Ohio winters bring cold and gray months, but you don’t have to stay at home wishing that you had something to do. Instead, you can embrace the season with outdoor winter activities and sports. But that’s not to say that the Buckeye State doesn’t have indoor attractions. Actually, there are plenty of those too.
We’ve created a comprehensive list of the best winter things to do in Ohio so that you can stay active and enjoy new experiences throughout the season.
1. Have Fun Skiing, Snowboarding & Snow Tubing in Ohio
Ohio has a healthy winter sports industry with resorts and parks that offer skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, tobogganing, sledding, and more.
In Chesterland, Alpine Valley is located in the snow belt, so it gets the most natural snow of all the resorts. Skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels can enjoy the 11 runs. Most of the trails are wooded and ungroomed.
If skiing and snowboarding don’t interest you, hit the snow tubing area or participate in other family-friendly activities.
Boston Mills and Brandywine Ski Areas
The Boston Mills and Brandywine Ski Areas in Peninsula are larger sister resorts with chairlifts that can accommodate up to 20,000 people per hour.
Both areas offer skiing and snowboarding on 18 trails, and they have 3 terrain parks — all of which are suitable for beginner to advanced skill levels. The Tiger run at Boston Mills is perfect for adventure seekers because it’s the steepest slope in Ohio.
The Chalet at the Mill Stream Run Recreation Area
If you just want to go tobogganing, check out The Chalet at The Mill Stream Run Recreation Area in Cleveland.
Weather permitting, you can ride the twin, 700-foot chutes throughout winter with or without snow because they’re refrigerated. They’re the only public tobogganing chutes in the state.
2. Get Your Gear Together for Ice Fishing in Ohio
Ice fishing is one of the most fun things to do in winter in Ohio with a group of people.
Indian Lake State Park
One of the best places to go is Indian Lake State Park in Lakeview, where Indian Lake is the first to freeze in the state because it’s shallow.
The shallow water is why it’s productive for catches, so fishing clubs love it. However, the lake has a 5,800-acre surface, so you don’t have to worry about not finding a good spot for your group.
You can expect to catch crappie, saugeye, and some of the biggest sunfish in the state.
If you’re looking for a more intense ice fishing experience, Lake Erie won’t disappoint. Some of the best fishing spots are 6-10 miles from shore, so you might consider hiring a guide who knows the lake and icy conditions and can help you find active fish.
As far as catches go, crappie, walleye, and yellow perch are plentiful. Just keep in mind that there’s a daily catch limit.
3. Lace Up for Ice Skating in Ohio
When winter approaches, one of the first things that some people think about doing is ice skating. Fortunately, there are several outdoor skating rinks throughout Ohio.
In downtown Cincinnati, Fountain Square has been a focal point and gathering place for about 150 years. It turns into a winter wonderland with festivities, lights, and ice skating during winter. You can rent skates, grab a snack at the concession stand, and warm up in tents.
In Dayton, an outdoor ice rink is located in RiverScape MetroPark. The rink is located under a pavilion and is open until the beginning of March. It offers ice skating lessons, skate and rink rentals, a concession stand with snacks, and many other activities.
Ohio State Ice Rink
If you prefer to ice skate indoors, the Ohio State Ice Rink in Columbus hosts open skates for all ages. It offers skating and hockey lessons too, and you can rent equipment and supplies from the pro shop.
Center Ice Sports Complex
Another option is the Center Ice Sports Complex in Canton, which has a schedule for open skates every week and numerous skating programs. You can rent the rink for birthday parties with supplies, pizza, and more included.
4. Enjoy Ohio Snowshoeing & Winter Hikes
With so much natural landscape, snowshoeing and hiking are some of the best things to do in winter in Ohio.
Hocking Hills State Park
Hocking Hills State Park in Logan has 7 main hiking trails, and all of them are one-way loop trails.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Peninsula has more than 125 miles of hiking trails that range from easy to challenging. The paths pass through a variety of habitats — old fields, wetlands, and woodlands — and cross streams via log bridges or stepping stones.
Mohican State Park
In Loudonville, Mohican State Park spans thousands of wooded acres and has a wild landscape. The miles of hiking trails range from easy to difficult and from 0.2 miles to 2.5 miles. You can hike the mountain biking and bridle trails as well, but be mindful of riders.
Wayne National Forest
Another fantastic place for a winter hike is Wayne National Forest in Stewart (a few miles west of Marietta). It has about 300 miles of backpacking and hiking trails for all skill levels. Some trails also accommodate mountain biking, horseback riding, and off-highway vehicles, so be mindful of that traffic.
5. Hand-Feed Chickadees & Other Ohio Winter Birds
For a one-of-kind Ohio winter experience, try your hand at feeding chickadees.
Beech Creek Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve
The Beech Creek Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve in Alliance has a Bird in Hand program that allows you to feed wild chickadees and other birds too. The volunteers have trained the wild birds to eat out of human hands, and they’re on-site to give you a special food blend and explain what to do.
Along with black-capped chickadees, you have the opportunity to hand-feed red-breasted nuthatches and tufted titmice.
Brecksville Nature Center
Established in 1939, the Brecksville Nature Center in Brecksville is the last remaining Cleveland Metroparks trailside museum. It offers chances to interact with the beauty, treasures, and wilderness in unique ways.
Hand Feed a Chickadee is one of its most popular winter programs, and it has been active since the 1940s. The volunteers will give you a handful of sunflower seeds and explain what to do. The chickadees are located in a small fenced-in area next to the nature center.
6. Visit a Frozen Waterfall in Ohio
If you don’t mind the cold weather, visiting a frozen waterfall is one of the most breathtaking things to do in winter in Ohio. It’s the only time that you can see the waterfalls frozen over, and you don’t have to worry about the trails being crowded.
Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve
Although small, the Clifton Gorge Waterfall is worth visiting. It’s located within the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve in Yellow Springs, which is connected to John Bryan State Park. Since the waterfall is small, it’s likely to freeze earlier in the winter than other waterfalls around the state. You only have to hike a short distance to reach the falls.
Another option is the East and West Falls at Cascade Park in Elyria. The park has more than 3.75 miles of trails with views of a hemlock forest, the Black River, and the two large waterfalls. The crests of the falls were formed by berea sandstone. Because of their size, the waterfalls require consistently cold temperatures to freeze over.
7. Plan a Scenic Drive to an Ohio Covered Bridge
The state of Ohio has more than 100 covered bridges. Some are tucked within the woodlands, while others rest in the middle of vast countryside. In any case, these bridges offer beautiful winter views and a good reason to take a scenic winter road trip in Ohio.
West Liberty Street Covered Bridge
The shortest of the Ohio covered bridges is the West Liberty Street Covered Bridge in Geneva. At just 18 feet long, it’s also the shortest covered bridge in the country. The bridge replaced a concrete culvert that required repair because it was a cheaper fix.
The foundation was laid in 2010, and it was opened to traffic nearly a year later. Footpaths on both sides allow you to walk and stand on the bridge without worrying about traffic.
Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge
The longest covered bridge in Ohio is the Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge in Ashtabula. At 613 feet long, it’s the longest covered bridge in the nation. It stands 93 feet above the Ashtabula River and was dedicated in 2008.
Paved parking is available nearby so that you can walk the pathways on either side of the bridge and explore the area.
8. Snap Photos of Snow-Covered Lake Erie Lighthouses
Along the Ohio coast of Lake Erie are more than 20 lighthouses, some of which were built in the 18th century. Each tower is unique in some way, and you have the chance to capture amazing pictures of them during the winter, which is why we think it’s one of the best things to do in winter in Ohio.
In Marblehead, the Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest continuously operating Great Lakes lighthouse.
It was built in 1821 and is one of the country’s few original lighthouses that you can visit day or night no matter the season. Because of that, it’s believed to be the most-photographed structure in Ohio.
In Ashtabula, the Ashtabula Lighthouse is a scenic gem and historical landmark. The original tower was built in 1836 on a wooden crib that connected to the east pier on Ashtabula River.
The current tower was built in 1876 on the west pier because of new dock construction. Since the best view is from the water, we recommend visiting this lighthouse early in the winter.
9. Hop on a Scenic Ohio Train Ride in Winter
Winter is a magical time to ride a train, especially during the holidays. Several railroads offer holiday-inspired train rides in Ohio, which are perfect for children.
Ohio North Pole Express Train Ride
LM&M Railroad in Lebanon runs the North Pole Express, a 1 hour and 15 minute ride through Warren County. You and your kids can spend time with Santa Claus and elves while riding in train cars that are decorated with holiday lights.
The rides start just before Thanksgiving and last through Christmas, and we recommend getting tickets in advance.
Ohio North Pole Adventure Train Ride
In Peninsula, Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad operates the North Pole Adventure from early November until mid-December. You and your children can write letters to Santa during the ride and hand deliver them to the North Pole Postmaster.
While you write, cookies and hot chocolate are served, and Santa’s elves sing and dance. Book a ride to see what other holiday festivities await.
10. Tour as Many Ohio Museums as Possible
Among the indoor things to do in winter in Ohio, touring museums is a top activity.
Loveland Castle (Chateau Laroche)
Also called Chateau Laroche, Loveland Castle is a medieval castle in Loveland. It took 50 years to build it, and then it was used as a youth group camp that encouraged following the principles of knighthood and the Ten Commandments.
That same group is called the Knights of the Golden Trail today, which maintains the castle for visitors to tour on the weekends.
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
In Dayton, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is the largest and oldest military aviation museum in the world. It offers a variety of aerospace activities and programs.
You don’t want to miss jumping into the flight simulators or watching a film in the Air Force Museum Theatre.
Center of Science and Industry (COSI)
In Columbus, the Center of Science and Industry has a lot of interesting things for kids and adults alike.
The 320,000-square-foot facility has 9 galleries, more than 300 interactive experiences, a planetarium, and live shows. There’s even a National Geographic Giant Screen Theater and a High-Wire Unicycle.
11. Catch a Live Performance
Ohio has dozens of theatres, performing arts centers, and music halls that host and produce an array of live performances.
For kids, the Playhouse Square in Cleveland features the Children’s Theater Series. It’s a great introduction into the world of live performances. One of its most interesting features is the GE Chandelier — the biggest outdoor chandelier in North America.
Newport Music Hall
Seating about 2,000 people, the Newport Music Hall in Columbus is the longest continually running rock club in the country. It hosts a wide range of musical performances and indoor and outdoor events.
Akron Civic Theatre
In Akron, the Akron Civic Theatre is a longstanding cultural landmark. It was built in 1929 and designed after a Moorish castle, featuring medieval carvings, Italian alabaster sculptures, and authentic European antiques. The theatre caters to all kinds of entertainment from local to international productions.
12. Pretend It’s Summer at an Indoor Water Park in Ohio
While many kids love playing in the snow during the winter, they probably won’t complain if you plan a day at an indoor water park. It’s one of the most thrilling things to do in winter in Ohio because it’s so cold outside. Fortunately, there are a handful of indoor water parks in Ohio.
Kalahari Resort in Sandusky is the biggest indoor water park in the nation. It has an 80,000-square-foot facility with African-inspired pools and water rides.
Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge has two locations — one in Mason and another in Sandusky. Both indoor water parks have about a dozen ways to splash around.
Comfort Inn Splash Harbor
In Belville, the Comfort Inn Splash Harbor has a 6,000-square-foot indoor water park with a family whirlpool, water spray ground, and water slide. As long as you’re a guest of the hotel, you’re free to use the water park facilities, as well as the many other hotel amenities.
13. Burn Off Some Energy at an Ohio Indoor Fun Center
If you prefer dry indoor activities during winter, Ohio has plenty of indoor fun centers. Whether you want trampolines, arcade games, laser tag, inflatables, or roller skating, you can find fun for the whole family.
Jump n Shout
Jump n Shout in Smithville has blocks, puzzles, bouncy houses, and more on the first floor for young kids. Then, there are even bigger bouncy houses, air hockey, a basketball arcade, inflatable darts, foosball, and more on the second floor for preteens and teens. You can even grab snacks and drinks.
In Bellevue, Jungle Junction is the largest indoor play center in the state. Its goal is to offer a happy place with unique entertainment and activities to keep kids active. The facility features air cannons with plastic balls, climbing structures, tunnels, and slides.
Fun in the Jungle
At Fun in the Jungle in Sunbury, kids can have fun in a large play area and play mini-bowling and arcade games. The facility has a soft play zone for toddlers and safari kid cars as well. You can also get food and drinks at the mini cafe.
14. Book a Fun Factory Tour in Ohio
For unique things to do in winter in Ohio, consider booking factory tours. Touring factories can be not only educational adventures but also delicious outings. Some of the tours are even free!
Wilson Football Factory Tour
You wouldn’t expect the small town of Aada to be the home of the Wilson Football Factory. This facility makes footballs for NFL games and other leagues, and you get to learn about the fascinating process on a tour. Call (419) 634-9901 to book your tour ahead of time.
Fannie May Tour
Fannie May is a renowned chocolate shop and offers free tours of the working factory in North Canton every hour. During the tour, you can try out samples of the confections, and then purchase your favorites in the shop afterward.
Warther Cutlery Tour
In Dover, Warther Cutlery is a shop with a viewing area where you can watch the process of making knives. If you call ahead and visit on a weekday, a staff member can explain what you’re seeing.
15. Experience Ohio Culinary Talent on an Ohio Food Tour
Ohio has a flourishing culinary scene, and you can experience the many flavors during an Ohio food tour.
Cincinnati Food Tours
Cincinnati Food Tours has partnered with locally-owned restaurants around the city. It features a wide variety of tours — such as The Original Findlay Market Tour, Cincinnati Streetcar Food Tour, or Signature Over-the-Rhine Tour.
Columbus Food Adventures
In the center of the state, you can take neighborhood walking tours, van-based tours, and adult beverage tours with Columbus Food Adventures. The company has been offering food-themed excursions since 2010, including foodie scavenger hunts. You can arrange private food tours as well.
Taste Cleveland Tours
With Taste Cleveland Food Tours, you can do more than food tours. The company arranges progressive dinners and special events too. Several newspapers and magazines have featured these culinary experiences since the company was established in 2011.
16. Eat Lunch or Dinner in an Igloo in Ohio
Since 2020, outdoor dining has become more popular and necessary. Because of that, more restaurants have become more accommodating, so igloo dining is quickly becoming one of the favorite winter things to do in Ohio.
The View at Shires’ Garden
In Cincinnati, The View at Shires’ Garden offers greenhouses and igloos with temperature controls and Bluetooth for playing music.
At Betts restaurant in downtown Cleveland, you can enjoy Amish fried chicken and cold-pressed juices in intimate greenhouses.
Mudlick Tap House
The Mudlick Tap House in Dayton serves craft beers and cocktails alongside a menu of sandwiches, burgers, and various entrees. You can dine in one of its three igloos.
The Blarney Irish Pub
At The Blarney Irish Pub in Toledo, you can get a taste of Irish pub-style brews and dinners while sitting in one of four igloos.
17. Visit the Best Ohio Coffee Shops for Coffee & Hot Cocoa
Few things make you feel cozy during the winter months than sipping hot coffee and hot chocolate.
The Root Cafe
In Lakewood, The Root Cafe makes Mexican Cocoa with housemade chocolate milk. It’s steamed with cayenne, cinnamon, and vanilla. The cafe serves plain hot cocoa without the spices as well, or you can add a shot of espresso to make a Mayan Mocha.
The Chocolate Cafe
The Chocolate Cafe has two locations in Columbus and arguably makes the best hot cocoa that you’ll ever drink. You can choose from regular, white, and dark hot chocolate. The cafe makes a variety of specialty hot cocoa too — such as butterscotch, caramel, kaffee wien (German), nutella, and peanut butter.
Dell’s Homemade Ice Cream & Coffee
Near Columbus in Powell, Dell’s Homemade Ice Cream & Coffee is known for serving some of the best ice cream in Ohio. However, it serves a range of coffee, hot chocolate, and other hot beverages to keep you warm during the winter.
18. Tour Ohio’s Breweries & Wineries
One of the most adult things to do in winter in Ohio is to tour some of the best Ohio breweries and wineries.
Located in the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati, Rhinegeist Brewery is a 25,000-square-foot active brewery. The building used to be a bottling plant for Christian Moerlein Brewing Co., which made beer before Prohibition.
Kids are welcome, and you can order a bite to eat from OTR Chili, which is right next door.
In Canton, you can experience the winery resort, Gervasi Vineyard. The 55-acre estate offers luxury accommodations in The Casa boutique inn, Tuscan-inspired villas, or a restored 1800s Farmhouse residence.
The estate features the Still House coffeehouse and cocktail lounge, casual dining at The Crush House Wine Bar & Eatery, and fine dining at The Bistro — all of which allow you to taste the vineyard’s award-winning wines and spirits.
19. Relax at an Ohio Spa
Sometimes, the winter weather can make you tense. When that happens, you owe yourself a relaxing spa day or weekend.
GreatStone Castle Resorts
Residing in a huge 125-year-old mansion with four stories and more than 4,200 square feet, GreatStone Castle Resorts in Sidney is a bed and breakfast, spa, and lodge.
The spa is located on the lower level and is run by highly skilled and licensed professionals who offer an array of services. You don’t have to stay at the mansion to book a spa appointment, but it makes the experience exponentially better.
In Aurora, Spa Walden is a luxury inn, spa, club, and community. The state-of-the-art equipment and spacious private spa suites make it a great place to unwind and melt your stress away.
Spa services include massages, body treatments, facials, and back facials. On top of that, the facility offers salon services — such as blowouts, cuts, colorings, manicures, pedicures, and waxes.
20. Attend the Many Winter Events & Festivals in Ohio
Some of the best winter things to do in Ohio are the events and festivals.
In early January, Mohican WinterFest in Loudonville is a free event in January where you can see ice carving competitions between award-winning carvers. The sculptures are displayed throughout downtown. You can enjoy carriage rides, a scavenger hunt, winter hiking, and demonstrations.
Brite Winter in Cleveland is a celebration of art and music in February. The festival is a community event where anyone can experience the city through innovative and traditional activities — participatory art, music, games, and food.
Medina Ice Festival
Another option is the Medina Ice Festival in late February. The event features more than 100 ice carvings that range from single blocks of 300-pound ice to 10 or more blocks of ice weighing thousands of pounds. The sculptures are lit with LED spotlights every evening during the festival weekend.
21. Plan a Romantic Winter Getaway in Ohio
Planning a getaway can be romantic during the winter, especially since you’re more likely to cozy up together by a fire. Thankfully, Ohio has a ton of options for romantic winter getaways.
Ohio Amish Country
Ohio Amish Country can be one of the best options for couples who want to reconnect away from all the flashy entertainment destinations. The area has charming inns, Amish restaurants that serve delicious comfort foods, and opportunities to meet farm animals. Everything here is made locally, and the Amish shops let you purchase pieces of that authenticity to take home.
If you prefer a variety of entertainment, Sandusky is the ultimate Ohio destination. You can arrange couples massages, splash around at an indoor water park, or take a winter hike at Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve. Also, various dining options are available from casual to fine dining.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Things to Do in Winter in Ohio
How long is winter in Ohio?
Winter lasts for about 3.5 months in Ohio, starting in early December and ending in mid-March. On average, daily high temperatures are 46 degrees and below. January is the coldest month, with an average low of 24 degrees and an average high of 37 degrees. Sometimes, the temperature hits below 10 degrees but can reach around 50 degrees.
During those 3.5 winter months, Ohio gets about 4 inches of rain, most of which is ice and snow. Although it sounds like a small amount of rain, it amounts to 10-15 inches of snow in the northern half and 4-8 inches in the southern half of the state. The majority of this snowfall comes toward the middle of February.
What is there to do in Ohio in the winter?
You can do plenty of activities in Ohio during the winter — skiing, snowboarding, ice fishing, tobogganing, hiking, ice skating, etc. You can take scenic drives to covered bridges, ride holiday-themed trains, and hand-feed small birds.
What can you do indoors in the winter in Ohio?
Even though it’s winter, indoor water parks, fun centers, museums, and theatres are just a few places that offer indoor fun. You can tour factories, take food tours, and get spa treatments too.
Where can I go for a day trip in Ohio?
Some places that make fun day trips in Ohio include the Amish Country, Hocking Hills region, and big cities — Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland. However, Sandusky, Granville, and Ashtabula have a lot to offer as well.