Rachel’s smelly feet start my sisters, Laura and Nancy, and me giggling.
“Oh fine!” my niece says, and she puts her shoes back on. Still, laughter peals through the car all the way to Worthington, Ohio, a historic suburb just north of downtown Columbus. We stop first at the Candle Lab, where scent experts help us choose among 120 mix-and-match fragrances for our own candle concoctions. Some of the scents available are strangely nostalgic—Tomato Leaf, Basil and Summer Lawn trigger backyard memories. We open and close jars, guessing who will like what. My sisters lean toward florals, but I’m distinctly in the herb camp.
While our candles set, we window-shop. Laura, Nancy and Rachel kindly indulge my pregnancy-induced nesting instinct and go gaga over the baby clothes in Fritzy Jacobs. But then they have all the fun (while I show admirable restraint) at the cool automated tasting bar at House Wine. Rachel insists on showing the bartender her newly minted over-21 driver’s -license. Have two decades really passed since she was the new baby in the family?
Reluctant to pile back in the car, we make a final stop at the Worthington Inn restaurant. A jazz trio plays, and over a divine chocolate torte, we reminisce about our family’s difficult year. Our brother passed away a few months ago. It’s been a while since I laughed until my stomach actually hurt. I didn’t know I needed it so much.
What to do
Candle Lab Blend custom scents, or browse a selection of candles. (614) 433-9900; thecandlelab.com 
Fritzy Jacobs This colorful shop sells bags, home accessories and adorable kids’ clothes. (614) 885-8283; fritzyjacobs.com 
House Wine Sample a selection of wines at a tasting bar, or pay a corkage fee to open any bottle and drink at the shop. Light, wine-friendly foods are available. (614) 846-9463; housewine.biz 
Where to eat
La Chatelaine On warm days, an inviting sidewalk patio fills with girlfriends gabbing over rich quiche, authentic French baguette sandwiches and pastries. (614) 848-6711; lachatelainebakery.com 
Worthington Inn Choose between a fine-dining restaurant and a low-key pub with an affordable menu of appetizers, sandwiches and desserts. (614) 885-2600; worthingtoninn.com 
Where to stay
Worthington has a variety of reliable chain hotels. (800) 871-3070; visitworthingtonohio.com  The German Village Guest House, a modern bed-and-breakfast in a historic neighborhood south of downtown Columbus, is a good pick for visitors who want to splurge on something special. From $165. (866) 587-2738; gvguesthouse.com 
For more information: Convention and Visitors Bureau of Worthington in Ohio (800) 871-3070; visitworthingtonohio.com 
(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® September/October 2010. Prices, dates, and other details are subject to change, so please check specifics before making travel plans.)