It's that time of year again: summer! The sun is shining and it is the perfect time to get outdoors and become one with nature. Whether you're going to the zoo or traveling back in time to see the Hopewell mounds, many outside activities can help anyone go natural this summer.

It's that time of year again: summer! The sun is shining and it is the perfect time to get outdoors and become one with nature. Whether you're going to the zoo or traveling back in time to see the Hopewell mounds, many outside activities can help anyone go natural this summer.


Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Come see more than 700 wildlife species from all over the world, including the new baby elephant, Beco. Your family can travel the world without leaving the park: Visit the black bear in North America, travel to Australia to watch the kangaroos, and gawk at gorillas in Africa. Kids will love the educational and hands-on exhibits throughout the zoo. For more information, visit www.columbuszoo.org. Open daily 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Admission: $12 for ages 10-59, $7 for ages 2-9 and ages 60+, anyone under 2 and zoo members get in free. Be sure to bring extra money for concessions, or pack a picnic to save money.


Amish Country
Come see a different way of life in Amish Country. There are many Amish destinations to visit in and around Ohio. Eat some homemade ice cream, or try homemade cheeses. Check out hand-built furniture, or visit one of the museums. Visit http://www.oacountry.com/amish-country-visitor-guide to map your route and plan your itinerary.


Seneca Caverns
Take a natural underground adventure to Seneca Caverns. "The Caviest Cave in the U.S.A." was discovered in 1872 and is located in Bellevue, Ohio. The one-hour guided walking tour takes visitors 110 feet underground through seven levels (yes, they have electricity). During the summer months, tours depart approximately every 20 minutes. Bring a light jacket because the caves stay around 54 degrees year-round. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Don't forget to go gem mining after taking a tour through the caverns. Visit http://www.senecacavernsohio.com/index.html for information on pricing, directions and other cave information.


Great Circle Earthworks
The Great Circle Earthworks in Heath, formerly known as Moundbuilders State Memorial, was built by the Hopewell Indians approximately 2,000 years ago. The circle of mounds is nearly 1,200 feet in diameter and was used as a vast ceremonial center by its builders. The Great Circle Earthworks is now open to the public after extensive renovations.
A 1,000-square-foot exhibit includes a timeline of Ohio's ancient cultures and an explanation of why Native Americans regard Earthworks as a sacred site. Following the museum tour, visitors can take self-guided tours of the grounds during daylight hours. Open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free. Visit http://ohsweb.ohiohistory.org/places/c08/greatcircle.shtml for more information.


Franklin Park Conservatory
The Franklin Park Conservatory is a botanical landmark two miles east of downtown Columbus. The 88 acres of Franklin Park is home to 400 species of plants from a variety of global climates. It also features the Victorian Palm House with more than 40 species of palms. It's surrounded by botanical gardens and floral displays. Beginning July 4, Chihuly's popular glass art collection will be on display. Admis-sion is $7.50 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, and $4 for children ages 2-12. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Visit http://www.fpconservatory.org/index.htm for more information.


Hocking Hills
For those who are super "outdoorsy," come stay at Hocking Hills for a week of hiking, horseback riding, zip-lining, canoeing, rock climbing and family fun. There are cabins to rent and plenty of campgrounds, too. Play mini-golf with the kids, or try one of the many hiking trails. Be sure to keep a close watch on the kids while hiking because some of the trails may be dangerous. For more information about the trails, lodging and entertainment visit http://www.hockinghills.com/index.html.


Tecumseh
While in the Hocking Hills area, be sure to watch history come to life with the drama of Tecumseh. Located on Sugarloaf Mountain in Chillicothe, this show is sure to amaze the audience. The story follows a Shawnee leader during the late 1700s who struggles to defend his sacred homelands in the Ohio Valley. This drama plays June 5 through August 29 every Monday-Saturday. The show begins at 8 p.m. and lasts until approximately 10:45 p.m. Weekday show tickets are $20.95 for adults and $13.95 for children 10 and younger. Friday and Saturday tickets are $22.95 for adults and $15.95 for children. For more information about the show and ticket pricing, visit http://www.tecumsehdrama.com/index.html, call toll-free (866) 775-0700 or (740) 775-0700. Due to some violent content and loud battle scenes, this show is not recommended for anyone younger than 6.


Things to do if the sun doesn't shine:

It's good to soak up the sunshine in the summer, but we all know Ohio weather doesn't always cooperate. Here are some rainy-day options.


Center for Science and Industry (COSI)
Come learn science in a cool interactive way. The little ones will love the Little Kidspace and the underwater playground of Poseidon where they can balance balls on streams of water or make imprints in the sand. Don't forget to show them rat basketball; the kids will get a kick out of it. For older children, have them stick around for Chemistry Live! The show gives young adults an up-close-and-personal look at chemical and physical changes in an explosive way. This summer's featured exhibit is "Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science." COSI is open Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, noon-6 p.m. Visit http://www.cosi.org/visitors/plan-your-visit/hours-rates/ for admission prices and more information.


Fort Rapids
Located at I-70 and Hamilton Rd. in Columbus with a constant 84-degree-climate, this is the perfect indoor waterpark for every family. With 12 water rides, a 1,000-gallon tipping water bucket, countless water activities and state-of-the-art arcade, everyone is guaranteed to have fun. Open June-August, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Day passes are $26.95 per person. Want to stay longer? Book a room at the resort. There are 278 guest rooms and 60 luxurious suites that have been designed with comfort and convenience in mind. Fort Rapids may just be the perfect option for family vacations, reunions, celebrations, company conferences and retreats. Waterpark passes are included with rooms booked as a waterpark package. Find specials and packages at http://www.fortrapids. com/public/specials.cfm.


AHA! A Hands-on Adventure
This is the perfect place to take the little ones, especially those under 7 years old. It is the liveliest, most adventuresome, convenient, educational and fascinating place for children. AHA! is located in Lancaster, Ohio, and has 23 exhibits and activities, including Lego play, sand play, water play, and a pretend theater. And it only costs $5 per person. Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Note: There is no food available for purchase at AHA!, so plan accordingly. Visit http://www.aha4kids.org/ for more information.


Wexner Center for the Arts
All kinds of events are planned for summer at this convenient OSU campus destination, from special exhibits to movies, family days and guided tours. Admission is usually $5, but will vary depending on the exhibition. Some are free. Some events may not be child-friendly, but could make a fun night on the town for parents. Be sure to check online for information about exhibits and events. Visit www.wexarts.org/cal/.


Ohio Historical Center
Take the kids on a journey to the past: from the ice age to the space age. This will be a learning experience the kids won't forget. At many hands-on exhibits, such as Nature Ohio, kids can touch specimens and test their knowledge with computer displays. The Center is located just off of I-71 on 17th Ave. Open Thursday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for kids ages 6-12, and free for anyone under 6. AAA and senior discounts given. Military discounts are available to all active military and their dependents. Visit http://ohsweb.ohiohistory.org for more information.


Brandi Daniels is an intern with Columbus Parent Magazine. She attends Otterbein College.