Portsmouth, Ohio, is just a little town, but its location -- right where the Ohio, Scioto and Little Scioti rivers meet -- is within a two-hour drive from Charleston, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Lexington, Kentucky and Columbus, Ohio. Families in Portsmouth won’t find big-city attractions, but they might be surprised by the small town treasures they discover in their pursuit of fun.
Learn Something New
Kids can check out artifacts made by Native Americans more than 7,500 years ago at the Southern Ohio Museum and Cultural Center (somacc.com). They’ll either be entranced or creeped out by the museum’s antique dolls exhibit, but it’s worth taking a peek at. Families can get a first-hand look at what life was like for Ohio pioneers at the 1810 House (sciotocountyohio.com). The kids can dress up in old hats and vintage shawls while they check out items such as 19th century spoons and cooking essentials. The museum keeps odd hours off-season, so call before you head over. Learn more about the night sky at Clark Planetarium at Shawnee State University (planetarium.shawnee.edu), which hosts free public programs throughout the year. The seasonal star gazing programs are especially good for helping families learn to recognize current constellations.
Explore the Outdoors
Rent a kayak at the marina and try your luck fishing, lace up your hiking boots to explore the six hiking trails, or bring your binoculars to look for black-throated green warblers and common yellowthroats at Shawnee State Park (dnr.state.oh.us). The lake opens for swimming in the summer, and you can set up camp at the park year-round. Take a trail ride through the forest on horseback with Ben’s Happy Trails Riding Stable (benshappytrails.com). The horses are used to inexperienced riders, so this is a good spot for your child’s first trail ride. If you just want a pretty spot for a picnic, bring your lunch to Alexandria Point Park (portsmouth.org), where the Scioto River meets the Ohio River.
Visit a Local Landmark
Drive northwest on state Route 73 to see the Serpent Mound (ohiohistory.org), the largest snake-shaped effigy mound in the United States, stretching nearly a quarter of a mile. The mound was built before 700 A.D. by the Native Americans who lived in this part of Ohio, and it’s a fascinating landmark to explore. Watch the history of Portsmouth unfold as you view the Portsmouth Murals (portsmouthohiomurals.com), which chronicle the area from the days of the mound-building Native Americans to the present day. You can stroll the murals at your leisure, but consider taking one of the guided tours if you want to learn more about the significance of the depicted scenes.
Soak Up Some Culture
Activities such as author workshops and art projects make the Portsmouth Public Library (portsmouth.lib.oh.us) a popular destination for families. Check the online calendar for upcoming events, or just come by to see whether the librarians have any new book recommendations. The Vern Riffe Center at Shawnee State University (sopaa.org) hosts musical and theatrical productions throughout the year, and several -- such as “The Addams Family” or “Shrek the Musical” -- are fun for families. Check the calendar online to see what shows are coming up. The museum doesn’t have a ton of kid-appeal, but you can’t stop in Portsmouth without at least stopping by the town’s tribute to its best-known citizen, so pay a quick visit to the Roy Rogers Memories Museum (royrogersfestival.org).