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Must Take Road Trips From Ohio

by Sabhyata
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Ohio | Photo Credit – GPA Photo Archive

Ohio is almost everyone’s favorite state in Midwest America. A reason for that could be that this state has so many varied landscapes and so many things to see and do.

It’s the scenic byways and various kinds of attractions that will always keep you entertained and make Ohio one of the go-to starting spots for good old-fashioned road trips. Lake Erie to the north, the Ohio River to the south, and natural forestland in between make the drive absolutely beautiful.

So let’s get started on some of the best road trips from Ohio.

1. Mackinac Island, MI

Old Round Island Point Lighthouse; Photo Credit: Tom Clark

You can start this road trip from Traverse City and proceed to take the US 31 North. Within just 20 minutes of driving, you’ll find yourself at the Elk Rapids, then you continue on over to Charlevoix.

Located in Lake Huron along the Straits of Mackinac, Mackinac Island is Michigan’s most popular summertime travel destination and hence making for a perfect destination for road trips from Ohio. Its unique historic ambiance, natural bridges, caves, beautiful scenery of high cliffs and ravines make the road trip worthwhile.

Lake Huron

Mackinac Island State Park covers more than 80 percent of this island and offers a plethora of free things to do. Beginning with its most beautiful natural feature, Arch Rock. It is a natural limestone formation that sits on the shore at a height of 146 feet with a width of as much as fifty feet.

Next is a gift by the waters of Lake Huron, Skull Cave. This natural cave is a famous hiding spot for a few British troops.

There are several freshwater springs, Dwightwood Springs being the most popular one.

Since the town is a history hub, there are numerous monuments that commemorate various people important to Mackinac’s past,  Father Marquette Statue, Anne’s Tablet, and Cass Monument are a few of them.

Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park combines the living history approach with modern elements, making it perfect for kids as well as their parents. you can do hiking here, as well as, get demonstrations of the traditional water-powered sawmill.

The Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse is a famous spot since it offers free tours that are available on a limited, first-come basis. it is also home to the Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Museum, which features recovered artifacts and stories about the ships which did not survive.

It has a bunch of good hotels and resorts. In case you want a true vacation vibe, check out Grand Hotel. It’s one of the island’s most iconic resorts and a perfect place to relax. It has everything from a pool, tennis court, golf course to a full-service spa.

Lastly, if you want to know more about things to do in Michigan, check this article out.

2. Ann Arbor, MI

Huron River, Ann Arbor, MI; Photo Credit: NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

Ann Arbor, an exurb of Detroit is a charming college town. It offers a thriving cultural and culinary scene, with top-notch museums and a small-town vibe. The best part is that this Tree Town is easily accessible from major cities.

It is home to the biggest football stadium in the United States and the second-largest in the world, known as “The Big House.” Seeing a game here is one of the most popular things to do in the city and a dream of most of the tourists. We recommend you book tickets in advance but you can always contact the University of Michigan Ticket Office and try to secure tickets. If you simply want to visit the stadium, The Big House offers tours of the field, locker room, and press box.

The University of Michigan also operates The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology which portrays a collection of more than 100,000 objects from Ancient Greece to Mesopotamia.

For some water activities, the picturesque Huron River running through Ann Arbor is perfect for canoeing or kayaking. You can bring your own boat, or rent one from the Argo and Gallup Park Liveries. The river is also a perfect spot for fishing. Bordering the river is the Nichols Arboretum also known as “The Arb“. It features native and exotic trees and shrubs, as well as, nearly 3.5 miles of trails through important areas of the arboretum.

Since there is so much to do in this town, it’s just perfect for long road trips from Ohio and you might even want to spend a few days here. So for accommodations, check here.

3. Niagara Falls, NY

Niagara Falls, NY; Photo Credit: JoseluBilbo.

Everyone around the world knows how beautiful Niagara Falls are, hence attracting more than 12 million visitors a year. They lie in the extreme northwest of New York State along the U.S./Canadian border.

There are three waterfalls in total: Bridal Veil Falls; American Falls; and the widest, Horseshoe Falls, and once you soak up the beauty of all these, there is a list of things you can do across the Niagara River.

Pay a visit to Niagara Falls State Park, which opened in 1885 and is New York’s oldest state park. The park offers bike trails, picnic facilities, and scenic photo-ops. Through Observation Tower get panoramic views of all three falls. Also, there are fireworks presentations throughout the year making for quite a lit night.

For some adventure experience, The Maid of the Mist is the longest-running boat tour of the falls. The boat takes you to both  American Falls and Horseshoe Falls and is an unforgettable experience.

For families, The Aquarium of Niagara is a perfect place to spend time at. This aquarium offers more than 200 species of aquatic animals, as well as 30 educational exhibits. Some of its best presentations include a sea lion show and harbor seal presentations.

History buffs can visit The Castellani Art Museum. Their permanent collection includes more than 5,600 works in a wide range of media ( paintings, drawings, photos, and sculpture, as well as pre-Columbian ceramics) that dates from the 1850s to the present.

Because of its close proximity to its twin, Niagara Falls, Ontario, the list of things to do in this area increases. Make sure to ride the Niagara Skywheel, Canada’s biggest observation wheel, which offers stunning views of the falls and Niagara Gorge.

4. Ashville, NC

Pisgah National Forest ; Photo Credit : Woody Hoyle

Located in the far west of North Carolina, a drive to Ashville offers tons of scenic views. Along the way, you can eat some of the most delicious dishes in all of the state, give your legs a break at galleries, art museums, and crafts studios.

Beginning this trip from the Black Mountain, some of the notable stops to consider include Red Rocker Inn, Omni Grove Park Inn, Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site, and Biltmore Estate.

After the beautiful road trip, there are tons of things to do at your final destination too. Beginning with exploring The Blue Ridge Parkway while viewing several waterfalls as well as learning about the area’s history, flora, and fauna.

To experience a lot of Bohemian vibes make sure to visit the downtown area of Asheville. If you’re up for walking, explore the area through the historic Urban Trail, a 1.7-mile walking-tour route, marked by a series of 30 stations that feature informational plaques and sculptures at various significant sites. It’s also a very good and affordable place to say as well as park your car. Check here for hotels.

Ashville is also home to The Pisgah National Forest, one of the first designated national forests in the country. The park offers a variety of amenities and activities, like swimming, trails, horseback riding, fishing, and boat ramps. Table Rock, the Chimneys, and Linville Gorge are some of the geological landmarks in the park. To burn some calories you can take some guided nature hikes.

For thrill-seekers, Ziplines and Hot Air Balloon Rides are also available in Ashville.

5. Gatlinburg, TN

Sugarland Trail, Smoky Mountains ; Photo Credit : Sarath Kuchi

Gatlinburg is one of the smallest towns in Tennessee yet the state’s busiest tourist destinations. The reason for its busyness is its location. This city is considered a mountain resort city: it sits on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that offers hiking, fishing, and a plethora of other outdoor activities. It is also the most visited national park in the US and also one of the most famous destinations for road trips from Ohio.

There are more than 900 miles of hiking trails crisscross the park. Also, fly-fishing here is widely considered as some of the best in the country. Numerous campsite options are available around the park, along with cabin rental opportunities in and around this beautiful area.

The next highlight of the area is Clingmans Dome Observation Tower. The 45-foot-tall observation tower perched atop the mountain’s summit offers a view that includes seven different US states, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is another major attraction. It features plenty of exotic marine life from around the world. Don’t miss out on the fun penguin experiences. 

The Sugarlands is extremely popular as a day trip destination from Gatlinburg.  The area is particularly popular among hikers, and the hikes are totally worth the effort. Old Sugarlands Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails and is even open for horse riding.

Another area is popular for hiking in the Cades Cove, especially along the trails leading to Abrams Falls. Camping and cabins are also available here, so you can easily spend a day here while doing some wildlife viewing.

6. Poconos, PA

Pennell Falls ; Photo Credit : Thomas

The Pocono Mountains or  “the Poconos” is one of the most visited vacation areas in Pennsylvania. The reason for its popularity is that it is a deeply forested land area that features valleys and lakes, as well as river beaches and waterfalls. Not only is it beautiful but it is also a place full of adventures. There are numerous activities like bird watching, zip-lining, hiking, fishing, canoeing, golfing, skiing, parasailing, and whitewater rafting. The activities are quite family-friendly making it one of the best options for family road trips from Ohio.

It is home to the Delaware Water Gap which is considered one of the natural wonders of the world. over It offers 100 miles of trails that will take you to the most beautiful waterfalls, gorges, and ravines.

The first of the eight falls, Pennell Falls are a must-visit. Another great place to be at is Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark., especially for kids because it has kiddy camps with kiddy bed bunks. For some insta worthy photos and fun activities, head to Promised Land State Park. It has a playground, water, a sand volleyball court, a basketball hoop, and two sandy beaches, also, you can rent a boat or go for a hike. If you opt for hiking don’t forget to stop at the Masker Museum because it displays interesting natural history, including mounted animals.

In case you want some up-close encounters with deer, lambs, parrots, and goats, pay Claws ‘N’ Paws a visit. It is a petting zoo and animal park that hosts a variety of exciting shows and is home to more than 120 animal species. The Dinosaur Outpost, a recent addition, is where adults and children can come together to dig for fossils.

Consisting of beautiful valleys and rolling countryside, it is home to some of the state’s best resorts and hotels. Check them out here.

7. Stowe, Vermont

Stowe ; Photo Credit : Shiva Shenoy

This charming town in Vermont is located in a fertile valley between scenic Mount Mansfield and several other Green Mountains peaks to the west. This is another one of the scenic road trips from Ohio. Stowe has a lot of things to keep you busy, be it a mountain laced with ski trails, bucolic farms, a covered bridge, year-round outdoor sports, and a lively arts and dining scene.

With the highest peak at 4,393 feet, Mount Mansfield is Vermont’s highest mountain and a hub of hiking trails. Its slopes marked the beginning of serious recreational skiing in Vermont, a history you can explore in the Vermont Ski Museum, settled in the center of town.

West Branch Gallery and Sculpture Garden offers world-class contemporary art in a peaceful regional setting. From here, a trail leads down to the river, and there are lovely places where visitors can both picnic and enjoy the beautiful sculptures.

If you want to stretch your legs and go for a peaceful walk, stroll through the Stowe village along the Stowe Recreation Path. The path is flat and hence not very tiring. You can also opt to bike, or in the winter ski or snowshoe. The Rec Path (local name) is easy to access from several spots in the village and offers beautiful views of Stowe from many points. 

Climbing higher on Mountain Road to the shoulder of Mt. Mansfield, you head to Smugglers Notch. The road becomes narrower here. On another hillside above Stowe, you’ll find the Trapp Family Lodge. It was the home of the Von Trapps, whose lives were made famous in The Sound of Music. Along with the inn, their farm is an outdoor center with beautiful cross-country ski trails.

This beautiful place cannot be explored in a single day, so for accommodations check here.

8. Mystic, CT

Mystic Seaport ; Photo Credit : Ken Mist

Sitting quietly on the shores of the Mystic River, this seaside village exudes a  New England charm. Mystic is probably one of the most intriguing and alluring places in all of Connecticut because even in the offseason it offers a bunch of fun activities.

Your trip to Mystic is incomplete if you didn’t visit the Mystic Seaport Museum.  This museum is home to a planetarium as well as a working shipyard. You get a first-hand experience of how the sailors banked, printed newspapers, and carved ships.

 To enjoy the open sea you can either rent a rowboat, sail on the Breck Marshall, or float on the steam-run Sabino.

Another crowd-pleaser is the Mystic Aquarium. Here, you can see Beluga Whales up close and learn to train them as part of a paid encounter program. For an additional fee, you can even be-friend some penguins, seals, and sea lions. If you’re lucky, you might get to pet a baby alligator.

Trips are meant for relaxation, and what’s better than a relaxing cruise on the water. The Argia, an 81-foot, two-masted Gaff Topsail schooner which offers you a sailing experience like in the early 19th-century. Each cruise lasts two hours and takes you past islands, lighthouses, and the incredible homes lining the Mystic River. Also, you’re free to take your own snacks here.

For adventure enthusiasts, you can rent a two-person catamaran from Mystic Boat Adventures. Speeding through the scenic waterways surrounding this beautiful town will make for an unforgettable experience.

For some good food don’t miss out on Sift Bake Shop which is one of Mystic’s most well-loved eateries.

9. Plymouth, MA

Plymouth Harbor; Photo Credit: Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism

Plymouth, a small coastal town in Massachusetts offers picturesque views and historic landmarks. It’s a small New England town, where early homes are well kept and preserved. It’s a great destination for day road trips from Ohio but you can always choose to spend a few days and closely explore the area.

You can explore the Mayflower II which arrived in Plymouth in 1957. Also, climb aboard, examine the decks and between-decks areas. You can also see how the ship is constructed and observe a lot more.

A symbol of the nation’s beginnings, a treasured American icon, Plymouth Rock deserves a visit. Along with it, take some time for National Monument to the Forefathers. It’s the 81-foot-tall monument, commissioned by the Pilgrim Society to commemorate the founders of the Plymouth Colony. It is also thought to be the largest solid granite monument in the world.

Boats at Plymouth Harbor offer deep-sea fishing charters as well as ice-cream and pirate cruises for kids. You can also go on whale watching trips to Stellwagen Banks. It is one of the richest whale spotting areas on the east coast. 

It is also home to the Richard Sparrow House, the oldest house in Plymouth and one of the oldest wooden buildings in North America. Another house to explore is the Mayflower Society House and get to know about its part of World War II history.

10. Galena, IL

Train Tracks at Galena (IL) ; Photo Credit : Ron Cogswell

Galena, Illinois, is a great place perfect for road trips from Ohio, be it with friends or family, or kids.

Begin your tour exploring the Galena – Jo Daviess County Historical Society. It was founded in 1938 to educate and enrich the public about the history and material culture of Galena and Jo Daviess County. The society is home to the Galena & U.S. Grant Museum. The museum has excellent exhibits that focus on important aspects of the region from lead mining to the construction of Port Galena.

For some adventure, you can head to Chestnut Mountain Resort. It is a popular mountain and ski resort spanning 220 acres and features a variety of snow-based activities. If you just want to relax then also, this resort is perfect. It offers comfortable accommodation, excellent restaurants, cafés, and bars, and an indoor swimming sauna and whirlpool for après-ski relaxation.

For some entertainment,  P.T. Murphy Magic Theater presents a variety of intimate magic shows. Fun is guaranteed here because it is run by Master Magician P.T. Murphy himself, who is known for his mischievous sense of humor. The show runs for an hour, approximately.

To appreciate the beauty of the Mississippi River bluffs and do some fun outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, bird watching, and sightseeing, head to Casper Bluff Land & Water Reserve. It’s home to a variety of birds, so always be alert.

The Old Blacksmith Shop is an authentic blacksmith shop as well as a museum in itself. It dates back to 1897 and is perfect to explore the history of forging in Galena. You can also get some goodies like handcrafted jewelry or ornate fireplaces.

11. Charleston, SC

The pineapple fountain; Photo Credit: Scott Oves

If you want to travel back in time to the old days, a drive in a horse-drawn carriage around magnificent historic homes, churches, and other buildings of Charleston is all you need.

 Charleston has several great plantations to show off the aura of the Old South. The gardens bloom year-round with rare camellias in the winter and azaleas in the spring.

Waterfront Park is where you can relax and enjoy the views of Charleston Harbor. Its free Wi-Fi and the unusual Pineapple Fountain make it a popular spot. Sailboats and larger ships are common sights.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, first opened to visitors in 1870 are America’s oldest publicly accessed gardens. You can take a guided tour, visit an Antebellum cabin. You can also take a boat tour, see exhibits. If there are kids you can take them to a nature center and petting zoo.

Old City Market in Charleston is a prominent landmark and one of the most popular spots in Charleston. Browse through the old market building and get some shopping done. Vendors sell locally made handicrafts and traditional food products. Famous ones are the stone-ground grits and the prime souvenir of Charleston i.e. the beautiful sweetgrass basket.

If you want to view the city from the water, rent a boat from the Visitor Education Center downtown at Liberty Square or from Patriots Point. Then, head to the Fort Sumter National Monument.

It’s a good option for historic road trips from Ohio.

12. Washington, DC

Key Bridge – Washington, DC ; Photo Credit : Sam Amil

A road trip to DC may just be the perfect weekend activity because it is home to national symbols such as the Capitol and the White House.

It is home to The National Air and Space Museum which is one of the world’s most popular museums. The exhibitions illustrate the science, history, and technology of aviation and space flight. Exhibitions also cover topics like the use of airpower in both world wars. It also has the Albert Einstein Planetarium. It is an IMAX theatre where you can examine lunar craters and see planets and other astronomical features through telescopes.

One of the world’s premier art museums and one of the most popular in the U.S., the National Gallery of Art is also in Washington. Its large and diverse collection includes masterpieces of European and American paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. There are a lot of Asian and African pieces as well.

The National Zoo is home to nearly 2,000 different animals, birds, and reptiles. The animals live in habitats replicating as closely as possible their natural environments. About a quarter of these are endangered. This is one of the world’s best zoos and a hotspot among kids. Check their official website schedule for feeding times, demonstrations, educational games, or any queries.

For a detailed explanation of things to do in Washington, check this article out.

Since Washington cannot be covered in a single day, check here for accommodations.

13. Eureka Springs, AR

Lake Leatherwood Bridge ; Photo Credit : Alfredo Carrillo

Eureka Springs is a resort city named after the abundance of surrounding mineral pools. Its attractive downtown district is lined with historic Victorian buildings, small museums, and the centerpiece Basin Spring Park. You can spend hours wandering these antiquated streets and popping into places that catch your interest. Explore local storefronts, eclectic shops, local eateries, and then rest at Basin Spring Park for some evening entertainment.

Apart from walking the Eureka Springs Trolley and an open-air tram tour are also great ways to see some of the local sights.

To meet some big cats and other animals, head to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. This sanctuary is home to abandoned, abused, and neglected tigers, lions, leopards, and cougars, as well as bears and bobcats. They also provide lodging options, including a family-friendly treehouse and an adults-only safari lodge.

In order to explore beautiful gardens and local history,  Blue Springs Heritage Center is on full display with artifacts and remnants of an old mill that was once powered by the moving water. Lastly, just over a mile of trails, you’ll find the different garden beds connecting.

Hiking, biking, and water activities are some of the most popular ways to explore the Ozark mountains surrounding Eureka Springs. Lake Leatherwood City Park offers all of them and a lot more.

14. Burlington, VT

Ethan Allen Homestead; Photo Credit : Gregory Carter

Burlington has a young, hip vibe because of its high concentration of arts and cultural attractions. It’s perfect for day road trips from Ohio but if you want to spend a few days, check here for accommodations.

Spirit of Ethan Allen III offers sightseeing cruises on Lake Champlain with a narration on the Revolutionary War and other periods of the lake’s history. You can also opt for a ferry tour between Burlington and Port Kent, NY. The tour offers beautiful views of the mountains and lake. To know more about the historical heritage of the Lake Champlain area, head to The ECHO Leahy Center as they explore the depths of the lake.

For the newest varieties of flowering ornamental plants, visit Vermont’s only All-America Display Garden, Waterfront Park. It is also popular for running, cycling, walking, and picnicking.

On the outskirts of Burlington, Shelburne Museum gathers original buildings from different eras of Vermont’s past and displays activities of rural life in its time. It also displays some exceptional collections of decorative arts, paintings, folk art, and Americana.

Ethan Allen, a revolutionary war hero, and on 1,400 acres of land north of the city is his farmhouse. Hiking trails throughout his land have signage to explain the natural environment.

15. Chicago

Chicago ; Photo Credit : Pedro de Carvalho Ponchio

Along the shores of Lake Michigan lies the city which is often known as the “Windy City.” It makes for another perfect destination for road trips from Ohio owing to a lot of reasons. From the vibrant arts scene, numerous cultural attractions, excellent shopping, and interesting architecture, this city has it all.

The Art Institute of Chicago is a world-class museum with hundreds of thousands of artworks, each unique in its own way.

Located in downtown Chicago, the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park is a major attraction. You can also visit Lurie Garden, which is open to the public at no cost year-round.

For some adventure head to The Navy Pier an amusement area and Chicago’s most popular tourist attraction. There is a 150 ft Ferris wheel and a historic carousel as well as gardens, shops, restaurants, concert venues, and parks.  Chicago Children’s Museum is also located here. For water adventure, various Cruise ships leave from here on various sightseeing excursions.

Home to the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field is the second-oldest Major League Baseball park in the US. You can obviously watch a game here but if it’s a no-game day, you can get a Ballpark tour.

Along the edge of Lake Michigan, is the famous Lincoln Park, a six-mile stretch of green space. It is home to the lovely Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the country. To enjoy the outdoor space there are playing fields, bike trails, jogging paths, and beaches. For some sightseeing, there are a number of significant statues, Augustus Saint Gaudens’ Standing Statue of Lincoln being the most famous one.

For a detailed explanation of attractions in Chicago, check this article out.

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