20 Top Things to Do in Ohio | Midwest Living

20 Top Things to Do in Ohio

You'll love Ohio's metro attractions that rock (literally!) or how you can lull the day away in the sand and surf of the Lake Erie shore.
Photo Courtesy of Ohio Division of Tourism

Top attractions in Ohio

An Eastern attitude comes naturally to this Midwest state, settled by Yankees when the rest of the region was a frontier. Beyond a trio of very different big cities, New England-like villages scatter the countryside, and resorts line the Lake Erie shore.

Click ahead for 20 of our favorite things to do in Ohio, from hiking in the Hocking Hills to exploring Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland. Want to share your favorites? Leave a comment below, or visit Midwest Living's page on Facebook.

Pictured: Ohio's statehouse in Columbus.

Ohio Travel and Tourism

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Shore and island getaways

The Lake Erie shore is one of Ohio's top travel destinations–in particular the 100-mile stretch of golden sand and resort towns from Toledo east to Cleveland. Ferries cruise to South Bass, Middle Bass and Kelleys islands; ashore, tiny Vermilion, Huron and Port Clinton open around manicured beaches. Thrill-seekers head to Sandusky's Cedar Point Amusement Park (next slide), while bird-watchers seek quieter surroundings at eight nearby state parks and a national wildlife refuge. (800) 255-3743; shoresandislands.com

Read Midwest Living's tips on visiting the Lake Erie shore

Cedar Point Amusement Park

Sandusky's Cedar Point Amusement Park, the largest in the world, has a great mix of modern thrill rides and old carnival classics such as a Ferris wheel and carousels. Several of the park's 17 roller coasters offer lovely lake views–until you start screaming, that is! Daredevils who find the roller coasters too tame head to the adjacent Challenge Park. (419) 627-2350; cedarpoint.com

Hocking Hills

This region attracts outdoor enthusiasts with its trails that lead through forests to caves and rock formations. At Hocking Hills State Park (55 miles southeast of Columbus), hikers find sweeping overlooks, fern-filled valleys and shelf caves. Pictured at left. (740) 385-6842; ohiodnr.com

Adventuresome visitors can strap into a harness for in-the-trees sightseeing using zip lines and skybridges at Hocking Hills Canopy Tours. (740) 385-9477; hockinghillscanopytours.com

Hocking Hills Tourism

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Since opening in 1995 on the shore of Lake Erie, the $92 million glass pyramid designed by I.M. Pei has brought fans to Cleveland (population: 444,000) from all over the world, giving the city a new energy and cementing its identity as one of rock's birthplaces. Iconic music artifacts fill the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Look for Michael Jackson's "Thriller" mask, John Lennon's report cards, Bono's first guitar and much more. (216) 781-7625; rockhall.com

Positively Cleveland

Read Midwest Living's tips on visiting Cleveland

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

A half-hour south of Cleveland, the 33,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park includes spectacular rock formations and waterfalls, 160 miles of trails, golf courses and a living-history settlement. Established as a recreation area in the 1970s to battle urban sprawl, Cuyahoga is now one of the nation's most accessible national parks. (330) 657-2752; nps.gov/cuva

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad travels through the park. (800) 468-4070; cvsr.com

The Amish in Holmes County

More than 19,000 Amish live in this rural central Ohio county. On some roads, buggies outnumber cars. Think of the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center in Berlin as Amish 101, featuring accessible exhibits about the local culture. (877) 858-4634; behalt.com

Explore Amish history and customs further in Millersburg at Yoder's Amish Home, where guides offer tours of a 116-acre farm. (330) 893-2541; yodersamishhome.com

Shops and restaurants throughout the region specialize in Amish products. (877) 643-8824; visitamishcountry.com

Pro Football Hall of Fame

For fans who needed one more reason to plan a pilgrimage to Canton: The new Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery at the Pro Football Hall of Fame puts visitors eye to eye with the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Other highlights of the Hall of Fame: interactive exhibits and history films that inspire awe for the raw power and intensity of the game; artifacts that include famous helmets, shoes and game balls; and replica Super Bowl Rings, along with an area for visitors to design their own rings. (330) 456-8207; profootballhof.com

Historic Roscoe Village

This restored one-street town (60 miles south of Canton) recaptures the mid-1800s heyday of the Ohio and Erie Canal. Historic Roscoe Village is a delightful combination of living-history exhibits, specialty retail shops and restaurants. Start at the visitors center, where the Ditches of Destiny video gives a quick introduction to canal history and life in a canal town. Then stroll through restored historic buildings to experience 19th-century life–see a blacksmith or broom maker at work, watch a cooking demonstration or try dipping candles. (740) 622-7644; roscoevillage.com

Northeast Ohio's wine country

Some 45 miles east of Cleveland, nearly two dozen wineries—many of them award-winning—thrive along Lake Erie and in the nearby region, hiding amid old-fashioned covered bridges and shore towns trapped in time. The wineries add a cosmopolitan flair to northeast Ohio's long-established resort scene in towns such as Geneva-on-the-Lake.

Our favorite wineries include Debonne Vineyards, (440) 466-3485; debonne.com; Harpersfield Vineyard, (440) 466-4739; harpersfield.com; Markko Vineyard, (440) 593-3197; markko.com; St. Joseph Vineyard, (440) 298-3709; saintjosephvineyard.com; and South River Vineyard. (440) 466-6676; southrivervineyard.com.

Ohio Wine Producers Association

Read about Midwest wine country weekend getaways

Ashtabula County's covered bridges

Seventeen historic and reconstructed bridges span the Ashtabula River in northeast Ohio's Ashtabula County. Take a driving tour to explore the bridges as well as the county's pretty lake towns, orchards and vineyards (previous slide). In the fall, the Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival offers tours of the bridges plus country music, a parade and other entertainment.

Ashtabula County Convention and Visitors Bureau

Ashtabula Covered Bridge Festival

Family attractions in Columbus

Ohio's biggest city (population: 755,000) offers an appealing variety of family-friendly attractions, including Center of Science and Industry (COSI), which fuses playground and museum, with more than 300 interactive exhibits and a movie theater. Pictured at left. (614) 228-2674; cosi.org

Among other favorites: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, home to more than 700 species and the new Polar Frontier, (800) 666-5397; columbuszoo.org; and Franklin Park Conservatory, featuring plants of the Himalayan mountains, the rainforest and other climates as well as a collection of work by glass artist Dale Chihuly. (614) 715-8000; fpconservatory.org

Experience Columbus

Read about Midwest Living's trip to Columbus

Zoar's historic charm

In 1817, German immigrants founded this communal village. To pay for their land—5,500 acres—the Zoarites hand-dug a seven-mile stretch of the Ohio and Erie Canal near their village. Today, Zoar (population: 193; 75 miles south of Cleveland) has evolved into a tranquil Middle America town with busy residents and a strong historical character. Visitors can take a guided tour of the village, stroll among quality antiques shops and historical homes, and sleep in simple, classic-style B&Bs. (330) 874-3011; historiczoarvillage.com

Adams County's Appalachian beauty

Hiking trails, country inns, covered bridges and Amish shops reward casual explorers in Adams County, which rests on the edge of the Appalachian foothills, 60 miles southeast of Cincinnati.

Among the highlights: Great Serpent Mound, where a quarter-mile trail loops around a fascinating ancient Native American effigy mound, (800) 752-2757; greatserpentmound.com; Edge of Appalachia, a sprawling nature preserve, (614) 717-2770; nature.org/wherewework; and Clothesline of Quilts, a self-guided tour of barns painted with quilt designs. Contact the Adams County Travel and Visitors Bureau. (937) 544-5639; adamscountytravel.org

Read about Midwest Living's trip to Adams County

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Even from the outside, Cincinnati's National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is stirring. Its wavy architecture mirrors the Ohio River, which slaves crossed to enter the North. One of the most powerful of the center's state-of-the-art exhibits is a slave pen moved here from a Kentucky farm. (877) 648-4838; freedomcenter.org


The Wilds

Rhinos, giraffes and other exotic animals roam a 10,000-acre wildlife conservation center in Cumberland (70 miles east of Columbus). The Wilds is home to rare and endangered species from around the world as well as hundreds of indigenous species. Hop on an open-air safari transport or a closed, air-conditioned vehicle to see cheetahs, zebras, trumpeter swans, American bison and more. Stop and explore areas such as the Carnivore Conservation Center, the Wetlands, the Lake Trail and the Outpost. (740) 638-5030; thewilds.org

Toledo Museum of Art

More than 35 galleries, a sculpture garden and the new Glass Pavilion showcase the Toledo Museum of Art's collection of more than 30,000 paintings, sculptures and other works of art. Be sure to see the daily demonstrations in the Glass Pavilion (left), where glassblowers deftly twirl, twist, stretch and snip fiery globs of molten glass into animals and vases. (419) 255-8000; toledomuseum.org

Read about 7 Ohio glass museums

Hueston Woods State Park

This action-packed resort park on Acton Lake (35 miles northwest of Cincinnati) offers canoe, pontoon and mountain bike rentals; horseback riding; an 18-hole golf course; archery -- even paintball! The amenities at Hueston Woods State Park turn what might be a quite ordinary lake-and-woods vacation into an adventure. (513) 523-6347; parks.ohiodnr.gov

Cincinnati Museum Center

The striking Union Terminal—a mosaic-filled, Art Deco jewel built in 1933—houses history, science and children's museums. Costumed interpreters help visitors make a connection with the past at the Cincinnati History Museum; kids can explore areas such as the Energy Zone, Little Sprouts Farm and Kid's Town at Duke Energy Children's Museum; and you can step back 19,000 years into the Ice Age of the Ohio Valley at the Museum of Natural History and Science. (513) 287-7000; cincymuseum.org


National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

See more than 300 planes and missiles at the world's oldest and largest military aviation museum, six miles northeast of Dayton. Regular guided tours of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force are offered daily; behind-the-scenes tours of the restoration area, where aircraft are renovated before being put on display, are offered most Fridays. (937) 255-3286; nationalmuseum.af.mil

Lake Hope State Park

Wooded hills surround Lake Hope (70 miles southeast of Columbus), where kayakers can paddle through fields of pink water lilies. The atmosphere at Lake Hope State Park is decidedly kid-friendly (Disney movies in the campground), but there are grown-up touches, too, like a rent-a-tent program for newbie campers. If you stay in a cabin, try to snag one of the historic Forest Cottages, named for trees. (740) 596-4938; parks.ohiodnr.gov

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