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Tucked between Lake Erie and the banks of the Ohio River, the state of Ohio is an amazing mixture of major metro areas, world-class attractions, and historic small towns. While it may surprise first-time visitors, Ohio is packed with unique destinations and endless opportunities for adventure.
Ohio is where you can enjoy museums and award-winning culinary experiences one day and share the road with Amish buggies the next. Whether you want to spend your next vacation visiting a thriving arts scene or enjoying outdoor adventures, Ohio has something for everyone.
Join us as we break down some of the best places to visit in Ohio, from the state’s biggest attractions to its most unique hidden gems. We’ve compiled a comprehensive Ohio travel guide to point you to where to stay, what to see, and how to find the best experiences you’ve never heard of.
- Best Things to Do in Ohio
- 1. Explore the Unique History of Cincinnati
- 2. More Memorable Experiences in Cincinnati
- 3. Enjoy Some Family Fun in Columbus
- 4. Explore Cleveland’s Coolest Attractions
- 5. Branch Out and Visit Destinations Near Cleveland
- 6. Enjoy Outdoor Adventures at Hocking Hills State Park
- Where to stay in Ohio
- How to Get Around in Ohio
- Travel Tips for Visiting Ohio
- 1. It’s Worth Booking a Rental Car
- 2. Consider Traveler’s Insurance
- 3. Go Luggage Shopping
Best Things to Do in Ohio
1. Explore the Unique History of Cincinnati
Sprawling along the banks of the Ohio River, Cincinnati is packed with history, culture, and plenty of distinctive neighborhoods. The city is so diverse that it’s worth checking out this guided tour of its top attractions to help you get the lay of the land.
Along the tour, you’ll learn about the history of sites like Fountain Square and Findlay Market, with stops at the Cincinnati Music Hall and Carew Tower. Want a peek into the darker side of Cincinnati’s past?
You’ll find plenty of haunted places in the historic Over-the-Rhine district. If you do plan to check them out, however, it’s best to do so along a guided ghost tour, as Over-the-Rhine is not always the type of neighborhood you’d want to find yourself in alone at night.
Check out the city’s history with a fascinating trip underground on a Hidden Brewery Caverns Tour. You’ll get the inside scoop on Cincinnati’s lesser-known history as you explore the tunnels of the Linck and Jackson Breweries before heading back above ground for a beer tasting at Northern Row Taproom.
Continue deeper into the city’s cultural scene with a visit to the Cincinnati Museum Center, an incredible collection of several museums in the historic Union Terminal.
You’ll find the Cincinnati History Library, the Museum of Natural History & Science, the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater, and more.
Step out of the Cincinnati Museum Center and back through time as you board a vintage riverboat for a scenic dinner cruise along the Ohio River.
If you’re a baseball fan, you’ll even find an awesome baseball history tour based around the (literally) game-changing 1919 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox.
2. More Memorable Experiences in Cincinnati
While you’ll find endless opportunities for exploring Cincinnati’s history, the city also has plenty of more modern attractions and events worth checking out. If you’re traveling with kids, then be sure to spend at least one day at Kings Island theme park.
Kings Island is a 364-acre amusement and water park filled with rides, experiences, and restaurants. The park even has its own Skyline Chili, where you’ll find the chili-topped spaghetti that’s become the unofficial favorite food of Cincinnati natives.
Other fun places include iFLY Cincinnati indoor skydiving center, where you can earn your official indoor skydiving certificate from the safety of a wind tunnel simulator. Test your wits as you attempt to break out of some of Cincinnati’s most challenging escape rooms or indulge your vices on a wine and desert tour.
Whether you’re into baseball or not, it’s worth experiencing a Cincinnati Reds game at the Great American Ballpark. Not only is the park an iconic landmark, but bratwursts and burgers flow like wine from its many great food stands.
3. Enjoy Some Family Fun in Columbus
Right in the center of Ohio, you’ll find the city of Columbus, which has plenty of great attractions. If it’s your first visit to Columbus, it’s worth investing in a city attractions pass.
The Columbus attractions pass grants you free entry to some of the city’s most popular destinations and will allow you to:
- Meet animals from around the world at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
- Explore an incredible collection of European and American art at the Columbus Museum of Art.
- Visit the National Veterans Memorial And Museum, an incredible museum dedicated to service members from all branches.
- Enjoy an amazing collection of exotic plants at Franklin Park Conservatory And Botanical Gardens.
If you’re traveling with kids, then the Columbus Zoo is a great way to introduce them to both the importance of conservation and live animals from all over the world. But be sure you also work in a day to visit the LEGO Land Discovery Center.
Renowned as one of Columbus’ top destinations, LEGO Land features many great rides, a 4D cinema, hands-on activities, and millions of LEGOs. Even if you don’t happen to have kids in tow, LEGO Land is definitely worth exploring and even offers adult-only night events.
If you want to spend the day exploring Columbus, then this scavenger hunt adventure is a cool way to do it! It will take you on a gamified smartphone tour of Columbus as you solve clues, complete challenges, and learn about some of the city’s most fascinating historical sites.
Visitors who want to discover Columbus in a new way might even consider spending a few hours in the air with a private helicopter tour of the city. The same company even offers wedding proposal helicopter rides for aspiring grooms who are ready to pop the question!
If you’re up for a day trip, then it’s definitely worth checking out the National Museum of the US Air Force, located about an hour west of Columbus, 5 miles outside of Dayton. The free national museum is home to over a century of Air Force history and features thousands of fascinating artifacts.
4. Explore Cleveland’s Coolest Attractions
Let’s get it out of the way – no self-respecting Ohio travel guide could resist urging you to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Often lovingly referred to by locals as Rock Hall, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a massive museum that celebrates the history of Rock and Roll, from its earliest pioneers to today’s greatest artists.
As you explore Rock Hall, you’ll discover thousands of display items, exhibits, interactive displays, and great music. If you’re in Cleveland, visit today and enjoy an afternoon of fun for the entire family.
The Cleveland History Center is another great museum worth checking out on your next visit to Cleveland. The museum chronicles Northeast Ohio’s past through an impressive collection of artifacts and exhibits that the entire family will enjoy.
First-time visitors interested in learning more about the city can’t go wrong with a guided tour of Downtown Cleveland. Throughout the tour, you’ll visit historical Cleveland destinations such as the monuments and buildings along the public square, mall, Playhouse Square, the Cleveland Federal Reserve, and the Cleveland Public Library.
If you’re looking to get off the grid, then you might prefer a tour of Cleveland’s hidden gems. You visit lesser-known but equally cool destinations such as the house where A Christmas Story was filmed, West Side Market, the Bridges of the Cleveland Flats, and more.
Cleveland is also home to several rather delicious attractions, which you can discover firsthand with a food tour of Ohio City, a neighborhood known for its award-winning restaurants.
If you’d rather check out the city’s great beer scene, then consider signing up for a Guided Craft Brewery Tour, complete with brews at each of the destinations you’ll visit.
5. Branch Out and Visit Destinations Near Cleveland
It’s certainly possible to spend a visit to Cleveland enjoying big-city amenities like shopping and museums. But if you’re up for branching out a bit, then you’ll discover that there are plenty of great day-trip destinations scattered just outside of town.
Roughly an hour south of Cleveland, you’ll find the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. A must for any football fan, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a huge museum that explores the sport in all its glory through interactive exhibits, galleries, and events.
Then there’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which lies about midway between Cleveland to the north and Akron to the south. The national park sprawls along the gorgeous shores of the Cuyahoga River and offers plenty of great outdoor activities.
Bike along the scenic Towpath trail or ride through the park on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Visitors can also explore over 125 miles of beautiful hiking trails lined with tranquil forests and majestic waterfalls.
If you head 60 miles west of Cleveland, you’ll find the Lake Erie Islands, where you can spend a day relaxing on the shores of Cedar Point Beach, Kelleys Island State Park, or other popular spots along the shore.
Visitors can enjoy the thrills at Cedar Point Amusement Park or go on an African Safari at the Wildlife Park in Port Clinton. Whether you’re in the mood to spend a day shopping or exploring the Lake Erie Islands Historical Museum in Put-In-Bay, the area offers plenty of fun for the whole family.
6. Enjoy Outdoor Adventures at Hocking Hills State Park
If you want to experience Ohio’s most beautiful, look no further than a trip to Hocking Hills State Park. Located 50 miles southeast of Columbus, Hocking Hills features a breathtaking collection of forests, cliffs, waterfalls, caves, and more.
Explore the scenic hiking trails at popular park areas like Cedar Falls, Rock House, Cantwell Cliffs, and Old Man’s Cave. Or visit the dedicated 99-acre rock climbing and repelling area off of Big Pine Road.
Hocking Hills State Park offers great campgrounds, cabins, and even resorts. Spend a night in a cozy cabin for two or opt for this six-bedroom vacation cabin with plenty of room for the entire family.
You can even enjoy bird watching in bed when you book a stay in this cool geodome. No matter how you design your adventure, you’ll find out firsthand why Hocking Hills makes for an incredible Ohio travel destination.
Where to stay in Ohio
Here are several options for each major city in Ohio.
- Best Hotel for Art and Museum Lovers: 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati
- Best Luxury Hotel: The Lytle Park Hotel, Autograph Collection
- Best for a Relaxing Getaway: Best Western Premier
- Best Condo Hotel: ROOST Cleveland
- Best for Couples: Metropolitan at The 9, Autograph Collection
- Best for Vintage Lovers: The Glidden House
- Best for Pet Owners: Hotel LeVeque, Autograph Collection
- Best for OSU Visitors: Graduate Columbus
- Best for Nature Lovers: Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls
Lake Erie Islands Area
- Best for Families: Cedar Point Hotel Breakers
How to Get Around in Ohio
As you set foot in Ohio’s diverse and captivating land, prepare to be enticed by the myriad transportation options that await you. Unleash your inner wanderer and traverse the state’s arterial highways, like the legendary I-70, I-71, and I-75, connecting the beating hearts of Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland.
Embrace the nostalgia of the open road or hop aboard the trusty Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains, serving as reliable steeds for your journey into the soul of this Midwestern gem.
In the bustling metropolises, immerse yourself in the local culture by navigating the veins of public transit systems – the unpretentious RTA in Cleveland, the lively Cincinnati Metro, or the ever-reliable COTA in Columbus.
As you explore, don’t shy away from opportunities to hop on a bike and pedal through Ohio’s picturesque landscapes, discovering hidden treasures and connecting with the land in a way that only two wheels can offer.
And for those craving a bird’s-eye view or a hasty escape to another adventure, Ohio’s welcoming skies boast a handful of international and regional airports, including Cleveland Hopkins International (CLE), the gateway to the heartland that is John Glenn Columbus International (CMH), and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International (CVG).
Travel Tips for Visiting Ohio
Looking to maximize your experience in Ohio? Here are some key travel tips to keep in mind.
1. It’s Worth Booking a Rental Car
Ohio is an incredibly diverse state, so it’s definitely worth booking your own rental car in case you want to venture out on a day trip. Whether you want to explore a state park or spend the day shopping for handmade furniture in Amish country, having your vehicle will give you much freedom.
2. Consider Traveler’s Insurance
From international visitors to domestic flyers, traveler’s insurance is never a bad idea for anybody. It can offer protection for unexpected events like medical emergencies or missed, delayed, or canceled flights and connections.
3. Go Luggage Shopping
If you plan to head out to an area like Hocking Hills to do some camping, then make sure you’ve got some great luggage up for the ride! Check out REI for a great selection of outdoor travel luggage, or visit Amazon for a huge assortment of camping gear.
- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.