Monday, November 14, 2005

Licking/Muskingum County: Longaberger Homestead

The wife and I are establishing a ritual where we both take our Anniversary off and head off on a short little “honeymoon” trip.

Last year, we took a long weekend and spent it at the Maumee Bay State Park Lodge and loved every minute of it. This year, with the new puppy, we didn’t feel right about taking off for a long weekend and leaving her.

So we elected to make the two hour drive east along State Route 37 to Licking County and Newark, Ohio.

We actually passed through Newark on 16 to the Longaberger Basket Company’s headquarters. The giant “basket” can be seen from at least a ¼-mile away and provided some interesting chatter. The corporate headquarters was not that exciting as they only allowed you to visit the downstairs.

The people at the front desk were very nice and quick to share a story about the building. The Cherry wood was cut down from where the Longaberger Golf Course sits and was milled in the company’s own mills. And the baskets’ handles weight 18 tons and are equipped with a special heating mechanism to keep them from allowing icicles to form that could fall through the glass ceiling on the building.

They also made it a point to share the experience that could be had at the Company’s homestead located about 15 miles east of Newark in Dresden (which actually lies in Muskingum County).

We took them up on the offer and made the easy 15 minute drive to the Homestead. Visiting on Halloween was a very good idea, as the place was nearly empty. The Homestead is set-up like a park – with a lot of gift shops. You enter and they have a “welcome station” with another smiling face – you see a lot of those – that gives you the explanation of the grounds and where everything is. It could easily take you 4-5 hours to get through everything. But don’t worry about getting hungry they even have two full-service restaurants on the grounds and numerous snack shops.

We saw the world’s largest basket of apples (photo right) and it was a big basket of “fake” apples. You could take a free walking tour of their basket making facilities and for only $59.99 you can weave your own basket, on the hour. Fortunately for me – and unfortunate for her – we got there about 11:05 and didn’t want to wait 55 minutes to make a basket. There are also several of the original buildings – and replicas of others – where the family got into the basket making process. There is a long building, nearly the entire front of the facility that lays out how you could use Longaberger in every room of your home – and you’d be surprised they also sell the stuff there. While most of it was of little interest to me, they did have some neat foods additives and sample sections in the kitchen section. They also provided entertainment in the “foyer” while we were there. The young lady singing was pretty good, singing a Shania Twain tune.

We left there with a couple of baskets – and $100 lighter – and considered our course of action. There was still the barn, memorial garden, and several other sites that we could examine before heading off into the sunset.

Unfortunately, we’d packed the day very full – wanting to go hiking, pick apples, and make it home in time for trick-or-treat.

We chose to continue our explorations another time and headed off to find our next destination -- which is another issue of "The Ohio County Project"!

If You Go: Be prepared to spend money. They offer some good freebies, but lots of Longaberger baskets and eventually most people have to buy one. This is in a very rural section of the state, so if you are not interested in eating at Longaberger, I’d suggest stopping at Ms. Miller’s Restaurant in Newark.

What’s Special: Nothing too special, for me. They were quick to point out that there are several baskets that you can only purchase at the Homestead. Sounds like an EBay project to me!

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