Ohio. Probably not the first state that comes to mind when you’re thinking of taking an exciting weekend trip with friends. A short drive outside the Cincinnati city line will undoubtedly feature tractors, a barely-changing tree line, and, let’s not forget, sweeping panoramas of corn fields and cow pastures that’ll get old after about thirty seconds.
But before you drop a couple hundred dollars on a plane ticket to the sunny shores of Ft. Lauderdale, or spend your entire afternoon waiting in line to ride the Diamondback at Kings Island for the nth time this year, maybe it’s time to take a look at these one-day road trip destinations, perfect for the Ohioan who isn’t afraid to think outside the box.
[Note: Distances judged with McNicholas High School as the starting point.]
Feeling fearless? Head out to The Ohio State Reformatory for a ghost hunt.
Located in rural Mansfield Ohio, the Ohio State Reformatory is most famous for being the exterior setting of the 1994 hit movie The Shawshank Redemption, but has more recently been featured on shows like Ghost Hunters due to its eerie connection with the paranormal.
Built in 1886, the Reformatory was originally meant to be a correctional facility for first time offenders, and appeared to be a step in the right direction in an age much in need of prison reform. However, a number of gruesome occurrences amongst inmates and reports of brutality on the warden’s end eventually led to the prison’s closure in 1990.
Though the Reformatory has been without “patients” since the early 1990s, its imposing gothic architecture and rusty cell blocks have made it a magnet for thrill-seekers, history buffs, and ghost hunters on an international level. And unlike numerous facilities in the U.S., the Mansfield Prison is open to the public from April 1 to Sept. 1, offering tours and self-guided ghost hunts to brave souls throughout the year.
Beginning in late September of each year, the Reformatory also offers their award-winning Haunted Prison Experience, with tickets available at a base price $17.
Looking to unplug? Take a day trip out to Ohio’s scenic Amish Country.
Distance: 3 hours, 30 minutes
One of Ohio’s best kept secrets lies within the state’s very heart. With its center at the town of Millersburg, Holmes County houses the largest density of Amish in the United States; the area itself is considered to be the largest Amish community in the world.
For suburbanites and city dwellers alike, Ohio’s Amish Country is the perfect opportunity to detach from technology for a weekend and spend some quality time with friends and nature. With farmer’s markets, horse-and-buggy carriages, and friendly spirit abound, Millersburg is far from the average ideal of a sleepy Midwestern town. Go horseback riding and enjoy a meal at the Guggisberg Swiss Inn, a self-proclaimed “quiet country paradise.” Tour the scenic 116-acre Yoder’s Amish Home, an authentic, working Amish farm that’s been open to the public since 1983.
Instead of spending another weekend with you two best friends, Netflix and Tumblr, grab your real friends, put down the phone, and take a trip up to roam the beautiful rolling hills and quaint marketplaces of the Amish Country.
In the mood for an adventure? Check out the African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton
Distance: 3 hours, 54 minutes
Voted one of America’s best safaris by U.S. News, the African Safari Wildlife Park, located in Port Clinton, is one of Ohio’s best kept secrets. For those who feel that adventure is too far away when living in landlocked Ohio – fear not -you can still experience all the fun of an African Safari right here in the Buckeye State.
A self-guided driving tour of the park literally brings visitors face-to-face with animals from the African wild, including giraffes, zebras, camels, and bison, many of whom are given free range of the land, and are eager to approach guests. If you’d rather stretch your legs after a long day of driving, there’s also a walking tour available that brings visitors up close and personal with smaller animals in a more familiar, zoo-like setting.
The park normally open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but is closed from November to March each year. Tickets can be purchased online for $12.95 per person. (Travel tip: Discount tickets can often be found on Groupon for spring and summer travel).
Searching for high-flying thrills? Head to scenic Hocking Hills for a zipline adventure.
Distance: 2 hours, 16 minutes
Located just near one of Ohio’s most beloved state parks, Hocking Hills Canopy Adventures offers guests a unique opportunity to see the land from a bird’s eye view. An exciting alternative to the average hike through the woods, zipline tours offer a new way to explore the rivers, forests, and cliffs in the hills of southern Ohio, offering several courses in an area that has most recently been given the title “The Canopy Tour Capital of the Midwest.”
This isn’t just your average tree-to-tree zipline course, either. Named one of the “Top 10 Amazing Ziplines in the World” by the Discovery Channel, the SuperZip tour reaches speeds of up to fifty miles per hour, taking participants on a track that stands 85 feet in the air, gliding over rivers and through the colorful foliage of Hocking Hills.
If you’re looking for a more traditional zipline experience, the basic canopy tour runs nearly three hours, and is composed of 10 separate ziplines and 5 “skybridges” that take visitors on an all-inclusive tour of the hills, all led by an experienced guide.
Whether you’re an adamant thrill-seeker or a self-professed nature lover, a zipline tour of Hocking Hills is the perfect getaway from the mundane – the only requirement is that participants under the age of 18 have a waiver signed by a parent, and weigh between 70 and 250 pounds. The Hocking Hills Canopy Adventure courses are open between March and November, and the base price for tours is $89 per person.