Sometimes, do you just want to pack up your family and travel to the other side of the world and have an adventure together? While you’d need weeks, or months, to plan a trip across the globe — or even across the country — you can plot out weekend excursion to an otherworldly spot right here in Ohio. Dotted throughout the state are cool destinations that make it feel like you’ve traveled a lot farther than 2-4 hours (or 30 minutes). Even better? There’s no need to get an airline ticket. Check out this list of just a few of the spots in the Buckeye State where you can feel a world away.
1. Asian Highlands Exhibit
Ohio locale: Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Can feel like: China
Your kids may need to take a few deep breaths when they see a snow leopard, with its dark-spotted and thick gray fur flicking its tail as it goes by you. If they’re anything like mine, it’ll be tough to drag them away from the red pandas to see other animals. As part of the just-opened Asian Highlands exhibit, you’ll feel transported to regions around China, especially with a state-of-the-art glass viewing area to spot animals on the move, along with architectural elements designed to mimic those of Asia.
2. The Wilds
Ohio locale: Cumberland
Can feel like: Africa
Take your own safari with your kids in an open-air truck that lumbers through the rolling landscape where you’ll encounter giraffe, zebras, cheetahs, rhinos and a total of 29 different species of animals, some of which are on the endangered species list. Tucked into a remote spot off I-77 about an hour east of Columbus, The Wilds also offers horseback rides through the 9,154-acre property — and zipline tours, too.
3. Mad River Run
Ohio locale: Eastwood Metropark
Can feel like: Rafting near Yosemite
Whitewater rafting right outside Dayton? Absolutely, there’s no need to go all the way out west. At the Mad River Run area, choose from two watery paths: Class 3 rapids as part of the Whitewater Paddling portion, or gentler waters perfect for a leisurely day of paddling or kayaking. If you’d rather do a little fishing instead, remember to bring your poles.
4. German Village
Ohio locale: Columbus
Can feel like: Germany
The brick streets weaving through town will help you feel transported right into the heart of a small, German village. Save time (and room) for a visit to Schmidt’s, where you can fill up on wurst (sausages) and 1-pound crème puffs. Look through stacks of new and used books at The Book Loft — which even has a garden area where you can take in the sunshine while thumbing through your finds.
5. Edgewater Beach
Ohio locale: Cleveland
Can feel like: California
Dipping your toes in the sand as waves gently lap all around you and tanned beachgoers play volleyball nearby can make it seem like you’re at some far-off destination. Edgewater Park captures all that west-coast vibe while still retaining its urban, Cleveland appeal. In the year-old, two-story beach house, you can grab something to eat and catch a view of the nearby cityscape.
6. Loveland Castle & Museum
Ohio locale: Loveland
Can feel like: England
Channel your inner knight as you saunter through this medieval castle not far from the Little Miami River and about 30 minutes northeast of Cincinnati. Feel free to ask the castle guides (yes, that would be knights) any questions you or your knights-in-training may have. You also might want to pack a picnic to share right on the castle grounds.
7. Hocking Hills
Ohio locale: Logan
Can feel like: Tasmania, Ireland
With a ring of state parks, each with their own personality, Hocking Hills’ diverse offerings make you feel like you’ve visited several places. For starters, the rich, green foliage at Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve can be a stand-in for walking through an Irish landscape. Then again, step into an Indiana Jones movie, complete with otherworldly rock formations like those of Tasmania, when you venture to Old Man’s Cave, the Rockbridge State Nature Preserve and the Rock House.