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Ohio & Kentucky Mini-Vacation

May 29th, 2010

We spent a few days out East earlier this week.

Sunday we drove to Columbus, Ohio, arriving around 3:30 pm at the most beautiful hotel we’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in – a Cambria Suites. Seriously, this place was swank without breaking the bank. After taking pics of the place and settling in, we drove over to the nearby mall to check out our dining options. We finally settled on a restaurant just outside the mall. The food was average but the dessert we shared, something they call Pazookie, was delicious. It’s described as a “freshly baked, hot out of the oven, rich and delicious cookie topped with two scoops of vanilla bean ice cream and served in its own deep dish.” Mmm, mmm, it was very good; the combination of the hot cookie with the cold ice cream was devine.

After our relatively early dinner we decided to hit the local movie theater to see MacGruber. The movie was about as dumb as we expected, but entertaining. I couldn’t stop laughing at the love-making scene; I was nearly crying! After the movie we went back to the hotel and relaxed in the hot tub for awhile before turning in for the night.

Monday we were up early to get donuts for breakfast, then made our way to Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, home of the famous Jack Hanna who is known for bringing animals on Letterman’s Late Night show. The zoo grounds are beautiful and the zoo is laid out nicely, but I found the exhibits often prevented any decent photography. Obviously the number one priority is to contain the wild animals, but I wish they’d use anti-reflective coating on the glass and wipe off the fingerprints once in awhile. I couldn’t get a decent photo of any of the manatees they have at the zoo, or the cool sea turtle that was in the tank with them. :(

Polar Bear Sleeping

The zoo has an interesting collection of animals, including a very nice Lorikeet Garden which I enjoyed, but I thought it was weird that they don’t have any zebras or giraffes. We tried our best to take our time and not rush through the zoo as we unintentionally tend to do, but even wasting time by riding their train and visiting a few sections twice didn’t stop us from being done by 12:30.

We consulted Yelp and found a cute burger joint for lunch and then drove around a bit. We ended up at a dumpy little amusement place to play some miniature golf and skee-ball before deciding to order pizza for dinner and taking it back to the hotel to munch on while watching the season finales of How I Met Your Mother, Rules of Engagement, and The Big Bang Theory (thank goodness for the nice LCD TV in our room and the digital stations).

You know, if there’s one thing I don’t like about traveling, it’s trying to find something to do in the evenings. We’re not bar/club people so it’s rather common for us to be bored by late afternoon after hitting the attractions we’re interested in. Other than stuffing our face or doing “other” *wink* *wink* stuff, there’s not much to do at night which sucks.

Tuesday morning we were up early to check-out and drive into the downtown area to visit Columbus’ science museum, COSI. I’m not going to sugarcoat it – the museum was lame. That being said, I’m sure it’s fun for kids, but not so much for adults. At all. We were there no more than an hour before we were ready to go, but we stalled a bit longer, watching them show the kids how they’ve trained rats to play basketball, which was cute. Then picked up some hot dogs for lunch from a funky local joint before heading to the Franklin Park Conservatory. We sat at one of the picnic benches outside and enjoyed our lunch before heading inside. The conservatory was great! Not only do they have live butterflies, but they have the most extensive Chihuly glass collection I’ve seen. We were both relieved that the conservatory was nice after being so disappointed in the museum.


After covering the entire conservatory, as well as visiting the outdoor community garden, we drove two hours to the Ohio/Kentucky border. We had decided to wing it as far as accommodations were concerned, so we drove around a bit scoping out the area, finally deciding on a Hampton Inn a mile away from the aquarium we planned on visiting the following morning. Joe was rather cranky as he wasn’t comfortable with the area and I felt a bit uneasy as well.

Cincinnati is not the nicest city in the world, but it is rather neat how their football and baseball stadiums are mere blocks apart and right on the Ohio River. There was a Red’s game that night so later in the evening when we were driving around the second time we witnessed masses of people heading to the stadium. I was half-tempted to suggest we go to the game since it was a beautiful night but was rather tired so decided to skip it. Before that, however, we decided to give Cincinnati a second chance to impress us with their local chili-spaghetti by visiting Gold Star Chili. You may recall how seven years ago, when we visited Cincinnati for the first time, we tried Skyline Chili and did not enjoy the food. Needless to say, we were nervous to try the food again, but this time we were pleasantly surprised. The guy who took our order was originally from the Wrigley area of Chicago so that was kinda cool too.

As we ate our dinner we started to feel a bit better about the area. It just felt too cramped and run-down, and to be perfectly honest, dangerous, when we first arrived. But looks can be deceiving and I think the area isn’t really bad after all. It’s just more like a city than we’re used to being suburb dwellers and all. After dinner we found an ice cream place where we shared a banana split and then walked around a mall-like area called Newport on the Levee which is right next door to the aquarium we planned on visiting.


Wednesday morning we were up early to check-out of the hotel before driving back to the Newport Aquarium. We got there early thinking we’d get some Starbucks from the Barnes and Noble but wouldn’t you know it, nothing in that area opens until 10 am, including the aquarium. It wasn’t too bad, except for the fact that a bunch of schools decided to take their pupils on a field trip to the aquarium. We waited a little while to enter to give the kids a head-start so it wouldn’t be too crowded but it wasn’t long before we caught up with them.

The aquarium is set up underground (you go down an escalator once you get inside) and there’s only one way through all the exhibits. Apparently there’s a ride that simulates being inside a dive-tank where you’re surrounded by great white sharks which was producing some blood-curling screams from the kids. We didn’t venture over by the ride, so I’m not sure if it’s really that scary, I just wanted to get away from all the screeching! The aquarium isn’t very big so even though we went through it at a leisurely pace, even doubling back at some spots, we were done within an hour. I could have stayed in the Jellyfish Gallery all day, though, but I think Joe would have gotten bored. As it was, I took 50+ photos in there because I’ve never seen the Sea Nettle Jellyfish before and they are beautiful! Once you reach the end of aquarium, you go up an escalator and find yourself “behind the scenes” looking at the surface of the big shark tank which is really cool. And then you have to pass through the gift stop (of course) in order to exit the building. We bought a magnet to add to our collection (our refrigerator is a visual representation of all the places we’ve visited) and the cashier asked if I’d like to donate money to help the penguins. I think it’s funny that I didn’t hesitate, but yet I can easily say no when asked to help for other non-animal related causes. Does that mean I like animals more than people? ;)

We weren’t too hungry after leaving the aquarium but there was nothing left to do before heading home so we decided to check out a local Big Boy establishment first. I finally got to satisfy my cheese-steak craving which I’ve had ever since we went to Phoenix last year. After our early lunch we decided to bid the area farewell, making it home in about five hours which felt more like four thanks to the time zone change.

I am definitely done with visiting Ohio now. It’s kind of boring to be honest, but I do like checking out new zoos and aquariums so the trip wasn’t a bust or anything. It just wasn’t as exciting as visiting Seattle which was our original destination. We decided to postpone that, however, since they are restructuring where Joe works and we didn’t want to spend a ton of money in case he gets laid off. I’m ok with putting off the trip for now anyway since I’m not over my fear of flying. I still need more therapy; and even then I don’t think I’ll ever get over it completely. I think I’ll always be afraid to fly, but at least I know I can do it and won’t miss out on visiting new destinations that are not within driving distance.

I think the next road trip we’ll be taking is to Omaha Nebraska in the Fall. It’s only 7 hours from us and we drive through Des Moines, Iowa to get there so we can check out that city and their zoo as well. I can’t wait!

Check out all the photos I took on our vacation over at Perfect Pixels –
Columbus Zoo
COSI & Franklin Park Conservatory
Newport Aquarium

Or on Flickr –
Columbus Zoo
Franklin Park Conservatory
Newport Aquarium

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