Take a tour of ‘Shawshank’ prison

Insider’s tips:

After you’ve visited the Ohio State Reformatory Historic Site, head over to downtown Mansfield and visit The Coney Island Diner, 98 N. Main St., for the diner’s famous Pea Salad.

Catty-corner from the diner is the Richland Carrousel Park, a hand-carved wooden carousel — the first new carrousel built and operated in the United States since the 19s30s. It’s handicapped accessible. Before Memorial Day, the carrousel runs Monday - Sunday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, it runs Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.- 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. After Labor Day, check website for times: www.richlandcarrousel.com

As you’re driving up to the largest castle-like structure in all of Ohio, it’s easy to imagine how its mammoth size and Gothic design must have intimidated many of the 155,000 men who once did time there. These days it captivates history buffs, moviegoers and ghost hunters.

Built between 1886 and 1910, the Ohio State Reformatory covers more than a quarter of a million square feet. In 1990, a federal court order shut it down following a class action lawsuit by prisoners about inhumane conditions. It’s listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places and was the setting for “The Shawshank Redemption” as well as “Air Force One,” Tango & Cash” and “Harry & Walter Go to New York.”

The “Hollywood” and “Behind the Scenes” tours go into places like “The Yard” where “Shawshank’s” Andy and Red would talk, the parole board room and Andy’s escape tunnel. On the West Tower tour, see the cemetery where real-life inmates were buried, and on the East Cell Block tour, marvel at the world’s largest free-standing steel cell block.

After your visit at the reformatory, take “The Shawshank Tail Drive-it-Yourself Tour” in Mansfield where other scenes from the movie were filmed.

What: The Ohio State Reformatory Historic Site, 100 Reformatory Road, Mansfield, Ohio.

Hours: Except for holidays, the OSR is open from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday through Saturday. A variety of guided tours are available from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Self-guided tours are also available. Gate closes at 4 p.m.; be in the building by 4 p.m. for the last tour. For after Sept. 1, check website for holiday and winter tour hours.

Admission: Adults, $9; children 7-17, seniors, military, college and society members, $7. Guided tours or Audio Wand, an additional $5.

Ghost walks and hunts: The reformatory also offers evening ghost walks and ghost hunts. Check the calendar of events on the website for dates and times.

Info: Website: www.mrps.org; (419) 522-2644.

Directions: Take I-71 north to Mansfield Exit 176 and turn left onto U.S. 30 West. Take the Ohio 545 exit left toward Wayne Street/Savannah. Continue on Ohio 545 N/S Olivesburg Road. Turn left on Reformatory Road.