You know how it is. The day after Christmas all the new toys are either broken or they have lost their charm.

You know how it is. The day after Christmas all the new toys are either broken or they have lost their charm.

The various electronic games and Guitar Hero are shattering your peace-loving household with unpleasant noises, not the least of which are the loud squabbles between the kids.

"It's my turn to play the drums."

"It is not. I told you we would swap after two songs."

"No, you said the next one."

"Did not."

"Did too."

And on and on. It just doesn't seem fair after all your pre-holiday scurrying about to now face another maddening week. It's going to be a long seven days.

Maybe not. You know you can always count on Columbus Parent Magazine to come up with ideas to restore familial harmony. This particular suggestion is good for either a pre- or a post-holiday getaway.

About 40 miles from your Columbus doorstep is a fantastic area called Hocking Hills. It's the best example of Mother Nature's handiwork in the entire state of Ohio and probably locations east and west. There are thousands of acres of trees, streams, caves, trails and incredible beauty any season of the year.

Winter, with its frozen waterfalls and frosty mountains, has its own special allure.

October attracts most visitors because of the fantastic autumn leaves blanketing the hills, but December is attractive for other reasons, one of which is discounted accommodations. My visit was in October when the Hocking Hills are indeed breathtaking.

We stayed at The Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls, www.innatcedarfalls.com. The place appears to be from somewhere in time long before the 21st century, but the innovative building methods used to create and maintain the property are as modern as tomorrow.

The owners, Ellen Grinsfelder and Terry Lingo, have stories about building the inn using only green materials which they will be happy to share with you. Both are dedicated to making visitors feel at home. That goes for the staff as well.

Anthony the chef is nothing short of a genius in the kitchen. He manages to concoct and prepare extraordinary dishes that are as delicious as they are beautifully presented. It's an exercise in incredible dining in a strictly country atmosphere with the finest gourmet fare being brought to your table.

There are rooms in the inn and private cottages tucked away in the forest. The spa is barely visible from the road, but is not the least bit shy in its services.

During our three-day visit, we ate even more gourmet dinners in such unusual settings as a Scottish mansion (www.glenlaurel.com) and a medieval castle (www.ravenwoodcastle.com). We also had breakfast at Ravenwood, which has the most delicious cinnamon rolls we had ever tasted. They also offer a cookbook with lots of fine recipes, including the cinnamon rolls.

Now, anyone with children knows the kids are not going to be content staying in cozy cabins and admiring the scenery. After all the holiday flurry, it would be great if they were, but not a chance.

Fortunately, there is a lot to do, most of which is not available anywhere else as close to home, and in one case, not available anywhere else in the country. This attraction is a lot more interesting and fun than its name implies. It's the Columbus Washboard Company's factory tour.

Here's an opportunity to teach the kiddies a little folklore and tell some stories about what my grandchildren call "the olden days." In most families, the parents won't have any more idea about a washboard than the children, but not to worry. One of the factory owners has stories to tell and before the tour is over, chances are good you'll want to buy one of the three sizes of washboards available just for fun.

The company prepares a Washboard Troop Kit to send to the American troops along with an instruction sheet on how to use a washboard. The kit contains the washboard, a washtub, a clothesline, clothespins, soap and foot powder. The kit costs $25, including shipping, and the company will accept donations of less.

Sometimes laundry cannot be done for weeks on end and the soldiers have to wear dirty clothes. They are happy to receive the kits, as the tons of letters and pictures in a special display attest. It's a great way to help the war effort in a personal way.

Call (800) 343-7967 or visit the website at www.columbuswashboard.com to find out how you can send a troop kit. You will be told who will receive your gift.

The craft shops thrive in the Hocking Hills. Two of my favorites are the basket-making shop and the Liquid Light Fine Art Workshop. There also are cooking classes and way too many others to mention here.

Before we go to the great out-of-doors, I have to tell you about one more inside treat. Etta's Lunchbox Museum is a funky diner that serves the best pizza we ever tasted and all kinds of sandwiches, soups and chili. The place is also a tribute to pop culture, with lunchboxes, Thermos bottles, toys, bikes, and much more also from "the olden times." It's so much fun.

Outside are miles of hiking trails, caves to explore, airplane fly-overs and horseback riding. And don't miss the scenic railway system. Decorated to match the seasons, in December it's the Santa train or the North Pole Express. The first is for pre-Christmas traveling and the latter is for after the holiday. Both are fun and the kids will love it.

I have so much more to say, but I'm running out of room. So, take to the trusty Internet to read all about it. The address is www.1800hocking.com. You'll be glad you did.

Mildred Moss is Columbus Parent Magazine's travel writer.