Attempted Child Snatching Is An Amusement Park Safety Reminder

Talk about getting too close for comfort. It turns out a man who was repeatedly getting within reach of a 2-year-old boy at an amusement park in Ohio may have been attempting to snatch the toddler. After he was arrested, police found toys and movies of children in his truck. Then, they came to find out he was secretly recording children all day with a hidden video camera in his sunglasses.

When it comes to kidnapping, amusement parks terrifyingly provide an environment ripe for the picking. But the truth is, there’s a much bigger chance families can get separated in crowded and chaotic parks. To avoid a potential horror story, consider these tips next time you spend a day at the park:

  • Establish A Meeting Place: Before you even set foot in the park, map out where you should meet if someone gets separated or in the event of another emergency.
  • Point Out Park Employees: Make sure your child understands what a uniformed park employee looks like. This way, if you do get separated, your child can find someone to help.
  • Have “The Talk”: Tell your kids about the importance of staying close. This doesn’t mean you need to barrage Junior with stories of kidnappings, but it couldn’t hurt to let them know how much you’d miss them if something happened.
  • Stay Alert: Everyone, including children, should should stay aware of their surroundings. This will not only help you stay together, but can keep kids away from running into obstacles like trash cans, barriers or other people.
  • Choose Bright Clothing: There’s no missing your child if he or she is wearing Dayglo orange (unless everyone else is, too).
  • Get Your Kid a Tattoo: Not a real one, silly. Companies now make temporary “safety” tattoos that allow you to put your telephone number on your child — and it won’t wash off in the wave pool like a marker does. This could also be good if your child has an allergy or medical condition.
  • Stick Together: Above all, don’t let your kids get lost in the crowd. This means staying by their side at every moment — from the concession stands to the restrooms.

Budget Guide 2013: Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio, is known as both “Cowtown” and “The Biggest Small Town in America,” nicknames that begin to shed light on the destination’s Midwest charm mixed with big city amenities. Relative to other urban centers, the streets are safe and the people are friendly, yet you’ll find restaurants, galleries, shops and other attractions that have Columbus competing with cities two and three times its size.

Contrary to many other cities across the nation, the population of Columbus has been growing steadily. This influx of new residents has led to many new business openings in the city, and kept healthy competition amongst both old and new proprietors. Here, the average price for a beer at a bar is a modest $3.50, and meals at reasonably priced restaurants will only set you back about $10 per person. The food scene is delicious, there are plenty of attractions to explore, and getting around is simple – whether you’re traveling by foot, bus, bike, taxi or even pedicab.

If you need more convincing, consider this: Columbus has been ranked a top shopping destination by Forbes, a top arts destination by American Style, a top city for biking by Bicycling Magazine, and the city’s Science Center, COSI, was named the number one in the country for families by Parents Magazine. On top of that, National Geographic recently named the city one of the top 10 best fall trips. Spend a long weekend in this city, and you might find yourself wanting to come back for more.


The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel: Columbus is known for its mega-sized university, Ohio State, and this newly established house-turned-hostel is the place to be if you want to stay in the heart of it all. The whole place is ready to party: on the front porch you’ll find a beer pong table, the common area is outfitted with a projector screen for movies and a foosball table, and the back patio frequently hosts music performances. Despite the frat house atmosphere, managers keep the hostel clean, and visitors can also take advantage of free Wi-Fi, bicycle rental, laundry facilities and more. From $25. 2407 Indiana Ave.; 614-754-0945.

The Lofts: At this recently renovated boutique hotel in Columbus’ Arena District, old meets new: the hotel’s exterior is set in a historic former warehouse, yet inside you’ll find clean, contemporary designed rooms with exposed brick walls. Other amenities include an indoor swimming pool and an on-site restaurant. Be sure to check into package deals, as the hotel has been running a special where they throw in a third night stay for free, bringing the overall price tag way, way down. From $144 (before discount). 55 East Nationwide Blvd.; 614-461-2663

German Village Guesthouse: If you’re looking for something a little quieter, the cozy German Village Guesthouse is not only ranked as the top bed-and-breakfast in Columbus on TripAdvisor, but was also voted the “Best Hotel/B&B in Columbus” in the 2012 reader poll by 614 Magazine. Some of the rooms offer great views of the Columbus skyline, and on the ground you can explore the cobblestone streets and lush gardens of historic German Village, a neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Districts. From $195. 748 Jaeger St.; 614-437-9712

Eat and Drink

Grass Skirt Tiki Room: The newest oasis in Columbus’ downtown area is this tiki-themed bar, the brainchild of the city’s ragtag group of unorthodox restaurateurs, the Columbus Food League. Here you can chow down on a Loco Moco (traditional Hawaiian dish of burger patties over rice smothered in gravy and a sunny side-up egg) while throwing back a mai tai, or you could head to one of the group’s other restaurants: the Surly Girl Saloon, Betty’s Fine Food and Spirits, or Tip Top Kitchen and Cocktails, where you’ll also get a dose of Ohio history. 105 N Grant Ave.; 614-429-3650

Bodega: Every Monday night hipsters flock to Bodega, when the restaurant offers $1 panini-style grilled cheese sandwiches. What money you save on dinner you can contribute to trying one of the restaurants 50+ craft beers on tap – which, by the way, are also half off from 4 to 8 p.m. Don’t forget to try the local suds, including Columbus Brewing Company, Buckeye Lake Brewery, Elevator Brewing Company, Hoff Hearted Brewing and more. The patio makes for a great spot to people watch, while the interior has an artsy, sophisticated vibe. 1044 N. High St.; 614-299-9399

Food Trucks: These days, it seems as though you can’t talk about cheap eats without mentioning meals on wheels. Columbus is no exception to the food truck craze, with nearly 100 roving restaurants circulating the city. Options range from creole to crepes, Indonesian to Italian, pierogies to pulled pork, or Jamaican to Korean, but the trend that has really taken off are taco trucks. More than 40 of these trucks cater to Columbus’ fastest growing population – Latinos – as well as anyone else who wants a quick, tasty bite.

Budget Activities

North Market: In the late 1800s there were four public markets in Columbus, each with a name paying homage to its cardinal direction. Today, only one remains: North Market. The current 36 merchants inside the building include delis, bakeries, pastry shops, ethnic restaurants, specialty goods sellers, produce stands and more. Even if you only pop in for a taste, don’t miss Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. This creamery takes the label “artisan” seriously, promising “[e]very single thing we put in our ice cream is legit.” Just last year, head honcho Jeni Britton Bauer won a James Beard Foundation Book Award for her cookbook, “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams At Home” – a great takeaway if you’re looking to bring a piece of Columbus back home.

Experience Cafe Culture: It would be far-fetched to say Columbus is the next Paris, but this city has become obsessed with cafe culture recently. Artisan roasters and craft coffeemakers are popping up all over the city, promising a cafe on nearly every street corner – that isn’t Starbucks. Cafe Brioso and Staufs Coffee roast all their coffees in house, while Back Room Coffee Roasters operates out of a local bike repair shop and Thunderkiss roasts single-origin coffees in less than five pound batches. There are also mainstays such as Cup o’ Joe and Crimson Cup.

Swim with Stingrays: You no longer have to go to a place like Belize’s “Shark Ray Alley” to swim with stingrays. Last year, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium opened a new attraction, Stingray Bay, inside an 18,000-gallon saltwater pool that allows you to get up close and personal with the creatures. Touching the stingrays in Stingray Bay is perfectly safe, and it only costs an extra $3. Even better, you’ll be inside a top-rated zoo that was developed with great help from famed zookeeper Jack Hanna and is currently home to more than 9,000 animals. If that’s not enough, the zoo is adjacent to the Zoombezi Bay Waterpark. A day pass to both attractions is less than $30, and you’ll also save on parking!

Get Around

Columbus is easily walkable, with much of the city centered around the main north/south drag: High Street. Along this road you’ll find some of the city’s best bars, restaurants, art galleries and specialty shops. Several neighborhoods are worth a walk-through, particularly the Short North, the arts and entertainment district. If you happen to visit during the first Saturday of each month, the Short North hosts a free gala on fine art and food starting at 4 p.m., when all the galleries along High Street open their doors to unveil new exhibitions – and many offer small bites and samples of wine.

However, if you need to get from one end of High Street to the other faster than your legs will take you, the #2 bus operated by Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) can get you anywhere along this main artery for $2 per trip or $4.50 for a day pass. Since the city is flat, renting a bike is also a great option, or if preferred you can have someone else do the legwork by taking a ride in one of the many pedicabs that navigate the city.

Buses also service Port Columbus International Airport, which is six miles from Columbus. Use the trip planner on the COTA website to find the next bus, or just pop the address into Google maps to get bus directions to your starting (or ending) location. The next best option is a shuttle bus, of which there are many options to and from the airport.

Budget Tip

If you’re looking for a night out on the town without hurting your wallet, check out the Columbus-based website 20 Dollar Dates. There you’ll find plenty for two people to do, and you’re guaranteed to never spend more than a Jackson. Date ideas range from happy hour specials to nearby hikes to holiday-themed activities.

[Photo credits: Flickr user Jack Zalium (top image) and Flickr user codydean]

City Nicknames We’d Rather Not Hear

As a native Californian, few things get on my nerves more than hearing the abbreviation, “Cali.” I don’t know why it irritates me so much, but I suspect it’s the knowing, insider-y tone that usually accompanies it. “Yeah, man, I just got back from a trip to Cali. It was hella cool.”

Aaargh. Also right up there is “Frisco.” Let me just tell you that Californians do not, ever, under any circumstances, refer to their state as “Cali,” nor “The City” as “Frisco.” San Francisco even famously had a laundromat called, “Don’t Call it Frisco.” I also dislike “Berzerkley,” “San Berdoo (San Bernadino)” and “The States (anyone in Hawaii referring to the Mainland).”

With these grating abbreviations in mind, I asked my Gadling colleagues what city nicknames bug them. The response was fast, furious and lengthy. Below, some highlights:

Anna Brones: Portlandia. Don’t even get me started.

Libby Zay: I personally hate “Hotlanta.” It’s also pretty annoying when people add “tucky” or “neck” as suffixes. As in, Fredneck, Maryland, or Brunstucky, instead of Brunswick, Ohio … I suppose Pennslytucky would be more of a geographic region.”

Author admission: Guilty as charged, Libby.

Kyle Ellison:Lost Wages,” for Las Vegas, and “N’awlins” for New Orleans.

Elizabeth Seward: It depends on the day whether or not these bug me. I wish I didn’t know so many. “Beantown”; “Chi-town”; “Sin City”; “Nasty Nati (Cinncinati)”, “C-town (Columbus)”; “SoBro (South Bronx, oy)”; “Marighetto (what locals call my hometown of Marietta)”; “City of Angeles”/”LaLaLand”/”Tinseltown”; “The Big Easy.”

Elizabeth, I promise to never refer to my hometown of Thousand Oaks as “Thousand Jokes” again.

McLean Robbins: “Naptown” for Annapolis and “The District” from anyone not a local to Washington, DC.

Meg Nesterov: Calling cities the Paris/Venice/X/ of the North/East, et al.

Sean McLachlan, resident history buff: Missouri is often called “Misery,” generally by outsiders from northern states and occasionally by frustrated Missourians. The term actually has old roots. The 18th century French settlers in Ste. Genevieve found the place so boggy and full of mosquitoes that they nicknamed it misère.

[Photo credit: Flickr user knitgrrldotcom]

Buried Deep In Ohio’s Amish Country, Memories Await At The Famous Endings Funeral Museum

Faithful Gadling readers might recall that I’m not a big fan of sightseeing, but I read about a funeral museum on BBC Travel this week that I’m, excuse the pun, dying to visit. The Toland-Herzig Famous Endings museum (please don’t call it the Happy Endings museum as I accidentally did) in Dover, Ohio, has more than 1,500 funeral-related items from famous and should-be famous people from around the world, including Elvis Presley, Abe Lincoln, Marilyn Monroe and Robert E. Lee, to name just a few.

Aside from predictable death-related fare, like funeral cards, programs and the like, the museum also has some downright bizarre pieces such as some cookies with Rodney Dangerfield’s likeness that were served at his funeral, a Sherry Lewis lamb-chop doll, and a primitive “head block” embalming device that was used on the notorious outlaw Jesse James. I caught up with John Herzig, a funeral director at Toland Herzig Funeral Homes who founded this unique little museum to find out more about this unique, free museum.

How did you decide to open a funeral museum?

I had a hobby of collecting autographs and I got an autographed picture of Joe Louis, the boxer, and for some reason when the guy sent it to me, he included Joe Louis’s funeral program and that’s how the whole thing got started.
I kept getting funeral-related items and then people encouraged me to display them, so I set up a display case in the funeral home and there was a lot of interest. Over the last 5-6 years, our funeral home has turned into a museum and we get visitors from all over the country.

What kind of tourists do you get?

We get busloads of tourists from Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York – all over. It’s been more than I would have ever expected. A lot of the tours are mystery tours. We have a lot of Amish in this area, so we get tourists for that. This is another site on their itinerary.

What is a mystery tour?

The people in the group don’t know where the tour guide is taking them, so it’s fun to see their reaction when the bus pulls up in front of a funeral home. It’s a surprise for them. I bring them on a guided tour and tell them stories about what my wife had to put up with as I built this collection.

Give us an example.

A year and a half ago, Jack Kevorkian passed away in Michigan. I got my wife and told her, ‘let’s go to Michigan,’ so we did and we attended his funeral. I do those kinds of things to her on the spur of the moment. She’s been through a lot.

Does she enjoy traveling around the country going to funerals?

She doesn’t mind. We also try to do things she likes to do. Like shopping. We don’t go to that many celebrity funerals.

Do you have some unique caskets in the museum?

We haven’t really gotten into caskets. It’s mostly personalized items that celebrities have used. For example, when Rodney Dangerfield died, his wife made cookies with his caricature on them and they passed those out at the funeral. Ed Bradley, he had a jazz funeral and they had an Ed Bradley handkerchief. Jerry Lewis had a Lamb Chop doll.

So you have some of the Rodney Dangerfield cookies that were served at his funeral. Aren’t those stale by now?

Yes, we have the cookies and a bookmark, and his funeral program, which had his signature red tie on it.

How did you get one of those cookies?

Through the funeral home where they held the funeral. It was all wrapped up and, of course, it’s dry now, but it’s preserved very nicely. It’s in a display case so no one can touch it. It’s held up pretty well.

How do you get most of the pieces that are on display in the museum?

The vintage things I have, like items from Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, I’ve gotten in historical auctions, but the newer ones come from other funeral homes. I have Robert E. Lee’s funeral card, I have a lantern from the horse drawn carriage that carried Lincoln’s (body) through Albany, New York. I have a shell from JFK’s 21-gun salute.

I have Elvis Presley’s mother’s original funeral arrangements. Probably the most expensive item is Marilyn Monroe’s original funeral program. Joe DiMaggio made her funeral private and made a list of the people who were allowed to attend her funeral. We’ve got that.

How much did that cost?

I’d rather not say. My wife would kill me if she knew.

You don’t tell your wife how much these things cost?

No. Not really. Most of them aren’t that expensive. (Laughs)

What are your most popular items?

The things I mentioned, plus Ed Sullivan is popular. Elvis Presley’s funeral program. When FDR died, there was a famous photo in Life magazine of Petty Officer Graham Jackson who performed for FDR at the White House. And when they loaded the funeral train, he was weeping and it was a famous photo. I have the accordion from that photo. It’s a popular item.

What other unusual items do you have?

I have a head block device that was used to embalm Jesse James that I got in a Wild West Museum when it closed. It was a device that the person’s head was positioned on when they are embalmed at the funeral home. It’s a little bizarre.

I also have the menus from the train that carried Eisenhower’s body from Washington, D.C., to Abilene, Kansas. They had breakfast, lunch and dinner. I recall they served fish for one of those meals but I don’t remember what else they ate.

Some would say it’s morbid to create a funeral museum. I assume you disagree?

I don’t see anything morbid about it. It’s history. I have items from the gentleman that developed super glue. Items from Samuel Morse, who developed the Morse code and telegraph. Wilson Greatbatch, the guy who invented the cardiac pacemaker. People that aren’t famous but that changed how we live. Everyone enjoys their tour here. We try to show funerals and death in a very positive manner.

[Photo Credits: Famous Endings Museum, Flickr user Gerald Fitzpatrick]

Roadside America: Marietta, Ohio

Marietta, Ohio, is your quintessential small town. With a population that wavers around 15,000 and a little liberal arts college, Marietta College, nested within the downtown perimeters, Marietta is a quiet escape, especially for those spending time in the relatively larger nearby cities of Columbus, Pittsburgh or Cleveland.

As the first permanent American settlement in the Northwest Territory, history often guides the sightseeing in Marietta. Established in 1788, reflections on Marietta made by famous historical figures are readily recited by schoolteachers. President George Washington remarked on the beauty he had seen in this area in 1788 when he said, “No colony in America was ever settled under such favorable auspices as that which has just commenced at the Muskingum … If I was a young man, just preparing to begin the world, or if advanced in life and had a family to make provision for, I know of no country where I should rather fix my habitation …” Benjamin Franklin acknowledged Marietta’s beauty a year earlier though and said, “I have never seen a grander river in all my life.” But Marietta’s historical intrigues extend beyond the settling of the area for the Northwest Territory.The Native Americans, primarily Shawnee, were settled in the region of Marietta prior to 1788. The large, still-standing burial mound, which is the oldest west of the Appalachians, is erected in the middle of Mound Cemetery. Many Revolutionary Soldiers, including Rufus Putnam, are buried within the cemetery. Mound Cemetery is now a must-see attraction when visiting Marietta, but the town’s attractions aren’t limited to the history books.

Marietta was built at the confluence of two rivers, the Ohio and the Muskingum. The town is nestled into the Appalachians and so if Ohio makes you think of flat cornfields as far as the eye can see, you’re not thinking of Marietta. Just across the river is West Virginia and like West Virginia, Marietta is marked by the dramatic slopes of the hills. Because of the rivers and the low mountains, Marietta is a great destination for outdoors enthusiasts. Whether you’re hiking, biking, or water-skiing, it’s nice to be outside in Marietta. But the town is also recommended for those who are drawn to antiques and haunted tours. There are a few good restaurants and bars in town and a strong arts community that keeps the town interesting with concerts and art walks, among other activities.

If you manage to make it to Marietta, here are some recommendations from a person who grew up there (me).

The Lafayette Hotel
The Brewery
The Adelphia Music Hall
Rinks Flea Market
Downtown Shopping
Sternwheel Festival

[flickr image via gb_packards]