For as long as I can remember, my summer vacations have all ended the same way – not getting to experience everything I wanted because there is simply not enough time or money. (The latter tends to be my biggest reason!) Only recently did I realize how many affordable options are available in Ohio to keep the fun going without feeling like I’m breaking the bank. Try doing that in Florida or California!
There are so many attractions in Ohio that are free, and more importantly, FUN! One of my favorites includes the crown jewel of Dayton – the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It’s almost hard to believe this museum is FREE! It is hands down one of the best museums in the country, free or not! I did not let a year pass, while studying at the University of Dayton, without taking a tour of this massive museum. I have been there five times and each trip I discover a new exhibit or piece of information I missed on previous excursions. The museum showcases military aviation history and boasts more than 400 aerospace vehicles – many rare and one-of-a-kind – ranging from the Wright Brothers to current-day technology. One of my favorite exhibits is the Presidential Hangar. *Plan on spending at least half a day at this museum to see most exhibits.
Here are some of my other favorites:
• Ye Olde Mill (Utica) – If you like ice cream as much as I do, this is a must (and I mean MUST) stop! The home of Velvet Ice cream is indeed a historic 1817 grist mill with a water wheel that includes a production viewing gallery, gift shop, nature trail, shelter houses and events throughout the summer. Don’t eat before you go, as there is a 19th century style Ice Cream Parlour and restaurant located at the Mill.
• Dawes Arboretum (Newark) I don’t consider myself to be a flower expert in the least, but the Dawes Arboretum always has me standing in amazement at the rainbow of colors in bloom. The arboretum is open year-round and encourages people to bask in its 1,800 acres featuring eight miles of hiking trails, 15,000 living plants, a Japanese Garden and a museum. Get to the top of the 36-foot-high Observation Tower for a bird’s eye view of the arboretum.
• Glacial Grooves on Kelly's Island. At the Glacial Grooves memorial, you can see a piece of the island's Pleistocene history – the age of glacial activity in the region. These are the largest easily accessible such grooves in the entire world! They were scoured into solid limestone bedrock about 18,000 years ago by the great ice sheet which covered part of North America. The Devonian limestone containing the grooves contains marine fossils that are 350 to 400 million years old!!! (Talk about a long LONG time ago!)
• Ohio State Parks There are a whopping 74 locations across the state! My favorite thing about the dozens of Ohio’s state parks is they each possess a unique quality and offer a large diversity of ecosystems and adventure opportunities. I’ve spent time hiking, mountain biking and fishing, but you can also swim, boat, ride horses or golf at many of them. Spend the night in a luxurious lodge room, a comfortable vacation cottage, a convenient getaway rental, or in your own tent or camper. In addition to every-day fun, special events and activities are offered at many of the parks. See the website for the calendar of events. Tech saavy outdoors adventurers can enjoy virtual geo-caching offered at a numerous state parks and nature preserves. The activity is available at Hocking Hills State Park in Logan and Irwin Prairie Nature Preserve in Lucas County.
My family and I have always enjoyed visiting Burr Oak State Park in Glouster. Burr Oak is one of the more isolated parks, located within Ohio’s only national forest – Wayne National Forest. The park has a lodge with 60 guest rooms and for a more private experience, 30 cottages are available. Swimming, fishing and boating are among the popular activities at Burr Oak State Park.
And again, here’s the best part. Count the money you have in your wallet right now…that’s the same amount of money you’d have after visiting some of these spectacular Ohio destinations.
There are many more free destinations and attractions, as well as an even longer list of experiences with minimal admission fees. Check out this list What are some of your favorite low-cost/free destinations in Ohio? Which ones are you visiting this year?