Road Trips from Columbus
Located centrally between Cleveland and Cincinnati, the two big cities of Ohio lies its capital. With its Midwestern roots, the vibe here is artsy as well as sporty. Columbus, being the largest city in Ohio serves as a great base to explore all of Ohio. Road trips from Columbus are also quite in trend these days.
Many historic mid-west cities and towns are just a drive away from Columbus. It’s not just the destination but the drive itself includes plenty of State Parks with hiking trails, cascading waterfalls, and beautiful woodland scenery to explore. So, mentioned below is a carefully set, list of the 15 best road trips from Ohio.
1. Hocking Hills State Park
Perfect for day road trips from Columbus, the Hocking Hills State Park will take you to some of the most tranquil areas of the state marked by waterfalls, caves, sandstone cliffs, and lush vegetation. Located around the southeast of Columbus, the place is full of adventurous outdoor activities like canoeing, ziplining, horseback riding, and rock climbing.
To explore the park closely multiple trails varying from different levels are available. The cavernous Ash Cave, which forms a huge open recess in the rock that can be walked in and around is worth your time. Old Man’s Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Conkle’s Hollow, Cedar Falls, and Rockhouse are some of the other unmissable attractions. To stargaze and relax, the newly made John Glenn Astronomy Park is the best place.
If you plan to stay, make reservations in advance for the nearby cabins.
2. Ann Arbor, MI
For some water adventure, the picturesque Huron River offers ample opportunity for canoeing, kayaking, or tubing. You can bring your own water gear, or rent from the Argo and Gallup Park Liveries. For fly fishing, this river has some of the best bass and carp fishing. Guides and instructors are also available. To see work by Pablo Picasso, The University of Michigan Museum of Art has it and much more. For some more art visit the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.
Lastly, if you manage to secure tickets, watching a game at “The Big House” (The University of Michigan Stadium) is one of the best things you can do in this town.
3. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
A road trip from Columbus to Ohio’s only National Park is worth adding to your bucket list. The drive takes around two hours and on your way, you’ll find dozens of sites that are worth exploring and will help you stretch your legs, making it one of the best road trips from Columbus. The park is perfect for a relaxing getaway in the lap of nature. The best way to explore the beautiful hills, forests, and ofc the Cuyahoga River is by biking or hiking. The 20 miles Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail is the most famous one. Don’t miss out on the area’s most accessible viewpoint, Tinker’s Creek. It is also one of the National Landmarks.
If you’re interested in learning about the history of the area, the Canal Exploration center will answer all your question.
For a scenic train ride, you can hop aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway and enjoy! The park is also home to a tiny town of Peninsula where you can get delicious food as well as some rest.
4. Niagara Falls, NY
This one is a common yet exciting and the most popular one among road trips option. The road trip from Columbus will take around five hours and you can stop at some fun places like Cleveland and other Lake Erie towns.
The Niagara falls don’t need an introduction, as they are among the best-known falls in the world. The falls lie along the U.S./Canadian border which is made by the Niagara River. Once you soak up the There are a wide variety of ways to view the falls, both from dry land and right up close in the spray, you can try other fun activities available in the region. For a boat tour of the falls, The Maid of the Mist is the most popular one. On a chilly or rainy day, you can explore The Aquarium of Niagara. It is home to 200 species of aquatic animals. You can also feed a penguin here and watch the famous sea lion show.
You can also head to Canada’s side of the falls. Here you can take a ride on Niagara Skywheel and get jaw-dropping views of the falls and Niagara Gorge.
If you’re looking for short road trips from Columbus, Dayton is the perfect destination. an hour’s drive will take you to the birthplace of aviation. Since this is where the Wright Brothers built their first aircraft, the aviation theme is spread throughout the city.
It is home to the largest and oldest military aviation museum in the world, The National Museum of the United States Air Force. The most famous exhibit here is the Presidential Gallery, where you can walk inside some of the aircraft used by U.S. Presidents. You can also enjoy the fun Virtual Reality 360-degree flight simulator.
Your trip is incomplete without visiting the Wright Brothers’ original bicycle shop and learning about the early days of Orville and Wilbur Wright. Another important place is the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. The park includes Wright Brothers Aviation Center, the Wright Cycle Company, and the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center, and other historical sites.
Lastly, for some adventurous activities like biking, hiking, and kayaking, the Five Rivers MetroParks has more than 16,000 acres of outdoor space with natural surroundings.
6. Decatur, IL
Situated on two water bodies, Lake Decatur and the Sangamon River, Decatur from Columbus is five hours road trip away. The University city is full of water-based activities as well as historical places. The Scovill Zoo is a fun place with a cute carousel, a large playground, and almost 100 different animal species from six continents.
For a relaxing waterside view, the Decatur Park District is a scenic lakefront park. It is also pet-friendly and even has a disc golf course and fitness stations. With more than 250,000 books, The Old Book Barn is a paradise for bookworms. Next, for hiking or biking the Decatur Park District has trails through the city. The most famous is the picturesque 1.45 miles long, Stevens Creek Trail. If you want more outdoor activities like swimming, camping, fishing, hunting, and boating, head to Clinton Lake State Recreation Area.
For a retreat from retreat the big city hassles, just 40 miles away from Columbus is Newark. If you don’t want to drive much and want to road trip from Columbus, this is the one for you. It has a lot of local historical sites. The Hale-Byrnes House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places is known for its charm, architecture, and furniture.
For outdoor enthusiasts, White Clay Creek State Park is a hotspot. Bird watching, hiking, biking, and picnicking are some of the few things you can do here. Another place for outdoor activities and disc golf is Iron Hill Park. It is also pet-friendly.
For shopping enthusiasts, what’s better than a no sales tax shopping spree! Christiana Mall has brands like Target, Barnes & Noble, and Nordstrom, as well as, various dining options.
Last but not the least, At the Roselle Center for the Arts on the campus of the University of Delaware, The Resident Ensemble Players (group of theatrical performers) produce and perform a variety of high-quality shows. The shows vary from classics and contemporary plays to musicals, comedies, and even children’s performances.
8. Gatlinburg, TN
Coming from Columbus if you want a road trip with a lot of stops, this one has got great options to take a break at. Even though Gatlinburg is one of the smallest towns in Tennessee it is home to the most visited national park in the US. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offers hiking, fishing, and a plethora of other outdoor activities. The best way to explore it is by foot and hence has more than 900 miles of hiking trails. If you want to stay, campsites are also available.
Clingmans Dome Observation Tower, the highest point in Tennessee, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offer gorgeous views of the area. Sunset and sunrise are exceptionally beautiful. Next, to see sharks and other exotic marine life up close, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies through an acrylic tunnel offers plenty of marine animals from around the world.
Sugarlands is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the area. It is particularly popular among hikers, but if you simply need a scenic area to relax, it’s perfect for that too. For some more relaxation, you can take a drive around Cades Cove. don’t forget to visit the Abrams Falls and Laurel Falls.
You can also check out our article specially written for attractions in Gatlinburg.
9. Amish Country
Two hours of a road trip from Columbus will take you to a completely different world. Amish Country is made up of several towns and cities and Millersburg is the largest of them all. This place will remind you of life’s simple pleasures and help you relax a lot. Other than the largest town, Charm, Walnut Creek, and Berlin are quite cute and closely related to each other.
You’ll find delicious breakfast and baked goodies throughout Holmes, Tuscarawas, and Knox counties. Millersburg is home to several cheese factories. Guggisberg Cheese and Heini’s Cheese Chalet are the most famous ones. The food here will definitely keep you happy.
Horse-drawn carriages are a common sight here and if interested, you can even ride them. “The Little Switzerland of Ohio,” is a must-visit. Sugarcreek is still connected to its Swiss roots via Swiss architecture and murals on many of its storefronts. It’s also one of the best places to stay in the area.
10. Salt Fork State Park
The largest state park in Ohio is just an hour’s drive away from Columbus. The road trip from Columbus involves an absolutely scenic drive. It has an abundance of activities like hiking, horseback riding, fishing, camping, swimming, and boating. The 10-station archery trail is quite popular as well as easy to navigate. In total, the park has 14 hiking trails and in winters, some of them convert to snowmobile trails. For golf enthusiasts, the park features a top-rated 18-hole golf course.
The park is also home to one of the largest inland beaches in Ohio, equipped with showers and lockers so it is easy to spend a relaxing day. The beautiful Salt Fork Reservoir is very eye-catching.
Kennedy Stone House is a beautifully restored home and a treasure of the park. Check timings before visiting. The park also has cabins, is pet friendly, and is wheelchair accessible. For campers, separate beach, boat launching, and docking facilities are available.
11. Galena, IL
For long road trips from Columbus, this one is perfect. A drive to Galena takes around eight hours. It is a quaint historic town. If you’re a history buff, here, you’ll find a lot of houses filled with history. Ulysses S. Grant Home is the most famous house. It has Italianate architecture and original furnishings from 1864.
For kids, P.T Magic Murphy Theatre is a major attraction. The show is regarded as one of the best in the country. The experience is entertaining and magical. For a relaxing walk, roam around Grant Park’s lush greeneries and fill your day with fresh air. It’s also a good picnic spot.
To learn about the history of the area, you can drop by at Jo Daviess County Historical Society and Museum.
A two hours road trip from Columbus will land you in Ohio’s second-largest city, Cleveland. It makes to the list of ‘best’ road trips from Columbus because this city is culturally rich and hence offers a lot to explore.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a paradise for music lovers. The history of popular music is spread over six floors and could be explored for one whole day. The building sitting at the shores of Lake Erie is itself a piece of art. The Cleveland Museum of Art is another museum you can spend time at. It has a great collection of art from around the world and especially American art.
The Cleveland Aquarium, housed in a beautiful historical building, is home to 2,500 animals spread across 300 species. You can befriend some stingrays here. For some more animal interaction, The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has a lot of cute and exotic animals from around the world.
Check out our detailed article on things you shouldn’t miss doing when in Cleveland.
Lastly, if you want to entertain your adventurous self, Chestnut Mountain Resort offers tons of fun activities. From skiing, snowboarding, Zipline to indoor swimming, you can easily spend a day or two here.