Downtown Chillicothe buildings (photo by Megan Leigh Barnard)

Experience History, Nature and More in Chillicothe

Learn about the history of Ohio and its Indigenous people, explore the outdoors at Ross County’s parks and visit downtown shops and restaurants.

Step into History at Adena Mansion & Gardens 

This summer is the perfect time to visit the splendidly restored estate that father of Ohio statehood Thomas Worthington created on a hilltop just outside Chillicothe in the early 1800s. In addition to a 19th Century Independence Day Celebration and a Red, White and Blue Ice Cream Social, Adena Mansion & Gardens Historic Site is hosting a party — think cake, concerts and artisans offering old-time wares — to mark the 250th anniversary of Worthington’s birth in Virginia on July 16, 1773. 

When Worthington began acquiring land in southern Ohio during the 1790s, Chillicothe was a fledgling but promising frontier town poised at the confluence of Paint Creek and the Scioto River. A tenacious advocate for Ohio statehood, Worthington not only helped write Ohio’s initial Constitution, but he also rode horseback from Chillicothe to Washington, D.C., to deliver it for Congress’ approval. Thus, Ohio became the nation’s 17th state in 1803, and Chillicothe served as the first state capital. 

Besides serving as one of Ohio’s first U.S. senators and the state’s sixth governor, Worthington also influenced the Great Seal of Ohio, which for more than 200 years has depicted a view believed to be inspired by the one of Mount Logan from his estate.

“The inspiration for that image supposedly occurred after Worthington and his friends worked all night on Ohio’s Constitution then watched the sun rising over Mount Logan,” says Kathy Styer, executive director of Adena Mansion & Gardens Historic Site.

Worthington’s acquaintances ranged from President Thomas Jefferson to the famed Shawnee leader Tecumseh. He even hired eminent architect Benjamin Latrobe to design the Georgian-style sandstone mansion where Worthington and his wife, Eleanor, raised their large family and often entertained prominent people. According to an 1811 entry in his diary, Worthington rechristened their home “Adena” after reading in a history book that the word means a remarkably delightful place. 

Along with walking the gardens at the idyllic estate, visitors can tour the 20-room home that was once considered the most magnificent mansion west of the Allegheny Mountains. Tour guides point out original Worthington family furnishings, such as the foyer’s tall case clock and dining room sideboard, and they tell fascinating stories of the history that happened here. The Worthingtons’ house guests, for example, included Tecumseh, who ate with them in the dining room but slept on the lawn instead of in a bedroom. In appreciation for Worthington’s hospitality and goodwill, Tecumseh presented him with a handsome tomahawk peace pipe that is now displayed at the on-site visitor center. 

Mounds at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe (photo by Megan Leigh Barnard)
Learn about Ohio’s Indigenous People

Performances of the outdoor drama “Tecumseh!” have been a Chillicothe summer tradition for five decades, captivating audiences with galloping horses and the sound of cannon fire. Staged under the stars at Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre, the production highlights Tecumseh’s valiant attempts to retain his homeland as well as the unique rapport he had with Worthington.

“Tecumseh!” is just part of Chillicothe’s remembrance of Native American history. Some 2,000 years ago indigenous people of the Hopewell culture built massive earthworks throughout the Scioto and Ohio River valleys that are believed to have been used for ceremonial and religious purposes. Today, Hopewell Culture National Historical Park preserves the sites of several clusters of earthworks and mounds in Ross County. They are under consideration for recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of a serial nomination that includes the Newark Earthworks in Licking County and Fort Ancient in Warren County.

“The monumental scale of the earthworks as well as the number and concentration of mounds is not found anywhere else in the world,” says Chris Alford, superintendent at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. 

Walking among these ancient earthworks is an awe-inspiring experience, but Alford also recommends spending time at the park’s visitor center to learn about the Hopewell culture and the knowledge it took to build geometric earthworks that aligned with solar and lunar cycles and drew prehistoric people from far and wide. Visitors are often surprised to learn that effigy pipes, spear tips and other artifacts found in the Ohio earthworks contain obsidian from what is today Wyoming, copper from Michigan and mica from North Carolina. Shells and shark teeth from as far as the Gulf Coast have also been found. 

Dock and water at Scioto Trail State Park in Chillicothe (photo by Ohio Department of Natural Resources)
Explore Nature in Ross County 

Ross County beckons nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts with four state parks and a county system of parks and nature preserves that showcase the region’s location in the Appalachian foothills. Camp within a 16,000-acre forest at Tar Hollow State Park; find seclusion and scenic views at Scioto Trail State Park; and choose from horseback, mountain bike and hiking trails at Great Seal State Park, where Mount Logan is located.

“When you’re here, you’re standing in the Great Seal of Ohio,” notes Nathan Steiner, park manager at Great Seal State Park.

Ross County Park District locations include Kinnikinnick Fen, which has sprawling wetlands, three observation decks and a tongue-twisting name derived from a substitute tobacco product made from dried sumac leaves and the inner bark of the willow that settlers and American Indians alike enjoyed.

There is also Buzzard’s Roost Nature Preserve, where the reward for traversing the flat, wooded trail is a marvelous view of Paint Creek Gorge. The paved Paint Creek Recreational Trail stretches 32 miles between Chillicothe and Washington Court House and approximates Paint Creek’s sinuous course through Ross County’s bountiful farmlands. Along the way, the trail passes through the Hopewell Mound Group and by downtown Chillicothe and the country village of Frankfort, where travelers can get treats at the Dairy Cone.

Interior of Paper City Coffee in Chillicothe (photo courtesy of Ross-Chillicothe Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Shop and Eat in Downtown Chillicothe

With its lively vibe and trove of Victorian-era buildings, Chillicothe’s downtown is a destination all by itself. 

“When visitors come here, they discover our historic downtown offers much more than they expected, and that it’s an ideal place to shop, dine and even stay,” says Tiffany Baldwin program manager at Downtown Chillicothe. “ 

Although downtown is walkable, many people take advantage of the bright red Chillicothe Trolley that loops through the business district on Fridays and Saturdays. The trolley is free, and its stops include Yoctangee Park and Paint Street. It also provides transportation during downtown events.

Ivy’s Home & Garden is a downtown mainstay with tastefully curated items, such as Polish pottery and Italian glass. Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop carries retro sweets, while Paper City Coffee serves scrumptious cinnamon rolls. High Five Cakes Bakery and Tea House makes oversized, peanut-shaped cookies, and The History Store specializes in exquisitely detailed miniatures of civilian and military figures. 

When it’s time to eat, head to Carl’s Townhouse, Hometown Hibachi, Fire and Stone Pizzeria or Old Canal Smoke House. Another downtown favorite is The Pour House at Machinery Hall, known for its signature burger and beer selection. Located in a repurposed 1881 farm-implement building, the popular gastropub epitomizes downtown Chillicothe’s incomparable old-meets-new ambiance.  

When You Go 
For more information about other destinations in Chillicothe and Ross County, go to

Adena Mansion & Gardens
847 Adena Rd., Chillicothe 45601, 

5968 Marietta Rd., Chillicothe 45601

Hopewell Culture National Historical Park 
16062 St. Rte. 104, Chillicothe 45601

Ohio State Parks

Ross County Park District

Downtown Chillicothe