14 Best Things to Do in Ohio

Written by Anietra Hamper
Jul 18, 2022
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When it comes to finding things to do in Ohio, the state is full of options given its location and diversity of landscape, from the shores of Lake Erie to the rolling hills of southern Ohio. Some of the best Ohio attractions are in the bigger cities of Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, where you can easily spend a week or plan a weekend getaway in the metro areas.

There are outdoor experiences to try in locations like the Hocking Hills region or in Ohio's canoe capital along the Mohican River. More laid-back things to do can be discovered along the winding roads in Amish country or by looking for some of the hidden castles throughout the state. Yes, there are castles in Ohio!

As you plan your adventures, tackle some new and unexpected experiences with our list of the top things to do in Ohio.

1. Outdoor Adventure in the Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills
Hocking Hills | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

One of the most popular places to visit in Ohio is the Hocking Hills near Logan in the southern region of the state. This area is tops when it comes to Ohio's outdoor adventures like ziplining, hiking, horseback riding, and rock climbing.

There are many hiking trails to explore for every skill level, as you can tell from the ample signage posted around the trailheads. Ash Cave and Old Man's Cave are great for leisurely hikes; Cedar Falls has the added scenery of a stunning waterfall, which generates a refreshing mist in the sun; and Conkle's Hollow and Cantwell Cliffs are the best trail locations for challenging hikes.

A great place to start is at the Hocking Hills State Park, which has various trails and a roster of public events throughout the year. Naturalist programs range from hiking and birding to cave treks and photography. You can also spend some time stargazing at the John Glenn Astronomy Park.

Hocking Hills is great to visit anytime of the year, but fall is the most popular, when the leaves of the forest canopy change into a spectacular display of color. There are many cabins, cottages, and bed and breakfasts available for lodging in the region.

2. Visit Ohio's Amish Country

Ohio's Amish Country
Ohio's Amish Country | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

One of the best low-key things to do in Ohio is meander through the quiet country roads in Ohio's Amish Country. This is where life runs at a slower pace and where you can roll down the windows to take in a country breeze and the photo-worthy landscape of the rolling hills.

As you make your way through Ohio's small towns like Walnut Creek, Berlin, Millersburg, and Charm, you will share the roads with Amish buggies and see the families working in the fields. You can make spontaneous stops at some of the local cheese factories, and take a tour or buy some Amish-made furniture at one of the many shops along the roadsides.

Some other nice experiences in Ohio's Amish Country include picking apples at a local orchard, buying homemade baked goods, antiquing, or just sitting in a rocking chair to enjoy the view in the center of the small towns.

Ohio's Amish Country covers five counties (Holmes, Coshocton, Stark, Wayne, and Tuscarawas), with Holmes County being the most popular with tourist activities. Expand your visit with a stay at a B&B, where you will be treated to a bountiful breakfast made from locally sourced ingredients like berries and eggs.

3. Island Hopping on the Great Lakes

Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, Put-in-Bay
Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, Put-in-Bay | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

You may not remember that you are still in Ohio when you go island hopping on Lake Erie. The northern shores are the gateway to exciting weekends on South Bass Island (Put-In-Bay), Kelleys Island, Catawba, and Middle Bass Island. While there are more Lake Erie islands, these are the most popular and the most accessible.

You can start at Catawba Island with a visit to the Catawba Island State Park and stop by one of the peach orchards. The other islands are accessible by ferry.

You can catch the Jet Express or Miller Ferry from locations like Sandusky and Port Clinton that have regular daily schedules and go between the islands. Leave your car on the mainland and get around the islands by bicycle or golf cart.

Put-in-Bay, on South Bass Island, has lots of things to do and is one of the most popular of the lake Erie Islands, especially for families. The 3.5-mile-long island has fantastic restaurants, live entertainment, and natural areas for hiking and watching sunsets.

Kelleys Island is the largest of the island group and is known for its natural areas. This island is perfect for a day of hiking, bird-watching, and enjoying the lush landscape dominated by trees and rugged limestone shorelines.

Middle Bass Island is a bit more secluded and less touristy, so it is perfect for a day visit to take in some of the lake scenery and flowers that the island is known for. Check out the beaches and historic district, or just spend some time walking through the wildlife refuge on the island.

4. Paddle through Loudonville, Ohio's Canoe Capital

Paddling a canoe at sunset
Paddling a canoe at sunset

Tucked away in the central part of the state in Loudonville is the Canoe Capital of Ohio. The area around the Mohican River got its paddling reputation because of the number of canoe liveries in the area.

There are also many campgrounds, a state park, and a state park lodge, making this region prime for an outdoor getaway.

Day trips are popular, too, with canoe and float trips down the Mohican River. You can rent canoes, kayaks, or rafts and be as active or as lazy as the day calls for. Canoe for several days in a row, or break up the action with some hiking along the forested trails at Mohican State Park.

Be sure to visit the Mohican Fire Tower Outlook, where you can get the best panoramic views of the region.

There are lots of lodging options in this area tailored for outdoor adventurers, including rustic campsites and treehouses.

5. Take an Old-School Vacation at Geneva-on-the Lake

Geneva-on-the-Lake | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

The vacation nostalgia at Geneva-on-the-Lake in northern Ohio is unmatched when it comes to memorable getaways. Little has changed since the early 1900s along this one-mile stretch on the shores of Lake Erie. The old Ferris wheel, arcade, and original donut shops still serve up the kind of wholesome family fun that Ohio vacations were founded on over a century ago.

Save your appetite and try places like Eddie's Grill, a Geneva-on-the-Lake staple that still serves up the same recipe of hot dogs and root beer that made it popular in the 1950s.

Besides the main strip through town, you can spend time at Geneva State Park for fishing, hiking, and paddleboarding. This is where you can catch a fishing charter to go after some of the famous Lake Erie walleye or perch.

Lodging is easy to find in the area, with plenty of B&Bs; lakeside cottages; and The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake, located next to the state park.

6. Go Underground at the Ohio Caverns, West Liberty

Ohio Caverns
Ohio Caverns | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

The Ohio Caverns in West Liberty are among the best caverns that you can experience in the state. You can take an underground tour to see the cavern passageways that were discovered in the 1920s. Tours last about an hour and take you to see some of the most impressive crystal stalactites and stalagmites in the state.

There are a variety of tours, like lantern tours, historic tours, and natural wonders tours. The largest stalactite in Ohio, The Crystal King, which is more than 200,000 years old, is in these caverns. This is a rare opportunity to see the five-foot-long crystal, weighing more than 400 pounds.

Above ground there are activities for families, like gem and fossil mining.

For other Ohio caverns and caves to explore, you can visit Seneca Caverns in Bellevue, with one of the largest underground caverns; Zane Shawnee Caverns in Bellefontaine; and Perry's Cave and Crystal Cave, both located in Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie's South Bass Island.

Address: 2210 East State Route 245, West Liberty, Ohio

Official site: https://ohiocaverns.com

7. Discover Legends at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

All eyes are on Cleveland each year, as music artists are announced for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but you can visit anytime to get up close to rock legends and their music. One of Cleveland's top attractions, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame sits on the city's waterfront and will take a full day to explore.

The six floors of the museum include the Hall of Fame and interactive exhibits that walk you through the history of many genres of music. You will see rare artifacts, like hand-written lyrics, costumes, and musical instruments, and get behind-the-scenes insight into some of rock's most influential artists.

After a day at the museum, head down to the Flats of Cleveland to take in some live music and entertainment.

Address: 1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard, Cleveland, Ohio

Official site: http://www.rockhall.com

8. Go Wild at the Wilds, Cumberland

Giraffe at The Wilds
Giraffe at The Wilds

If you're in the mood for a safari experience, there's no better place to visit than The Wilds. The 9,000-acre habitat in Cumberland is home to many endangered species and animals, like giraffes, buffalo, zebras, and rhinos.

The open-range landscape in this part of the state enables the conservation facility to offer various types of tours with a safari-style experience. Daily tours range from open-air safaris or a more intimate Wildside Tour.

For a more engaged experience at The Wilds, you can do activities like fishing, birding, ziplining, and mountain biking.

You can plan an overnight getaway at the lodge, or book a private yurt on Nomad Ridge that overlooks the landscape with some of the best views of the night stars from your private deck.

Address: 14000 International Road, Cumberland, Ohio

Official site: https://thewilds.columbuszoo.org

9. Follow the Lake Erie Birding Trail

Red-headed woodpecker along the Lake Erie Birding Trail
Red-headed woodpecker along the Lake Erie Birding Trail

The best place to spot migrating birds in Ohio is along the northern region on the Lake Erie Birding Trail. The full trail is 312 miles long and is divided into seven loops along the Lake Erie shoreline, between the cities of Toledo and Conneaut.

Take a pair of binoculars and look for some of the 400 species of birds that have been identified along the trail. There are 84 stops, where you can see migrating species of warblers and nesting bald eagles. You can plan your trip around a specific region and hit several loops on the trail, or add it into another trip in the area.

Lake Erie Birding Trail
Lake Erie Birding Trail | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

One of the best times to visit the Lake Erie Birding Trail is in the early spring during the warbler migration, when more than 200 species make their way north through the Maumee Bay region in northwest Ohio.

Official site: http://lakeeriebirding.ohiodnr.gov/loops-sites/lake-erie-islands-loop

10. Sample Food from around the World in Columbus

Fresh tacos
Fresh tacos | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

Foodies can visit the state capital of Columbus to experience an ethnic food getaway. The ethnic food scene in the city is exploding, with more than 40 countries represented in small eateries throughout Columbus. The capital city is a melting pot of immigration that started with the German settlers, who were some of the first to lay roots here in the 1800s.

Today Columbus' ethnic food scene showcases some of the best authentic dishes from Vietnam, Italy, India, Mexico, Nigeria, and Nepal. You can also find many ethnic eats at local food trucks scattered around town.

If you are not sure where to start, you can take a tour from Columbus Food Adventures to sample a variety of these restaurants. It's one of the top things to do in Columbus.

11. Experience Cincinnati's Diverse Neighborhoods

Holtman's Donuts in the Over-the-Rhine District, Cincinnati
Holtman's Donuts in the Over-the-Rhine District, Cincinnati | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

While Cincinnati is known for its professional sports teams and cultural experiences, it also has diversity in its more than 50 unique neighborhoods, making this a fun way to explore Cincinnati.

You can start downtown at Smale Riverfront Park, which is a popular gathering place along the riverfront, with walking paths and swings, before exploring some of the unique neighborhoods.

The Over-the-Rhine District is an area experiencing a regrowth, with a nice combination of historical buildings renovated with a modern-day flare of trendy restaurants. A must-visit in the Over-the-Rhine District is Holtman's Donuts, which has been around since 1960 with its homemade recipes that include quirky varieties, including cereal-topped donuts, vegan donuts, and old-school glazed donuts.

Other neighborhoods to explore include the hilly streets of Mount Adams; the historic West End; the arts district of Pendleton; and Queensgate, where you will find the spectacular Cincinnati Union Terminal.

12. Become Royalty at Ohio's Castles

Squire's Castle in Willoughby Hills, Ohio
Squire's Castle in Willoughby Hills, Ohio

Ohio might be the last place you expect to find castles but there are more than a dozen located throughout the state that are exciting to visit. A few of them even offer overnight stays for an extra medieval experience.

Piatt Castle Mac-A-Cheek in West Liberty has more than 200 years of history and is fun for families who want to walk the grounds and castle on a self-guided tour.

Another one is Loveland Castle, near the Little Miami River, where you can learn about the history of Knighthood and visit the castle gardens, like the replicated 10th-century herb garden.

A popular castle in Ohio is at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron, which was designed after an English castle. The 65-room manor house is beautiful, with 70 acres of gardens to explore.

The Castle in Marietta is former home of one of the most prominent families in Ohio in the 1800s and is now open as a museum.

Some other Ohio castles to visit are: the Brumback Library Castle in Van Wert, Ravenwood Castle in New Plymouth, Franklin Castle in Cleveland, Landoll's Mohican Castle in Loudonville, GreatStone Castle in Sidney, Squire's Castle in Willoughby Hills, The Glamorgan Castle in Alliance, and Cooke Castle at Gibraltar Island in Put-in-Bay Harbor.

13. Climb aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

Hop on board the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for one of the most spectacular ways to see the Cuyahoga National Park. The train trip runs from Rockside Station in Independence to the Northside Station in Akron.

Book a seat in the coach cars or the executive class car, or sit up high in the upper dome car for a great view of the scenery and wildlife. The railroad offers themed trips throughout the year, like a fall leaf viewing trip, dinner trips, and holiday excursions for families.

Official site: https://www.cvsr.org

14. Find Ohio's Art Barns

Bicentennial Barn in Ohio
Bicentennial Barn in Ohio | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

Discovering decorated barns as you drive through the Ohio countryside is an entertaining way to explore the state. You can find the artfully painted barns throughout the state, depicting important people, events, and moments in time significant to Ohio.

Look for the Annie Oakley barn in Ansonia, or the barn painting honoring Tecumseh in Xenia.

Besides barns that are painted as tributes, see if you can find the Bicentennial Barns, which were painted to celebrate Ohio's Bicentennial. One barn was selected in each of Ohio's 88 counties, and many of them remain today as eye-catching additions to the countryside.

Map of Things to Do in Ohio