5 Delights in the Hocking Hills
In the southernmost reaches of Ohio (50 or so miles south of Columbus), a region of the Midwest called the Hocking Hills feels distinctly Southern. Here are five cozy ways to enjoy this region in late fall and winter:
The name HockinG Hills comes from the rugged, wooded gorges and peaks, part of the Appalachian Mountain foothills, and the folks working here serve creature comforts (extra handmade quilts for your cottage, a cup of coffee to-go after breakfast) and local history (impromptu tours of a local revived theater) with a side of Southern drawl. That hospitality casts a warm glow over the region's more intimate attractions.
Columbus Washboard Company While the company began in Columbus, Ohio (hence the name), today it's headquartered in the Hocking Hills' county seat, Logan. Co-owner and factory manager James Martin leads the fact-filled tour, weaving the factory's history with tales of washboard use. ("A tornado came through here a few years ago, and Logan was the only town with clean underwear, because washboards never stop working.") Employees demonstrate how human-operated machines crimp metal into ripples and assemble the parts, and James discusses where all the parts are sourced from (as much as possible comes from the Hocking Hills region). The tour ends at the gift shop, where the company's products are on charming display. Tours every day but Sunday. (740) 380-3828; columbuswashboard.com
Rockmill Brewery Matthew Barbee always dreamed of being a vintner like his grandfather. There was just one problem: He didn't want to fuss with growing grapes. So when he discovered that the water flowing from the spring on his family's farm in Lancaster, Ohio, made delicious beer, he found it easy to change his life plans. Today, visitors to Rockmill Brewery's tasting room can sample several Belgian-style beers, including a golden, fruity and a smooth Dubbel, in the wood-and-stone bar in the front of the family farmhouse. Open weekends for tastings. (740) 205-8076; rockmillbrewery.com
Stuart's Opera House During the late-19th-century coal boom, Nelsonville was a hopping destination. George Stuart built a grand opera house on the town's Public Square and welcomed musicians, churches and community events to use the space. After a series of closures and reinventions, the refurbished venue once again hosts musical acts (heavy on folk, country and world music), theatrical performances and community events. (740) 753-1924; stuartsoperahouse.org
Rhapsody Before your show at Stuart's Opera House in Nelsonville (or in lieu of a show, if you care to linger), dinner at Rhapsody is a must. Open Thursdays through Saturdays, Rhapsody is the product of the Hocking College culinary arts program. The dining room manager oversees the students' work, and the chef in charge is a graduate, but the rest of the staff members are students, including the knowledgeable servers who can speak to flavor profiles of particular dishes. The seasonal appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts showcase high-end takes on comfort-food classics. Toasted polenta with rich pesto proves creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside; a risotto of pomegranate and sweet peas draws out the sweetness of seared sea scallops. Through it all, a guitar player entertains, making this meal feel special and vacation splurge-worthy. rhapsody.hocking.edu
Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls If you're looking for a romantic getaway, or just a cozy spot to curl up and read a novel, reserve one of the cottages at Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls. The one-room retreats-set in the woods within walking distance of the main lodge-feature plush, rocking easy chairs, a whirlpool tub, a pot-bellied stove, fluffy bathrobes, and lots of soft, tasteful quilts and throws. Ample windows look over a back porch (with a swinging chair, perfect for sipping coffee and watching the sun rise) and a wooded ravine. You may be just five minutes from the rest of the guests at the Inn, but the long views and unbroken quiet make you feel miles from civilization. Other lodging options include rooms at the inn and cabins. (740) 380-7489; innatcedarfalls.com