25 Top Things to Do in Ohio

If you’re planning a couples or family getaway — or maybe even a road trip — look no further than the Buckeye State. Ohio has a diverse landscape to explore, from cosmopolitan cities to coastal communities to picturesque rural towns.

You can plan your vacation around visiting world-class museums and zoos or pursue outdoor adventures at state parks. There are also many cultural, historical and sports attractions — and you can dine and imbibe your way around big cities and small towns one doughnut or beer at a time. For thrill-seekers and roller coaster fans, there are also plenty of fun (and adrenaline-inducing) rides at some of the top amusement parks in the U.S.

So, whether you’re interested in a city break, family fun time or high-speed adventures, here are the top things to do in Ohio.

Cleveland

The city that was once known as “The Mistake on the Lake” is making a comeback. Like many former industrialized cities, Cleveland is now one of the cool places to visit — even producers of the ABC television reality show “The Bachelor” think so. An episode of the 24th season of the show highlighted some of the city’s top attractions, including the home of the Cleveland Browns, FirstEnergy Stadium, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and nearby Cedar Point Amusement Park. Other not-to-miss stops include the Cleveland Museum of Art (free to the public), the Cleveland Botanical Garden and the USS Cod Submarine Memorial. For accommodations, plan to stay downtown at either The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland or Metropolitan at the 9, Autograph Collection. Both properties are conveniently located, allowing visitors to easily access major attractions, shopping and dining.

[See more of Cleveland: Things to Do | Hotels | When to Visit | Photos ]

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Cleveland

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame opened Sept. 2, 1995, along with a benefit concert at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, featuring performances by musical icons like Aretha Franklin, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and James Brown. Today, the five-level glass pyramid-shaped building is one of Cleveland’s top attractions. If you love rock ‘n’ roll, you’ll appreciate priceless memorabilia like performance costumes, handwritten drafts of songs and other personal artifacts. There are also feature films, videos and interactive displays. You can even pick up a guitar or sit behind the keyboard or drums and make your own music in The Garage or watch recordings of memorable performances in the Connor Theater. And you won’t want to miss the highlight of a visit on Level 3, the inductee Hall of Fame. Most travelers say they enjoy the interactive exhibits and the film at the Connor Theater. They also recommend you allot several hours for your visit. The exhibits change frequently, so you may want to check the current offerings online before you go.

Address: Union Home Mortgage Plaza, 1100 Rock and Roll Blvd., Cleveland, OH 44114

A Christmas Story House: Cleveland

Fans of Ralphie and “A Christmas Story” won’t want to miss a visit to the original house from the movie. You can tour the home and visit A Christmas Story Museum across the street, where you can see behind-the-scenes photos, authentic costumes and props, such as Randy’s snowsuit, the toys from the Higbee’s window and the family car. You can even book an overnight stay in the house and sleep in Ralphie’s and Randy’s beds. Use of the entire private third-floor loft is included in the price. And after the museum closes, you can pretend you’re the Parker family and relive scenes from the movie as you’ll have run of the house until 9 a.m. the following day. Visitors familiar with the movie especially enjoy visiting the attraction. They also mention that you can touch the items throughout the house, which is unusual for most tours.

Address: 3159 W. 11th St., Cleveland, OH 44109

Visit breweries and stamp your Cleveland Brewery Passport

Like most hip cities in the U.S., Cleveland has a burgeoning craft beer scene. Be sure to pick up a Cleveland Brewery Passport before heading out on the mission to visit 41 breweries within a 25-mile radius of downtown Cleveland. There are even prizes for your efforts, such as Cleveland Brewery Passport koozies for imbibing at just eight of the 41 breweries or brewpubs. And if you’re up for the challenge to hit up all 41 locales, you’ll be rewarded with a Cleveland Brewery Passport growler. Thankfully, food and branded merchandise, like T-shirts, also earn you a passport stamp.

West Side Market: Cleveland

The West Side Market is a must for food enthusiasts. Located in the historic Ohio City neighborhood, the venue is Cleveland’s oldest continuously operating market and boasts 100 vendors selling meats, seafood, produce, dairy goods, flowers, spices, prepared foods and more. Check out local favorites like the famous bratwurst served at Frank’s II, the third-generation itineration of the 1970 original Frank’s Bratwurst stall at the market. Another stop you’ll want to make is for traditional Polish dishes like pierogies, potato latkes and sauerkraut balls at Pierogi Palace. Reviewers love going to the market to see all the selections, including the baked goods. If you’re looking for a deal, they suggest going before the vendors close at the end of the day.

Address: 1979 W. 25th St., Cleveland, OH 44113

Sandusky

Nestled along the shoreline of Sandusky Bay, this coastal destination is home to the famous Cedar Point Amusement Park. It’s also regarded as Ohio’s Water Park Capital, with popular indoor and outdoor water resorts like Kalahari, Castaway Bay, Cedar Point Shores and Great Wolf Lodge. In the warmer months, you can enjoy water sports activities like kayaking, sailing or paddleboarding on the bay and Lake Erie. You can also take sunset and scenic cruises, and explore Lake Erie’s islands by island-hopping cruises. Another highlight in Sandusky is the self-guided Underground Railroad Historic Tour which stops at homes, buildings and sites that were critical to Sandusky’s Underground Railroad efforts. And if you’re up for a two-day road trip, you won’t want to miss the eight beautiful lighthouses along Lake Erie in the Shores & Islands region, six of which you can view onshore. On day one, two of the structures will include the restored Port Clinton Lighthouse and the 200-year-old Marblehead Lighthouse.

For accommodations in Sandusky, plan to stay along the waterfront at the boutique property Hotel Kilbourne. Located in the entertainment district, you’ll be close to restaurants, shops and more. And at the end of the day, head up to the rooftop bar to enjoy cocktails with water views.

Cedar Point Amusement Park: Sandusky

Billed as the “roller coaster capital of the world,” Cedar Point has been welcoming guests to its location along Lake Erie since 1870. The park’s first roller coaster, the Switchback Railway, opened in 1892. From the late 1970s on, Cedar Point continued to build mind-boggling coasters with one outdoing the other. The park broke its own record in 2000 with the opening of Millennium Force. At the time, and at more than 300 feet high, it was the tallest, fastest and steepest roller coaster in the world.

Today, the park is home to more than 70 rides, including 17 roller coasters. Steel Vengeance is the longest hybrid coaster in the world and Millennium Force is still considered one of the world’s best coasters. For calmer pursuits, visitors can relax on a mile-long beach, take a riverboat ride on the Snake River Expedition, enjoy live entertainment and grab some grub at plenty of casual dining options. And in the summer, guests can cool off at the 18-acre Cedar Point Shores Waterpark, riding the waterslides and playing in the water features. Visitors rave about Cedar Point’s attractions and rides and say it’s a roller coaster-lover’s dream. Some people say it’s the best amusement park in the U.S.

Since you’ll need several days to take in all the fun and thrills, plan to stay in one of the on-site properties, such as the park’s beachfront resort, Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point.

Address: 1 Cedar Point Drive, Sandusky, OH 44870

[See: The Top Amusement Parks in the U.S.]

National Museum of The United States Air Force: Dayton

Located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, just 6 miles northeast of Dayton, The National Museum of the United States Air Force is the largest military aviation museum in the world. The complex boasts more than 19 acres of indoor exhibits and over 350 aerospace vehicles, missiles, artifacts and all things aviation. History, aeronautics and war buffs will enjoy browsing impressive displays, such as the World War II, Korean War, Cold War and Space galleries. Before your visit, and to make the most of your experience, check out the calendar of upcoming events and the movie schedule that features films like “Fighter Pilot Operation Red Flag 3D” and “Astronaut Ocean to Orbit.” The museum also has several exciting and interactive simulator rides. Travelers say it’s an incredible experience to visit and see all the history in one place, including the presidential planes. The museum is open seven days a week and admission and parking are free. There is a minimal cost ($10) for the movies and simulator rides.

Address: 1100 Spaatz St., Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433

Cincinnati

Situated along the Ohio River, the Cincinnati region covers parts of three states — Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. While in town, plan to explore the thriving riverfront in Northern Kentucky and downtown Cincinnati. This area is where you’ll find plenty of outdoor recreation, family-friendly restaurants and the Newport Aquarium. Another top gathering spot is Fountain Square, which features outdoor concerts, happy hours and an ice skating rink in the winter. Cincinnati is also known for its sports teams, including the first Major League Baseball team formed in the U.S. in 1869 — the Cincinnati Red Stockings — now known as the Cincinnati Reds. Baseball fans will want to catch a game at the Great American Ball Park and visit the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.

When it comes to food and brews, Cincinnati is steeped in tradition. Chili fans will recognize the famous original Skyline Chili restaurant on Vine Street and ice cream lovers will know Graeter’s, the oldest family-owned ice cream parlor in the country. Louis Charles Graeter used to sell ice cream out of carts on the streets of Cincinnati in 1870. And thanks to the city’s German heritage, Cincinnatians have been brewing beer for more than 200 years with approximately 80 breweries in and around town.

[See more of Cincinnati: Things to Do | Hotels | When to Visit | Photos ]

Over-the-Rhine Neighborhood: Cincinnati

Originally settled by German immigrants, Over-the-Rhine was booming with artisans and three dozen local breweries more than 150 years ago. Prohibition shut down the brewing industry, but after many years, the neighborhood is undergoing a renaissance.

One highlight is the colorful Findlay Market, which opened in 1855. This venue is Ohio’s oldest continuously operating public market and is a major draw for locals and tourists. The market is brimming with specialty and artisan foods, locally sourced fresh produce and meats, seafood and fresh flowers. You’ll also find on-site dining options, an outdoor biergarten and other entertainment and events. Over-the-Rhine also has cultural and architectural attractions. The stunning Music Hall is home to Cincinnati’s orchestra, pops orchestra, ballet, opera and other performing artists. And the neighborhood has one of the most impressive collections of well-preserved Italianate buildings in the U.S. For an in-depth look at the history of Over-the-Rhine, travelers recommend American Legacy Tours’ Ultimate Queen City Underground Tour.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden opened its doors to the public in 1875 and is one of the oldest zoos in the U.S. The original property consisted of 65 acres in the city, but over the years, the zoo acquired additional surrounding blocks and land in the suburbs. The zoo is recognized as a National Historic Landmark for the architecture of the Elephant House, Passenger Pigeon Memorial and the Reptile House. And with more than 500 species of animals and 3,000 plant species, it also boasts one of the largest zoo collections in the country.

Before you go, check out the zoo’s calendar of special events and activities, such as The African Sundowner, an adults-only sunset safari. This adventure begins with cocktails and light bites and includes an after-hours tour with a zoo educator. And don’t miss visiting baby hippo Fiona and her mom Bibi at Hippo Cove. Fiona was born six weeks prematurely at the zoo and is the smallest hippo ever to survive. Visitors say that Cincinnati’s Zoo is one of the country’s top zoos, and the exhibits are interesting and informative. They also add that seeing Fiona, Bibi and Tucker, the other hippo at Hippo Cove, is one of the highlights.

Address: 3400 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH 45220

[See: The Best Zoos in the U.S.]

Cincinnati Museum Center: Cincinnati

Housed in the historic art deco Union Terminal, the Cincinnati Museum Center is an impressive complex that includes several museums, a five-story domed theater and many exhibits. General ticket prices include admission to the Cincinnati History Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science and The Children’s Museum. But you won’t want to miss the other attractions here, such as immersive films at the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater, The Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The movies and other museums and exhibits incur an additional cost. Visitors say the architecture of the train station is extraordinary. They also comment that you can spend an entire day here as there’s something for everyone to see.

Address: 1301 Western Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45203

Riverboat Cruise: Cincinnati

One of the best ways to see this exciting city is from a cruise along the Cincinnati River. BB Riverboats operates two boats, the flagship Belle of Cincinnati and the River Queen. If you want to see the dramatic city skyline lit up at night, the company offers several options for signature dinner cruises and winery sunset cruises. Daytime excursions include historic sightseeing options, a Dixieland Jazz Brunch Cruise and holiday and themed cruises. You can even set sail to take in some of the city’s best views of the fireworks during Cincinnati’s farewell to summer on Labor Day Weekend’s Riverfest. Reviewers enjoy the food and music on board, and say seeing the city’s lights at night is a treat.

Address: 101 Riverboat Row, Newport, KY 41071

Taste your way through the wine trails

There are approximately 300 wineries across the state of Ohio, with seven designated wine trails to explore. The Grand River Valley is one of the top wine-producing regions focusing on growing European-style grapes and producing varietals like pinot gris, riesling, pinot noir, chardonnay and cabernet franc. This area in northeast Ohio is about 22 miles long and 4 miles wide and sits along the south shore of Lake Erie. You’ll want to head out on the Vines & Wines trail to explore this beautiful region. Plan to stay a few days at The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake to enjoy the other highlights of the area, including the spectacular sunsets over Lake Erie.

Hocking Hills State Park: Logan

Located in southeastern Ohio, Hocking Hills State Park is known for its hiking trails, camping and outdoor adventure. There are seven major one-way hiking trails in the park. Every path is open year-round, and each has something unique to offer. The most popular course is Old Man’s Cave, and if you’re up for a 6-mile hike, you can venture out to visit three areas — Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls and Ash Cave. This route is included in Ohio’s Buckeye Trail and part of two national systems — the North Country Scenic Trail and America’s Discovery Trail. Visitors say the park is beautiful and that you don’t have to take a strenuous hike to reach the caves and waterfalls. For rental accommodations, you can choose from rustic cabins and upscale vacation homes or opt to bring a camper or tent for your stay. But for sleeping arrangements that are anything but ordinary, try glamping in one of the luxurious geodomes or Pacific-style yurts at The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls.

Address: 19852 State Route 664, Logan, OH 43138

Butler County Donut Trail

Butler County lays claim to having one of the largest numbers of doughnut shops per capita in the Midwest, so of course, there’s a doughnut trail. But before you head out to consume more fried and glazed, stuffed, sprinkled, powdered and bacon-topped doughnuts than you’d ever dreamed of, grab a passport and a trail map. You can even enlist the help of a Donut Trail concierge to assist in curating the ultimate yeasty sweet-eating adventure.

It’s advisable to rise and shine early because the 13 mom-and-pop shops like Stan the Donut Man and The Donut Dude can sell out quickly. Once you’ve achieved success and have been to all 13 stops, you’ll be rewarded with a Donut Trail T-shirt. Successful trailgoers say the experience is a lot of fun. They also recommend going early because you may run out of steam after the sugar letdown — and find that some of the shops close at noon.

Columbus

A great way to experience Ohio’s capital city is by checking out its unique and bustling neighborhoods. There are many distinct areas, including downtown, so choose a few communities and start exploring. One of the most picturesque areas is the German Village & Brewery District. Originally home to German settlers in the mid-1800s, the well-preserved historic district is now filled with shops, bars, breweries and restaurants — many serving German cuisine. Another cool area to visit is the Shore North Arts District, recognizable by the 17 lighted arches lining the main avenue. This electric neighborhood sits between Ohio State’s campus and downtown, and it’s home to more than 100 restaurants, boutiques and galleries. Other top tourist attractions include the Center of Science and Industry, The Columbus Museum of Art, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and the National Veterans Memorial and Museum. An excellent choice for centrally located accommodations is the boutique property Hotel Leveque, Autograph Collection.

[See more of Columbus: Things to Do | Hotels | Photos ]

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens: Columbus

Situated approximately 2 miles east of downtown Columbus, this 13-acre visitor experience features botanical biomes, horticulture and art exhibits, abundant gardens and glassworks by artist Dale Chihuly. One of the highlights is The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company Community Garden Campus, which consists of 4 acres with 40 community garden plots, an apiary, a rose pavilion, a demonstration kitchen and a live cooking theater. Many exhibitions are seasonal and change throughout the year, along with works of art by national and international artists. There is a fee to access the attractions that are part of the visitor experience, but an additional 75 acres in Franklin Park are free to visit. Some travelers comment that the property is “enchanting and surreal.” They also recommend visiting when the flowers are in bloom or to see the festive light displays around the Christmas holidays.

Address: 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43203

The Covered Bridge Trail: Ashtabula County

Home to an impressive 19 covered bridges, Ashtabula County sits in the state’s northeast corner. This scenic area with its lush rolling hills and vineyards is known as the covered bridge capital of Ohio. Download the self-guided tour on your smartphone before heading out to see these historic structures across Ohio’s picturesque landscape. Before hitting the road, you should know that Riverview Covered Bridge — one of the county’s longer bridges at 150 feet and 14 feet wide — is pedestrian-only. And Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge, which spans the Ashtabula River, is the longest covered bridge in the U.S. at 613 feet in length and 30 feet wide. Travelers comment that it’s interesting to see all the sizes and styles of bridges and say it’s a great way to spend a day. If you’re planning to explore more of the region, make reservations at The Michael Cahill Bed & Breakfast for an extended stay. Located in the historic district of Ashtabula Harbor, this beautiful Victorian-style home dates back to 1887.

Pro Football Hall of Fame: Canton

Football fans won’t want to miss what’s been called “football heaven.” The Pro Football of Fame is also one of the top attractions in the state and in the U.S. Paying tribute to pro football’s top athletes and legends, the attraction has welcomed more than 10 million fans from across the U.S. and visitors from 70-plus different countries around the world. Museum highlights include the Hall of Fame Gallery, with bronze busts of football greats along with photos, bios and videos on touch-screen kiosks. The Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery details the history of the game from Super Bowl I to the present through artifacts and displays, including championship rings. And in the immersive holographic “A Game for Life” theater, Hall of Famers like Joe Namath, Vince Lombardi and Warren Moon come to life on the screen. There’s much more to explore, so you might want to book a VIP behind-the-scenes or insider tour to make the most of your visit. Reviewers say the memorabilia is impressive and you should make the pilgrimage if you’re a fan of the sport.

Address: 2121 George Halas Drive NW., Canton, OH 44708

Berlin

Berlin sits in the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country, surrounded by verdant rolling hills, picturesque Amish farms and houses, horse-drawn buggies and golden fields of grain. The area, situated about 50 miles south of Akron, is known for its year-round family-friendly festivals and activities. You can participate in the scavenger hunt for barns during Berlin Barnstorming, learn to milk Callie the Cow at MooFest and enjoy food and entertainment at the Harvest Festival & Rib Cook-off, which features live music, tractor pulls and fireworks. There are also more than 50 historic sites, restaurants, inns, hotels and shops in Amish Country selling everything from homemade fudge to locally made crafts. While in town, try hearty Amish-style dishes like baked chicken or roast beef served with mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, creamed corn and warm, yeasty rolls at Berlin Farmstead. And don’t forget the pie: With an overwhelming selection of freshly baked fruit, cream and custard pies, this eatery offers a variety of options and even a pie sampler.

Explore Native American heritage sites

Rooted in Native American tradition, the name “Ohio” is derived from the Iroquois word ‘ohi yo’, meaning “great river.” While there isn’t a formal trail for these sites, you can plan your own route across the state. A few stops to include are SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological site in Dayton, which features an interpretive center and reconstructed structures of the 800-year-old lifestyle in the village. Mound City in Chillicothe has approximately 23 burial mounds across 13 acres that date back nearly 2000 years. And Miamisburg Mound, at 65 feet tall and 800 feet in circumference, is one of the two largest conical mounds in the eastern part of North America.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad: Northeast Ohio

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad has been operating for more than 100 years in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Ohio & Erie Canalway. The rail line offers year-round excursions and even a one-way ticket or seasonal pass for bikers, hikers or kayakers that want to hitch a one-way ride back to their starting point. Options for tours range from a 1.5-hour scenic trip on the National Park Flyer to elegant train dinners, murder mystery rides and other themed adventures. There are also holiday festivities for the kids like the North Pole Adventure, which offers boarding from one of two stations. Tourgoers enjoy seeing the restoration of the old rail cars and the scenery. They also comment that the Christmas journey is fun for kids.

Address: (Rockside Station) 7900 Old Rockside Road, Independence, OH 44131

Kings Island: Kings Island

For more theme park fun, Kings Island features more than 100 rides and 15 roller coasters, including Orion, one of the world’s seven giga coasters. Giga coasters range between 300 to 399 feet in height and complete a full circle reaching speeds of up to 90 mph or more. The amusement park also features family-friendly attractions, including Peanuts-themed rides at Planet Snoopy. And at Soak City Water Park, you can zip down 36 waterslides and stay cool at over 50 water activities that include tropical lagoons and kids play areas. Kings Island hosts special events throughout the year as well, including the spooky Halloween Haunt and WinterFest, when the grounds transform into an enchanting winter wonderland. Parkgoers say this is one of their favorite amusement parks and many note they really enjoy the holiday festivities.

Address: 300 Kings Island Drive, Kings Island, OH 45034

[See: The Best Water Parks in the USA.]

Metroparks: Toledo

Toledo’s park system includes 19 parks across approximately 12,700 acres that attract nearly 6 million visitors a year. Outdoor activities include fitness walks, running, biking, kayaking, hunting and birding. Plus, there are even more year-round activities available that you can do on your own or through the park’s educational system, such as horseback riding, geocaching, camping, snowshoeing, sledding or ice skating. For a unique experience, take a ride back in time on The Volunteer, a mule-driven canal boat. And after a day in the parks, you can even spend the night slumbering away in the treetops in one of the treehouses at Cannaley Treehouse Village.

You might also be interested in:

The Top Romantic Getaways in Ohio

The Best Places to Visit in Ohio

The Best Weekend Getaways in the Midwest

The Best Hotels in Ohio

The Top Indoor Water Parks Across the USA

The Top Water Parks in Pennsylvania

The Top Romantic Getaways in Pennsylvania

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25 Top Things to Do in Ohio originally appeared on usnews.com

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