Lebanon, Ohio, located between Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio (and within a 600-mile radius of
65 percent of the U.S. population), is a friendly town that exudes Midwestern charm.
In 1802, when a surveyor laid out the community, Broadway and Main Streets ran through the
town and intersected at the town’s center. Broadway was made wide enough for the six-horse
stagecoaches, that rumbled through the town, to turn around in front of the town’s tavern. When
the coaches began bringing the early settlers from the East, the town’s cedar tree-covered
hillsides reminded them of the country of Lebanon. Hence, they named their new town
Lebanon. Thereafter, it was nicknamed “Cedar City.”
The Golden Lamb Hotel, Ohio’s oldest operating inn, is the centerpiece of historic downtown
Lebanon. It is the jewel in this unique town’s crown. Since 1803, the Golden Lamb has been a
welcome gathering place for locals, travelers, statesmen, presidents and stars in all walks of life.
Today, the hotel mixes modern amenities with antiques and Shaker décor. Located on the
hotel’s top three floors, each one of the 17 historic overnight rooms is named after a famous
guest. The rooms feature well-known names such as Charles Dickens, Ulysses S. Grant,
Samuel Clemens, Ronald Reagan and William Howard Taft.
The adjacent Black Horse Tavern, with its seasonal 60-seat southern-style porch, is a friendly,
casual gathering place. It features a pub menu, weekly food and drink specials, and live music
from Thursday through Saturday nights.
An antique sign, with the initials ‘EH’, embellishes a paneled wall of the tavern’s tap room. The
sign is from the original tavern that stood at the site of the inn. The ‘EH’ stands for Ephriam
Hathaway who opened the Black Horse Tavern on that spot before 1800.
Some 220-years after the original tavern opened, while dining at the 21st century Black Horse
Tavern, I savored a trifecta of the tavern’s popular specialties. For starters… hand-rolled
Sauerkraut Balls filled with a secret blend of spices & pork, served with cocktail sauce & house
mustard. Main course…free-range Braised Pennsylvania Lamb Shank accompanied by creamy
parmesan polenta and roasted broccolini. The Sweet Finale… Sister Lizzie’s Shaker Sugar Pie
with Caramel Sauce.
For sweets of all sorts, one need only cross the street from the Golden Lamb to The Village Ice
Cream Parlor (aka The Village Parlor) that opened on July 4,1969. The star of the original Ice
Cream Parlor was an old-fashioned soda fountain. Hollywood came to The Village Parlor twice,
and included it in two movies. In 1978, there was “Harper Valley, PTA”, starring Barbara Eden,
Nanette Fabray and Louis Nye. The comedy followed single mother Stella who lived in fictional
Harper Valley, Ohio. The movie depicts The Village Parlor as it was decades ago. In “Milk
Money”, a 1994 romantic comedy starring Melanie Griffiths and Ed Harris, the nostalgic Village
Parlor is shown throughout the film.
When it’s time to work off all those consumed calories, there are more than 600 acres of active and
passive park space in “Cedar City”. Two of the city’s popular mini-parks, Gazebo Park and
Christmas Tree Park, are both in the heart of downtown Lebanon. Gazebo Park is adjacent to the
Golden Lamb. It features a gazebo that can be reserved for private use. Christmas Tree Park is
another mini-park that features a beautiful garden area and water fountain. It is also home to
Lebanon’s community Christmas tree, which is decorated each holiday season with ornaments made
by local school children. The park hosts the annual downtown tree lighting ceremony which is held
the first Friday after Thanksgiving. Historic Fort Ancient, located about seven miles southeast of
Lebanon, is Ohio’s first state park and the largest and best-preserved prehistoric hilltop enclosure in
the United States. There are more than 2.5 miles of hiking trails, two scenic overlooks, a museum, a
seasonal outdoor garden and a picnic area.
Time for a relaxing diversion? All aboard!!!! Hop aboard one of the Lebanon Mason & Monroe
Railroad’s vintage trains for a historic round-trip train ride that takes in the sights of Lebanon’s
countryside. LM&M Railroad offers a wide variety of daily excursions and specialty tours on different dates throughout the season. Popular day tours include: “The Lebanon Experience” featuring lunch at The Golden Lamb and ice cream at The Village Parlor and “The Princess Express” where passengers come dressed in enchanting attire and interact with Royal guests; and the Pumpkin Patch Express” complete with scarecrow hosts who love to make balloon pumpkins. Favorite evening trips include the “Cherry Street Murder Mystery”, an exciting evening of mystery and mayhem followed by a meal at the Cherry Street Cafe and a variety of Beer Trains serving Pizza, calzone or wine and cheese. Holidays are celebrated with festive experiences aboard vintage trains, featuring seasonal decor and activities.
Passengers on the popular North Pole Express spend time with Santa and his elves on the
Polar Express train ride. The LM&M train tours range in time from 1 to 4 hours and in price from
$15 to $90. On select dates throughout the year, parties of up to 8 guests have the option to
rent a LM&M Railroad caboose. Caboose passengers are welcome to bring their own
beverages or snacks (no glass or alcohol permitted).
The late movie-star Roy Roger would have sung: “Happy Trails to You”. Since I can’t carry a
tune, I’ll just say: “Happy Rails to You!”
Janet Steinberg, winner of 55 national travel-writing awards resides in Cincinnati but
calls the world her home.