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Ohio is in the heartland of America, which means that you’ve probably driven through it and taken a pit stop or two during road trips over the years. However, there’s much more to see and do in Ohio than just pull over for fuel and snacks.
This is a state full of big cities, small towns, and quirky charm that you don’t find just anywhere else. So next time you’re thinking of planning a trip, make Ohio the destination, not just a stop along the way. Whether you’re flying in for a business trip, going on a cross-country adventure, or just looking for weekend fun with the kids, these are some of the best places to visit in Ohio.
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One of the big cities in Ohio is Cincinnati, which is a great place to visit for arts and culture. You can find outdoor gardens, museums, and art galleries here, including the Krohn Conservatory and many others. It’s located just north of Kentucky and provides a great opportunity to explore Northern Kentucky as well. The Ohio River breathes life into Cincinnati, and the downtown area is home to the Reds’ and Bengals’ sports stadiums and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
Cleveland, located along the shore of Lake Erie, has become a big tourist destination largely because of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and its popular sports teams. The Historic Gateway District is a fun area that’s undergone revitalization and is packed with hotels, shops, and over 60 bars and restaurants. For a hip scene that’s favored among young people and foodies, head to Cleveland Heights. There’s an annual Greek Festival worth checking out, and live music venues are plentiful and full of energy.
The last of the three big “C-cities” in Ohio to round out this list is Columbus, which is the capital of Ohio and home to many important facilities. Some of the top things to see here are the Topiary Garden, the Center of Science and Industry, and the sites of the prehistoric Indian mounds. There are lots of family-friendly events you can plan your trip to Ohio around, such as the Ohio State Fair, the Downtown Arts Festival, and Picnic with the Pops. And if you’re looking for action when the sun goes down, head to the brewery district, Short North, and the German Village for some great drinks and a fun nightlife scene.
Dayton has a strong history in the field of aviation and is home to the Air Force Museum and Aviation Heritage Park. The legendary Wright brothers called Dayton home, and there’s a monument here to commemorate their contributions to the field of aviation. While spending time in Dayton, catch a live performance at the elegant Victoria Theatre and check out the National Museum of the United States Air Force. If you’re traveling with kids, spend a day at Scene75, the largest indoor entertainment center in the U.S., and explore the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.
If you think Ohio isn’t artsy, then just head to Yellow Springs and broaden your perspective. A popular weekend getaway, this area is favored by creative-types and free-thinkers, and it’s a charming place that’s been voted one of the coolest small towns by Budget Travel magazine. Antioch College is located here, and you’ll find street performers and local shops downtown. Check out the Yellow Springs Street Fair during your visit for great food and beautiful handmade crafts. To get out in nature, head to nearby Glen Helen Nature Reserve or John Bryan State Park for some hiking.
Moving away from the cities and on to the small towns, Put-In-Bay is an Ohio town with an interesting name and a resort-like vibe that draws tourists from near and far. It’s located on South Bass Island and offers lovely views of the other islands of Lake Erie. Many people who haven’t spent time in Ohio don’t even realize that there are islands here! Climb to the top of the observation tower for the best views, then take a walk down the town’s streets to see the historic restored homes, restaurants, and shops. History buffs enjoy Put-in-Bay because of the area’s role in the War of 1812 and Perry’s Victory and International Peace Monument, which towers over the harbor.
If you thought all the Amish in America lived in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, you’d be wrong. The Canton area is in the middle of Ohio’s Amish country and offers lots of fascinating ways to learn about Amish history and culture. But another big draw here for history buffs is the McKinley Monument and Presidential Library and Museum. And if neither of those topics interests you, how about football? The Pro Football Hall of Fame is located right here in Canton, Ohio.
Another interesting place to visit in Ohio is Marblehead, which is a small town that overlooks Sandusky Bay and Lake Erie. Expect to find plenty of cute stores and restaurants, as well as tourists looking for a much-needed break from city life. You can go fishing and boating on the waterways here when the weather is warm and even take a tour of the Marblehead Lighthouse, which was built back in 1821.
There are lots of things to do in Toledo, especially if you have kids. This family-friendly destination is home to Imagination Station and the Toledo Zoo & Aquarium, which houses more than 10,000 animals. However, there’s plenty of things for adults to enjoy as well, including Toledo Botanical Garden and the Toledo Museum of Art. Metroparks Toledo is a system of parks and trails that is great for walking, biking, and cross-country skiing, depending on what season it is. The parks also host outdoor concerts and special events, especially during the summer.
The town of Sandusky is famous for one big thing: rollercoasters! If you enjoy amusement parks or water parks, this is a must-see Ohio destination. Cedar Point, the second oldest amusement park in North America, draws huge crowds each year, especially during the summer. But this is also a full-fledged resort destination that has a beautiful historic downtown area with plenty of shops and eateries. There’s also a ferry terminal, with trips available to Kelleys Island, Put-in-Bay and Canada’s Pelee Island. Other highlights of the Sandusky area include the Lagoon Deer Park, the Sandusky Maritime Museum, the Sandusky State Theatre and the Merry-Go-Round Museum.
On the outskirts of Toledo is a small town called Perrysburg that enjoys a beautiful setting on the Maumee River. You can easily spend a day or two here exploring the historical sites that were formed around 1813 with the construction of Fort Meigs. This fort is the largest wooden fortification on the continent. Perrysburg has a suburban vibe that is comfortable to many travelers who want to be close to city attractions but not stressed out by traffic and congestion. It’s a safe place to live or stay, for a while or even just a weekend.
You don’t need to drive far from Dayton to reach Tipp City, which is a quaint Midwestern town that has a fascinating historic district. This is a great place to come if you enjoy browsing antique shops and crashing local festivals when you’re visiting from out of town. If you visit in September, you can check out the Tipp City Mum Festival, and if you stop by in June, you can join the fun festivities at the Canal Music Fest.
Oberlin College, a private liberal arts college, is located here, and this is a progressive small town that’s into arts and culture in a big way. This city’s history dates back to the 1830s, and it has a historic downtown area that you can explore by walking or biking. In fact, there are some great biking trails that run through town, making it a prime destination if you’re a cyclist. Architecture lovers will enjoy seeing the Frank Lloyd Wright House by Oberlin College. Oberlin also played an important role in the abolition of slavery as a town part of the Underground Railroad movement.