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Although largely known for its highly industrialized cities like Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, Ohio definitely won’t disappoint those looking for a more relaxed city break. This Midwest state has a wide selection of great small towns that will be perfect for a short visit.
Whether it’s the cozy resorts and vacation rentals on the shores of Lake Erie, the sights-filled tiny towns of the heartland, or the gateways to national and state parks, the Buckeye State has enough to intrigue even the most experienced travelers. Expect lots of awesome eateries serving American food, a superb museum mix, excellent music venues, thrilling amusement parks, and a lively wine scene. The most charming small towns in Ohio are there to ensure you’re having an amazing time during your Midwest visit.
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Experience Lake Erie at its most scenic by coming to Put-in-Bay. Located on South Bass Island, this small village has become one of the most popular places in Ohio for day trips and lakeside vacationing during the warmer months. People flock to profit from its wonderful panoramas, wineries, hiking trails, and relaxing beaches. Head to the Lake Erie Islands Historical Museum to learn more about the Battle of Lake Erie when the U.S. navy defeated the British fleet and visit the Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center to learn about the local ecology. As for accommodations, you can choose among many hotels dotting the lakefront or opt for a wilder stay by camping at South Bass Island State Park.
You can know a town is going to be beautiful when a waterfall is at its center. Chagrin Falls is not only a charming Ohio destination but one of the best small towns in the entire Midwest. It grew around this picturesque natural attraction. Located on the shores of the Chagrin River, this town is a nice option for an easy outing. Enjoy refreshing walks in Riverside Park, visit the boutique Historical Society museum, and have lunch at one of the tasty American restaurants in the center of town. All of it while being very close to the splashing sound of a waterfall. If you’re into theater, the town has a surprising find. Here you can visit one of the oldest community theaters in the US, the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre.
Did you know that you can get a Swiss atmosphere in Ohio? It’s less about the high Alpine peaks and more about the culture, history, and cheese-making traditions. Sugarcreek in Tuscarawas County is the place to immerse yourself in this mood. An important village of the so-called Amish County, it boasts traditional wooden houses, the world’s largest cuckoo clock (yes, it’s a thing), a kaleidoscope of craft Swiss cheese factories, and local wineries. Also, it’s a great place to get acquainted with the enigmatic and often misunderstood Amish way of life. Alpine Hills Museum would be a good starting point to learn about the Swiss, German, and Amish heritage. Steampunk aficionados will be delighted to find the well-preserved locomotives at Age of Steam Roundhouse.
Named after a pretty forest spring (though it’s actually orange), tiny Yellow Springs is all about the outdoors. Many of the best things to do in Yellow Springs start in Glen Helen Nature Preserve (where the iconic spring is located), with numerous hiking trails through untouched nature. Don’t miss the Glen Helen Raptor Center, which rehabilitates birds, and be sure to walk up to the Cascades waterfall for a beautiful view. John Bryan State Park nearby offers a fantastic opportunity to camp in the forest along with fishing and rock climbing activities. Head a little further, and you’ll find a well-preserved Historic Clifton Mill hosting a vintage restaurant with great food and awesome views of the river and the old bridge. Overall, Yellow Springs is among the most popular small towns in Ohio, and the proximity to Dayton and Columbus definitely helps.
You won’t find fashion boutiques, Duomos, or fancy gallerias in Milan, Ohio. But there is something that makes this small town a truly world-class destination. The person primarily responsible for the light bulb and the motion picture camera, the legendary and tireless American inventor Thomas Edison was born in this sleepy Ohio village. Pay tribute to the visionary businessman by visiting his birthplace, which doubles as a biographical museum. Apart from that, you’ve got a nice selection of Greek Revival and Victorian houses along the airy streets of Milan that immediately take you a few centuries back in time. If you’re into antiques, be sure to check out the Sights & Sounds of Edison store selling inventor-inspired objects. The Milan Museum is an essential stop if you want to get deeper into the local history.
New England allure is alive and well in Granville, even though we’re not in Rhode Island but in the Ohio heartland. Colorful townhouses dot the cityscape, the charming cafe terraces are full of life, and the Greek Revival architecture is everywhere you look; that’s the kind of atmosphere you’re getting by visiting this favorite Ohio weekend getaway destination. This is the perfect small town for slow exploration and savoring life. Dining options are plenty, coffee shops are quaint, and boutique stores abound. The town is also home to the compact Denison University, which boasts a scenic campus with shaded pathways and pretty buildings along the way. The 1842-constructed Avery-Downer House and Robbins Hunter Museum is a delightful visit for architecture lovers with its columned entrance.
With a name fit for some Flower Revolution idyllic hippie colony, Loveland is a great Ohio small town to visit if you’re looking for a refreshing riverside break. A stop on the iconic Little Miami River Trail, this town is all about outdoor activities. Bike your way through the local designated cycling trail, enjoy canoeing on the Little Miami River, and relax in the idyllic Nisbet Park & Amphitheater. Don’t forget about the culture either. The Art House II has a nice collection of local artwork, Loveland Art Studios on Main is a living artist space, and the Loveland Historical Society Museum will give you insight into the town’s history. The downtown features many fantastic places to eat and drink, with most restaurants occupying picturesque historic merchant houses.
Switzerland has Geneva, and Ohio has Geneva-on-the-Lake. The latter can’t quite compete in terms of size, but it can certainly give its Swiss counterpart a run for its money when it comes to lakeside fun. One of the best destinations for Lake Erie exploration, it has many scenic accommodation choices, an impressive array of restaurants, and a wonderful park selection right next to the water. Geneva State Park is a must-visit with hiking trails filled with fresh air, the possibility to stay in a cabin, and the spectacular Breakwater Beach, allowing you to take a dip in the Lake Erie waters comfortably. There’s also a nice campground near the lake, another awesome opportunity to be closer to nature.
Lakeside Marblehead is among the essential Lake Erie must-visits. It is home to a spectacular Lighthouse, the oldest on the US side of the Great Lakes. Be sure to come here for a tour as well as explore the surrounding state park, which is a magnificent place to have a picnic with water views. Another outdoor hit is Lakeside Daisy State Nature Preserve, the only place in the country where you can see these pretty yellow flowers in bloom. Lake Point Park nearby would be perfect for a relaxing walk. If you’re into fishing, Marblehead is the right destination to choose, as there are many places to engage in this activity and the views are always fantastic. And you can always go to one of the best amusement parks in Ohio and the U.S., the magnificent Cedar Point, located near Sandusky, just across the water.
Come to Peninsula and you’re getting to the very heart of Ohio’s wonderful Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The town is a nice stop while exploring the treasures of the park. It has several excellent restaurants, the River Light Gallery with Ohio artists on showcase, and superb vistas of the fast Cuyahoga River. Many visitors would start their train journey through Cuyahoga Valley at the historic wooden Peninsula Depot. Check out the Canal Lock 29 Trailhead for even more hiking perfection and fresh air-filled national park walks.
Northwest Ohio-located Loudonville is the quintessential small town with a thrilling mix of history, gastronomy, culture, and the outdoors you need for your next day trip. In Loudonville, you’re getting the whole package – perfect for a family trip. The colorful downtown boasts a fine selection of eateries, ice cream spots, and cafes to start the day off right. Also, pay a visit to a local 1909-built City Hall and Opera House for the history and pretty interior. But the main attraction of Loudonville is the gorgeous Mohican State Park created along the gorges of the beautiful Clear Fork Mohican River. Here you can fully engage in outdoor activities, be it hiking, camping, fishing, or canoeing. Loudonville brands itself as the “Canoe Capital of Ohio” for a reason. You can experience its great boating possibilities firsthand, hitting the river waters with a paddle in hand.