As a pair of Anglophiles, my fiancee Courtney and I can barely contain our wonder as we walk into Ravenwood Castle. The New Plymouth bed and breakfast looks like it's right out of the English countryside — right down to the wooden drawbridge. The medieval theme sets the stage for one of the castle's biggest draws: board gaming.
Inside we marvel at its Great Hall and its vaulted wood-beam ceilings and suits of armor just as Zac Morgan, our innkeeper for the night, emerges from the Raven's Roost Pub downstairs.
As he shows us around the charming 1994-built gray cinder-block castle, he leads us down to the pub where he's been teaching a group of castle guests the rules of Snake Oil. While he takes his turn, he explains that the game is similar to Apples to Apples, but you try to convince fellow players to buy products you make up. He tries to sell everyone on the effectiveness of an exploding alarm clock to some moderate success.
With more than 200 games to choose from here, Courtney and I quickly drop off our bags in our room — the two-story King Arthur suite, which features a fireplace, a regal four-poster bed, a second-floor outdoor balcony and a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling mural detailing the rise of King Arthur.
Once back at the pub, Morgan pours me a Left Hand Milk Stout as he regales us about the two annual gaming conventions Ravenwood hosts: Con in the Castle during the summer and Hoop and Stick Con in February. Both, he tells me, offer a weekend full of board games, role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons and guest appearances by game designers.
He then walks Courtney and I through a round of Survive — a board game about escaping an island imperiled by a volcano.
She wins, but her victory is short-lived, as I beat her in a giant game of chess outside the next morning before we head about 7 miles north into Hocking Hills State Park.
On Morgan's suggestion, we bypass popular spots such as Old Man's Cave and Cedar Falls for the Rock House, a 200-foot-long corridor that nature carved into a 150-foot-tall sandstone cliff surrounded by dense forest and hiking trails.
Before descending the human-carved stone stairs down to the Rock House, I summon a bit of bravery and wander close to the edge of the cliff to see the tips of pine trees come up to my belly.
Impressed with Morgan's advice, we take him up on another one: Millstone BBQ in Logan, about 13 miles east of the Rock House. As I sit down with the menu of Southern barbecue classics, a voice in my head silently thanks the innkeeper for his tip. I order a saucy slab of house-smoked baby back ribs that fall off the bone and are so juicy that I ask for more napkins before I even dig in.
If You Go
Ravenwood Castle, 65666 Bethel Road, New Plymouth,740-596-2606, ravenwoodcastle.com
Rock House, state Route 374, Laurelville, hockinghills.com
Drawing acts such as the Flaming Lips, Stuart's Opera House hosts the outdoor Nelsonville Music Festival each spring. But the 460-seat music hall on Nelsonville's public square also hosts up-and-coming roots, folk and contemporary music acts year-round. Catch the Wood Brothers' Americana sound Sept. 28. 52 Public Square, Nelsonville, 740-753-1924, stuartsoperahouse.org
Explore 25 acres of Hocking Hills on foot and in the air with Soaring Cliffs' 10 zip lines. The tours can last as long as 2 1/2 hours and mix zip lining through the forest — lines are 200 to 1,320 feet long — with guided hikes (get up close with caverns and waterfalls) between platforms. 24719 Miller Road, Rockbridge, 855-947-4386, soaringcliffs.com
Chef and owner Matt Rapposelli's menu at Lake Hope Lodge includes Ohio-grown steaks, burgers, chicken and turkey, and wood-fired pizzas using house-made semolina dough. But the views of Lake Hope State Park from the 2012-built lodge's outdoor balcony take dining here to such great heights. 27331 state Route 278, McArthur, 740-596-0601, lakehopelodge.com