When you have friends and family from out of town come to visit you, where do you take them? Places such as Cedar Point and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as cool as they are, often overshadow the other gems of Ohio that are truly unique—many of which cannot be found anywhere else in the entire world. So the next time you’re thinking about where to take your visiting family and friends, consider the following 16 places.
1. The Short North (Columbus)
If art galleries, coffee, local shops and street art are your things, you can find them all at this one-stop community in Columbus.
2. United States Air Force Museum (Dayton)
Few people know that Dayton is home to the National Museum of the United States Air Force—and admission is FREE.
3. Cleveland Botanical Garden
Explore what is arguably our state's most impressive garden, featuring 10 acres of outdoor gardens and an 18,000 square foot glasshouse.
4. The Chateau Laroche (Loveland)
Also known as the Loveland Castle, this lovely little medieval structure was built by hand—brick by brick—by one man, Sir Harry Andrews. Today it is open for the public to view for $5 a person, and is operated by modern day knights.
5. Oak Openings (Swanton)
Close to Toledo you'll find what's considered to be Ohio's rarest ecosystem (and one of the world's rarest ecosystems) where rare plants and animals, oak forests, sand dunes, savannas, tall-grass prairies and swamp forests all thrive in harmony. The Oak Openings Preserve Metropark is located in Swanton and operated by Metroparks of the Toledo Area.
Explore the shores of Lake Erie and Marblehead Lighthouse. Picnic at Marblehead Lighthouse and visit the lighthouse’s museum in the Keeper’s House. Tour the actual lighthouse for just $2.
7. Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum (Hamilton)
This outdoor museum and sculpture park in Hamilton is every art enthusiast's dream come true. The park features a 10,000 square foot Ancient Sculpture Museum, which displays Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Etruscan sculptures that are thousands of years old.
8. Old Man’s Cave (Hocking Hills State Park)
While the Old Man's Cave hiking trails at Hocking Hills are pretty well-known, the breathtaking scenery, hidden caves and refreshing waterfalls are still fairly underrated.
9. Toledo Museum of Art
The Toledo Museum of Art's collection is world renowned, featuring more than 30,000 works of art from all around the world.
10. COSI (Columbus)
Indulge your inner mad scientist with this one of a kind, hands-on science museum in Columbus. In 2008, Parents Magazine named COSI the #1 science museum for families in America.
11. Ohio Caverns (West Liberty)
"America's Most Colorful Caverns" can be found in West Liberty, Ohio. The caverns were formed thousands of years ago when an underground river cut through ancient limestone and created vast rooms and passageways. These passageways are now filled with crystal stalactites, stalagmites and many other formations.
12. Amish Country (various locations)
Ohio has the largest Amish population of any state in the nation. Drive through the rolling, scenic hills of Ohio Amish Country and stop at a restaurant for a truly delicious homemade meal. Popular Amish Country locations in Ohio include Berlin, Millersburg and Sugarcreek.
13. The Wilds (Cumberland)
Although Ohio is full of several impressive zoos, The Wilds offer you a unique way to observe exotic animals. Cumberland is home to Ohio's very own safari-like experience. Though you won't get an up-close encounter with the animals here, you will board a Safari Transport so you can observe them (from a safe distance) roam freely while learning all about the giraffes, rhinos and many other rare and endangered species the facility conserves.
14. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Peninsula)
Ohio's very own national park features stunning waterfalls (pictured: Brandywine Falls), incredible views and rugged ledges to explore.
15. German Village (Columbus)
Perfect for a quaint day trip getaway, this lovely little village in Columbus will truly charm you with its book shop, (featuring more than 30 rooms of books) authentic German food and a stroll through Schiller Park.
16. Nelson Kennedy Ledges State Park (Nelson Township)
Nelson Kennedy Ledges provides a similar adventurous experience to Old Man's Cave. Portage County is home to this 160-acre park, which features rugged cliffs, unique hiking trails (complete with a "Dwarf's Pass," pictured above) and diverse plant life.
Have you been to any of these places? What are some other underrated places in Ohio to take an out-of-towner?