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Our Favorite Vacation Destinations in Ohio

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.

the best vacation spots in ohio

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

Enjoying the early morning view as the sun rises at Deer Creek State Park 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.

Hocking Hills is a very scenic area

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!

The Lodge in Salt Fork State Park in Cambridge allows access to the great outdoors for those who want to immerse themselves and a lovely pool for those that don't.Cambridge

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.

Guernsey Kitchen is a great place to dine when in Cambridge, Ohio

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.

cute home with white picket fence

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.

Scenes from Dicken's England line the streets of Cambridge during the holiday season.

Also in and around Cambridge:

This photo taken at Hocking Hills State Park highlights the Sphinx Rock.

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.

Waterfall at Old Man's Cave

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:

Marietta was Ohio's first settlement

Marietta 

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.

Along the Ohio River in Marietta

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.

Marietta food

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:

sheldon marsh in sandusky

Sandusky 

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!

Carousel Museum in Sandusky

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.

Downtown Sandusky

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.

Kelleys island trail

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:

Trumbull County Courthouse in Warren

Warren

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.

Neil Armstrong roadside attraction in 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.

David Grohl drumsticks in Warren

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.

mural in clinton county

Wilmington

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.

Murphy Theater in Wilmington

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.

inside the courthouse

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

24 Hours in Athens Ohio

A Weekend in Columbus Exploring the Arts 

Things to do in Cleveland

Now is the Perfect Time to Plan your Romantic Getaway to The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake

Resources to Help You Plan Your Ohio Vacation

More Resources to Help You Plan Your Ohio Trip

Take a Step into Prehistoric Times at Leo Petroglyphs

30 of the Best Outdoor Places to Visit in Ohio

3 Popular Regions to Visit in Ohio

10 Places in Ohio to Visit before the Kids head back to School

Are you looking for things to do in Ohio? Join my Day Trips in Ohio Facebook page for more inspiration. 

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