30 Reasons to Love Ohio Right Now
From great new gathering spots and fun places to stay to fresh food finds and memorable moments, here’s what has our hearts aflutter about the place we call home.
Ohio has a lot to love, and these destinations across the Buckeye State deepen our affection for the place we call home. From Toledo’s exhilarating ice-skating trail, The Ribbon, to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s imagination-capturing Visitor Hall, Ohio is filled with new finds and experiences, whether you are looking for fun inside or outdoors.
Plan your travels around rare occurrences like Ohio's first total solar eclipse since 1806 on April 8, 2024, or embark on the Bigfoot GeoTour in Belmont County, a cryptid-themed geocaching adventure. Explore new developments like Newark Station in Licking County, which transforms a former factory site into a hub for food, fun and community. Or delve into the menu at Charlo's Provisions & Eatery in Springfield, which crafts American heritage dishes with a contemporary twist.
Enjoy family-friendly breweries like Wandering Monsters in Cincinnati, where parents and kids can bond over duckpin bowling. For a retro experience, head to Past Times Arcade in Girard, which houses hundreds of vintage games, or The Toy Department in Fairfield that has a new 20,000-square-foot location.
Discover the rich history and significance of the land we today call home with UNESCO's addition of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks to its World Heritage list, highlighting prehistoric cultures and ancient earthwork creations.
Our state comprises a rich tapestry of culture, history, and entertainment. This list of 30 Reasons to Love Our State will help you discover the charm and diversity that make Ohio a great place to call home.
The Ribbon Welcomes Ice Skaters in Toledo
Poised along the mighty Maumee River, Toledo’s Glass City Metropark beckons winter visitors with heated cabanas, sledding and ice skating on a track that blends perfectly with the park’s natural environment. The Ribbon, a 1,000-foot-long refrigerated ice trail is the newest attraction, and locals got a glimpse of it for a brief period last winter.
“This will be The Ribbon’s inaugural season,” explains Mike Keedy, a Metroparks Toledo director. “Last year, The Ribbon’s three-week preview drew over 15,000 visitors. With Phase II construction complete, Metropark visitors can enjoy the full experience.”
The Ribbon is the only ice trail of its kind in the region, transforming what is a roller-skating path during the summer to an ice-skating trail during the snowy season. The multi-use trail winds past nature-inspired playgrounds and glass-art installations, making for a memorable and scenic experience.
Skate rentals are available inside Market Hall, which is the perfect place to cozy up after some time on the ice. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide views of the city skyline and the National Museum of the Great Lakes next door. Stop by The Garden by Poco Piatti for quick-service meals, including wood-fired pizzas, Mediterranean dishes, desserts and more. 1521 Front St., Toledo 43605, 419/407-9717, metroparkstoledo.com
Cleveland Museum of Natural History Unveils Bold New Experience: The beloved University Circle attraction’s new Visitor Hall previews the wonders to come when the institution’s full renovation is complete.
Ohio Experiences Total Solar Eclipse for First Time Since 1806
The phrase “once-in-a-lifetime experience” gets overused, but April 8, 2024, promises to bring just that, as a total solar eclipse will be viewable from our state for the first time since 1806. Another one won’t be visible here until 2099, so this spring is your chance to take in this rare event. The 124-mile-wide band of totality — in which the moon casts its shadow on the Earth as it passes between our planet and the sun — will run from the southwest to northeast corner of our state just after 3 p.m. with the total eclipse lasting no more than five minutes. ohiodnr.gov
Newark Station Brings Exciting New Development to Licking County
Bright red letters rising above West Main Street announce the presence of Newark Station, an expansive redevelopment project that is turning a former wartime rubber and tire factory into a place for fun, food and more. It all began with The Yard in 2021, a space for lawn games and sand volleyball during the summer.
A former loading dock now houses the Earthworks Cafe & Lounge, where locals can enjoy a latte made from coffee beans roasted on-site and grab a bite to eat. The Lofts, 18 apartments that offer studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, are connected to the cafe and began leasing in fall 2023. A brick building on the property that was once an industrial warehouse will house future development.
Todd Alexander, owner of Newark Station, says the project will continue to move in phases. He hopes to add a community park, an art gallery, a rooftop taproom and an Italian fine-dining restaurant in the years to come.
“What we’re trying to create here at Newark Station is a community, something that the city of Newark and Licking County can be proud of,” he says. “Something that will attract and retain the youth that could be likely to locate elsewhere [after] they graduate from high school or college.” 325 W. Main St., Newark 43055, 740/618-2735, newark-station.com
Bigfoot GeoTour Comes to Ohio’s Sasquatch Country
You’ve probably heard of geocaching — a type of large-scale scavenger hunt that uses GPS technology — but Belmont County gave the outdoor adventure a cryptid twist with its Bigfoot GeoTour. Launched in September 2023, the tour takes participants to 23 cache locations that show off fun and scenic destinations across the county. It can be completed in as little as a day, but participants are encouraged to explore at their own leisure.
“I find that most people like to take their time with it,” says Jackee Pugh, executive director of the Belmont County Tourism Council, which launched the tour. “We take people to places that they can patronize along the way and really make a weekend adventure out of it.”
What sets this tour apart from most is the themed cache boxes, many of which are designed to look like giant Sasquatch feet. Inside each cache, participants find a logbook to sign as well as additional items like stickers, rocks or gems. Those who uncover 20 of the cache locations receive a commemorative coin. Finding all 23 cache locations earns participants a digital souvenir through the Geocaching app. The Bigfoot GeoTour runs through 2024. visitbelmontcounty.com
Charlo’s Provisions & Eatery Brings American Heritage Dishes to Springfield
Charlo’s Provisions & Eatery’s chef and owner Chad Druckenbroad had specific goals in mind when he decided to graduate from a successful food truck to a brick-and-mortar restaurant along Fountain Avenue in Springfield.
“I wanted to provide eclectic entrees that people can’t find anywhere else in this town,” he says. “And I wanted a hospitable place where they could chat and hang out with friends without being surrounded by noise and TVs.”
After finding a spot with a sunny wall of windows in an up-and-coming area of downtown, Druckenbroad christened his new eatery Charlo’s by blending the names of his daughters. With its relaxing atmosphere and special touches like fresh flowers on the tables in the summer, the spot has become a draw for people seeking fine food at a reasonable price.
The menu is all about American heritage dishes, and Druckenboard puts his own stamp on classics such as pierogies filled with pancetta, white cheddar and Yukon Gold potatoes or shrimp and grits featuring fire-roasted ham instead of traditional andouille sausage. He also stocks Charlo’s on-site market with meats and cheeses as well as his popular Fried Chicken Salad and Roasted Poblano Pimento Cheese.
“We have guests,” he says, “who drive two hours to enjoy everything Charlo’s offers.” 45 N. Fountain Ave., Springfield 45502, 937/505-1066, eatatcharlos.com
Toledo’s Inspired Lumber Workshop Offers a DIY Oasis
Woodworking can be an intimidating task. Add power tools to the mix, and those do-it-yourself projects can feel like a home-improvement Mount Everest. Brian and Anna Kolin once felt that way too.
The couple had dreamed of renovating their Toledo home but found the task too daunting to start. Then, in 2018, their basement flooded with over a half foot of water — a catastrophe that turned into a catalyst for not only gaining the know-how to do home-renovation projects but also creating a business that helps others do the same.
Inspired Lumber Workshop opened in May of 2023 in Toledo. The workshop offers skill-based classes that teach the basics of woodworking and how to safely use power tools as well as project-based classes that provide step-by-step directions on how to make items such as cutting boards and farm tables. There is also a membership option, which provides full and autonomous access to the workshop and tools.
“[Many] have never picked up a drill or table saw, and they’re walking out running all the tools in the workshop,” Anna Kolin says. “They come back feeling completely empowered — that they can do anything.” 3156 Central Ave., Toledo 43606, 419/754-1408, inspiredlumberworkshop.com
Rainbow Row Creates a New Bellefontaine Landmark: The redevelopment project provides a new downtown destination and fresh chapter in this Logan County city’s revitalization.
Top Thrill 2 Is Set to Open at Cedar Point in Summer 2024
Forget the idea that sequels can’t top the original. In early December, a crane hoisting the final piece of a soaring spike tower at Cedar Point shifted anticipation for the Sandusky amusement park’s Top Thrill 2 ride into high gear. The new iteration of Cedar Point’s beloved Top Thrill Dragster is set to open this summer and features three separate launches, including one that climbs the new 420-foot, 90-degree vertical tower in reverse and a final launch that sends riders up and over the original 420-foot tower at speeds reaching 120 miles per hour. cedarpoint.com
You Can Book a 1950s Style Stay at Columbus’ South Wind Motel
You won’t find Don Draper checking into Columbus’ South Wind Motel, but the German Village spot will make you feel like you’ve stepped into his world. In 2022, Michael Kelley and Michaela Dempsey turned what was once a rundown motel built in 1959 into a retro-inspired delight. The rooms are a total vibe, adorned with custom-made walnut furniture, period-styled wallpaper and pops of color in all the right places. The suites even have turntables and vinyl records in case you feel like spinning some Bob Dylan.
“We did think about different themes,” says Kelley. “But the identity of this building is clearly mid-century, so we felt like it would be almost inauthentic to go a different direction.”
That doesn’t mean South Wind Motel is without contemporary conveniences. The beds are draped with high-end linens, the bathrooms are stocked with locally and sustainably made skincare products and each room features a Chemex pour-over coffeemaker. Kelley and Dempsey are also happy to offer recommendations for local food, drinks and shopping.
“That is definitely the most fun part of working at the motel,” says Dempsey. “Getting to help the guests find out what they are going to do with their time in Columbus.” 919 S. High St., Columbus 43206, 614/845-1135, southwindstay.com
Medina’s Black Cat Books & Oddities Creates a Whimsical Space to Explore
Software engineer turned business owner Max Frazier and his wife, Alicia, opened Black Cat Books & Oddities in 2023 in a brick house along Medina’s Court Street. The store stocks a carefully curated selection presented in themed rooms such as The Cabinet of Curiosities, Sherlock’s Study, The Phantom’s Passage and The Raven’s Roost. There is also a second-floor children’s room, The Secret Garden, that has been kid-approved by the Fraziers’ son and daughter. Regularly scheduled events such as author signings and tarot-card readings complete the fun sense of discovery. 420 S. Court St., Medina 44256, 440/263-0650, blackcatmedina.com
The Downtown Exchange Transforms Zanesville Building: The new development in a historic building brings a food hall to the city, offering new lunch options for daytime workers and a hub for the community.
Great Council State Park Moves Toward a 2024 Opening
In spring of 2024, Great Council State Park and its 12,000-square-foot cultural interpretive center will open along state Route 68 in Greene County, bringing an immersive museum space and interactive exhibits that highlight the history of the region as well as the past and present of the Shawnee people. Throughout the project, members of the Shawnee nation were consulted for the planning of exhibits and even the construction of the building itself, which is designed to resemble a Shawnee long house.
The 14-acre site will use natural elements to mimic the native prairie that existed in the 1700s, and a half-mile walking path will wind through a diverse mix of pollinator species. Inside the center, an interactive living stream and replica frontiersman camp will greet visitors on the first floor, while the second floor will house exhibits and displays dedicated to pre-contact Native American history and the modern-day members of the Shawnee nation.
“It’s long overdue for us to really tell the story of not only the Shawnee but other Native Americans,” says Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. “We don’t have any other state park that is really devoted exclusively to that story. So, I think it’s well-past time to do that.” ohiodnr.gov
Netflix’s “Baby Gorilla Cam” Steals Our Heart
For those of us who love watching baby animals — and that’s all of us, right? — Netflix’s “Baby Gorilla Cam” brought true cuteness this fall by airing a livestream of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s gorilla troop for two hours every Thursday morning in September. The event offered a peek into the lives of the adult male gorilla, Mokolo, the four adult female gorillas, Kebi Moyo, Frederika, Nneka and Tusa, as well as the two babies, Kayembe and Kunda, to help raise awareness about the work being done to save this endangered species. Those who missed the original weekly livestream can check out highlight episodes on Netflix. netflix.com, clevelandmetroparks.com/zoo
Wood County Museum Gets Outpouring of Support
Bowling Green’s Wood County Museum reopened in the fall after a 10-month closure following expansive repairs. Just after Christmas 2022, the staff returned to a broken boiler and burst pipes.
The building’s 1869 East Wing was frigid, with water dripping from the ceiling and sloshing over the floor. Miraculously, most of the museum’s artifacts sustained minimal damage, and staffers worked to protect the pieces spread across nine rooms and three floors.
In 1869, the sprawling brick home was created to care for Wood County’s poor, elderly and people with disabilities. During this time, Ohio opened 87 county-run “poor houses,” with only those in Wood and Lake counties now designated as museums. Support for Wood County’s recovery was overwhelming.
“Farmers were offering to bring in heaters. People sent us letters with well wishes, sometimes stuffed with a $20 bill. Our maintenance team was golden,” says Annette Wells, director of the Wood County Museum. During construction, the annual gala fundraiser switched to an outdoor Boiler BBQ Bash. “In total, we received $20,000 in private donations,” Wells says. “Double what we usually receive from our annual giving campaign.” 13660 County Home Rd., Bowling Green 43402, 419/352-0967, woodcountyhistory.org
Spangler Candy World Offers a Sweet Family Attraction: Spangler Candy Co. has produced Dum Dums and other sweet treats for generations. Now it has a destination that celebrates the company’s legacy.
Wandering Monsters Brewery Caters to Parents and Kids Alike
When Jason Brewer left Cincinnati’s Listermann Brewing Co. in 2019 to launch his own business, he wasn’t exactly sure what it would be. But when his son was born in 2020, the concept crystalized: a family-friendly brewery.
“It’s not just another place where your kids are bored with a tablet in front of them,” says Brewer, who opened Wandering Monsters in summer 2023. “They can come in and have an activity — and not one you’re just watching them do. Families can play together.”
Brewer is referring to duckpin bowling, a variation of 10-pin bowling that features smaller lanes, pins and balls, and the taproom has six lanes where patrons can play.
The fun extends to the beer menu, which features expected classics alongside more experimental brews. Huldra, a blonde ale, and Bossie, an ale inspired by New Glarus Brewing Co.’s Spotted Cow, are easy-drinking options, while the Wandering Hiker IPA is a fruited, creamy take on a raspberry milkshake.
Hungry bowlers can choose from a lineup of smoked-in-house barbecue favorites like ribs, brisket and Texas Twinkies (jalapenos stuffed with pimento cheese, wrapped in bacon and smoked). And, of course, there’s a kids menu. 8251 Beechmont Ave., Cincinnati 45255, 513/417-8805, wanderingmonstersbeer.com
The Toy Department Goes Big with 20,000-Square-Foot Store: Inspired by their love for 1980s pop culture, four friends took their fan-favorite Butler County store to a new level of fun.
The Foundry Fires Up Flavors at the the AC Hotel in Dayton
Thanks to the airplane, cash register and other local inventions, Dayton became a manufacturing hub during the 1900s, and that rich heritage inspired The Foundry, a rooftop restaurant that sits atop the AC Hotel downtown.
Along with its soft industrial decor and a scenic location overlooking the Dayton Dragons’ ballpark, The Foundry entices guests with American fare, a lot of which is cooked in a wood-fired oven that executive chef Jason Findley uses for everything from baking his handmade rolls and pizza dough to smoking brisket for house-made pastrami.
“My vision for The Foundry is taking guests on a journey of extraordinary flavors,” he says.
Born and raised in Dayton, Findley brings two decades of restaurant experience to The Foundry as well as a flair for innovative flavor combinations. His Crispy Pork Belly, for example, melds the richness of smoked meat with the sweetness of a plantain, the subtle fruitiness of a cherry drizzle and the bold tang of pickled red onions.
Findley’s deft balance of tastes and textures takes even familiar foods like burgers to a new level. His version — the bestselling Forged Burger — tops Wagyu beef with raclette cheese and bourbon-bacon jam.
“It’s quite a compliment,” Findley says, “when people tell us that it’s the best burger they’ve ever had.” 124 Madison St., Dayton 45402, 937/965-7520, thefoundryrooftop.com
The Gatherall at Factory 52 in Norwood Offers a World of Flavors: This food hall located in a former playing-card factory northeast of Cincinnati serves up a variety of cuisines and an inviting space to socialize.
The Rolling Dutchman Takes Amish Country Sweets on the Road
The prospect of starting your morning with a freshly baked doughnut or pastry from Ohio’s Amish Country is enticing, and since September 2023, The Rolling Dutchman has been delivering just that. The sweet treats that draw travelers to the region are now mobile, being carted to cities and towns within a 100-mile radius of Sugarcreek. Packed with 350 to 400 doughnuts, as well as cinnamon twists, apple fritters, coffee, hot chocolate and more, The Rolling Dutchman delivers a truckful of early morning deliciousness each day. The truck’s schedule can be found on its Facebook page, and requests for it to make a specific stop can be made online. dhgroup.com/rolling-dutchman
The Wilds Opens ADA-Accessible Grand Yurt
The Wilds in southeast Ohio has long had yurts, but on Sept. 1, 2023, reservations opened for the newest ADA-compliant Grand Yurt that allows people of all abilities to stay at the conservation center (a partner of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium) that is home to a wide variety of animals from far beyond Ohio. Situated along an elevated ridgetop, the newest Grand Yurt — a large circular tent that comfortably sleeps two — overlooks pastures where visitors can spot endangered species like the Pere David’s deer and Sichuan takin. Reservations for the Grand Yurt run from May 1 to Oct. 31. thewilds.org
David Griesmyer is Creating a 4,000-Pound Deer Sculpture for the Ohio Art Corridor
Brought to life in 2018 by the vision and creations of David Griesmyer, the Ohio Art Corridor now spans over 140 miles and five counties throughout southeast Ohio, making it one of the largest outdoor art exhibitions in the world. Since Griesmyer’s first sculpture, “School of Fish,” was installed along state Route 376 in Morgan County, other artists have contributed murals and other works to the project.
Griesmyer himself has four pieces on display in the corridor and is currently working on a fifth. The 4,000-pound metal deer sculpture, which Griesmyer began creating back in 2020, is set to be completed in early 2024 and will stand a towering 23 to 25 feet tall.
“I love how beautiful the McConnelsville area is,” Griesmyer says. “I see the tremendous amount of deer that are here. And so, we’re thinking, ‘What could we do that would be really significant to this area?’ That was the big reason for [making] a deer. It’s because that is what this whole area is really known for.”
This sentiment is echoed by many pieces on the Ohio Art Corridor, which represent the beauty of the region in the hopes that people will visit and support the communities within it. For more information about David Griesmyer’s works, visit dgriesmyer.com.
The Darkroom Brewing Co. Develops a Following in Geneva
Opened in June 2023, Darkroom Brewing Co. has quickly made a name for itself in the middle of Ohio wine country. Husband-and-wife duo Gino Lavini and Amanda Briggs de Lavini had long thought about opening a brewery, and with the purchase of a 5,000-square-foot space along North Broadway in Geneva, they did just that.
The 1900s row house had previously been home to a popular photography studio, and this history is reflected in both the name and atmosphere of the brewery. The space is filled with artistic touches, from the multicolored couches to the vintage cameras and antique movie projectors to the hand-painted mural that depicts a mermaid caught in a fisherman’s net, a design inspired by the label for the brewery’s soon-to-be flagship IPA.
The brewery currently serves two of its expected five core beers: a Kolsch and a red ale. An IPA, a brown ale and a porter are coming soon, but customers can still partake in seasonal varieties and other interesting brews in the meantime.
“I’m really, really excited about being here.” Briggs de Lavini says. “I really feel confident that we’ll always have beer drinkers here. We’ll always have visitors here that are looking for something unique.” 32 N. Broadway, Geneva 44041, 440/290-6045, darkroombrewingco.com
The Junto Brings New Hotel Experience to Columbus: Located on Columbus’ Scioto Peninsula, this modern spot offers an inviting space that is unlike any other you are likely to encounter in our capital city.
Sandusky Once Again Takes USA Today Best Coastal Small Town Title
Sandusky doesn’t routinely get thought of as a coastal destination with its location along Lake Erie (and, yes, we know the coasts of lakes are called “shores”), but the Erie County city once again took top honors in USA Today’s Best Coastal Small Towns readers’ choice award in 2023. The city last received the honor in 2019, and the list of 10 finalists for 2023 assembled by an eight-person committee of travel writers included spots like Nags Head, North Carolina; Cannon Beach, Oregon; and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. An online vote by website visitors decided the winner. shoresandislands.com
Past Times Arcade Houses Hundreds of Retro Games: Created by collector Rob Berk, this spot in Girard is filled with vintage pinball machines and old-school arcade cabinets. Even better, you can play all day for $20.
Ohio’s Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks Added to UNESCO World Heritage List
Walking among the creations of prehistoric cultures that once lived in what is now Ohio, you can’t help but feel the weight of time. Almost 2,000 years ago, Indigenous people built elaborate earthworks that aligned to the sun and moon and served as gathering places. On Sept. 19, 2023, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization named eight Ohio earthworks collectively identified as the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks to its World Heritage list. The Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe, Fort Ancient Earthworks in Oregonia and Octagon and Great Circle Earthworks in Newark join the list of wonders that span the globe. nps.gov/hocu, ohiohistory.org
Beanbag Books Creates a Place Where Kids Can Explore
With its big picture windows and bright blue window trim, the white siding of Beanbag Books stands out from the surrounding brick exteriors on Winter Street in Delaware. While the storefront has lived a past life as a bookstore for local teachers to stock up on classroom resources, its newest renovations have brought Beanbag Books to life for local families and modernized the 1860s storefront.
Although she opened the store in 2019, Jody Everett, along with her husband, Michael, renovated it in 2021 to create a brighter space geared toward kids and continue to make upgrades to the shop.
“There’s a lot more space that’s accessible to families now,” Jody Everett says. “We have a designated children’s area where we do our story time so we can set up beanbags and rugs on the floor for the children.”
Red, blue, green and yellow paint covers the walls, and reading nooks invite a place for a great story as well as a place to climb and explore. The surrounding shelves hold children’s books along with young-adult and adult novels as well as toys, games and activities geared toward families.
“It’s one of my happiest moments, when everyone can walk [in] and go, ‘Wow,’ ” Everett says. 25 W. Winter St., Delaware 43015, 740/363-0290, beanbagbooks.com
58 West Provides Plenty of Local Flavor in the Hocking Hills
Downtown Logan’s 58 West offers a one-stop shop for food and drinks when visiting the Hocking Hills. In addition to the restaurant, its owners operate sister companies Hocking Hills Winery and Hocking Hills Brewing Co. and partner with the local Motherwell Distilling Co., all of which have a presence on-site.
“Our focus is on local,” explains Laura Davidson, who operates the Hocking Hills Winery family of brands along with her husband, Drew, his brother Blaine Davidson and Blaine’s wife, Allison. “People love to go on those wine trips, those brewery hops, tasting tours. This is a way to do all three in one.”
58 West makes its home in a century-old building that operated as a car dealership for most of its life. The space has been refurbished to include a dining room and bar, production spaces in the rear and a large, all-season patio.
“We wanted to be part of the revitalization of downtown Logan, so we wanted to restore it,” Davidson says. “That’s what spurred us to buy the building.”
The goal was to create an approachable space that is good for any occasion.
“If you want to come in and be dressed up for date night or come in right off the trails, you’ll fit in,” Davidson says. 58 W. Second St., Logan 43138, 740/216-5360, 58west.com
Dum Dums Maker Opens Sweet Spot for Candy Lovers
Spangler Candy Co. makes Dum Dums and other treats we love. Now it has a fun place to visit in downtown Bryan that celebrates its legacy. READ MORE >>
The Toy Department Goes Big with 20,000-Square-Foot Store
Inspired by their love for 1980s pop culture, four friends took their fan-favorite Butler County store to a new level of fun. READ MORE >>
Past Times Arcade Houses Hundreds of Retro Games
Created by collector Rob Berk, this spot in Girard is filled with vintage pinball machines and old-school arcade cabinets. Even better, you can play all day for $20. READ MORE >>