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Buckeye Ingenuity in Columbus, Ohio

When faced with the choice, would you rather have a scent labeled Old Books, Bacon or Santa’s Pipe? If you think those options are too narrow, don’t worry. The Candle Lab offers 120 fragrances for group members to create their own signature fragrance for a take-home candle.

This popular experiential activity is just one of the many hands-on experiences available to groups in Columbus, Ohio. Ten years ago, Columbus convention and visitors bureau officials decided they didn’t want groups to simply passively see the city’s sites. Instead, they launched experiential activities that promote creative outlets, like the Candle Lab’s hands-on candle making and BalletMet’s dance workshop.

Today, the local CVB is known as Experience Columbus, and the city offers experiential activities of all shapes and sizes, with new hands-on tours popping up all the time, among them a whoopie-pie-cooking class and a soap-making demonstration. Rather than another typical tour that lectures facts to groups, these activities give groups lasting memories as they become part of the experiences.

Candle Lab

Discover whether you prefer flower scents like lavender and hydrangea, or culinary smells like grapefruit and cinnamon spice at the Candle Lab. Even nontraditional smells such as First Snow and Morning Dew can make wonderful candles.

Opened in 2006, the Columbus-based fragrance brand specializes in custom scents and a workshop where groups can hand pour their own custom-scented candle. You can choose from Columbus’ two locations in the shopping districts of Worthington and the Short North.

“The Candle Lab is constantly one of the most popular stops on any itinerary here in Columbus,” said Roger Dudley, senior tourism manager for Experience Columbus. “It’s really fun for a group. People love to pass the candles around and smell them to see what everyone made.”

Groups first sniff a wide range of fragrances to determine their favorites. The store stocks more than 120 fragrances throughout the year, with seasonal and new options constantly being introduced. Once they settle on about three fragrances, participants hand pour the amount of each scent they would like in their candle.

After this 30- to 45-minute process, the candle needs about 90 minutes to harden before groups can take it home. During this time, you can either send your group shopping or dining, or combine the experience with the Igloo Letterpress, which lies across the street from the Worthington location. There, groups can engage in another experiential activity and learn how to hand set antique wooden type while they wait.

Making Whoopie Pies

Learn the secret behind creating an unforgettable cream-filled bite of whoopie pie at Mrs. Turbo’s Cookies. Groups can decide how much cream is too much when they squirt filling into their take-home whoopie pies.

This new experience allows groups not only to drool over the other gourmet cookies, brownies and cakes in the shop, but also to understand the process behind making a dessert from scratch. Mrs. Turbo herself gives the tours and talks about how baking cookies for her husband’s co-workers in 2012 led to her own shop.

“You get to meet the owner and hear her story on how the shop came to be,” said Dudley. “After you make your cookie, you can either eat your cookie right then or take it with you. It’s great because you don’t have to wait for them to bake.”

Mrs. Turbo also explains the shop’s unusual name, which originated from her husband’s nickname of Turbo, given because of his love of cars. She also loves discussing the kitschy interior modeled after retro 1950s-style bakeries, compete with pinup girl artwork.