7 Unique & Intriguing Day Trips from Columbus, Ohio|
In case you are not familiar, Ohio is a midwestern state located in the northeastern United States. If you can’t find it while peering down upon your atlas or google maps (are atlases still around?), look below Michigan and west of Pennsylvania.
If you find your finger (or eye) on Indiana, you have gone too far west. Find West Virginia and you are too far south. Find Kansas, California or Hawaii and we can’t help you (you might need a geography refresher. Hey, maybe purchase an atlas!).
This map might help:
To locate Columbus, the largest city in Ohio (15th largest in the nation) you will need to search near the middle of the state, somewhere between Cincinnati and Cleveland (did that help?). That’s between the Browns and Bengals for you football fans (or between 0 Lombardi trophies and 0 Lombardi trophies).
Once you locate the city, you may find yourself overwhelmed with an irresistible urge to shout, “okay, so now what?” or “why was I finding Columbus in the first place?” However, don’t get ahead of yourself.
The Pride of Columbus, Ohio
Sure, the rest of the country may like to clown on Columbus (and Ohio as a whole), but Columbus residents know their city is special for several reasons. Even search through a random “best cities to live” article or “most livable city” blog and you will surely find Ohio’s capital. Don’t believe me? Don’t take our word for it.
Check out this list of the sort from Niche.com. Now, you may have to scroll all the way to the middle of page three to find Columbus ranked at #87, but it’s still on the list. It’s even higher than Colorado Springs (#89), Eugene (#142) and Los Angeles (#151). Take that LA.
We know what you are thinking. Who cares about a list compiled by a bunch of Steelers fans from Pittsburgh? And we hear you, especially all of you Columbusites looking for recreation opportunities outside of your city. Sure, you love your city. So much so, that you are scouring the web for day trip ideas to get out of it! It is the middle of Ohio after all, you have a reason to be searching.
Jokes aside, we have your search covered. Sit back and keep reading as a writer who has never been to Arch City tries to convince you these are the best day trips from Columbus.
Here goes nothing or something (how does the saying go again)!
7 Day Trip Ideas that Prove Columbus Isn’t Boring
1. Hike to Old Man’s Cave & Conkle’s Hollow
One look at Hocking Hills State Park (its website, we mean) and we were already confused. Are Conkle and the Old Man the same person? Does it matter? No, not really, but we investigated anyway.
|HOCKING HILLS STATE PARK|
|MILES FROM COLUMBUS||56.7 ~|
|PRICE ($)||Free Admission (all Ohio state parks)|
|POPULAR ATTRACTIONS||Old Man’s Cave, Conkle’s Hollow, Cantwell Cliffs|
It turns out that W.J. Conkle was an early settler who carved his name into the park’s sandstone gorge in 1797. While the “old man” refers to Richard Rowe, a hermit who lived in the large recess cave that now bears his name. By now, they are both old men.
But that’s beside the point. Each of their respective trails are very popular destinations within Hocking Hills State Park. In total, the park provides access to more than 25 miles of hiking trails, 17-acre Rose Lake and a campground complete with a picnic area, camp store and volleyball court.
If you are more adventurous, you will want to visit Hocking Hills State Park in the winter, when ice cleats and walking poles are necessary to traverse the various ice-laden trails.
In total, the trip to Hocking Hills State Park will take you roughly an hour from Columbus. This is the perfect amount of time to catch up on your Old Man’s Cave knowledge (only if you called shotgun, of course) and mentally prepare for your kids to be cold, hot, tired or a combination of all three while you recreate throughout the park.
2. Search for Wildlife in Beaver Marsh
Aside from the occasional pigeon or crazed Blue Jacket fan, you won’t see much wildlife in the heart of Columbus. That’s okay, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is only a hop and a skip away (1hr, 55 min) and teeming with an entire community of species.
|CUYAHOGA VALLEY NATIONAL PARK|
|MILES FROM COLUMBUS||129 ~|
|PRICE ($)||Free Admission|
|POPULAR ATTRACTIONS||Brandywine Falls, Beaver Marsh, Cuyahoga River|
If you are dead set on spotting wildlife, start by visiting the Boston Mill Visitor Center. Here, you can get the latest scoop on recent wildlife sightings from knowledgeable park rangers and volunteers. Next, either act on your reconnaissance or visit Beaver Marsh.
The marsh is accessible via the historic Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail and a boardwalk that extends out into the marsh. Depending upon the season, in the marsh, you might find choirs of frogs, flocks of birds or the occasional turtle. If you are lucky, you might spot a mink or beaver through your viewfinder. If you are new to wildlife photography, check out these tips from the national park website to prepare for your visit.
3. Visit the actual Yellow Spring in Yellow Springs
Okay, so if you have lived in Columbus for some time, you probably haven’t gotten much out of this list so far. Two mainstream recommendations in a row, it’s like the writer knows nothing about Ohio’s underground. But don’t worry (or click over to the Dispatch) this next “hidden gem” is for you, and any out-of-towners who are hip on a good time.
|MILES FROM COLUMBUS||55.7 ~|
|PRICE ($)||$6 for a bottomless cup of coffee from Spirited Goat, $11.99 for a Tavern Cheeseburger from Ye Old Trail Tavern & $0 for a visit to the Yellow Spring (if you walk from town)|
|POPULAR ATTRACTIONS||Glen Helen Nature Preserve|
|VIBE||Charming, hippy, progressive|
Yellow Springs was originally founded by 100 socialist families in 1825. This coalition settled in the area in hopes of crafting an experimental utopia. The utopia ultimately failed, but today, Yellow Springs is recognized as the “Hippie Town of Ohio” (who knew there was such a thing).
However, in addition to its liberal politics, progressive culture and overall personality, Yellow Springs is also home to an array of charming shops, outdoor recreation opportunities and history lessons. Think of a less-crowded Asheville, NC or a more charming Portland, OR, if the image is still not resonating.
The Yellow Spring that gives the town its name is located within the Glen Helen Nature Preserve. If you are interested in walking to the spring from town, you can do so by using the bike path. You can also park at the nature preserve (that will cost you $5).
Either way, exploring Yellow Springs is the perfect way to spend a sunny Saturday or a “sick day” from work. Who knows you might even run into comedian Dave Chapelle, who lives on a farm near the city.
4. Relax and have a picnic at Ludlow Falls
Life in a big city, whether it’s New York, Denver or Columbus, can get hectic. Lucky for you, there is a writer on the other side of this screen franticly searching for ways for you to relax. Honestly, you don’t need to thank me (it is almost lunch time though).
|MILES FROM COLUMBUS||85.3~|
|PRICE ($)||Free Admission|
|POPULAR ATTRACTIONS||Ludlow Falls|
[30 Minutes Later] Ludlow Falls appears to be the perfect place for a relaxing walk, picnic, and overall day trip. In total, the falls are only about an hour and twenty minutes away from Columbus via I-70 W. That means you could be relaxing near the roar of a waterfall in less time than it takes you to commute from work to home through the split downtown.
Once settled on venturing out to Ludlow Falls, you will need to know how to get there. You won’t find the hidden waterfall on any maps or GPS system. Instead, locals often tell visitors to set their GPS to the Ludlow Falls Fire Station (town of the same name) and then follow the small trail that is located nearby. Parking can be a problem sometimes, but there is a gravel lot near the Ludlow Falls Post Office that most visitors use.
The actual falls are hidden below the highway bridge. However, the best view of the falls is from the bottom, which can only be accessed via a set of rustic stairs that start near the campground entrance on the waterfall path. Early spring or late winter are the best time to visit the falls.
5. Siege the Day & Explore Loveland Castle
Yes, it’s a real castle. Well, kind of. Built by Sir Harry Delos Andrews in 1929, Chateau Laroche (French for “rock castle”) is a folly of a traditional European castle. The castle served as the home of the Knights of the Golden Trail; a Boy Scout troop Harry established after returning from WWI.
|MILES FROM COLUMBUS||89.6 ~|
|PRICE ($)||$5 Admission,|
|POPULAR ATTRACTIONS||Botanic gardens, secret rooms, medieval weaponry|
There are so many interesting facts to learn about Loveland Castle and its creator. Get this, Harry was pronounced dead from spinal meningitis in 1918. Only, Harry never contracted spinal meningitis and Harry never died. It wasn’t until six months later that he was declared undead (not zombie “undead” but rather “alive,” if that wasn’t clear).
If you are interested in exploring Loveland Castle and learning more about Harry and the KOGT, you can drive to the castle from Columbus in under an hour and a half via I-71 S. The castle grounds are complete with botanic gardens, secret rooms, a medieval weapons cache and enough to keep the whole family interested and intrigued.
6. Find PB&J’s and so much more at the J.M Smucker Company Store
At this point, Ohio just seems to be rolling with the whole “joke of the US” thing. A castle and a hippy utopia? What’s next, an entire ranch dedicated to fruit spreads and peanut butter?
Well, yeah. That’s exactly right. Though at first, we were skeptical to even mention we found such a place, after a little research (no, we didn’t have PB&Js for lunch) this might be the perfect family-friendly day trip idea. The place is outfitted with so much more than just jams and jellies.
|J.M Smucker Company Store|
|MILES FROM COLUMBUS||105 miles~|
|PRICE ($)||$0 Admission, $4.99 for a cheeseburger & $1.99 for an ice cream sundae|
|POPULAR ATTRACTIONS||Café, shop, museum and a variety of themed décor|
|VIBE||Quirky, surprising, charming|
While customers will only be permitted into the café and store, the grounds also hold production plants and a factory where quite a few J.M Smucker products are produced. The café and store also double as a museum, so you and the whole family can learn more about all the sugary treats you know and love.
To reach the factory store from Columbus, you can travel down I-71 N and US-30 E. The entire trip will take you about an hour and thirty minutes. And don’t worry, if you need another destination to keep the kids occupied for the entire day you can add a stop at Malabar Farm State Park or Mt. Gilead State Park.
7. Go on a tour of Ohio’s Native American effigy mounds
Ohio is home to more than 70 mounds built by the Adena and Hopewell tribes. The most spectacular of this array is the Serpent Mound near Pebbles, Ohio.
|Serpent Mound Historic Site|
|MILES FROM COLUMBUS||95 miles~|
|PRICE ($)||$0 Admission, $8 parking fee per car|
|POPULAR ATTRACTIONS||An array of historic sites including the Serpent Mound and nearby burial mounds.|
Through recent radiocarbon dating, the Serpent mound is estimated to have been created somewhere around 300 B.C. More work is needed to clarify the exact age of the mounds. However, the site has been constantly considered as a World Heritage Site. If it were to earn this inscription, the site would be presented and protected alongside the pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.
To access the site from Columbus, you will need to travel down I-71 S for close to two hours. There are also three additional burial mounds in the nearby area if you are looking to add a few more stops to your trip (or if you are not quite ready to return to Arch City).
Columbus Day Trip FAQs
What cities are within 4 hours of Columbus, Ohio?
Columbus is well situated near a plethora of major cities. If you are looking to stay within Ohio, you can drive to Dayton, Cincinnati or Cleveland in under four hours. In addition, you can also drive to Fort Wayne, IN, Indianapolis, IN or Ann Arbor Michigan.
What is there to do in Columbus, Ohio in Winter?
If winter temperatures and weather are keeping you indoors, there is still plenty you can do in Columbus, Ohio. Consider, rooting for the Columbus Blue Jackets in an NHL hockey game, checking out the animals at the Columbus Zoo and Columbus Aquarium or visiting one or more of Columbus’s museums.
What is there to do in Columbus, Ohio in Summer?
In summer, residents and visitors of Columbus, Ohio can visit Columbus Metro Park, shop at Dublin Market, travel to nearby Hocking Hills State Park or even tour the famous Loveland Castle.
Where should I go for a day trip in Ohio?
Day trip possibilities in Ohio are endless. You can explore Cuyahoga Valley National Park, tour Loveland Castle, visit the J.M Smucker Company Store ranch, learn about Ohio’s Native American tribes at the Serpent Mound Historic Site and so much more. Each of these destinations is within two hours of Columbus, Ohio.
What is Columbus, Ohio known for?
Columbus, Ohio is known for Ohio State University, the Columbus Zoo and the various historic Native American sites that surround its location. Columbus is nicknamed Arch City and it’s the capital of Ohio.
Wrapping Up: Unique Trips from Columbus
How could you possibly still think Ohio is boring? If this blog wasn’t convincing, we are sure embarking on one or more of these trips will do more than enough to persuade you that Columbus is the place to be.
After all, within two hours of the city, you can spend the day exploring a castle, a self-proclaimed “hippie town,” a ranch dedicated to jellies and jams, two endless outdoor recreation areas, a rushing waterfall and a slew of historic sites. And these are just the destinations we covered on our list. There is so much more to find and explore near Columbus!
If you live in Columbus, let us know which one of these day trip destinations is your favorite and where you are headed on your next trip in the comments below.