(Editors note: The UCDD ran this piece almost three years ago, but it remains relevant today. Soaring fuel prices and stifling inflation have put a dent in many a vacation plan. Yet, there are alternatives which are within an easy drive from anywhere in Union County where you can get a bang for your buck. They are called ‘staycations’ which gets you out for some fun without running up the balance on your credit card. We have updated the relevant info and excised a place or two, but these place remain up and running and are worth the trip.
Below are a few suggestions for a staycation. All are within about an hour’s drive of downtown Marysville. You can load the family in the SUV, make a short, entertaining trip and be back in you own bed that very night. You might even learn something.
Bicycle Museum of America
7 W. Monroe St.
New Bremen, OH
A history of all things bicycle, from Karl von Drais’ original “running machine” to ultra-modern carbon-fiber models that can cost way more than two-wheelers equipped with internal combustion engines. The museum owns one of the largest private collections of bicycles in the world with about 1,300 beautifully restored pieces. It displays 300 or so bicycles at any given time, including the famous ‘penny-farthing” bikes with the five-foot front wheels, the ridiculous “Quint” which seats five, bikes that resemble rickshaws, Swiss Army bikes and beautiful Elgen and Schwinn models that you wish you had as a kid.
The BMA itself is spotless, well-lit, thoughtfully laid out and packed floor to ceiling with every conceivable kind of bicycle. A must-see for any aficionados of self-powered, two-wheeled transportation and a cool time for everyone else.
Summer hours of operation for the Bicycle Museum of America are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The BMA is closed on Sunday.
2210 E. Route 245
West Liberty, OH
If your interests are more of a natural history kind, America’s Most Colorful Caverns may be more up your alley. Formed at the end of the last Ice Age, Ohio Caverns is a series of striking limestone chambers that weave underground through the hills of southeastern Logan County. The entirety of Ohio Caverns was dug out by hand over a century ago, leaving a spectacular mosaic of Mother Nature at work. Regardless of weather above ground, the temperature in the caverns remains a constant 54 degrees Fahrenheit year-round and the walls and floors are covered in rainbow-tinged stalagmites and stalactites that continue to grow this day, one drop of water at a time, as visitors make their way through the formations.
While the longer tours do require some walking, stairs and the occasional duck here or tight squeeze there, several years ago Ohio Caverns opened the quarter-mile long Limestone Tour, where those with limited mobility or confined to wheelchairs can also enjoy the beauty of America’s Most Colorful Caverns. Reservations are required for the Limestone Tour, as are tours of 20 or more people.
Hours of operation from May 1 though September 30 are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from October through April. Ohio Caverns is open seven days a week all year around, but closes Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
9872 Flowing Well Road
Waynesfield Raceway Park
15811 Waynesfield Road
For those who prefer their entertainment louder and faster, Shadybowl Speedway and Waynesfield Raceway Park both fit the bill.
Shadybowl bills itself as that World’s Fastest 3/8th Mile and visitors will have no reason to argue as stock cars fly around the paved oval south of DeGraff at speeds that would result in a whole stack of tickets should the same thing be tried on the local interstate. This is stock car racing at its most basic and, some would argue, finest form. There are no multi-million dollar machines or fat corporate sponsors to be found in the pits here. This is mostly a family affair with uncles, nephews, and third cousins on Mom’s side all pitching in to crank a wrench in an effort to gain a few extra RPM.
Waynesfield Raceway Park differs from Shadybowl in the fact that the banked track is dirt rather than asphalt. And, in addition to stock cars, wing and non-wing cars are also raced at WRP. Non-wings are essentially Soap Box Derby cars powered by 900-hp engines. That is not a misprint. Nine hundred horses, sometimes more, packed in a wedge the size of your bathtub. Watching (and hearing) the non-wings cover the 1/3-mile dirt track sideways at 100 MPH is an experience every gearhead should have at least once in their lifetime.
Both Shadybowl and WRP are at the mercy of Mother Nature and both have had several cancellations because of the rains this spring, but expect a lot more left-hand turns this summer as weather clears. Shadybowl tries to run almost every Saturday night and Waynesfield Raceway Park has special events throughout the year. Check out their respective websites for ongoing racing schedules.
Got ideas for other staycations or day-trips? Send your suggestions to email@example.com. I’ll personally check them out and update this space as I do.