Rate: $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 facilities is located in rural southeast Ohio. For everyone else: That hidden gem is The Wilds, four hours from Indy atop a winding road in Cumberland. The site, affiliated with the Columbus Zoo, comprises 9,100 acres of formerly strip-mined land that now features open pastures where 28 species of rare and endangered animals roam, as well as overnight accommodations at Nomad Ridge, a row of Mongolian-style yurts.
High above the fields and nestled among the trees, each of the 12 canvas structures provides the illusion of camping in the woods—minus the flimsy tents and old sleeping bags. This is fairly comfortable glamping, with climate controls, queen- and king-size beds, bamboo flooring, and full bathrooms with flushing commodes. After a day of ziplining, fishing, or horseback-riding, sink into your deck’s Adirondack chairs for a nightcap under the stars.
For those with binoculars, a lookout point near the visitors center offers spectacular views of giraffes and rhinoceroses grazing in the distance. But you won’t need magnification to spot animals on the safari tour, complimentary for each yurt guest. Open-air buses bump across the grounds’ gravel roads, taking you past a pond where a group of Père David’s deer, once on the brink of extinction in China, are lazing. You’ll see playful African painted dogs (of which there are fewer than 5,000 in the wild), endangered cheetahs, and a handful of Grévy’s zebras.
Even mealtime offers an opportunity for animal watching. Grab a window-side table in the Nomad Ridge–exclusive dining room and scan the property for critters while you dig into a flatiron steak or grilled chicken for dinner. Before heading out, take one last glimpse of that impressive, sweeping 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 off of I-70 to Buckeye Lake Winery and sip a glass of red made from California grapes on the shore of its namesake body of water.
Hike: About 8 miles away, Blue Rock State Park offers a modest 3 miles of trails, but you can always branch out into the surrounding Blue Rock State Forest.
Explore: Search Zanesville antiques shops for Roseville, Weller, and Owens pottery, famous brands once headquartered in the area.