Fireflies are starting to light up the evening landscape, the nighttime air is starting to feel just a bit balmy, and those summertime concert tickets you bought months ago are starting to seem relevant.
All are sure signs that summer is almost here.
>> OHIO SUMMER TRAVEL: 50 ideas for family fun this summer
Throughout the southeast corner of the Buckeye State, ample opportunities exist for family fun, whether it’s a low-key picnic or some quality time exploring Ohio’s covered bridges.
STROUDS RUN STATE PARK
11661 State Park Road, Athens (Athens County)
Just a quick drive outside of Athens is Strouds Run, a sprawling 2,606-acre hardwood forest.
Whether enjoying a gourmet picnic or trying your hand at fishing, there’s plenty for you to do in this pocket of wilderness.
The gorgeous Alma Lake, as well as an abundance of hiking, biking and horseback-riding trails, make Strouds Run a real Athens County gem.
Admission and parking: free.
Information: Lake Alma park office: 740-384-4474, parks.ohiodnr.gov/stroudsrun
JORMA KAUKONEN’S FUR PEACE RANCH
39495 St. Clair Road, Pomeroy (Meigs County)
Owned by legendary musician Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, Phil Lesh and Friends) and his wife, Vanessa, Fur Peace Ranch is a world unto itself.
Besides being a tranquil retreat in the midst of one of the quietest slices of Appalachian Ohio (with its very own uber-hip pho restaurant), the ranch also offers guitar camps and live-music shows, as well as the Psylodelic Gallery, which houses a liquid light show, vintage rock posters and much more. Teenagers are welcome to participate in the guitar camps when accompanied by an adult (check website for details).
Admission: varies; call or visit website for more information; parking: free.
Information: 740-992-2575, www.furpeaceranch.com
THE ALPACAS OF SPRING ACRES
3370 Big B Road, Zanesville (Muskingum County)
Is there anything cozier than awakening awash in warm sunlight in the midst of a working farm? Maybe not.
To test the hypothesis, consider booking an overnight stay at the Spring Acres Bed and Breakfast, which is nestled in the Alpacas of Spring Acres Farm.
The farm features not only alpacas but also chickens, llamas, dogs and more, and guests of all ages are encouraged to interact with the animals.
The site also offers various fiber-art classes including weaving, knitting, spinning and crocheting for those 12 and older; as well as a daily fresh breakfast and a nightly dessert for guests.
Admission: varies (open by appointment); call or visit website for more information; parking: free.
Information: 740-796-2195, www.thealpacasofspringacres.com
>> MORE: Dayton Summer Bucket List: 50 things to do this summer
HERITAGE QUILT BARN TRAIL
Along state Route 643 in New Bedford (Coshocton County)
Kicking off in the predominantly Amish and quiet New Bedford, the Heritage Quilt Barn Trail is an old-fashioned road trip rich in the region’s history. The trail, which winds through New Bedford and into historic Roscoe Village, ends at the beautiful Clary Gardens in Coshocton.
Along the 22.2-mile trek are several dozen historic barns adorned with various quilt patterns (each pattern reflects a family’s history) that offer visitors a glimpse into the lives of those who settled alongside state Route 643.
Families can enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Amish Country in the summer — and maybe stop for a slice of house-made pie at one of the region’s many eateries.
An interactive app is available (for Android or iPhone) to assist in locating each of the barns.
Information: 740-622-0326, www.visitcoshocton.com, click on “things to do,” “culture & entertainment” and “quilt barn trail”
>> FREE EVENTS: 20 things to do with the kids this summer
THE ARIEL-ANN CARSON DATER PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE
426 2nd Ave., Gallipolis (Gallia County)
Home to the Ohio Valley Wind Symphony, the center opened in 1895 as the Ariel Opera House. Throughout the earlier portion of the 20th century, numerous big names in vaudeville performed in the opera house.
Now, the center houses a regular rotation of featured programming and a wide array of musical-education opportunities (check the website for a complete schedule of summer programming).
This summer, families can enjoy productions such as “The Music Man” (June 16-17) and Drew Hastings’ Farmageddon Comedy Show (July 14). And July 3 will mark the third annual Summer Tuba Time in which players of all ages are invited for instruction and a little camaraderie. That evening, participating musicians will performing at the Gallipolis City Park. (Taking part in the event is free, but a fee is charged for music books.)
Admission: varies; parking: free.
Information: 740-446-2787, arieltheatre.org
ANDERSON HANCOCK PLANETARIUM
4th and Butler streets, Marietta (Washington County)
Affiliated with Marietta College, the Anderson Hancock Planetarium offers a variety of programming throughout the summer.
Two upcoming events are designed with the young astronomers in mind: a talk about the stars, followed by a screening of the full-dome film “Secret of the Cardboard Rocket,” will be presented at 7 p.m. on July 27; and an exploration of the sky, followed by the film “Zula Patrol: Down to Earth,” will be featured at 2 p.m. July 30.
Although the planetarium is open only during scheduled programming, visitors can visit the lobby from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays to view various NASA displays and other exhibits.
Admission and parking: free
Information: 1-800-331-7896, 740-376-4827, www.marietta.edu/planetarium
BOSS BISON RANCH
45701 Unionvale Road, Cadiz (Harrison County)
The ranch, consisting of 178 acres, boasts a healthy population of one of the most iconic North American animals: the bison.
During free tours, families can get up close and personal with the animals and feed them apples and bread. If they like, visitors can simply enjoy observing the big critters in their tranquil natural environment.
Admission and parking: free
Information: 740-942-8726, bossbisonranch.wixsite.com/welcome
THE NATIONAL FOREST COVERED BRIDGE SCENIC BYWAY
Follows Ohio Route 26 from Marietta to Woodsfield (Monroe County)
There was a time when Ohio had more covered bridges than any other state. Although Pennsylvania currently holds that title, you can check out some of state’s oldest bridges along the scenic byway that runs parallel to the Little Muskingum River.
Treat your family to a four-hour self-guided tour, and then pass on proper s’mores-making etiquette over a campfire at one of the free primitive campgrounds along the 35-mile trail: Lane Farm, Hune Bridge (closed until early July), Ringmill Campgrounds and the Lamping Homestead.
Information: www.monroecountyohio.com, click on “departments,” “parks and recreation”
HOCKING HILLS CANOPY TOURS
10714 Jackson St., Rockbridge (Hocking County)
If you’re ready for an adventure, make time in your family’s schedule for a trek to Hocking Hills Canopy Tours.
For those 10 and older, the fun begins with a trip down a 1 1/2-mile scenic nature trail that includes gliding over the treetops of the Hocking Hills via a network of 10 zip lines and five sky bridges.
Guides are well-versed in enlightening visitors about native vegetation, regional history and the abundant wildlife in the region.
Admission: $90 a person per canopy tour Sundays through Fridays; $94 on Saturdays; admission includes all equipment, a light snack and transportation; additional adventure packages.
Information: 740-385-9477, www.hockinghillscanopytours.com
DRAFTY ACRES STABLE
66345 Wintergreen Road, Old Washington (Guernsey County)
Horseback riding through a sun-dappled woods might be one of the best ways to spend a summer afternoon. Regardless of your experience with equines, this stable has a package to fit your needs and abilities.
Younger children might enjoy a shorter one-hour trek through the rolling hills of Appalachia (double riding, where parents can ride with their children is available, as long as the child is younger than 6), while more experienced riders might enjoy the hourlong sunset rides.
Admission: One hour guided trail ride: $25 for 1-hour guided trail ride; $35 for 1-hour sunset ride (reservations a must); $6 for hand-led pony rides; parking: free.
Information: 740-801-0992, www.draftyacresstable.net/
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