Are you searching for some hidden gems that are close to home? Stay away from the hustle and bustle of the cities and college towns and get an authentic Midwest experience with the historical downtowns, river towns and charming villages that make up Ohio. From up north on Lake Erie, to down south along the Ohio River, you’ll have plenty to experience within the Buckeye State!
Island Town of Put-In-Bay
Starting at the northernmost point on our list, Put-In-Bay is a fabulous island town on Lake Erie. Only accessible by Miller Ferry or the Jet Express, this small town only has around 180 year-round residents but attracts plenty of guests from the mainland.
Miller Ferry is the least expensive option to get visitors and vehicles across to the island. Still, it takes around 25 minutes from the time it leaves Catawba Island to the time it docks at Put-In-Bay.
Jet Express offers AAA Ohio members a discount when showing their card at the ticket booth. The Jet Express also runs late (some days until midnight) and every day during their tourism season. (March-November)
Golf carting and biking are popular forms of transportation to get from attraction to attraction. Rental shops are found all over the small town, so no one will ever be without wheels!
Put-In-Bay has a colorful wartime past. Used as an official base of operations for Oliver Perry during the War of 1812, from which he sailed to defeat the British. Perry’s Monument, a gigantic Greek Doric column so named for the battle’s victor, was constructed. The monument is now viewed as International Peace Memorial to commemorate the long-lasting peace between Britain, Canada and the U.S.
Guests who hold a National Parks Pass can get into the monument for free, and veterans of the United States Military can also access the monument for free.
Guests can learn about the island’s rich history with the Lake Erie Islands Historical Museum tucked away off the Put-In-Bay Refuge Harbor and a ten-minute walk from Perry’s Monument. This museum may look small on the outside but is packed with historical pieces and exhibits that guests love. Admission for adults and children over five is just $5.00, senior citizens are $4.00, and veterans can see the museum free of charge.
Put-In-Bay is also home to many geological wonders found below the ground! Perry’s Cave and Family Fun Center holds all kinds of activities for families of all ages. Enjoy the day playing mini-golf, touring a butterfly house, mining for gold, and exploring Perry’s Cave.
Across the street from Perry’s Cave, guests can spot Crystal Cave, located in Ohio’s oldest family-owned winery, Heineman’s Winery. Witness the world’s largest geode found under this charming winery. Guests get world-class service and the opportunity to sample fantastic local wine. Chat up the staff (so long as they’re not too busy) to get the best wine recommendation and learn more about Put-In-Bay’s history.
Lake Erie Village of Marblehead
Marblehead is best known for its picturesque lighthouse, which sits on the shores of Lake Erie, but also has loads of shopping, eateries and activities that make this town a must-see!
Marblehead Lighthouse State Park
Anyone familiar with the Marblehead area will probably think of the lighthouse that sits on the north shore of Lake Erie—and with good reason. This lighthouse holds historical significance to the village and guests can spend an entire day learning about the lighthouse’s past and exploring the area around it. Guests can also picnic, fish and view Sandusky Bay, Kelleys Island, and Cedar Point.
East Harbor State Park
East Harbor State Park is all about the outdoor experiences associated with Marblehead.
- East Harbor Beach is where guests come to have a perfect beach day while visiting.
- East Harbor Camp Ground is one of the nicest on Lake Erie’s shores.
- Fish for walleye or perch.
- Discover hiking trails to explore.
Marblehead’s Main Street reflects its casual beachy attitude. The shopping area offers an array of maritime-themed knick-knack shops as well as a Lake Erie art gallery. There are also of eateries, including Brown’s Dairy Dock, which is a dietary staple for locals and regular vacationers.
Loudonville—Mohican State Park
Loudonville is a beautiful country town in Central Ohio that’s perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, but tends to be off everyone’s radar. There is plenty to see and do from quaint country shopping, scenic Mohican State Park, and even a castle.
Mohican State Park
One of the biggest draws to the area, Mohican State Park, is equal parts of beautiful natural scenery and high energy outdoor activities. With so much to do for all ages and activity levels, everyone can enjoy a day at the park. Here are just a few of the highlights enjoyed:
- Multiple nature trails to Lyons Falls, Little Lyons Falls and Hemlock Falls.
- Appreciate the view at Mohican Gorge Overlook.
- Climb the Fire Tower.
- Enjoy kayaking, rafting and canoeing at Mohican Adventures.
- Play a round of mini-golf, also at Mohican Adventures.
- Ask your travel agent about staying at the Mohican Lodge in nearby Perrysville, Ohio
Landoll’s Mohican Castle
Nestled within Mohican State Park sits Landoll’s Castle, a European-style castle built by Jim Landoll after touring Europe during World War II. Landoll’s Castle is a versatile location. It hosts a multitude of events and tours for visitors to consider:
- Enjoy a guided tour of the grounds.
- Grab lunch at the Copper Mug Bar & Grille.
- Live happily ever after and use Landoll’s Castle as a wedding venue.
- Ask your travel agent about staying in Landoll’s Castle’s luxury suites.
Historic Roscoe Village
Built on the Ohio and Erie Canal, Roscoe Village has an old-timey atmosphere that appeals to visitors. Its shopping, dining and festivals draw tourists near and far to this one-of-a-kind place located right in Coshocton, Ohio.
Roscoe Village is a restored canal town laid out in 1816 and planned to be used as a trade town along the Walhonding River. In 1830 the first canal boat went through the village. Unfortunately, in 1913 the village was destroyed during The Great Flood. Still, residents restored the canal town to keep a kind of live museum, preserving Ohio’s canal era.
Living History Tour
To feel even more immersed in the history of this tiny Ohio village, guests can partake in a Living History Tour, which takes everyone back to the 19th century. Learn about key historical figures, tour the restored living history buildings, and learn trades important for a canal town in 1830.
Shopping in Roscoe Village
The shopping area is one of the biggest attractions in Roscoe Village. The beautiful brickyard streets and old fashioned architecture make for an enjoyable shopping experience. With countless mom and pop shops, bakeries, arts and crafts shops, boutiques, and local eateries, visitors get an authentic shopping experience unlike anywhere else.
A northeastern suburb of Columbus, OH, Westerville has tons of charming places to visit, eat, and just hang out. Enjoy art galleries, a local brewery, and a different college town lifestyle than what you typically get from the Columbus area.
Otterbein is a private university its sense of community helps make Westerville a perfect visit with the university’s thousands of hours of community service. The campus is immaculate and has plenty of clubs for students to participate in. You can stop by the theater to catch a show and browse the local Art Scene on campus that visitors, alumni, and students can all enjoy.
If you need your shopping fix, Uptown Westerville is for you. This community of merchants brings a local flair to the shops, eateries, and entertainment in the area. Uptown Westerville is the heart of the community, which is shown in every location which are all are locally owned.
Temperance Row Brewing Co.
This local brewery is the first in Westerville. With various selections of house craft beer, historic atmosphere, and perfectly curated charcuterie boards you’ll find it hard to leave. The brewing company is also a combination deli, named Uptown Deli and Brew, so have a sandwich and the perfect bowl of soup with your Temperance Row Brewing Co. beer.
Want to know what a weekend is like in Westerville, Ohio? Join Small Town Charm‘s Haylie Robinson and see how to best spend your time.
This artsy town outside of Dayton, Ohio has a hippie-chic vibe and a friendly atmosphere. Known as “everyone’s favorite place,” Yellow Springs is sure to charm anyone the second they get into town.
Glen Helen Nature Preserve
This nature preserve is perfect for guests who want to witness the town’s native wildlife and their perfectly untouched ecosystems. Glen Helen Nature Preserve is immediately east of Yellow Springs. It offers a plethora of hiking trails and opportunities to learn about the local flora and fauna with its outdoor education program.
Yellow Springs Shopping
Filled to the brim with creative minds, Yellow Springs has tons of local artists sharing their talents with guests. Luckily for visitors, they’re usually selling their creations so everyone can take a little piece of Yellow Springs home with them. Here are some of the shops and artists to check out:
- The Blue Butterfly
- Bonadies Glass Studio
- Heaven on Earth Emporium
- Miami Valley Pottery (by appointment)
Visit yellowspringsohio.org to check out these shops and many more!
Sunflowers of Whitehall Farm
Yellow Springs’ Whitehall Farm, protected by the Tecumseh Land Trust, conserves this 950-acre sunflower field that draws visitors every year. The fields bloom in September for guests to marvel at the thousands of sunflowers and get the perfect photo opportunity!
Marietta—Ohio’s First City
The first permanent settlement in the state, Marietta, sits on the border of Ohio and West Virginia and has one of the most beautiful views of the Ohio River.
One of the best ways to see the town and learn about Marietta, the trolleys take visitors on a historical tour that lasts about 90 minutes and tells true stories about the pioneers that settled there. Insights on the best places to eat, stay and enjoy yourself in the historic town are given so everyone can enjoy it.
A perfectly maintained 1855 gothic-style mansion, The Castle is a landmark for the town. Guests can enjoy tours of the estate, including the grounds and the Historic Gravel Bank Cemetery.
As mentioned before, Marietta is one of the most historic places in Ohio, so naturally, there are plenty of museums to check out while visiting.
- Ohio River Museum
- People’s Mortuary Museum
- Campus Martius Museum
- Haunted History at Anchorage Mansion
- Children’s Toy and Doll Museum
- Marietta Soda Museum
Chillicothe is a great small town for those looking to have a weekend getaway dedicated to the great outdoors. Chillicothe is the perfect hub to stay in while you visit the surrounding state and national parks, and the perfect town to enjoy some historical and new age shops and eateries.
Located in Southern Ohio, Chillicothe is a hiker’s and a nature lover’s paradise, with five state parks and one national historic park found in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains:
- Hopewell Culture National Historic Park (3.6 miles from Chillicothe) featuring natural mounds dating back to 2000 B.C.E.
- Great Seal State Park (5.7 miles from Chillicothe)
- Scioto Trail State Park (13.4 miles from Chillicothe)
- Pike Lake State Park (22.6 miles from Chillicothe)
- Tar Hollow State Park (22.8 miles from Chillicothe)
They all offer a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, swimming and hunting.
Okay, I know we said “no college towns,” but Granville is a notable exception. Located in East Central Ohio, this town prides itself on its heritage. From listening to ghost stories while staying at Buxton Inn, to old family-owned restaurants and shops, there is a lot here to make visitors fall in love.
Home to Big Red, Denison’s Campus is gorgeous year-round and is open to visitors to tour and explore. Guests can walk to the Homestead, affectionately named for the ‘home away from home’ feeling students get while studying there. The Homestead is a tree-lined outdoor area, ideal for a relaxing break. Guests must enjoy the space quietly as it is a residential area for students.
- Visit the Bryn Du Mansion – Explore the 52-acre, 100-year-old estate in this charming town.
- Take in Granville’s History at Denison Museum and Granville Historical Society.
- Go for a bike ride – Many locals and visitors alike take advantage of the bike trails around Granville to look at the scenery while getting from point A to B.
- Shop! A reoccurring theme, small-town shops owned by locals, is the absolute best of shopping experiences. Granville is no exception – guests can take an entire day just looking at the galleries, stores, craft stores and more!
Food lovers will appreciate this little town for its historic restaurants and pubs. From fine dining to classic diners, there’s something on the menu for everyone!
- Buxton Inn – Haunted lodging and refined dining.
- Aladdin Restaurant – Best breakfast diner in town.
- The Oak Room – A fine dining establishment in a historic building near Denison College Campus.
- Broadway Pub – There is no better place to grab a pint to drink!
- Snapshots Lounge – Chilled out lounge with great food and drinks.
- Donato’s Pizza – Even this well-known chain operates in a three-story historic pub built in the early 1900s (which is the perfect atmosphere while patrons enjoy a local brew with their slice of pizza.)
Begin your next journey by speaking with a AAA travel agent for insights on discounts, flights, hotel bookings, and so much more.