Ohio Travel: 7 Travelers That Should Visit the Buckeye State

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Experiential Education, Travel, and Why it Matters

Cows and cornfields.

That’s the usual response I get when asking someone what they think Ohio has to offer.

And they wouldn’t be entirely wrong.

There are a lot of cows, and there are a lot of cornfields.

Let’s face it, Ohio travel doesn’t exactly top the list of dream destinations. I mean, when was the last time you heard someone say, “Man, I have always wanted to explore the Midwest”?

But if that’s what is keeping you from exploring my home state, you may want to re-evaluate. There is a reason why the state’s slogan is “the heart of it all.”

In fact, there is no end to what you can do with your time in Ohio, no matter what travel style you prefer. Traveling to Ohio doesn’t have to be boring, and the state is so much more than something you simply drive through.

Let’s look at the types of travelers in particular who will find opportunities abound in the Buckeye State.

Ohio Travel

1. The Beach Bum: Lake Erie’s beaches and islands

What, Ohio has beaches?

Ohio Travel - Headlands Beach State Park
Headlands Beach State Park and Lighthouse (c) Outbound Adventurer

Absolutely!

Despite its Midwest status, Ohio is a coastal state, hugging the edges of Lake Erie. During the brief, but beautiful summer months the beaches fill up quickly.

The benefits of traveling to one of the Great Lakes is huge. You can enjoy all of the traditional water activities easily. There are harbors all over the place, and it’s easy to rent a boat. Skiing, sailing, fishing and tubing are all commonplace, as well as swimming on the beachfront.

Extra bonus: The lake is fresh water, so you don’t have to deal with getting salt in your eyes!

Ohio Travel - Headlands Beach State Park
Headlands Beach (c) Outbound Adventurer

If you want to extend your time on the water, consider visiting one of Ohio’s islands. The most famous is South Bass Island, which is home to the small town of Put-in-Bay. Nicknamed the “Key West of the North”, Put-in-Bay is full of summer fun. Accessible only by ferry, visitors will find bars, hotels, wineries, beaches and bike trails. There’s even a geode cave to explore!

2. The History Buff: Ohio Archaeology

Ohio Travel - Great Serpent Mound
The Great Serpent Mound (c) Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that Ohio is home to some of the oldest known Native American burial sites? The Great Serpent Mound, located in Southern Ohio and part of the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System, is one of many prehistoric sites that dot the state.

What makes this particular site unique?

It’s a prehistoric burial mound, representing the largest serpent effigy in the world, built on a plateau within the eroded impact site of a crater that hit the area around 248 million years ago, during the Permian Period. The burial site has been attributed to at least three different prehistoric cultures that were prevalent in the Ohio region around 1000 CE.

Yeah, take a minute to wrap your mind around that.

In more recent history, Ohio was used as a stopping point along the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, and several of the houses, including the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati, have been turned into museums. Ohio is also the birthplace of eight presidents, more than any other US state. The town I grew up in, Mentor, still gives tours of James A. Garfield’s house on a regular basis.

3. The City Slicker: Museums and night life in Cleveland

Ohio Travel - City of Cleveland
Cleveland skyline (c) Wikimedia Commons

For all its cows and cornfields, Ohio still has quite a bit to offer in the way of city life.

If you’re looking for Cleveland museums, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, located in University Circle, is a staple of the city, and it’s complimented by the Cleveland Museum of Art, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and, my favorite, the more hands-on Great Lakes Science Center — which is pretty much every kid and kid-at-heart’s dreamland. As a side note, Columbus also has a science center, COSI, which was recently named one of the top science centers in the country.

Then there’s the nightlife.

Playhouse Square, the city’s theater district, is the country’s largest performing arts center outside of New York.

If you’ve always dreamed of seeing a performance on Broadway, this is just as good, with world-renowned performances and over 1,000 annual events. I’ve seen everything from Tony and Tina’s Wedding to Les Misérables on the stages here, not to mention amazing concerts put on by The Cleveland Orchestra, and they have all been fantastic.

Of course, Cleveland isn’t the only big city in Ohio. Columbus’ eclectic Short North neighborhood holds regular art walks, and the city is home to COSI — the Center of Science and Industry, one of the coolest science centers in Ohio. The Ohio State University dominates the city, and from sporting events to concerts, the college’s presence provides constant activities.

I haven’t spent much time in Cincinnati, being a Clevelander, but I’m sure someone can use the comments to chime in with their top recommendations.

4. The Foodie: Cassata cake, corned beef, and grilled cheese

Ohio Travel - Cleveland's Little Italy's food
A meal in Little Italy, Cleveland. (c) Outbound Adventurer

I get way too excited when talking about Cleveland. I get even more excited when talking about its food. There’s so much to choose from, from the legendary cassata cake to Slyman’s famous corned beef sandwichesMelt, the gourmet grilled cheese restaurant, has been opening additional locations since it was featured in Man v. Food, peppered around the Cleveland areas (word is they’re opening one down in Columbus, too). The food isn’t exactly healthy, but damn is it good.

If you’d rather do some shopping, head on down to the West Side Market, which opened in 1912 to help accommodate the growing immigrant population and remains active to this day, featuring dozens of local vendors. Speaking of immigrant populations, Cleveland is home to quite a few central and eastern European populations, including immigrants from Poland, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Hungary.

Bottom line? If you’re looking for a good pierogi, Cleveland is where you want to be.

5. The Outdoor Adventurer: Hiking, camping and more

Ohio Travel - Hocking Hills State Park
Hocking Hills State Park. Image (c) Wikimedia Commons

Let’s inch away from the city and head into the great outdoors.

Autumn is when I miss Ohio more than anything. As nice as the mild summers are, I long for the cool, crisp autumn days, where I would sit around a campfire, nursing hot chocolate while preparing for the next day’s adventures.

Ohio’s park systems, with gems like Hocking Hills, are absolutely phenomenal. In fact, $88 million dollars was just allocated to the improvements of the state parks, so they will only be getting better!

No matter what time of year it is, there’s plenty for the adventure traveler to do. Spring through fall provides wonderful opportunities for hiking, camping,  fishing, rock climbing and mountain biking. In the winter, ski resorts open their doors and the snowmobiles and hockey pucks come out to play. And if you’re not a fan of snow, there are also indoor options, like Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park.

6. The Thrill Seeker: The world’s roller coaster capital

Craving a different sort of adventure? Ohio is also home to Cedar Point, the world’s roller coaster capital, and my absolute favorite amusement park. With 17 roller coaster coasters spread out over 375 acres, this park is a thrill seeker’s dream. The park is located on a peninsula, almost completely surrounded by Lake Erie, which makes for some spectacular views.

Cedar_Point_beach_view_from_Sky_Ride_2013 (1)
Cedar Point (c) Wikimedia Commons

Cedar Point is also conveniently close to South Bass Island, so you could easily pair a trip to the amusement park with a stay in Put-in-Bay. It takes about 20 minutes to get from the park to the ferry, and the trip to the island is another 30-40 minutes.

7. The Wine Taster: Vineyards galore

One of my fondest memories growing up is the annual family trip to Debonne Vineyards.

Every June there would be a huge hot air balloon rally. My parents would buy wine (for themselves) and grape juice (for myself and my brothers), bread, cheese, and sausage. We’d put out a picnic blanket and spend the evening climbing trees, playing bocce ball, listening to live music, and watching the hot air balloons soar high overhead.

Debonne is one of dozens of vineyards that dot the Ohio countryside. You can take a look at the Ohio Wine Association’s website for a list of wineries all throughout the state.


 

Traveling to Ohio is far from boring

The next time you plan a trip, I hope you’ll consider my home state of Ohio.

Of course, I’ve only touched on what there is to do; it’s a big place, after all! Ohio travel can take you to beaches and mountains, historical sites and sporting events. You can go from the rolling hills of the countryside to the busy streets of the city. There are festivals galore, from maple syrup festivals to apple picking festivals to music festivals.

Ohio is an incredibly diverse state, with endless options and opportunities, and it is absolutely worth an extended visit.

ohio-travel

Have you ever been to Ohio? What has your experience been?


Weekend Wanderlust, hosted by Outbound Adventurer


Ancient texts and modern context: the ancient languages of Europe
Experiential Education, Travel, and Why it Matters
  • JH

    I’m from OH as well but have lived in CA for about 20 yrs. I make it a point to go back every year in mid-October. One thing not listed that I love is visiting Amish country in Holmes County. It’s like going to a foreign country with it’s great comfort food and lifestyle that you can’t find anywhere else, and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking at that time of year. Go go go!

  • The only place I’ve visited in Ohio was Cleveland. Didn’t really get a chance to see anything else other than the city. I wish I had more time to see more of the state.

  • Ohio has great amusement parks and zoos too! Seems like the midwest states don’t get much love, huh?! What a shame 🙂

    • It really is! The midwest definitely has its own charm, it’s just not widely publicized. The Cleveland Zoo is one of my favorite places. 🙂

  • I have been to Put in Bay twice and had amazing times there! I also visited a cave in a random small town in Ohio that was really awesome. And I’ve been to Cedar Point a bunch of times. I definitely think that Ohio is one of those places you wouldn’t necessarily say is a destination that a lot of people brag about visiting…but it’s definitely worth a stop, and for us up in Ontario, it can make for a fantastic road trip!!

    • I loved living in Ohio, partially because of how close to Canada it was. International travel was never difficult. And it really is a lovely place!