National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (Dayton)

You may (or may not) know that the world’s largest military aviation museum is in Dayton, Ohio right next to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force has more than 360 aircraft and missiles in its 19 acres of indoor space.  The facility’s fourth building had its grand opening June 8, 2016.  It looks and feels a lot different than the other three buildings, some of that is due to the new building having all LED lighting whereas the other buildings primarily have florescent lighting.  And now with the 4th building being open, one no longer has to go onto the actual Air Force Base to see Air Force One, among other aircraft.

Air Force One (1280x853)
The Air Force One found in the Museum’s fourth building was the first aircraft built specifically for the President; in this case it was John F. Kennedy. It became the backup Air Force One in 1972 when a new Boeing VC-137C was acquired by the Air Force. This Air Force One was retired from the Presidential fleet in 1990 and arrived at the Air Force Museum in May 1998.

 

I thought of Air Force One as being huge but the 4th building is big itself that the President’s jet doesn’t look as big anymore.  Something else I noticed that may not seem big but it depends on how long you can stay on your feet and that is there are chairs throughout the all the buildings should you need to take a rest because there is so much to see in the museum.  There are seats that cost $8 to use but that’s because they’re in one of the two state of the art aircraft simulators.  There is a Space Shuttle simulator next to the Shuttle trainer; that simulator is free.

Replica of the 1909 Wright Military Flyer was constructed in 1955
Replica of the 1909 Wright Military Flyer was constructed in 1955.

 

One of the great things about the museum being free is just that.  If you really want to take your time and enjoy it, you can take as many days to see it as you’d like.  The youngest of children may not want to drag out a visit, however there is a swing set outside of the museum for the (much) younger crowd.  There are a couple of picnic pavilions outside of the museum should you decide to picnic.  If you wish to eat inside, there are two options: Valkyrie Café on the second floor, above the museum store and there is also the Refueling Cafe which is on the mezzanine between the Cold War Gallery and the Fourth Building.  This means that you can get a bird’s-eye view of both.

Curtiss P-40E Warhawk (1280x853)
The Curtiss P-40E Warhawk on display is a Kittyhawk (the export version of the P-40E built for the RAF). It is painted to represent the aircraft flown by then-Col. Bruce Holloway, a pilot in both the Flying Tigers and its successor Army Air Forces unit, the 23rd Fighter Group.

Also on site is a 400-seat movie theater that shows 3D movies on a 80-foot by 60-foot screen which is the largest in Southwest Ohio.  They show documentaries every half-hour starting at 10:30 AM.  On the 4th Sunday of every month, the 4 PM movie is replaced with a Hollywood film instead.  On 8/28/16, Jurassic World will be shown; on 9/25/16 they will show the Peanuts movie; on 10/23/16 it’s the Goonies; Batman vs. Superman on 11/27/16, and to wrap up the 2016 Hollywood movie showings will be Frozen on December 11th, which I know is not the 4th Sunday of December but I’m guessing that’s scheduled early to avoid the holidays at the end of the year.  The Hollywood Series movies cost $5/person.

Southeast Asia War Gallery (1280x570)
The Southeast Asia War Gallery. Or what is known as the War in Vietnam. The aircraft in this gallery is not necessarily exclusive to that war but it’s primary use was in Southeast Asia.

Every attempt to make the museum wheelchair accessible has been made.  Some places that’s not really possible and that’s mostly in the case of the aircraft that visitors can step aboard, such as Air Force One and Columbine III.  Not only do you have to walk up the steps but there is (I think) plastic along the passenger compartment so as to protect the plane’s interior.  That makes it a narrow aisle so if you’re a larger person or have really wide shoulders, walk sideways!  Right before the steps to the planes that you can walk through is a plastic (or possibly plexiglas) archway so you can tell before you even climb up the steps whether you’ll fit though the narrow walkway on the aircraft.

Lockheed AC-130A Spectre Gunship (1280x853)
There are still a few aircraft sitting outside the museum such as this Lockheed AC-130A Spectre Gunship.

 

Admission to the museum itself is free and there are also free guided tours that go on during the day as well.  Announcements are made over the PA system to remind visitors when a guided tour is starting.  Other announcements you will hear remind visitors the food and drinks (including water) are to stay in the cafe and that they don’t want kids running around the museum [but they say that much nicer than I did].  You will learn a lot at the museum.  The thing that struck me was just how fast we went from the Wright brothers flying their plane just a few hundred feet and barely 10 years later the Army had machine guns on planes fighting in World War I.

Air Force Museum Building Four (1280x853)
View of the Air Force Museum’s fourth building. You can barely see it in the back, but Air Force One is there. On the right is a Space Shuttle Crew Compartment Trainer. It is one of three Space Shuttle mockups used to train astronauts from 1981-2011.

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
1100 Spaatz Street
Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433

[Your GPS may or may not like Wright-Patterson AFB, OH; mine is a Garmin and it accepted the same street address but with Riverside, OH as the city.]

Admission:  Free for the Museum

Simulators:  $8/person; Morphis Movie Ride:  $7/person; Pulseworks VR (virtual reality) Transporter:  $10/person; Pulseworks ESP Motion Ride:  $7/person or $5/person under 42 inches tall.

Movie theater prices:  Adult – $8; Seniors (60 yrs +) and Military (Active, Reserves, Guard, Retired, Dependents) – $7 ; Members and children (3-12 years) – $6.  Discout of $.50 off per ticket if you purchase 2 or more shows together.  Hollywood movies series – $5 each.

Hours:  Museum and Museum store:  9 AM – 5 PM everyday.  Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day; Refueling and Valkyrie Cafes:  10 AM – 4:30 PM

Distance from Ohio cities:

  • 73 miles West of Columbus
  • 62 miles North of Cincinnati
  • 228 miles Southwest of Cleveland
  • 206 miles Southwest of Akron
  • 158 miles South of Toledo
  • 6.1 miles Northeast of Dayton City Hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ariel Foundation Park (Mt. Vernon)

In Mt. Vernon sits a 250-acre park on land that once housed the Pittsburgh Plate and Glass (PPG) Glassworks No. 11 factory which was at the time of its opening- 1951- the world’s largest plate glass factory.  It closed in 1979.  By 2015 a new park opened on the property and Ariel Foundation Park became reality.

Reflecting Pools
Picture taken from the tallest earthen terrace is 40 feet above ground-level and oversees a couple of reflecting pools and the top of this terrace has its own sculpture made of twisted steel and painted bright red and that extends 30 feet up.

The park has several terraces which resemble burial grounds the Adena and Hopewell cultures would build however in the case of Ariel Foundation Park, the terraces are for seeing the scenery around the park itself which has several reflecting pools as well as some lakes which are located where there used to be gravel quarries.  The only watercraft permitted on the lakes have to be human-powered; no engines or sailboats.  Fishing is allowed if you have a fishing license.

Rastin Observation Tower
Other than communication towers, the Rastin Observation Tower is the tallest structure in Knox County. The steps go up for the first 140 feet of the 280 feet of PPG’s smokestack that was built in 1951 and used until the plant closed in 1979.

If you like climbing to high places then the Rastin Observation tower is for you.  The Independence Day fireworks display happens here and for the 2016 show- and I assume this will continue into the future- raffle tickets could be bought for $1 and the winner of the raffle could watch the fireworks from the tower.

DSC_0099
Pavilions for are available for rent around the Lakes and also some pavilions like this one is available for much smaller groups.

Parks like this are known for having pavilions to serve large groups but Ariel Foundation also has smaller ones for couples/families who don’t need 20 tables.  The pavilions are found around The Lakes.  The Knox County Fish and Game association held its annual Fishing Derby at The Lakes.  And the Heart of Ohio Trail runs right next to the park.

DSC_0105
The Schnormeier Events Center is a 17,000 square foot structure that has been wonderfully preserved at Ariel-Foundation Park. This building is a focal point for various community events, as it can accommodate up to 2,000 guests. Summer concerts are held there with seating provided or bring your own lawn chairs. Next to it is an elevator shaft from the PPG (Pittsburgh Plate and Glass) building.

The sections of the PPG plant that are saved throughout the park are referred to as The Ruins and they serve as a reminder of what once occupied the property.  There are also some steel girders among the Ruins that were saved from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  Most impressive to me is how many mature trees are already here.  Considering that the land once housed a factory I wondered the land would be mostly flat, without trees since there would also have been a flat parking lot to go with it.  Fortunately that was not the case; there are plenty of trees here.

River of Glass
These chunks of glass, known as “cullet,” were found by the thousands during park construction, leftover from the old PPG plant. Cullet was formed when a glass melting tank was shut down for repair and the molten glass remaining in the tank had cooled and hardened. The mass would be broken into pieces, removed, and later re-melted to make new glass.

Aaron Keirns has written a book about the park and its history.  Also on the property is the Urton Clock House which is a museum which covers the history of the PPG plant that was once here and it also serves as an event center for anyone who would like to rent it.

There are a couple of entrances to the park.  If you’re coming up from the south on Ohio 3/U.S. 36, you’ll see an entrance next to the Harcourt Motel.  That entrance will get you to a parking area next to the lakes and that’s about as far as you can go because the rest of the road through the park is one way.  You can still walk through the rest of the park from that parking lot if you want to.  Otherwise, the entrance picture at the top of this post is off the Pittsburgh Ave. entrance and that will get you through the whole park.  There is a parking lot about 500 feet or so east of this entrance and is next to the Clock House as well as the observation tower.  Regardless of where you park, you will be doing a lot of walking because it is after all, 250 acres!

Ariel Foundation Park
10 Pittsburgh Ave.
Mt. Vernon, OH  43050

Hours:  7 AM – 11 PM; the observation tower is closed during the winter months.  The park is officially open April 1 – November 15, although most of the park (other than the tower and the lakes which have a tendency to freeze in the winter) is accessible year-round.

Admission:  Free

Parking:  Free

Distance from Ohio cities:

  • 49 miles northeast of Columbus
  • 163 miles northeast of Cincinnati
  • 107 miles south-southwest of Cleveland
  • 85 miles southwest of Akron
  • 132 miles southeast of Toledo

 

 

The Dawes Arboretum (Newark)

The Dawes Arboretum is a collection of nearly 16,000 trees and shrubs spread over 1,800 acres in Newark.  The Arboretum was founded in 1929 by Beman and Bertie Dawes and was inspired by the couple’s love of trees and nature.  Beman Dawes’ aim was to inspire people to plant trees when he bought 140 acres of the old Brumback farm in Licking County around 1917.  By the time Dawes Arboretum was founded in 1929, it was 293 acres.  And now it’s 1,800 acres.

Story Trail follows the children's book "Maple" by Lori Nichols as there are around two dozen of these story boards/pages from the book as you walk along the trail.
Story Trail follows the children’s book “Maple” by Lori Nichols as there are around two dozen of these story boards/pages from the book as you walk along the trail.

The Arboretum says it’s a museum without walls and that’s probably a good way to put it.  And while 1,800 acres is a lot, there are two driving tours on the grounds that are around 4 miles total.  The North and South Driving Tours don’t connect directly to each other but are around 2 miles each and both have places along the tours to park so that you can get out and see parts of the garden up close.

Along the North Driving Tour is Holly Hill, not named for anyone named Holly but for the plants, of which I found over two dozen Hollies here and in fact Dawes Arboretum is an official Holly Arboretum as recognized by the Holly Society of America.
Along the North Driving Tour is Holly Hill, not named for anyone named Holly but for the plants, of which I found over two dozen Hollies here and in fact Dawes Arboretum is an official Holly Arboretum as recognized by the Holly Society of America.

On May 30, 2015, the Japanese Gardens opened after a two-year closure for renovations.  Makoto Nakamura designed the Gardens in 1963 and offered input on the renovations over four days in the summer of 2014.  Input such as proper Japanese pruning techniques and the placement of the rocks around the pond.

The Japanese Gardens are a popular attraction at Dawes Arboretum says Executive Director Luke Messinger. "It's a visitor favorite. It has a really cool place in people’s hearts,” Messinger said. "The Japanese Garden is kind of unique. It's a hide and reveal garden, so when someone walks in, they might say: ‘Oh, that doesn’t look like much.’ But you head further in and you get to the reveal."
The Japanese Gardens are a popular attraction at Dawes Arboretum says Executive Director Luke Messinger. “It’s a visitor favorite. It has a really cool place in people’s hearts,” Messinger said. “The Japanese Garden is kind of unique. It’s a hide and reveal garden, so when someone walks in, they might say: ‘Oh, that doesn’t look like much.’ But you head further in and you get to the reveal.”

There are eight themed areas within Dawes Arboretum:  Garden Gateway (where the Japanese Gardens among other sites are located), Daweswood, Glacier Ridge, Woodlands, Dawes Lake, Red Barn area, Arboretum East, and Dutch Fork Wetlands.

Also in the Garden Gateway is the Cypress Swamp which is one of the northernmost bald-cypress swamps in North America.
Also in the Garden Gateway is the Cypress Swamp which is one of the northernmost bald-cypress swamps in North America.

There is a Visitors Center on the right shortly after you enter through the gates.  Not the first right as that leads to Daweswood and the Red Barn area but the Center is right on the driveway that you enter on and next to the parking area.  They have maps like you would expect as well as soft drinks/sports drinks/bottled water for sale as well as shirts and walking sticks, among other things for sale.  Restrooms are also in the Visitors Center.

Dawes Lake is an 8-acre pond with an island. The fish species found in Dawes Lake are bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass, some crappie and white amur (for vegetation control). Catch-and-release fishing in Dawes Lake is permitted if you are a member of the Arboretum. Memberships start at $30.
Dawes Lake is an 8-acre pond with an island. The fish species found in Dawes Lake are bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass, some crappie and white amur (for vegetation control). Catch-and-release fishing in Dawes Lake is permitted if you are a member of the Arboretum. Memberships start at $30.

The Dawes Arboretum
7770 Jacksontown Rd. SE
Newark, Ohio 43056

Hours: The Arboretum opens at 7 AM daily, entry for the Auto Tour ends at 8 PM.  The grounds close at sunset.  It is closed for New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.  The Visitors Center is open 8 AM – 5 PM Monday-Saturday and 10 AM – 5 PM on Sundays and holidays.

Admission:  Free

Parking:  Free

Distance from Ohio cities:

  • 40 miles East of Columbus
  • 151 miles Northeast of Cincinnati
  • 145 miles South-Southwest of Cleveland
  • 125 miles South-Southwest of Akron
  • 165 miles Southeast of Toledo

 

Kingwood Center Gardens (Mansfield)

Just to the west of downtown Mansfield sits the 47-acre estate that was once home to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kelly King up until his death in 1952.  Ever since 1953 it has been a public garden and that was by his design as he was married and divorced twice and had no children to inherit his fortune he earned at the Ohio Brass Company.  Mr. King was hired as the company’s first electrical engineer in 1898 and remained with the company and eventually became Chairman of the Board and President of Ohio Brass.

Charles King's mansion at Kingwood Center now houses the Center's horticultural library and administrative offices.  The first floor looks much like it did when Mr. King lived there.  The mansion is a popular location in Mansfield for weddings so it's not a given that it will be open on weekends to people other than wedding guests.
Charles King’s mansion at Kingwood Center now houses the Center’s horticultural library and administrative offices. The first floor looks much like it did when Mr. King lived there. The mansion is a popular location in Mansfield for weddings so it’s not a given that it will be open on weekends to people other than wedding guests.

The balance of the estate is made up around a dozen different floral gardens.  And while the grounds are beautiful any time of the spring/summer/fall, the are events going on throughout the year:  http://www.kingwoodcenter.org/cms/images/pdfs/CalofEvents/CAL15.pdf

The rose garden at Kingwood Center.
The rose garden at Kingwood Center.

To take in all there is to see here, it’s about a 2-3 hour visit.

Memorial fountains in honor of George L. Draffan, first chairman of the Kingwood Center Administrative Board.
Memorial fountains in honor of George L. Draffan, first chairman of the Kingwood Center Administrative Board.  That is Kingwood Hall at the other end of this grassy mall.
Also on the grounds are greenhouses with more plants/flowers on display and attached to the greenhouse is another room with plants/flowers that are available for sale.
Also on the grounds are greenhouses with more plants/flowers on display and attached to the greenhouse is another room with plants/flowers that are available for sale.
The Duck Pond at Kingwood Center.  Food to feed the ducks is available for a quarter from dispensers located around the pond.
The Duck Pond at Kingwood Center. Food to feed the ducks is available for a quarter from dispensers located around the pond.

While Kingwood is not promoted as a place to hike, as you might imagine there is plenty of space for doing that on its 47 acres.  It is kind of quiet considering that it’s not out in the country but at the corner of Trimble Rd and Park Avenue West.  In the rose garden picture, on the right side you can see houses which are not part of the estate but are on N. Linden Rd.

While there are no spaces for group picnics, there are tables available for couples and small groups for eating in the great outdoors.

Some outlets refer to the address as 900 Park Avenue West.  That changed this past spring to 50 N. Trimble Rd since that was always the public entrance to the park.

Kingwood Center Gardens
50 N. Trimble Rd.
Mansfield, OH  44906

Hours:  Grounds are open 9 AM – 7 PM daily; greenhouses are open 9 AM – 6 PM daily.  Kingwood Center is closed January through March.  Kingwood Center is closed for most of November while it is prepared for Christmas at Kingwod which starts November 28, 2015.  Kingwood Hall is open May 10 – September 27.

Admission:  $5 per car or $2 if walking in off the street.  Guided tours of Kingwood Hall are $3 each for ages 7 and up; younger is free.  Kingwood Hall tours are normally available at 11 AM Saturdays and 2 PM on Sundays unless there is a wedding in the Hall.  Self-guided tours can be done on weekdays from 11 AM – 2 PM.

Pets are not allowed on the Kingwood Center grounds.

Parking:  $5/car which includes admission to the grounds.  In other words, admission is not per person (unless you’re walking in) but per vehicle.

Distance from Ohio cities:

  • 2 miles West of Mansfield City Hall
  • 69 miles North-Northeast of Columbus
  • 193 miles Northeast of Cincinnati
  • 83 miles Southwest of Cleveland
  • 69 miles West-Southwest of Akron
  • 106 miles Southeast of Toledo

EnterTRAINment Junction (West Chester)

About halfway between downtown Cincinnati and downtown Dayton sits 25,000 square feet of model train amusement park:  EnterTRAINment Junction.  The building as a whole is 80,000 square feet overall.  There are 90 G-scale trains with around 1,200 train cars running on 2 miles of tracks on this trip through every era of railroading from the 1860s to the present.

In the mezzanine of EnterTRAINment Junction is a working model of Cincinnati's Coney Island Amusement Park.  And no, it's not dark in the mezzanine.  About every 15 minutes the sun sets at EnterTRAINment Junction [lights change from white/yellow to blue] and so this was taken during the night cycle.
In the mezzanine of EnterTRAINment Junction is a working model of Cincinnati’s Coney Island Amusement Park. And no, it’s not always dark in the mezzanine.  Around every 15 minutes the sun sets at EnterTRAINment Junction [lights change from white to blue] and so this was taken during the night cycle.

In addition to the trains is A-Maze-N Funhouse, the area’s only mirror maze, a discombobulating spinning vortex tunnel, a tilt room, a confusing curtain maze, a claustrophobia hallway, an illusory endless corridor.  The combination of the Funhouse and the trains has billed EnterTRAINment Junction as the world’s only railroad-themed family fun center.

Railroad's Early Era.
Railroad’s Early Era.

What makes this a fun trip is that model trains are something that most everyone has experience with in one form or another which makes this a fun trip for all ages and even if your interest in model trains isn’t that strong, it’s still a trip through time from the 1860s on.

The Modern Era of railroading as seen from the mezzanine.
The Modern Era of railroading as seen from the mezzanine.

For the much-younger crowd is Imagination Junction.  It’s a 5,000 square foot play are for the kids that want to climb, slide, bounce, crawl through tunnels and more. Kids can shovel coal, run trains, and for the even  younger crowed, there is a toddler play area.  Imagination Junction also has an entire play area devoted to Thomas the Tank Engine train, with video screens and Thomas trains.

This is a control panel from a real train yard:  the CSX Queensgate Yard which runs a distance of about 3.5 miles.  The lower panel are the switches the operator would use to change track switches and signal lights.  The top panel shows the current position of the track switches and signal lights.
This is a control panel that came from a real train yard: the CSX Queensgate Yard. The lower panel are the switches the operator would use to change track switches and signal lights. The top panel shows the current position of the track switches and signal lights.

EnterTRAINment Junction opened August 1, 2008 as a project envisioned by Cincinnati businessman Don Oeters as an entertainment center for all ages that would would entertain, educate, and promote railroading as a hobby.  The A-Maze-N Funhouse is part of this project to give the feel of going to an amusement park.  It has a broad appeal as visitors from all 50 states and 37 countries have visited here and it averages 130,000 visitors annually.  It also helps that it has a party room for hosting children’s birthday parties.  And as is the case with hobbies, there are always things to change/update/fix.  The sunrise/sunset cycle didn’t exist on my first trip to EnterTRAINment Junction in 2010 and now there is the effect of the sun setting during your visit.

In addition to the model trains is the history of railroads in the American Railroading Museum.  And model trains do run everywhere as that is a train above the Museum.
In addition to the model trains is the history of railroads in the American Railroading Museum. And model trains do run everywhere as that is another train above the Museum.

EnterTRAINment Junction
7379 Squire Court
West Chester, OH  45069

Hours:  10 AM – 6 PM – Monday thru Saturday; Noon – 6 PM on Sundays.  Closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas as well as Wednesdays in January (for maintenance).

Admission:  $13.95 for Adults, $11.95 for Seniors (65+), $9.95 for Children ages 3-12; Free for Children 2 and younger and that Admission includes Train Journey – The World’s Largest Indoor Model Train display; Imagination Junction – Children’s Interactive Play Area; American Railroading Museum – How Railroads Changed Our Lives, and Expo Center – Volunteers’ Workshop, Historical Library & Neil Young’s Lionel Traveling Train Display.

A-Maze-N Funhouse Admission:  $9.95 and includes Crazy Caper, Mirror Maze, Clown College – Featuring a Tilt Room & an Ames Room, Outer Limits – Featuring Claustrophobic Hall, Vortex Tunnel & a Black Light Room, and Curtain Chaos

Kid’s Express and Train Ride:  $3.00 for unlimited rides.  An outdoor train ride for children up to 59″ and is open Memorial Day – Labor Day, weather permitting.

 Parking:  Free
Distances from Ohio cities:
  • 25 miles North of downtown Cincinnati
  • 35 miles South of downtown Dayton
  • 98 miles Southwest of Columbus
  • 200 miles South of Toledo
  • 253 miles Southwest of Cleveland
  • 240 miles Southwest of Akron

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (Columbus)

Around 2 miles east of downtown Columbus is 88 acres of park known as the Franklin Park Conservatory.  The Franklin County Agriculture Society purchased the land in 1852 to be used as the site for the first Franklin County Fair.  In 1874 it was designated the space for Ohio State Fair.  In 1886, the Fair moved to its current home- what is now known as the Ohio Expo Center.  The city of Columbus then built the Palm House on the property and opened it to the public in 1895 as Franklin Park Conservatory.  It was known just as Franklin Park from 1884-1895.  Columbus Parks and Recreation owned Franklin Park Conservatory up until 1989.

The John F. Wolfe Palm House at Franklin Park Conservatory not only showcases 43 species of palms from around the world and is a popular spot for wedding receptions or even weddings themselves.  Roughly 200 weddings are held at the Conservatory whether inside or outside on the grounds.
The John F. Wolfe Palm House at Franklin Park Conservatory not only showcases 43 species of palms from around the world and is a popular spot for wedding receptions or even weddings themselves. Roughly 200 weddings are held at the Conservatory whether inside or outside on the grounds.

Some 400 species of plants are housed inside the Conservatory’s green houses and each of its “rooms” are divided according to the natural environments in which the plants would be found: Himalayan Mountain Biome, Rainforest Biome, Desert Biome, and the Pacific Island Water Garden.

The koi pond in Franklin Park Conservatory's Pacific Island Water Garden.
The koi pond in Franklin Park Conservatory’s Pacific Island Water Garden.

The Conservatory is a popular rainy day activity and just as interesting in the winter as it is the same temperature indoors year round.  Fall 2015 will feature large pumpkin carvings by Villafane Studios .Over the Christmas holidays (November 21, 2015 – January 3, 2016), the Conservatory hosts Merry & Bright with Christmas lights and hundreds of poinsettias on display.

In 2003, the Conservatory hosted Chihuly at the Conservatory, a display of Dale Chihuly's glass artwork.  That exhibition proved so popular that the Conservatory set an attendance record.  The private, non-profit group Friends of the Conservatory raised funds to buy most of the glass artwork from the exhibition to make it a permanent part of Franklin Park Conservatory.
In 2003, the Conservatory hosted Chihuly at the Conservatory, a display of Dale Chihuly’s glass artwork. That exhibition proved so popular that the Conservatory set an attendance record. The private, non-profit group Friends of the Conservatory raised funds to buy most of the glass artwork from the exhibition to make it a permanent part of Franklin Park Conservatory.

Outside is the The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company Community Garden Campus- added in 2009- has 40 community plots as well as culinary, herb, and fragrance gardens.

The Desert Biome at Franklin Park Conservatory displays cacti and other plants that one would find in the desert.
The Desert Biome at Franklin Park Conservatory displays cacti and other plants that one would find in the desert and yes, it is as dry in here- in terms of moisture in the air- as it would be in the desert.
Outside the conservatory, along the Grand Mallway is the NavStar, created by artist Stephen Canneto, has become a landmark sculpture at the park.
Outside the conservatory, along the Grand Mallway is the NavStar, created by artist Stephen Canneto, has become a landmark sculpture at the park.

Franklin Park Conservatory
1777 East Broad St.
Columbus, OH  43203

Hours:  10 AM – 5 PM daily; open until 9 PM Wednesdays through August 26th.

Admission:  $13 – Adults; $10 – Seniors and Students with ID; $6 – Children ages 3-17; Children 2 and younger & members are free.

Parking:  Free

Distances from Ohio cities:

  • 3.1 miles East of Columbus City Hall
  • 127 miles Northeast of Cincinnati
  • 148 miles Southwest of Cleveland
  • 148 miles Southeast of Toledo
  • 140 miles Southwest of Akron

The Shawshank Redemption (Mansfield / Lucas)

Sometime around 5:30 AM on Saturday, June 6, 2015, David Sweat and Richard Matt- both convicted killers in the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, NY- were discovered missing from their prison cells.  Matt was shot and killed by U.S. Border Patrol tactical unit in Malone, NY on June 26, 2015.  Sweat was shot but survived and was taken into custody June 28, 2015.  The news media declared it the Shawshank Redemption escape in reference to Andy Dufrense’s escape from the fictional Shawshank prison.  And then there are the newspaper headlines:

  • “A sensational ‘Shawshank Redemption’-style prison break,” – The New York Daily News
  • “Daring ‘Shawshank Redemption’-style escape,” – The New York Post
  • “How real-life prison escape compares with ‘Shawshank.’” – the Associated Press.  ABC News has also done a similar story.

Tim Robbins was on Conan the following Monday night to promote his HBO series The Brink.  I don’t know when he was booked to be a guest but usually those bookings are made a few weeks in advance of the scheduled appearance.  So it was probably luck for Conan O’Brien to get the star of The Shawshank Redemption on his show only days after the real-life prison escape in upstate New York:

If it had not been for that prison break, this posting would probably start here noting that while the Shawshank Prison is fictional, the prison that “played” the role of the Shawshank prison is in Mansfield, Ohio.  Known as the old Ohio State Reformatory, it opened its doors to its first 150 inmates in 1896 and closed on December 31, 1990 when the last of the prisoners were moved to the nearby Mansfield Correctional Institute.

This is taken on the Hollywood Tour of the Ohio State Reformatory.  As you can tell, the actual prison cells from the Shawshank Redemption were not from Ohio State Reformatory as these cells face outward and in the fictional Shawshank prison, the rows of cells face each other.
This is taken on the Hollywood Tour of the Ohio State Reformatory. As you can tell, the actual prison cells from the Shawshank Redemption were not from the Ohio State Reformatory as these cells face outward and in the fictional Shawshank prison, the rows of cells face each other.  Those cells were a Hollywood creation in a warehouse in Mansfield that we were told on the tour is in use today.

Tours of the old prison can be taken April 1 – September 1.  The only days it’s closed are the holidays (Easter, Memorial Day, and July 4th).  The only guided tours are available on Sundays and the Reformatory hours are 11 AM – 4 PM daily.  The are four different guided tours one can take on a Sunday.

  • The Hollywood Tour  
  • West Tower Tour  
  • East Cell Block Tour  
  • Behind the Scenes Tour

Or, if you want to see the prison at your own pace, self-guided tours are an option every day of the week.

In downtown Mansfield are a couple of other stops on the Shawshank Tour:

The Bissman Building at 193 N. Main St. in Mansfield
The Bissman Building at 193 N. Main St. in Mansfield “played” the role of the Brewer Hotel in The Shawshank Redemption, however only the outside of the building was used for the hotel. Brooks’ room (and later Red’s room) was filmed at the Ohio State Reformatory. They also host ghost-hunters from all over as well as the building- built in 1886- has a history of paranormal activities.
In downtown Mansfield is the park where Brooks feeds the birds after being released from prison.  The actual bench that actor James Whittmore sat on is gone; a gazebo is sitting there now.  There is a replica green bench with a Shawshank plaque on it.
In downtown Mansfield is the park where Brooks feeds the birds after being released from prison. The actual bench that actor James Whittmore sat on is gone; a gazebo is sitting there now. There is a replica green bench with a Shawshank plaque on it. Not sure why but I didn’t get a picture of the bench though I was probably thinking that since it wasn’t the actual bench, it wasn’t a big deal to see it. The park is about a half-mile south of the Bissman Building.
The Carrousel Antiques window was used as the pawn shop that Red was looking into from the outside and seeing the compass he would later use to find the Oak Tree.  Located at 118 N. Main St. in downtown Mansfield.  It's only 0.2 miles north of Central Park where Brooks' Bench was.
The Carrousel Antiques window was used as the pawn shop that Red was looking into from the outside and seeing the compass he would later use to find the Oak Tree. Located at 118 N. Main St. in downtown Mansfield. It’s only 0.2 miles north of Central Park where Brooks’ Bench was.

Just outside of Mansfield in Southeastern Richland County is the village of Lucas and home to the Oak Tree from the Shawshank Redemption.

This picture was taken July 30, 2011, the day after the tree was split open by strong winds so it no longer looks as it did when Red (Morgan Freeman) finds the box Andy left for him.  The half of the tree that's still standing is on Pleasant Valley Rd, about 0.8 miles west of Ohio route 603 in Lucas.  The tree is on private property so fans are discouraged from walking up to the tree.  Tourism officials discourage fans from stopping along Pleasant Valley Rd. to take pictures and I won't encourage you to ignore that request, I will say this:  the population of the village of Lucas is 602 according to a 2013 estimate; how much traffic would you expect to see on any given road?
This picture was taken July 30, 2011, the day after the tree was split open by strong winds so it no longer looks as it did when Red (Morgan Freeman) finds the box Andy left for him. The half of the tree that’s still standing is on Pleasant Valley Rd, about 0.8 miles west of Ohio route 603 in Lucas. The tree is on private property so fans are discouraged from walking up to the tree. Tourism officials discourage fans from stopping along Pleasant Valley Rd. to take pictures and I won’t encourage you to ignore that request, I will say this: the population of the village of Lucas is 602 according to a 2013 estimate; how much traffic would you expect to see on any given road?

The Ohio State Reformatory
100 Reformatory Road
Mansfield, Ohio  44905

Hours:  11 AM – 4 PM Daily from April 1 to September 1; closed the rest of the year except for special events

Admission:  Self-Guided Tours:  General Admission – $9.00; Students (Ages 7-17); Seniors (Age 60+), College ID, and Military – $7.00.  Audio wand – $5.00 per wand

Admission:  Guided Tours (Sundays only):  General Admission – $14.00; Students (Ages 7-17); Seniors (Age 60+), College ID, and Military – $12.00.  Same-day discount:  if you take more than 1 guided tour, every tour after the first one is $7.00 each on that day.

Parking:  Free

Distances from Ohio cities:

  • 76 miles northeast of Columbus
  • 190 miles northeast of Cincinnati
  • 80 miles southwest of Cleveland
  • 106 miles southeast of Toledo
  • 67 miles west-southwest of Akron

The Shawshank Trail takes you on a tour of 14 sites across Northern Ohio where the Shawshank Redemption was filmed.