With a mall, a healthy mix of chain and local restaurants and a great children's museum, families in Lancaster don't have to travel to Columbus for good entertainment options.

With a mall, a healthy mix of chain and local restaurants and a great children's museum, families in Lancaster don't have to travel to Columbus for good entertainment options.

But Columbus residents in search of adventure might find it worthwhile to head to the Fairfield County seat.

The historic town offers a wide variety of family fun, said Ashley Crook, who runs lancasterparent.com, a website that keeps families informed about local happenings. When Crook started the website two years ago, she was surprised by how many entertainment options are available for families.

"We're kind of a self-sustaining community," Crook said. "A lot of people don't go out to Columbus."

The AHA museum, which opened in 2008, is worth the 30-minute drive to Lancaster. The museum features an extensive pretend-play area, a water table, craft zone and several other entertaining exhibits.

Another fun stop for hands-on activities is Art & Clay, a paint-your-own pottery studio that has plenty of reasonably priced options for children. The downtown business also houses Blue Shoe Arts Studio, a studio for artists with disabilities. Art & Clay sells a variety of artwork made by artists with and without disabilities from throughout Ohio. In fact, businesses around town often have local artwork for sale.

The Ohio Glass Museum has a wonderful selection of glass pieces - many of them produced in its studio. The museum has an awesome viewing area where kids can watch glassblowers transform hot blobs of glass into vases, bowls and ornaments. Don't miss the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio, a house built in 1865 that hosts art exhibitions as well as craft workshops. Kids can paint or draw, or sign up for a grown-up and me class that lets parents and children create art together.

Lolaleigh features artwork of a different kind. The children's clothing floor is stocked with lovely garments, many of them made by the mother-daughter team of Terice Goeller and Leigh Dixon. The women use designer fabric to create fun, fashionable clothing.

Budding ballerinas will want to visit Tutu Mommies, a store that sells custom tutus, tutu dresses, headbands and other girly accessories in infant through child sizes.

When tummies start growling, head over to Four Reasons Bakery & Deli. The eatery has a large menu of deli sandwiches, a variety of hot drinks and case full of homemade cookies and treats.

For something a little more upscale yet reasonably priced, visit Shaw's Restaurant & Inn. The Lancaster institution known for steaks and fresh seafood also offers interesting cooking classes and special events.

For something sweet, head to The Candy Cottage, a confectionary that makes handmade chocolates and mints and roasts nuts. The shop also sells candy- and cake-making supplies.

Lancaster definitely has a good selection of parks when the kids are ready for some outdoor fun. Firehouse Park, located next to the local fire station, features several play structures including one that looks a fire truck.

Rising Park also has a large playground plus a pond where visitors can feed ducks. For many locals, however, the main attraction is Mt. Pleasant, a large hill that's a doable climb for most kids and offers a wonderful view of the city.

The Alley Park Nature Center is another fun place. The center routinely offers programs and special events.

During the warmer months, kids might enjoy catching a movie at the Skyview Drive-In. Built in 1948, the venue focuses on providing families an affordable night out. Movie goers can listen to the movies through their car stereo or on old-school speakers.