Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Making the biggest splash this year in Ohio’s tourism scene, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium opens on Jan. 21. The attraction, which will be Ohio’s only freestanding aquarium, sits on the West Bank of the Flats in the Powerhouse, a former utility company building that is now a center of Cleveland entertainment and recreation.
The first phase of the 70,000-square-foot aquarium is set to include 1 million gallons of water in 42 tanks arranged to take advantage of the historic building’s ambiance. Designers hope to create an underwater atmosphere with exhibits such as the Sea Tube, a 145-foot walk-through tunnel that allows visitors to see marine life swimming above and around them on all sides.
Exhibits at the aquarium will feature a wide variety of aquatic animals, from Ohio-native brook trout to the ferocious piranhas of the Amazon River. A special shark tank will house numerous specimens from the Florida coast, including the seven-foot-long Sand Tiger Shark.
Franklin Park Conservatory
Set inside a Columbus city park, the Franklin Park Conservatory is a botanical institution with both indoor and outdoor components. Built in 1895, the conservatory houses some 400 species of plants from a variety of different climate zones around the world.
Visitors to the conservatory will find a number of beautiful and exotic flowers and plants on display year-round. The Victorian Palm House features more than 40 species of palms; the conservatory also has impressive collections of rare orchids, and a collection of glass art sculptures by Dale Chihuly is scattered throughout the gardens.
Groups that visit the conservatory can take part in a number of special hands-on experiences. Visitors can make their own wood-fired pizzas using ingredients they have picked from the on-site community garden. Another program gives groups an “all about orchids” class with staff horticulture experts. The classes include potting demonstrations and advice on how to grow orchids at home.
Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial
Although it is now known as a recreational hot spot, Ohio’s Lake Erie coast played a crucial role in the War of 1812. At Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, visitors learn about the Battle of Lake Erie, where Americans won a crucial victory against the British that helped maintain Ohio and Michigan in American possession.
The site is marked by a large monument on South Bass Island in Put-in-Bay. The only international peace memorial in the National Park Service system, this tower stands 47 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. Park visitors can watch an introductory film in the visitors center or see a black-powder demonstration on the lawn.
Renovations and restorations currently under way on the monument are scheduled to be finished late this year, in time to mark the 200th anniversary of the war. Throughout the year, the Navy will send ships to Ohio ports to commemorate the anniversary; a full re-enactment of the battle will take place in 2013.