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Published: Sunday, 5/20/2012

Sip, zip, and dip in Central Ohio this summer

BY STEVE STEPHENS
COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Hank the elephant at the Columbus Zoo. Hank the elephant at the Columbus Zoo.
COLUMBUS DISPATCH Enlarge

Whatever your tastes or interests -- from sipping (wine) to zipping (through trees) and dipping (your hand into a pool of stingrays) -- there are plenty of new things to see and do in central Ohio.

Big Darby grape escape

The number of Ohio wineries continues to increase each year. And although the Lake Erie region is better-known for its vineyards, the central Ohio wine trail is growing in popularity -- and in the number of stops along the way.

One of the newest, Eldchrist Winery, is in Plain City on the Big Darby Creek -- a National Scenic River -- near the border of Madison and Union counties.

"It's kind of exciting, getting the ball rolling in this area," said winery owner Chris Eldredge. "We're a pioneer-type of initiative and have very much an experimental vineyard. Nobody has really hit upon just what are the best grapes to grow here. That's why we're trying a lot of varieties."

The winery's tasting room is in a historic 1863 farmhouse, 8189 Rt. 736, on the banks of the creek. Open from 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays and 2 to 8 p.m. Saturdays, it also features live music the last Friday of each month.

Information: 614-874-6240, www.eldchrist.com; for information on other wineries in central Ohio and throughout the state, visit www.ohiowines.org.

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Treetop view

Strapping on a harness and zipping along on a pulley at tree-top level is no longer just the stuff of tropical vacations. Several zip-line attractions have opened in Ohio in recent years. The first in Franklin County -- ZipZone -- is scheduled to open in mid-summer at verdant Camp Mary Orton adjacent to Highbanks Metro Park.

Owner Lori Pingle's company has consulted with other zip-line operations throughout the country and has helped train dozens of tour guides in proper safety techniques, she said.

Now it's time for the company to open its own operation.

"We're excited to bring in another really cool activity to the city," Ms. Pingle said. "And the property is really beautiful."

Plans call for guests to experience five zip lines and three or four "sky bridges"-- swaying bridges linking platforms high in the treetops. The tour will last about two hours.

Information: To follow the progress of the zip-line construction and for an announcement of opening day, visit www.facebook.com/zipzonetours. More information is available at 614-847-9477 and www.zipzonetours.com.

Animals to see, touch

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium isn't new, nor is its reputation as one of the finest zoos in the country.

But the zoo does have a new resident this year, and he's a big one. Hank the Asian elephant weighs 15,600 pounds, making him, perhaps, the largest elephant in North America.

Hank moved into the zoo's Elephant House in January and has made himself at home among the other three Asian elephants, which are members of an endangered species.

Visitors can't touch the elephants, of course. But there are some new zoo denizens arriving who can be felt as well as seen.

Stingray Bay, an 18,000-gallon saltwater pool in the Jungle Jack's Landing area, will open in the summer. At the pool, 40 cownose and southern stingrays will "fly" through the water. Visitors will be able to touch the gentle creatures as staff and volunteers tell about stingrays and their environment.

Information: 800-666-5397, www.colszoo.org.



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