Ohio’s History Hot Spots: Road Trip Destinations Where Families Can Learn About the Buckeye State

Ohio’s History Hot Spots: Road Trip Destinations Where Families Can Learn About the Buckeye State

Looking for ways to sneak a few history lessons — disguised as fun — into your kids’ summer?

That’s the idea behind visiting these historical destinations dotted throughout the state. Plus, we’ve got a few facts to make this history scavenger hunt even better: a mini-quiz to take with your kids at each destination. Let the road trip — and games — begin! 


Olentangy Indian Caverns

1779 Home Road, Delaware 
Forged by sheer force from an underwater river that cut passageways and caves through limestone, the Olentangy Indian Caverns took millions of years to form into what you can see today. Once used by the Wyandotte Indians, you’ll learn more about geology and history as part of your visit here. 

Q: Can you guess what kind of artifacts were found in the caverns that showed evidence Indians used the caves? 

A: Arrowheads. Hundreds of arrowheads have been found within the caverns. 

Q: The Wyandotte Indians, who are thought to have used the caverns at one point, were also called by what other name? (Hint: It’s also the name of one of the Great Lakes.)

A: Hurons. The Wyandot or Wyandotte Indians are thought to have come from southern Ontario. 

Q: Name the underground river still flowing on the fourth level of the caverns.

A: The Olentangy River! This section of the caverns is not open to the public and the river’s size is still unknown.


Photo courtesy of Laura Watilo Blake for Experience Columbus

The Ohio Statehouse

1 Capitol Square, Columbus
Framed in Greek Revival columns and completed in 1861, the state’s capitol building is sure to spark conversations with your kids about how state laws are created and passed. Bonus: The capitol offers free, guided tours throughout the week.  

Q: How many years did it take to build the current Ohio Statehouse?

A: 22 years. There were some stops and starts during the building based on budgets and weather.  

Q: In what year did Ohio officially become a state?

A: 1803

Q: What makes Ohio’s state flag different than any other in the country?

A: Its shape! Instead of being rectangular, the flag has a swallowtail. Officially, that shape is called the Ohio burgee. 


Photo Courtesy Wyandot Popcorn Museum

Wyandot Popcorn Museum

169 E. Church St., Marion
Founded in Marion in 1936, the Wyandot Popcorn Company eventually sold its popcorn processing business in favor of focusing on snack foods. The history of popcorn making — and particularly antique popcorn poppers — lives on at this museum, one of only two popcorn museums in the world. 

Q: The first mobile popcorn carts were introduced in 1893. How much did these popcorn wagons weigh?

A: Between 400 and 500 pounds

Q: The first popcorn poppers could also prepare what other popular snack item?

A: Roasted peanuts! The original creator of the popcorn popping machine, Charles Cretors, also created it to roast coffee and bake chestnuts.

Q: How high can popcorn kernels pop?

A: According to the Popcorn Board, up to three feet (yes, three!) in the air. 


Photo courtesy of Trumbull County Tourism

Harriet Taylor Upton House

380 Mahoning Ave. NW, Warren
Did you know that a house in Warren served as the headquarters for the National American Women’s Suffrage Association? It did for two years, from 1903 to 1905, and was the home of Harriet Taylor Upton, a graduate of Warren High School and a prominent figure in the suffrage movement.

Q: Who was Harriet Taylor’s mentor? Hint: She was a well-known women’s rights activist.

A: Susan B. Anthony

Q: In what year were women granted the right to vote in the U.S.?

A: 1920. 

Q: Which amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave women voting rights?

A: The nineteenth. 


Photo courtesy of National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center 

50 E. Freedom Way, Cincinnati
Opened in 2004, the museum helps visitors better understand the struggle from slavery to freedom for African Americans. The museum also features interactive exhibits of historical figures and present-day champions for freedom from across the world. 

Q: About how long was slavery in place in the U.S.?

A: More than 200 years. 

Q: What was the Underground Railroad?

A: To help slaves escape, those who opposed slavery set up ways to conceal fugitive slaves and get them to states and countries that didn’t allow owning slaves. Between 1800 to 1865, it’s estimated around 100,000 slaves escaped.

Q: Which U.S. Constitution amendment abolished slavery?

A: The Thirteen Amendment.


Photo Courtesy of John Glenn Astronomy Park

John Glenn Astronomy Park 

20531 OH-664, Logan 
Opened this June, the John Glenn Astronomy Park in Hocking Hills hosts regular stargazing programs to help your wannabe astronauts get a closer look at the stars above. 

Q: John Glenn was the first American to do what in space?

A: Orbit the Earth! He went around the Earth three times. 

Q: Along with being part of the first group of astronauts, Glenn also holds what record when it comes to space travel?

A: Glenn traveled into space at age 77, making him the oldest person to travel into space.

Q: Besides being an astronaut, John Glenn also served in what political office?

A: Glenn also was a U.S. Senator.


Photo courtesy of National Museum of the USAF

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

1100 Spaatz St., Dayton
Located on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, this expansive 19-acre museum (that’s the indoor exhibit space) holds the largest — and oldest — collection of military aviation in the world. There’s upwards of 360 aerospace and missiles on display. 

Q: What is Dayton’s big connection to aviation?

A: The Wright brothers. Brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright grew up in Dayton. 

Q: In what year did the U.S. Air Force start?

A: 1947. 

Q: Name the famous aircraft – a B-17F – on display at the museum.

A: The Memphis Belle. The museum points out, “the Memphis Belle was the first U.S. Army Air Forces heavy bomber to return to the United States after completing 25 missions over Europe.” 


Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service

James Garfield National Historic Site

8095 Mentor Ave., Mentor
Many past U.S. presidents claim Ohio as home. Next to Virginia, which claims eight, there are eight presidents with ties to the Buckeye state, including James Garfield, whose home in Mentor you can visit. 

Q: Where in Ohio was James Garfield born?

A: A cabin in Moreland Hills on Nov. 19, 1831. 

Q: In the line of U.S. presidents, which number is James A. Garfield?

A: Garfield was the 20th president of the United States. 

Q: How many U.S. presidents were born in Ohio?

A: Seven! The presidents include Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft and Warren G. Harding. 


Photo by Charles Mosser for the Edison Birthplace Museum

Thomas A. Edison Birthplace Museum

9 N. Edison Drive, Milan
Known as one of America’s greatest inventors, Thomas Edison was born right here in Ohio. You can visit his birthplace to learn more about his life and work.

Q: In what year was Thomas Edison born?

A: Thomas Alva Edison was born on Feb. 11, 1847. 

Q: Name one of Thomas Edison’s inventions you use everyday?

A: Light bulbs!

Q: How did Thomas Edison do in school?

A: Not well. Young Thomas only lasted in public school for 12 weeks — his teacher noted he asked too many questions. His mother taught him at home instead. 


Photo courtesy of National Museum of the Great Lakes

National Museum of the Great Lakes 

701 Front St., Toledo
In 2014, the National Museum of the Great Lakes reopened in a new location and with the addition of the 617-foot lake freighter the Col. James M. Schoonmaker (launched in 1911). Located on the shores of the Maumee River, the museum walks families through the history of the Great Lakes with interactive exhibits, including a new addition: a 116-year-old tug that had been used as a fireboat and commercial tug. 

Q: Along with the official name of the Schoonmaker freighter moored at the museum, what was its unofficial name because of its size?

A: The Queen of the Lakes, a title bestowed on the largest vessel on the Great Lakes. 

Q: Name each of the five Great Lakes.

A: Lake Erie, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Ontario and Lake Huron

Q: Name the shallowest and the deepest of the five Great Lakes.

A: The shallowest is Lake Erie and the deepest is Lake Superior.



Photo by Kim Stahnke Photography

Annabelle’s Diner
8637 Twinbrook Road, Mentor
Owners Chuck and Pat Hamilton brought the stainless steel diner, originally Kenny Kings, to the east side in 1985. Annabelle’s is open Thursdays through Saturdays during the summer and, weather permitting, is roaring with vintage cars during its weekly cruise-ins on Saturdays. Families can enjoy double decker burgers, malts, thick milkshakes and other delicious snacks. Stroll the parking lot to learn some automotive history. On Saturday nights, enjoy live music featuring the Chuck Hamilton Band.


Photo courtesy of Trumbull County Tourism (Laura Watilo Blake)

Dave Grohl Alley & the World’s Largest Drumsticks
169 W. Market St., Warren
Ohio isn’t just the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. It’s also the birthplace of living rock legend David “Dave” Grohl. Grohl, a drummer for grunge-rock juggernaut Nirvana, went on to be the front man for the Foo Fighters. Warren police sergeant Joe O’Grady worked with members of the Warren community to clean up an alley and reimagine it as a shrine of sorts to Dave Grohl. The alley was dedicated on Aug. 1, 2009 (and yes, Dave attended).  Paul Clouser, a volunteer who now helps maintain the alley, points out it’s become a destination for rock fans from around the world. But it’s also a great spot to bring your kids to share your love of rock music — and get a selfie with the world’s largest drumsticks. 

About the author

I’m a freelance writer, recipe developer, and—most importantly—mother of three. My work has appeared in KIWI, Parenting, Parents, Relish, USAA Magazine, BabyZone.com, BettyConfidential.com, and Yahoo Shine!. I’m currently a contributing editor for MetroParent magazine, the regional parenting publication of the greater Detroit area.

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