of the more than 6,500 square feet of mosaics, identifying loose or missing tiles and cracks in the pigmented stucco. With that project complete, the mosaics sparkle once again in the light and reveal colors and details many guests may not have noticed before.

The upper ramps of the north and south wings (now the Museum of Natural History & Science and Cincinnati History Museum, respectively) were fully restored and prepped for the installation of new Cincinnati Museum Center exhibits. Thousands of terracotta tiles have been cleaned, plaster ceilings have been repaired and painted and restored windows and light fixtures have been reinstalled throughout.

Project Financing: The $228 million restoration is funded largely by an estimated $175.7 million in Hamilton County sales tax revenue brought in by a five-year, one-quarter of one percent sales tax which was approved with 62% of the vote in November 2014. The sales tax for Union Terminal is active through April 2020. The project also received a $5 million capital grant from the state of Ohio and $7.5 million in private philanthropy. Nearly $35 million in federal historic tax credits was secured and in June 2017, the Ohio Development Services Agency awarded the project $5 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits. The project was completed on budget.

Bold Future For Cincinnati Museum Center: With Union Terminal’s past preserved and its future secure, Cincinnati Museum Center is boldly reimaging the museum experience. Over the next several years, CMC will debut new permanent exhibits and galleries in phases. The first to debut will be the new Dinosaur Hall in the Museum of Natural History & Science and the reimagined Public Landing in the Cincinnati History Museum. Both galleries, along with Holiday Junction Featuring the Duke Energy Holiday Trains, will open to the public on November 17. The upgraded Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater, which has made the switch from film projection to digital laser projection, will reopen in late December 2018.

After two-and-a-half years, guests can once again bask in the beauty of one of the country’s finest examples of Art Deco architecture as Cincinnati reclaims its local icon. Visit to plan your visit.

Home for the Holidays


This is a fun little story for anyone trying to make it home for Christmas

It was just several weeks past basic training and my 18th birthday. I walked to the travel office at Fort Gordon, Georgia to book a bus to Cleveland, Ohio for Christmas. It would be my last chance to go home before I shipped off to Europe.

I congratulated myself for thinking months in advance to secure my passage home so that everything was set well ahead of time. No worries. But when the lady behind the window handed me my ticket, she had a peculiar smile. Something was off but by the time I walked back to the barracks and stuffed my ticket away, I had other things on my mind.

One of my best friends from home joined the Army with me. We were stationed on the same base for basic training – Fort Jackson, South Carolina – and now resided here for our advanced skills training to learn our Army jobs. Even though we were so close, we only saw each other twice. Back then, to communicate, we had to mail letters to each other at the post office even though we were just minutes away. He had procrastinated getting his bus ticket but sometime after Thanksgiving, he assured me it was in his hand.

When I showed up in a vast parking lot jammed with damn near the whole base, leaving, I scrambled to find my bus. I had an overstuffed duffle bag hoisted on one shoulder, weaving around buses with signs to Memphis, Denver, Boston, you name it. Then I saw Scott. He was hanging out the window of the bus marked for Cleveland.

I flashed a big smile of relief and pointed to him as if to say, “Save me a spot, I’ll be right there.”

Then, the unimaginable happened. The bus driver said the bus was full. I shoved my ticket into his chest with pleading eyes, unwilling to take no for an answer.

He looked at the ticket and said, “Nope! No good. We’re full.”

He boarded, the doors closed and my buddy cruised by me making hand motions and expressions, saying, “WHAT THE….”

One by one, buses kicked into drive and pulled out.

I desperately grabbed a sergeant and rattled off the horror of my predicament.

“Private, in about three minutes, you’ll be the only person in a ghost town. My suggestion is you land yourself on any bus with room headed north,” asserted the sergeant.

I turned and saw “Pittsburgh” in the window of a bus right in front of me. I stepped on and saw plenty of vacant seats. As a Browns fan, the humor didn’t escape me. I told the driver my story as he glanced at my ticket and waved me on.

Somewhere in the mountains of West Virginia, we pulled off for a 15 minute break to get gas and food. I used this opportunity to make a collect call home. Fortunately, my mom picked up the phone.

“Mom, listen carefully, there was a mistake with my bus ticket and now I’m headed for Pittsburgh. You will have to pick me up there,” I spoke clearly but concisely.

“What…” she responded and began to babble.

“Mom, I have to go now. I can’t explain. Just pick me up at the Pittsburgh bus station at about Midnight. I will not have another chance to talk. I’ll see you there.”

She had no choice but to say, okay.

And just like that, I was off the phone and just made it back on the bus before it pulled out of the stop.

My parents got in the car and headed for Pittsburgh. There was no GPS or even an Internet to get directions. Time was of the essence so they just got in the car and drove, looking at a roadmap that had been stuffed in the glove compartment. When they neared the city, as luck would have it, they saw a greyhound bus on the road.

“Follow that bus!” Mom yelled at Dad.

And that’s what he did. They figured if a greyhound was headed for the city, it must be headed for the station. Quickly, they realized that the bus station was in what seemed to be a rundown part of town.

When I got off the bus and waited in the Pittsburgh station, I wandered aimlessly. I saw all walks of life up close. Most of the people wandering at this desolate hour were the kind that triggered a little voice in my head that said, “You need to get the hell out of here or at least keep moving.”

“ROCKY!” cried out my mom.

I wrapped my arms around her and my dad. It had been months since I had seen anyone I loved. And in this lonely, dark and cold terminal, they were a sight for sore eyes.

There I was, a grown man enlisted in the Army about to depart America for nearly three years before I’d see family again, enjoying the fact that my mom and dad traveled through the night to rescue me. It made this the most special trip home for the holidays I had ever had. And although I would never have wanted this to happen the way it did, I wouldn’t change the fact it had, yet I would never want it to happen again.

My dad picked up my duffle bag and said as any Browns fan would, “Pittsburgh sucks. Let’s go home.”

By Frank Rocco Satullo, author of “Here I Thought I Was Normal: Micro Memoirs of Mischief

General Store Pies to Die for

end of the commons general store in Mesopotamia Ohio

End of the Commons General Store has been working on perfecting the Amish Fry Pie recipe since 2014. This pursuit has led to the quote — “should be world-famous” — because they taste so good. These delicious pies come in apple, red raspberry, blueberry, Bavarian, cherry and many other kinds.

Amish fry pies are a traditional sweet among the Amish community.  Special pastry dough is rolled out in six-inch circles to the perfect thickness and filled with your choice of delicious fruit filling. Then, it is folded in half, crimped on the edges and deep-fried for several minutes. It is then given some time to cool before being dunked in a bath of sweet glaze.

In June of 2016 bakery equipment was added to help keep up with the demand for the homemade Amish fry pies, which has become a favorite among visitors. Today, End of the Commons General Store produces over 1,000 fry pies per week.

End of the Commons General Store is Ohio’s oldest general store located 30 minutes northwest of Warren, Ohio in the scenic Amish community of Mesopotamia, where Geauga, Ashtabula & Trumbull counties meet. End of the Commons General Store has been continuously run as an old-fashioned general store for over 170 years! The store is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the oldest operating general stores in the United States. Kenneth & Margaret Schaden purchased the store in 1982 and the Schaden family continues to run the business today.

Stop in today to visit the general store and pick up a fresh Amish fry pie or two to take home. A visit to End of the Commons is reminiscent of days past; one will find a treasure of old-fashioned goods, hard to find kitchen gadgets, country cafe and an antique collection that is certain to bring back fond memories of childhood.

End of the Commons General Store is located at 4366 Kinsman Road in Mesopotamia, Ohio. Phone 440-693-4295 or click here for more information.

Ohio’s North Pole Duo

Welcome to Ohio’s North Pole where Hollywood meets Christmas.

If you enjoy Christmas and you love watching Christmas movies, you need to make a trip to a place known as Believeland! Let this winter deliver a blizzard of fun at two stops. One is Castle Noel – the world’s largest privately held collection of Christmas movie props and costumes. The other is A Christmas Story House and Museum featuring just about everything from the movie, A Christmas Story.

You can see Uncle Eddie’s lemon of an RV from National Lampoons Christmas Vacation and see Cindy Lou Who’s entire bedroom set from the movie How The Grinch Stole Christmas. There are even millions of dollars-worth of actual New York City Christmas window displays from years past. And everyone already knows you can explore Ralphie’s actual house and neighborhood from the movie A Christmas Story.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Start your adventure at A Christmas Story House. The movie was filmed in Cleveland but it portrays a fictional town in Indiana. Cleveland happened to have the perfect neighborhood, a house with a wraparound porch, the old downtown department store, old neighborhood school and other things that met the movie’s scouting team’s criteria to a “T”. The old Higbees building agreed to keep its Christmas look months past the end of the holiday for filming.

Brian Jones bought the house on eBay. Previously, he made leg lamps inspired by the movie. Originally, he did it as a gift to his parents. Then friends. The more he made, the more others wanted them. Since the demand for leg lamps was so strong, he felt the house would also draw interest.

The exterior of the house was remodeled back to how it looked for the movie. Since the interior shots were actually filmed on a sound stage that was bigger than the rooms in the real house, there were challenges to replicate it. Today, it’s like walking through Ralphie’s home – close enough anyway.

The initial tour is 15 minutes (starting every 30 minutes). Afterward, you are encouraged to explore on your own. Most folks go straight to the nostalgic photo ops to reenact the movie’s more memorable scenes. One of the most popular pastimes is to hide under the sink like little Randy. You can imagine the grown men trying to pull this off. And of course, whether inside or outside, posing with that leg in the window is a must.

“It is definitely the most touched leg in Cleveland,” laughed Steve Siedlecki, Executive Director of A Christmas Story House.

The house is full of interactive settings.

Across the street from the house is the museum. There, you’ll find the actual costumes, behind-the-scenes photos and memorabilia galore. You’ll even see Randy’s snow suit.

The gift shop has it all – leg lamps (It’s a major award!), decoder pens, pink bunny suits, even the official Daisy Red Ryder Range Model 1938 Air Rifle BB Gun complete with retro box from A Christmas Story.

But be careful, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

Heck there’s even a nearby “official” Chinese restaurant. Bring your ticket stub and get 10 percent off.

One of the many memorable scenes from A Christmas Story is when Ralphie climbs Santa Claus Mountain inside a (Cleveland) department store to tell Santa what he wants for Christmas. But as we all know, Ralphie choked. Just as he began to slide down the giant slide, he stopped, looked up, and spit out his wish. Santa merely said, “You’ll shoot your eye out,” pressed his foot against Ralphie, and “assisted” his descent down Santa Claus Mountain.

Well, slide down to Medina, just south of Cleveland, and recreate that scene on a replica of Santa Claus Mountain inside A Castle Noel.

A Castle Noel is where many famous Hollywood Christmas movie stage sets, costumes and other memorabilia are collected for the public to experience first-hand.

This Christmas wish came true for collector Mark Klaus. And with a name like Klaus, he was destined for the Christmas business along with his wife, Dana.

“My dad was the living image of Clark Griswold’s character in National Lampoon’s A Christmas Vacation and my mom was a Big Band singer who would fill the house with music,” remembers Klaus.

Mark was a sculptor by trade. He sold Christmas Nativities on TV for 20 years.  Somewhere along the line he began collecting Christmas movie props.

Now he claims the world’s largest privately held collection of Christmas movie props and costumes. And he’s sharing it with the public at A Castle Noel. It spans a half a block in the picturesque square of Medina’s downtown. Think visions of It’s A Wonderful Life. Inside is a 40,000 square foot wonderland.

Start your journey at The Blizzard Vortex Tunnel. This giant swirling tube is where you travel back to your childhood.

One of the most impressive visuals at Castle Noel is the Christmas window displays straight from the iconic stores in New York City. Yes, these are the real deal – New York department store Christmas windows of the past – featuring sets of animated window displays that cost up to $2 million to make.

These were formerly decorated storefront windows at places like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales and Lord and Taylor. The Saks displays feature 10 windows from the mid-90s – stunning! It tells stories of The Nutcracker and The Magic Telescope.  Bloomingdales features the 2009 shoe display and glittering colors of shoes as seen the world over by going viral on the Internet Their 2013 window display has the Three Bears reading a book.

There are more than 50 New York City Christmas windows. Each window pane is a progression in a themed story. A backstage tour is part of the normal tour. There, visitors see the restoration workshop.

A crowd favorite is the 1960’s Cleveland Higbees window display (It’s where A Christmas Story’s department scene is set).

Castle Noel is a special place to reminisce. Whether you’re 1 or 101, smiles abound. And for the older “kids” there are thousands of toys to see from a Christmas’ past.

“Hey, I remember when my sister cut all the hair off that doll,” is a common line to hear as people marvel at toys that time forgot.

Christmas movies are a part of our culture. And now the nuts and bolts that built these Christmas classics are here for you to touch and see and smell and hear.

And it’s interactive. The Santa Claus Squeeze is the jolly ole elf’s training facility. Have you ever thought about going down a chimney by yourself. Now you can! And what’s even better is watching grandma keep up with her grandkids grinning ear to ear, laughing all the way.

Heck, Cindy Lou Who’s entire bedroom set from the movie, How The Grinch Stole Christmas is here! Imagine that.

The following are just some of the precious finds at A Castle Noel:

  • The Grinch’s star from the top of the tree and Jim Carey’s motorcycle and 16 foot Grinch sleigh. There are 400 props and costumes from that movie alone.
  • The actual Buddy the Elf outfit from the movie Elf starring Will Ferrell as well as the special gift that Buddy got for his father. There’s even the purple elf hockey outfit.
  • The house from outer space complete with light show from the movie Deck The Halls starring Danny DeVito. See how the miniature house with 80,000 fiber optic tips is made to look real in the motion picture.
  • The giant snowman for the top of the house from the movie Christmas with the Kranks starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis along with their costumes.
  • The costume for the Ghost of Christmas Past and Scrooge’s night coat from the movie A Christmas Carol.
  • The elf outfit from the character Patch as well as the remote control sleigh and reindeer and a short film showing how the movie Santa Claus starring Dudley Moore was made.
  • They even have Uncle Eddie’s RV from National Lampoon’s A Christmas Vacation,Arnold Schwarzenegger costumes from Jingle All The Way, and a thirty foot Christmas tree with 11,000 lights.

The magic continues in a Theater that snows inside! There, a short movie plays a bunch of nostalgic clips from everyone’s favorite Christmas movies.

Guided tours last about an hour and a half. Along the Hollywood Walk of Fame visitors gaze at hundreds of vintage Christmas movie photos. There are also several train displays plus a black light 3D mini golf course with a Santa meets aliens theme.

The climax of Castle Noel brings us full circle with A Christmas Story House. You get to ascend Santa Claus Mountain like Ralphie did in A Christmas Story movie to meet Santa for a photo and ask for what you want for Christmas and then slide down the long slide.

You can commemorate your “movie” experience with a visit to the gift shop. It’s loaded with treats to put under your Christmas tree for every Christmas movie lover in the family.

By Frank R. Satullo, The OhioTraveler

Castle Noel is a Standout


Castle Noel: How can America’s largest year-round indoor Christmas entertainment attraction not be a Standout in Ohio! Mark Klaus (yes, Klaus) and his wife, Dana, created a wonderland out of an old church in scenic downtown Medina, Ohio. In it, you’ll find yourself at the crossroads where Hollywood meets Christmas. Where else can you slide down Santa Claus Mountain which is a replica of the two-story slide from the movie, A Christmas Story? Heck, even Cousin Eddy’s infamous RV from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is parked on site. In addition, it features authentic props from Hollywood Christmas movies, including Elf, Grinch, Christmas Vacation, and many other holiday classics. Other delights are seeing Toy Land which allows people to relive childhood by revisiting favorite toys from Christmas’ past. Speaking of Christmas’ past, there’s $2 million worth of stunning Christmas displays that used to grace famous New York City storefronts.  All this and much more wait for your Xmas celebration any time of year. Click here for more information.

This award recognizes Ohio’s standouts in tourism. More details about the award and all award recipients are at


Holidays at Ohio State Parks

This article appeared in a past edition of

Five Ohio State Park Lodges are celebrating the December holidays with fun and festive events.

“When I see the exquisite decorations enhancing every lobby and the natural beauty of our parks in a blanket of snow along with the lights and traditions of nearby towns, I am reminded of why I always spend the holidays in Ohio,” said Hinch Knece, marketing manager for Ohio State Park Lodges and Conference Centers. “Simply put, we do holidays right around here.”

Here are some of the festivities planned at Ohio State Park Lodges.

Punderson Manor Lodge and Conference Center in Northeast Ohio

The elegant Punderson Manor Lodge and Conference Center will offer an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast each Sunday in December leading up to Christmas. From 7:30 until 11 a.m. on select dates in December, parents will treat their children to brunch surrounded by festive decorations which serve as the ideal backdrop for the opportunity share a wish list and have a photo taken with the big man himself, Santa Claus. Reservations are recommended and available by calling 1-440-564-9144.

Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center in Northwest Ohio

Answering the age-old question “What do we do with the kids now that Christmas is done?” will be the popular Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center Winter Carnival in December.

During those days, the ballroom of the lodge is transformed into a large recreation center with carnival games for children of all ages. In addition to the games – such as Jacob’s Ladder, jousting, inflatables and other carnival games – guests can enjoy the lodge’s indoor swimming pool, splash garden, children’s soft play area, Wallyball courts, game room and fitness center. Or they can visit the park’s acclaimed Nature Center, featuring a boardwalk through a wetland area that attracts many species of birds and other wildlife. The Winter Carnival is open only to lodge guests.

Salt Fork Lodge and Conference Center in Cambridge, Ohio

Salt Fork Lodge and Conference Center makes a great home base when visiting one of the area’s celebrated holiday traditions – Dickens Victorian Village in nearby Cambridge. For the ninth year, this incredible seasonal public art display features close to 200 mannequins depicting 80 scenes throughout the town. The displays are available through December. Salt Fork State Park Lodge is one of the closest lodges to the Cambridge event, and the lodge offers an array of lodging options and special rates.

Mohican Lodge and Conference Center in Loudonville, Ohio

Mohican Lodge and Conference Center in north central Ohio is a convenient and comfortable base for nearby events followed by a New Year’s Eve party at the lodge. In early December, guests can enjoy the “Holiday Hop Shop” in downtown Loudonville featuring a holiday atmosphere and old-fashion hospitality from the store owners and their employees.  Many businesses will be offering sales, refreshments and more. Malabar Farm will host Candlelight Holidays Tours. Guests will enjoy fresh baked cookies and hot cider. A small fee will be charged. Pre-registration is not required.  Call 419-892-2784 for details.

Mohican will host a New Year’s Eve party with a package that includes one night of accommodations, buffet dinner for two on New Year’s Eve, admission to Grand Ballroom party with live DJ, champagne toast at midnight and breakfast for two on New Year’s Day. The package also features a welcome gift upon arrival, including sparkling wine, two Mohican champagne glasses and Amish country chocolates.

Deer Creek Lodge and Conference Center near Akron, Ohio

Deer Creek Lodge and Conference Center creates a home-away-from-home feel as it partners with local area garden clubs to decorate the lodge in festive holiday lights and ornaments. This year there are 13 trees and 20,000 lights with most of the ornaments constructed of natural materials. In addition to maintaining a “lodge” appeal, this approach offers guests the opportunity to see how they could make similar ornaments at home.

For more information about Ohio State Park Lodges visit or call 1-800-ATAPARK (1-800-282-7275).