Ohio Adventures with the Family
Ohio seems to be one of those states that people think there’s nothing to do in. I’ll admit that I used to think the same before I moved here several years ago. Since then, I’ve discovered so many amazing places to visit with my kids. From outdoor things to do in Ohio to indoor activities, I’ve constantly been surprised by all Ohio has to offer. In fact, the past three years, my kids and I have only done mini Ohio vacations to places like Cincinnati and Sandusky – and we’ve loved every second of them.
If you’re looking for indoor or outdoor things to do in Ohio, use this list for planning. It includes places scattered from the east to the west and everywhere in between for the whole family to enjoy together.
16 Indoor & Outdoor Things to Do in Ohio with the Family
Whether you’re looking for indoor or outdoor things to do in Ohio, this list includes several must-see places to visit with the kids. My family loves exploring Ohio, and it amazes me how many fun family attractions are scattered throughout the state. Find Eastern Ohio attractions, unusual adventures in Ohio, things to do in Southeast Ohio, and more.
1. Dublin, Ohio
Dublin, Ohio is somewhere I’d move in a second if I could. If you love being outdoors and exploring parks galore, then this place is for you, too. My family visited for the first time a few years ago for a weekend, and we couldn’t squeeze in everything we wanted to do. From geocaching to hiking trails to trying out traditional Irish foods, Dublin is such a treasure with tons of experiences in Ohio. The kids will adore all the playgrounds, too!
2. Hocking Hills State Park
Hocking Hills State Park in Hocking County, Ohio, has river adventures, ziplining, camping, hiking, boating, fishing, and all kinds of other stuff for your family to enjoy. Hop on the scenic railway to travel through Hocking Hills, watch an outdoor drama, or visit R Adventure Park for paintballing, a ropes course, and more.
3. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a place you absolutely need to check out if you’re heading to Cleveland. If your kids are music fans and you like to share in the nostalgia of some of your favorite old bands, then you’ll all love spending a few hours here. Don’t forget to check out the shop before you go!
4. Amish Country
Amish Country in Ohio actually refers to a bunch of places, like Sugarcreek, Mansfield, and Millersburg. In other words, there are a whole lot of places to explore here! From unique dining opportunities to shopping galore to museums, petting zoos, and gorgeous scenery, Amish Country is an adventure that’s like no other. My suggestion? Visit The Farm at Walnut Creek. It’s a small petting zoo that also has a ride-through wagon tour that lets you get up close and personal with the animals!
5. Columbus Zoo & Aquarium (and Zoombezi Bay)
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a must-see if you’re visiting or live in Ohio. My kids and I go every year, and it’s always something we look forward to. I mean, where else can you get amazing experiences like seeing a sting ray up close and personal?
With a petting zoo, a train ride, and different continent areas with native species, this zoo my favorite I’ve been to. It’s fun making memories here year after year. And if you happen to be in the area around Christmas time or Halloween, be sure to see the seasonal events it hosts. Wildlights is amazing!
Right next door is Zoombezi Bay, the zoo’s very own waterpark. Again, it’s my favorite. There are so many things for kids and adults alike to enjoy, and its lazy river is beyond the best you’ll find anywhere close. While you won’t find many free kid activities in Columbus Ohio aside from playgrounds, parks, and occasional free events, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and Zoombeze Bay are well worth every cent you pay.
6. The Wilds
The Wilds is owned by the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, but it’s in Cumberland, Ohio. The safari park features open-air and bus safari adventures that take you through the park to get up-close glimpses of the animals. I suggest going when your kids aren’t super young, as the tours can take a couple of hours.
7. Cedar Point
My kids and I visited Cedar Point and Cedar Point Shores in 2019 for our annual summer vacation. And, let me tell you – the Cedar Point Beach impressed this former New Jersey girl! No, you won’t get the waves that you see on the Jersey Shore, but the beach was beautiful and the water reminded me of home. We spent all day here, and I can’t wait to go back.
As you can see, my little beach baby enjoyed digging in the sand. Not many people realize that Ohio has such beautiful beaches, but this one proves that it does.
Cedar Point Shores was another day on our vacation. We spent lots of time in this Splash Zone and the Runaway Rapids.
A lot of the rides at Cedar Point were ones we couldn’t experience because my youngest wasn’t ready for them, but I’ll definitely be back at some point when he’s a little older, so we can all join in the fun.
8. Center of Science & Industry (COSI)
I’ve brought my kids to COSI since they were tiny, and each time we come back, there’s always something new to see. From learning about sports to discovering science, there are tons of activities for kids of all ages and interests.
9. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Looking for a relaxing adventure with the kids on a weekend? Head to the National Park Scenic Excursion on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. The train runs through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and takes about 3 1/2 hours from start to finish.
10. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens is another must-see zoo to visit if you’re a zoo fan! This was one of many stops we made on a Cincinnati-Kentucky vacation.
There are lots of hills to navigate in this zoo, so make sure you’re geared up for them. But the scenery here is gorgeous and the animal encounters are great!
Although Otherworld in Columbus, Ohio, could definitely be an idea for fun dates in Ohio with your significant other, it’s also a fun place for you to enjoy with older kids. It’s known as an “immersive art installation.” Basically, what that means is that it includes a bunch of interactive art exhibits that’s like no other art museum you’ve been to. You’ll see lots of neon lights, life-size props, and magical worlds to explore.
12. Salt Fork State Park
Salt Fork State Park in Lore City, Ohio is one of our favorite places to go all year, but especially in the summer. Its beautiful lake beach has plenty of space to sprawl out and enjoy the sun and water. If you happen to visit on a rainy day, you can enjoy the indoor pool at the lodge (there’s also an outdoor one!). Be sure to stop by the Kennedy Stone House, which is now a museum that gives you a peek into what life was like in the 1800s. There’s also boating, hiking, camping, fishing, and tons of stuff for families to do in the park. If you’re looking for eastern Ohio things to do, consider a day trip or a weekend getaway here.
13. Mission Oaks Gardens
Mission Oaks Gardens is a small area situated in Zanesville, Ohio, and it’s the perfect way to spend a couple of hours outside on a nice day. This is a relatively recent discovery of ours, and I’m so glad we found it.
The Gardens features a few different Gardens, including an adorable Fairy Garden with pint-sized buildings for tiny fairies. There’s also a Children’s Garden with real, growing fruit, vegetables, and herbs, and a Little Free Library to find something new to read.
This place is a mini oasis away from the hustle and bustle of suburban areas. There are several benches scattered throughout your walk, so you can relax and enjoy the scenery.
14. Scioto Audobon
The Scioto Audobon is another Columbus treasure. Find three trails that run along the Scioto River and make for an ideal setting for hiking, biking, or exercising your dog. The park also has tons of activities, like kayaking, fishing, and boating. There’s even a full-size rock climbing wall that’s free for any climber! (Climbers must be at least 13 years old).
15. Smale Riverfront Park
Talk about outdoor things to do in Ohio! This place has them all. It’s Smale Riverfront Park located in the heart of Cincinnati, right across the river from Kentucky. This place is an absolute gem in Ohio, and it turned out to be my favorite spot we visited on my family’s Cincinnati-Kentucky vacation a couple of years ago. The bridge in the photo above starts in the park but leads you right across the river to Kentucky.
There’s the bridge again in the background! Smale Riverfront Park has no shortage of fun things for kids to do, too, like this playground area.
And then there are lifesize games and instruments, like a chess board and this piano that makes real noise.
Kids are free to splash around in the water jets, too, which my son had a blast with!
16. Ohio Caverns
Located in West Liberty, Ohio, the Ohio Caverns weave you through real caverns that have been deemed “America’s most colorful caverns.” It’s open all year long and might even feel warm on cold winter days since the caves maintain the same temperature throughout the year. When you’re done exploring, check out the above-ground area, where you can have a picnic and the kids can play at the playground.
Those are my picks for some of the best indoor and outdoor things to do in Ohio. But, honestly, there are so many more that aren’t on this list! Tell me: What are your favorite places to visit with the family in Ohio?
Amy is a mom of two, freelance writer, and blog manager who works with family-focused businesses to improve their content strategies. You can find her published work on Reader’s Digest Online, MSN, Niche, Frugal For Less, and other lifestyle publications.