If you have a desire to explore, don’t forget to check out what is likely in your own backyard! From big cities to beautiful natural landscapes, Ohio offers a variety of destinations, activities, and attractions that are fun for the whole family. So whether planning a long weekend or lengthier vacation, check out our list of the 10 best places to visit in Ohio.
Home to a number of museums and cultural attractions, Cleveland attractions include the Museum of Natural History, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Art, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Children’s Museum, Playhouse Square, which is the largest performing arts center outside of New York City, and the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra at Severance Hall. Music lovers will want to take in a concert at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, Blossom Music Center, or Cain Park.
The natural beauty is also impressive, and can be enjoyed at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, while the marine life is stunning at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Of course, sports fans will keep busy, with the Cleveland Guardians, Cleveland Browns, and Cleveland Cavaliers making their home in ‘Believeland’.
The city is full of eclectic neighborhoods and the fantastic dining options are too many to name. But at the center of it all is University Circle, a square mile near downtown that is home to some of Cleveland’s top education, healthcare, arts, cultural, religious and social service institutions. It also has great retailers, restaurants and bars, as does Gordon Square Arts District, Whiskey Island or The Flats.
The “Queen City” of Cincinnati offers its own cultural destinations, including Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati Art Museum, Krohn Conservatory, and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park at Eden Park, Duke Energy’s Children’s Museum and the Museum of Natural History and Science at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, the Cincinnati Observatory, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
You can also visit the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden or cross the river to check out the Newport Aquarium. Sports fans will enjoy the Cincinnati Reds Museum and Hall of Fame at the Great American BallPark, or taking in a match featuring the newest MLS team, FC Cincinnati. And you can’t visit Cincinnati without taking in the John A Roebling Suspension Bridge, or the Purple People Bridge. Be sure to check out Findlay Market, which was founded in 1852 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Meet up with friends at Cincinnati’s main gathering place, Fountain Square, home to Tyler Davidson Fountain and a popular spot to attend free concerts, movies, and special events; and eat, work, play, and enjoy the arts in the Incline District. Take a walk back in time at the American Sign Museum, or be a kid again Coney Island and Kings Island. And if your not done yet, see one of the prettiest areas of the city in—wait for it—Spring Grove Cemetery.
Recently undergoing quite a transformation, Downtown Columbus has a ton to offer visitors and residents alike, including the Ohio Statehouse, Scioto Mile, Columbus Commons, National Veterans Memorial and Museum, Columbus Association of Performing Arts at the Ohio Theatre, The Topiary Park, North Market, Columbus Museum of Art, Center of Science and Industry (COSI), Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Short North Arts District, German Village, and the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena, as well as the abundance of bars and restaurants in the surrounding Arena District.
Catch a Columbus Crew game at Lower.com Field and, of course, you can’t visit Columbus without checking out Ohio Stadium, or ‘the Shoe’, at The Ohio State University or visit the campus’ Wexner Center for the Arts. Don’t miss one of the best zoos in the country at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium and Zoombezi Bay; do some shopping at Easton Town Center, or explore the past at the Ohio History Connection.
Natural beauty abounds in Columbus and Central Ohio, including the Park of Roses, or the 19 natural area parks within the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks. Columbus is also home to some of the state’s largest and most popular events, including the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club, the All American Quarterhorse Congress, Dublin Irish Festival, and the Ohio State Fair.
While not as big of a city as ‘the big 3’, Dayton is the birthplace of aviation and offers many attractions focused on flying and the history behind it. At Wright Brothers Hill and the John W. Berry, Sr. Wright Brothers National Museum, visitors can get a glimpse into the lives of the innovative pilots and learn more about the first practical aircraft they created. You will also want to check out the National Museum of the United States Air Force – the world’s largest and oldest museum dedicated to military aviation history – and the National Aviation Hall of Fame for more aviation background.
Of course, there is more to Dayton than just its connection to the history of aviation. The historic Oregon District lies in the center of the city with beautiful buildings over a century old. In addition to incredible architecture, there are countless bustling businesses with little cafes and shops set alongside art galleries, restaurants and bars. The city is also home to five MetroParks, including RiverScape that lies alongside the banks of the Great Miami River. Set right in the heart of Dayton, the park is popular with locals and tourists and hosts countless concerts, cultural events, and festivals throughout the year.
2nd Street Market is the largest and oldest public market in Dayton, it has countless stands and stalls with fresh fruit and vegetables, meats, cheeses and baked goods on sale. Just a short walk from the market, you’ll find the excellent Schuster Performing Arts Center, which puts on an array of concerts, ballets and operas every year.
#5. Lake Erie
While many of the most popular destinations and activities are found within or near the state’s largest cities, there is beauty and fun to be found throughout. Communities around Lake Erie are popular spots, including Put-In-Bay and South Bass Island, which features Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial; Kelly’s Island, Geneva-on-the-Lake, and Port Clinton
Located along the banks of Lake Erie, Sandusky beckons to water lovers and thrill-seekers alike. In addition to boasting proximity to waterfront trails and beaches, the town is home to Cedar Point, an amusement park that features some of the world’s tallest and fastest roller coasters. The attraction also offers rides designed for little ones, plus a sports center and a water park. Outside of Cedar Point, travelers will find additional family-friendly facilities, including the Merry-Go-Round Museum and Kalahari Resorts & Conventions Sandusky, the largest indoor water park in the state.
#7. Hocking Hills State Park
While all of the Ohio State Parks are beautiful and worth exploring, Hocking Hills is definitely something special. With its stunning caves and breathtaking waterfalls, Hocking Hills in southeastern Ohio is one of the state’s most beautiful destinations. Inside the park, you’ll discover miles of hiking trails, including the Ash Cave Gorge and Ash Cave Rim trails, which lead to Ash Cave. You can also follow the 6-mile-long Grandma Gatewood Trail from the welcome center to Old Man’s Cave before continuing on to Cedar Falls, where you’ll find the park’s largest waterfall by volume.
Canton is a must-visit destination for sports lovers. Nicknamed the Hall of Fame City, Canton is best known as the birthplace of the NFL and the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Football fans can tour the museum to admire its bronze busts of 300-plus Hall of Famers, browse artifacts from recent players and see dozens of Super Bowl championship rings. For those who aren’t a fan of the game, Canton offers plenty of other attractions and amenities worth checking out, including the William McKinley Presidential Library & Museum. Canton is also home to The Canton Classic Car Museum, The Canton Brewing Company, and Gervasi Vineyards, which will have you doubting whether you are still in Ohio!
#9. The Wilds
If you are looking for something a little different, The Wilds is the place for you. The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio, consist of nearly 10,000 acres of open range habitat for rare and endangered species. Threatened and endangered animals from all over the world – rhinos, giraffes, antelope and now cheetahs – live in mixed-species groups, roaming expansive natural habitats. The signature experience is exploring the facility with a Safari Transport Pass, which combines rides through the animal habitats led by knowledgeable interpreters with self-guided exploration. But there are a wide variety of activities to choose from, including ziplining and horseback riding.
#10. Amish Country
The Amish communities in Millersburg offer a more tranquil way to experience Ohio. A drive through the rolling landscape of Amish Country is a wonderful way to escape the city and see a simpler lifestyle at work. Amish buggies ply the twisting roads, and farmers work in the fields. Small communities offer opportunities to stop and pick up everything from household goods, to locally made cheeses, candy, ice cream, produce, and much more. While Amish Country spans five counties, the best place to start is along the 160 miles of the Amish Country Byway, in Holmes County.