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12 Best Places to Visit in Ohio

Written by Anietra Hamper

Ohio holds the best of Midwestern charm while enticing visitors with a wide range of historical, hip, eclectic, adventurous, and relaxing experiences throughout the state. You can spend an entire vacation just in the capital city of Columbus with a growing sports, arts, and entertainment scene; or plan a quick weekend getaway perusing the ethnic neighborhoods of Cincinnati; or find calm in the tranquil backroads of Amish Country.

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.

1. Columbus

Columbus

Columbus | karen_2873 / photo modified

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 to 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.

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. Grab some ethnic eats in the Short North Arts District or stroll the always-changing landscape at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Columbus

2. Cleveland

Cleveland

Cleveland | Slideshow Bruce / photo modified

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 now add a vintage flare to housing, businesses, and quaint restaurants, and the Gateway District, which boasts fun finds for foodies, a spectacular sports complex, and historic architecture.

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 and the bustling West Side Market.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cleveland

3. Cincinnati

Cincinnati

Cincinnati | Mark Dumont / photo modified

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.

One of the top 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 the Mount Airy and Over-the-Rhine, where local events take place throughout the year celebrating local culture, food, arts, and entertainment.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cincinnati

4. Dayton

Dayton

Dayton | bobosh_t / photo modified

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 or Refueling 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.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Dayton

5. Toledo

Toledo

Toledo | Jet Express Ferry / photo modified

The industrial backdrop of Toledo adds a rustic flare 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 Botanica Garden; and Imagination Station, an interactive science museum along the waterfront with rotating exhibits and regular public programs. For a memorable night out in the city, catch a Toledo Mud Hens baseball game after a dinner at Tony Paco's Café, which serves a hot dog made famous by the hit TV show M*A*S*H.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Toledo

6. Sandusky

Sandusky

Sandusky | jasonmiller / photo modified

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.

Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Sandusky

7. Canton

Canton

Canton | gb_packards / photo modified

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, or the Feline Historical Society, which is a hit for cat-lovers. There is even a Canton Classic Car Museum for car enthusiasts and the Museum of Art for art enthusiasts.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Canton

8. Put-in-Bay

Put-in-Bay

Put-in-Bay | katesheets / photo modified

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.

9. Akron

Akron

Akron | joevare / photo modified

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 top places to consider spending a day. Be sure to look at the upcoming schedule of Lock 3 before your visit to see if you can catch an outdoor concert at the city's most prominent entertainment venue.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Akron

10. Amish Country

Horse and buggy in Amish Country | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

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.

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

Hiking in the Hocking Hills region | Photo Copyright: Anietra Hamper

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 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.

12. Marietta

Ohio River boat

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. 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.

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