With much travel banned this year, many of you will be looking for vacation destinations in Ohio. We’re sharing a list of our favorite lesser-known spots. There are so many options that you could easily plan some quick weekend getaways in Ohio if you’re short on time or fill up an entire week or more. Trust me, there is plenty to see and do.
We’re sharing a few Ohio vacation destination ideas to help you plan memorable trips to take as a family, as a couple or for singles. These are all destinations that we have visited and can wholeheartedly recommend.
Our Favorite Vacation Destinations in Ohio
Ohio State Parks
If you’re looking for ideas for cheap weekend getaways in Ohio, we have the perfect solution! Ohio has 74 state parks and is one of the few states that does not charge an entrance fee. You can’t get more budget-friendly than that! Most offer camping, which is a fun way to connect with nature, with each other, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
If you like the idea of spending time in nature but sleeping in a tent isn’t your jam, you’ll find many state parks have lodges and cabins you can stay in, which is a fun alternative to tents or the nearby hotels you may find. Connect with nature during the day and fall asleep in a comfy bed at night. After a good night’s sleep, you’ll be the first to hit the trails in the morning!
You’ll also find that Ohio State Parks and Lodges are full of surprises. Did you know:
- President Harding had a cabin at what is now Deer Creek State Park where he would go to get away from it all? Today you can book that cabin and sleep there with your family!
- President Obama stayed and played golf at Maumee Bay State Park?
- or that you can search for Bigfoot at Salt Fork State Park?
Let’s just say that you’re not going to be bored when you stay at an Ohio State Park.
Tip: Ohioans 60 years or older can get a Golden Buckeye card for discounts on camping and lodging in the state parks!
Just 80 miles from Columbus (don’t miss things to do in Columbus Ohio), the small town of Cambridge, Ohio has an abundance of recreational activities and a calendar full of special events. Cambridge has a growing foodie scene with breweries, food trucks, vineyards and a variety of restaurants.
Ten miles outside of town is Salt Fork State Park with beaches, boating, camping, golf, horseback riding and hiking trails. If you want to stay overnight, Salt Fork State Park Lodge has guest rooms and two-bedroom cabins for rent.
Cambridge is also the birthplace of John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth. You can visit the John & Annie Glenn Museum in nearby New Concord, just 15 minutes from Cambridge.
As the Christmas holidays approach, visitors flock to Cambridge to see the Dickens’ Victorian Village, when downtown Cambridge transforms into an 1850’s village. Starting in November, over 92 Victorian scenes are staged along Wheeling Avenue.
Also in and around Cambridge:
- The Wilds
- The Big Muskie in Miner’s Memorial Park
- You’ll Find Everything you ever wanted to know about Glass Manufacturing in Cambridge, Ohio
- 17 Unique and Quirky Things to do in Southeastern Ohio
- Unique Lodging Options in Southeastern Ohio
Hocking Hills State Park
Hocking Hills State Park may be one of Ohio’s best-kept secrets! Just 45 minutes from Athens, Hocking Hills is THE place to go chasing waterfalls! Photographers can bring a tripod and photograph the great outdoors here for days, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing.
Hocking Hills has dozens of hiking trails, from short accessible trails to longer interconnected trails throughout the park. The hemlock forests and babbling brooks can make a hot summer day feel cooler, and kids and pets will love splashing around in the water.
The park has around 200 campsites and 40 housekeeping cottages. The cottages sleep up to six people, have a full kitchen, bath and offer free access to the swimming pool at the dining lodge. I can’t think of a better way to end a day of hiking than to take a swim and have a BBQ at your own cottage!
The small towns surrounding Hocking Hills State Park have plenty of lodging options as well. The John Glenn Astronomy Park takes advantage of the dark skies surrounding Hocking Hills, and allows visitors to experience the night sky through a large telescope.
If camping and the outdoors aren’t your thing, you’ll enjoy the tiny Appalachian towns that dot the landscape where you can browse antique stores, purchase goods from local artisans and grab some down home food during the annual Comfort Food Cruise.
Also in and around Hocking Hills State Park:
- Plan your Stay at the Hocking Hills Caboose
- Three Fun & Quirky Roadside Attractions in Hocking Hills
- Ohio’s Covered Bridges in Vinton County near Hocking Hills
- Three Things to do in Hocking Hills during the Winter (with a list of things that are great year round)
- Take a Ride on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway
- The Moonville Tunnel is a Remote and Scary Tunnel Located in Southeastern Ohio
The steamboat town of Marietta in southeast Ohio has something for everyone, especially history buffs! The town is chock full of history dating back to 1788 when it was established, making it the oldest permanent settlement in the Northwest Territories.
The location at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers brought steam wheel-era prosperity to Marietta, which you can still see today as you stroll around the historic district. The Lafayette Hotel is the perfect location for your Marietta weekend and is very affordable. If you’re there for a romantic getaway, make sure you reserve one of the suites that overlook the river.
Marietta boasts a burgeoning foodie scene, with eclectic restaurants and a calendar full of summer festivals, culminating with the Ohio Sternwheel festival in September.
Outdoor enthusiasts will also love Marietta for the abundance of hiking, biking and paddling opportunities in Marietta and in nearby Wayne National Forest. Even paranormal fans will enjoy a weekend in Marietta, with ghost tours offered and rumors of haunted hangouts throughout the town, including the Lafayette Hotel!
Also in and around Marietta:
- Made in Marietta: Bite-size History at Sewah Studios
- Marietta, Ohio: a River Town Steeped in History
- 50 Quirky Things to See in Ohio
- Road Trip to Parkersburg: 10 Things to See in this West Virginia Town
Sandusky is probably best known for Cedar Point, the roller coaster capital of the world! While it can be a load of fun it also comes with a parking fee, pricy admission, and expensive food options, you might want to look elsewhere in Sandusky for a fiscally friendly weekend. Don’t worry, there are plenty of options!
For starters, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites offers affordable lodging options, including spacious rooms with kitchenettes so you can save money on eating out. Not unlike many other Ohio towns, Sandusky has a rich history which is best experienced on a walking tour and there are several to choose from. The Underground Railroad Historic Walking Tour highlights Sandusky’s role in this critical time in American history. Sandusky has several museums, including the Merry-Go-Round Museum and the Maritime Museum.
Sandusky also offers many opportunities to get outside, with walking trails throughout the city. Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve, just ten minutes from downtown, is a nature preserve along the coastal wetlands of Lake Erie, with nearly 300 species of birds visiting throughout the year.
You might even take a ferry out to one of the islands of Lake Erie for a stroll through nature preserves like the Jane Coates wildflower trail or Kelleys Island State Park.
Also located in Sandusky and the surrounding area:
- Things to do in Sandusky
- The Milan Museum Complex
- Handless Jacques Roadside Attraction
- Visiting Marblehead Lighthouse State Park
The town of Warren, in Eastern Ohio, is just 45 minutes from Cleveland and makes for a quiet weekend getaway. Visitors can stay at the award-winning Best Western Downtown, a historic hotel with modern amenities in the heart of downtown Warren.
Warren is known for the Packard automobiles, and the National Packard Museum draws car buffs from all over to learn about Packard’s on transportation and industrial history. Warren is also where future astronaut Neil Armstrong took his first flight at the age of six. Today, the location is marked with a replica of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module at the “First Flight” site, where you can visit for free, or arrange a guided tour.
In a nod to Dave Grohl, founder of the Foo Fighters and former Nirvana drummer who was born in Warren, you can see the world’s largest set of drumsticks, in David Grohl Alley. Just outside of town is Greene Eagle Winery, which serves appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pizzas and desserts to compliment the hand-crafted wines.
Wilmington sits about halfway between Cincinnati and Columbus and makes a great destination for a romantic getaway. The General Denver Hotel has the best location for a home base to explore Wilmington for a weekend. This 1928 hotel is just a one-minute walk from the historic Murphy theater. If you can’t catch a show at the theater, you might be able to join a tour of the building.
Be sure to plan at least one meal at the General Denver pub, touted as the best brunch in town. Murals are becoming a popular attraction in Wilmington as well, with at least eight murals scattered throughout the downtown district.
In addition to the theater, murals, and fantastic food, if your visit extends into the week, make sure to stop into the beautiful courthouse for a guided tour.
Wilmington is also an easy drive into Cincinnati where all kinds of fun awaits!
Also located in Wilmington and the surrounding area:
History lovers can join the Ohio History Connection membership program and get free entry to over 50 historic sites and museums throughout the state. That’s what we call a great deal!
Other Popular Vacation Destinations in Ohio
Resources to Help You Plan Your Ohio Vacation
More Resources to Help You Plan Your Ohio Trip
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© 2020, Tonya Prater. All rights reserved.