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Engaging, educational vacations to fit your budget

My youngest road warrior has been strongly politicking for a return journey to Columbus Ohio’s Huntington Park to catch a Clippers minor league baseball game. I agreed but added a research project component to the trip. He had some work to do.

When designing a road trip for my travel gang I look for a destination(s) that are engaging, educational and affordable. This was now his mission. Explaining these guidelines to my son I sent him off exploring www.experiencecolumbus.com.

His mission was to surf their site, collect data then present some travel options to me. He grumbled something about summer vacation but I quickly quashed that notion and told him to get over it. It was a father and son project with a heavy emphasis on son.

Our Columbus itinerary was a mixture of a history, heritage, horticulture and of course baseball. Ohio’s state capital is rich meeting all of our goals so we’re going to take a few days to explore many the city’s notable sites.

We will also take some time to smell the flowers and sample the ice cream.

Here’s our list of what we’ve sketched out as places that we’d like to visit on this excursion. But first I have to check with the individual sites to coordinate their dates and times.

There’s nothing like hitting the road and discovering that half of the attractions you had planned on visiting are closed.

We’d like to visit the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden but it has a very restrictive schedule. Built in 1925, this Jacobean Revival style home is surrounded with well-manicured gardens of plants native to Ohio’s diverse ecosystems including a cranberry bog and Lake Erie sand dunes.

Tours, available by appointment on Tuesdays, include the gardens and public rooms of the residence.

Another planned stop is at the Kelton House Museum & Garden. It is one of Columbus’ restored Underground Railroad stops and was once home to abolitionists Fernando and Sophia Kelton.

Many slaves found shelter at the Kelton House before resuming their flight to Canada. Hear their stories, including the one child who never left. Take time to explore the garden, filled with flowers and sculptures collected by the Kelton’s granddaughter, Grace.

I always love to explore historic German Village so this time around we’ve planned a visit to two public gardens, Huntington Gardens in 23-acre Schiller Park and the tranquil Frank Fetch Garden.

There are private garden tours offered during the annual German Village Haus und Garten Tours so pencil in June 24 2012 to catch these unique exhibits.

For us the question is should we eat at Planks for pizza or Schmidt’s for bratwurst.

We’re staying overnight at The Westin Great Southern, a Columbus landmark and AAA Four Diamond award winner for nine consecutive years. Among those staying here since its opening in 1897 have been Presidents William McKinley, William Taft, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

This place is not cheap but it is worth it with a great location and plenty of history!

We’re passing on breakfast at the hotel and heading to the North Market, the oldest public market in Central Ohio. Browse for unique and delicious souvenirs.

The 35-plus merchants are known for offering just-made goods: Watch as chocolates are hand-dipped or see gourmet ice cream being created with ingredients like lavender and fresh ginger. Who said you can’t have ice cream for breakfast?

Another must see and smell venue is the Park of Roses, one of the country’s largest metropolitan rose gardens.

This floral garden showcases a variety of over 350 types of roses, and 11,000 total roses. In addition to visually stunning roses there are many gardens – the Main Rose Garden, the Heritage Garden with turn of the century roses, the Earth-Kind Rose Garden, the Herb Garden, and the Perennial Garden.

Throughout the past 56 years, the Columbus Rose Park has garnered many honors, including being one of 133 All American Rose Selection gardens, selected as one of USA Today’s 10 Places to Admire the Bloom on the Rose in 2006.

The best time to view the roses is during their full bloom which begins in mid-June and lasts through mid-September.

Explore a child-sized garden at Inniswood Metro Gardens in the northern suburb of Westerville. Once the 37-acre estate of sisters Grace and Mary Innis, the park now contains miles of walking paths, well-manicured gardens and the Sisters’ Garden, dedicated to the child in everyone.

Frogs, birds and other wildlife can be found throughout the park much to the delight of children.

Just northwest of downtown, Chadwick Arboretum is a 60-acre site that boasts one of the most varied collections of vegetation in the state.

It houses woody and tropical plants, wildflowers, perennials and more than 400 cultivars of annuals adjacent to Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center, where the Buckeyes play basketball.

For the fun part bring your sweet tooth to Graeter’s Ice Cream. The Bethel Road location on Columbus’ north side offers free tours, so you can witness first-hand how Graeter’s makes its creamy flavors just two gallons at a time.

Taste the results yummy flavors like raspberry chocolate chip and you’ll understand why Oprah calls it her favorite ice cream.

Help keep Ironton green and blooming by donating to the Ironton in Bloom organization. Your funds help pay for the flowering baskets and pots throughout the city.

Send your contributions to Ironton in bloom, PO box 4599, Ironton, OH 45638. They’re a nonprofit group so your donations are tax deductible!

Got travel? E-mail Steve Call at the travelprofessor@gmail.com or dial 740.550.9540.