Kate Bigam, Deer Creek Resort and Converence Center
The Drive: Mount Sterling, Ohio Miles: 169 O-H-I-O: During college football season, the resort offers the $99 Go Bucks package. It includes a one-night stay, a pizza and pitcher of beer, an OSU blanket and a cozy setting for cheering on your favorite team.
Every room at Deer Creek Resort, in Mount Sterling, Ohio, boasts a patio overlooking the great outdoors, so don’t be surprised if you’re greeted by more than sunshine when you awake. The resident wildlife is so used to visitors that it’s not unusual to find a family of wide-eyed raccoons staring up at you from the other side of your sliding glass door or to notice a curious skunk poking around in the bushes — kind of like a day at the zoo, only a lot more relaxing.
That’s the beauty of this quiet retreat-for-all-ages within the 3,000 acre Deer Creek State Park: If you dig wildlife but don’t fancy camping out with it, the secluded hotel is the perfect compromise. The park is home to dozens of species of birds, fish and small animals, so whether you’re fishing, golfing or just hanging out in the lobby, you’re bound to encounter nature’s finest.
The resort’s on-site restaurant, Rafter’s, offers a rustic dining experience with an upscale influence. The food is great (we recommend the 7-Point Buck, a decadent, brick-size dessert that the whole family can share) but the view is the main attraction.Snag a table next to the panoramic window, where the hill leading from the lodge to the lake is dotted with bird feeders that let meadowlarks and sparrows dine almost alongside you. The real treat, though, is catching an up-close glimpse of the park’s namesake white-tailed deer, which make regular appearances on the hill. 1-877-678-DEER, www.visitdeercreek.com