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Port Clinton, Ohio
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Sandusky, Ohio

OHIO

The Buckeye State’s sprawling prairies contain huge amusement park rides, plain-living communities and a historic metropolis. Add these destinations to your Ohio itinerary for an unforgettable sampling of the “Crossroads of America.

 

Amish Country

Ohio’s Amish Country is a fascinating time capsule of patchwork fields and stone hamlets. Visitors will discover villages where horse-drawn buggies trot along country roads punctuated with quaint stores, dairies, blacksmiths and antique stores. One of the region’s largest towns, Millersburg provides a distillation of the region’s traditions, attractions and scenery. The country is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts with accessible parks and wildlife centers that provide ample opportunities for hiking, horse-riding and cycling amid Amish Country’s green and pleasant lands.

Premier Attractions

A sprinkling of museums, historical attractions, eye-catching Victorian architecture and antique emporiums make the town of Millersburg one of Amish Country’s most well-rounded communities. The town’s architectural centerpiece is the restored Victorian House Museum, a paradigm for Queen Anne Victorian style, and home to an extensive collection of antiques and exquisite period furnishings. Founded in 1830, the traditional canal town of Roscoe Village is one of Amish County’s most inviting towns with evocative cobbled streets lined with Victorian buildings, traditional stores and cafes. The visitor center traces the town’s development with detailed dioramas, intricate maps and models of the canal and lock system, aqueduct and a working gristmill.

Local Color

To gain deeper insight into Amish Country’s rural traditions, it’s worth a visit to the Schrock’s Heritage Village. The farm experience extends to an antique mall, candle factory and quilt bar. One of the county’s most family-oriented attractions, children can interact with the farm animals, watch milking and horseshoeing demonstrations and volunteer for field work. Ohio’s Amish Country boasts a singular and outstanding craft heritage that find expression in an array of superlatives: There’s the world’s largest cuckoo clock in Sugarcreek, one of the nation’s oldest livestock auctions in Kidron and the world’s largest retailer of historical technology, Lehmans.


Regional Recipe

Slow Cooker Chicken Pasta and Parmesan Soup

Enjoy this comforting recipe on your next road trip. Recipe by Kate Dunbar.

 

Getty Images

Ingredients:

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 fully cooked roast chicken, meat removed
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 6 ounces (uncooked) dry penne pasta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Chopped fresh basil or parsley, for garnish

Directions:
Place all fresh chopped herbs in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap, place in the refrigerator. In 5-quart or larger slow cooker, add olive oil, dried herbs, onion, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, chicken, chicken broth, ½ cup cheese, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook on low 6 hours or on high 3 hours. Stir in pasta. Cook on high 20-30 minutes or until pasta is cooked al dente. If soup becomes too thick after the pasta is cooked, stir in an additional 1-cup of water or broth and warm through. Serve bowls of soup with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and a bit of fresh grated Parmesan cheese.


On Land

Amish Country is an excellent base for outdoor excursions throughout the county. Holmes County’s scenic rails-to-trails path begins at Hipp Station in Millersburg. With diverse habitats ranging from expanses of grasses and legumes to primal woodlands, Woodbury Wildlife Area, a 15-minute drive west of Roscoe Village, affords prime watchable wildlife along a series of novice trails where opportunities for camping, picnicking and fishing abound. Resident mammal species include wild turkeys, opossum, cottontail rabbits, white-tailed deer and ruffed grouse. With myriad bird species, including bobolinks, short-eared owls, rough-legged hawks and numerous songbirds, the park is a magnet for ornithologists. Impassioned anglers convene at some 42 ponds within the area that are liberally stocked with bass, bluegill, red-ear sunfish and channel catfish.

On the Water

The crop fields, shrubby coverts, grasslands and woods of the 5,671-acre Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area, just north of Millersburg, offer excellent fishing and hunting opportunities. Killbuck Creek draws anglers from across Amish Country for its rich stores of northern pike, carp and bullheads as well as panfish that inhabit several ponds. The area is also popular for hunters of waterfowl, namely wood duck, blue-winged teal and mallard. A cherished pastime for visitors and locals is to take a 45-minute canal boat ride from Roscoe Village aboard the Monticello III down a restored section of the Ohio and Erie Canal, pulled by sturdy draft horses.

Stone Bridge with Waterfall

Stone bridge with waterfall running underneath into a large natural pool.

Festivals and Events

Millersburg (also known as “The Burg”) combines a rich and celebrated Amish and Mennonite history with a passion for century-old crafts that find expression at the Holmes County Antique Festival in October. The festival coincides with the fall leaves, hailed by National Geographic as one of the best leaf-peeping spectacles in the nation. In late September, nearby Sugarcreek (which goes by the moniker of “Little Switzerland”) hosts its annual Swiss Festival, the most popular festival in the state, featuring the very entertaining steinstossen (or stone throwing), a Swiss cheese eating contest, live music and entertainment, wine tasting, parades, local food vendors, rides, games and a yodeling contest.

 

Columbus

Make your next Midwest vacation a haven of art, culture and fun. How about craft breweries, distilleries and wineries? Are you looking for a place to take the kids or grandkids to learn about dinosaurs or science? Maybe your perfect destination includes hiking, biking and kayaking. Believe it or not, you’ll find all of these and more when you choose to experience the metropolis of Columbus.

Orange Rules

Ohio State University and its legendary Buckeye sports teams make their home in Columbus. During football season, expect to see a sea of red when the Buckeyes play a home game, as fans clad in the school colors fill Ohio Stadium to see this championship-winning football team hit the field. But this certainly isn’t the only game in town. In fact, there are so many things to do that you’ll have a hard time trying to decide what to do first. If shopping is your bag, stop by the North Market’s more than 30 merchants. Or perhaps you’d like to spend a relaxing day at an art gallery. If you have the kids along on the trip, you need to check out COSI, which has more than 300 interactive science exhibits and is now featuring a brand-new dinosaur gallery complete with a T-Rex. The kids will really scream when you take them to the newest Columbus attraction, a 36,000-square-foot Legoland Discovery Center.

Go Paddling

Did you know that Columbus is a haven for watersports? The Scioto Audubon Metro Park is a revitalized brownfield that is now a 120-acre park welcoming kayakers and anglers year-round. Rent a canoe at the Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park where you can float down Big Darby Creek. On your water trip, you can spy on a herd of bison, catch a glimpse of a bald eagle soaring past or an osprey coming in for a landing. If you’d like to ramp it up a bit, head over to Hocking Hills, where you can take a two-hour or two-day trip on the Hocking River. Visitors also can rent tubes for a more leisurely experience.

Plenty of Parks

Looking for green scenery? Well, Columbus has 19 natural areas in and around the city. In these parks, you can hike or bike on over 230 miles of paved trails. Opportunities abound for backpacking, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, golfing (regular or disc), horseback riding and ice skating. There are rock climbing walls and obstacle/challenge courses available for even more adventure. Nature preserves and amazingly beautiful gardens are waiting to be strolled through. If there is something you like to do outdoors, chances are you can do it in Columbus.

Magical Metro

Columbus has established a reputation as a friendly, diverse and welcoming town. The city, amid all the beauty, is made up of a few unique and colorful neighborhoods. No matter what you’re into, you can find your way to your favorite stop. No doubt you’ll find art and music on nearly every corner, but you’ll also be able to sample some excellent home brews and wine in the Brewery District. If some retail therapy is on the agenda, you’ll be able to find local shops as well as name-brand stores. The friendly atmosphere transfers to your four-legged friends as well. Columbus is a dog-friendly community. No matter who you’re with or where you stop, you’ll feel right at home.

Equestrian Delights

Saddle up: Springtime at the Ohio Expo Center welcomes thousands of horse lovers to the city; the Equine Affaire is North America’s premier equestrian expo. Summer, of course, has fireworks over the July 4 holiday.

Raise a Stein

Several events kick off during the fall, including Oktoberfest and Country Living Fair. Finally, winter ushers in light displays at many of the Columbus gardens and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Serpent Mount Historical Site

South of Columbus, Serpent Mound Historical Site illuminates the deep history and significance of Ohio’s Native people. The earthwork mound that gives the site its name winds in the curved shape of a snake for over 1,300 feet and is close to 2,000 years old, although scientists have yet to decipher the exact identity of its creators. You can wander the serene grounds and learn more about this singular ancient structure at the on-site museum. This is a must-visit for travelers interested in Native American culture.

 

Sandusky

For a fun-filled family getaway, there’s no place quite like Sandusky. Home to one of the world’s premier amusement parks, the northern Ohio town sits on a peninsula jutting into Lake Erie, with plenty of swimming, fishing and boating on offer. Toss in a unique maritime history and easy island-hopping adventures for a once-in-a-lifetime Buckeye getaway.

Roller coaster with moon at Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

“Roller coaster with moon at Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio”

Ride Cool Coasters

Sandusky earns its nickname as “America’s Roller Coast” at Cedar Point, one of the country’s largest and most popular amusement parks. More than 3 million visitors head to the park each year to enjoy over 71 rides, including 18 roller coasters, as well as marinas, sports complexes and a mile-long beach. The Top Thrill Dragster, the second-tallest coaster in the world, is a white-knuckle ride that thrills even the most jaded coaster buffs. Other wildly popular attractions include Kalahari, one of the world’s largest indoor water parks, and the Ghostly Manor Thrill Center, which boasts a haunted house, escape room and a virtual reality feature.

Reel in the Big Ones

With Lake Erie spreading out before you, the possibilities for boating and fishing are endless. Hop on the 20-minute Jet Express ferry to Kelleys Island to enjoy laid-back vibes and long stretches of public beaches. From there, you can kayak, swim and fish the bountiful waters just offshore where catfish, perch, bass and walleye regularly bite. Put-in-Bay, the southernmost of the Bass Islands, is another must-see Erie Island and the perfect destination for those looking to fish, swim and enjoy a social scene that includes music festivals, wine tastings and more.

Guiding Light

At the tip of a rocky peninsula jutting into Sandusky Bay, Marblehead Lighthouse State Park is home to the oldest continuously operated lighthouse on the Great Lakes. Picturesque and popular, the park is a perfect destination for picnics, nature hikes or a guided tour that climbs the 77 steps to the top of the beacon. Take the ferry to the north for 7 miles to visit Kelleys Island State Park. Wander 6 miles of nature trails and marvel at the famed “glacial grooves,” one of the largest examples of glacier tracks in the world. Try the North Shore Loop Trail to hike or bike both the island’s woodland and beachfront habitats in one route. In the town of Huron, just east of Sandusky, budding naturalists will love Old Woman Creek State Nature Preserve & National Estuarine Research Reserve, one of the state’s best, and most serene, examples of an estuary environment.

Museums and More

The secret to Sandusky’s outsized success can be found in the many historical museums interspersed throughout the downtown area. The Merry-Go Round Museum features vintage carousels and exhibits, while the Follett House Museum is a living tribute to life in the era between the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Another visitor favorite is the Maritime Museum, which offers exhibits on Great Lakes shipwrecks.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Southeast of Sandusky, Cuyahoga Valley National Park aims to preserve the historic and iconic emblems of the Buckeye State, like the photogenic Everett Covered Bridge and the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath trail. Brandywine Falls is the park’s centerpiece natural attraction and a must-see when visiting. Canoeing, kayaking and fishing are popular pastimes on the picturesque Cuyahoga River, which winds through the 33,000-acre park.

 

For More Information

Ohio Tourism Division

800-282-5393

www.ohio.org

Holmes County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau

877-643-8824

www.visitamishcountry.com

Greater Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau

866-397-2657

experiencecolumbus.com

Sandusky County Convention and Visitors Bureau

800-255-8070

sanduskycounty.org