Miami County is wide-open space made of blue skies, green trees and golden fields. However, all that natural beauty doesn’t mean it’s just a pretty place.
Lots of space means lots of breathing room for communities to be imaginative and creative. As a result, history and discovery combine and create an unexpected experience for visitors.
Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory & Education Center’s mission is to provide a low-stress, healthy environment for big cats and other endangered species. During the last 20 years it has become a home to panthers, lions, arctic foxes, red foxes, leopards, wolves, cougars and tigers. The 11-acre conservatory is open to the public for touring during the weekends year round but has limited hours during the winter. Caretakers interact with visitors and educate them about the need for safe spaces for big cats. Feeding times are 4 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.
The center recently purchased an additional 117 acres and planning is underway for an expansion and a partnership with Powell Observatory that would allow the observatory to move their location to Cedar Cove’s newly acquired land. Together, the two businesses hope to work together to teach the public about the importance of conservation. The project is currently in the planning stages, and Powell Observatory will stay at its current home in Lewis-Young Park for the next few years.
Powell’s Rusinger telescope with Newtonian reflector with a 30" diameter mirror was built in 1984. Since that time it has remained the largest publicly available telescope in a five state area. To maintain the dark zone and allow for maximum sky visibility, the observatory asks stargazers to avoid using headlights, flashlights or mobile phone screen light while at the site. This slight inconvenience is worth the trouble, since there’s always the possibility someone will spot a new planet or star while there. Just 19 years ago minor planet 25890 Louisburg was discovered with the Powell Observatory telescope.
For groups looking for a more interactive experience, there is the opportunity to role play being a group of hostile mercenaries who descend on an abandoned village. The winning team is the one with the last player standing -- or covered perhaps with the least amount of paint. Shoot House Paintball was created by veteran Doug Petroskey, so paintballers and airsoft guns owners can play an immersive and intense game. Players can rent the course in two-hour blocks and have as many as 20 people playing at a time. A referee is on hand to give the final decision on any disputes. The field is also customizable, so that no one has to play the same course twice.
For those who want to enjoy a game that emphasizes critical thinking and working together but don’t like getting dirty, there’s Escape House in Spring Hill. Each room presents a different scenario and mystery. Players are locked in each themed room until they solve a series of riddles with answers that lead to an escape from the room. Teams have one hour to solve their mystery or they lose the game. Hints are available. Large groups can pit their times against teams of two to eight people. Each group is offered a complimentary photo, which features their time for solving the puzzle, as a reminder of their visit.
The Miami County Trolley allows wine lovers to arrive in style when touring Miami County’s wine country. The trolley offers curbside pickup at hotels, bed and breakfasts or other sites along their route and then drives them to local wineries. The trolley’s driver will drop a few interesting facts and note points of interest along the way. Once the tour is over, riders are returned to their point of origin. An expansion of their fleet now allows them to offer even more transportation options for a wedding, party or visitors looking for a scenic tour. During the holiday season, a special Christmas lights tour is offered.The Midway Drive-In is one of the last classic, single-screen drive-in movie theater in the country. Not much about the drive-in has changed in the last 68 years, making it something of a time capsule. There’s a concession stand where patrons can purchase burgers, hotdogs, popcorn, soda and candy. Kids can play on the playground in front of the screen before the movie starts. Showings are typically a double feature. And just to prove this is an authentic, old school operation, the ticket and concession stands are cash only. The single biggest development since it was built in 1952 occurred seven years ago. Movie reels officially switched from film to digital. When it was announced that the drive-in might have to close its doors, the surrounding communities got together and raised the money needed to purchase new projection equipment.