Author's dishes on the state's most important sights

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Brandy Gleason never intended to be a travel writer. She was simply trying to chronicle her large family's many adventures when she began blogging about their travels.

Her words and photos initially attracted a small following. And then the fan base got bigger and bigger.

Today, her Ohio Road Trips page on Facebook has more than 1.1 million followers who provide tips on places to go and see throughout the Buckeye State. And Gleason just published her fourth book, “100 Things to Do in Ohio Before You Die,” which details a year's worth of attractions and activities (or more) across the state (Reedy Press, 174 pages, $22.50 ).

“The beauty of experiencing Ohio is that I have been able to take every type of vacation—all within the confines of this beautiful place,” she writes. “Beach vacation? Checked off on the shores of Lake Erie. Staying with the family in the woods of southern Ohio? Checked off in the unique Hocking Hills area.”

Gleason, who lives in Ostrander, north of Columbus, has eight children ages 16 to 31, all of whom she homeschooled, which gave them the freedom to travel.

Gleason said she started focusing on Ohio during the pandemic when she saw how many hospitality businesses were struggling. “I have decided to stay here and focus on Ohio and helping get the economy back on track as best I can,” she said.

Among the places she highlights: the Buckeye Trail and the best bologna sandwich in the world, bird watching and Grandpa's Cheesebarn.

Northeast Ohio is well represented on the pages, from Ba Sweetie Candy Co. to Stan Hywet Hall, although there are some notable omissions, including Playhouse Square, the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Severance Music Center.

Gleason said one of the best parts of her job is introducing her fellow Ohioans to all there is to do in their backyard.

She writes: “I'm just a small town girl who loves exploring. Ohio has so many unique places where I can feel at home by strolling through the bustling downtown area, shopping small and local, and then dining at a restaurant owned by a James Beard Award winner.”

Speaking of James Beard winners, Gleason, 51, is hard at work on her fifth book, “Unique Restaurants and Eateries in Ohio,” due out next year.

“This will make me gain 20 pounds,” she joked.

She recently agreed to answer a few questions about her new book.

How did you decide what to include in the book?

The choice was the hardest thing! I relied heavily on the Ohio Road Trips group to share their favorites because I wanted them to know they were part of the process. Some places helped me start my writing career, so I made sure the first places got a spot.

Was it difficult to limit your list to 100?

Yes, as a writer I got creative and added pro tips and additional suggestions so there are over 175 destinations.

What are your favorite places in Ohio?

I don't have a favorite 🙂 But places where I can buckle up in my car and drive to New York in a minute are: Lakeside Chautauqua, Hocking Hills, McConnelsville, Marietta, and Put-in-Bay.

How about some hidden gems – places most people don't know about?

Past Times Arcade is a newer spot in Northeast Ohio (in Girard) and it's spectacular. Family friendly and great value for money. It's like playing pinball in a museum.

Pickwick Place in Bucyrus and Groovy Plants Ranch in Marengo are great places to shop and take some classes. Pickwick has pick-your-own flowers and a year-round farmers market. Groovy Plants Ranch is a must-visit plant lover's paradise.

Sauder Village in Archbold is a truly unique location with a historic village, hotel and restaurant. The village is seasonal and I had never been there until I went looking for the book. It is amazing.

Is there a place in Ohio you haven't been that you'd like to explore?

Small towns on Lake Erie. I would like to stay up there for a week and explore the small towns and towns along the shores of Lake Erie.

Upcoming Meet the Author events

May 11, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.: The Pickwick Place, 1875 N. Sandusky Ave., Bucyrus

May 17, 4:00-6:00 p.m.: Inn at 8th and Main, 214 E Main St, McConnelsville

May 18, 4-6 p.m.: Twin City Opera House, 15 W. Main St, McConnelsville

May 19, 1 to 3 p.m.: Old Bridge Brewing Company, 281 W Main St, McConnelsville

New to Reedy Press: “100 Things to Do in Ohio Before You Die” by Brandy Gleason

Anna Harden

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