Squeeze it in: Time’s ticking away on last-minute trips

School might be on the horizon, but summer is still here, which means there is still time to squeeze in a last-minute trip to areas right in the backyards of Mid-Ohio Valley residents.

August summer festivals and outdoor adventures are still in full gear as summer comes to a close but the weather stays warm.

Late summer festivals

Coming up in the third weekend of August is the All-Ohio Balloon Festival in Marysville, about a two-hour drive to the Union County Airport just northwest of Columbus. The festival will be held from Aug. 14 through Aug. 16.

Now in its 39th year and one of the largest hot air balloon festivals in the country, attendees can enjoy rides in World War II aircrafts and the sights of rarely-seen hot air balloons.

“What’s really a highlight is the balloon launch at 6 p.m. and the balloon glow at 9 p.m.,” said Manager Kevin Behrens. “This year we have about 20 balloons.”

Not only can visitors enjoy a glowing nighttime balloon display, but a few rarely-shown balloons will make an appearance, notably the Darth Vader balloon that hails from Belgium, which only makes two appearances in the U.S.-one being in Marysville.

“It’s a father and a son that own the balloon, and the son was always a Star Wars fan, so they got hold of George Lucas and got permission to make one,” Behrens said.

Other obscure balloons include two kissing bees, an ice cream cone and a dinosaur, just to name a few.

Also just north of Columbus is the Galena SummerFest on Aug. 23, which features an enormous kids zone, live entertainment, games, food, crafts and a beer garden, and admission is completely free.

In eastern Ohio, festival fans can take a drive to Columbiana just east of Canton for the 32nd annual Shaker Woods Festival, an upscale craft and shaker-period festival that boasts 206 vendors of handmade items.

“There’s lots of entertainment going on each day and lots of food, and all of it is food from the time period,” said Barb Webb, an employee of the Shaker Woods grounds office.

Admission is $8 for adults and children 12 and under are free.

“We have an old school house specifically with crafts each day geared toward children, and the entertainment is enjoyable for kids as well as adults,” Webb said.

The festival, which runs each weekend from Aug. 9 through Aug. 24, is in the perfect setting for summertime.

“It’s all outdoors in a woodsy area that’s nice for summer,” Webb said. “Just bring good walking shoes.”

In Nelsonville throughout the third weekend in August is the Parade of The Hills, considered one of Ohio’s best family-friendly festivals.

Running from Aug. 13 through Aug. 16, event organizers promise a long weekend of family entertainment, regional art, concessions, midway, carnival rides, a pie contest, 5K, parades and nightly music, and admission is completely free.

The outdoors

Those who travel south of Charleston to Lansing, W.Va., can enjoy the New River Gorge Bridge Walk, where guests take a tethered walk along the bridge to enjoy the sights below.

“The views are spectacular, and it’s a great panoramic view of the New River Gorge,” said Manager Lisa Keffer. “The catwalk goes right under the bridge, which is the highest single arch band bridge in the western hemisphere.”

The tour costs about $73 a person, but Keffer said it is a hard view to miss in the summer.

“We get people that come from all over the world, including from 53 countries and every state in the union,” Keffer said. “And summer is the best time to come.”

The minimum age to take the walk is 10, and participants must be at least 48 inches tall.

In Hocking Hills, a variety of sights and special events mark the end of summer.

“Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave and Cedar Falls are all grouped together within a six-mile radius, and they’re a popular destination for summer,” said Visitor Services assistant Shirley Roshon. “But there are also tons of events going on in August that people can enjoy.”

Hocking Hills visitors can feed the hummingbirds at Lake Hope State Park in the afternoons throughout the rest of August or take one of the area’s highly-acclaimed Tecumseh tours that run every Saturday evening throughout August, which features an up-close stunt show right in Chillicothe.

History

Take a day trip up to Cleveland, and you might be likely to stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or the Great Lakes Science Center.

But right next door is a unique draw that will draw history buffs-the USS Cod Submarine docked just off East 9th Street in Cleveland.

“It is a World War II submarine and the most well-maintained still around,” said shipkeeper Paul Sobol. “And with the Rock Hall and science museum next door, it makes a fun day trip.”

The national historic landmark is open to the public through the end of September, and has a rich history of touring the China Sea and making it to Pearl Harbor during World War II before it was conserved as a floating memorial in the 1970s.

“It’s fun for everyone, from newborns to people in their 90s,” Sobol said.

Less than a three-hour drive away in Mill Run, Pa., is the world-famous Fallingwater home built by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Though also the sight to see in winter, the summertime offers visitors of the historic home a chance to marvel at the mid-1900s era home that is built right into a waterfall in rural southwestern Pennsylvania.

Fallingwater is open daily for both grounds admission and in-depth tours.