Visiting a new state is an adventurous feat and offers more excitement than you might expect. Whether you prefer to visit a new state to check it off your state map or you enjoy experiencing new scenery, each state has rewarding things to do and places to see.
Ohio, also known as The Buckeye State, is a state you want to ensure is on your United States bucket list.
With everything from art museums to zoos, you will find plenty of exciting adventures along the way. If you’re not sure where to start, dig into our list of the 8 best things to do in Ohio.
8 Best Things to Do in Ohio in 2023
Whether you enjoy walking through the natural forest along the nature trails of Hocking Hill State Park or experiencing a piece of musical history at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Ohio is full of things to do.
Deciding what to do can vary based on personal interests, operating hours, ease of access, and cost.
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Ohio and want a better feel of what you can expect, you’re in the right place! Here are 8 of the best things to do in Ohio.
1. National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
The oldest and largest military aviation museum in the world is right here on American soil in Dayton, Ohio. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and offers visitors an astonishing amount of history surrounding military aircraft.
The perfect destination for those with a knack for military or flight history, this museum offers free parking and admission as its sole purpose is to educate the general public on a piece of United States history.
Over 350 exhibits line the museum walls as aerospace vehicles, missiles, and thousands of other historical items, some rare and one-of-a-kind, take center stage.
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is closed on major holidays, but you can plan your visit for any day of the week as it’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. While free admission is offered, the Air Force Museum and flight simulators do cost extra.
2. Hocking Hills State Park
Ohio’s bordering states of Kentucky and West Virginia are known for their natural beauty, and Ohio is often overlooked as being a state with natural beauty that brings visitors from all over.
While it may not have the variety of parks and natural wonders that other states have, Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio, proves it does possess natural beauty worth visiting. The state park has a one-way trail system with seven different hikes.
While on these hikes, visitors can see multiple caves, towering waterfalls, the Rock House, and Conkle’s Hollow.
If hiking lengthy trails worries you and the thought of getting lost creeps into your mind, you’ll be glad to know that maps, directions, and trail information is readily available. Hocking Hills State Park doesn’t only offer hiking trails.
Visitors can rent cabins and cottages or reserve primitive or electric campsites. Special programs and events are also available throughout the year, including winter hiking programs. Hocking Hills State Park is the perfect Ohio destination if you’re looking to escape into nature.
3. Cleveland Museum of Art
Founded in 1913, the Cleveland Museum of Art is a place of learning to help people benefit from historic events and people of the past.
Today, the museum has an expansive collection of art, enhancing community connections and programs for children and adults, and even has an international reputation.
When visiting the Cleveland Museum of Art, you can expect to engulf yourself in ancient art from the Native North Americans to Andean Textiles.
You will also find exhibitions from India, Japan, and Korea, giving visitors a world tour of ancient civilizations within the museum walls. The Cleveland Museum of Art is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Mondays.
Don’t expect to pay admission when visiting, as the museum’s collection is free to the public. However, specific exhibits may require a ticket and can be purchased in advance.
4. Cedar Point Amusement Park
Adrenaline-seeking vacationers, it’s time to lace up your tennis shoes and buckle on your favorite fanny pack because Cedar Point Amusement Park is an Ohio staple you don’t want to miss.
With 364 acres of excitement around every corner, you’re sure to have a good time at Cedar Point Amusement Park. The park is on a peninsula of Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio, and is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the United States.
Creating lasting memories at Cedar Point is imminent as the thrill-seeking adventures ride the twisting and turning roller coasters.
Miles of sandy beaches provide a comforting backdrop to the park as you enjoy 70 exciting rides, a Snake River Expedition, and multiple dining options. Admission to the park starts at $45 for single-day or $84.99 for the Funday Bundle.
The Funday Bundle includes admission, parking, and all-day dining. Hours at the park change depending on the season and day of the week, so it is vital to research operating hours before planning your day around a visit.
5. Ohio State Reformatory
Visiting a reformatory while on vacation isn’t necessarily on many individuals’ to-do lists. While it may seem odd to want to see a reformatory, the Ohio State Reformatory is a popular tourist attraction.
Why is it so popular? Maybe it’s the chance to experience the paranormal or perhaps the opportunity to relive the filming of the Shawshank Redemption. Or it’s the opportunity to walk where some of the most dangerous criminals have walked.
Whatever your reasoning for visiting, the Ohio State Reformatory is a treat. Built in roughly 1910, this reformatory is a sight to see. Witness the stories that your tour guide tells firsthand as you walk the halls and listen to stores in detail.
Various tour options ensure you receive a tour of your preference, whether exploring the paranormal on a Ghost Tour or embarking on an Inmate Confessions Tour where a former inmate tells his story.
This Mansfield, Ohio, attraction is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with tours departing at select times. Self-guided tour admission starts at $23 per person, while guided tours start at $33 per person. Inmate tours are slightly more expensive, with a starting price of $38.
6. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Arguably the most popular attraction in Ohio, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland is what you need to get the Ohio experience. With everything from live music to inductees and their stories and multiple exhibits, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a must-visit Ohio Destination.
When visiting the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, you are welcomed by everything rock and roll throughout the ages.
Take a step back in time as you relive some of your favorite bands or learn the stories of others. The constant exhibit rotation means you will see something new every time you visit. Before making your trip, ensure you are aware of the operating hours.
Special hours are common, meaning they aren’t consistent throughout the year. If you’re visiting the hall of fame for a live concert, ensure to purchase tickets ahead of time and understand what all access your ticket grants.
7. West Side Market
As Cleveland Ohio’s oldest operating indoor/outdoor market, West Side Market is a popular destination. In December of 1973, it made its addition to the National Register of Historic Places, even though it still gets constant use today as it has throughout its 100 years in service.
West Side Market offers space to vendors looking to sell their products. With everything from crafts to baked goods, the market is a cultural experience as you get a taste of what passions vendors hold near their hearts.
Walk the rows of sellers showing off their products, and you may even find something that you can’t live without. West Side Marketing has operating hours on select days of the week.
Monday and Wednesday 7 a.m to 4 p.m, Friday and Saturday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you like to search for the best deal and find something special to take home with you, a trip to West Side Market is a must.
8. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Experience the exotic wildlife that roams the lands and learn what lies at the bottom of the ocean at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The zoo is home to over 10,000 animals from seven regions and offers multiple educational experiences.
Grab a park map and make your way to the African lion exhibit and learn about their lifestyle and how they operate as you listen to their eerie roar. Or travel to the Asian Elephant structure and take in the overwhelming size of the creature as you watch the young stumble as they play.
If aquatic life is more your forte, check out the stealthy eels or the large manatee as they swim underwater. Hours of operation vary depending on the month, so check opening and closing times before your visit.
Admission starts at $16.99 for locals and $24.99 for visitors, while additional exhibits and tours are available for an extra fee. If you or someone you know is passionate about land and sea animals, visit the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Read Next: The Best Zoos in the U.S. in 2023
Things to Consider
Visiting a new state is an exciting endeavor as you can mark one more territory off your bucket list. While embarking on an out-of-state vacation offers a multitude of excitement, several things must be considered to ensure you get everything out of your trip.
The operating hours of specific attractions can vary significantly. To get the most out of your visit, check the hours of the dates you are planning to visit.
You may discover that they close earlier than you expected on the day you were planning to visit, which may alter your schedule. It is also vital to keep in mind holiday schedules. If you visit an attraction or business on a holiday, they may have unusual hours.
For instance, some attractions may be open later to accommodate more guests, while a small business may close earlier to give their employees time at home for the holiday. Similarly, keep in mind weekday vs. weekend hours and how they may differ.
Time of Year
Whether you prefer to take summer vacations or winter vacations, knowing what areas are open and what offerings they have at the time of year you visit is vital.
For instance, if you go to an amusement park in the summer months, you’re most likely enjoying hours of thrilling roller coaster rides.
If you visit in the winter months, it will probably be too cold to ride the rides, and they may focus on creating a Christmas wonderland with sparkling lights instead. Knowing what to expect due to seasonal changes can be the deciding factor on whether or not the trip is considered successful.
Parking is another factor to keep in mind when planning your trip. Is there free parking or do you have to pay a fee? Is parking within walking distance of the attraction, or do you have to take a bus? Understanding the parking situation can relieve a lot of stress during your visit to Ohio.
The cost of an attraction is often a determining factor on whether or not someone decides to add it to their vacation to-do list. Knowing the admission of an attraction or experience will better prepare you for the trip.
It is also helpful to research the best deals on things to do. Finding a steal on the price of an attraction can also add to the overall experience.
Type of Attraction
Visiting an amusement park is night and day different from visiting a museum. While both attractions may require some walking and hands-on experience, the overall experience is vastly different.
Whether you decide to visit the Ohio State Reformatory or Hocking Hills State Park, understand that transportation methods, accessibility, and availability of refreshments are vastly different. Be sure to prepare specifically for the spot you are visiting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you know the best things to do in Ohio and what aspects of your vacation to consider, it is time to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Ohio:
What is the motto of Ohio?
The motto of Ohio comes from Biblical sculpture and is defined in the city of Ohio Revised Code and often appears beneath the Seal of Ohio. The motto is, “With God, all things are possible,” pulled directly from Matthew 19:26 in the Bible.
What is Ohio best known for?
While Ohio is full of exciting things to do and places to see, it is most well-known for Cedar Point Amusement Park, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hocking Hills State Park is what the state is known for on a natural level, and Neil Armstrong is one of the most famous people to call Ohio home.
What is Ohio’s nickname?
Ohio has several nicknames. The most popular is “Birthplace of Aviation,” “The Buckeye State,” “The Heart of It All,” and “The Mother of Presidents.”
What is Ohio’s state animal?
The white-tail deer is the state animal of Ohio. Natives to Ohio have hunted deer and used the meat for food and hide for clothing for ages. White-tail deer have been in Ohio since the last Ice Age and are plentiful throughout the state.
Why is Ohio known as the heart of it all?
“Ohio, the heart of it all,” is a slogan coined by the Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism. Created in 1984, this slogan has many meanings, the most popular being that the shape of Ohio resembles a heart.
The Best Things to Do in Ohio: Final Thoughts
From getting yourself into a paranormal situation at the Ohio State Reformatory to shopping the many vendors at West Side Market, the best things to do in Ohio are in abundance.
While most visitors like to spend time at Cedar Point and enjoy a thrilling roller coaster, others prefer to hike the relaxing nature trails of Hocking Hills State Park.
Still, others prefer to engulf themselves in the rich history by visiting the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or the National Museum of the United States Airforce. Ohio has everything you need for a fun-filled visit.