Ohio’s heartland USA location makes it an easy vacation destination from over 30 cities with populations of over 500,000 and less than a four-hour drive make sit a practical one. Few states in the midwest offer such a wide and appealing variety of attractions for all age groups. Involve the kids in the vacation planning process and it’s sure to bet it will be a successful one.
We’ve picked 5 destinations in Ohio that offer something for everyone from mild to wild, and in some cases the unusual and unexpected. From Islands (yes you read that right) to adventure, Castles to Caves here are our top five picks!
Put-in-Bay and the Lake Erie Islands
It’s almost a sure bet that when an island vacation is discussed few know of or consider Put-in-Bay Ohio yet this enchanted island packs a powerful bang for your vacation buck! Put-in-Bay is serviced by two ferry boat companies the Miller Ferry which transport freight, supplies, and cars to and from the island and the Jet Express Ferry which is the primary passenger ferry and arrived conveniently in the downtown area. Ample parking for your car is available at both departure points.
The first thing you will notice upon your arrival is what is MISSING….no stoplights, chain restaurants, or big box stores. Cars are not encouraged on the island and the hundreds of Put-in-Bay Golf Carts are the principal method of transportation on the island. The Perry international Peace Memorial towers over 300 feet above the park with an observation deck that affords a stunning view over the Lake Erie Islands.
The island has an incredible number of things to do all packed in a 2 by 5-mile area. There are several caves to explore, wineries to tour and both mini and a 9 hole golf course. Museums, helicopter rides, biplane rides, and parasailing add an exciting twist to any vacation. The island has over 30 dining options along with a vibrant nightlife many call the "Key West Of The North." The island attracts over 750,000 people annually according to the Put-in-Bay Visitors and Convention Bureau Lodging options are limited and book up quickly in the April thru October season. Bed & Breakfasts and a handful of hotels and modern resorts including the islands largest Put-in-Bay Resort known for their swim-up bar are all located within walking distance from the downtown area.
Middle bass Island located just a few miles to the North is home to Ohio's newest State Park and served by the Sonny S Boat Line. Kelly's Island is near Put-in-Bay and is serviced by the Jet Express Ferry en route to Cedar Point.
Hocking Hills Ohio
This 2356 acre park is located just 3 hours southwest of Cleveland and is home to the Hocking Hills State Park. The stunningly steep cliffs, cascading waterfalls, shady gorges, and the lushly landscaped state park is contiguous with the 9,000 acre Hocking Hills State Forest, where numerous tree species—oak, pine, ash, maple, poplar, and hickory —thrive. Exploring these woodlands in their natural state is a favorite among hikers, naturalists, and locals.
Hocking Hills is a perennial favorite among backpackers and hikers. The stunning scenery and well marked accessible trails make it equally well-suited to solo and group trekking. If you prefer to hike in the company of others, consider the guided tour with the park’s naturalist, Thursdays through Sundays. Seasonal Hikes are offered including bird watching and fall colors—October is usually the best time of year to view the resplendent fall foliage that transforms Hocking Hills into a magical landscape, carpeted with vibrant yellow, red and orange leaves. And don’t forget to explore the Old Man’s Cave trail, a six-mile hiking route steeped in Ohio history.
No visit to Hocking Hills would be complete without viewing the numerous waterfalls cascading down and thru the parks spectacular bedrock gorges. The 102 mile long hocking river is a perfect venue to rent a canoe and paddle along the river. Hocking Hills Ariel Canopy Tours allows you to see the natural fauna from above!
Cedar Point Amusement Park
Cedar Point isn’t just big—It's big in history! The second-oldest operating amusement park in America is referred to as “the roller coaster capital of the world”. With 20 unique roller coasters, including the soon-to-be-complete Steel Vengeance—the world’s longest, tallest, fastest hybrid coaster—it lives up to that reputation. The parks wide variety of themed locations offer rides and activities for all ages. The Cedar Point Breakers Hotel is located within the confines of the park as is a full-service Marina.
From the Dr. Suess Rides—ideal for beginner riders—to the outrageous Top Thrill Dragster and more exceeding 120 mph, there’s excitement to be had at every turn! But Cedar Point is about more than just roller coasters. Kid friendly rides and shows, glass blowing exhibits, a petting zoo, and a water park are popular with children of all ages. A wide variety of restaurants serve fast food to casual sit down service. In the evening hours, music groups and shows are offered on stages throughout the park.
Insider Tip - often times the roadway entering Cedar Point is backed up and slow going. If you have planned a vacation at Put-in-Bay, the Jet Express Ferry boat departs from the island to the marina entrance where there is rarely a line to enter the park and no parking fees!
Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
Looking for something to do in Ohio that really rocks? Then roll on over—and please pardon the puns—to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! Located along the shores of Lake Erie near the Cleveland Brown Stadium, the museum is open every day and almost year round. Dedicated to preserving the culture of Rock & Roll which originated from the gospel. blues and jazz, the museum features artists from Abba to ZZ Top who have been inducted for their contributions to music. To date, over 340 artists have been recognized and you can learn about all of them with colorful and informative displays all under one roof.
Tickets are very reasonably priced and children under 5 are free. With five levels, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has something for everyone, providing extensive insight into this important musical genre through galleries, multimedia exhibits, live performances, and even a broadcast studio! Hotel accommodations are plentiful in the area and while in the area be sure to visit 4th and 6th streets where eclectic restaurants and micropubs offer up some of the areas best dining options.
Geneva On The Lake
Much like Put-in-Bay Ohio, Geneva On the Lake is a throwback to a time when the simple pleasures made for the best of vacations. Strolling thru the village, old-time antique stores, ice cream parlors, donut shops, and diner-style restaurants dot the landscape much like middle America was 40 years ago. The one-mile long strip has been preserved in its historic state. Known as Ohio's first summer resort, Geneva On The Lake offers vacationers a multi-use recreational trail winding thru the parks and ending at the public beach area. There are fishing and jet ski rentals for the adventurous as well as paddleboards. A great place to observe a Lake Erie Sunset! In the evening arcades and Ferris wheel ride light up the evening sky.
All in all, Ohio has so much to offer for every type of vacation traveler! From top to bottom Cleveland to Cincinnati and the mighty Ohio River the attractions are plentiful in each of her major cities as well as the rural farmlands of middle America. Rest assured that if you do plan to travel to Ohio you will have a fabulous time. you're going to have a beautiful time. I do suggest bringing a travel guide along with you. Here is the best Ohio Travel Guides I recommend...
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (tessajuliette at gmail dot com).