Beat the heat this summer by planning a unique adventure exploring scenic Ohio. There are endless ways to spend summer in Ohio, from seeing giant forest trolls to stepping inside a crystal cave!
No matter how you like to spend your summer, Ohio has the ideal getaway for you. Soak up the sun on the beaches of Lake Erie, discover the natural wonders in the state parks, or tackle the thrills of an amusement park. We are thrilled to be partnering with Ohio. Find It Here to showcase fun ways to spend summer in Ohio with exciting weekend getaways and staycations.
Unique Adventures In Ohio
While researching great Ohio getaways, many popular destinations such as Hocking Hills and Columbus rise to the top of the search. However, Ohio is full of unique adventures bound to spark your curiosity.
See The Forest Trolls At Aullwood Audubon Nature Center
Tucked away in the Aullwood Audubon Nature Center in Dayton lives the three trolls Bo, Bodil, and Bibbi, along with their troll-size bird nest. These loveable giant trolls are now permanent residents, created by renowned artist Thomas Dambo.
The exhibit, “The Troll That Hatched An Egg,” is spread out throughout the preserve allowing guests to hike to each troll and the nest. During your visit, pay a visit to the Aullwood Farm, home to various farm animals, along with a stop inside Nature Center.
Know Before You Go:
- There are two entrances to the Aullwood Audubon Nature Center. The entrance by the farm is closest to the trolls Bodil and Bo, while the entrance by the Nature Center is closest to Bibbi and the trolls’ nest.
- There is an admission fee per person to enter Aullwood Audubon Nature Center. The admission fee does include the cost of the trolls.
- Remember to follow proper troll etiquette by not climbing, standing, or playing on the trolls.
- Bring sunscreen and bug spray.
- There are free parking lots at both entrances.
- The trolls are only accessible through primitive hiking trails that can be steep and get muddy.
- Plan on 3-4 hours to see all three trolls and the nest and spend time in the nature center and farm.
Planning Tip: Plan a visit to the Dayton Troll Pub for a troll-themed day! They are family-friendly and have outdoor seating along a secret passage or two.
Go Hunting For Bigfoot At Salt Fork State Park
Salt Fork sits in the “Sasquatch Triangle” area as it has been a hotbed of activity and sightings. Whether folklore or legend, Salt Fork found itself on Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot” and landed a spot on USA TODAY” s Top Ten “Sqautchiest” Places.
Therefore, hit the trails with your binoculars, camera, and best bigfoot yell to see if you can find the elusive bigfoot. Salt Fork State Park Lodge even offers Bigfoot Night Hikes that you can sign up for!
The lodge offers maps that highlight the spots where bigfoot was last seen in the area. There have been 36 Bigfoot sightings in this neck of the woods. As you walk the trails looking for bigfoot, don’t forget to take in all the natural beauty of the state park.
Know Before You Go:
- Salt Fork State Park is Ohio’s Largest State Park offering plenty of outdoor recreation.
- Salt Fork Lodge offers lodge rooms and cabin rentals.
- There is a public beach area that has swimming.
- Rent a boat, a pontoon, or a kayak at one of the two marinas on Salt Fork Lake.
- The Timbers restaurant in the Salt Fork Lodge has fun specialty menu items named after sasquatch.
- 360 Burger is a must while visiting the Salt Fork area for juicy burgers and tempting milkshakes!
Planning Tip: Salt Fork State Park is located near the Wilds. Ohio’s signature safari adventure. Board a jeep to tour the park to see exotic animals such as white rhinos, zebras, antelope, giraffes, and more. The tours are typically two hours long and booked out weeks in advance.
Tour A Crystal Cave
A hidden gem in Put-In-Bay, Ohio, is the Crystal Cave, discovered by accident while workers were digging a well for Mr. Gustav Heineman beneath his winery. Crystal Cave is home to one of the world’s largest geodes. The walls of this cave are covered in strontium sulfate, a blueish mineral called celestite. These crystals range from 8 to 18 inches long.
Know Before You Go:
- The Crystal Cave and The Heineman’s Winery are together.
- This is a combo tour of the Crystal Cave and Wine Cellar that includes a 5oz glass of wine or grape juice of your choice. Tours are $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 6 to 11. Children under 6 are free.
- Tours run seven days a week from early May until late September.
- Heineman’s winery is the oldest family-run winery in the state.
- You will have to take a ferry to the island. Many lodging options are available, such as Bodee’s Bungalow and the historic Hotel Lakeside.
Planning Tip: Put-In-Bay is one of many islands along the coast of Lake Erie. Plan on spending multiple days exploring the different islands and enjoying the family-fun attractions such as Cedar Point in Sandusky.
Start planning your trip to Ohio’s Shores and Islands!
Visit The Quiet Harmony Elk Ranch
Embark on an Elk Adventure at the Quiet Harmony Elk Ranch in New Paris, Ohio. Witness Elk from the comforts of your vehicle during an educational drive-thru, stroll the meadow trek, then let the kids explore Action Acres.
One of the most popular things at Quiet Harmony Elk Ranch is taking the Elk Adventure Drive-Thru Tour. This tour leads guests through the pastures where the elk reside—Witness massive bulls with impressive antlers, the babies, and their mothers.
Guests are given a USB drive or a CD for vehicles so equipped to narrate the tour along with the paddocks, through the buffer strip, feeding alleys, and elk runways. The audio guide will bring the tour to life, providing fascinating facts about the Elk, their personalities, and their utility.
Go behind the scenes to experience Quiet Harmony like never before by signing up for the Outback Encounter. Board the ranch rover and hang on tight as this unique adventure sends guests off the beaten path. A ranch hand acts as a personal guide, giving guests insider information about life on the ranch, fun elk facts, and answering any questions that may arise. Headphones allow guests to hear the guided tour as they zip through the back forty.
The Outback Encounter offers incredible photo opportunities, including up-close encounters with the Elk, scenic wildflowers trails, and astonishing ranch views. Tours are currently only available to book at the ranch.
Know Before You Go:
- The ranch is NOT open seven days a week. They were open Friday and Saturday from 10:00 am-5:00 pm. Check their website to ensure they will be open when you arrive, as hours may change seasonally.
- Parking at the ranch is FREE.
- While entrance into the park is free, many activities are sold ala carte or in a combo day pack. What is included in your free admission is parking, walking the 1/4 mile meadow trek, which takes visitors near the elk pastures, a visit to the Trading Post for a little shopping, and the option to buy a meal at the Food Cabin.
- There are booths to buy admission at each attraction.
- Wear proper footwear. There is a fair amount of gravel if you choose to hike.
- Bring sunscreen. There is not a lot of shade; however, the picnic area is in the shade.
- Wristbands are required to enter the designated areas.
- You are not allowed to feed the elk unless permitted and accompanied by staff.
Planning Tip: Natural Springs Resort is a great place to stay the night near the Elk Ranch. The resort offers cabins and camping and a crystal clear lake that you can snorkel in!
Plan A Staycation In Cincinnati
Planning a staycation can be precisely what your family needs. Often the best vacation is one that is spent close to home. Spend the day visiting attractions often left for special occasions, or finally cross a few places off your hometown bucket list.
Being a tourist in my hometown of Cincinnati has always been one of my favorite pastimes. Whether it is spending the day eating my way through Findlay Market, saying hello to Fiona at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, or exploring Highfield Discovery Garden, Cincinnati is full of adventure.
Celebrate Kings Island’s 50th Birthday
Kings Island is ringing in its golden anniversary with a summer-long spectacular celebration. The midwest’s largest amusement park turns 50 years old this year! Guests can enjoy unique entertainment that highlights special moments from Kings Island’s history; culinary dishes created just for the Golden Anniversary year, and the chance to dance the night away at the base of the Eiffel Tower.
Plus, don’t miss the stunning, one-of-a-kind, immersive fireworks show featuring thrilling and heartwarming moments from the park’s first 50 years.
Planet Snoopy is the kid’s area, which is quite lovely—offering a wide variety of rides for kids 36 inches and taller. Planet Snoopy is where you will live with kids 3-6 years old. As they get taller and braver, they can venture into the park for more thrilling rides.
The Beast and Orion are two bucket-list coasters for enthusiasts, while others enjoy the classic rides like the Old Time Cars and The Scrambler.
A quick train ride from the main park will transport guests to Soak City Waterpark. Each admission into the park includes the Waterpark. There are over 50 water activities for families to explore.
There are plenty of ways to beat the heat from a massive wave pool, plunging waterslides to Castaway Cove.
Know Before You Go:
- One of the best restaurants in the entire park is the Island Smokehouse in Soak City. Great mouth-watering BBQ options.
- Soak City is open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.
- Take a look at the different dining plans offered for season pass holders and daily visitors. The daily all-day dining lets guests choose an entree and side every 90 minutes. Be sure to read the fine details as they do change.
- If you know someone with a season pass, they can get you discounted tickets.
- In Planet Snoopy, have your child measured before venturing around the park. They will receive a colored wristband indicating what rides they can ride. That way, there will be no surprises of them not being tall enough for a ride.
- The best days to visit are Tuesday-Thursday for fewer crowds.
- Kings Island offers a Fall Fest and Winterfest. Both are included for season pass holders.
- Fast Passes are available for purchase which are not included in the price of admission.
- If you plan on visiting Kings Island more than once a year, a season pass will be your best option. The pass will give you access to the park during the Halloween Haunt and Winter Wonderland.
Planning Tip: To add to your staycation experience, plan a stay at Camp Cedar or Great Wolf Lodge. Both are minutes from Kings Island.
Plan A Shopping Excursion To Jungle Jim’s
One would typically not place a visit to a grocery store on their staycation itinerary. However, a visit to Jungle Jim’s offers far more. Aisles upon aisles of unique international foods are found throughout the entire store, scattered with random memorabilia and animatronic figurines.
For example, the monorail you see at the entrance to Jungle Jim’s once belonged to Kings Island when they offered a safari ride. Seats from the old Riverfront stadium can be found at the entrance as well. Once inside, it is a feast for the eyes.
There is a bar to grab a shopping beer or kombucha and a restaurant or two if you build up an appetite. Check out their award-winning port-o-potties and browse the international aisles for foodie heaven.
Know Before You Go:
- Bring a cooler. Even if you say you aren’t going to buy anything, you will.
- For a rainy day idea, pick a country and pick out a variety of food to sample. We try to cook a traditional meal and learn about the traditions and customs of a culture.
- The original location in Fairfield has many more novelty items and eye-catching displays, while the Eastgate location is often less crowded.
- Jungle Jim’s offers a variety of foodie events and cooking classes throughout the year.
Dig For Fossils At Trammel Fossil Park
Trammel Fossil Park in Sharonville, Ohio, is a park that the whole family will dig. This 10-acre fossil park is one of few places in Cincinnati where visitors can safely dig for fossils and keep what they find!
Admission to Trammel Fossil park is entirely FREE!! There are four formations throughout Trammel Fossil Park. To find fossils from the different formations, locate the designated sign to help guide you to the formation. The signs can be found on the informational billboards near the picnic tables at the park’s entrance. Since the plot of Trammel Fossil Park has never been disturbed, tons of significant fossils are in excellent condition waiting to be unearthed!
What To Bring To A Trammel Fossil Park
Any good archeologist should come prepared for their dig, no matter how big or small it may be. The terrain is rocky and steep, so proper footwear is encouraged. Sandals are not a good option because they are easy to slide and slip on the loose rocks.
Here are a few other items to consider bringing in your backpack:
- Sunscreen. The park offers little to no shade.
- A bucket to collect treasures in.
- Paint Brushes of different sizes.
- A water sprayer filled with water.
- An extra bottle of water for the sprayer.
- Shovels and spades.
- Screwdrivers-big and little to help pick fossils out.
- A pickaxe for those older archeologists.
- A towel
- A drink and snacks.
Know Before You Go:
- Wear proper footwear. As mentioned earlier, the rocky terrain can be slippery, and the rocks can be sharp!
- Visit the park on a cool, cloudy day. Since there is little shade, it gets hot on the rocks. Be sure to pack water, sunscreen, and a hat.
- There is a port-a-potty in the parking lot and a portable handwashing station.
- Picnic tables are available; however, they are not shaded.
- Before climbing the hillside, read the educational billboards giving a brief overview of the area, the fossils, and its history.
- Consider wearing pants. Sitting and kneeling on the rocks can get uncomfortable and dirty.
- Enjoy the scenic view from the top of the park.
- Some parts of the hill are steep and treacherous for babies and toddlers. One wrong move could send them tumbling down a rocky slope. Keep smaller children in the lower portions of the hillsides. There are still plenty of significant fossils to find there.
- If bringing a stroller, keep in mind that you could only take it to the picnic and educational billboard area since it is paved. A carrier will be a better option.
Planning Tip: If visiting during the spring and summer months, venture over to have lunch at a Cincinnati classic, the Root Beer Stand!
The American Sign Museum
The American Sign Museum is a unique museum that is a Cincinnati staple. Take in all the neon glory as you step back in time and admire classic signs of the past.
The American Sign Museum is the largest public museum dedicated to signs in the United States. Not all signs are neon, as the collection includes classics like Burma Shave and an entire reassembled mail pouch barn sign.
Know Before You Go:
- I would highly recommend doing the tour of the American Sign Museum on a weekday so you can see a demonstration of how neon signs are made at the onsite neon shop, NeonWorks of Cincinnati.
- Advanced Timed Ticket purchases are recommended.
- Take the self-guided audio tour of the museum with your smartphone.
- Check the hours before going as the museum is closed Monday-Tuesday.
Planning Tip: The Museum is typically open from 12–4 pm. Plan on getting a bite to eat at nearby Camp Washington Chili, then stay the night at the Swing House.
Plan For A Last Minute Summer Getaway
Squeeze in one last summer getaway before the return of school and hectic schedules. These last-minute ideas are perfect for spending quality time with the family without the hassle of lots of planning.
Dive in those final days of summer with a stay at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky. Kalahari is a safari-themed indoor waterpark that is perfect for the entire family. Lounge in the lazy river, race down water slides while the little ones can enjoy the Kid’s Safari area designed especially for them.
Kalahari offers an outdoor waterpark that comes included with overnight stays. Explore the Safari Adventures Animal Park, have a little friendly competition with a game of mini-golf, then try your luck at Big Game Room.
Know Before You Go:
- Check-in time begins at 4:00 pm. Should you arrive as early as 10 am, you can pre-register and begin to enjoy the waterparks.
- Check-out is no later than 11:00 am. After you have checked out, if you have the time, you to stay until 3 pm in the Waterpark and enjoy the many other great Kalahari amenities and services available.
- Day Passes are available for purchase.
- Indoor waterparks can be loud. It can take your children a little bit to become acclimated to the noise.
- Guests under 48″ must wear a lifevest.
Planning Tip: If you choose, you will never have to leave the resort. Kalahari has restaurants onsite and plenty of activities. However, I recommend taking time to make a trip to see the Huron Lighthouse and spend time at the Lake Front Park and Beach on Lake Erie.
Spend one last weekend at Lake Erie with a visit to Maumee Bay State Park. Rent a cabin overlooking the lake or opt for a room at Maumee Bay State Lodge. Stroll the boardwalk overlooking the marsh while keeping a close eye peeled for bald eagles, great blue herons, and several other migratory birds.
Maumee Bay offers plenty of outdoor recreation with a handful of beaches, a golf course, hiking trails, biking, and more. Plan a stay at the lodge to enjoy the perks of the indoor/outdoor swimming pools, onsite restaurant, and more.
Know Before You Go:
- Take a day trip to Toledo to check out the Toledo Museum of Art, The National Museum of the Great Lakes, and the Toledo Zoo.
- The cabins at Maumee Bay can be booked out a year in advance. However, last-minute cancellations happen, so it can be beneficial to check back periodically.
- Camping is available in the State Park.
Planning Tip: As with Kalahari, Maumee Bay State Lodge has restaurants onsite and additional amenities that make it so you will not have to leave the lodge for anything outside recreational activities. However, the drive from Maumee Bay to Toledo is only 20 minutes.
Are you looking for more inspiration on where to go this summer in Ohio? Check out Ohio. Find It Here for more ideas!