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Pencil Sharpener Museum: last-minute trips before heading back to school

Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum
Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum

Families can grab one last getaway before saying goodbye to summer, and with its diverse offerings, Ohio's spectacular Hocking Hills region is the ideal place to go. Whether travelers are up for the cliff-hugging adventure of a rappelling experience, or prefer a gentle hike past scenic waterfalls on a wheelchair-accessible paved path, the region offers a wealth of free and low-cost experiences. And the region's new website, www.ExploreHockingHills.com, offers last-minute lodging and other specials with its "Hot Deals" link.

Providing the perfect segue from summer to back-to-school, the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum, featuring more than 3,000 different sharpeners is free and perfectly located at the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center. For more all-American kitsch, the country's last remaining washboard factory, Columbus Washboard Co., still making washboards offers tours and a unique gift shop in its downtown Logan, Ohio location.

For a truly one-of-a-kind, yet free, experience, visitors can learn to feed a hummingbird by hand at Lake Hope State Park Nature Center through August 31. Naturalists show guests how to fill a plastic floral tube with sugar water, wrap it with a red pipe cleaner and hold it so that tiny hummingbirds will alight and eat right from their hand.

Two different canoe liveries offer scenic canoe and kayak trips on the Hocking River help travelers find peace and solace from the grind of everyday life. Gifted guide Mimi Morrison, Touch the Earth Adventures, leads visitors on full-moon kayak trips for an unforgettable night in search of elusive beaver and other wildlife. Featuring Shawnee storytelling hikes, Trek Theater, rappelling and more, another local guide service, Hocking Hills Adventure Trek, gives guests a wealth of ways to experience the unique natural and cultural history of the Hills.

Part stand-up comic, part flight instructor, Pilot Harry Sowers soars with travelers on Hocking Hills Scenic Air Tours, offering another beautiful way to spend the afternoon and see the region's stunning waterfalls, cliffs and gorges. Four canopy tour operators, featuring 55 different ziplines, also fly visitors among the treetops and over the hills. New ziplines designed just for little ones allow kids as young as age 5 to enjoy the zipline experience.

Located 40 miles southeast of Columbus, Ohio, Hocking Hills region offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences that make every day feel like Saturday, with plenty of Admission: FREE activities. The region boasts a wide variety of affordable lodging, from camping, cabins and cottages to hotels and inns. With its thousands of acres of trails, parks and forests for hiking and horseback riding, the allure of the Hocking Hills is that it's the perfect place to unplug. Complete traveler information is available at www.ExploreHockingHills.com or 1-800-Hocking (800-462-5464).