Ohio really is a place that has it all. From innovative cities that are always working on the next big thing to rural Amish communities that offer a simpler way of life, there’s a lot to see and do here. Whatever kind of experience you’re looking for, you’ll almost certainly find it in the Buckeye State!
Spend your time exploring the sprawling urban cities of Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, where you can indulge in quirky dining spots with delicious eats, microbreweries creating amazing IPAs, and exceptional museums you’ll be telling everyone about.
Step outside the cosmopolitan cities, and Ohio takes on a totally different vibe. Here you’ll find dusty roads with horses and buggies, nostalgic moonshine makers, and peaceful national parks where you can while away the hours. Whatever you’re into, you’ll never be stuck for what to do in Ohio.
With such a huge choice of things to see and do, you may not know where to begin. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the absolute best things to do in Ohio. Add these fun activities and attractions to your Ohio bucket list, and you’re sure to have a fantastic time exploring the Buckeye State!
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25 Fun and Unique Things to Do In Ohio
1. Seek High-Speed Thrills At Cedar Point
Ohio boasts a number of water parks, and Cedar Point in the northern city of Sandusky is definitely one of the best. An amazing place for anyone who loves rollercoasters, this theme park is guaranteed to give you the high-speed thrills you’ve been looking for.
The long-established theme park may have opened in 1870, but tons of work has gone into it to make sure it stays up-to-date with the best attractions. Here you’ll find incredible rollercoasters that zoom through loops, plummet to the ground, and spin you through the air.
If you prefer something a little more laid-back, there are plenty of calmer rollercoasters and attractions, as well as a number of gentle rides for little ones.
One of the best things about Cedar Point is that it also features an amazing water park. Visit during the summer months, and you’ll be able to splash around in wave pools, relax on lazy rivers, and fly down near-vertical slides.
2. Spend A Culture-Filled Day At The Cincinnati Museum Center
If the weather takes a turn for the worse, one of the best things to do in Ohio is to spend some time at the Cincinnati Museum Center in Cincinnati. Set inside the Union Terminal, this huge complex features a number of fascinating museums and covers every topic imaginable. When combined together, the museum boasts an incredible 1.8 million artifacts!
There are so many museums that you’ll never find time to explore them all. The ones we definitely recommend checking out include the Duke Energy Children’s Museum, the Nancy & David Wold Holocaust & Humanity Center, the Cincinnati History Museum, the Cincinnati History Library and Archives, and the Museum of Natural History and Science. There’s also a fantastic OMNIMAX theater.
Although the museums are certainly the highlight of the attraction, there are plenty of other things to see, too. The 1930s Art Deco train station building is absolutely stunning, and there are several cute cafes throughout the complex where you can fuel up in between museum visits.
3. Learn About Your Favorite Musicians At The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has to be on your Ohio bucket list if you’re planning on spending some time in Cleveland. Perched on the waterfront, this popular attraction has become something of a pilgrimage site for music lovers and allows you to deep-dive into the history of your favorite artists.
Spread out over seven floors brimming with music memorabilia, the museum provides a captivating insight into rock and roll history decade after decade. Take a look around, and you’ll come across all kinds of genuine pieces that were actually owned and used by rock stars. From instruments and costumes to signed records and stage props, there’s absolutely loads to see.
Of course, you’ll hear incredible music throughout the museum and will be surrounded by iconic photos of famous stars. If you’d like to experience a little bit of fame for yourself, head to the second floor, where you can grab an instrument, crank up the volume, and form your very own garage band!
4. Admire Tropical Plants At The Franklin Park Conservatory
You’ll discover some of the best sights in Ohio at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus. A fantastic place to visit at any time of year, this nature-inspired attraction is made up of a huge collection of indoor and outdoor exhibits bursting with all kinds of plants and flowers.
One of the most interesting parts of the attraction is tucked away inside the conservatory. Here you’ll find a number of greenhouses home to over 400 different species of exotic plants collected from the Pacific Islands, deserts, rainforests, and the Himalayas.
If you stay until sunset, you’ve got to head over to the John F. Wolfe Plam House. During the day, it’s a great place to walk among towering trees and discover tropical plants. After sunset, the building treats you to a spectacular light show.
Check the website before you go because there’s always an intriguing temporary exhibit to check out. From stunning pieces of art made from glass to creative topiary pieces, the ever-changing exhibits are definitely worth checking out!
5. Treat Yourself To Buckeye Candy
When you’re in the mood for a sweet treat, try Ohio’s quintessential candy – buckeye candy. The candy got its name because it looks shockingly like Ohio’s state nut, the buckeye nut. The instantly-recognizable snack is brown on the outside, with a lighter brown or tan spot in the center that looks like the pupil of an eye.
While the buckeye nut isn’t edible and can sometimes even be toxic, buckeye candy is rich, delicious, and incredibly addictive. The simple treat is made by creating a soft ball out of peanut butter and powdered sugar before dipping it in melted chocolate. The chocolate should cover almost all of the peanut ball, except for a small circle that resembles a pupil.
Because it’s so popular and easy to make, you’ll find buckeye candy all over the US – not just in Ohio. If you want the best of the best buckeye candy, we recommend picking up some Marsha’s Homemade Buckeyes.
This candy manufacturer only makes buckeye candy and serves them in cute containers that make perfect gifts or mementos! They are sold everywhere – from Cracker Barrel to Krogers – but if you’re in Perrysburg, Ohio, you can order direct from Marsha’s!
6. Walk Through Alien-Like Tunnels Inside The Ohio Caverns
Exploring the Ohio Caverns is one of the most unique things to do in Ohio. The largest cave system in the state, the Ohio Caverns date back more than 125 years and are made up of over two miles of twisting, turning underground passageways for you to discover.
Sign up for one of the guided tours, and you’ll have the chance to meander through the winding tunnels that take you up to 103 feet below the Earth’s surface. Down here, you’ll find all kinds of fascinating natural geological formations, such as rocky stalagmites and stalactites, including the biggest stalactite in Ohio!
The temperature is consistently 54°F, meaning you can take a tour at any time of year. It also means you need to wrap up to stay comfortable!
There are a number of different tours for you to choose from, so you can totally customize your experience. We recommend the Natural Wonder Tour, which covers the section of the caverns that was discovered in the 1920s. This is where you’ll see the most impressive formations.
7. Celebrate All Things Pumpkin At The Circleville Pumpkin Show
One of the most fun things to do in Ohio in October is to check out the Circleville Pumpkin Show in Circleville. This four-day event is a total pumpkin extravaganza and features a jam-packed program with every pumpkin-themed event you could possibly think of!
From dramatic pumpkin displays, biggest pumpkin competitions, and dazzling pumpkin parades to pumpkin carving demonstrations, pumpkin fashion shows, and pumpkin pie eating contests, there’s an unbelievable amount of stuff going on over just four days.
As well as the incredible program, the pumpkin festival features around 300 food and drink vendors selling pumpkin-related goodies. Wander around the stalls and fill up on as much pumpkin beer, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cookies, and pumpkin brownies as you can.
If you’re in the mood for a giggle, the arts and crafts section is definitely worth checking out. Here you’ll find a huge number of pumpkins decorated by artists as young as six years old. You’ll see all kinds of creative designs, from spooky Halloween-themed pumpkins and remarkable masterpiece imitations to silly comedy pumpkins and quirky out-there pumpkins.
8. See Where Air Travel Began At The National Museum Of The US Air Force
The National Museum of the US Air Force has got to be on your list of must-do things in Ohio. Located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, the museum is completely free to enjoy and boasts more than 360 unique aerospace pieces on display.
An ideal activity if you’re on a tight budget, the National Museum of the US Air Force takes you on a journey through aviation history through a vast number of intriguing indoor and outdoor exhibits.
The earliest displays date back to the time of Wilbur and Orville Wright – two Ohio natives who invented the very first successful aircraft. Following on from their genius invention, the museum goes on to cover everything there is to know about powerful military aircraft, innovative space travel, and the latest stealth technology the US Air Force uses today.
Don’t miss the chance to visit the Presidential Gallery. Here you can admire the prestigious aircraft once used by Presidents Eisenhower, Truman, and Roosevelt.
9. Experience An Urban Safari At The Wilds
For one of the best Ohio sightseeing opportunities, spend the day at The Wilds in Cumberland. The closest you can get to an African safari without leaving the US, a safari trip around The Wilds is something you’ll remember forever!
Hop into a 4WD vehicle and drive through the rural plains, keeping a look out for all kinds of remarkable creatures. From cheetahs, giraffes, rhinos, and zebras to ostriches, antelopes, deer, and wild horses, there’s absolutely tons to see. One of the best parts of The Wilds is that it gives you the opportunity to see these incredible animals living free without the restriction of bars.
The Wilds isn’t all about animals – it’s also a fantastic place to test your limits. To see the animals from a totally new perspective, sign up for one of the zipline safari tours. You’ll have the chance to zoom on 10 ziplines placed high above the enclosures, providing you with a bird’s-eye view of the sanctuary’s residents.
10. Wake Up To Goetta
Goetta is something you’ve absolutely got to try while you’re in Ohio. The iconic breakfast dish is a regional specialty in Cincinnati. You’ll find it in all kinds of casual cafes and diners, served up in the morning with eggs.
The German-inspired breakfast dish is made by combining ground pork (or sometimes a mixture of ground beef and pork) with steel-cut oats to make a thick, round sausage. The whole thing is cut into slices and cooked on a griddle until it’s tender on the inside and crispy on the outside.
Goetta was first brought to Ohio by Charles Glier Sr. in 1828. He was just 16 years old and made the breakfast dish he’d been brought up with in Germany. Back then, this type of sausage was popular throughout Germany as the oats allowed people to make their food go further.
Today, goetta definitely isn’t seen as a poor person’s food. On the contrary, it’s a delicious local delicacy! Eckerlin Meats at Findlay Market in Cincinnati does a fantastic homemade goetta and uses top-quality cuts of meat with no excess fat or scraps. It’s got a wonderfully addictive texture and flavor and is a must-try if you’re in Cincinnati.
11. Check Out The Quirky ‘A Christmas Story’ House & Museum
Christmas doesn’t have to be restricted to December. At Cleveland’s A Christmas Story House & Museum, it’s Christmas every day of the year! One of the top things to do in Ohio, a visit to this enchanting place will get you into the festive spirit, whatever time of year it is.
The house was featured in the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story. If you’re familiar with the movie, don’t miss the chance to take a tour of Ralphie’s movie-set home and spot all the scenes you remember from the film. You’ll also get to see original movie props, costumes, and all other kinds of cool things used in the filming.
Before you leave, you’ve got to check out the gift shop. Not only is it full of fascinating Christmas decorations that will really brighten up your home, but it also boasts many prop replicas you can buy, including the iconic Leg Lamp!
12. Pick Up Fresh Local Ingredients At The West Side Market
If you like getting creative in the kitchen, the West Side Market will be one of the Ohio attractions you’ll fall in love with. Tucked away inside a historic Cleveland building that’s been around since 1912, this foodie market is brimming with the freshest local and seasonal ingredients.
Step inside the lofty, imposing building, and you’ll be in for a truly rustic and exciting shopping experience. There are more than 100 different stalls to check out, selling everything from fresh seafood caught that very morning to vegan and gluten-free cupcakes.
All the stalls are run by small business owners, and everyone is really enthusiastic about what they have to sell. If you have any questions, most people are more than happy to help. If you’re not sure what to do with a certain cut of meat, vegetable, herb, or spice, the stall owners are a valuable source of information!
If you get hungry while you’re shopping, there are a number of cafes and stalls that sell ready-to-eat foods like sandwiches and pierogis, too.
13. Get Lost In Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens
The sixth-largest historic home in the US that’s open to the public, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens is a mesmerizing place to visit. The enchanting complex covers 70 acres and features five beautiful buildings as well as glamorous gardens that are wonderfully maintained.
As you tour the manor house, you’ll find yourself surrounded by authentic period furniture, dramatic paintings, delicate sculptures, and impressive fireplaces. Each room in the house is filled with unique pieces collected from all over the world that reflect the opulence of the early 20th century.
The Corbin Conservatory is one of our favorite parts of the estate. Built in a curved design, the greenhouse was originally used for growing special produce and plants. But today, it’s a fantastic tourist attraction and is home to ever-changing exhibits and a growing collection of international plants.
Other parts of the complex worth visiting include the landscaped gardens, the Carriage House (previously staff quarters and stables), and the Gate Lodge (the birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous).
14. Enjoy Everything Winter Has To Offer At Winterfest
Winterfest is where you’ll find some of the best things to do in Ohio in winter. Held each February at Downtown Bowling Green, this seasonal festival is bursting with everything you could ever need to warm your soul on those icy-cold days.
The events program changes every year, so check the website to find out what’s happening when you’re there. But to give you an idea, most festivals feature ice sculpture competitions with incredible entries, romantic ice skating rinks with festive music, and traditional horse and carriage rides.
To make sure you stay as warm and cozy as you can, there’s also usually a selection of food and drink trucks selling all kinds of Christmas treats, from cookies and cupcakes to hot chocolate and mulled cider.
Fun activities like chocolate crawls, scavenger hunts, ice carving demonstrations, curling competitions, chili cook-offs, and music concerts are frequently organized, too.
15. Indulge In Cincinnati Chili
Cincinnati is known for its one-of-a-kind chili, making it a total must-try when you find yourself in the city. Unlike any other chili in the world, chili in Cincinnati isn’t made with beans, tomatoes, or the usual spices. Instead, it’s made with cinnamon and chocolate and is served over unseasoned spaghetti with a huge pile of shredded cheddar cheese on top.
It may sound (and look!) a bit strange, but all the flavors work incredibly well together – especially when you add a few dashes of hot sauce. Cincinnati chili is excellent comfort food and the perfect thing to warm up with in winter.
Because it’s so popular and dates all the way back to 1922, you’ll easily find Cincinnati chili practically everywhere you look in the city. For some of the best-ever chili, we recommend visiting The Chili Hut. It may just be a food truck, but this casual restaurant really does dish up the most delicious and addictive Cincinnati chili we’ve ever had!
16. Escape To Hocking Hills State Park
When you need a break from all the usual Ohio activities, head out to Hocking Hills State Park. A nature lover’s dream come true, this state park is brimming with all kinds of outdoor activities, stunning views, and fantastic places to stay.
Take a look around, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by well-marked hiking trails which show you the best parts of the park, intriguing caves just begging you to explore, well-equipped campgrounds, and cute cottages – some of which even have their own hot tubs!
There are loads of events held here throughout the year, so check the website to see what’s going on during your visit. From photography workshops and birdwatching to guided hikes and caving, there’s always something to join in with.
You’ll also find a number of local outfitters offering exciting adventures within the park, such as rock climbing, ziplining, and kayaking.
17. Hang Out At Fountain Square
Fountain Square is one of the coolest places in Ohio to visit at any time of year. Set in the middle of Cincinnati’s dynamic Fountain Square District, the local gem hosts all kinds of interesting activities and events you’ll definitely want to get involved with.
In the summer, the square comes to life with things like outdoor salsa classes, tropical cocktail offers at al fresco cafes, music concerts, art exhibits, trivia nights, and craft markets. In the winter, the square gets into the holiday spirit with Christmas markets, ice skating rinks, and theater shows.
Even if there’s nothing exciting going on when you’re there, the fountain is still worth a visit for the chance to see the iconic Tyler Davidson Fountain, which was dedicated in 1871. With a number of bars, cafes, restaurants, and theaters in the local area, you can hang out here for as little or as long as you like.
18. Get Some Retail Therapy At Jungle Jim’s International Market
If you feel like treating yourself to a little something, spend some time at Jungle Jim’s International Market. A gigantic shopping mall in Cincinnati that boasts more than 180,000 different products to choose from, you’re guaranteed to find whatever you’re looking for here.
From drool-worthy grocery items sourced from all around the world and a staggering collection of international beers and wines to collectible toys you won’t find anywhere else and top-quality cookware you’ll want to use as soon as you get home, you really are spoiled for choice here.
Jungle Jim’s International Market isn’t just a place to go shopping. Take a walk around and you’ll also find food demonstrations, cooking classes, foodie tours, food-themed festivals, beer tasting, trivia nights, wine routes, and tons more.
There’s always something fun going on, so check the calendar on the website before you plan your trip. For even more shopping, you can also hit up Jungle Jim’s second location in Fairfield!
19. Drive Through Scenic Amish Country
For some of the best things to see in Ohio, take a drive through Amish Country. Best done on a bright summer’s day when the sun is out and the sky is blue, taking a road trip through this part of the state will give you the chance to admire the picturesque rolling landscape and stunning panoramas that the region is known for.
The small communities that you pass through on your way are excellent places to stop and pick up all kinds of goodies, from locally-made cheeses and hand-churned ice cream to fresh seasonal produce and home-baked goods.
While you’re driving, keep an eye out for Amish buggies on the roads and farmers working in the fields. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time!
Amish Country is spread out over five different counties, but you’ll find the best ones to drive through along the Amis Country Byway in Holmes County. To make your trip extra special, take the time to stop off at the villages of Berlin, Charm, and Walnut Creek, where you can stop at local cheese factories and enjoy some free samples.
20. Sip NORKA Soda
Head into any grocery store and pick up a bottle of NORKA soda for an authentic Ohio experience. The NORKA Beverage Company was founded by Jacob Paquin & wife Mary, in 1924. They began their company from their basement in Akron, Ohio, and became an overnight success.
The first flavor they made was a delicious cherry-strawberry soda. As soft drink options were very limited in the local area at the time, it was a huge hit. Other flavors were later introduced, including orange, ginger ale, and root beer. Today there’s also a zero-calorie lemon and lime flavor.
Today, the soda is so popular that you’ll find it all across the US – not just in Ohio. You can even buy it online if you can’t find your favorite flavor locally. If you’ve never seen NORKA soda before, it’s easy to recognize. It comes in a retro glass bottle and has really bright and eye-catching colors!
21. Support Local Artists At The Columbus Art Festival
One of the coolest things to do in Ohio is to check out the Columbus Art Festival. Held each year in June at the downtown riverfront in the Scioto Mile, this festival combines a diverse selection of attractions and events, making it a great choice for everyone. Better still, it’s totally free!
Turning the Scioto Mile into a dazzling outdoor gallery, you’ll find the remarkable work of almost 200 individual artists on display here. From delicate paintings and intricate jewelry to gorgeous photos and dramatic glass pieces, there’s all kinds of artwork to discover here.
Although art is certainly the star of the show, there’s a great lineup of other events and activities, too. There are six stages where you can see choreography groups, orchestras, bands, musicians, poets, and theater groups perform. Check the website for the exact dates and times of what’s going on.
When you’re feeling hungry, you’ll be spoiled for choice with more than 24 food vendors dishing up a delicious selection of food and drink from around the world.
22. Ride The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Train
Taking a trip along the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is one of the best things to have on your Ohio bucket list. The historical route begins at the Rockside Station in Independence and winds its way down to the Northside Station in Akron.
Along the way, you’ll be treated to countless breathtaking panoramas and views of all kinds of wildlife living free. The train follows the rushing Cuyahoga River through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, past towering trees and stunning landscapes. Be on the lookout and you may spot some eagles and deer!
While a trip along the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is a wonderful thing to do at any time of year, our favorite time to do it is fall. During this season, the windows are filled with every shade of yellow, orange, red, and gold you can imagine, thanks to the crisp leaves falling from the trees.
23. See 10,000 Animals At The Columbus Zoo And Aquarium
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is easily one of the best zoos in the US. Home to more than 10,000 individual animals who live throughout seven different themed regions, the zoo is an incredible place to learn about wildlife from all over the world.
The popular family attraction also offers one-of-a-kind opportunities to make your experience even better. There are VIP tours that let you feed some of the zoo’s residents, up-close experiences that let you get to know a few of the animals, animal health center tours that allow you to see behind the scenes, and twilight tours so you can explore the park after everyone has gone.
If you ever wanted to wash an elephant, take a selfie with a sloth, or pet a reindeer, this is the place to do it!
If you’re planning to visit Ohio in the winter, then you’ve absolutely got to go to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium! At this time of year, the attraction hosts Wildlights, an amazing celebration during which the zoo is illuminated by more than three million lights.
24. Get Hands-On At The Center Of Science And Industry
The Center of Science and Industry may not sound like a fun place to spend a day, but after you’ve walked through the entrance, you’ll never want to leave! An incredible place to learn about all sorts of things, the museum is full of interactive exhibits that encourage you to discover new things while getting involved.
Also known as COSI, the museum features a working research lab, sophisticated planetarium, imitation space capsule, fascinating ocean-themed exhibit, extensive history display, and a hands-on zone where you can learn all about giant machinery.
If you don’t want to be surrounded by little ones during your visit, plan to do the COSI After Dark experience. Available exclusively for people aged 21 and up, the evening event series allows you to explore the museum without having to compete with kids. There are fun themed events that change every two months, too, such as ‘80s parties and murder mystery games.
25. Have A Fun-Filled Day At Kings Island
If you’re looking for a fun place to end your Ohio vacation, snap up tickets for Kings Island. A thrilling amusement park just a short drive from Cincinnati, Kings Island is best known for its daredevil roller coasters, kid-friendly Planet Snoopy, and fantastic water park that offers something for everyone.
From giant rollercoasters that plummet you to the ground to relaxing artificial beaches where you can enjoy a snooze, there’s something for everyone here. Even if you aren’t really a rollercoaster person, Kings Island is still a great place to visit. The park is home to all kinds of things to see, like light and water shows, as well as replicas of international landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower.
If you can, it’s definitely worth planning your visit for around a holiday. The park is decorated for big holidays like Christmas and Halloween, and all kinds of cool themed events are organized, too.
There you have it! The 25 best things to do in Ohio. What’s your favorite thing to do in the Buckeye State?
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