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11 Incredible Ohio Winter Getaways You’ll Love When Winter Has You in the Dumps

As fall winds down and the temperatures start to plummet, many Midwesterners retreat inside and begin a long season of hibernation. But that doesn’t have to be the case! There are tons of fun winter activities in Ohio, both indoors and outdoors.

Ohio winter getaways

There’s a Norwegian saying “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” It’s true! With the right clothing and layering techniques, it’s possible to have a great time in Ohio year-round. Check out some of our favorite Ohio winter getaways.

1. Take a Train Ride through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Seeing Ohio’s only National Park covered in a fresh blanket of snow is a special treat! You can hike the trails in the winter or enjoy the scenery from the comfort of a heated passenger train through the park.

Special train rides are scheduled throughout the winter, including family game night, and a “Cookies, Cocoa, and Coloring” ride. They also have a “Polar Express” ride in November and December. For adults, there are murder mystery tours and beer or wine-themed tours as well.

If you’re up for a short hike, bundle up and visit Brandywine Falls. It’s stunning when it’s frozen!

2. Book a Cabin and Cozy Up in the Hocking Hills Region.

Not only is Hocking Hills one of my favorite romantic winter getaways in Ohio, it’s also one of our family’s favorite vacation destinations. There are so many fun things to do in Hocking Hills in the winter months. 

Snow-covered trail through a park.

For starters, the best Hocking Hills hiking trails will be way less crowded than in the summer months. Grab some hiking poles and micro-spikes for your shoes and hit the trail! You can’t go wrong when you seek out frozen waterfalls at Ash Cave, Old Man’s Cave, or Cedar Falls, all within Hocking Hills State Park.

After your hike, head over to the restaurant at The Inn at Cedar Falls for a cup of hot tea or hot chocolate to warm up. 

If you need something a bit stronger than hot chocolate to warm up, head to The Chalets at Hocking Hills and enjoy the recently installed sauna pods on their property. You can rent them by the hour or by the day so you can come and go and enjoy a steamy reprieve from frosty winter weather outside. My husband and I thought the sauna pods were glorious even in the fall and can’t wait to experience them during cold weather. 

In addition to great hiking, antique shopping and down-home Appalachian cooking, you can also hop on board the Hocking Valley Scenic Railroad, with a Santa Christmas Train Ride running each weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas and other fun rides throughout the year.  

Hocking Hills cabin in winter.

3. Surprise! Winter is a wonderful time to experience Sandusky, Ohio!

Set on Sandusky Bay and Lake Erie, Sandusky is a beautiful place to go in the winter and summer months. You may know it as the “amusement park capital” but even after the Cedar Point roller coasters shut down for the season, Sandusky is still one of the best Ohio winter getaways. 

This area holds a special place in my heart because I visited often with my dad who was an avid angler. The cold of winter didn’t stop him from visiting Lake Erie because once it freezes over it’s the perfect spot to try ice fishing. My dad used to venture out every year and we loved the bounty of fish he brought home! There are several outfitters and charters that will show you the ropes. 

Ohio historical marker with lighthouse and Lake Erie in background.

For those less adventurous, there are also two huge indoor waterpark resorts: Kalahari Resort and the Great Wolf Lodge Water Park. Did you know the Kalahari is also perfect for grown-ups? With an on-site spa and adults-only hot tub and swim-up bar, you’re in for a surprise if you thought the largest waterpark in Ohio was for kids only. 

If you want to add a bit of education to your winter getaway, check out one of the many museums in Sandusky. A few of our favorites include the Maritime Museum of Sandusky, the Merry-Go-Round Museum, the Folley Museum and the Cooke-Dorn House. 

Those looking for a romantic weekend getaway in Sandusky during the winter months may consider booking a stay at Hotel Kilbourne or The Stables. Both boutique hotels have beautifully appointed guest rooms and are a short walk or quick drive to some of Sandusky’s best restaurants.

Pair your stay with dinner in the downtown area at J. Bistro, Small City Taphouse or The Hearth. You won’t be disappointed! Personally, I think the Sandusky area has some of the best food in the state. 

4. Stay in a Cozy Ohio State Park Lodge.

A winter trip to Ohio’s State Parks doesn’t have to mean camping in the cold. Although, we do have some great tips for van camping in the winter!

But if the thought of winter camping in the RV or camper van isn’t your cup of tea, you’re in luck. Several Ohio State Parks have fantastic lodges that are perfect for family weekend getaways. You can enjoy the state parks year-round, with a warm bed to sleep in at the end of the night!

Snow-covered bridge.

There are eight Ohio State Park lodges plus, some parks have cabins that are open year-round as well. You’ll find the lodges at Maumee Bay State Park, Mohican, Salt Fork, Shawnee, Burr Oak, Punderson, Hueston Woods and Deer Creek State Parks. These cozy lodges offer fun activities like game rooms, a hot tub, and an indoor pool.

The best part is having some of Ohio’s best state parks right at your doorstep. Ask the lodge staff about renting snowshoes for a fun hike in the snow! 

5. Experience Ohio Amish Country.

Ohio’s Amish region southwest of Akron is another great winter weekend getaway. Holmes County is home to the largest Amish settlement in the United States. While the Amish keep to themselves and live a simple life, there is a thriving tourism industry in this Amish region.

For starters, Amish cuisine is based on comfort food, like soups, stews, and dumplings. There are several hotels, restaurants, antique shops, and bakeries to explore, as well as live performances at the Ohio Star Theater in Sugarcreek. 

Tip: If you plan to buy tickets for one of the theater performances, make a weekend of it and book a relaxing stay at the Carlisle Inn in Sugarcreek. If you can’t stay all weekend, plan for a Friday night stay as most things in Amish Country shut down on Sundays, including the onsite restaurant. Don’t miss the world’s largest cuckoo clock when you’re in town. 

You’ll find lots of little towns to explore in Amish Country, including Walnut Creek where you can learn more about the Amish at the German Culture Museum, shop at the Walnut Creek Antique Mall or sample sweets at Coblentz Chocolate Company. 

If you feel the need to be active and don’t mind the cold, strap on your boots, bundle up and head to the Inn at Honey Run to experience their Outdoor Art Museum. Keep in mind that the inn is for adults-only so well-behaved kids can be on the trail but not inside the hotel or restaurant. 

6. Enjoy Outdoor Fun in Mansfield, Ohio.

Mansfield is a fantastic location with easy access to most parts of the state, which makes it the perfect Ohio winter getaway destination. Among the many outdoor things to do in Mansfield, Snow Trails is a winter favorite for those who love, or at the very least, enjoy winter sports. This local favorite has snow tubing, skiing, and snowboarding on four terrain parks.

For a more relaxed pace, Mansfield is surrounded by public lands for hiking. One of my favorite spots is Malabar Farm State Park for cross-country skiing. Winter is also a great time to tour the Ohio State Reformatory or take a full self-guided auto tour of the Shawshank Trail, a collection of filming locations from the movie that was shot here in 1993. Remember that the reformatory isn’t heated, so you’ll want to dress accordingly. 

Winter road with Shawshank Trail sign.

7. Satisfy your Sweet Tooth on the Butler County Donut Trail.

Tasting your way through the Butler County Donut Trail near Cincinnati is a terrific way to bond with the family. Visit a baker’s dozen mom-and-pop donut shops, collect passport stamps at each location and you’ll earn a free souvenir t-shirt! And because you really can’t eat donuts during your entire stay, we’re sharing some unique places to eat in Butler County.

Other fun things to do in the area include antique shopping, checking out the murals and public art pieces, and exploring Jungle Jim’s International Market – but plan accordingly. I can’t visit that store without spending at minimum 1 1/2 to 2 hours inside. 

8. Treat Yourself to a Magical Getaway at Landoll’s Mohican Castle.

There are quite a few castles in Ohio, including a couple that you can stay in overnight. My favorite hands-down is Landoll’s Mohican Castle. This is the perfect place for a romantic winter getaway.

Landoll’s offers castle rooms, cottages, and a new property called The Stables. My husband and I have stayed in both the castle and The Stables and while we loved the Landoll Suite, we also enjoyed the two-person whirlpool tub in the Stables. 

The castle also offers an onsite restaurant that serves food all day, from a hearty breakfast to delicious evening meals and cocktails.

Tip: If you’re planning to enjoy a meal at the restaurant for lunch or dinner, give them a call to make reservations. If you’re planning a getaway in southeast Ohio, you may consider staying at Ravenwood Castle in New Plymouth which is near the Hocking Hills region. 

9. Stroll the Brick Paved Roads of the German Village.

Book a stay at the German Village Guest House in central Ohio and learn about the rich history of the German Village when stopping in at the Visitor Center for a brochure of their self-guided tour. The best way to do the tour is on foot but if it’s too cold, you can hop in your vehicle and drive to the various locations to learn about the historic buildings.

Make your way through the 32 labyrinth-like rooms of the Book Loft of the German Village while thumbing through the pages of a good book. Warm-up with a cup of coffee from Stauf’s Coffee Shop steps from the bookstore. Enjoy a rye croissant for breakfast at Pistacia Vera, lunch at Katzinger’s Delicatessen, and a traditional German meal at Schmidt’s. Just make sure you save room for one of their famous cream puffs. 

10. Go Wine Tasting at Geneva-on-the-Lake.

If you’ve never seen Lake Erie in the winter, you’ll want to take the time to see the frozen lake. I can’t think of a better place to visit than one of the private cottages at The Lodge at Geneva-on-Lake.

Fill up your thermos with hot chocolate and take a short walk from your front door to Geneva State Park next door. Plan to tour some of the local wineries to sip ice wine or travel the back roads to photograph the covered bridges covered in snow. Book a ride on one of the wine tours offered by The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake so you can truly relax while wine tasting and leave the driving up to someone else. 

Wine glass and wine barrels.

11. Explore the Glass City of Toledo Ohio.

Dress up and enjoy a romantic dinner watching the sunset through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows at The Heights located in the Renaissance Toledo Hotel located right downtown.

Tour the Toledo Museum of Art and Glass Pavilion, and view the brand-new Glass City River Wall mural that covers 28 grain silos – the largest project of its kind in the nation.  

Christmas Tree Farms & Holiday Lights

There are many fantastic Christmas tree farms in Ohio. Picking out a fresh Christmas tree is a fun family tradition, and it often comes with hot apple cider or cocoa, followed by a night of decorating the tree. By visiting one of Ohio’s Christmas tree farms, you’ll be supporting local farmers and your house will smell like fresh-cut pine, which will really help get you in the Christmas spirit!

As long as you’re getting geared up for Christmas, don’t miss these drive-through Christmas light displays in Ohio

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