Essential RV Ohio:
Our Favorite Immersive Experiences
Throughout the Buckeye State
by Suzanne Wright
About half of the U.S. is located within a 500-mile radius of Ohio’s capital, Columbus. The Buckeye State gets its nickname from the small brown nuts that resemble the eye of a deer. It’s not uncommon for locals to pull one out of a pocket; they are believed to bring good luck. Lucky too is the traveler who gets to sample a little bit of everything here in the heartland: cosmopolitan cities, rural scenery, Amish culture, genuine people, and German food. We enjoy motoring every mile of this Midwestern state. Our favorite time to visit? Fall, when mild temperatures usher in fairs, foliage, and football.
Columbus & Central Ohio
The state capitol anchors central Ohio. Situated at the intersection of the Rust Belt, the Bible Belt, the Great Plains, and Appalachia, Columbus has real character. Kick off your expedition downtown at the original North Market. This 145-year old market features more than 30 small businesses selling flowers, gifts, meat and poultry, produce, international and specialty foods, and seafood. Originally built by settlers, nearby German Village is one of the Midwest’s most atmospheric neighborhoods, home to indie bakeries, restaurants, and shops. Schiller Park is a lovely place for a picnic. The Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University fosters emerging contemporary artists, and hosts film, performances, and lectures. While in town, treat yourself to a scoop or two of Graeter’s Ice Cream. They still make this stuff just two gallons at a time using milk from Ohio cows.
Where to Stay:
Berkshire Lake Campground has 50 full hookup sites available from April to November. They’ve also got a restaurant and bar. Pastime Park Campground offers 38 shaded, grass campsites with water & electric, 16 large, graveled pad campsites with water and electric, as well as two graveled sites with full hookups. It’s a 20-minute drive to the Columbus Zoo. There’s a swimming pool and free live music during summer Sundays.
The most popular attraction in the northeastern region is the I.M. Pei-designed (in the shape of a record player) The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It displays a massive collection of Beatles memorabilia, Johnny’s Cash’s guitar, and Elvis’s military uniform. About an hour from Cleveland, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, is a must for pigskin fans. The lavish country estate of the founder of Goodyear Tires, the Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, an hour south, is a splendid day excursion. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, between Akron and Cleveland, is the best place in Ohio for nature lovers. The area includes forests, ravines, rolling hills, and wetlands. Keen wildlife observers may see beavers, great blue heron, mink, muskrat, peregrine falcons, opossums, raccoons, and red foxes. Don’t want to hoof it? Jump aboard The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad which operates seasonally from May to October. In Logan, Hocking Hills State Park features caves that were once home to ancient civilizations; canoeing, fishing, ziplining, or rock climbing are available. Our favorite quirky happening has to be the century-old return of turkey vultures. Like clockwork, on March 15 every year, spectators gather to welcome back thousands of buzzards that roost on Hinckley Ridge. The tradition, which signals the first sign of spring, is celebrated with a festival including a pancake breakfast, hikes, skits, and crafts. The township is located about 30 miles from Cleveland.
With 434 congregations spread across 26 counties, Ohio is home to the largest Amish population in the U.S., so you’re never far from a settlement. You can visit farms, take a buggy tour, wander an old-timey hardware store, enjoy dinner theatre, and taste molasses-heavy shoofly pie. The village of Sugarcreek, located two hours from Cleveland, is known as ”The Little Switzerland of Ohio,” and is the gateway to Amish Country. Sugarcreek’s quaint alpine architectural appearance and massive cuckoo clock recalls burgs in Germany.
Where to Stay:
Located in Medina, Pier-Lon Campground earns high marks for its family-friendly atmosphere, wooded sites, and both back-in and pull-through full hookup sites on a gravel base. Most include a charcoal grill. Scheduled activities include potlucks. Woodside Lake Park boasts 250 RV campsites with a combination of pull-through and back-in sites, with full hookups, all in a relaxing setting. Both campgrounds are open seasonally April to October. Arcades, billiards, a picnic area, and swimming are among the many amenities.
Lake Erie Shores & Islands
The contours of northwest Ohio are shaped by Lake Erie and the Ohio River. With hundreds of miles of shoreline, it provides a warm-weather playground. If water recreation is what you’re after, Lake Erie has it in spades. Whether you want to boat, water ski, or simply soak up the sun on a sandy beach, the islands are relaxing. Located right on the water in Sandusky and open from May through October, Cedar Point offers thrill-seekers 18 roller coasters and other amusement park rides.
Where to Stay:
West Haven at Lake Erie RV Park & Family Campground has been voted the area’s number one park by Good Sam. Enjoy hiking trails, a stocked fishing pond, and a newly renovated pool with a spacious deck space for sunning. Call for seasonal specifics.
The lush, rolling foothills of the Appalachian Mountains are a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts. The numbers are impressive: 15 state parks, three nature preserves, seven state forests, 14 hunting and fishing areas, and the Muskingum and Ohio rivers. A comprehensive listing of options is cataloged here. Art-centric Athens effortlessly blends history and modernity. The Ohio University campus is one of the most beautiful in the U.S., especially in spring when cherry blossoms erupt amid the red brick buildings and green grass. The Ridges, a former mental hospital, is now part of the university, and houses The Kennedy Museum of Art. The cemeteries at The Ridges are fascinating to explore. Also on the campus, The Dairy Barn Art Center hosts many art exhibitions and community events. Athen’s most memorable eatery has to be the burlesque-inspired O’Betty’s Red Hot. Beloved by college students, they dole out all-beef hot dogs topped with everything from baked beans to coleslaw.
Where to Stay:
Ohio State Parks offer many camping options. Located in Logan, 25 miles from Athens, Hilltop Resorts and Campgrounds has a variety of RV suites, plus bath and laundry facilities. Kayak rentals are also available on the property. Walnut Creek Campground & Resort in Chillicothe features a spring-fed lake for fishing, a camp store, corn hole, and 77 spacious sites with full or partial hookups.
Cincinnati & Southwestern Ohio
Harnessing the water power of the Ohio and Great Miami Rivers shaped life and spurred destiny in thriving Cincinnati and Dayton. The pedestrian-friendly John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge spans the Ohio River and connects Cincinnati to Covington, Kentucky. The iconic engineering marvel was the prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Over-the-Rhine (OTR for short) is the vibrant Cincinnati neighborhood that takes its name from the many German working class residents who crossed the Miami and Erie Canal (dubbed The Rhine, for the river in Germany) to reach jobs downtown. On the north end of OTR, Findlay Market is Ohio’s oldest farmers market. Chowhounds will leave sated after sampling goodies from 50 full-time merchants. Cincinnati-style chili will forever change your notion of the dish. Thinner than the Texas version and flavored with Mediterranean spices including allspice, cinnamon, cocoa, and Worcestershire, it’s ladled over a heaping pile of spaghetti. Skyline Chili has secured cult status, so don’t miss a plate.
About 30 minutes from Dayton, the Miamisburg Mound is one of two large, conical burial mounds in the state. It rises nearly 70 feet and is believed to be part of the Adena culture which flourished 2,500 years ago. Comedian Dave Chapelle has put Yellow Springs on the map. One of the last stops on the Underground Railroad, this pretty village is surrounded by orchards and farms. Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve protects one of most spectacular dolomite and limestone gorges in the state, and Glen Helen Nature Preserve, specializes in raptor education with its avian “ambassadors.”
Where to Stay:
Nestled in the lovely Ohio River Valley about 20 minutes from Cincinnati, Tucker’s Landing RV Park offers full hookups on concrete pads, river views, and Wi-Fi in a friendly community atmosphere. Halfway between Cincinnati and Dayton, Wilmington RV Resort offers onsite fishing and canoeing. There are 169 sites with full hookups spread over 170 rolling acres, along with horseshoes, laundry facilities, a library, mini golf, and volleyball.