Ohio may seem like an odd mix of sparsely populated farmlands, small towns, and a few big cities. The Ohio River borders the hilly southern part of the state, while the flat northern region sits along Lake Erie. These geographic and demographic differences yield many recreational opportunities in “the Buckeye State.” We will outline 25 amazing things to do in Ohio that you will love.
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Florida may hold the theme park spotlight with Disney World and Universal Studios, but Ohio stands tall with two terrific theme parks packed with thrill rides.
Kings Island in Mason is a 364-acre amusement and water park with rides for all ages, food, and entertainment. You can ride The Beast, the world’s longest wooden roller coaster, and other big coasters like Orion and Diamondback.
Planet Snoopy has many rides for the kids. If you prefer to cool off, enjoy Soak City’s water slides, wave pool, rushing rivers, wave surfing attraction, and family activity areas.
Sandusky is home to Cedar Point, which sits along Lake Erie and has more than 70 rides to meet all thrill-seeking levels. Although the park has plenty of rides for younger children, it has a well-earned reputation for many big thrill roller coasters.
Cedar Point Shores Waterpark has pools, slides, and water attractions for the whole family. The park has plenty of entertainment and food.
What makes Cedar Point special is its sandy beaches on the shores of beautiful Lake Erie. You can have a beach and theme park vacation all in one.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is a must-see if you love animals. It is one of America’s oldest zoos and has more than 500 animal and 3,000 plant species. The zoo utilizes natural habitats and has many unique exhibits. You can walk next to kangaroos, feed giraffes, and observe a Komodo dragon.
The zoo regularly has animal demonstrations and provides play areas for children. There are plenty of food and beverage options in the park.
For a memorable experience, visit at night between late November and early January for the Festival of Lights. The entire park sparkles with festive, colorful holiday lights, filling visitors with the Christmas spirit in Cincinnati.
Ohio’s only national park sits between Akron and Cleveland. Cuyahoga Valley National Park honors Ohio’s storied past and serves varied beautiful landscapes.
Transportation is a critical theme in the park as you explore the historic Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. You can hike, run, bike, paddle, drive, and ride a train in the park.
There are many lovely hikes and opportunities to see wildlife. The peaceful Beaver Marsh teems with all sorts of nature, while the Ledges Overlook delivers a natural rock platform for surveying the valley.
You can go to a farmer’s market after a morning of riding the rails and trails. The odd collection of landscapes and activities equals an enjoyable day.
Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a must-see for music lovers. It is a museum unlike any other.
You will see and hear exhibits honoring the greatest rock musicians of all time, along with influential producers, engineers, and other notable figures. “The Rock Hall” represents various music genres, including rhythm and blues, jazz, folk rock, heavy metal, and hip hop. Discover unique artifacts and memorabilia from the legends of rock.
Visit Canton to honor the legends of the gridiron. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a tribute to the best players, coaches, owners, front-office personnel, and officials throughout the game’s history. Football fans will revel in memorabilia and interactive exhibits of their favorite players and teams in a memorable experience.
Located in Logan, Old Man’s Cave bursts at the seams with natural beauty. On the scenic hike, you will encounter cascading waterfalls, recess caves, bridges, tunnels, and more.
It is one of seven fantastic hiking areas that make up Hocking Hills State Park. If you enjoy hiking or exploring nature, Old Man’s Cave should be on your list of things to do in Ohio.
Do you enjoy experiences that combine natural beauty and history? Take a relaxing scenic drive in search of covered bridges.
The United States currently has fewer than 1,000 covered bridges. Ohio is one of the leading states with over 100. The historic overpasses make great photo opportunities against Ohio’s lovely landscapes.
Which counties have the most covered bridges so you can maximize your time?
- Ashtabula County, east of Cleveland
- Fairfield County, southeast of Columbus
- Washington County, near Marietta in southeast Ohio
- Preble County, between Cincinnati and Dayton
Would you like to try something different? Go to Marietta the weekend after Labor Day for the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival. An estimated 100,000 visitors attend the event to gaze upon 30 to 35 authentic sternwheel boats and enjoy the festivities.
It is a great family event that offers free entertainment, a classic car show, a photo contest, and a brilliant fireworks display over the river. You will find plenty of activities for children and fantastic local cuisine.
Take some time to explore Marietta. The quaint town with brick streets has historic homes, museums, shops, and restaurants along the scenic Ohio River.
Head to Cumberland for a wildlife safari. The Wilds was voted the second-best safari park in North America by the 2022 USA TODAY 10BEST Readers’ Choice Awards.
Experience close encounters with rare and exotic animals. Beyond conservation and educational programs, the park offers unique tours and memorable overnight excursions. If you seek even more adventure, try your hand at ziplining or riding mountain bike trails.
The popularity of soccer is growing in the United States. Ohio is fortunate to have two professional teams in America’s top-level competition, Major League Soccer.
Attend a match where you can appreciate the passion of loyal fans and scream with them in joyous chants for either Columbus Crew or FC Cincinnati. The pageantry of soccer is unlike any other sport, and you can experience it firsthand in Ohio.
Escape from daily stress and visit Amish Country Ohio near Millersburg, where everything is homegrown or handmade. Learn about Amish culture by either a group or self-guided tour.
You will appreciate life’s simple pleasures as you explore nature, savor home-cooked meals and shop for handcrafted goods. Stay in a cabin or cottage and make it a relaxing weekend.
One of the most fun things to do in Ohio is the Butler County Donut Trail. The county has 13 mom-and-pop donut shops along the sweet trail. It is a dream come true if you love delectable pastries and hot coffee.
Butler County provides downloadable maps and passports to guide you on your journey. After eating through all thirteen donut shops, with your ticket in hand, you will earn a t-shirt as a reward. Multiple visits are permitted and encouraged when taking on the challenge.
Immerse yourself in history at the Cincinnati Museum Center. The multi-museum complex sits in the iconic Union Terminal. After being mesmerized by the art deco shrine, you must decide which museum(s) to visit.
The facility offers an array of museums and exhibits that cover many interests. In addition to a rotational feature exhibit, attractions include:
- Cincinnati History Museum
- The Children’s Museum
- Museum of Natural History & Science
- Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater
- Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center
- Cincinnati History Library and Archives
You can easily spend more than a day here. If you only have an afternoon, choose an option that best fits your interests.
Attend the “greatest free show on Earth” in Circleville. On the third Wednesday through Saturday in October, 400,000 visitors swarm the town with a population of 14,000. Join in the fun to celebrate local agriculture and all things pumpkin.
The Circleville Pumpkin Show has rides, games, parades, entertainment, demonstrations, and festive fall food. Visitors watch to see who will be crowned Miss Pumpkin Show and Little Miss Pumpkin Show.
Local farmers submit their entries to win bragging rights for the largest pumpkin. The winning pumpkin routinely weighs well over 1,000 pounds.
Head to Hamilton to discover an unparalleled combination of art and nature. Pyramid Hill houses an indoor Ancient Sculpture Museum and an outdoor collection of sculptures in lovely scenery.
For many visitors, the main attraction is the outdoor sculptures. The peaceful settings provide an opportunity to reflect.
Views of the sculptures change along with the seasons. Spring paints the fields with blooming flowers, while summer envelops the sculptures in greenery.
Fall foliage provides a backdrop of reds, oranges, and yellows, while winter can serve a blanket of powdery, white snow. No matter when you visit, the outdoor sculptures are stunning.
Visit in the evening from late November through December and drive through more than a million bright holiday lights and art displays for a heartwarming affair.
You can find the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton. Discover over 360 aerospace vehicles, missiles, rare artifacts, and historical items as you explore the world’s largest military aviation museum.
Exhibits include items from various wars, space, weapons, interior views of a cockpit, and the Cold War. See how aviation has progressed from the Wright brothers’ legacy to our current technology.
The Cleveland Museum of Art opened in 1916 and has expanded a few times through the years. Maintaining an international reputation, the museum proudly displays collections of European, Asian, and American art.
Permanent and temporary exhibitions represent nearly all forms and art styles. The ARTLENS Gallery allows visitors to use an app to engage with a digitized collection, making for a memorable day.
Visit Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus if you love plants. The beautiful gardens showcase exotic plants and special exhibitions within a collection of over 400 plant species.
Check out more than 50 trees in the Bonsai Collection. During the holiday season, you can enjoy displays utilizing hundreds of poinsettias. The facility has a children’s garden that connects kids to the plant world.
You can watch a glass-blowing demonstration and eat at Garden Cafe, where chefs prepare food with produce and herbs grown in the conservatory.
Go to Cleveland’s oldest operating indoor/outdoor public market space and browse through goods from more than 100 vendors. Wonderful scents fill the air from fresh flowers, baked goods, and produce. You can also purchase meat, seafood, dairy, spices, nuts, ready-to-eat foods, and candy.
Feel the electric buzz of the market and enjoy a leisurely morning or afternoon of shopping and eating. If you would like to extend your visit, many restaurants and bars are near the historic market.
Learn more about science, technology, and industry in Columbus at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI). It was voted best science museum by the 2022 USA TODAY 10BEST Readers’ Choice Awards.
The center focuses on education through fun, interactive exhibits. It is geared toward children but is worthwhile for adults as well.
Exhibits include Ocean, Energy, Explorers, Space, Progress, Gadgets, Life, and Dinosaur Gallery. COSI has an area for younger children and sections for traveling exhibits and special events. If you love science, it is a surefire hit.
Head to Fairfield for a shopping experience unlike anything you have ever seen. When you park the car, you will realize that Jungle Jim’s is different. The store feels like an amusement park because many of the props are from theme parks.
Jungle Jim’s is more than a grocery store with a few international items. You will find entire sections devoted to various countries around the world.
Jungle Jim’s has one of the most extensive natural foods and specialty diet departments. You will find a massive selection of beer and wine, a cigar shop, and a liquor store.
Jungle Jim’s has cooking classes and wine-tasting events. You can find classic candy that most stores no longer carry today. The selection of baked goods is off the charts, and wait until you see the shelf with hundreds of hot sauce brands. It is a fun experience for the whole family.
As a kid, did you dream of living in a castle? You can stay in one in New Plymouth.
Ravenwood Castle delivers accommodations with a medieval theme. Inside and out, the facility looks like a castle, providing the perfect weekend getaway. Rooms include the Duke’s Dungeon, the King Arthur Suite, and the Shakespeare Suite.
Ravenwood Castle holds special events like scavenger hunts and murder mysteries. Located in the wooded hills of southeast Ohio, you can escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. If you want to explore, the area offers many excellent hiking trails.
If you love shopping, visit Easton Town Center in Columbus. The shopping complex houses around 200 stores, including several exclusive brands and outlets.
Easton Town Center is an open-air shopping facility that is pedestrian-friendly and reminds us of small-town America. It is a rare combination of urban appeal and nostalgic charm.
Easton’s diverse array of restaurants provides something for all tastes. The area holds family-friendly indoor and outdoor activities year-round. You will have an exciting day of shopping and dining with many retail shops and restaurants.
Would you like a relaxing weekend sipping wine and enjoying beautiful scenery? Ashtabula County in northeast Ohio has earned the moniker “Ohio’s Wine Country.” The land near Lake Erie is rich and fertile, excellent for growing delicious grapes.
Grand River Valley proudly boasts over 30 wineries. Small, rolling hills populated with rows of lush vineyards dominate the landscape. More than 50% of Ohio’s grapes are grown in the fertile region.
With Lake Erie nearby and many restaurants covering everything from casual family eateries to fine dining, you can customize a weekend getaway to your liking.
Due to geographic and demographic differences in the state, there are many amazing things to do in Ohio. “The Buckeye State” has something for you whether you love sports, animals, shopping, entertainment, art, technology, or simple outdoor pleasures. Pack your bags and explore Ohio.
This article by Scott McConkey originally appeared on Savoteur, and was republished with permission.
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