12 Best Places to Visit in Ohio
Author Anietra Hamper is an Ohio native and spends a lot of time visiting all corners of the state, exploring the best things to do, stopping in small towns, and enjoying the outdoors.
Ohio holds the best of Midwestern charm while enticing visitors with a wide range of historical, hip, eclectic, adventurous, and relaxing things to do throughout the state.
You can spend an entire vacation just in the capital city of Columbus, with its growing sports, arts, and entertainment scene. Or, plan a quick weekend getaway perusing the ethnic neighborhoods of Cincinnati, find calm in the tranquil backroads of Amish Country, or take a natural retreat in the forests of the Hocking Hills region.
History buffs can explore Ohio's ties to aviation, maritime transportation, and the rubber industry. There are world-class amusement parks and even beaches worth exploring in the state. Which adventure is right for you? Find out more with our list of the best places to visit in Ohio.
Ohio's state capital of Columbus is an exciting and growing destination for visitors and the 15th largest city in the country. Take a tour inside the Ohio Statehouse and walk the surrounding outdoor complex on capital square to see statues and commemorations of Ohio's history.
Stick around downtown to catch a Broadway show at the restored Ohio or Palace theaters or plan an afternoon at the riverfront science complex Center of Science and Industry (COSI) along the picturesque Scioto Mile.
For a fun way to see the Columbus skyline, you can rent a kayak and float along the Scioto River. This is the best view to see how Columbus' historic past has been repurposed into modern-day elegance, with warehouses transformed into condos and historic skyscrapers that light up with color in the night.
Some of the best experiences in Columbus happen in the Arena District, where you can catch a Columbus Clippers baseball game at Huntington Park or cheer on the Columbus Blue Jackets NHL hockey team at Nationwide Arena. Before your visit, see what festivals might be happening on the downtown riverfront, which is alive most weekends, especially in the summer with cultural, arts, and food extravaganzas.
Grab some ethnic eats in the Short North Arts District, or stop by the North Market to shop the stalls of local vendors selling everything from spices and flowers to coffee and baked goods. A nice day out for families visiting Columbus is a visit to the always-changing landscape at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, which has keeper-led programs and demonstrations throughout the day.
The suburban centers that surround the central city are also worth visiting for the day or for an evening out. Dublin, Powell, Worthington, German Village, Westerville, Grove City, and Gahanna are just a few of the suburbs with unique restaurants, shopping, and social scenes.
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Columbus
The pulse of Cleveland makes it one of the coolest places to visit in Ohio. Sitting on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland prides itself on unique districts, like the Warehouse District with rehabbed warehouses that add a vintage flair to housing, businesses, and quaint restaurants.
The Gateway District downtown boasts fun finds for foodies, a spectacular sports complex, and historic architecture. It is the place to be for locals and visitors and it is where you will feel the true pulse of Cleveland's lively energy. Plan at least one night out watching professional baseball at Progressive Field if you visit during the summer.
Exploring the six floors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a must-do if you visit Cleveland, as is appreciating the arts scene, which includes options like the Cleveland Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, and performances at Playhouse Square. Be sure to carve out time during your visit to appreciate the many sides of Cleveland in the various ethnic neighborhoods.
Two unique places to visit in Cleveland that are well worth the time are the bustling West Side Market and the 15th Street Arcades. The West Side Market opened in the mid-1800s and remains the oldest local market in the city. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places the market's breathtaking architecture is as impressive as the variety of local and ethnic goods sold inside from vendors.
The 15th Street Arcades is an unforgettable architectural landmark in Cleveland. The century-old arcades house streetscape shopping, dining, and an elegant hotel. It is easy to plan a day strolling the downtown streets and stopping for coffee or lunch in this historic venue.
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The Ohio River city of Cincinnati is an exciting place to visit for a day or a long weekend. Downtown is a walkable area filled with unexpected adventures to stumble on, from a Cincinnati Reds baseball game to the downtown arts district to Fountain Square, which is a social hub of the city with outdoor dining and music in the summer and ice-skating in the winter.
Cincinnati's riverfront deserves time on the agenda, as it is one of the most active areas in the city at any time of the day or night. Take a stroll along Riverfront Commons, which is a walking, biking, and running trail connected to other local trail systems. Rental bikes and scooters are available throughout downtown.
Another prime spot to visit in Cincinnati is Smale Riverfront Park, which is a public green space along the riverfront that has picnic areas, playgrounds, splash pads, and a carousel. The park is a gem along the banks of the Ohio River. If you visit in the evening, you can see the colorful fountain that lights up the night sky and is especially relaxing on a summer evening.
One of the most popular stops in the city is the Cincinnati Museum Center. The renovated 1933 Cincinnati Union Railroad Terminal is now the home of several museums including the Duke Energy Children's Museum, Cincinnati History Museum, and the Museum of Natural History and Science.
Wander into Cincinnati's iconic neighborhoods, like Mount Airy and Over-the-Rhine, where local events take place throughout the year celebrating local culture, food, arts, and entertainment.
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The history of flight connected to Dayton is unmistakable and a charming part of your visit to the city. The National Museum of the United States Air Force is one of the best free experiences you can have in the city. Explore the history of flight and walk the galleries featuring hundreds of aircraft, including presidential airplanes and NASA spacecraft. Plan a significant amount of time to enjoy the museum and grab lunch at the Valkyrie Café.
No visit to Dayton is complete without a stop at Carillon Historic Park, a 65-acre, open-air and interactive museum complex featuring the transportation and innovative accomplishments of the city. The Dayton Art Institute, Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, or a performance at the Schuster Center are other places to visit for the historical and cultural side of Dayton.
Besides the great historical attractions in Dayton, there are plenty of outdoor options to balance your visit. Dayton has five MetroParks and more than 340 miles of paved trails for walking or biking and kayaking available along the Great Miami River.
Plan a night with some Minor League Baseball at the Day Air Ballpark and watch the Dayton Dragons take on a visiting team. The game excitement is always enhanced by different promotions at the park like family movie nights.
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The industrial backdrop of Toledo adds a rustic flair to the city and its many contemporary attractions. The Toledo Museum of Art is a world-class art museum with diverse collections.
Other top attractions in Toledo are the Toledo Zoo, which continues to add exhibits every year; Toledo Botanical Garden; and Imagination Station, an interactive science museum along the waterfront with rotating exhibits and regular public programs.
Toledo sits along the Miami and Erie canal system, so a visit to the Providence Metropark in the city is a must-see. The Canal Experience takes you back to the late 1800s, when Toledo played an important part in transporting products and people through Ohio. The area still has the original working Isaac Ludwig Mill, a water-powered saw and gristmill, and Lock #44, one of the only working limestone locks from the 19th century.
Since Toledo sits along Lake Erie and is one of the busiest ports in the Great Lakes, there is plenty of nautical history to explore, including the National Museum of the Great Lakes with interactive exhibits and historical artifacts. You can also plan a day on the water with a boat tour around the historic Toledo Lighthouse.
For a memorable night out in the city, catch a Toledo Mud Hens baseball game after dinner at Tony Paco's Café, which serves a hot dog made famous by the hit TV show M*A*S*H.
The small town of Sandusky sees its fair share of tourists but it is also where Ohioans spend a lot of vacation time. The town sits on the shores of Lake Erie, which is its highlight, second only to the famous Cedar Point Amusement Park. The park unveils more extreme thrills every year and is a one-stop destination with lodging, entertainment, beaches, and a water park.
There are several indoor water parks in the area that are great for families, and the small-town streets are fun to stroll as you search for boutiques selling nautical-themed gifts. For a unique experience while in the area visit the Merry-Go-Round Museum, which will even make adults feel like kids again.
If there is time in your itinerary, you can plan a day trip to nearby Put-in-Bay or Kellys Island on board the Jet Express ferry that departs from Sandusky. It is easy to book a round-trip ticket and spend the day visiting the attractions or renting a bicycle or golf cart to explore the nearby islands.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Sandusky
Canton is a perfect place to visit, especially for history buffs. It is home to the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum, McKinley Monument, and the First Ladies' National Historic Site. Many people stop in Canton for a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with exhibits, a museum, and a Super Bowl theater that bring the game to life in a unique way.
While Canton is known for its football ties, the city also has some unusual finds that might be fun to visit; like Canal Fulton Canalway Center, which chronicles the canal boat system along the Ohio and Erie canal system; the Feline Historical Society, which is a hit for cat-lovers; and the Canton Museum of Art, which has been operating in this city since 1935.
The small town of Put-in-Bay, located on South Bass Island on Lake Erie, is Ohio's summer vacation destination. Hop on board the Jet Express from Upper Sandusky and take a short boat ride to Put-in-Bay to enjoy non-stop action, from tours of the island and go-karts to mining for gems and exploring caves at Perry's Cave Family Center.
Perry's Victory & International Peace Memorial is the centerpiece of the island. The 352-foot-tall monument is a great point of reference as you explore the island, but take time to visit the national park and visitor center and appreciate the maritime history of the area.
The true charm of Put-in-Bay is the ability to just hang out on a park bench or by the shores listening to the waves or grabbing a fresh perch sandwich from one of the many restaurants on the island.
This island is only 3.5 miles long, so it is easy to see many attractions in one day or spend a weekend and enjoy more of the water sports and small attractions, like the Chocolate Museum. Snapping a photo of an iconic Lake Erie sunset is a must with any Put-in-Bay visit, and the best location to see it from is South Bass Island State Park.
While Akron is only 35 miles from Cleveland, it has a completely different vibe. It is dubbed the rubber capital of the world for its long history as the headquarters for rubber tire companies like Goodyear.
One of the most treasured attractions in Akron is the Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, a National Historic Landmark, which includes a stunningly restored Manor House and 70 acres of manicured gardens. It is the former home of F.A. Seiberling, who co-founded the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.
The Akron Civic Theatre, Akron Zoo, and Akron Art Museum are other great places to consider spending a day. Be sure to look at the upcoming schedule of Lock 3 Park before your visit to see if you can catch an outdoor concert at the city's most prominent entertainment venue.
If you visit Akron in the winter, you can spend time at either the Boston Mills or Brandywine ski resorts. The resorts have slopes and terrain parks to accommodate all skill levels of skiers and snowboarders.
Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Ohio
10. Amish Country
Ohio's picturesque and quiet Amish country region is one of the destination treasures of the state. The best way to enjoy the rolling hills in northern Ohio is to plan a road trip and drive aimlessly through the many small towns, as you share the road with horses and buggies filled with Amish families heading to the market.
Enjoy the scenery of laundry drying on the line and Amish men and women doing chores as you pass by family farms. Stop by family farm markets to buy fresh produce and handmade baskets as you pass through Ohio's most picturesque countryside.
Make your way from Baltic to Charm to Berlin, Walnut Creek, and Millersburg. Stop at one of the many cheese factories you will pass to take a tour and enjoy endless samples. Stop by Walnut Creek Cheese in Walnut Creek for culinary joy as you buy spices and hard-to-find cooking ingredients for pennies on the dollar.
11. Hocking Hills Region
Ask any Ohioan for advice on one of the best places to visit in Ohio, and one of their first mentions will be the Hocking Hills region. This southern Ohio outdoor playground is the most naturally engaging part of the state and hands-down the best location for viewing the changing leaves in the fall.
The dense forest region has hundreds of miles of hiking trails, cliffs, and outdoor adventures like canoeing and ziplining. The Hocking Hills State Park Lodge in the center of the state park is a great lodging option for spending multiple days in the region. Try some new experiences, from star gazing at the John Glenn Astronomy Park to horseback riding.
The best way to enjoy the Hocking Hills region is to rent a cabin for a few days and soak in the silence and ambience of the natural surroundings. Plan a hike and picnic at Old Man's Cave or Ash Cave, where summer's waterfalls become winter's ice castles.
For a quirky but memorable side stop in the Hocking Hills region, visit the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum, which has more than 3,400 pencil sharpeners. This tiny museum, only the size of a garden shed, is fun to experience and holds the largest known collection of pencil sharpeners in the United States.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Ohio
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The Ohio River city of Marietta is a fun place to visit for a step back in time. Hallmarked by its annual Ohio River Sternwheeler Festival, the city commemorates the history of the famous paddle-wheel boats that used to float down the Ohio River.
Take a scenic lock cruise on the Valley Gem and spend an afternoon at the Ohio River Museum, which takes you through the steamboat history of the area.
Since Marietta sits in the Appalachian foothills, this region has really upped its game when it comes to outdoor activities. The North Country National Scenic Trail, a hiking trail that runs from North Dakota to New York, has a seven-mile section through Marietta that takes you through some of the region's most scenic spots. Wayne National Forest also has many hiking and biking trails.
Paddling is another favorite pastime for both residents and visitors, and you do not have to bring your own equipment. The Marietta Adventure Company has kayaks, bikes, mountain bikes, and climbing gear available for rent. For a more leisurely afternoon outdoors, visit the Marietta Arboretum, which is laid out by groves of trees of more than 85 species.
While in the area, go for a drive to explore some of the historic covered bridges in Washington County and the Ohio River Scenic Byway if time is not an issue. You will stumble on many farms, markets, and quilt-makers.