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Secret & Lost Amusement Parks

The Secret and Lost Amusement Parks of Ohio

What can be better than going to an amusement park to ride roller-coasters? How about going to a park with coasters but its rarely open to the public. Ah, anyone getting an image of golden tickets to enter the Willie Wonka Chocolate Factory?

Well, it’s kind of like that.

Stricker’s Grove in Hamilton, Ohio is open to the public only four times a year: Fourth of July; Family Day, which is always the second Sunday in August; Labor Day; and Customer Appreciation Day, which is in October.

Ralph Stricker is the only person in the United States to build his own coaster. Construction was started in November, 1990 and completed in June, 1993. The Tornado is a wooden roller coaster. The second roller coaster at this little-known amusement park is the Teddy Bear. The original Teddy Bear was located in kiddie land at Coney Island in Cincinnati. Ralph Stricker obtained the blueprints and rebuilt the Teddy Bear at Stricker’s Grove.

The park also has a train, Ferris wheel, Merry Go Round, Scrambler, Tilt A Whirl, pirate ship, flying scooters and other rides, including kiddie cars, boats and rockets.  In addition to the rides, Stricker’s Grove also has an 18 hole miniature golf course, arcade with video games and skeeball, shooting gallery, horseshoes and more.

Stricker’s Grove is a family-owned and operated private amusement park available to rent to groups, organizations, and churches for family picnics, wedding receptions, meetings, etc. for groups of 500 or more from mid-May to early October. Unlike most other parks, Stricker’s Grove only rents to one group most of the time, therefore, guaranteeing complete privacy without the hassle of sharing the park and picnic facilities.  For more park information, click here.

Stricker’s Grove may be Ohio’s best kept secret as far as amusement parks go but some parks of its nature are forever lost to time.

Chippewa Lake Amusement Park was located at Chippewa Lake south of Cleveland. It operated for 100 years, finally closing in 1978 due to the lack of attendance. After the park died, it birthed renewed interest but for all the wrong reasons. Although it closed for good, its rides remained largely intact but neglected for the next 30 years. It became a stunning site as nature grew around the fun park’s once colorful rides. Perhaps the most picturesque scene today is the Ferris wheel that still stands but with an enormous tree that grew up from the ground, dead center, and now shoots through the top, towering over the rusted metal frame. Much of the decay began to pose such safety issues for trespassers that over recent years, rides such as the old wooden roller-coaster were turned to rubble. Here is a video of what was still left behind as recently as just a few years ago. Click here to play the video.

LeSourdsville Lake Amusement Park was located in Middletown, Ohio where signs of its past are still there. The park dates back to 1922 when it was a family retreat for picnicking, mostly. It added rides in the 1940s and became a regional amusement park that served up summer memories for generations. In the 1970s it changed its name to Americana Amusement Park. But in 1990 a freak electrical fire did millions of dollars worth of damage. It struggled afterward. Nearby Kings Island contributed to that. Finally, it closed its turnstiles in 1999. It came up for one last gasp of air in 2002, reclaiming its original name but this rebirth was short-lived. Since then, its rides were demolished and sold off.

A more recent casualty of the amusement park world is Geauga Lake in Aurora, Ohio. It was one of the big-3 amusement parks in the state and was also one of the oldest. It had major roller-coasters that competed with Cedar Point. But with Cedar Point’s world acclaim, perhaps the northern part of Ohio just wasn’t big enough to support the two major parks. However, it wasn’t the first major park to shutter its doors at Geauga Lake. There was a time in the 1970s when one side of the lake hosted the amusement park and the other was home to Sea World. Sea World Ohio lasted from 1970 to 2000. The site later became a water park. As for Geauga Lake Park (which was renamed Six Flags Worlds of Adventure for a time), its rides were auctioned off and the park stripped down to its skeleton leaving modern day ruins still awaiting new development.

One survivor of the small and regional amusement park mass extinction that has occurred over the past several decades is Memphis Kiddie Park.

Memphis Kiddie Park in Brooklyn, Ohio is an amusement park for toddlers and preschoolers. Here, you hope that you’re shorter than the height stick! There are about a dozen rides, including North America’s oldest steel kiddie roller-coaster. Other nostalgic favorites include the train ride, airplane ride, boat ride, a little Ferris wheel, Merry-Go-Round and more. It’s a survivor of a bygone era when kiddie parks thrived. This one remains family-operated. Located in an old Cleveland neighborhood, it is a delight for generations of tiny thrill-seekers and parents alike. But this decades old secret is getting out and folks from afar are making the trek to this little amusement wonder for their toddlers to enjoy. For park information, click here.

And then there are the two modern day mega amusement parks thriving to this day in Ohio – Kings Island in Mason, Ohio and Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.  Cedar Point Amusement Park is the reigning “Roller Coaster Capital of the World!”

There’s no secret about that.

By Rocco Satullo, author of Here I Thought I Was Normal and Earth Things.

Yep, There’s A Museum for That!

What do trolls, cardboard boats and pencil sharpeners have in common? They each have their own museum in Ohio.

Let’s jump down this rabbit hole to discover another world within our own.

Or maybe a troll hole?

The Troll Hole Museum in Alliance, Ohio displays the world’s largest collection of troll dolls. Explorers of this one-of-a-kind museum will discover the history and creation of troll dolls. And with that, the myth, magic and folklore of the ancient trolls themselves! The museum features rooms containing floor to ceiling trolls. In addition, there’s a troll hunters’ cabin, a walk-through troll cave, treasure room, and even an indoor waterfall. For visitor details, click here  .

Diving further down the rabbit hole, maybe your new troll would like a cardboard boat.

The Cardboard Boat Museum in New Richmond, Ohio claims to be the world’s only cardboard boat racing museum and America’s cardboard boat racing capital. The museum is owned and run by some of the best cardboard boat engineers and builders in the country. They are serious about their craft and have built many a winning vessel that’s sailed in cardboard boat regattas all over. These architects will provide tours as well as building tips to give your sea-worthy cardboard an advantage in your next race. The exotic and unusual boats are constructed with only cardboard, duct tape and paint. The displays are ever rotating so visitors keep coming back to see what’s new. Click here for visitor information.

And if you’re not far enough down the rabbit hole, let’s make one last stop at a tiny place with a huge collection.

You’ll discover more than 3,000 pencil sharpeners at Paul’s Pencil Sharpener Museum in Logan, Ohio. Paul Johnson started collecting pencil sharpeners, of all things, in 1989. It is then that his wife, Charlotte, bought him two little metal car pencil sharpeners. This fueled an idea and drove Paul to collect a large number and wide variety of pencil sharpeners. When you take a close look at these miniature art forms, you can appreciate the imagination behind the eclectic collection. It is interesting to hear the excitement of people of every age examining the pieces declaring, “Look at this one” or “Found my favorite.” Heck, there’s even a monster sharpener that belches after devouring pencil shavings. Sharpeners take the form of globes, skateboards, people, animals, you-name-it. For more information on this tiny pleasure, click here.

These three little gems of museums aren’t the only places housing unique displays in Ohio. For more, click here.

By Rocco Satullo, author of Here I Thought I Was Normal and Earth Things.

America’s First Coast-to-Coast Road

 

Re-Discovering America’s First Coast-to-Coast Road

What could be more fun than learning about an amazing national attraction for the first time? If you already knew about it, there may be more to the story that you didn’t know.

The Lincoln Highway was the first coast-to-coast road in America. It predates Route 66 by about twelve years. And while the “Mother Road” ran from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1926, the Lincoln Highway, then known as the “Father Road” or “Main Street Across America”, crossed the entire country in 1913.

At the turn of the 20th century, there were virtually no paved roads outside city limits, and by 1910 automobiles were good only for a short drive as long as you didn’t stray too far. Autos were simply a toy for the upper class. There were no gas stations or repair shops. Because there was no commercial manufacturing yet, gasoline was sold at the back of drugstores and farmers feed stores.

Auto manufacturers and tycoons soon recognized that America needed a network of good roads if they were to sell more automobiles. They reasoned that if a single, paved road were to connect the Atlantic to the Pacific, communities close by would build connecting roads. Eventually more distant communities would add roads, and soon a national network would be built, making the automobile a practical form of transportation for everybody.

The Lincoln Highway officially began September 14, 1913, with an announcement of the proposed route by founders and industry leaders Henry B. Joy of Packard Motor Company, Frank A. Seiberling of Goodyear Rubber, and Carl Fisher, founder of Prest-O-Lite Company; maker of carbide car headlamps. Their intention was to boost auto travel as a way of life, and also to commemorate President Lincoln, to whom no national monument had yet been established.

This first coast-to-coast route began at Times Square in New York City, and ended 3,389 miles westward in Lincoln Park, San Francisco, passing through a corridor of the United States somewhat similar to the route of today’s Interstate Route 80. Originally this path was typically marked with a large “L” and red and blue colored stripes – sometimes painted on utility poles. Named roads proliferated soon after the naming of the Lincoln Highway, but by the 1920s the state and federal governments began road building, and symbols and stripes of all the named roads started coming down. A new system was established for marking routes, and much of the Lincoln Highway was designated U.S. Route 30.

Founders of the road, the Lincoln Highway Association with its prestigious offices in Detroit, ceased its operations in 1928 with a final tribute to Abraham Lincoln. Nearly 2,500 concrete directional posts were set by the Boy Scouts of America in cities and towns along the highway, with 200 set in Ohio, some of which can be found yet today. This era of history changed America significantly. It helped give rise to the American vacation, and changed how and where we live today.

The Lincoln Highway route passed through the north-central part of Ohio by connecting the best available roads at that time. Driving the original Lincoln through Ohio from east to west will take you through East Liverpool, Lisbon, Canton, Massillon, Dalton, Wooster, Ashland, Mansfield, Bucyrus, Upper Sandusky, Ada, Beaverdam, Lima, Delphos and Van Wert. But the smaller communities that complete the thirty-nine Lincoln Highway communities in our state are the best gems to re-discover the fading remnants of the early auto era.

Because small communities avoided real estate redevelopment boom times, original buildings and streets remained the same or were minimally re-purposed, allowing the faded “ghost” signs on buildings to remain. In these small burgs you can still spot the old gas station, the Boy Scout post with the Lincoln medallion and a directional arrow showing the path of the original road, and if you are lucky and insightful, you will discern a new business in an old building intended for early tourists. If traveling with kids, get a game going to spot “Lincoln” in many business names and places.

And then, there is “pie.” That is to say, look for mom n’ pop restaurants and retails along the way that will welcome you with a smile. Remember that piece of pie you haven’t had since Grandma used to bake! Think antiques, old time hardware stores, five and dimes, community general stores and lots more to discover along the way.

Half the fun is re-discovering the history of this road. Watch for the half-hidden history along the way. Then, imagine traveling this road at a blazing speed of twenty miles per hour, when “paved road” meant a dusty, gravely, hot and pot-holed experience in a bumpy car with open sides and no air conditioning!

Take time to experience this important part of America’s past!

Learn more about Ohio jaunt along the nation’s first coast-to-coast road at www.historicbyway.com/. Information about the rest of the trek is at https://www.lincolnhighwayassoc.org/.

Golf, Shopping, or BOTH?

Located on I-75 just 30 miles north of Dayton, Ohio you’ll find a wonderful variety of golf courses and gift shops for that perfect couple’s getaway.

Get your group together, pick a weekend, and set your GPS for Sidney Ohio.  Those with a passion for shopping will find a wonderful variety of locally owned boutiques and specialty shops to explore.  Allison’s Custom Jewelry has been a favorite of many for years.  Twenty-two display cases of beautiful, handcrafted jewelry adorn this spectacular shop. At Allison’s, diamonds, gems, polished stones, gold, sterling, and crystals can each be admired in their natural brilliance.  Unique gifts accompany their stunning jewelry selections and the staff at Allison’s, well, you won’t find any more friendly or knowledgeable.

Looking for a new handbag? CR Designs in Sidney is an amazing boutique offering affordable women’s accessories including handbags, wallets, jewelry, scarves, sunglasses, and more. CR Designs also carries a nice line of unique home accent décor for every home decorating taste.

In downtown Sidney, your day of shopping won’t be complete without a visit to The Ivy Garland.  This all occasion gift shop is located on the beautiful and historic Shelby County court square and features purses, gifts for the home, fashion accessories, along with fresh and artificial floral arrangements.  A nice selection of coffee shops, diners, and restaurants can also be enjoyed on the square if you’re looking for a place to set down your packages and plan your next three shopping stops.

Okay.  You’re now refreshed and reenergized.  Let’s talk home interiors.  Perhaps one of the most interesting and unique shops anywhere is Gallery 2:TEN in Sidney.  Owner and artist Mila Hamilton describes her “out of the ordinary store” as furniture and decor rescued and renewed with paint, prayer and purpose.  On display you’ll discover the works of more than 40 local artisans.  Custom finishes are given to rescued furniture and accessories while new art is being created all the time.  Acrylics, oils, watercolors, pottery, fired glass, jewelry, gourd art, wood carvings, metal sculpture, and more.  Gallery 2:TEN offers  personal gift ideas and one-of-a-kind décor for the home.  In addition guests will be delighted to find a carefully selected assortment of wine, craft beer, and domestic beer for later enjoyment.

Interiors by Alice is another wonderful home interiors and specialty gift shop in Sidney.  Fashion accessories, florals, jewelry, and one of a kind “something specials” adorn this quaint space.

Before calling it a day, a visit to RE:Vive Home Décor and More is a must.  This expansive shop features local artists and art, painted furniture, home decor, pottery, blown glass, gifts, books and so much more.  In-shop floral services accompany their truly unique blend of yesterday with today.

Other “can’t miss” shop and browse locations on your Sidney shopping spree include Silver Linings Booktique, Believe Art From the Heart, and the Sidney Flower Shop.  For wearables, how about a quick visit to Ron & Nita’s and Threads.  Both can be found in downtown Sidney on the Shelby County court square.

Now, let’s talk golf.  Sidney has a unique blend of area golf courses sure to satisfy most golfing enthusiasts.  Shelby Oaks Golf Club offers 27 holes of championship golf, a driving range, practice green, fully stocked pro shop and grill.  Looking to put your golfing skills to the test, Shelby Oaks is ranked 12th on a list of the top 100 Toughest Golf Courses in the Miami Valley.  The North-South course combination measures 6,561 yards from the tips and features generous fairways with spacious and well-manicured greens.  The West course plays a bit longer than the North or South and presents itself as a links style layout.  Players are wise to take caution when approaching number 7 West, a 125 yard par 3 where you hit to an island green.  The locals say that many a good round quickly came to a close on this shorter, but challenging water hole.

Arrowhead Golf Club is a well-conditioned layout just 20 minutes from Sidney.  Arrowhead offers 18 championship holes, driving range, practice green, fully stocked pro shop, and the Bunker Restaurant for a bite to eat and cold beverage.  Playing 6,275 from the back tees, Arrowhead is characterized by ample fairways, fast greens, aesthetic bunkering, and strategically placed water hazards.  Hungry and thirsty golfers will enjoy their time after golf relaxing on the outdoor patio with drinks and a full service lunch/dinner menu.

Those looking for a more unique golf experience are sure to enjoy the Moose Lodge Golf Course in Sidney.  Measuring just 2,580 yards, the Moose will challenge the average player to use every club in their bag in navigating this tight nine-hole layout.  Established in 1917 as the original Shelby County Country Club, the Moose Golf Course features well-conditioned fairways, smallish greens, and strategically placed bunkers.  Don’t let its length fool you.  The Moose is a legitimate test for most players at all skill levels.

Now… where to go for dinner?  In Sidney, your options are many.  Everything from grab it and go meals to fine dining.  Sports bars, locally owned establishments, and national chains will welcome you with a warm smile, a cold drink, and a delicious meal.  Overnight options are varied as well with a nice selection of recognizable brand hotels, a locally owned bed and breakfast, and even camping at nearby Lake Loramie State Park.

Come visit Sidney, Ohio… They’re waiting for you. Start planning your next two-day getaway at www.VisitSidneyShelby.com.

Banking on Dining

old bank vault

Old Bank Vaults Are New Tourism Moneymakers

Traveling around Ohio I see the darndest things. Several years ago, I filmed two videos around the same time. One was in Wooster, Ohio and the other in Tipp City, Ohio. What I discovered, I had never seen before but have since seen sweeping the state.

My Wooster stop included Gallery in the Vault at the main corner downtown. I walked into the art gallery and was instantly enamored not only by the visuals throughout but the enormous bank vault facing the door. It was open and inside was a variety of exhibits that all lent to the transformation of this former bank.

old-bank-vault-wooster-ohioThe big vault dates back over 100 years to when Citizens National Bank installed it. Later the building became a Bank One branch. In 1995, Gallery in the Vault bought the building and opened for business the following year.

“There’s another vault that hasn’t been opened in decades,” said Judy Schmitt, owner of Gallery in the Vault. “Nobody knows what’s inside it if anything at all.”

This vault has a combination lock but nobody knows it. It would probably take Diebold to come break it open to crack the mystery. But don’t go calling Geraldo Rivera for another TV special because it would probably turn out the same as his infamous two hour special – The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults – empty!

The big vault, also Diebold, is filled with safety deposit boxes. When the old bank sold, all of the boxes were opened. If nobody came with a matching key, the lock was drilled out and opened. During the banking years, the main door to the big vault was set to timed release. Only at that time could two people with separate combinations go to the two separate dials simultaneously to open the big vault door. And there were only two people in the whole bank that had the combinations (one each). If something happened to one of those two people, you’d need to call Diebold in Canton, Ohio.

Gallery in the Vault offers an eclectic mix of handmade items from artists across the country. These are one-of-a-kind offerings. It features art glass, stained glass, pottery, wood, jewelry, original paintings and handmade Tiffany reproduction lamps. These incredible stained glass lamps are made by Cliff Lamborn in Massillon, Ohio. In addition, the gallery does custom picture framing and now has a separate room for its collection of antiques for sale. Gallery in the Vault is located at 105 East Liberty Street across from the Wooster Courthouse and iconic Everything Rubbermaid Store.

old-bank-vault-tipp-city

I mentioned a second place I had visited with a repurposed bank vault inside a former bank building. This was  Coldwater Cafe in Tipp City, Ohio. There, you can dine in the vault. Yes, that’s right, sit at the dining tables inside the vault as if you were anywhere else in the restaurant and enjoy the experience. And what a unique experience it is to walk through the huge vault door and be seated with a menu.

This vault was made by The Mosley Company and was originally the property of Citizens National Bank in Tipp City. The building later became a Fifth Third Bank. The original vault is in the basement but Citizens National added a new vault on the first floor. This is the vault that now serves as a dining room.

coldwater cafe bank vault

No fear, the vault door is locked open. Even back in the day, vaults like this and the one in Wooster have a warning system.

bank vault alarm“When the vaults were active, if someone had the unfortunate fate of getting locked inside of it, an emergency handle starts an aerator which brings in fresh air to breathe. It also sounds an alarm and triggers a red flashing warning light,” said Jenny Swiggart, General Manager at Coldwater Cafe and Catering, Inc.

Coldwater Café also has fireplaces adding to the cozy ambience. It opened in 1994 and offers a sophisticated menu with things such as ostrich being served. But it also has normal fare. The restaurant is located at 19 East Main Street in the quaint town of Tipp City, Ohio just a stone’s throw from Dayton.

Since visiting Wooster’s Gallery in the Vault and Tipp City’s Coldwater Café, I have learned of many other places around the state that have acquired old bank buildings and currently use the old vaults within in clever ways.

Maybe one of these are close to you:

  • Lou Holtz/Upper Valley Hall of Fame in East Liverpool, Ohio uses their old bank vault as an exhibit holding the gangster “Pretty Boy” Floyd in jail.
  • The Wine Vault in Vermilion, Ohio is a restaurant with a bank vault open for dining.
  • Selah Restaurant in Struthers, Ohio has vault seating for up to 12 people.
  • Starbucks in Bexley has a vault you can sit inside and sip your coffee
  • Penzey’s Spices in Upper Arlington, Ohio and also Ohio City. Both locations actually use old bank vaults inside old bank buildings.
  • P.J. Marley’s in Medina, Ohio has a bank vault open for dining.
  • J. Gumbo’s Restaurant in Baltimore, Ohio uses their old bank vault as restrooms.
  • PJs Deli in Toledo, Ohio
  • Caribou Coffee in North Olmsted
  • Tellers’ in Hyde Park (Cincinnati), Ohio uses their old vault as part of their dining room.
  • The Vault in downtown Columbus has a bar setup inside the vault.
  • And Cleveland, Ohio has old bank vaults being used at Vault Speak Easy Bar in downtown and Hyde Park Restaurant in downtown.
  • There are also vaults used at Dante Restaurant in Tremont, Crop Restaurant in Ohio City, and Rockefellers Restaurant in Cleveland Heights.

Look for us on Facebook to add more to the list.

By Frank R. Satullo, The OhioTraveler

Sauder Village is a Standout!

standout-in-ohio-award-seal

Historic Sauder Village is a standout in Ohio history. This has been a family favorite stop for many over the years. Known as Ohio’s largest living-history village, you are invited to take a step back in time. Authenticity abounds with costumed guides and craftsmen at work. Plenty of hands-on experiences await. In addition to its rich history, it also has delicious food inside the 150 year old Barn Restaurant and dessert at the Doughbox Bakery. Take a stroll through the Village’s 40 shops and historic homes. Spend the night at the campground or in the 98-room country inn. Throughout the year, there are wonderful special events. Click here for more information. 

sauder-village

This award recognizes Ohio’s standouts in tourism. More details about the award and all award recipients are at ohiotraveler.com/standouts-in-ohio-tourism/.

Meet – Stay – Play

grove-city-theatre

In Grove City, Ohio

Excerpt from a past edition of OhioTraveler

Meet. Stay. Play. Grove City, Ohio has something to offer everyone with over a dozen experiences, an outstanding, award-winning Wine and Arts Festival featuring all Ohio-made wines, and a plethora of parks and green space for hiking, animal watching, and more. 

Watch the roaming bison in bewilderment at Battelle Darby Creek Metropark. See the park’s herd of six female bison and one bull in their two bison areas. Experience the bison in their natural habitat while enjoying the beauty of the 7,000 acres of prairies, fields and forests. A Metropark naturalist will share the bison’s journey from The Wilds and will answer questions about these magnificent creatures. The Darby creeks are noted nationally for their tremendous diversity and abundance of both aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals. 

Live your dream of being a star with an improv class taught by the award-winning troupe from The Little Theatre off Broadway. The hour long acting class will teach basic acting skills that will bring out creativity of your group. Then show your acting chops with a short improvisational skit on stage at the historic theatre. If you are more adventurous, take a ghost tour of the theatre. The theatre is said to be haunted by a girl in a high-necked dress with a brooch. Legend has it that loud noises are often heard, and the double doors will sometimes blow open hard, as if blown by a violent wind, when there is no wind blowing. Who knows who or what you will see! Stay afterwards for a show at the historic theatre. 

If you are a foodie, Grove City is for you! Start your culinary journey with a unique cooking class at China Bell Restaurant and Event Center. This interactive class teaches you how to make authentic Chinese cuisine from their master chef. Or get creative and try a food sculpting class where you can create a pirate ship out of fruit or a flower out of a carrot! Have a sweet tooth? Learn how the pros do it at Capital City Cakes. Not only will you decorate a cupcake, you also get to enjoy the tasty treat you created. Complete your culinary tour at Plum Run Winery. The winery offers a vineyard tour which consists of three acres of grapes with 16 varieties of grapes planted on the farm. Experience an interactive winemaking demonstration to see how their wines are made. Learn how to bottle, label, and seal your own personal bottle of their delicious vino to take with you. And no wine tour would be complete without wine tasting. Plum Run Winery has a varied array many wonderful wines to sample and enjoy. 

Visit Grove City, there is something fantastic for everyone!