Discover our guide to the best things to do in Chillicothe, Ohio.
The beautiful small town of Chillicothe is a charming enclave in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains rooted with a fascinating history. As Ohio’s first capital city, Chillicothe is full of historical sites but most impressive is their ancient earthworks dating over 2,000 years old.
Uncover hidden gems throughout Chillicothe by exploring the scenic parks, stroll the delightful downtown and uncover why Chillicothe, Ohio, is the perfect place for a weekend getaway.
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Where is Chillicothe, Ohio
The city of Chillicothe is in southern Ohio along the Scioto River. Chillicothe is the only city in Ross County.
Distance to Chillicothe
From Cincinnati: ~104 miles ~1 hour and 40 minutes
From Columbus: ~49 miles ~53 minutes
History Behind Chillicothe
The region around Chillicothe was the center of the ancient Hopewell tradition, which flourished from 200 BC until 500 AD. The Hopewell culture built earthen mounds for ceremonial and burial purposes throughout the Scioto and Ohio River valleys. Many of these earthworks still stand, such as the Mound City Group, Serpent Mound, and Fort Ancient.
After the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 forced the Native Americans from most of Ohio, European settlers came to the area. Migrants from Virginia and Kentucky moved west along the Ohio River in search of land. The community Chillicothe was founded in 1796 by a party led by General Nathaniel Massie on his land grant.
In 1798, Ross County became incorporated with Chillicothe as the county seat. Chillicothe was named the capital of the remnant Northwest Territory in 1800 when Indiana Territory was split off, and the Northwest Territory was reduced to Ohio, eastern Michigan, and a sliver of southeastern Indiana. In 1802 as Ohio moved toward statehood, the city hosted the Ohio Constitutional Convention. It served as the capital of Ohio from statehood in 1803 until 1810 then again from 1812 to 1816 until it was permanently relocated to Columbus.
Best Things To Do in Chillicothe Ohio
Hopewell Culture National Historical Park
Walk among ancient earthworks and experience the past at the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe. The Hopewell Culture National Historical Park is home to the Mound City Group.
Nearly 2000 years ago, American Indians built dozens of monumental mounds and earthen enclosures in southern Ohio. These earthworks complexes were ceremonial landscapes used for feasts, funerals, rituals, and rites of passage.
The Mound City Group is the only fully restored Hopewell earthwork complex, making it a national treasure. These sacred mounds are a part of Ohio’s many earthworks of the ancient American Indian culture that are up for nomination to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are currently only 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites throughout the United States.
Guests to the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park can visit the park and the onsite museum free of charge.
Planning Tip: The Mound City Group is found at the Hopewell Culture National Park. Bring your National Park Passport to have stamped and pick up the kid’s Junior Ranger packet.
Important: Please do not walk the mounds or earthworks. Mound City is still considered a sacred place by many people; therefore treat the area with respect.
Adena Mansion & Gardens Historic Site
One of the top historical sites in Chillicothe is the historic 2000-acre estate of Thomas Worthington, sixth governor of Ohio. As only one of three standing houses designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the original 1806 house has been restored to resemble how the home looked while Worthington and his family lived there.
The Adena Mansion tour is roughly an hour long, with a knowledgeable historian guiding you through each room and retracing iconic family moments to everyday living. After the tour, guests can stroll the formal gardens and the grounds.
Take advantage of the view that inspired the Great Seal of the State of Ohio. Signs will help guide guests to this scenic overlook.
Travel Tip: Mansion tours are every hour and require admission. Guests should provide the visitors center a wristband for access to the mansion tour and the interactive museum in the visitors center.
Great Seal State Park
Many hikers flock to Great Seal State park to tackle the challenging trails that reward them with scenic vistas of the foothills and the Scioto Valley. While hiking may take center stage, the park offers a variety of activities for everyone.
Friends gather together for an afternoon of disc golf; kids squeal as they make their way through the storybook trail and thrill seekers break out their mountain bikes for an epic outdoor adventure. Horseback riding is very popular, with many guests utilizing the bridle trails.
A small camping area is available for those looking to overnight at the park.
Buzzards Roost Nature Preserve
One of the best-kept secrets in Chillicothe is the gorgeous views from the Buzzards Roost Nature Preserve. The preserve is tucked away in a residential area, but after creeping down a one-lane road, it pops out into the preserve.
My first tip is to download the hiking trails. While I found the trails to be very well labeled and maintained, it is always a good idea to have a backup. You can also snap a photo of the trail map with your phone.
With over 5 miles of rugged trails, Buzzards Roost Nature Preserve has gorgeous natural formations, scenic overlooks, and ponds. Kids will enjoy a short .4 miles hike along the Kids Zone while the South Point Lookout Trail offers magnificent views of the vertical cliffs of sandstone and shale that descend into the beautiful Paint Creek Gorge.
I would allot a minimum of an hour and a half to explore the trails if not longer.
R Kitchen Deli & Provisions
A great spot to grab a quick bite to eat in downtown Chillicothe is the R Kitchen Deli & Provisions. With an assortment of salads, sandwiches, savory soups, and delicious bakery items. Sip on a specialty cocktail at the bar or carry out your favorites for a picnic at nearby Yoctangee Park.
Chillicothe Railroad Museum
All Aboard! Tucked away in Yoctangee Park are two cabooses home to the Chillicothe Railroad Museum. The museum is small and will make a fun half-hour stop during a visit to the park or while exploring downtown Chillicothe.
Planning Tip: The museum hours are seasonal and will vary. Check the website for more details.
Mighty Children’s Museum
One thing to know about this museum is that it lives up to its name. It may be a small children’s museum, but it is mighty. My initial impression was that my five-year-old was going to be bored within a half hour; fast forward two hours later, and we were finally leaving only because they were closing.
I have found that larger children’s museums can be overwhelming, while a small setting can foster imaginative play and creativity. My daughter spent a good half hour alone at the imaginary farmers market. Gathering her “produce” from the farm to sell to the customers sitting on the nearby benches.
The Mighty Kids Museum has limited hours, so plan your day accordingly. They are typically only open till 4 pm.
Planning Tip: There is a trolley stop outside the Mighty Kids Museum. We hopped on the trolley after we left the museum for a tour of downtown Chillicothe.
Ride The Chillicothe Trolley
Get a grand tour of downtown Chillicothe by hopping aboard the Chillicothe Trolley. The trolley was implemented this early 2022 as an opportunity to improve the public transit system. Before planning a visit, check out the trolley schedule, as it does run different routes on different days.
Only one trolley is running, so keep that in mind when planning out routes and if you rely solely on the trolley to go to and from hotels, events, and various areas around the city.
Planning Tip: As of 2022, there is no fare to ride the trolley. It is free to the public. The trolley is handicap accessible with a ramp for wheelchairs.
Paper City Coffee Company
Start the morning with a warm cup of java from the local favorite Paper City Coffee Company. Chillicothe was the original home of the Mead Corporation, one of the United States’ leading paper manufacturers, hence the name Paper City.
Paper City not only serves up delectable pastries, breakfast sandwiches, and drinks, but the proceeds from Paper City Coffee are donated to the Paper City Mentoring Project, a non-profit mentoring program for high school students.
Planning Tip: Paper City is right around the corner from the Mighty Kids Museum in downtown Chillicothe. Gathering areas are available, along with indoor and outdoor seating.
50 West Brewing Company
I had to take a second glance when I saw that 50 West Brewing Company had opened a second location in Chillicothe. With the original being in Cincinnati, only minutes from my home, I was thrilled to find my favorite brews in downtown Chillicothe.
50 West Brewing not only offers delicious beers, but they have a decent burger as well. My beer recommendations: Doom Pedal and the Coast To Coast
Geode Yoga Dome
Hands down, the best yoga class I ever took was at the Geode Yoga Dome in Chillicothe. The beautiful dome is tucked in the wooded area of Sugar Loaf Mountain, Ohio, surrounded by the breathtaking areas of Great Seal State Park. The serenity of the forest, paired with a flood of natural light, made for a more peaceful meditation and tranquil yoga class.
Guests can sign up for yoga and hot yoga classes and various events and classes.
Explore Downtown Chillicothe
Charming small towns provide a sense of whimsy that can’t be found amongst the hustle and bustle of the big city. Beautiful streets adorned with overflowing planters welcome guests as local boutiques and eateries lure shoppers in with their tempting window displays.
Shoppers anxiously browse antique stores hoping to find that special treasure while a trolley full of joyful children passes by. Downtown Chillicothe is a perfect spot to spend an afternoon with various activities, festivals, and events happening throughout the year.
A few not to miss shops include Wheatberry Books, Ivy’s Home, and Garden, Totem Supply Co, and Free Spirit Threads.
Planning Tip: On the weekend, the trolley runs the downtown route.
Tecumseh Outdoor Drama
For many, an Ohio bucket list item is watching the popular outdoor drama Tecumseh! The massive outdoor stages of the Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre give the audience a unique viewing experience. Sit beneath the stars as sheer spectacle surrounds you with a herd of galloping horses, live military cannons in action, and the most dazzling battle sequences offered on the American stage.
Tecumseh tells the epic life story of the legendary Shawnee leader as he struggles to defend his sacred homelands in the Ohio country during the late 1700s.
Tip: Try to get a seat as close to the stage as possible, as the actors do not wear microphones and can sometimes be challenging to hear.
The new Archaeological Park and Nature Preserve, Junction Earthworks, is composed of nine ceremonial earthworks constructed by the Hopewell Culture roughly 2000 years ago. The park features four nature trails, a 70-acre native prairie that provides incredible summer wildflowers and rare grassland birds.
Planning Tip: The park is free to the public and is open 365 days a year from 9 am to sunset.
A unique place to visit in Chillicothe is Millennium Grove. A stand of over 100 trees, each having significant historical ancestry. Every tree is a direct descendant of a tree that is, in some way, related to an event, place, or person.
There are seven glades within the grove, each representing a different group: Ohio History, Famous Women, Presidents, and more.
Chillicothe Halloween Festival
From the Feast of the Flowering Moon to their annual Halloween Festival, there is always a celebration happening in the lively small town of Chillicothe. During our recent visit, the famous three-day Halloween Festival was happening. All generations made their way to the event dressed in their finest costumes.
I have never seen so many Halloween vendors in one place. Tons of great costumes, masks, home decor, and more. Even the food vendors had their booths decked out in spooky decorations.
Planning Tip: Don’t miss the coffin races on the Sunday of the festival. Competitors race homemade coffins in a wacky Halloween race resembling a soapbox derby.
Swans glide throughout the lake at Yoctangee Park while the children play and couples picnic. Weeping willows provide shade to those resting on the park bench while the recreational areas come to life with the sounds of rousing ball games and disc golf competitions.
Yoctangee Park is a staple in the community and is home to the restored Municipal Water Plant in 1882, which now serves as the Pump House Center for the Arts. Guests can also find the Chillicothe Railroad Museum, trails, a skatepark, and local festivals at the park.
Pour House at Machinery Hall
One of the top spots to eat in Chillicothe is the Pour House at Machinery Hall. Housed in a building built in 1881 at 25 East Second Street, the building received its name, “Machinery Hall,” from the original owners. Machinery Hall was used as an Implement Store selling farming and other equipment when completed.
Today, the Pour House features over 30 beers on draft and a chef-inspired menu that typically features American pub fare with an upscale twist. My recommendation, get a signature burger with a cold brew.
I loved their kid’s menu. They had great options, including fruit and veggies, and were served in an old fashion tray!
Planning Tip: Make reservations. It is easy to do online.
Ross County Heritage Center
History buffs will not want to miss a visit to the Ross County Heritage Center. The Heritage Center connects the Ross County Historical Society’s main museum and McKell Library, creating one large facility with many stories to tell.
The Ross County Heritage Center is a great place to dive into the history of the Northwest Territory and the founding of the state of Ohio. Guest can learn how and why Chillicothe became Ohio’s first capital, the prehistoric cultures of the Scioto River Valley, and Ross County’s involvement in the Civil War.
Other intriguing exhibits include; Camp Sherman & World War I; historical toys & dolls; early Ohio decorative arts, folk art, fine art & portraiture; and historical vehicles & transportation.
Your tour includes visiting the Knoles Log House, which features artifacts and décor to help you visualize life in early Ross County. From there, you have the option to tour the Franklin House.
The Franklin House is an outstanding early 20th-century house museum designed by noted Ohio architect Frank Packard.
Remember to swing by the gift shop on your way out to pick up books, maps, and other intriguing historical items.
Rainy days are ideal for book shopping. Swing by the local bookshop, Wheatberry Books, for a wide selection of new and used books for all ages. Grab your latest selection, then take a quick walk to local coffee hangouts such as Rost and Paper City.
Lucy Hayes Heritage Center
Guests have the opportunity to tour the small house where Lucy Ware Webb Hayes was born. Lucy served as First Lady of the United States when her husband, Rutherford B Hayes, was in the Whitehouse. Her nickname was Lemonade Lucy, as she banned liquor from the mansion but remained a popular hostess.
Planning Tip: Guided tours through the home are available Friday & Saturday, April 1 through October. Admission is $2.00. Other times by appointment.
Address: 90 West 6th Street, Chillicothe, Ohio 45601
Catch a performance at America’s oldest continuously operating theater with a show at the Majestic Theater. The historic theater brings in a variety of performances, including a variety of musical numbers. Before catching the show, grab dinner at the Pour House at Machinery Hall or Hometown Hibachi.
Na Zdravie Vineyard and Winery
Relax with a glass of wine while overlooking the beautiful countryside at the Na Zdravie Vineyard and winery. Na Zdravie Winery grows its own grapes to craft delectable wines. Nibble on a cheese plate or order a tempting woodfire pizza.
Scioto Trail State Park
Chillicothe is home to remarkable state parks offering superb hiking trails, fishing, and paddling. The beauty and remoteness of Scioto Trail offer the best of escapes to park visitors with breathtaking vistas of southern Ohio’s Scioto River Valley.
Where To Stay In Chillicothe
During our visit to Chillicothe, we opted to stay at the Holiday Inn Express. It was conveniently located near the highway and minutes from downtown Chillicothe. The hotel had a complimentary hot continental breakfast that included bacon, eggs, biscuits, pancakes, and other breakfast items.
Our daughter loved the indoor pool, and I used the fitness center.
If you choose to take a road trip to Chillicothe, we hope our list of fun things to do in the area will help you plan your ideal itinerary.
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