Many Midwestern “flyover” states are overlooked as vacation spots. However, Ohio has a ton to offer from bustling metropolitan areas like Cincinnati and Cleveland, to the lakefront of Lake Erie and the peaks of the Appalachians. Give the Buckeye State a chance and check out these noteworthy hidden gems in Ohio. You’re going to fall in love with these attractions so quickly that you might want to move into your Ohio vacation rental permanently!
1. The Chateau Laroche, Loveland
Located on the banks of the Little Miami River just north of Loveland, Chateau Laroche is also known as “Loveland Castle.” Built by a Medieval enthusiast and former Boy Scout Troop Leader, “Chateau Laroche” means “Rock Castle” in French. Construction started in 1929, and the castle was gradually built with stones hauled from the river. Come visit this this remarkable and eco-friendly castle and feel like you stepped back in time to a European Castle!
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2. Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park, Hamilton
This hidden gem is perfect any time of year. Spend a fun day exploring the 300-acre sculpture park with over 60 monumental outdoor sculptures displayed in a landscape of rolling hills, meadows, lakes, and hiking trails. The park also features an indoor Ancient Sculpture Museum, which displays Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Etruscan sculptures dating back to 1550 B.C. Pyramid Hill is especially popular during the winter for its Holiday Lights on the Hill, an annual drive-through light display.
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3. The Great Serpent Mound, Hillsboro
The Great Serpent Mound in southern Ohio is one of the few surviving relics of the mound builders who lived throughout what are now the Ohio Valley and the Mississippi regions. The earliest group was probably the Adena people, who flourished from 1000 B.C. to 200 B.C. They built mounds throughout North America, from Wisconsin to Mississippi, including this 1,330-foot-long, three-foot-high prehistoric effigy mound. The earliest records say it was a depiction of a serpent that was swallowing an egg, but some believe that it represents an explanation of the phases of the moon, by the representation of a snake swallowing it.
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4. American Sign Museum, Cincinnati
Open to the public since 2005, the American Sign Museum will give you a greater appreciation for signs! Learn all about the equipment used to manufacture signs as well as the history of signs and advertising starting at the late nineteenth century and up to the 1970s. Over 200 signs and objects are displayed here ranging from Las Vegas showcards to an arch from a McDonalds.
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5. Nelson Kennedy Ledges State Park
Nelson Kennedy Ledges State Park isn’t necessarily “hidden,” but definitely an underrated, lesser-known state park in Ohio. This small, 167-acre park is full of rugged cliffs and diverse plant life, and is great for picnicking and hiking. There are several trails that wander through the Nelson Ledges to picture-worthy formations like Devil’s Icebox, Indian Pass and Old Maid’s Kitchen. If you’re having a picnic, there are tables and grills provided at the picnic sites, but remember that this park is carry-in/carry-out and there are no trash receptacles available.
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6. Crystal Cave, Put-In-Bay
This isn’t your average, everyday cave. Welcome to the world’s largest known geode! Discovered by workers in 1897 while digging a well for the Heineman winery 40 feet above, the cave is covered in celestite crystals ranging from eight to 18 inches long. The cave is best toured drunkenly as part of the overall Heineman winery tour. Tours of the cave and Heineman Winery are offered for $8 for adults and $4 for children ages 6 to 11. Just make sure you have a designated driver or take an Uber back to your vacation rental, so you can have as much fun as possible!
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7. The Wilds, Cumberland
This non-profit safari park and conservation center is one of the few safari experiences you can visit in the U.S. It stretches over 9,150 acres and is covered with exotic and endangered species, as well as hiking trails and mountain bike trails, providing visitors adventure and real-life experience with the animals. You can even stay overnight at Nomad Ridge in rooms with a great view of rhinos! You’ll at least want to spend the entire day here to take advantage of the zip line tours, horseback riding, fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities.
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8. The Haserot Angel, Cleveland
Actually named “The Angel of Death Victorious,” this stoic angel is located at Cleveland’s Lakeview Cemetery. Seated on the marble gravestone of canning entrepreneur Francis Haserot and his family, the life-size bronze statue holds an extinguished torch upside-down, symbolizing life extinguished. The most unusual thing about this statue, however, are the black tears appearing to pour from the angel’s eyes and drip down her neck. As a result, she’s often referred to as the Weeping Angel. She’s easy to miss, but maps are available at the gate, main office, and the Garfield Monument. The angel is located in Section 9 on Lot 14.
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9. Glacial Grooves, Kelleys Island
On the north side of Kelleys Island, you can see visible glacial grooves that were carved into the rock over 18,000 years ago. These grooves span a trough of 400 feet long and 35 feet wide and are some of the most easily accessible and largest glacial grooves in the world. You don’t have to be a geologist to appreciate their magnitude. A walkway and stairs have been designated to allow visitors a good up-close view of the rocks. Keep an eye out for marine fossils that are hundreds of millions of years old! You have to take a ferry to the island, so book your vacation rental there and rent a golf cart to make the most of your stay.
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10. Holden Arboretum Canopy Walk, Kirtland
Our last hidden gem is not for you if you’re afraid of heights. This breathtakingly beautiful canopy walk features a 500-foot long elevated walkway suspended 65 feet above the forest floor. As an added bonus, there’s an observation tower on site that takes you up even further, granting you views above the treetops. Visit during the fall and immerse yourself in nature’s magic as the leaves change colors!
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