Cheap Trips: Good Scents

Follow your nose south, to Gahanna: It’s the Herb Capital of Ohio, a Columbus suburb with a lot to see — and smell. Gardener Bunnie Geroux spearheaded the distinction’s passage through the state Legislature in 1972, and since has created Geroux Herb Gardens, next to Gahanna City Hall, and the Goosefoot Herb Garden on the Historical Society grounds. Other goosefoot gardens, named for their webbed-foot look, are popping up around town, free for the wandering.
The Trip: A girls’ weekend in herb country
The Travelers: Four adults
The Tab:
$56.80 Gas (Roundtrip, Cleveland to Gahanna: 284 miles, in a car averaging 20 miles per gallon at $4 per gallon)
$260 Lodging (two-night stay in two rooms at Lily Stone Bed & Breakfast)
Free Ohio Herb Education Center $113.75 Dinner at 94th Aero Squadron (appetizer, four entrees — make sure to order the Steak Rickenbacker — and a bottle of Glen Ellen Chardonnay)
$18.40 Appetizers and a Black Cow float to share at Cap City Fine Diner
$40 A round of martinis at Mitchell’s Ocean Club
$23 Picnic lunch from Trader Joe’s (chips, hummus, breaded chicken, a bottle of wine and a Cappuccino Craving cake)
$20 Half-hour paddleboat ride
Total (not including taxes, tips or surcharges)
$132.99 Per person

Save money by traveling European-style; book a Victorian room with a shared bath at the Gahanna Historical Society’s Lily Stone Bed and Breakfast.

After checking in, make plans to eat at an old French farmhouse, incongruously set between the runways of Port Columbus. The 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant strikes an atmospheric tone, surrounding you with aviation relics from World Wars I and II in the hometown of the “Ace of Aces,” Eddie Rickenbacker.

At the horticultural heart of Gahanna lies the Ohio Herb Education Center. It’s a hotbed of herbal skin care sessions and aromatherapy workshops in a beautiful 1828 brick house. Oct. 4 is Herb Harvest Day, and you’ll find the grounds abloom with fresh aromas and tastes.

Try the lemon balm tea, lavender jelly and corn chowder made with the center’s own herb blends, which, their packages claim, are “packaged by elves living in little villages, under trees.” Just wander the twisting lanes and you’ll spot their wee houses along the brick paths. But any day’s worth a visit with culinary, medicinal, scented and even Biblical herb gardens ready for wandering. Ask a member of the volunteer Rosemary Group to point out special plants and their properties, or join them in the demonstration kitchen for tips on cooking with homegrown spices.

After herb-laced samples, tuck into appetizers at Cap City Fine Diner. Then swing by Trader Joe’s at the Easton Town Center for tomorrow’s picnic goodies.

Evenings are well spent with your girlfriends and a round of martinis at Mitchell’s Ocean Club at Easton, a retro ’50s-vibe supper club. The raw bar and seafood are so good you’ll forget you’re 10 hours from the nearest ocean.

When you’ve maxed out your nose and your credit card, take your picnic lunch and wander over to Creekside Park in Olde Gahanna, maybe to take a paddleboat ride or meander along Big Walnut Creek and sit by the waterfall.

Of course, a girls’ weekend isn’t complete without plenty of time to gab about your adventures, so end your days with a nightcap on Lily Stone’s back porch (the B&B is BYOB). The landmark house has been restored to the Victorian-era charm of its original owner, Lillie Stone, the daughter of a pioneering Gahanna family.

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