Roller Coaster Road Trip: Journey to Kings Island in Mason, Ohio

By Marcus Leshock | WGN Morning News Feature Reporter

Cue the “Game of Thrones” theme. The long winter is over. The white walkers of Chicago have retreated. It’s time to hit the road and dream of warmer weather, funnel cakes, and…

ROLLER COASTERS.

On Thursday’s WGN Morning News, I will be live at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio – just a few minutes outside of Cincinnati. Kings Island is home to nine roller coasters, arguably most famous is The Beast. The longest wooden roller coaster in the world is celebrating 35 years this season. This week, they’re launching a brand new ride – Banshee, a B&M inverted coaster that will grab the title of World’s Longest Inverted Coaster. It will also be ONE of the tallest and fastest on the planet.

You can see more about Banshee in the video above. Kings Island opens to the public this weekend. Here’s more info about the park:

Kings Island | 6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason, Ohio | 513-754-5700 | visitkingsisland.com

As for getting to Kings Island from Chicago, it’s about a five hour drive straight through. But what fun is driving across the midwest without seeing a few things, right? Below are a list of places I checked out on the way or a few spots that are on my list to see. Safe travels WHEREVER you end up taking the family to this summer!

Fair Oaks Farms | 856 N. 600 E, Fair Oaks IN | 877-536-1194 | fofarms.com | 74 miles from Chicago

I walk into Fair Oaks for the first time, and I’m immediately greeted by somebody behind a counter a good 50 feet away. And it’s not the “I’m mandated by my employer to say hello to everybody when they walk in or I get written up” greet. It’s the “I’m genuinely interested to say hello and get to know you better” greet. Within five minutes, I was hearing all about the cheese curds that were made fresh on the farm (two big tubs for $6!) and the company’s decade in business. I moved over to the ice cream section (they make that there, too) and am greeted with another smiling employee daring me to sample every variety they make. Check out the Cookies N Cream…

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Creamy as can be and oh so delicious. That nice-sized cone costs less than $3. You can chow down on it while watching the dairy process through large glass windows.

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The Slippery Noodle | 372 S. Meridian St., Indianapolis IN | 317-631-6974 | slipperynoodle.com | 182 miles from Chicago

Just because it’s “the oldest bar in Indiana” doesn’t mean The Slippery Noodle doesn’t have an interesting menu. I asked people on Facebook where I should stop when I passed through Indianapolis and David Schiesl sent me here. When I saw that they had something called a Whiskey Pepper Burger, how could I say no? Well, that was until the waitress gave me an out-of-towner recommendation. She said I MUST order the Whiskey Pepper Steak Sub sandwich. This is what arrived at the table….

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Momma! (*Kramer Voice*) Generous cuts of sirloin stacked in a sub roll, smothered in provolone cheese with that sweet, tangy whiskey pepper sauce lathered across the whole mess. Throw in some grilled onions and a side of tots and you have one of the most amazing lunches $12 can buy. My goodness was this good. I’m told by another Facebook fan Alan Ho that the live blues music regularly heard in this place can compete with anything we have in Chicago. I’ll have to come back to find out.

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Greensburg Courthouse Tower Tree | Decatur County Superior Court, 150 Courthouse Square, Greensburg Indiana | decaturcounty.in.gov | 234 miles from Chicago

Who doesn’t love random acts of nature? On my list of things to see on the way home – a tree growing out of the top of a 110 foot clocktower in Greensburg, Indiana.

GREENSBURG TOWER TREE

Here’s more from the website:

Early in the 1870′s, our citizens noticed what seemed to be a small sprig growing on the northwest corner of the courthouse tower. During frequent observations it became evident that what at first caused little comment was gaining in height, and it began to attract the attention of additional observers.

County and courthouse officials became alarmed lest so many trees might cause permanent damage to the tower roof, so in 1888 a steeplejack was employed to ascend the building and remove some of the shrubs. Of the two left standing, one attained a height of about fifteen feet with a diameter of almost five inches at its base. This tree continued to weather the storms of the different seasons for many years. Finally it died and was removed to a place in the Decatur County Historical Society Museum.

In the meantime, however, another tree had made its appearance on the southeast corner of the tower which now seemed to take on renewed vigor and in a few years grew to a considerable height. While it was maturing another and final growth sprang up on the southwest corner resulting in the two trees that continued to maintain the fame of our county courthouse that has endured for over a century.

The American Sign Museum | 1330 Monmouth Ave, Cincinnati Ohio | 513-541-6366 | signmuseum.org | 291 miles from Chicago

That’s right – a museum dedicated to signage. Surprisingly, it’s a bit hard to find. That’s until you cross around the building at 1330 Monmouth Avenue…

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Yep, here we have about 20,000 square feet of sign history. The museum was founded by Tod Swormstedt, former editor and publisher of “Signs of the Times” magazine. His team has collected all kinds of signage dating back to the 1870s. There’s a deco design, neon Missoula Drug Co. sign that was seen in Missoula MT back in 1937. Or how about an up close run in with this Big Boy…

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I will admit that I had my reservations about an entire museum dedicated to just….signs. Yet, walking into the building, turning a corner and running into a scene like this….

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….you feel like you’re walking back through a history of attention-grabbing advertising. I can’t say that I’ve ever paid much attention to how much craftsmanship goes into creating some of these works. The stunning “LOOK AT US” glow from the humming tubes of neon made me feel awash in shame for that, but they also gave me an appreciation for their brilliance. There happens to be a large amount of Chicago found in these hallways, like a life size Marshall Field & Company storefront….

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…or this collection of 1950-1970 works from the Beverly Sign Company….

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If these signs are enough to draw you in, I recommend taking the guided tour. I didn’t have time for it but listened in for a few minutes. The guide was extremely informative and passionate as can be. If there is one dim bulb about this place, it has to be the steep $15 admission fee. But hey – where else are you going to get this close to a retro McDonald’s sign outside of Des Plaines?

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Jungle Jim’s International Market | 4450 Eastgate South Drive, Cincinnati | 513-674-6000 | junglejims.com | 316 miles from Chicago

This is the second location for the popular Jungle Jim’s International Market. They feature tens of thousands of square feet of fresh produce, specialty foods, beer and wine. Don’t worry about missing the place, it has a giant monorail sticking out of the front of it…

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I didn’t get the chance to see Jungle Jim’s in person, but I was told by many of you that this blog post could not exist without it being present. It will be one of my first stops on my next visit to Cincinnati!

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