See the best of the Buckeye State on one — or all — of these Ohio weekend getaways.
With charming small towns, impressive nature, and charismatic cities, Ohio’s full of can’t-miss weekend escapes. There’s heart-pumping action at world-renowned theme parks. There’s inventive fare — and an oft-overlooked winery scene — ready to treat those taste buds. Add the Buckeye State’s parks, lake access, history, and old haunts, and you’re sure to find a getaway just right for you and your travel crew.
"Ohio is the heart of the heartland," Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Department of Development, told Travel + Leisure. "Ohio is incredibly diverse, from 75 state parks to big city amenities which include a thriving arts and culture scene and award-winning culinary experiences, to the charm and comfort that can be found in its distinctive neighborhoods and historic small towns."
Here are 14 of the best weekend getaways in Ohio to consider, from small towns to big cities — with all sorts of adventures in between.
Whether it’s a girls’ trip or a family getaway, Yellow Springs promises activities galore. The eclectic town, known for its hippie flair and funky vibes, brims with creative restaurants like Winds Café or Ellie’s, plus a host of stops to embrace the local nature. Bike some of the 80-mile Little Miami Scenic Trail or get your hike on through the forests of Glen Helen and John Bryan State Park. Airbnb options abound here; alternatively, try a bed and breakfast like the Arthur Morgan House.
"If any town can take you back to the '60s, it’s Yellow Springs. Find murals, sculptures, and tiny pieces of groovy art everywhere you go," said Mihalik. "This picturesque town is completely walkable, and your feet can take you from your hotel to a nature preserve and lunch all in one afternoon! Visit the serene Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, then head to one of the many shops for local art.
Mihalik added: "If you’re a pet owner, your fido will love it here as most businesses are dog-friendly and many eateries offer outdoor seating. If you’re with the kiddos, Young’s Jersey Dairy, famous for its ice cream is a great stop. Be sure to visit local favorite, Yellow Springs Brewery for a refreshing pint."
If food is your favorite part of travel, don’t miss a weekend in Cincinnati. Few neighborhoods symbolize the city’s increasing rise to culinary fame like Over-the-Rhine, better known as OTR. "Culture reigns supreme in Cincinnati," said Mihalik. "The arts flourish, sports teams entertain, and the food scene is ever-growing. This city in southwestern Ohio offers everything from family-friendly attractions along the Ohio Riverfront to the rich history of the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Visit and discover what makes Cincinnati 'The Queen City.'"
New haunts pop up here constantly; don’t miss Salazar, Senate, and The Eagle, to name a few. The bites and brews continue well throughout the Queen City, from Moerlein Lager House on the festive and stadium-dotted waterfront to timeless classic Eli’s BBQ, located east along the waterfront toward Ault Park. As for digs, try the 21c Museum Hotel, a trendy boutique accommodation in the heart of downtown.
Gorges, waterfalls, and wineries: central Ohio’s Hocking Hills has all the essentials for a relaxing couple’s retreat, a family reunion, or a friends weekend getaway. Nature in Hocking Hills State Park is the main attraction here; add Cantwell Cliffs, Old Man’s Cave, and Conkle’s Hollow to your Hocking Hills to-do list. When it’s time to refuel, hit the low-key but delicious Hocking Hills Winery (try the patio if the weather allows). You have dozens of Airbnb options at your disposal; alternatively, book the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls to wake up in the heart of this verdant park.
Whether you’re looking for a friends' getaway or a family escape, add world-renowned Cedar Point, a.k.a. the roller-coaster capital of America, to your list. Cedar Point sits on Lake Erie, with sky-high rides that overlook the water and a true beach-vacation vibe, particularly at the adjacent Hotel Breakers, which has a beach bar, volleyball, and water sports rentals. You’ll need at least a weekend to get through all of Cedar Point’s rides, from the soaring Millennium Force, which has one of the longest drops and fastest speeds in the world, to the adrenaline-pumping Valravn, a dive coaster that sees you hanging over a 90-degree precipice — before thundering straight over the edge.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
For outdoor enthusiasts, it doesn’t get much better than a trip to northeast Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This 33,000-acre forested escape, located 40 minutes south of Cleveland, features towering waterfalls, secluded hiking trails, and a white-steeple-marked main town — Peninsula — that looks like a postcard from New England.
"While Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Ohio's only national park, it's also one of the most visited parks in the country. The falls at Blue Hen are like a scene from a storybook, surrounded by lush forest on all sides," said Mihalik. "You can also explore the area by train with the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad - one of the oldest tourist excursion railways in the country, or by hopping in the water and kayaking the river."
Stay the night at an Airbnb in Peninsula or the surrounding towns, or book a room at The Inn at Brandywine Falls. Add picturesque stops like Brandywine Falls and Ledges Overlook to your itinerary, and bike the Towpath Trail with rentals from Century Cycles. As for the fare, nothing tops Sarah’s Vineyard, a winery within the national park proper — known for its homemade wines, woodfired pizza, and national park views.
Geneva on the Lake
For decades, the Lake Erie-adjacent Geneva on the Lake has welcomed travelers with an assortment of Ohio fun: wineries, boating, and beach access, to name a few. According to Mihalik, this town has been a favorite for decades. "The charm of what locals call 'The Strip' is the reason that some don’t let a year go by without their annual visit to Geneva-on-the-Lake," said Mihalik. "Take the Summer Fun Heritage trail of 30 markers along the Strip that tell the story of the last century and a half. Charter a boat at the Geneva Marina for the best walleye fishing in the world. Take a zipline canopy tour, play a round of mini golf, race go-carts, or simply relax on the beach.
The destination attracts all sorts of travelers, but it’s particularly great for mom-and-daughter trips, family getaways, and couple outings. Book a room at The Lodge at Geneva on the Lake for direct access to the area’s top attractions. There’s a wine shuttle to local vineyards, bike rental, snowshoe rentals, and ziplining, plus onsite restaurants — although it may be hard to pull yourself away from the sips and flavors of Ohio’s wine country.
Lake Erie Islands
"Along Ohio's Lake Erie coast, a pair of islands beckons and surprises with island breezes and a carefree feeling. This Northwest Ohio area features miles of shoreline, perfect for spending a day at the beach or boating on the lake," Mihalik told T+L. "After just one visit you'll be dreaming what it's like to live by the lake and the charming town of Sandusky is just the place! Chosen as USA Today's 'Best Coastal Small Town' and an Ohio Magazine 'Best Hometown' — it's a place that you'll keep falling in love with."
There’s a rule of thumb when traveling to the Lake Erie islands: If you’re looking to party, head to Put-in-Bay. If it’s nature and tranquility you seek, head to Kelleys Island. The former is perfect for bachelor or bachelorette weekends, with raucous festivities and pool parties at local haunts like Beer Barrel Saloon and MIST Pool Bar. Over on Kelleys Island, the second-largest Lake Erie island, couples and families can enjoy a bit more serenity, be it beachcombing, birding, or hiking the North Shore Loop. As for accommodations, try Kelleys Island Venture Resort — the island’s only luxury property. Airbnb provides ideal group accommodations for Put-in-Bay.
Craving a family or group trip? Head to Waynesville, a small Ohio town known for antiques galore and a top-notch theme park: King’s Island. This park, home to 100 rides, attractions, and shows, can be experienced in a full day. That leaves the rest of the Waynesville weekend for exploring antique shops like Brass Lantern or hiking dozens of trail miles at nearby Caesar Creek State Park. Airbnb offers a handful of quaint and charming Waynesville accommodations; for a more outdoorsy stay, try camping at Caesar Creek.
Loveland, a small Cincinnati suburb, is about as charming as Ohio small towns get. Its historic architecture, vibrant main square, kid-friendly restaurants, and nature parks make it perfect for a family getaway. Plus, according to Mihalik, "Loveland features amazing outdoor adventures."
Start your morning on the Loveland Bike Trail, a rails-to-trails project that connects with another local bike trail: the Little Miami Scenic Trail. "While there, you can also check out the Little Miami River canoe and kayak launch – a great way to explore this Scenic River," said Mihalik.
Then, check out the hand-crafted Loveland Castle, go rollerskating at Castle Skateland, or get back to nature at the Little Miami Conservancy. For a central hotel, try the trendy and boutique Loveland Lofts.
For a guys’ weekend, a father-son escape, or a getaway for sports fans, head to Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie. The city offers numerous ways to enjoy professional sports: the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, the MLB’s Cleveland Guardians, and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. All stadiums and arenas are centrally located near downtown Cleveland, which means you can book a room at the Kimpton Schofield Hotel and walk or Uber to the venue du jour. While sports are the city’s bread and butter, don’t miss the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for a look at music legends, and enjoy the city’s ever-growing list of delicious restaurants, including Mabel’s BBQ, an offering from celebrity chef Michael Symon.
Dayton offers one of the state’s best weekend getaways for history lovers. The mid-sized city features a variety of museums — think the National Museum of the US Air Force, Carillon Historical Park, and America's Packard Museum. But it’s more than just history. A raved-about brewery and food scene in the Oregon District, plus the bustling Second Street Market, promise a well-rounded weekend getaway — complete with a stay at the Fairfield Inn & Suites, adjacent to downtown’s waterfront attraction: Riverscape MetroPark.
If you’re an art enthusiast, head to Columbus for a creative weekend escape. This central Ohio city is known for its robust creative scene — take the jam-packed Columbus Museum of Art as proof. "With a vibrant feel as a cultural town, it’s a place where art, numerous universities, and the outdoors inspire," said Mihalik. "Outside of Columbus, you'll find numerous suburbs and surrounding towns with a unique feel and an authentic vibe all their own."
Other unique art experiences include Otherworld, a 32,000-square-foot underground art installation, the Wexner Center for the Arts, and Ohio Theater, a culture hub located in a 1920s venue. For a unique overnight, stay at the quirky and upscale Le Méridien Columbus, The Joseph, in Italian Village.
Football fans travel from all over to visit Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame, a museum with permanent and rotating exhibits celebrating beloved players and the history of the sport. The fun doesn’t end with football, though. Families can enjoy the Canton Museum of Art, go-kart racing at K1 Speed Canton, and the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum. The DoubleTree on Market Avenue is the most convenient place to stay for a weekend getaway in Canton; Airbnb has numerous apartment and rental house options, too.
Mansfield, located halfway between Columbus and Cleveland, is a great weekend escape for couples and families, with an array of unique experiences. First up, The Ohio State Reformatory, the filming site of “Shawshank Redemption.” You can tour the prison, participate in limited-time events, or join the spookiest of all options: a paranormal tour of the prison led by an expert guide. Other Mansfield offerings include the nonprofit Ohio Bird Sanctuary and the 150-acre Gorman Nature Center.
"Mansfield has so many amazing things to offer," said Mihalik. "From the iconic — and haunted — Ohio State Reformatory to riding along the Richland B&O Trail that spans 18 miles and connects four of Richland County's communities and one of the area's most beautiful attractions on its trek between North Lake Park in downtown Mansfield and Butler."
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