Lebanon: Stepping Back in Time
Lebanon’s ‘walkable’ downtown and outdoor recreation opportunities make it the perfect summer getaway. Before visiting last October during the height of fall foliage viewing, I had heard lots of good things about the picturesque town about 30 minutes northeast of Cincinnati. Known for its antique and other specialty shops, brick sidewalks and of course the historic Golden Lamb, I was excited to check it out.
I started the afternoon with a stop at Village Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant, which opened in 1969 and boasts white tile floors, wrought iron chairs and a long, bar-like counter covered with goodies. In addition to serving a variety of ice cream, frozen yogurt and homemade desserts, the shop offers the Shaker Sundae ($6.50) featuring vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice creams; chocolate, butterscotch and strawberry topping; whipped cream; maraschino cherries; and chopped nuts. I opted for a Truly Old Fashioned Ice Cream Soda ($3.85) in chocolate, which was delicious.
On my way out I loved taking a peek at all of the old photos in the entryway, and was interested to find that Lebanon was both the hometown of actor Woody Harrelson and the backdrop for the 1994 movie, “Milk Money” (starring Melanie Griffith and Ed Harris). Some of the other interesting spots along Broadway, the main drag in Lebanon, include the Golden Turtle Chocolate Factory (chocolates), The Golden Clam (antiques/glassware), and The Open Hearth (candles, quilts, furniture).
My next stop was The Golden Lamb, a Lebanon staple since 1803 and Ohio’s oldest continually run restaurant and inn. I could feel the historic presence as soon as I walked through the front door, even before learning that the legendary site had hosted 12 U.S. presidents – from Garfield to Bush – and other well known figures like Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charles Dickens. Each of the inn’s 18 rooms, which range in rate from $100-$130/night, is named after one of The Golden Lamb’s famous guests. I also enjoyed the ghostly stories about Sarah’s Room, where guests claim to see the former resident’s presence from time to time.
Even if you’re not staying overnight, there’s plenty to eat and drink at The Golden Lamb. The Blackhorse Tavern serves a variety of casual dishes (like sauerkraut balls and fried chicken), and The Golden Lamb’s restaurant is a little more upscale with menu items like leg of lamb, duck and a variety of steaks. Guests can also get a feel for the region’s Shaker heritage by trying the Shaker Lemon Pie – a sweet, yet tart, treat dating back to the early days at The Golden Lamb. If you want to try to recreate it, check out this recipe that the on-site chef shared with Country Living magazine.
After exploring historic downtown Lebanon, I was ready for something a little more adrenaline-focused. I found Ozone Zipline Adventures at YMCA Camp Kern, approximately a 15-minute drive from Lebanon. This hands-free zipline tour (starting at $79/person), which is the largest in the Midwest, includes 10 connected ziplines and eight sky bridges – allowing guests to soar across the Little Miami River at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. An added bonus: all proceeds from the tour benefit the YMCA Camp Kern Outdoor Education School Programs. Other nearby options for outdoor adventure enthusiasts include canoeing along the Little Miami River and bike riding along the Little Miami Scenic Bike Trail (which stretches more than 70 miles).
I packed my one-day trip with everything from eating ice cream to zipping above the trees, but a getaway to this quaint town can be as leisurely or adventured-filled as you’d like. Just be sure to brush up on episodes of The Andy Griffith Show beforehand, as Mayberry will look awfully familiar once you’ve walked the streets of historic downtown Lebanon.
What’s your favorite small-town adventure?