For the last several years, we’ve posted many things about Ohio travel. Being a Columbus native means always looking for places in Ohio that are fun, interesting, and of course, have a good view. So, we decided to do a roundup of our favorite Ohio experiences — an Ohio bucket list if you please.
You could spend a lifetime seeing everything that Ohio has to offer, but these are a few of the best things to see in Ohio before you die.
The second-oldest amusement park in the United States is located in Ohio. Cedar Point Amusement Park bills itself as the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World,” and with 17 world-class roller coasters, that’s not idle boasting.
Top Thrill Dragster, which debuted in 2003, was the fastest and tallest coaster in the world at that time. At 420 feet, it’s now the second tallest.
But the park offers more than just thrills. It’s a place that families can enjoy and that provides top-notch live entertainment. Cedar Point has a beach on Lake Erie to cool off or enjoy the Cedar Point Shore Waterpark. Overall, it’s one of our top picks for Ohio family vacations.
Located in Canton, a pilgrimage to the Pro Football Hall of Fame excites football fans. Why Canton, you may ask? The city has played an integral role in the formation of the National Football League.
Every year, new inductees are enshrined and hundreds of thousands of fans come to pay homage. The Hall of Fame includes a bronze bust of each inductee. The displays throughout the museum provide plenty of information and evoke emotion as well.
And, don’t miss the gift shop. It has everything a fan could want, no matter which team is your favorite.
One of the first things you notice when you visit the Toledo Museum of Art is the Alexander Calder sculpture, “Stegosaurus.” It’s part of the sculpture garden and is unmistakably one of his works.
The museum is one of the many things to do in Toledo Ohio and one of the best things to see in Ohio before you die. It’s more than 100 years old and has an extensive collection that’s considered one of the finest in the United States.
You can enjoy European masters, such as Rembrandt, Rubens, and Holbein, as well as impressionist works by Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Monet. In addition, the museum features an exceptional glass collection and changing exhibits.
No entrance fee is charged, and the museum is open every day but Monday.
Located in Ohio Amish Country, Sugarcreek is known as “Little Switzerland.” If visiting Europe isn’t in your plans, Sugarcreek is a good option.
The area was settled by the Amish as well as German and Swiss settlers. The Swiss brought their cheese-making abilities, and soon this area became known for its Swiss cheese.
Today, the residents have painted their storefronts to make them look more like Switzerland. Visit the small museum, have a delicious meal, and if you want, spend the night in one of the charming hotels. It’s a lovely place to enjoy a little taste of its European roots.
What could be more stunning than 18 Chihuly glass installations scattered throughout the biomes of a conservatory, connecting nature with art? Not much. But the botanical garden gives the glass a run for its money.
This botanical garden consists of 88 acres of seasonal beauty. No matter what you prefer when it comes to gardens, you’ll find it here. The John E Wolf Palm House is a stunning Victorian building featuring 43 species of palms.
Plan your visit to observe the glass blowing demonstration in the Conservatory Hot Shop. It’s held daily between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. from April to January.
Hocking Hills State Park has seven main hiking areas with 25 miles of trails within the park: Ash Cave, Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, Whispering Cave, Conkles Hollow, Cantwell’s Cliffs, and Rock House. Camping is allowed all year round.
One of our favorite things to do in the Hocking Hills region is to hike the rim around Conkles Hollow. It’s an amazing view the entire hike, and we recommend that you do it at least once. Check out more day hikes from Columbus too.
There are many caves and rock formations in Hocking Hills, but some of the caves are the best. Ash Cave, Whispering Cave, Rock House, and Cantwell Cliffs are our favorites. Ash Cave is an easy one to get to and has a short hike up.
Hocking Hills is known for its Ohio waterfalls. Some of the best are Cedar Falls, Upper Falls, Lower Falls, Ash Cave Falls, Whispering Falls, Conkles Hollows Falls, and Broken Rock Falls. If fishing is your passion, it’s allowed in Rose Lake.
One of the coolest things we’ve done in Ohio was to take a tour with Hocking Hills Scenic Air Tours. It’s a tiny plane that flies over the beautiful Hocking Hills area. We did the air tour in the fall one year when the leaves were starting to change. We highly recommend this for peak color season.
During the winter, snowshoeing is a popular pastime in the park, and the destinations of choice are often frozen waterfalls.
The building that houses the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is almost as interesting as the amazing amount of memorabilia that it contains. The majority of the exhibits are in the basement. If the museum is busy, start on the second level, and work your way down.
Allow at least two hours for your visit. If you’re a real music lover, it could take longer. This isn’t the easiest museum to visit. It can be hard to locate what interests you, but it’s worth the effort. The gift shop is outstanding, so allow yourself enough time to visit there as well.
New Plymouth, OH
If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting a castle or, even better, staying in a castle, you can do it right here in Ohio. Built following the design of the English border castles, this replica was constructed in the 1990s.
You can opt to stay in one of the castle rooms, the Huntsman Hollow Cabins, or Medieval Village Cottages. Events take place at the castle throughout the year, including murder mystery weekends. Dining is available on site, offering a unique experience and an opportunity to unplug from the outside world.
Some people may find a cemetery an odd thing to see in Ohio before you die. But, this isn’t just any cemetery. It’s a lovely European-style garden! Having said that, it’s the final resting place of some important people.
One of America’s greatest industrialists, John D. Rockefeller, is buried here under a 70-foot granite obelisk. The 20th President of the United States, James Garfield, has a very handsome Ohio Sandstone Monument where he’s entombed.
Additionally, the Wade Memorial Chapel features an interior by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Elliott Ness of Untouchables fame had his ashes scattered in the little pond with his gravestone nearby. The cemetery website includes tour information and a map.
While this won’t be a destination everyone will want to visit, if you enjoy finding special collectibles or antiques, you’ll be impressed by this store. It bills itself as “America’s Biggest and Best Antique Destination,” and from personal experience, that’s not far off the truth. It’s immense!
Consider the magnitude of more than 1,400 booths and showcases spread over 122,000 square feet. Now you have some idea of what you’ll see. It will take several hours to look at all the goodies here. It only closes three days a year, and you can grab a bite to eat at the cafe.
The Packard was an American luxury car that was produced between 1899 and 1958. In the days when a Model A Ford sold for a base price of $850, the Packard started at $2,600. It was considered the American version of Rolls-Royce.
This museum is located in a restored Packard dealership. Even if you’ve never heard of Packard, you’ll enjoy seeing the quality of these spectacular vehicles.
The largest collection of Packard automobiles anywhere in the world is at America’s Packard Museum. Car lovers will find it fascinating, and everyone will love the luxury.
Zoar Village was founded in 1817 by a group of Germans who fled religious persecution. When they struggled to make a success of their lives in Ohio, they began communal living to pool their resources, and it worked. Approximately 75 families still live here.
Other buildings have either become part of the museum or are a bed and breakfast where you can stay in the German village. A variety of tours are offered in different themes. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday and is closed during the winter months.
Walking Zoar Village is a historic experience for the entire family and one of the best things to see in Ohio before you die. In October, you can enjoy ghost tours.
One of the most unique and well-preserved villages in Ohio is Zoar Village. It was built by a group of German separatists looking for religious freedom. It’s an amazing little place to tour, and there are places to eat and enjoy the little, old town.
You really feel like you’re stepping back in time when you visit here. Check out a full review of the Zoar historic village before you go.
These passenger excursion trains operate year-round and pass through Cuyahoga National Park. As a matter of fact, this is the only nonprofit heritage railroad operating within a national park.
Whether you want to take the Friday Night Dinner Train or a family excursion — like Superheros on the Train or Royalty on the Rail — you won’t be disappointed. You don’t have to take a themed ride, you can just take a 1.5-hour tour of Cuyahoga National Park and enjoy the scenery.
The website offers lots of excursions to choose from. If a train ride sounds like fun, this is the perfect way to do it.
Holmes County, OH
The Amish are alive and well in Holmes County Ohio. It’s important that, when driving in this area, you be prepared not to interfere with the horse-drawn buggies as you come upon them. And you will see them.
Holmes County is located in Eastern Ohio between Cleveland and Columbus. For the most part, the Amish still farm and live in this area as they did when they arrived in 1809.
At Yoders Amish Home you can tour two homes and enjoy a buggy ride. Also, you can share a meal with a local family if you want some authenticity or enjoy an Amish restaurant. It’s one of the best experiences and things to see in Ohio before you die.
Ohio has several world-class zoos, but only one of them has Jack Hanna. That’s the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, making it one of the best things to do in Dublin Ohio.
Jack Hanna was the driving force behind the zoo that you see today. He was and is committed to making zoos a better place for animals and visitors alike.
Special tours are offered, including the opportunity to feed a giraffe in a barn or enjoy an up-close experience with a reindeer. The zoo and aquarium are home to more than 10,000 animals in seven regions. Every day at the zoo is a new experience.
Enjoy animals in their natural habitat. The Wilds is located on 10,000 acres in Southeast Ohio and is one of the best things to do in Marietta Ohio. With a combination of education and conservation, you can enjoy some unique experiences here.
For instance, take a safari through the park and meet the residents. Other more personal experiences are available for an additional fee. During the safari tour, you’ll see rhinos, giraffes, and many other animals.
The Wilds is home to more than 500 animals from 28 species. From June to September, sunset tours are available that also include dinner with the two-hour tour. For more excitement, consider the zipline safari tour.
The National Museum of the US Air Force is located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and it’s one of the many things to do in Dayton Ohio. Admission is free, and there are more than 350 aerospace vehicles and missiles in the collection.
Free tours are offered daily, so check the website for times and tours before you go.
If you’ve ever dreamed of being on Air Force One, this is your chance. The most historic Air Force One of all is here. It carried President John F. Kennedy to Dallas and witnessed the swearing-in of Lyndon B. Johnson as the 36th President after the assassination.
Roscoe Village is the place where you can connect with Ohio’s canal past. It’s a 19th-century living history museum where costumed interpreters tell the story of the things they do. You can watch a blacksmith at work, take a ride on a canal boat pulled by horses, and visit the craft center to try a historic craft.
This village gives you the chance to learn while having a good family day out. Guided tours are offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Don’t miss the Roscoe Village Shops for dining and a unique shopping experience too. It’s one of the most interactive, educational things to see in Ohio before you die.
West Liberty, OH
The most popular of Ohio’s caves, the Ohio Caverns, can be visited on a guided tour. The tour takes guests to two different sections of the caverns.
The Natural Wonders Tour takes you 1 mile into the cavern to view the largest stalactite in Ohio. The Historic tour takes you to the earliest-discovered part of the cavern and lasts about 50 minutes. During the winter, the only available tour is a combination of the two tours.
If you have limited mobility, The Limestone Tour is designed for you. In the summer, a combination of both the Historic and Natural Wonders Tours is available at a discounted price.
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall got married at Malabar Farm. That tells you something — It’s a very special place and one of the most star-studded things to see in Ohio before you die!
Constructed in 1939 by Louis Bromfield, the farmhouse was a popular destination for many Hollywood stars. Bromfield was a prolific writer, and 11 motion pictures were made from his works. The house and farm are open for tours.
Kids will enjoy the farm animals, especially in the spring when the babies arrive. Hiking is a popular activity as well. The visitors center is a great place to begin your visit with displays and to end your visit with gifts, including Malabar Fudge.
We’ve been to Malabar Farm State Park at least five times. It’s one of our favorite places with history, farm-fresh food, and a good view — all things that make it a great trip.
On the property is a little place called Mt. Jeez. You can walk or drive it (in the warmer months), and it has a beautiful view of the farm. You can experience other day trips within four hours of Columbus as well.
Carew Tower & New Riff Distilling
Cincinnati, OH & Newport, KY
Carew Tower may have one of the highest views that you must see in Ohio before you die. We’ve only been here once, but it’s incredible. You get a great view of the Ohio River and the Kentucky border.
After you see the view, go to New Riff Distilling right across the border in Kentucky. If you’ve never toured a distillery before, you have to do it at least once. Might as well do it when you go to Cincinnati.
Circleville Pumpkin Show & Apple Picking
Circleville, OH & Pataskala, OH
These are two classic Ohio things to do. You have to see the giant pumpkin display at the Circleville Pumpkin Show and go apple picking. If you haven’t been apple picking as an Ohio native, are you even an Ohio native? One of our favorite apple-picking places is Lynds Fruit Farm, of course.
Scioto Mile & Food
The view from Scioto Mile in downtown Columbus is absolutely stunning. It’s a little oasis in the middle of the city and one of the most beautiful things to see in Ohio before you die.
There are many restaurants to choose from too, but the one with the best view is The Boat House. We love the view so much that the food isn’t even a priority. If you’re more interested in excellent food, though, we suggest you eat at Milestone 229 right on the Scioto Mile.
Young’s Dairy & Clifton Mill
Yellow Springs, OH & Clifton, OH
Ice cream and pancakes are two favorite food groups in Ohio. So, they’re obviously on the things to do before you die list. You can’t beat amazing farm-fresh ice cream from Young’s Dairy, especially when you can walk around and see the animals while you enjoy it.
Clifton Mill is an iconic destination, representing Ohio at its finest. It features a covered bridge that you have to walk through. And, if you’re interested, there are dozens more covered bridges in Ohio to see.
Glenlaurel | A Scottish Inn & Cottages
One of the finest inns in Ohio, Glenlaurel is included on many lists of the best places to stay in Ohio. It’s an amazing, luxurious, and special experience. You’ll forget you’re even in Ohio!
You can’t beat walking into a cabin with the music playing, the hot tub bubbling, and two white robes to put on to set the stage for a relaxing trip. You can read a full review of Glenlaurel before you book.
Explore More of What Ohio Has to Offer
As time goes on and we tour more of Ohio, we’ll have to update this list. For now, these are our top recommendations of things to see in Ohio before you die.
But we want to know — What’s on your list? Tell us in the comments!