Lots to do at ODNR’s Natural Resources Park at State Fair
COLUMBUS — Visitors to the Ohio State Fair will find a break from the hustle of the midway at the Natural Resources Park, located in the southeast corner of the fairgrounds. Outdoor and indoor nature exhibits focused on hands-on learning will greet fairgoers as they tour the park-like setting of the area, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
“ODNR’s Natural Resources Park at the state fair is just a snapshot of what Ohioans can do outdoors” said ODNR Director Sean Logan. “We hope our visitors’ experience will inspire them to get out and explore all that Ohio has to offer.”
Visitors of all ages are invited to talk to a 15-foot-high Smokey Bear who has been greeting youngsters by name for more than 30 years. Smokey Bear will continue his tradition of sharing the importance of forest fire prevention and safety with all fairgoers.
The Natural Resources Pavilion, located next to Smokey Bear, will offer a variety of interactive exhibits promoting conservation and outdoor recreation, such as Explore the Outdoors and the demonstration Ohio dog park.
One of the newest exhibits gives visitors a chance to see ancient fossilized organisms once found in Ohio. Also new this year, the pavilion will feature a hands-on nature lab which will enable families to interact with interpretive staff from the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) and the Ohio Scenic Rivers Program.
Young visitors, ages 18 and under, are encouraged to explore paddle sports by grabbing a kayak paddle and trying the 7,000-square-foot kayak pond, located next to the pavilion. This hands-on activity, which is supervised by ODNR Division of Watercraft professionals, teaches children and parents alike about the importance of wearing proper fitting lifejackets and offers paddling basics. Nearby, Rudder’s Boat Shack offers an array of boating information.
The Natural Resources Park features a 500-seat amphitheater where fairgoers will be treated to all types of entertainment every day from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The long-time favorite Great Lakes Timber Show, featuring log rolling and lumberjack contests, will be returning along with the Columbus Zoo and several musical acts. From cloggers to retriever dogs, jugglers to naturalists, there’s something for everyone at ODNR’s amphitheater.
Across the pond from the amphitheater is the extensive ODNR Division of Wildlife display area, home to the always busy kiddie fishing area. In addition to free fishing for the youngsters, families can try a number of outdoor sports including the free archery and BB gun ranges.
Other popular Wildlife displays include a collection of live native animals. New this year, a live coyote will reside at the Natural Resources Park along with river otters, a bobcat, wild turkeys and birds of prey including owls and eagles. After visiting native wildlife, fairgoers may enjoy a stroll through the colorful aviary and butterfly exhibits.
Another outdoor natural display awaits fairgoers at the authentic tall-grass prairie; a number of stunning prairie blossoms can be viewed along an accessible boardwalk trail. Nearby, an early pioneer cabin gives visitors a glimpse into life along the Ohio frontier. The Ohio State Parks exhibit also includes a camping village, featuring distinct and unique ways to camp in Ohio.
Before leaving the park, fairgoers are encouraged to stop by the ODNR Information Booth to pick up pamphlets and other information related to ODNR lands and programs. The information booth is also an excellent place to ask ODNR-related questions while visiting the park area. Attached to the information booth, the Ohio State Parks Gift Shop is full of great gift ideas as well as State Parks merchandise for the entire family.