The Works: Head to Newark for interesting, inexpensive, interactive science museum

The Works

Head to Newark for interesting, inexpensive, interactive science museum

The Works is an interactive science museum in Newark that proved to us worthy of a 40-minute drive east of Columbus for a hearty dose of mental fun.

The museum offered the right amount of entertaining activities that challenged our kids’ knowledge of history, art and technology at a fair price. We spent less than $30 for our family of four to play for several hours.

We started our adventure in the Main Gallery, where we explored an exhibit called “Lines of Sight” that illustrates the connection between art and mathematics through hands-on displays. It was neat to see how a drawing on a flat piece of paper can appear three-dimensional.

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We then motored to the main section of the museum on the first floor where there are lots of interactive stations called “labs.”  Each lab focuses on a particular topic like motion, sound, electricity and light and gives children and adults an opportunity to experiment.

We dug our hands into bins full of wheels and colorful plastic parts to create cars that we then raced down a ramp. It was fun to see that some illogical-looking contraptions outperformed others that seemed to make more sense.

Upstairs, visitors will find a boatload of history and see the remnants of this old building that during the 1800s was used to build steam engines. Exhibits highlight history and economic developments in Newark and Licking counties from the Paleo-Indians to modern times. The kids enjoyed typing on manual typewriters and calling each other on rotary phones. It was funny to observe them trying to figure out the rotary dial.

We also saw blobs of molten glass blown and transformed into colorful works of art in the Glass Studio. Visitors can watch demos or pop into the open studio the third Saturday of the month to fuse glass into sun catchers or jewelry.

Cost is $5 for children, $9 for adults and $7 for seniors. Children ages 2 and under get in free.

The Works is located at 55 S. First St., Newark. For more information, call 740-349-9277 or visit

Dawes Arboretum: Explore 1,800 acres of plants, trees at Newark nature preserve
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Dawes Arboretum

Explore 1,800 acres of plants, trees at Newark nature preserve

I’ve driven by the Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio, many times while traveling to and from my husband’s hometown two hours east of Columbus. I’d often think to myself, “One day I’m going to visit that place.”

I recently fulfilled that desire on a hot weekday in July, driving the 30 miles from Columbus to explore the arboretum’s 1,800 acres. I found an abundance of plant collections and gardens in an attractive, rustic setting.

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My first stop was the visitor’s center, where I picked up a map. There are 8 miles of hiking trails and a 4-mile auto trail looping around the property. I decided to walk the auto trail, part of which was closed for grounds maintenance. I put my son in his stroller, and we ambitiously set out to explore the more than 16,000 plants and trees.

At times the place looked like a cross between a golf course and a cemetery. It was spacious, well manicured and peaceful. I felt a little guilty walking all over what seemed like private property. But I adhered to the arboretum’s motto: “Explore. Experience. Enjoy.”

There were surprises at every turn. Colorful butterflies landed on white hydrangea. Geese squawked alongside a lake with an island, which was accessible via a bridge. Closely planted shrubs spelled out the words “Dawes Arboretum.”

Other highlights included a seasonal garden, a cypress swamp and a Japanese garden with a serene lake and stepping-stones. They say the Japanese garden is especially beautiful in the spring, when the cherry trees are in bloom. (View the flowering schedule here.)

Beman and Bertie Dawes founded the arboretum in 1929. The couple loved trees and nature, and lived on the property with their five children.

Beman Dawes became wealthy while working in the gas and petroleum industry. He was the founding president of the Ohio Cities Gas Co., which later was known as the Pure Oil Co.

Bertie Dawes loved gardening, fishing, bird watching and photography. Both died in the 1950s. The Arboretum continues its founders’ mission of education, conservation, research and maintaining plant collections for the public to enjoy.

The property is huge, but I conserved enough energy to climb a 36-foot observation tower to view the “Dawes Arboretum” hedge lettering. Measuring 2,040 feet long, it’s one of the largest of its kind in the world. Beman Dawes thought it would be an interesting landmark for pilots as they arrived and departed nearby Port Columbus Airport.

Mission accomplished.

Dawes Arboretum is located at 7770 Jacksontown Rd. SE in Newark. It’s free to visit and open 7 a.m. to dusk every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The Visitors Center is open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Guests are welcome to picnic on the property, except near the Japanese Garden. Dogs, on leashes, also are welcome.

Tours of the Daweswood House Museum are offered weekends at 1:30 and 3 p.m. and cost $2 for adults, $1 for children.

For more information, visit or call 800-443-2937.

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Cherry Valley Lodge

Upscale lodge plus indoor water park equals double the pleasure

When the chill sets in, we seek out warmth. And family fun. One nearby getaway that can accommodate us is CoCo Key Water Resort at Cherry Valley Lodge in Newark, 25 miles east of Columbus.

The 50,000-square-foot water park is done up in a Key West theme and radiates 84-degree heat year round. The park is small compared with many of those in northeast Ohio, but we found that it boasts a lot of bang for the buck, in large part because of the lodge.

Cherry Valley has always been one of our favorite nearby overnight spots. The former training center of State Farm Insurance morphed into a top hotel for business and leisure travelers some time ago, with its 200 rooms and 16 suites, fine-dining restaurant, arboretum, botanical garden and large, airy lobby.

CoCo Key, open now for almost three years, adds a jolt of fun. One great thing about the water park is that it’s isolated to the rear of the lodge. Those familiar with Cherry Valley who do not want to use the water park will find that it’s mostly unobtrusive.

My family of four stayed in a roomy suite. The large living area had a desk, dining table and four chairs, couch, television and kitchenette with a sink and a microwave. A small refrigerator in the cabinet under the television was very convenient, and we appreciated it not being stocked with a lot of high-priced impulse items.

Our bedroom had a big, comfy bed, and the bathroom was huge. It had a Jacuzzi tub, and its commode was hidden around a corner. Nice touch.

The suite was expansive enough for all of us to do our own thing. Max crawled on a blanket on the floor, Mike watched football on the television, Rosie played with the unplugged phone, and I sat at the table with my feet up on a cushioned chair.

After a while we headed to CoCo Key and had a blast. My two-year-old and I found plenty to do in an area called Parrot’s Perch Play Island. It’s kind of like an oversized outdoor play set with the added perk of squirting water. Rosie and I climbed through the maze of activities. She liked controlling the flow of water with the turn of a wheel or the squeeze of a trigger. I liked sliding down a slide with her and splashing into a shallow pool of water.

Activities for older children include getting wet under a huge bucket that dumps 300 gallons of water every 15 minutes. You also can play basketball in an activity pool, grab a tube and slide down a twisting water slide, or float in a lazy river. I was pleased to see that there were plenty of lifeguards on duty, even though my daughter required my constant observation.

CoCo Key also offers a snack bar, a gift shop and an arcade with more than 40 games and ticket redemption service. The lodge has a traditional pool, fitness center and full-service spa, as well as fine dining and casual eateries. We had a nice lunch at the Lounge Pub next to the lobby, and for dinner we munched on Pizza Hut pizza from the Callaloo Grill at the water park.

Check-in time at the lodge is at 4 p.m. and checkout is at 11 a.m. Note that you can arrive early to take advantage of a full day at the water park and leave your belongings in your car, lockers or behind the check-in desk. The water park is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends. Showers and lockers are available.

For more information, visit