Adventures in the Midwest,  Ohio,  Weekend Trips

11 Last-Minute Summer Ideas In Ohio

Soak up those dog days of summer with one of these last-minute summer ideas in Ohio. Whether you want to conquer a roller coaster, find a hidden cave or discover the secrets of Ohio’s castles, Ohio has the perfect adventure waiting for you. We have partnered with Ohio. Find It Here to showcase eleven great last-minute ideas to help you plan a quick getaway before the school bell rings.

Last minute summer ideas in Ohio: Zoombezi Bay in Columbus

A highlight of any last-minute getaway is the convenience of hopping in the car and just going. Even if you don’t want to overnight, being a tourist in your hometown can be an exciting way of checking off those summer bucket list items. We recap a few of our summer favorites in Cincinnati and out of town to help inspire your next adventure.

Before visiting any destination, ensure to check their health and safety procedures as the pandemic is ever-changing.

Go Hiking In Hocking Hills

Deemed one of Ohio’s most scenic state parks, Hocking Hills is full of cascading waterfalls, rugged gorges, sheer rock walls, and towering cliffs. Whether it is a kid-friendly trail or a more challenging hike, Hocking Hills has something for every type of hiker.

Hocking Hills: Rock House

Peer inside Old Man’s Cave, marvel at the beauty of Ash Cave, then snap a photo of Cedar Falls, Ohio’s most photographed waterfall. Two of the park’s trails, Ash Cave and Conkle’s Hollow, are wheelchair accessible, offering paved trails.

Planning Your Visit To Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills State Park is tucked away in the southeastern portion of Ohio in Logan County. The park is relatively central, making it an excellent last-minute summer idea in Ohio. There are plenty of lodging options, including Tiny Houses, camping, cabin rentals, along with a variety of restaurants, Hocking Hills Winery, and other activities.

Last minute summer ideas in Ohio: Ash Cave In Hocking HIlls

Tip: Restaurants in the area tend to start filling up after 5:30 pm on the weekends, yielding long wait times. Consider arriving earlier for meals or place a carry-out order to take for a picnic.

Seek Out Thrills At Kings Island

A visit to Kings Island has been a summer staple in my family for years. Summer isn’t complete without a blue ice cream cone, a visit to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and a ride on the Beast, the world’s longest wooden roller coaster.

Kings Island

Kings Island offers a variety of fun for the entire family. Planet Snoopy offers over 20 attractions for kids, spectacular shows, and plenty of fun for the thrill-seekers in your family. Ride Orion, one of seven giga coasters in the world with a 300 ft drop, or keep things low-key with a ride on antique cars.

When things get too hot in the park, venture to Soak City. Soak City offers two wave pools, 36 water slides, a lazy river, plenty of kid’s areas, and splash zones! The best part, it is included with your admission!

Planning Your Visit To Kings Island

Tickets to Kings Island can be purchased online. Remember that the park will cease daily operations on August 15 and will be open only on weekends. Admission into the park also includes Soak City, Kings Islands premier waterpark, which closes on Labor Day.

Last minute summer ideas in Ohio: Soak City at Kings Island

Kings Island is owned by Cedar Fair, which also owns Kings Island’s sister park, Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. The park offers discounts for families looking to visit both parks.

Know Before You Go: Kings Island has gone cashless. Cash can be redeemed for a card at the entrance; otherwise, the park takes credit cards and Apple Pay.

Discover The World Of Science At COSI

One of the nation’s most revered museums, COSI, Center of Science and Industry, has been a beacon of education for children of all ages. Each day at COSI is different, offering unique science presentations, rotating exhibits, science carts, and more. Many visitors recollect riding COSI’s High Wire Unicycle that challenges you to ride a unicycle across an 84-foot cable while 17 feet above the ground.

COSI : Ocean exhibit

Don’t forget to venture outdoors to their Big Science Park, where you can lift a car with the help of a lever, roll a giant sphere or play a massive game of chess. Younger kids will love the Little Kidspace, which is full of imaginative play stations, science, and a water area!

Planning Your Visit To COSI

COSI strongly encourages reservations to be made online before visiting. Tickets can be purchased online for quick and contactless admission. COSI is currently closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.

Last minute summer ideas in Ohio: COSI

The underground garage entrance on Belle Street may be accessed from Broad Street. Please note that due to construction, the south end of Belle Street is currently closed to traffic.

The garage is still open and charges $5. Street parking is available behind COSI. However, you will have to walk to the front of the building to enter.

Have A Beach Day At Headlands Beach State Park

The Headlands Beach State Park offers a mile-long sandy beach, the longest in the state of Ohio. It is a staple during any visit to Cleveland. Cool off in Lake Erie’s waters during the hot summer months or enjoy a picnic at one of their many picnic areas. To the far east of the park, visitors can enjoy a boardwalk to the beach along with nature trails in the Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve.

Headlands State Park: Last minute summer ideas in Ohio

Planning Your Visit To Headlands Beach State Park

Cleveland is home to a variety of beautiful beaches and attractions, making this an ideal summer weekend escape. Visit the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, see the beloved dog Balto at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and round out your visit with a stop at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Cleveland Botanical Gardens

During your visit to Cleveland, don’t miss out on a visit to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. The blossoming gardens throughout the Cleveland Botanical Gardens make the perfect retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle. The winding paths lead through tranquil tea gardens, aromatic rose gardens, along with a glasshouse full of exotic flora.

Botanical Garden In Cleveland

The Hershey Children’s Garden offers a creative outdoor outlet for kids. Let their imagination run wild with secret garden passages, a treehouse, and a frog bog to explore. Picnic tables are available as outside food and drink are permitted.

Cleveland Botanical Garden

Planning Your Visit To Cleveland Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens is within walking distance from popular attractions such as the Museum of Natural History. If you plan to visit both attractions, park in the Museum of Natural History Garage and walk to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens across the street. The Cleveland Botanical Gardens are closed on Mondays.

Explore the Cincinnati Riverfront

Being a tourist in my hometown always has me finding new gems that become staples in our weekly routine. The ever-evolving Cincinnati Riverfront is a summer must! Situated along the Ohio River, Cincinnati is home to three great riverfront parks; Smale Riverfront Park, Sawyer Point Park, and the Theodore M Berry International Friendship Park. Strolling along the Cincinnati Riverfront has never been more appealing since all three parks connect, making it a perfect spot to explore.

Last minute summer ideas in Ohio: Cincinnati Riverfront

Smale Riverfront Park is a family favorite as it offers picturesque views of the Roebling Suspension bridge, multiple playgrounds, and splash areas. It even contains one of the largest outdoor chime foot pianos in the world! Don’t forget to take a spin on the Carol Ann Carousel! 

Carol Ann Carousel: Cincinnati Riverfront

The park pays tribute to The Black Brigade with a monument telling the story of the Brigade and commemorating the voluntary service of hundreds of African-American men during the Civil War.

Visitors will love renting bikes to explore all the different parks. Throughout the International Friendship Park, there are various sculptures and gardens, each representing a different continent. Native plants from that portion of the world can be found in lush gardens, while diagrams depict various cultural events. 

Planning Your Visit To Cincinnati Riverfront

The Cincinnati Riverfront is easy to access from downtown hotels through walking, biking, or streetcar. Parking lots and garages are scattered along the riverfront. Keep in mind to check to see if there is a Cincinnati Reds baseball game (another summer staple) or festival happening that would make parking more difficult.

Otto Armleder Spray Park

All of the water features, including the Otto Armleder Spray Park, are free. Bring a swimsuit, towel, and sunscreen. There are plenty of restaurants along the riverfront that offer family-friendly dining. Sample the award-winning waffles from Taste of Belgium, riverfront views at Moerlein Lager House, or enjoy a Cincinnati dinner of Montgomery Inn ribs.

Tour Ohio’s Castles

Castles are not only found in the European countryside but also Ohio. Each Ohio castle has its own unique story to tell, and some even claim to be haunted. Schedule a road trip to see twelve unique castles and even overnight in a few of them! Keep in mind that many castles may not be offering tours, while others such as Squire’s Castle in Cleveland, are open to the public at no cost.

Last minute summer ideas in Ohio: Loveland Castle

Planning Your Tour of Ohio’s Castles

This trip requires planning ahead of time as reservations will be needed to stay at the castles, set up tour times, and check to see when/if the castles are open. For example, the Loveland Castle in Cincinnati is open daily until November 1; they will be open only on weekends. Famous castles to stay at include Landoll’s Mohican Castle and Ravenwood Castle.

Zoombezi Bay at the Columbus Zoo

Columbus is home to a wide variety of family fun attractions, one of the top spots is the Columbus Zoo. The zoo is spread out, offering animals plenty of space to roam, including an African Savannah! The Columbus Zoo is not only home to an incredible zoo but an aquarium, amusement park, and waterpark.

Last minute summer ideas in Ohio: Zoombezi Bay

The popular Dinosaur Island will be at the Columbus Zoo until the end of October, so bring your dino fan!

Adventure Cove is a popular area in the zoo offering amusement rides such as a wooden roller coaster, swings, bumper boats, and more. Guests can purchase a Zoo More wristband to enjoy all the rides throughout the zoo, including those at Adventure Cove.

Zoombezi Bay is the waterpark that is home to waterslides, a lazy river, a kids splash area, and a 21+ Lazy River called Croctail Creek. Cocktail Creek allows adults to float with alcoholic beverages. 

Planning Your Visit To The Columbus Zoo

Your admission to Zoombezi Bay also includes admission to the Columbus Zoo. The zoo offers two-day tickets because there is so much to see and do! Remember that attractions such as rides in Adventure Cove, rides throughout the zoo, and special animals programs require an additional charge.

Zoombezi Bay Slides

The weekends at the Columbus Zoo can be very busy since there are so many family-centered attractions in one place. Order your tickets ahead of time to reduce your wait time in line, visit during the week if possible for lower crowds and try to arrive as soon as they open.

The Duke Energy Children’s Museum At Cincinnati Museum Center

An iconic image of Cincinnati is Union Terminal, the train station turned Museum that still operates as a train station! The art deco style of Union Terminal is one of the many reasons visitors flock to the Museum. The awe-inspiring rotunda filled with mosaics is a must-see while in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Museum Center

As the demand for train travel decreased, the Cincinnati Museum Center found its new home here. The Cincinnati Museum Center is home to Duke Energy Children’s Museum, The Cincinnati History Museum, The Museum of Natural History & Sciences, an Omnimax Theater, and the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust and Humanity Center.

The Children’s Museum is home to a variety of interactive play areas, a massive playground called the woods, along with a water area. 

Planning Your Visit To The Cincinnati Museum Center

The Children’s Museum is currently on a timed entry ticketing system. Tickets and reservations can be made online for the Children’s Museum. The other museums do not require a reservation.

Duke Energy Center Children's Museum

Re-entry to the Children’s Museum is not allowed. Restrooms are available inside the Children’s Museum. The Museum is currently closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Go Snorkeling At Natural Springs Resort

Snorkel in the crystal clear lake, snag the perfect fishing spot, then end the day with a marshmallow roast over a campfire. Natural Springs is one place that the family will want to come back to year after year with so much to do. During the summer months, guests can enjoy Wibits, a floating inflatable obstacle course on the lake. Guests age seven and older can purchase one-hour passes to jump, climb, and splash to their heart’s content.

Last minute summer ideas in Ohio: Natural Springs Resort

Natural Springs Resort offers camping, cabin rentals, and day passes! Rent a paddleboat or kayak, go fishing or spend the afternoon scuba diving! The water is so clear it is easy to spot fish, plants, and rock formations. Therefore, don’t forget the goggles and snorkel gear!

Because of the incredibly clear water, it is a popular lake with scuba divers. We got to witness many scuba divers suiting up for their underwater adventure. Scuba divers must have a license and purchase a scuba day pass.

Planning Your Visit To Natural Springs Resort

Natural Springs Resort tends to book up quickly on the weekends for those looking to overnight, which we highly recommend. Day passes are available Monday-Thursday. While you are in the area, be sure to visit the Quiet Harmony Ranch. This elk ranch offers a drive-thru experience to see elk up close, along with plenty of other outdoor fun!

Last minute summer ideas in Ohio: Natural Springs Resort

Visit One of the Ohio Lodges

Ohio is home to a variety of lodges located near popular state parks. The lodges offer outdoor and indoor pools, on-site restaurants, game rooms, cabins, and so much more. Since the Ohio lodges are located in state parks, there is plenty of boating, hiking, fishing, kayaking, and other fun outdoor adventures.

Hueston Woods

Hueston Woods Lodge is located in the southwestern portion of Ohio, spanning Butler and Preble County. Situated in scenic Hueston Woods State Park, Hueston Woods Lodge is one of eight Great Ohio Lodges. Hueston Woods is one of our favorites since it overlooks beautiful Acton Lake. 

Planning Your Visit To An Ohio Lodge

The accommodations at the different lodges can vary. Those that offer cabins tend to have pet-friendly options which book up quickly. All the lodge rooms provide balconies, which are ideal for relaxing after a long day of exploring. One of the most popular Ohio Lodges is Salt Fork, with its Bigfoot sightings, gorgeous state park, and lake views.

Shawnee Lodge

We hope that we have encouraged you to check those last few items off your summer bucket list and get in that final hurrah as vacation season starts to wind down!

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Last Minute Summer Ideas In Ohio 

last minute summer ideas in Ohio

We are an inquisitive family seeking to discover, create and inspire unique adventures and experiences. Our mission is to motivate families to collect moments and not things. Our family travel blog explores places off the beaten path that will spark your curiosity and provide inspiration for families traveling with children. We are not full-time travelers, just the everyday family that makes the most of each day off. When we are not traveling we enjoy being a tourist in our hometown of Cincinnati.