Ohio is a study in classic small town America, but it boasts a few bustling cities like Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati (notice a trend?) that offer great spots to eat, grab a drink, or shop local stores and markets.
Part of Ohio’s charm is in the more rural towns that are packed with scenic views, unique shops, and long-standing eateries that inspire intense loyalty from locals.
As the Roller Coaster Capital of the World (betcha didn’t expect that!) and the birthplace of love-it-or-hate-it Cincinnati chili, this is a dynamic state that keeps you on your toes. And there’s a lot to see and do here!
This state is too often overlooked for flashier destinations around the U.S., but that’s just because people aren’t aware of the things you can get into in the Buckeye State. We’re remedying that with a big list of the 16 best places to visit in Ohio below.
You’ll find out what’s worth seeing and doing around the state and make sure you hit all the highlights on your next trip. Ready to see what’s shaking in Ohio? Let’s get started!
The 16 Best Places to Visit in Ohio
Ohio is a land of hidden gems. We’re taking a closer look at the sights, attractions, and cities worth seeing in the state that’s considered “The Mother of Presidents.” Speaking of, did you know that 8 past presidents were born in Ohio?
There’s clearly something very special about this place! From the restaurants, shops, and sights of Cleveland to roller coaster rides at Cedar Point and the rural peacefulness in Ohio’s Amish Country, you’re in for a treat.
1. Cedar Point
You can’t visit Ohio without a day or two at the legendary Cedar Point amusement and water parks! The park opened in 1870 and still serves up thrills (and tasty concessions) today.
Known as the Roller Coaster Capitol of the World, you’ll scream your way through 18 roller coasters, 72 amusement rides, and a waterpark that spans 18 acres with twisting slides and water rides.
Cedar Point’s most iconic rides include teeth-chattering coasters like Steel Vengeance and Maverick along with Millennium Force (93 MPH!) and Corkscrew that let you feel every G you’re pulling.
Cleveland isn’t the capital, but it’s Ohio’s hotspot for culture, food, and sports. Performance arts venues, highly acclaimed eateries serving up local and ethnic fare, and historic sights abound.
Catch a Browns (NFL) or Guardians (MLB) game downtown within walking distance of all the restaurants, shops, bars, and — wait for it — the JACK casino with table games and slot machines.
Duck into the Cleveland Museum of Art and Gordon Arts district, take the family to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and peruse the massive West End Market.
3. Hocking Hills State Park
Down in Logan (southeast Ohio), there’s a treasure trove of wilderness and a haven for nature lovers, photographers, and outdoor enthusiasts at Hocking Hills State Park. It’s the most beloved state park in Ohio for a reason.
This place is filled with dramatic scenery — cliffs, trails leading you to cascading waterfalls, plunging gorges, and an intricate network of caves. Make time to check out Ash Cave, Old Man’s Cave, and Cedar Falls while you’re here. It’s really fun to join a hike to Old Man’s Cave or venture out to the Ash Cave Fire Tower!
The best way to experience the “flavor” of Cincinnati is by taking The Connector, a free streetcar that does a 3-mile loop from the riverfront through the city’s best attractions and stops.
You’ll pass Reds Ballpark, Fountain Square (tons of great restaurants and bars here), Over-the-Rhine, and Washington Park where you’ll find bustling markets and the Brewery District.
It’s not a real Cincy visit until you stop by the original location of the famous Skyline Chili, birthplace of the uniquely-spiced Cincinnati chili topped with white onions!
Put-in-Bay sounds like a very simple set of instructions for any boat or water sport equipment, but it’s actually one of Ohio’s most rewarding places to visit.
It’s a small island village that you have to reach by ferry, giving it a cool and secluded vibe that feels worlds away from Cleveland and Cincinnati. You can kayak, fish, swim, party, shop, and stay here for a fun weekend getaway.
There are great wineries, war memorial monuments, amazing restaurants and bars for all budgets, a lighthouse, museums and old home tours, and Perry’s Cave to check out underground.
6. Amish Country
Ohio’s Amish Country is known across the globe as the biggest Amish community in the world. Amish people have flocked to this part of Ohio (Holmes County, near Walnut Creek) for centuries, with roots first being planted by the group back in 1808.
The old-school way of life around these parts is equal parts charming and mind-blowing. They’re still getting around in horse-drawn carriages and tending large farms to sell produce at local Amish markets.
This heavenly slice of rural peacefulness is only about 2 hours away from Ohio’s major cities (the 3 C’s) but feels almost lost in time.
You can drive through the community to see the incredible homesteads and farms, stop by the markets for fresh produce or preserved products, and spend a little time learning about the unique Amish culture.
Being the state capital of Ohio, Columbus is the state’s most populated city and a great hub for all things entertainment. From sports to the arts, there’s always something to get into in Columbus.
You can visit the Short North Arts District, catch a show at the Ohio Theatre, Schiller Park’s amphitheater in the warmer months of the year, or Ohio Statehouse. You can also check out one of the best zoos in the U.S. at the Columbus Zoo. It’s a great spot for the whole family!
Don’t miss an informal walking tour of German Village, a high-end residential neighborhood with impressive homes and landscaping that will make even the most posh visitor a bit envious.
Stroll through and stop at local and ethnic-cuisine restaurants, bars, and bakeries along the way! End your trip with a factory tour at Graeter’s or a quick visit to Jeni’s Ice Cream to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Just about 45 minutes south of Cleveland sits the unassuming city of Akron, Ohio. It’s not a place that many people set out to visit, but if you’re headed to Cleveland, you’ve got to check out the cool attractions and museums around Akron.
The Akron Zoo is a good way to spend the early part of the day before heading out to the Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens for a tour of the mansion, carriage house, and sprawling gardens.
Culture vultures will appreciate the Akron Art Museum and a stop by the Lock 3 Park (especially in the busy summer or winter months).
Canal Park is the stadium where the local RubberDucks baseball team plays downtown. The Summit Metroparks Freedom Trail has multiple trailheads around the city and is fun to wander or bike all the way to nearby Kent on nice days!
Dayton is the place to go for history buffs and aviation junkies! This little city is huge in aviation history as the place where the Wright Brothers developed Wright Flyer III — the first plane with controlled and sustained flight.
That very plane sits at the Carillon Historical Park today. Dayton is also home to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the oldest aviation museum in the world.
This is where you’ll find the Wright Brothers’ Bicycle Shop (which you can tour). Did you know that the Wright Brothers built bikes before they moved into planes?
If you’re plain out of plane fever, switch gears to check out the Dayton Art Institute, the bustling 2nd Street Market, or catch a show at Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center.
On the western tip of Lake Erie on the border of Michigan, Toledo is one of Ohio’s coolest places to visit with something for everyone. Start at the National Museum of the Great Lakes to learn about the region and get your bearings.
Maumee Bay State Park is a scenic spot on the shore where you can play golf or stay overnight in a cute lakeside cottage. Not far away is the Point Place Lighthouse (amazing sunrises) and Toledo’s oldest neighborhood and gateway to downtown, the Vistula Historic District.
Check out the Toledo Museum of Art to see a stunning collection of international masterpieces or visit the Toledo History Museum to take in some local historic facts with tangible evidence of centuries past. Downtown Toledo boasts some incredible restaurants, breweries, and taverns that demand a visit for a pint or two!
11. Mohican State Park
Outdoor adventurers, rejoice: Mohican State Park offers a breathtaking natural hideaway that can be as laid-back or thrilling as you’re willing to go.
Take a canoe or kayak ride along the beautiful riverbank, explore miles of hiking and bike paths at various difficulty levels, hunt, or go fishing in the clear Mohican River to reel in a nice catch.
Covered bridges lead the way to places like Lyon’s Falls and Clear Fork Gorge for amazing views of Ohio’s natural beauty. You can spend the night (or a few) in the park in a luxe cabin with a pool or primitive tent sites by the stream.
Close by is Pleasant Hill Lake for even more adventures on the water (and no horsepower limits) with no-wake areas for paddlers and fishermen.
12. Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
Cincy’s broad appeal brings lots of visitors to the city for food, attractions, and museums, but the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is one of the best things you can do in the city!
Come here to explore and enjoy the breathtaking botanical gardens filled with exquisite flora and fauna. Take a leisurely pace to make a morning or afternoon of it. This is something both kids and adults can agree on and there’s a lot to see and do here.
You can get up close and personal with exotic animals from all over the world, like Fiona the hippopotamus, feeding giraffes, or walking through Roo Valley with the giant marsupials from Down Under that we know and love.
The botanical garden is relaxing and filled with native plants tended and meticulously maintained for beauty in different seasons.
13. Lake Erie Islands
If you’re looking for a little R&R, head out on a tranquil retreat to the Lake Erie Islands. We’ve covered Put-in-Bay, but it’s worth taking a ferry to the other Lake Erie islands: Kelleys Island, Middle Bass, and South Bass.
These offshore hideaways are great spots to discover secluded, breathtaking beaches, thrilling water sports, interesting historic landmarks, and charming lighthouses that have a decidedly New England vibe.
Food is abundant on all the Lake Erie islands, especially during the peak summer season when visitors arrive in greater numbers.
Late spring and early fall are also great times to visit for fresh seafood, al fresco dining on the lake shore, and staying at any of the great little B&Bs and vacation homes for a cozy and comfortable visit.
The city of Canton is a great vacation spot for history and sports enthusiasts that want a destination with a slower pace and smaller crowds.
If you’re a sports fan, you’ll love walking through the Pro Football Hall of Fame to reminisce about all the greats — past and present — and their athletic accomplishments in professional sports through the years. If history is more your thing, Canton’s National First Ladies’ Library is a must-visit.
This museum is fully dedicated to the remarkable ladies who have served as the First Ladies of the United States and can be perfect for a rainy afternoon before stopping for dinner and drinks at Bender’s Tavern downtown.
15. Wayne National Forest
The Wayne National Forest is one of Ohio’s most scenic wilderness regions with more than 400 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding paths winding through the temperate deciduous forests, meadows, and rivers.
This is where you go to enjoy a primitive camping trip with a tent pitched under the stars. Cast a line in the river or stream, wander the trails to see cool and unusual rock formations, and check out sights like Irish Run natural bridge or the Vesuvius Furnace.
The park covers a quarter-million acres in the foothills of the Appalachians.
Fall foliage here is incredible if you visit during the fall, but spring’s wildflowers and summer’s verdant growth are also beautiful to see. You can camp and enjoy the laid-back side of Ohio’s rural country at Wayne National Forest.
16. National Park in Cuyahoga Valley
Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park is between Cleveland and Akron (both great places to check out!) and makes a terrific vacation spot for those who love the outdoors.
It’s one of our favorite parks in the state of Ohio with some truly stunning waterfalls opening up from dense-growth forests and wetlands that are home to abundant wildlife. Come to CVNP to hike, ride bikes, or take the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad through the park to see the lay of the land.
This place is a two-for-one special, delivering awesome outdoor recreation experiences with plenty of history and educational fun that families can appreciate.
Things to Consider
It doesn’t matter if you’re headed to Ohio for a heady cultural experience or a heart-pumping outdoor adventure — you’re going to find exactly what you’re looking for! An Ohio getaway is even better when you have a few tips under your belt to inform your choices and help you make the right choices for your trip.
- Consider the seasonal crowds. Make arrangements before traveling to popular parts of Ohio, like Cleveland and Cincinnati, during the peak seasons (typically late spring, summer, and early fall). The best hotels and B&Bs are known to fill up rapidly during the busiest times of the year, especially in smaller areas like the Lake Erie islands.
- Keep weather in mind. Winter weather can be chilly and snowy in Ohio’s northern towns like Cleveland and Akron, while southern cities like Columbus typically enjoy slightly milder temperatures with more rain than other regions of the state. Research the weather forecast before you visit to ensure you pack properly for the trip.
- Know what to expect for trip costs. Visiting Ohio is generally a more affordable trip idea than, say, Florida or California. But prices do fluctuate throughout the year, rising in the peak summer season and around major events (like Browns games). Hotels near popular attractions will usually cost more than those far away from city centers.
- Put safety first. Traveling always comes with a slight risk, but most parts of Ohio are safe. Stick to tourist areas and don’t bring valuables out in bigger cities with higher crime like Cleveland, Ohio. Double-check online reviews regarding safety measures taken by hotels especially if traveling alone or with children. Ensure they understand how to behave appropriately and stay close by while exploring new places!
Frequently Asked Questions
Getting ready for your trip is pretty exciting when you know the best places to visit in Ohio! Here are a few answers to the most commonly asked questions about visiting Ohio.
What is the number one tourist attraction in Ohio?
Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is Ohio’s number one tourist attraction. This museum, which sits on the edge of Lake Erie, honors the history of music via interactive displays, live concerts, and educational initiatives.
It’s an unforgettable experience, whether you are a fan of rock or simply interested in its history.
What is the prettiest place in Ohio?
The Hocking Hills area of Ohio is frequently cited as the state’s prettiest and most picturesque location. The region is a haven for nature enthusiasts thanks to its stunning sandstone cliffs, gushing waterfalls, and lush woods.
The hills are covered in hiking routes that provide breathtaking vistas of rock formations, including Old Man’s Cave and Ash Cave. For those who want to spend the night and explore even more of this breathtaking landscape, there are a ton of camping spaces readily available.
What is the coolest place in Ohio?
Hocking Hills State Park is widely regarded as the coolest place in Ohio. This park, which is located nearby Logan, attracts outdoor enthusiasts with its beautiful sandstone cliffs, abundant vegetation, and deep gorges.
In addition to several hiking paths, caverns, waterfalls, and rock formations to discover, the region also has camping grounds and cottages if you want to spend the night. Hocking Hills offers both tranquil retreats and exhilarating adventures, so there’s something for everyone.
What is the most visited city in Ohio?
Columbus is the city that gets the most tourists and has the highest population in Ohio. The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, COSI (Center of Science & Industry), German Village historic area, and the Ohio State University are just a few of the attractions in the state capital.
The city’s vibrant downtown, which is packed with businesses, eateries, nightclubs, and entertainment venues, is a key magnet for the many tourists it attracts each year. A great weekend or day trip location, it's also close to other significant cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Is Ohio safe for tourists?
Yes, tourists can feel secure when traveling to Ohio. Still, caution is always advised when moving around in big cities. Pay attention to your surroundings.
Follow the rules of the road when driving and be alert to any weather dangers, such as snow and ice, during the winter. An overall safe and pleasurable trip to Ohio can be ensured by using common sense and simple safety precautions.
So, Where Should You Visit in Ohio?
No matter what your travel style is, Ohio’s versatility makes it a great choice for a visit. From the bustling cities of Cleveland and Cincinnati to the rolling hills of Amish Country and amazing state and national parks, you’ll find plenty of great places to explore in this Midwestern state.
Whether you’re looking for outdoor activities or a cultural experience, Ohio offers some of the best places to visit in the country all wrapped up in an unassuming package that you’ll be oh-so glad you opened.