Places within four hours of Columbus, Ohio (Part one)

Being a Columbus-native, I like to find wonderful places to visit in Ohio that can be done in a day or over a long weekend.  Additionally, a lot of my readers come from Ohio, so I thought a list of some of the places that I’ve personally visited within 4 hours of Columbus, Ohio, would be helpful to them (and you, since you’re reading!)

There are a lot of museums in Ohio that have some great history to share, and on top of it do a lot of public programming.  If you’re a history-lover, you should check out the Ohio History Connection’s calendar of events to get ideas for not only what’s going on in Columbus, but in all the different historic homes, museums and outdoor sites managed by the Connection.  You may find a self-guided hike at Wahkeena Nature Preserve, the art of historical cooking at Fort Hill Earthworks or a White House chef visit at the Hayes Presidential Center.  Those would make great day-trips.

For an interactive map of these places, I’ve created a pinned Google map view-able here.  This is a master compilation.  Each site includes a link to the post I’ve written about the corresponding place.

Yellow Springs, Ohio

Distance: 1 hr.

This place was suggested to me by a good friend and there are many fun options.  There is a place called Young’s Jersey Dairy Farm, which has excellent ice cream and a restaurant.  

You can also visit the Glen Helen Nature Preserve, which has a nice visitors center where you can find out what there is as you walk through the pathways.  There is a grotto and some interesting wildlife. 

In and around Yellow Springs, is Clifton, Ohio with a covered bridge and the Historic Clifton Mill.  (There are less than 100 mills still in existence today.)

Mansfield, Ohio

Distance:  1 hour


If you’ve seen Shawshank Redemption (and if you haven’t, come on it’s a classic) you will really enjoy Mansfield.  Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you will really enjoy Mansfield.  The Ohio State Reformatory is fascinating and intriguing.  You’re allowed to wander around and freak yourself out with all the nooks, crannies and peeling wallpaper in every room. The audio guides enrich your time and point out things that you would probably never notice.  (For example, there’s an ‘x’ of light that’s made between four door ways that is always there because of the symmetry of the building.  Interesting, but I would have walked by and never noticed.)  Beware that there is no heat in the building, so we went in February and nearly froze to death.  However, we still loved it and can’t wait to visit again.

Lucas, Ohio

Distance:  1 hour

About 20 minutes from Mansfield, is another wonderful site worth visiting: Malabar Farm State Park.  This state park features lots of events, like Wildflower hikes and Maple Syrup Festivals.  The home was built by a man named Louis Bromfield in the 1940s and has all the original furnishings.  (Paintings from France, a grand piano, etc.)  The home is interesting to explore, and the history is fascinating.  There were many celebrities that visited the home, and in fact, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall actually got married here.  The home was donated to be part of a state park, and is very well-done.  

The state park (which is also near Mohican State Park) features hiking trails and look-outs. (See a map here.)   The tallest point in the area, Mt. Jeez, is a great overlook to see the entire farm.

We visited Malabar Farm State Park in the summer, and enjoyed some of the hiking trails we’d heard about in February.  We also visited the farm and saw some of the animals, and then ate at the Malabar Farm Restaurant, which uses local ingredients in their dishes.

Mt Jeez Overlook
The front of the main house
Petting the goats
Exploring the grounds through one of their many hiking trails

Cincinnati, Ohio

Distance: 1 hr. 45 min

There is a lot to do in Cincinnati, and I haven’t had the chance to explore all of it.  A few places I’d like to visit are the Spring Grove CemeteryCincinnati Art Museum and the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption.  Just across the river is Newport, Kentucky, where I’ve visited the wonderful aquarium and waterfront area.  The aquarium is a great place to visit at any time of the year, but the winter is fun to visit the turtles and alligators.  The sharks that swim overhead while you’re walking through is a wonderful feature.


Louisville, KY

Distance: 3 hrs.

If you like Bourbon, this is the place for you.  There are many bourbon distilleries around Louisville, and you can pick up a pass book and follow the trail.  You can also do tastings in the city (although you won’t see how it is manufactured.)  Some of the restaurants and bars offer tastings, and there is also a place called Evan Williams Bourbon Experience which is a fun option within the city.

The boardwalk is a nice place to walk around, and there are good views of the river.  There are a lot of places to eat and bars with all sorts of live music

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Coopers Rock State Forest, WV

Distance: 3.5 hrs.

I just visited this place on our way back from Maryland.  The views are beautiful, and I didn’t get a chance to explore the entire place.  The main lookout point was very crowded with people, although I think it was the time of year and time of day we went.  (Perfect October weather in the afternoon!)  I suspect if you aim to go here in the morning it will be less crowded, and when you get to some of the main trails it won’t be so bad.  There is a main overlook area, with pay-to-view finders, and then there are trails you can take that will bring you off the main overlook to an under look.  There is also a gift shop and a park.  If it’s nice out, I think you can really make a full day of it.

For more suggestions, check out part two of this series here.

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