Stop 2: The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Don’t be surprised if you hear calls of “O-H!” answered with an enthusiastic “I-O!” around Columbus, especially on a Saturday during football season. Buckeye football is an institution here, but the city is growing in ways that don’t include a gridiron.
Build in a trip to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, a 20-minute drive north of campus, where you can feed giraffes, ride camels and brush goats — and, if you’re lucky, watch a cheetah play and lounge with a Labrador retriever. Your family can also learn about conservation around the world: The zoo’s biologists and zoologists are working to restore coral reefs, increase southern white rhino populations and rehabilitate injured manatees. Later, venture downtown for a walk through the North Market, a vibrant, open space where you can grab a meal or a snack. Don’t leave without getting a scoop or two at the original Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams location. Tip: With any purchase at the market, you can have your parking validated for a discounted rate.
Drive a couple of miles south to German Village, a historic part of Columbus that is also home to The Book Loft, one of the largest independent bookstores in the United States. With 32 rooms connected by staircases that sometimes seem to appear out of nowhere, the store offers something for all ages. Then, load up the car and head southeast on U.S. Route 33, toward Ohio University.
Fun fact: Ohio State’s traditions run deep, and not just for graduates—professional golfer Jack Nicklaus, comedian Bob Hope and heavyweight boxing champ James “Buster” Douglas all have “dotted the i” during an Ohio State marching band performance of “Script Ohio.” During this choreographed halftime routine that dates to 1936, band members spell out “Ohio” in cursive script. Except in rare instances, the honor of dotting the “i” is fulfilled by a band member, usually a fourth- or fifth-year sousaphone player.