Dancing With The Stars

Flights to Mars? Not quite yet. In the meantime, check out these wonders of Earth and sky.

Wish upon a shooting star, and another…and another. As many as 50 per hour flash across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower as debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle slams into the atmosphere 60 miles above Earth’s surface. The show peaks August 12 and 13, but it’s visible the entire month. For the most stellar view, go far, far away from light pollution.

The night sky at Observatory Park.
The night sky at Observatory Park.

Courtesy of Mirania Photography

Observatory Park in Montville, about an hour northeast of Cleveland, was designated a silver-tier International Dark Sky Park in 2011 by the International Dark-Sky Association of Tucson, Arizona, which has recognized only 24 parks worldwide for their exceptional nighttime beauty, education programs, and preservation of nocturnal environments. At the 1,100-acre park, visit the science center for weekly planetarium shows, peer through the Newtonian reflector telescope at the Oberle Observatory, or just plop down and look up. Closer to home, the Cincinnati Observatory in Mt. Lookout hosts free stargazes at Stone Lick State Park in Goshen, with upcoming events August 8 and 15 at dusk.

Celestial shows aren’t the only adventures in space within driving distance. Head to the Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta and moonwalk your way between Neil Armstrong’s spacesuits, the Gemini VIII spacecraft, and other artifacts sure to delight your inner Neils (Armstrong and de Grasse Tyson, that is). Westward, there’s Indiana’s largest planetarium—the Charles W. Brown Planetarium—at Ball State University, a 148-seat, 52-foot-diameter dome that simulates the night sky. And while it’s no rocket to space, you can still fly the sky at the 40th annual All Ohio Balloon Fest (August 13–15) in Marysville with helicopter, airplane, and balloon rides, plus sky-diving and entertainment galore.


An earthship might sound like some kind of spacecraft, but it’s actually a passive solar home design pioneered by architect (and UC grad) Michael Reynolds of Taos, New Mexico. The first in Ohio (and on this side of the Mississippi) is in Philo, east of Columbus. A 2,200-square-foot dwelling made of tires, cans, bottles, salvaged lumber, mud, and sand, it’s the centerpiece of Blue Rock Station—a 38-acre intensive experiment in sustainable living. The earthship shares the property with a chicken coop and sleeping cabins made from straw bales, a greenhouse made from 1,000 two-liter plastic bottles, milk goats, llamas, and more. Get the lowdown on the entire lot during the 120-minute tours ($10, must register at bluerockstation.com). For another taste of sustainability, check out Peaceful Grounds in Indianapolis, home of the Global Peace Initiative, which holds a farm and arts market every Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Among the goods are “worm habitats” to kick-start your garden bed or compost bin (bring your own bucket, or take it home in recycled grain bags from local brewers).

Other terrestrial marvels worth a day trip include Serpent Mound in Adams County, the world’s largest surviving example of a prehistoric effigy mound, and one of nine Ohio earthworks nominated for UNESCO’s World Heritage site list. Who created the 1,328-foot mound and why remains a mystery, but last year archeologists presented research indicating the Adena culture built it circa 300 B.C. To the south, there’s Kentucky’s Stonehenge in Munfordville, a replica of the ancient stone circle in England and one of five rock displays Chester Fryer built on his estate. It’s free to the public and just 1.3 miles off I-65, making it the perfect pit stop on the drive to Nashville.

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