Family Fun In The Ohio State Parks
Take a Spring Break Getaway With The Kids At These Park Lodges
Ohio State Park Lodges provide that rarest of getaways: a resort vacation in a natural setting at budget-stretching prices. For spring break, if the weather’s warm, enjoy strolling forests laced with wildflowers, bicycling on paved paths or pedaling along dirt trails on mountain bikes (bring your own). If the weather’s still chilly, no problem. Take a short walk in the woods, enjoying the crisp air and the crunch of twigs beneath your boots. With snow on the ground, get in a last of the season cross-country ski outing.
Whatever the weather, you and your children can admire the scenery and learn about wildlife at the nature centers. A vacation at an Ohio State Park offers plenty of ways to connect with your children and grandchildren, no tablets or smartphones needed. (But don’t worry; Wi-Fi is available). All of these four lodges delight families with indoor pools, full-service restaurants, game rooms with air hockey, ping-pong and other amusements as well as cozy nooks with fireplaces.
In addition to lodge rooms, three of the parks offer winterized cabins with full kitchens, making it easy to keep costs down by cooking your own meals. You can save additional money with the Kids Stay & Eat Free package. Through April 25, up to two children per room, age 12 and younger, stay for free and eat for free from the kid’s menu when accompanied by a paying adult. Blackout dates apply.
Since spring weather can be unpredictable, check with the lodges ahead of time about trail conditions, marina openings, boat rentals and special programming.
Deer Creek State Park Lodge
Just a 30-minute drive from Columbus, 2,337-acre Deer Creek with its large lake feels worlds away. In early spring fish for saugeye or hike through meadows and forests. Discover the inner workings of the dam that created Deer Creek Lake on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-guided tour. Stay in the lodge or spread out in a two-bedroom cabin. Pet-friendly accommodations are available. For more information and reservations, visit deercreekstateparklodge.com.
Mohican State Park Lodge
A nature lover’s paradise, 1,110-acre Mohican State Park adjoins a 4,525-acre state forest. Miles of trails lead through woods, over rolling hills, to waterfalls and to covered bridges. Let ‘tweens and teens work off energy by climbing to the top of the fire tower for panoramic views and by pedaling on part or all of the 25-mile mountain bike trail. Take time out to picnic within view of the 1,000-foot-wide Clearfork Gorge, whose cliff walls tower 300 feet above the river. Accommodations are in lodge rooms. For more information and reservations, visit mohicanstateparklodge.com.
Punderson Manor State Park Lodge
Team up for a game of disc golf on the park’s course, try geocaching and hike some of the 14 miles of trails at Punderson Manor State Park, an easy 40-minute drive from Cleveland. If there’s snow, go sledding on the park’s hill. Choose from rooms in the English Tudor-style manor house or two-bedroom cabins with full kitchens (pet-friendly options are available). For more information and reservations, visit pundersonmanorstateparklodge.com.
Salt Fork State Park Lodge
With 17,229 acres that include a 2,952-acre lake, Salt Fork is the largest of the Ohio State Parks. Dog-loving families will especially like Salt Fork’s one-acre dog park that has access to the lake so dogs can swim; but remember that the water may too cold in March for Lassie. Every Saturday, gradeschoolers can make pillows, paint T-shirts or do other crafts at the Lodge. Families can also go geocaching, ride the 19-mile snowmobile trail (if there’s snow), and hike 14 miles of trails. With ‘tweens and teens, choose the paths that require scrambling over rocks and boulders. The park has lodge rooms, as well as lakeside, hillside, hot tub and some pet-friendly cabins (sleeping up to six). For more information, visit saltforkstateparklodge.com.
WRITTEN BY: CANDYCE H. STAPEN
Long-time family travel guru Candyce H. Stapen writes for many publications and outlets. She has written 30 travel guidebooks, including two for National Geographic. For more information, see gfvac.com.