June 2012 Issue
From museums and restaurants to parks and zoos, Ohio offers affordable options for every vacationer.
Whether you're looking to stay close to home or hoping to spend a weekend away, we've got you covered with day trips, overnights, family fun and couples-only time.
Trips Under $200
Grab your bike and gather your friends for a ladies' weekend in Athens, June 22–24. During Touch the Earth Adventures
' outdoor retreat, women can spend a few days in nature biking along the 17-mile Hockhocking Adena Bikeway, kayaking in the Hocking River and hiking a variety of trails. The three-day trip costs $175 (more if you need to rent a bike) and includes meals and lodging at either Touch the Earth's secluded shelter house overlooking a pond or a Native American-style tipi set up on the property. Call 740/591-9094 for details.
Couples can enjoy a romantic weekend of great wine and good tunes in Amish Country during one of Breitenbach Wine Cellars' Music and Barbeque
events, June 2, 9 and 16. Menu items range from $5 to $23 and include pulled pork sandwiches, baby back ribs and side dishes. Area accommodations offer reasonable room rates to keep your weekend affordable. At Cornerstone Bed and Breakfast
in Sugarcreek, rates start at $80 per night. Each of the two guest rooms has a private bathroom, TV and DVD player, wireless Internet, access to a 24-hour snack area and full breakfast in the morning. Rates at A Little Slice of Heaven Cabin Bed and Breakfast
start at $125. Nestled in the rolling hills of Sugarcreek, the cabin offers two suites with private baths, Jacuzzis and decks overlooking the countryside. For more secluded accommodations, stay at Light in the Valley Cottage
in Sugarcreek, starting at $89 per night during the Music and Barbeque weekends. The fully equipped cabin has everything you need for a home away from home, including a grill, a Keurig coffee maker with K-Cups, and a fireplace and deck for evening relaxation. Each accommodation is close to Amish Country shopping, dining and attractions.
With a family, it's tough to find something affordable that appeals to all ages. But on Fridays through Aug. 31, groups can take a Pirates of the Ohio cruise on a BB Riverboat
in Cincinnati. Kids will get a pirate's hat, eye patch, temporary tattoo and treasure map, and enjoy pirate-themed games. Two adults and two children can board for $64 ($14 for children 12 and under and $18 for adults). After the cruise, rent a cabin in Winton Woods
, part of the Hamilton County Park District, for just $52 a night. The park offers hiking and equestrian trails, two golf courses, an 18-hole disc golf course, Winton Lake with boat rentals, Parky's Ark play area and Parky's Playbarn, an educational farm with live animals.
Culture on the Cheap
This summer, Ohio's university museums offer a variety of compelling exhibits at low (or no) cost to visitors. Spend the day on campus and also browse nearby shops and dine at unique, affordable restaurants. At the Kennedy Museum of Art
on Ohio University's campus in Athens, "Ceramics from the Frederick and Kazuko Harris Library Collection," through Aug. 26, features sculptures and vessels from the university's collection, named for the donor and artist responsible for the work. Also on display is an exhibition of costumes and drawings by performance and sculptural artist Sha Sha Higby (through Aug. 12), a display of Navajo weavings from the museum's collection (through Aug. 26) and a diverse butterfly collection that includes everything from jewelry and weavings to prints and ceramics (through Sept. 9). Admission is free.
The Kent State University Museum
has historical displays all summer long, including "A Day at the Beach" (through Oct. 7), with garments worn by vacationing women between 1865 and 1915, and "On the Home Front: Civil War Fashions and Domestic Life," through Aug. 26, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the war through exhibits of women's and children's costumes, photographs, magazines and art. Stop by on a Sunday when admission is free, although ticket prices don't go above $5 on any day.
At the Miami University Art Museum
in Oxford, see the student-curated exhibit, "Art of the 1970s," featuring photographs, sculptures and paintings from that era, on display through July 22. Admission is free.
Wexner Center for the Arts
on The Ohio State University campus in Columbus offers free admission on Sundays, June 3, July 1 and Aug. 5, plus free public events such as the artist talk on June 26 with Aidan Koch, who will speak about her work as a cartoonist and illustrator.
Play in the Parks
Longer, warmer days mean plenty of time to explore the state's green spaces with your family. At the Cleveland Metroparks' South Chagrin Reservation
, there's a day devoted to "knee-high naturalists." On June 24, children ages 2–6 can hunt for "bugs" in the discovery sand box, hike with a naturalist, play dress-up with animal costumes and participate in arts-and-crafts projects. There's no cost to attend.
Older children and adults will enjoy Nature at Night, held July 14 at the Metropark's North Chagrin Nature Center
. This free event includes live demonstrations with native nocturnal animals, a puppet theater and an outdoor movie at dusk.
On July 21, families with children ages 3–12 can explore Alley Park
in Lancaster during Saturday in the Park-Project Wild, which includes games, hikes and crafts. And in Toledo, children 5 and older can camp with their families at Oak Openings Preserve
on July 6 during Ready, Set, Glow. For just $10 per person, families participate in night hikes, search for nocturnal animals and then head to the lodge for songs, storytelling and s'mores.
But don't limit your travels to summer programs — Ohio's parks are perfect for other affordable summer adventures such as hiking, biking, picnics, camping, swimming, boating and fishing.
In the past few years, Ohio's crop of talented chefs have opened upscale restaurants worth the drive. Many of them have happy hours with a sampling of the menu at a fraction of the cost, adding to the affordability of a city getaway. Black Creek Bistro
in Columbus, which focuses on local, fresh and sustainable food, has a happy hour from Monday through Friday, with $5 appetizers, $10 'bistro features' (signature entrees created by the chef) or a $20 three-course dinner. It''s also a great time to try discounted wine, beer and cocktail specials. In Cincinnati, Embers
has a small bites menu that includes mini crab cakes, spring rolls and certain sushi rolls, all for $4.50, plus drink specials. Fans of Iron Chef Michael Symon can try his famous fried Brussels sprouts, burgers, mussels and more for $5 during happy hour at Lolita
in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood. Zia's
on the docks in Toledo offers half off their signature Italian appetizers such as calamari, stuffed peppers and bruschetta. Families traveling with children will appreciate the restaurant's free one-topping pizza for parties of six or more.
It's not quite fine dining, but Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati boast large food markets, each of which can serve as a half-day getaway. At Cleveland's West Side Market
, celebrating its centennial this year, shoppers browse a selection of prepared foods, fresh meat, produce, baked goods and cheese at more than 100 vendor stands. The building — a National Historic Landmark — is worth a visit because of its European-inspired architecture, but the food is the main draw. Pick up soups, sandwiches or salads for a picnic at Edgewater Park on Lake Erie, just a short drive away.
Bring a cooler to Columbus, where the North Market
promises a huge selection of the freshest produce from local farmers, vendors and butchers. Not sure what to do with all that food? Check out northmarket.com
for a list of summer cooking classes.
, the oldest continuously operating public market in Ohio, is the perfect place to start or finish a tour of Cincinnati's historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Shop for fresh, local food and then unwind with a cup of coffee or tea at Bean Haus.
Various attractions, such as zoos and amusement parks, sell yearly passes and memberships that offer a variety of perks. If you live in Cleveland and become an annual member of the Cleveland Zoological Society, you're entitled to local, statewide and national discounts, starting with free admission to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the RainForest
, and 10 percent off at the zoo's gift shops. Statewide participating venues are subject to change annually, but currently, members receive a 50 percent discount at the Akron
zoos, plus the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
in Dayton, the African Wildlife Safari Park
in Port Clinton, and the Wilds
in Cumberland. Members also receive discounts to Cleveland Zoo events throughout the year, such as Boo at the Zoo and Twilight at the Zoo. A family membership costs $72 per year and includes two adults and up to six children or grandchildren ages 18 and under.
Sign up for Ohio Travel Deals
) and receive emails featuring a prepackaged travel offer at more than 50 percent off the regular price.
Additional Ways to Save
Several Ohio convention and visitors bureaus offer passes and coupons that help make travel more affordable. The Cleveland Plus Pass
can be purchased for two, three or five days, and grants admission to attractions ranging from the Children's Museum to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Lake Metroparks Farmpark and Holden Arboretum. Additionally, pass holders are eligible for discounts at various restaurants and stores.
The Butler County Visitors Bureau
offers an array of printable coupons for attractions such as Kings Island and Wake Nation, area favorites including Skyline Chili and Graeter's ice cream and a variety of places to shop and stay.
Visit the Canton/Stark County Convention and Visitors Bureau
website for deals on accommodations, attractions, dining, shopping and golfing, plus package deals and coupons for attractions such as the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum.
offers an M3 pass
: For $45, a family can enjoy three museums — the Merry-Go-Round Museum
, Sandusky Maritime Museum
and Milan Historical Society
. These "treasure hunts" are great family activities and provide a fun way to explore the state's parks, towns and cities for next to nothing.
are a great excuse to get outside. Many local parks have a lineup of free music all season long. Spend a day enjoying park activities and relax to beautiful melodies.
Pack a picnic
and watch the sunset. Along Ohio's northern and southern borders, there's plenty of shoreline perfect for a private meal and a romantic evening. Inland, numerous parks and hills such as Mt. Jeez in Lucas, near Malabar Farm, offer views of peaceful countryside.
Some hotels offer discounts
to area attractions when you stay at least two nights. Ask before you book and you might score dining and attraction deals as well.