rating: $ 292 to $ 382 per night
Glam factor: 3 of 5
Kudos to The three of you who know that one of North America’s largest conservation organizations is located in rural southeast Ohio. For everyone else, this hidden gem is The Wilds, four hours from Indy on a winding road in Cumberland. Associated with the Columbus Zoo, the grounds encompass 9,100 acres of formerly quarried land that is now open pastures home to 28 species of rare and endangered animals, as well as overnight accommodation at Nomad Ridge, a series of Mongolian-style yurts.
High above the fields and nestled between the trees, each of the 12 canvas structures gives the illusion of camping in the forest – minus the weak tents and old sleeping bags. This is a fairly comfortable glamping with climate control, queen and king beds, bamboo floors, and full bathrooms with sink units. After a day of ziplining, fishing, or horseback riding, settle into the Adirondack chairs on your deck and enjoy a nightcap under the stars.
For those with binoculars, a lookout near the visitor center offers spectacular views of giraffes and rhinos grazing in the distance. However, you don’t need a magnification to spot animals on the safari tour, which is free for every yurt guest. Open-air buses ride the site’s gravel roads and take you past a pond where a group of Père David’s deer, once critically endangered in China, are lounging. You’ll see playful African-painted dogs (fewer than 5,000 of which exist in the wild), endangered cheetahs, and a handful of Grévy’s zebras.
Even the mealtime offers the opportunity to observe animals. In the exclusive Nomad Ridge dining room, grab a window table and search the property for critters as you dig into an ironed steak or grilled chicken for dinner. Before you set off, take one last look at this sweeping, expansive view from the main deck. Where are the wild things? In Ohio, of course. 14000 International Rd., Cumberland, Ohio, 740-638-5030, thewilds.columbuszoo.org
While you’re there …
eat:: About halfway between Columbus and Zanesville, detour from I-70 to Buckeye Lake Winery and sip a glass of California grape red wine on the banks of its eponymous body of water.
Hike: About 8 miles away, Blue Rock State Park offers a modest 3 miles of hiking trails, but you can always branch off into the surrounding Blue Rock State Forest.
Explore:: search Antique Stores in Zanesville For the ceramics of Roseville, Weller and Owens, famous brands were once located in the region.