Looking for a wallet-friendly getaway? Check out these outdoor-themed trips, from farm stays to music festivals to raceway camping.
Bird watching, wildflower walks, hiking and biking are favorite activities in most Ohio State Parks. But if you’re looking for parks with a wide variety of recreational activities and lodging, try these standouts. Maumee Bay State Park in Oregon offers boating on Lake Erie and an inland lake, fishing, swimming, golfing, geocaching, bike rentals, a nature center, trails and picnicking. Cottages, camping and the Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center offer vacationers lodging choices.
Salt Fork State Park in Lore City welcomes boats with unlimited horsepower on its 2,952-acre lake. Boaters camp on their boats in no-wake zones within 50 yards of the shore. An archery range and miles of amazing trails are offered at Hocking Hills State Park in Logan. Check out Hueston Woods State Park in College Corner for a paintball field, disc and miniature golf and an 18-hole golf course.
Disc golf continues to gain fans, and also is available at Punderson, Findley, Independence Dam, Delaware, Alum Creek, Dillon, Forked Run and Buck Creek State Parks, as well as others. Visit dnr.state.oh.us for more information on camping, cabins and lodges at state parks.
The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks includes nine archeological sites constructed by Native Americans in the period A.D. 1–1,000. Located in south-central Ohio, the mysterious and sacred sites are nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, joining Egypt’s pyramids in that honor. Several of the sites lie within the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park in Chillicothe. Vacationers enjoy history, ancient culture and beautiful natural areas when exploring the earthworks. The Ross-Chillicothe Convention & Visitors Bureau (visitchillicotheohio.com) has suggestions for campgrounds, cabins and other lodging.
DOWN ON THE FARM
Today less than 2 percent of Americans live on farms. It’s no wonder kids answer “grocery stores” when asked where milk comes from. Farm vacations aren’t yet as popular in Ohio as they are in some states, according to Frank Stahl, owner of Stahl’s Farm Vacations in Frazeysburg, Knox County. But they are catching on. Usually parents are initially more excited than their children (who sometimes must be pried away from electronic devices) about collecting chicken eggs. But once youngsters realize cows are real, there is a little Old McDonald in everyone.
No formal farm programs are offered at Stahl’s. But because the 250-acre property is a working farm, guests can help with or watch daily chores. Families may see the birth of a lamb, collect maple syrup, watch seven draught horses plow or admire a herd of 20 shorthorn cows. (“No one likes to help with the haying, though,” says Stahl.)
Guests, who usually stay an average of three days, enjoy the farm’s vacation home, a restored 1833 log cabin connected to a modern log home.
At the working 210-acre Niederman Family Farm in Liberty Township, Butler County, families plant pumpkins to pick in the fall, enjoy a hayride or milk a cow. Overnight guests at the on-site Gregory Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, a two-suite log home, enjoy a full farm breakfast.
Those participating in the Work Together Weekend for Families at Marmon Valley Farm in Zanesfield, Logan County, work (paint, garden, cut wood, trim trails, clean, etc.) on Saturday Aug. 31, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., in exchange for a weekend of almost free lodging, a trail ride and a barn dance. (A small charge per person covers food costs.) Little kids love the Playbarn playground modeled after a real barn. The 450-acre, nondenominational Christian camp/farm also offers retreat packages for individuals, families or groups. Stay overnight in a bunkhouse and chow down from a chuck wagon.
Carriage Hill MetroPark Historical Farm in Dayton is an educational and fun day trip (Tuesday through Sunday) for those interested in 19th-century farm life. Visitors see horses till fields of rye, oats or wheat and barred Plymouth Rock chickens being fed by historical interpreters. Don’t miss Draft Horse Days and the U.S. Plowing Contest, August 31 and September 1.
The best in modern sustainable agriculture is combined with Ohio’s farming heritage at Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm, an environmental education complex in Dayton. The Charity A. Krueger Farm Discovery Center is the farm’s hub. From there, visitors spread out across the property, visiting its farmyard, sheep barn, horse and cow pastures, orchard, turkey paddock, children’s garden and more. Solar energy and wind power help run the farm.
It’s billed as the Ultimate Country Music Experience, and no one is pulling your guitar string — it’s true. Entertainment for Jamboree in the Hills runs July 18–22, but the camping festival begins July 15 in Belmont, Belmont County. The outdoor rain-or-shine festival features 25 hours of live music, big-name entertainers (this year: Toby Keith, The Oak Ridge Boys, Miranda Lambert and more) and 5,000 campers who bleed country.
A number of packages are available for campers and those who just want to spend a day. Camping passes do not include entertainment. This is Woodstock for the country set, only well-organized and with plenty of portable toilets.
The 27th Annual Musicians Against Childhood Cancer Festival (MACC)/Bluegrass Classic is July 17–20 at Hoover Y-Park in Columbus. This year’s line-up includes more than 30 performers including Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers and Rhonda Vincent and the Rage. The festival’s founding family lost a daughter to cancer and proceeds benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Campfires and leashed pets at campsites are permitted.
The Bunbury Music Festival, July 12–14, rocks Cincinnati’s Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove on the Ohio River with alternative music and 80 live performances. No camping on-site, but it’s available at nearby campgrounds.
The 500-acre Clay’s Park Resort in North Lawrence, Stark County, offers music-filled events including Country Fest, June 13–15, and The Yankee Peddler Festival, September 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22, with traditional crafts and musicians. Large campsites and a wealth of activities (swimming lake, indoor pool, canoeing, teen club, skate park and more) are super family-friendly. “Glamping” (for camping wimps) is another option. Lakeside canvas cabins include a platform and “real” furniture.
The 15th annual Creekside Blues and Jazz Festival, June 14–16, is a celebration of local, regional and national entertainers and artisans, plus a Sunday Father’s Day Jazz Brunch. The Kelly Richard Band, Brooks Family Blues Dynasty and others will perform on five stages in front of the 40,000 people expected to attend the festival in Gahanna, northwest of Columbus.
START YOUR ENGINES
“I think the best part about camping at the track is the racing alarm clock. If you’re not up already, when cars or motorcycles hit the track at 8 a.m., you’ll rise and shine pretty quickly,” says Jesse Ghiorzi, marketing and communications manager for Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington.
Tent and motor home campers enjoy events all summer, including the Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, June 28–30.
All camping lots are free on non-major-event weekends at Eldora Speedway in New Weston. During big races, including the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ Midsummer Classic on July 24, camping is available by reservation in several lots, including the notorious Eldora Village, across the highway from the track. You never know who’ll walk through the camp. NASCAR championship driver Tony Stewart owns Eldora.
LET'S GO RVING
When gas prices increase, faithful RV owners know they can still have a great vacation by staying closer to home. They also know fuel prices affect airfares and lodging, so the cost of different travel modes tends to even out. Ohio has a wealth of campgrounds that welcome RVs. To find the best ones for your family, check out GoRVing.com for vacation comparisons, purchase information, destination suggestions and more.
Kids rule at the Akron Canton Jellystone Park Camp Resort (formerly Clearwater Park Camping) in Uniontown, Stark County. Campers enjoy a swimming pool with waterslide, mini golf, exotic animal shows, homemade ice cream from the snack bar, outdoor family movie nights and, of course, daily visits with Yogi. Lock 30 Woodlands in Lisbon, Columbiana County, is a 60-acre, forested campground open all year and is for nature lovers and those who want privacy. A 20-acre off-leash area is a treat for your dog. Also, bocce, anyone?
Long’s Retreat Family Resort in Latham, Pike County, offers RV and tent sites as well as cabin rentals on its 400 acres. Lots to do here with two waterslides, a beach, paddle boats and a carousel. New this year at Lazy River at Granville, located 25 miles east of Columbus, are a gem mine sluice and a two-story challenge course with 19 elements and a rock-climbing wall, according to co-owner Kathy Kasper. The campground also offers a zipline, in-ground pool, game room and other amenities. Six times this summer the campground will offer a special stargazing program with assistance from NASA and a local university.
ON THE BEACH
Lake Erie and its islands remain the top destination for Ohio vacationers. With miles of clean beaches and a discovery around every island corner, what’s not to love? But planning is essential before you even step foot on the sand. Start with a visit (in person or online) to the Lake Erie Shores and Islands Welcome Center in Sandusky or Port Clinton (shoresandislands.com) to request a convenient Shore Savings Card. The card offers savings for restaurants, shops, lodging options and attractions in high season.
Also check package deals that can save you, well, a bundle. The Ride & Slide Pass gets you two days in two parks — Cedar Point and Soak City — for one price. Tickets are not dated and you can go to both parks or just one twice. Put-in-Bay’s Island Fun Pack includes a ferry ticket, tour train, Perry’s Cove, mini golf, Butterfly House, Antique Car Museum and more. The M3 Family Museum Pass (Merry-Go-Round Museum, Milan Historical Museum and Maritime Museum of Sandusky) offers a one-time family admission to each museum at a substantial discount.
WHEN YOU GO
Akron Canton Jellystone Park Camp Resort
12712 Hoover Ave. N.W., Uniontown 44685, 330/877-9800
Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm
9101 Frederick Pike (farm), Dayton 45414, 937/890-2968
Bunbury Music Festival
Sawyer Point/Yeatman’s Cove, 705 E. Pete Rose Way, Cincinnati 45202
Clay’s Park Resort
13190 Patterson St. N.W., North Lawrence 44666, 330/854-6691
Carriage Hill MetroPark
7800 E. Shull Rd., Dayton 45424, 937/278-2609
Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival
Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau, Gahanna 43230, 614/418-9114
13929 St. Rte. 118, New Weston 45348, 937/338-3815
Hopewell Culture National Historic Park
16062 St. Rte. 104, Chillicothe 45601, 740/774-1126
Jamboree in the Hills
43510 National Rd., Belmont 43718
Lazy River at Granville
2340 Dry Creek Rd. N.E., Granville 43023, 740/366-4385
Lock 30 Woodlands
45529 Middle Beaver Rd., Lisbon 44432, 330/424-9197
Long’s Retreat Family Resort
50 Bell Hollow Rd., Latham 45646, 937/588-3725
Hoover Y-Park, Columbus 43137, 740/548-4199.
Marmon Valley Farm
7754 St. Rte. 292 S., Zanesfield 43360, 937/593-8000
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
7721 Steam Corners Rd., Lexington 44094, 800/643-6446
Niederman Family Farm
4972 LeSourdesville-West Chester Rd., Liberty Township 45011, 513/779-6184
Ohio State Parks
Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Stahl’s Farm Vacations
Frazeysburg 43822, 740/668-7075