Every time I head to Mansfield, Ohio–or talk about its virtues as a getaway possibility, I think about things to do there. One day really isn’t enough.
This past weekend, along with passing out Mansfield travel advice to a woman I met at a car repair shop, I went to Mansfield myself. This time the draw was the tubing hill at Snow Trails, Mansfield’s ski and snowboarding resort. With only a few weeks left in the season, I didn’t want my son to miss out on this winter thrill.
Along with the tubing hill, Snow Trails, Ohio’s first commercial ski resort, has slopes that range from beginner to difficult. There’s a lodge with a restaurant and bar, as well as, a separate snack bar for warming up and gnoshing on simple fare near the tubing hill.
Snow Trails is not the only trail type activity Mansfield offers. The Shawshank Trail is a major draw to the area. Several scenes of the 1994 movie “The Shawshank Redemption” were filmed here. The most impressive site, of course, is the prison.
The Ohio State Reformatory, a massive, stone building designed as a blend of Victorian Gothic, Richardsonian Romanesque and Queen Anne architecture, first opened in 1896. Before it closed in 1990, it had housed 155,000 men, the youngest of them boys. These days, the reformatory is a tourist draw. In the fall, the building’s windy staircases and twisting halls that lead through cell blocks of peeling paint and metal are a perfect backdrop to The Haunted Prison Experience. . This top notch haunted house attraction can give a person the creeps even without the actors dressed in ghoulish finery, some of them with chain saws. At other times of the year, people seeking the paranormal can take tours and also stay overnight.
In addition to the prison, The Shawshank Trail goes past several other sites that were significant to particular scenes in the movie. A couple of them are at Malabar Farm State Park, the former home of Pulitzer-prize winning novelist and conservationist Louis Bromfield.
Bromfield was friends with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and hosted their wedding in his gorgeous home that is a testament to his travels, family and ideals. The house is now a museum and looks exactly like it did in the Bogart and Bacall days. Malabar Farm is an Ohio State Park that operates as a working farm similar to the days when Bromfield ran it. Throughout the year, special events keep visitors busy. The next major event on the calendar is the annual Maple Syrup Festival.
If you do head to Malabar Farm, eat either lunch or dinner at the Malabar Farm Restaurant. The restaurant that is close to the park, offers farm-to-table dining at reasonable prices. I’ve eaten here three times and have never been disappointed. The crab cakes and mushroom soup are particularly splendid.
Along with the rolling rural landscape that surrounds Mansfield, the town itself has its charm. Central to downtown is the Richland Carrousel Park where a magnificent carrousel of 52 hand- carved animals that range from horses to rabbits to ostriches give riders of all ages a spin. Built in 1991, this is the first hand-carved carrousel to be built in the U.S. since the 1930s.
Also impressive is the Renaissance Theatre. This historical landmark building opened in 1928 as a movie house dazzling movie-goers with its leaded glass chandeliers and marble floors. Restored to its glory through the 1980s and 1990s, the building is host to the Mansfield Symphony, as well as various concerts and theatrical performances year-round.
Mansfield is roughly halfway between Cleveland and Columbus off of I-71
Other area intractions include the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Kingwood Center and Gardens, The Mansfield Fire Museum and the Mansfield Memorial Museum.
The area has several hotels and Bed and Breakfasts.
I’ve stayed at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites and definitely recommend it. Its downtown location, just off of the town square, is perfect for wandering on foot.
I wandered to Cypress Cellars Winery for wine tasting and to pick up a bottle of the Reformatory Red which gives another nod to the prison and The Shawshank Redemption.
Photos courtesy of the Mansfield and Richland County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Post courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association
*I’ve been to Mansfield, both on my own and as a guest of Mansfield and Richland County Convention and Visitors Bureau.