For those of us looking for ways to save money this summer, but still have a fun vacation, we are introducing a new feature about road trips that are Close to Columbus. Hocking Hills is one such place. It is an easy drive southeast of Columbus along route 33 and only takes about an hour and a half to get there. We have been wanting to go on a mini-break, weekend trip to Hocking Hills for awhile and last weekend we finally did. We had a pretty full schedule, so we didn’t have a whole lot of time for relaxing. But there are many different activities to do in the Hocking Hills area. Read on to find out more about our itinerary!In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that we were approached by a local PR company to take this weekend trip to Hocking Hills, with most of the expenses pre-paid. Since this was a feature we were already planning anyway, and we felt that the content would appeal to the readers of Columbus Underground, we agreed to do it. It is also important to note up front that there are many deer in the Hocking Hills area, so drive carefully!
The itinerary set up for us included the following:
Arrive in Logan at 6:30pm on Friday. Walker, Desi (our 1.5 year old son) and I left pretty much after I got off of work at 5 and headed east on I-70 to 33. 33 gets pretty busy after work, but we arrived in time for dinner at Millstone BBQ. This place reminded me of some bbq places in southern Alabama. Our waitress was very sweet and checked on us often to make sure we were enjoying our dinner. She started our meal by bringing out their sweet cornbread muffins. They were delicious. You could easily get carried away eating these! Then we ordered our dinners, we each opted for the Millstone Combo, I had Texas Beef Brisket and Smoked Turkey and Walker had Texas Beef Brisket and Pulled Pork. It also comes with Pit Baked Beans and one other side. ($12.99). I should have known from ordering a combo platter, but the portions were huge. No way could I eat all of that! I thought the Turkey had wonderful flavor, but the brisket was a bit bland. Walker liked both of his meat choices. We had mac & cheese and coleslaw as our other sides. The mac & cheese could have been better, it was a bit over cooked. The coleslaw was good. A nice surprise were free ‘test’ desserts brought out by the manager for every table to sample, it was an apple, ice cream, and fried tortilla chip dish. Most of the other main items on the menu were around $12 and sandwiches were around $8.
Then it was off to our cabin! We stayed in the Cottage at Scenic Way. It was a cute little place, although I did about have an anxiety attack driving down the driveway to reach the cottage (I say driving, but Walker was driving and I was riding along). The owners apologized, as they have been working on the driveway and have been plagued by heavy rains which made it pretty washed out. Driving up to the cabin looks like a fairytale cottage. It is that cute. It is also tiny! One main room, a bathroom, bedroom and then a spiral staircase up to the loft. If you have toddler-aged children, you might want to bring a babygate to place in the downstairs door frame, or a baby monitor. The cottage also has a fire pit, hot tub, a pond, walking trails and a great view of the stars at night. Be warned that you might not have any cell phone service at the cottage, which could be a good thing or a bad thing. Rates are per night: $130 for weekends and holidays (Friday and Saturday or Saturday and Sunday), Sunday-Thursday are $95. This cabin was located pretty close to Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls and other major hiking trails. It was also located about 30 minutes from Nelsonville and 30 minutes from Logan. A great central location in the area. On Saturday, July 18th, there will be an Artist Appreciation Day if you’d like to plan for that.
Saturday morning we were up early to make it to breakfast at 8:30 at the Spotted Owl Cafe in Downtown Logan. The restaurant’s sign was very cute and they had a nice waterfall setup inside the space which was very exciting to Desi. However, the menu was mostly uninspired, everyday breakfast food. It was okay, I just had higher hopes for a place that had spent a lot of thought on decor. We had a waffle with strawberries, side of bacon, a raspberry smoothie, and a bacon/egg/toast/hashbrown platter with OJ. Our total came to $15.
When we left, we noticed that Logan had a street shut down for a farmer’s market. Perhaps it was still too early in the growing season, but there were only two vendors there that morning. There were also a couple of other spots around town where people had set up to sell strawberries, melons, eggs and other farm-fresh goodies.
We met up with our tour guide Betty at the Columbus Washboard Company at 9:30am for a tour (free) of the factory. This was really fun and cool to see the company still using old machinery from the early 1900s. You can read a more in-depth review with photos and video here. This weekend, and every Father’s Day weekend, is the Washboard Music Festival, “Ohio’s Most Unique Music Festival.”
After the Washboard Company tour, we stopped by Rempel’s Grove for the Petting Zoo around 10:30am. This turned out to be a fenced in area with goats and deer that were only semi-interested in visitors. Bring your quarters so you are able to get some corn to feed to the goats. There were also two little kid rides set up that also took quarters. (total: .50 for one ride and one handful of corn).
At 11am we went to hike to Cedar Falls. This was beautiful. Even though it was 83 or so degrees, deep in the forest was cool, so it would be best to dress in layers. The hike was fairly easy, the trails are easy to navigate and are clearly marked. You walk over a bridge or two and then come to the falls. There were already quite a few people out at 11am, so if you are hoping for a more secluded time, you could try a bit earlier. It really is very beautiful scenery there.
After hiking, we headed to Etta’s Lunchbox Cafe (12:30pm). We thought that if we had motorcycles, it would be an awesome place to ride to for a weekend lunch! But it was still a good place to eat even though we arrived in our car. And the lunchbox museum is pretty cool! I got to see my long-lost Care Bears lunchbox again. It brought up an old memory of me carrying my lunchbox in First Grade and walking in a line down the stairway at school on our way to lunch and having my lunchbox fall open and my lunch bounce down the stairs. Ahh, good times. Anyway, read our extended review on our lunch ($15 plus tip) here.
From Etta’s, we headed to Nelsonville to take a ride on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway. We did the 2:30pm train ride, 22 miles to Logan, plus Robins Crossing. (Tickets for adults are $16, Children 3-12 are $10, Children under 3, Free). Desi was a bit antsy while we were waiting for the train to start, but once the whistles started blowing and the train started moving, he really liked it. The overall ride was probably a bit long for him because even though we brought plenty of things for him to do, he got a bit bored. Robins Crossing was a neat place, it is a collection of log cabins built in the 1850s by settlers of the valley and all moved to this spot to be preserved. This was a fun ride, and they have many specialty rides, with Santa and the Easter Bunny and all cabooses. They also run a “Robber’s Train.” This was actually the same day, but later in the evening and was completely sold out. The robbers were out practicing when our train went by, that was pretty neat.
After the train ride we stopped in Rocky Boots, a huge outdoor supply store. They also had some neat specialty kitchen items and some nice items made in Ohio. We picked up a jar of Integration Acres All Natural Pawpaw Green Tomato Relish. Sounds good!
We headed back to the cottage for about an hour and then went to dinner (6:30pm) at The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls. (Dinner was approximately $90 plus tip). They are also a member of Dine Originals. The Inn Restaurant is comprised of two 1840s log cabins and a beautiful large patio space. It is very peaceful. We opted to dine inside. They were very accommodating to our child. It would be a pricier option, but if you are looking for more of a romantic getaway, this would be my pick. Gorgeous setting, lots of massages and other spa services to pick from and delicious food! We also popped into the gift shop and they have some fun things and also lots of Ohio made products for sale. Read our dinner and breakfast review here.
Then Desi and I returned to the cabin to relax. Walker went to find the “WiFi Sports Lounge” we saw advertised on a state road sign so he could do a little computer work. He reported back that it was not much of a sports bar, but more like hanging out in the living room at a bed and breakfast.
We rose early again on Sunday to check out of our cottage and head back to the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls for breakfast at 8:30am. Breakfast did not take as long as we had planned for, so we also did a speed run through the Old Man’s Cave trail. We were happy we made time for it. The path was so neat, lots of crazy bridges and tunnels. It was a great time. There were also hardly any other people out that early so it was fun to feel like you had the place to yourself. When we go back, we will probably spend an entire day hiking all of the trails!
At 9:45am we arrived at Hocking Hills Nature Trails for an ATV Ride. The owner, Karry Gemmell, likes to call it “motorized access to nature.” It was really fun. They are one of the only safety-oriented places in the country where you can rent ATVs and get on-site lessons for on-site riding. We rode in a bigger ATV, that drove more like a car – it had two seats and seatbelts and other safety precautions and I held Desi in my lap while Walker drove. The paths were very easy-going, however don’t wear something nice because there is the possibility of getting muddy. They also have more difficult paths for more experienced riders. (Costs vary, but generally, a Single rider ATV tour for 90 minutes is $90. Double rider is $115 for 90 minutes). To read more about our ride and see more pictures, click here.
We headed back to Lancaster to have lunch at Shaw’s Restaurant & Inn at 1pm. Shaw’s is a member of Dine Originals and Local Matters. (Our lunch was approximately $60 plus tip). They have many events, including cooking schools. Plus they are located in a really cool building. I wish we could have gotten a tour of it! It felt like a movie set. Read more about our lunch at Shaw’s here.
After lunch, we returned back home to Columbus. There were also plenty of flea markets going on if you like to shop those. It was a great trip and we are already looking forward to going back!