In 1880, the final fasteners and sleepers on the Valley Railway were tightened into place. It wouldn’t be long before a billowing cloud of steam announced the arrival of the first train running through the Cuyahoga Valley, a territory that had served as a passageway for foot traffic for thousands of years. Over the next century, the railway contributed to the growth of commerce between Akron and Cleveland, changing ownership multiple times, and transforming from a freight train, into a passenger train, back to a freight train, and finally into a UFO.
Now celebrating its 41st year of passenger-rail service, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad transports sightseers over the historic rails through 33,000 acres of land owned by the National Park Service. With a year-round roster of trips, including wine- and beer-tasting excursions, passengers can set forth on morning, afternoon, and evening journeys that sweep past meadowlands, pinery, and rivers and give glimpses of native wildlife, such as fox, deer, bobcat mascots, and owls.
There are entire cities with fewer attractions than those contained within the 1,700-acre grounds of Oglebay Resort & Conference Center. Originally built at the beginning of the 20th century as the summer estate of Cleveland industrialist Earl W. Oglebay, the resort has since been consistently evolving and improving.
In 1937?as a part of federal relief project?a massive outdoor swimming pool was built along with the Crispin Center, a stately building forged from locally mined sandstone; both remain cornerstones of the resort. The post-war era working boom fueled the creation of tennis courts (today, they have both indoor and outdoor options), picnic sites, and nature trails and roads.
With its scenery, space, and splendid infrastructure, Oglebay Resort was an attractive location for the development of a golf course. Two of the world's most famous course architects happened to agree. In the 1970s, Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designed a championship layout into the landscape; it has gone on to host the LPGA Classic 11 times. Three decades later, Arnold Palmer placed his artistic spin on the soil, creating another 18-hole, championship golf course.
Whether lodging in one of the resort's rustic cottages, a sprawling estate house, or simply booking a room in the Wilson Lodge, guests won't have to go far to find entertainment on the resort grounds. A walk across the lawns?which feature an English garden?leads them to the Good Zoo, home to 50 species of exotic animals including salamanders and tamarin monkeys. Guests hoping to interact with animals can also head to the Oglebay stables, where horses await to play games of chess in which the knight is the only piece.
Carnage in the Corn at Maize Valley Market and Winery is a six-acre corn maze full of twists, turns, and frightful sensory escapades. A vast growth of corn sorghum, field corn, and forest paths create a seasonal labyrinth that will have your blood developing goose-bumps as you turn each corner in unknowing darkness. Carnage in the Corn employs no actors or gross-out techniques lifted from such horror films as Man, Blood, There's Blood, Man; the unknown nature of the maze and the darkness are all that it takes to strike terror in participants of this sprawling center of the spooky. The maze is designed for kids of all ages, within reason, as actual babies are likely to go feral if exposed to fresh air and cornstalks for more than a few minutes at a time.
The century-old pig barn on the historical Anna Dean Farm has seen a lot of life, and a lot of death. It might be that slightly sinister influence that inspired the barn's current creepy dwellers to take up residence there, creating a nightmarish scene. Strewn with bloody specters, creepy clowns, and dismembered body parts, the barn provides such an intense scare that any guest who can make it through in one try is granted another free entry to see the ghoulish sights again.
The family of vintners at The Grape and Granary have concocted vinos for years, and their ancillary enthusiasms for beer brewing and other DIY drinks have led to some one-of-a-kind grape distillates. The Grape and Granary’s specialty Jalapeno Pepper wine ($12.95) saunters across the palate's runway and leaves behind sweet and spicy smoke trails. This particular semi-dry white—sold only in Ohio by buckeye-flavored salesmen—pairs well with piquant cuisines and tabasco-flavored frozen yogurt. A jalapeño pepper luxuriates in every bottle. The Grape and Granary also culls dry wines from grapes born, raised, and mostly educated in California’s Central Valley such as the dry red 2009 Renaissance Wine Cellars merlot ($12.99), which boasts a light body with dry, fruity tones in hot pursuit.
Diverse wildlife, verdant forests, gushing waterfalls, and a storied past populate the hallowed hills of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. For decades, passionate park rover Bob Macak has used his experiences as a trailblazer to study the nooks, crannies, and crania that reveal the area's character. Whether you choose to travel by car, cycle, or leg-mobile, Macak will guide hikers of all ability levels for four hours through areas rife with resplendent views and historical intrigue, from the beaver marsh's ducks, blue herons, and snapping turtles to the cascading beauty of the 60-foot-high Brandywine Falls.