The family road trip is an American family tradition, and you can enjoy many family-friendly spots around Ohio, not all of them in big cities. Ohio has a few gems off the beaten path that offer families with kids more bang for their buck.
Family-Friendly Spots Around Ohio
African Safari Wildlife Park; 267 South Lightner Road, Port Clinton; 419-732-3606; africansafariwildlifepark.com
African Safari Wildlife Park offers two kinds of safaris and several other animal experiences. The Drive-Thru Safari features alpaca, American bald eagle, American bison, Ankole-Watusi cattle, Bactrian camel, elk, emu, fallow deer, gemsbok, giant eland, giraffe and Grant’s zebra, to name a few. In addition, there are many species of wildflowers and plants on the safari. Families can encounter unique animals through the Walk-Thru Safari, too. This one-of-a-kind experience is a favorite amongst the whole family! Kids get a kick out of the camel rides, Zoo-it-all encounters, EdZOOcational programs, HogWILD experiences and gem mining. Plan ahead: park rules prohibit guests from leaving their cars and touching the animals during the drive-thru safari.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park; 6947 Riverview Road, Peninsula; 440-717-3890; nps.gov/cuva/index.html
The best place to begin your visit to this national park is at the Boston Mill Visitor Center. Cuyahoga Valley has more than 125 miles of hiking trails, including deep forests, rolling hills and open farmlands. Enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, birding, backpacking, paddling the river, horse trails, questing, picnicking, golfing and even winter sports. If you have little ones or physically-taxing activities aren’t on the agenda, you may want to take a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which races along with the rushing Cuyahoga River. Furthermore, while exploring the wilderness with the kids, keep a lookout for amphibians, birds, insects, mammals and reptiles lurking throughout the park. Note: Camping is not offered at Cuyahoga Valley, but you can stay at Stanford House or the Inn at Brandywine Falls.
Hocking Hills State Park; 19852 State Route 664 South, Logan; 740-385-6841; thehockinghills.org
Hocking Hills offers hiking, camping, cabins, and cottages. This gorgeous state park offers lots of family fun adventures including fishing, picnicking, archery, canoeing, horseback riding, golfing, gem mining and more. Unique shops are plentiful in the area, too. Families looking to lodge and absorb the beautiful scenery can choose one of the seven types of Hocking Hills Cabins. Camping is available, too, or you can lodge at Hocking Hills State Park Cottages. There are 40 cottages with heating and air-conditioning that accommodate up to six people. Hocking Hills State Park Campground has 156 electric sites and 13 non-electric sites.
Maumee Bay State Park; 1400 State Park Road, Oregon; 419-836-7758; stateparks.com/maumee_bay_state_park_in_ohio.html
Located near Lake Erie and nestled among scenic meadows, wet woods and lush marshes with wildlife habitats. The wetlands are home to more than 300 species of birds, fox snakes, northern water snakes, painted turtles, frogs and more. The state park offers golf, fishing, hiking, bicycling and lodging. Maumee Bay State Park has a campground with 256 sites featuring playground equipment. Need a place to stay? Deluxe cottages are also available. Maumee Bay features Quilter Lodge, overlooking the Maumee Bay of Lake Erie, which offers 120 guest rooms, each with a balcony. There are also two sand beaches, one on the Lake Erie shore and the other lines the park’s inland lake.
Ohio Amish Country – Holmes County; 6 West Jackson Street, Millersburg; 330-674-3975; holmescountychamber.com
Learn about the Amish at the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center. You can sign up for tours, workshops, and other experiences; some tours bring you to Amish homes and businesses. Learn about Amish canning, quilting and more.
Stay in a Castle!
Ravenwood Castle; 65666 Bethel Road, New Plymouth; 740-596-2606; ravenwoodcastle.com
Ravenwood Castle is a medieval-themed hotel nestled in the woods of Hocking Hills with cool medieval themes that cater to your little one’s big imagination. Included are Rapunzel’s Tower, The Duke’s Dungeon, Queen Elizabeth Suite, Queen Victoria Suite, Empress Matilda Suite, Shakespeare Suite, King Arthur Suite, Candlemaker’s Cottage and Cinderella’s Coach House. A buffet dinner is usually offered on Friday and Saturday nights in the Great Hall, and grown-ups can enjoy a craft beer, wine, cider or mixed drink at Raven’s Roost Pub.
The Wilds; 14000 International Road, Cumberland; 740-638-5030; thewilds.columbuszoo.org
This safari park and conservation center combining science and education programs lives up to its name. The Wilds offers daily, specialty and zipline tours — the Open-Air Safari being the most popular. Families can see rhinos, giraffes, and many other rare, endangered animals. Tours last at least two hours and stop at Lake Trail and the Carnivore Center. For smaller groups, the Wildside Tour (also at least two hours long) offers specially modified fourwheel drive trucks; watch the kids’ eyes light up as you drive up to herds of rhinos and even feed a giraffe! Specialty tours includ Secrets of the Zoo Wildside Tour, Sunset Safari Tour, Fishing Safari Tour, Horseback Safari, and Sunset Wildside Tour. Call it a day or extend your stay and take advantage of the lodging offered at the safari park. The Lodge is a private luxury cabin with six cabins that can accommodate up to 12 guests. Cabins at Straker Lake are also worth your “wild” and are for up to six guests each. Wildnight at the Outpost lets you actually spend the night with giraffes, rhinos and other rare animals.