Salt cave, geocaching, Storybook Trails among central Ohio spring-break staycation getaways

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Nat Saigh of Columbus takes a close look at a blue morpho butterfly as Morgan Scowden snaps a photo Feb. 23. The two were visiting the Blooms & Butterflies exhibit at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, 1777 E. Broad St. in Columbus. The exhibit opened the weekend of Feb. 20 and will run through May 31.

Central Ohio residents will not need to travel far or spend a lot of money for a rejuvenating spring break that could be experienced safely during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

A few options for an Ohio staycation include the serenity of a manmade salt cave, park trails that provide natural narration for storybooks, butterflies flying freely in a water garden and even a treasure hunt through geocaching.

Out of this world

Katie Smith of Lewis Center said she felt as though she was in a different world when she was inside the Tranquility Salt Cave, 30 Dillmont Drive in north Columbus.

“I thought it was the perfect way to get away but stay in the same city,” she said. “It was soothing.” 

Leslie Dahn opened the Tranquility Salt Cave, 30 Dillmont Drive in north Columbus, about four years ago. The manmade cave has a heated floor with granulated Himalayan salt on top of it.  It has 10,000 pounds of Himalayan boulders around the perimeter of the room, from floor to ceiling, with some of the boulders changing colors.

The cave is a great environment for meditation, said Ricky Hackle Jr. of Cincinnati.

“It’s very relaxing,” he said. 

The concept for the salt cave came from Powell resident Leslie Dahn, who was looking to start a business with her husband, Robert, about four years ago.

She said she wanted the business to be holistic and spiritual and something to raise the "vibration" of the community.

“I saw the salt cave in my mind's eye,” Dahn said. “I did not understand what it was. Then after the third time that I saw the cave, I noticed that there was salt in there. I researched it and found that it was halotherapy. So that is how the cave manifested.” 

Salt therapy is similar to spending time in the salty sea air but offers more benefits than relaxing on the beach, according to literature from the business.

The floor of the cave is heated with granulated Himalayan salt on top of it.

Dahn said the cave has 10,000 pounds of Himalayan boulders around the perimeter of the room, from floor to ceiling, and some of the boulders even change colors.

The cave also features five 250-pound salt lamps, creating negative ions that help to calm and relax guests, she said.

Dahn said twinkling lights on the ceiling are almost mesmerizing, and pharmaceutical-grade salt is ground and infused into the air, cleansing the sinuses and lungs of any allergens and toxins.

Visits inside the cave last 45 minutes, with guests reclining in zero-gravity chairs.  

“It is dimly lighted, allowing folks to just relax,” Dahn said.

Lights twinkle on the ceiling of Leslie Dahn's Tranquility Salt Cave, 30 Dillmont Drive in north Columbus, providing a mesmerizing effect when the main lights in the cave are dimmed.

Visitors may wear headsets to hear meditative music or just listen as instrumental melodies fill the room.

“I would say the cave is very nurturing and extremely relaxing,” Dahn said. “Our cave also has a very extensive ventilation system that constantly brings clear, fresh-filtered air into the cave. Then it is cleared out and more fresh filtered air is brought into the cave.  

“So this process occurs during the whole session. So the cave is really a safe place to be, especially during these challenging times.”

The business also offers other services, such as massage therapy, an infrared sauna and ionic detox foot bath.

For more information and pricing, go to tranquilitysaltcave.com.

Storybook Trails

For young families, nature walks along scenic paths at five of Ohio’s state parks have stories to tell.

“Ohio’s Storybook Trails bring books to life for children and families,” said Alyssa Yaple, director of special projects for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. "Storybook Trails are lined with pages from a children’s book to blend the fun of outdoor exploration with reading.”

Each trail features a story, letting families walk their way through some of Ohio’s most picturesque trails while learning about aspects of nature from authors who were inspired by it, she said.

“The program is meant to promote the importance of literacy, a healthy lifestyle and connecting with nature,” Yaple said.

She said the program’s first trail was blazed in October 2019 at Alum Creek State Park, 3305 S. Old State Road in Lewis Center.

In June 2020, four more trails opened at Dillon State Park, 5265 Dillon Hills Drive in Nashport; John Bryan State Park, 3790 state Route 370 in Yellow Springs; Maumee Bay State Park, 1400 State Park Road in Oregon; and Wingfoot Lake State Park, 993 Goodyear Park Blvd. in Mogadore.

Yaple said trails are open throughout the year, and six new ones are scheduled to open in other state parks in May. 

Books rotate from one park to another a few times a year, always keeping the trail fresh for young explorers, Yaple said.

“As of 2020, ODNR partnered with the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to provide story content for several trails and raise awareness of these valuable resources for Ohio families,” she said.

The Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library provides one free book every month to children up to age 5 who are enrolled in the program.

To learn more about the program and how to participate, go to ohioimaginationlibrary.org.

“Where Butterflies Grow” by Joanne Ryder is told along the Storybook Trail at Alum Creek State Park, 3305 S. Old State Road in Lewis Center.

The following Storybook Trails are featured at five parks, with an asterisk indicating a book from the imagination library:

• Alum Creek: "Where Butterflies Grow” by Joanne Ryder.*

• Dillon: “In the Trees, Honey Bees” by Lori Mortensen.

• John Bryan: "One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me!” by John Micklos Jr.*

• Maumee Bay: “Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen.

• Wingfoot: "As an Oak Tree Grows” by G. Brian Karas.*

For more about the state park Storybook Trails or to find other storybook trails around Ohio, an interactive map is available at ohiodnr.gov/wps/portal/gov/odnr/go-and-do/family-friendly/storybook-trails.

The first Ohio state park Storybook Trail was started at Alum Creek State Park, 3305 S. Old State Road in Lewis Center, in 2019.

Blooms & Butterflies

People of all ages can enjoy one of the most popular exhibitions, at Blooms & Butterflies, at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, 1777 E Broad St. in Columbus.

The show recently opened for its 27th year and will continue through May 31, said Kate Liebers, marketing coordinator for the venue.

Steven Lee of Worthington takes a photo of a blue morpho butterfly Feb. 23 at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens' Blooms & Butterflies exhibit.

The conservatory website, fpconservatory.org/exhibitions/blooms-butterflies, describes the display like this: “Whisk away to a land of enchanting butterflies and splashes of floral color. Hundreds of colorful butterflies fly freely in the Pacific Island Water Garden, a tropical haven filled with bright nectar blooms.”

Visitors will be able to see a diverse array of butterflies soaring overhead or basking on plants.

A new art-gallery exhibit, featuring local paper sculptor Lea Gray, also has been popular and will continue through May, Liebers said. 

Katherine Tedesco, exhibition and collections technician at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, pins chrysalides to a board Feb. 23.  Visitors to the Blooms & Butterflies exhibit can watch the butterflies emerge from their chrysalides before being released into the exhibit area.

More details about exhibitions, as well as ticket information, are available at fpconservatory.org/explore/exhibitions.

Aside from the daily visitor experience, Liebers said, the conservatory offers a variety of virtual and in-person classes, with subjects in gardening, cooking and art. 

Some of the more popular classes include a virtual "Paint and Sip" series, a St. Patrick's Day-themed cooking class with drag queen Plenty O'Smiles and paper flower art with Gray.

More details about classes are available at fpconservatory.org/education-programs/classes.

The conservatory is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m..

A paper-kite butterfly dries after emerging from its chrysalis at the conservatory. The butterflies will be released into the Blooms & Butterflies exhibit.

Treasure hunts

Anyone wanting to learn something new about Ohio’s capital city might want to check out investigative journalist Anietra Hamper’s "100 Things to Do in Columbus Before You Die" and "Secret Columbus: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.” 

Hamper said her books are designed to give readers something to find and do. 

“People have treated it like a scavenger hunt,” she said. “There are fun things to uncover. My ideas are to get out, be active.”

For anyone looking for something free to do, Hamper said, the state has many geocaching sites.

For geocaching, participants try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices.

“You can download an app, and you go based where coordinates are telling you,” she said. “It will tell you where little treasures are hidden. It could be a box or film canister. A lot of times people will leave something. It could be a trinket or note.

"It’s great fun. There’s a whole following of that.”

Geocaching trails in Ohio, via the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, are listed at traillink.com/stateactivity/oh-geocaching-trails.

Some central Ohio suburbs listed with their own trails include Bexley, Columbus, Delaware, Dublin, Gahanna, Grove City, Hilliard, Pickerington, Upper Arlington, Westerville and Worthington.

Hamper said day trips to state parks also are good options, and dedicated programs with a theme or focus through the Ohio History Connection are available at ohiohistory.org.

Art 'To-Gogh'

Roxanne Martin, a visitor-experience specialist with Experience Columbus, said new events are posted daily at experiencecolumbus.com/events.

She said a few upcoming events include:

• "Art Projects To-Gogh," presented by Brush Crazy, a female-owned business at 1299 Bethel Road in Columbus, giving customers the opportunity to get creative with canvas, wood, ceramics, mosaics, glass and clay.

The studio is offering "To-Gogh" kits to help people stay healthy and safe painting in their own homes. For more information, go to brushcrazy.com.

• "A Whale of a Time," a sensory-friendly concert presented by the New Albany Symphony Orchestra, is scheduled at 11:30 a.m. March 20 at the Jeanne B. McCoy Center for the Arts, 100 W. Dublin-Granville Road in New Albany.

The hourlong musical extravaganza will include real-life whale imagery and sounds, a stage full of percussion instruments and a few surprises by the orchestra.

The concert is designed for audience members on the autism spectrum and in the dementia and Alzheimer’s community, or for anyone needing a more relaxed concert experience.

The event also will be livestreamed. 

For more information and tickets, go to newalbanysymphony.com/event/a-whale-of-a-time-with-percussionist-cameron-leach-sensory-friendly.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla