Weekend Family Road Trips in Ohio and Beyond

Weekend Family Road Trips in Ohio and Beyond

Guest at Polar Frontier Photo by Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Don’t feel you need to travel the Pacific Coast Highway, the Blue Ridge Parkway or any of the other famed roads throughout America. There’s plenty to do in Ohio and its surrounding states.  Within a few hours’ drive, the whole family can spend the day at these unique attractions.

 

 


Cincinnati

Known as the Queen City or Porkopolis, Cincinnati is one of the state’s most venerable cities.

The National Underground Railroad Museum. PHOTO BY TOURISMOHIO

Ohio was an important state in the movement to abolish slavery in America. The state is dotted with sites that were once stops along the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves escape to freedom. Cincinnati is home to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (freedomcenter.org), a museum dedicated not just to the fight to end slavery, but to related modern-day issues like human trafficking.

Every business has a sign, and some, in their own ways, are art. Those signs are on display at the American Sign Museum, (americansignmuseum.org), from early lighted signs to neon signs to the Googie designs of the 1960s.

Before neighborhood markets and supermarkets, each city had large markets where dozens of retailers would come together under one roof. Some can still be found today. In Cincinnati, it’s the Findlay Market (findlaymarket.org), with everything from desserts to drinks to pet snacks.

Signs on display at the American Sign Museum
PHOTOS BY LAURA WATILO BLAKE

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Columbus

PHOTOS COURTESY OF EXPERIENCE COLUMBUS

There’s no shortage of things to do in Ohio’s biggest city.

COSI (cosi.org), a staple of field trips for generations, has reopened to the public. There are planetarium shows, a theater, new dinosaur exhibits and of course, the high-wire unicycle. 

Families can stop by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (columbuszoo.org) for unique and “cool” adventures. Check out polar bears at the zoo or discover the water park Zoombezi Bay (zoombezibay.columbuszoo.org), filled with summer splash activities for all ages.

Commune with nature at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (fpconservatory.org). There are dozens of plants, flowers, and at 90 acres, it’s easy to maintain social distance.

If you’re a baseball fan, Columbus is home to the Clippers, the Triple-A affiliate for the Indians. Minor League Baseball offers the chance to see future stars and get the same ballpark experience, but at a lower price. The team announced they will be open at full capacity in June. (milb.com/columbus).

 

Amish Country

Grandpa’s Cheesebarn. PHOTOS BY LAURA WATILO BLAKE

The Amish have been in Ohio for as long as it’s been a state, settling mostly in the state’s northeast quadrant, between Cleveland and Columbus. The Amish community has become a tourist destination for shopping, entertainment or as a place to unwind far from the madding crowds.

Museums offer glimpses of life that once was, from the Victorian House Museum in Millersburg (holmeshistory.com/victorian-house) to the Warther Museum in Dover (thewarthermuseum.com), dedicated to the intricate carvings of self-taught artist Mooney Warther, to the Age of Steam Roundhouse in Sugarcreek (ageofsteamroundhouse.org), a collection of locomotives and train cars in a former railroad roundhouse.

Families can also head to The Farm at Walnut Creek (thefarmatwalnutcreek.com), which has wagon rides and a chance to
hand-feed animals on the farm and get close to others, including a giraffe, zebra and more. 

And of course, there’s the food. Amish dinners are known for their large portions of comfort food, and there are plenty of opportunities to partake. You’re never far from one of the Dutchman group of restaurants (they also run several hotels), and no stop in Amish country is complete without a visit to Grandpa’s Cheesebarn (grandpascheesebarn.com)

Also, hop on the website visitamishcountry.com for different adventure itineraries to explore in and around Amish country.

 

 Pittsburgh

It was described at one point as “hell with the lid off,” a place where the skies glowed orange from its mills and factories and were so smoky that streetlights were kept on during the day. But visitors to Pittsburgh now will find a city that’s fun, charming, and picturesque.

The city’s industry created untold wealth, some of which founded museums, libraries and other facilities. Andrew Carnegie made
untold millions as a steel magnate – and was determined to give it away, saying that the “man who dies rich, dies disgraced.” The Carnegie

Kennywood.
PHOTO BY JIN WU

Museum of Natural History (carnegiemnh.org) and Carnegie Museum of Art (cmoa.org) endowed in his name are tremendous attractions in the city’s Oakland neighborhood, also home to many of the city’s universities. 

For more active recreation, Pittsburgh is home to one of the last vestiges of the old trolley parks that at one point populated every city that had a streetcar line. Also, visit the Duquesne Incline (duquesneincline.org), voted one of the best places to see the Downtown Pittsburgh cityscape.

Kennywood (kennywood.com) features roller coasters as well as classic rides – and the fries just taste different there. Due to the ongoing pandemic, hours and capacity are limited. Make sure to check for updates. Nearby is Sandcastle Water Park (sandcastlewaterpark.com), featuring everything from water slides to lazy rivers.

 

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