Consider Mohican Region for a close-to-home weekend getaway

Art Weber

       Ohio’s Mohican Region is little further than “over the river and through the woods,” but it’s worth the two-hour drive if you’re looking for a close-to-home weekend getaway over the holiday season.
        In just over 100 miles, the landscape changes dramatically from Lake Plains cropland to rolling forested hills and, finally, in the heart of Mohican, deep gorges and crisp clear winding streams.
        Add a blanket of snow and it’s a magical holiday setting accented by elegant Christmas displays at such topnotch attractions as Mansfield’s Kingwood Center and Louis Bromfield’s Big House preserved as part of Malabar Farm State Park.
        Mansfield and smaller towns like Loudonville and Bellville are also decked out, welcoming visitors to their hometown Christmas celebrations.
        At Bellville, a Norman Rockwell-worthy town square and gazebo is colorfully glowing alongside festive decorations dripping from the Wishmaker House, an extraordinary highly-rated bed and breakfast with rooms, amenities, and its own winery and restaurant that make it perfect for a romantic outing.
        If you love nature and the outdoors there’s plenty of it. It’s easily accessed in Mohican State Park and State Forest, as well as a smattering of state nature preserves. Mohican is home to the Clear Fork Gorge, a spectacular national natural landmark that’s a thousand feet across and 300 feet deep. Waterfalls tumble to the bottom of the gorge where huge hemlocks crowd the banks of the scenic Clear Fork of the Mohican River, which flows swiftly through the gorge offering arguably the best trout fishing in Ohio.
        Malabar Farm State Park has its own share of natural areas but its heart is the Louis Bromfield home – the Big House, they call it – and farm that gave the park its name. The Big House is the centerpiece of the holiday season with its Christmas décor.  In the big entry to the home, a double stairway climbs to the second floor where Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart stood before they descended, coming together in the foyer where they married before a small gathering of invited friends and family. Outside, more than 700 uninvited fans clawed and clamored, hoping for a glimpse of the famous couple. Bromfield himself was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author with strong ties to Hollywood and a childhood tie to agriculture that prompted him to return to this piece of Ohio farmland.
        It’s unlikely the Bogart-Bacall wedding caused much of a ripple in the area’s large Amish Community, but the Amish presence on farms, in small towns, in their furniture products, and food is there for tourists to enjoy.
        At the other end of the spectrum is Mansfield’s Kingwood Center Gardens, the fine estate home of a prominent Ohio industrialist. Today, the home and the estate grounds with its outbuildings and beautiful gardens are owned by a membership-supported non-profit foundation. Kingwood is open for public tours and offers year-round programming. As the holidays approach, it’s the Christmas décor that brings visitors by the thousands.
        Not far away is Mansfield’s Historic Carousel District, loaded with excellent choices in food and entertainment, even a carousel ride at Richland Carousel Park. If there’s a familiar feel to this area crowded with beautifully restored Victorian-age buildings, it might stem from Shawshank Redemption. Mansfield and surroundings provided the settings for this one-of-the-best-of-all-time movies. There’s even a Shawshank Trail to help you find them.
        If you want to take a break from joyous holiday activities, follow the trail to the Mansfield Reformatory, which was the movie’s Shawshank State Prison. Call ahead and arrange for tours of this haunted edifice. Or immerse yourself in the holidays with a candlelight tour of Malabar’s Big House on selected dates in December.
        For more information on Mansfield and the Mohican Region visit and Wishmaker House information is available at


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