Ohio is dubbed the Buckeye state because of the Ohio buckeye trees that grow in abundance there. It is also a haven for families with kids with its array of world renowned museums, zoos, national parks, nature centers, gardens, and aquariums. Of course, a vacation with the kids must include a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. And fans of baseball will undoubtedly want to visit the popular Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum. Whether it’s indoors or outdoors, Ohio’s options for good times with kids are limitless. Here are 25 of the best things to do with kids in Ohio.
1. Olentangy Indian Caverns
© Olentangy Indian Caverns
Olentangy Indian Caverns were formed by a river that cut through limestone rock and ran underground millions of years ago. This is an ideal destination for kids who love adventure. The caverns, located in Delaware, Ohio, were once utilized by the Wyandotte Indians for a number of reasons, including protection from both inclement weather and enemies. Guests will also experience a petting zoo on the property that’s 50,000 square feet. The zoo offers a myriad of animals that will delight any child. The fee for the petting zoo is an additional $4. Kids will love the Caverns’ Treasure Hunt Maze, the first in Central Ohio.
1779 Home Road, Delaware, OH, Phone: 740-548-7917
2. The Children’s Museum of Cleveland
© The Children’s Museum of Cleveland
The Children’s Museum of Cleveland is designed to engage children from one to eight years old through interactive exhibits. Activities stimulate the mind and improve motor skills. There are seven exhibits for kids and toddlers to explore, learn from, and play in. For example, the museum’s Adventure City exhibit is a multi-level learning space that allows kids to climb, build, and maneuver around a city they can construct on their own – great fun for future problem-solvers and designers. On the top floor of the museum, a slew of rooms in bright colors house miniature dollhouses. These houses allow kids to create small worlds of their own.
3813 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH, Phone: 216-791-7114
3. Aullwood Audubon Center
© Aullwood Audubon Center
On 70 acres of land donated by Marie Aull in the late 1950s, Aullwood Audubon Center in Dayton, was the Midwest’s first nature center for the National Audubon Society. Dedicated to educating children of all ages about agriculture and nature, the center promotes an environmental activism. The center offers six miles of scenic trails winding through and around ponds, meadows, forests, and wide-open prairies. The Center also features interactive ways for children to learn, with educational games, informative exhibits, and animal specimens. It has live farm animals to pet, along with a bird watching room. Kids under two are free; admission for kids ages three to 11 is nominal.
1000 Aullwood Road, Dayton, OH, Phone: 937-890-7360
4. Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
© Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
For over 125 years, Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton has been a leading proponent of learning experiences through interactive science. The museum offers a multitude of events and programs designed for children of all ages, but ideal for kids 11 and younger. This is a versatile museum, featuring a zoo, observatory, planetarium, natural history museum, children’s museum, and science center. The museum promotes a different event or activity on nearly any given day, designed to stimulate the minds of the children.
2600 Deweese Parkway, Dayton, OH, Phone: 937-275-7431
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5. Center of Science and Industry
© Center of Science and Industry
Born from the vision of Sanford N. Hallock II, the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus opened its doors to the public in March of 1964. This distinguished Center has welcomed over 30 million visitors from all over the world. Providing the largest planetarium in Ohio, the venue utilizes a 60-foot dome to offer guests a glimpse into the universe. Showcasing themed exhibition areas to help stimulate the minds of children young and old, this interactive center allows visitors to get a hands-on feel for science.
333 West Broad Street, Columbus, OH, Phone: 614-228-2674
6. Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
© Paul Lemke/stock.adobe.com
Housed in a building first constructed in 1933, Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal showcases the western hemisphere’s largest half-dome. The Museum provides learning experiences for children of all ages. Toddlers will especially love the Story Tree Time, an every Wednesday event, where kids are read a new story each week, along with singing and dancing. Featuring a free program, STEM Girls is designed to introduce girls to the many wonders of science, an ideal program for girls eight to 14. For a truly unforgettable experience, kids will love the overnight camping at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal.
1301 Western Avenue, Cincinnati, OH, Phone: 800-733-2077
7. Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum
© Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum
Those who grew up in the Midwest, especially in and around Ohio in the 70s, all remember such Cincinnati Reds greats like Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and the late, great team manager, Sparky Anderson. A visit to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame Museum gives parents an opportunity to share those baseball memories with their kids. Members of the Big Red Machine are showcased throughout this intriguing museum. The Museum provides an opportunity for everyone to get to know the iconic players of this organization. Kids 12 and younger are admitted free of charge. World Series Championship trophies are on full display in the Williams Family Champions Gallery.
100 Joe Nuxhall Way, Cincinnati, OH, Phone: 513-765-7923
8. Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
Visitors will find the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, the second-oldest in the country, in the neighborhood of Avondale. The zoo includes a variety of amphibians and fish, birds, invertebrates, and reptiles. There more than 80 kinds of mammals, including African lions, Masai giraffes, and Malayan tigers. The Botanical Garden showcases ten separate gardens, including a butterfly garden, conifer garden, and endangered species garden. Those visiting between mid-November and January can also experience the annual PNC Festival of lights with over 3 million LED lights.
3400 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH, Phone: 513-281-4700
9. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, founded in 1882, sits on 183 acres of land. It is a popular attraction for those living in Northeast Ohio. The zoo provides interactive experiences to teach kids appreciation and care for the animals through being in close proximity to them. The zoo features several habitats, including African Savanna, Austrailian Adventure, The Primate, Northern Wilderness Trek, Cat and Aquatics, The Rainforest, Asian Highlands, and Waterfowl Lake. Middle school aged kids and older, who are thinking about working with animals in the near future, are offered a chance to shadow a zookeeper for a day.
3900 Wildlife Way, Cleveland, OH, Phone: 216-661-6500
10. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Kids will see every type of animal imaginable at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, the nation’s largest. This nonprofit zoo is located in Liberty Township in Columbus, Ohio. It presents over 7,000 animals from more than 800 species on 600 acres of land. This expansive zoo is an ideal venue for an all-day family outing. It’s divided into three different regions. Moose, cougars, bobcats, and wolverines are in the North American region. The Polar Frontier has Polar bears, arctic foxes, and brown bears. Red pandas, Asian elephants, and Tufted deer makeup the Asia Quest region. Kids can visit penguins and touch sea stars at the Shores & Aquarium.
4850 West Powell Road, Powell, OH, Phone: 614-645-3400
11. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Kids who love nature will be ecstatic visiting the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Peninsula. This scenic park provides a full day of activity to all who enter with deep forests and rolling hills. In close proximity to Akron and Cleveland, this free, accessible park is a 32,000 square mile wonderland that includes a scenic railroad, several waterfalls, and the Canal Exploration Center that explains the history of the Erie Canal. The park offers numerous trails alongside the Erie Ohio Canal that are ideal for biking or hiking. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is opening a new Visitors Center to provide park information and serve as a meet up point.
1550 Boston Mills Road, Peninsula, OH, Phone: 330-657-2752
12. Great Lakes Science Center
© Great Lakes Science Center
The single goal of Great Lakes Science Center is simple, to make Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) come alive. The center offers an animated digital companion to help understand aerospace technology. This center, the NASA Glen Center, gives kids the chance to be a virtual astronaut in an Apollo capsule. On the first Saturday of each month, the center offers an early childhood workshop for children seven and younger. This workshop is the start of the STEM learning system for toddlers.
601 Erieside Avenue, Cleveland, OH, Phone: 216-694-2000
13. Greater Cleveland Aquarium
© Drozd Dmitriy/stock.adobe.com
Imagine losing 30,000 teeth in a lifetime. Children learn this about sharks and many other things when visiting the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. This fabulous aquarium, located in the FirstEnergy Powerhouse building, has 70,000 square-feet of space. Being Ohio’s only free-standing aquarium, the venue provides guests with 55 exhibits featuring exotic and local species of fish. Kids who are future ichthyologists will get a kick out of the reimagined galleries that allow eye-level, up close, 360-degree views of all the species that swim by. Kids are encouraged to participate in the daily feeds, allowing them to touch stingrays and dolphins.
2000 Sycamore Street, Cleveland, OH, Phone: 216-862-8803
14. Hocking Valley Scenic Railway
© Hocking Valley Scenic Railway
Hocking Valley Scenic Railway in Nelsonville, received its first train at this station more than 150-years ago. Today, this historical station provides passengers with an authentic train experience that includes a narrative about the areas they pass through. Regardless of reservations, seating is based on a first come, first served basis. The railway offers tours mainly on weekends, but there is also a seasonal Fall Foliage tour on Thursdays and Fridays as well. The tours are about two hours long. Only certified service animals are allowed on-board.
33 West Canal Street, Nelsonville, OH, Phone: 855-323-3768
15. Merry Go Round Museum
© Pix by Marti/stock.adobe.com
The Merry Go Round Museum in Sandusky, Ohio, offers the kid in everyone an atmosphere of relaxation while touring this special museum. The museum was born from the U.S. Postal services idea of issuing carousel stamps. One of the first animals featured was from a carousel at Cedar Point’s Kiddieland – a King Horse. This enchanted museum offers tours that showcase how the animals are restored and even more incredible, how they are carved. The expertise of the carvers is always a highlight for all who witness their artistry. Kids aged four to 14 pay $4 to enter, while ages three and under are admitted free.
301 Jackson Street, Sandusky, OH, Phone: 419-626-6111
16. National Museum of the US Air Force
© National Museum of the US Air Force
The largest and oldest museum for aviation in the world, the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, is an ideal venue for boys and girls, young and old, who have a passion for flying. Entrance to the museum is free for all, but fees are charged to take part in a flight simulator and enter the Air Force Museum Theatre. The museum offers a Becoming a Pilot Program for kids ages 14 to 18. This six-course class is ideal for kids who have a goal of being a pilot. The course consists of being in a flight simulator with experienced pilots.
1100 Spaatz Street, Dayton, OH, Phone: 937-255-3286
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17. National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
© National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, is just yards away from the Ohio River, a significant location that separated the Northern states from the Southern slave states. Since opening in 2004, the center tells the stories of the challenges and courage it took to help slaves find their way to the non-slave states of the North. This iconic and moving museum is ideal for kids young and old. It features murals, quilts, and a slave pen to show how slaves were held. In addition to teaching about African American slave history, the center encourages activism against modern-day human trafficking as well.
50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, OH, Phone: 513-333-7739
18. Nature Center at Shaker Lakes
© Nature Center at Shaker Lakes
A place where a kid can be a kid, Nature Center at Shaker Lakes in Cleveland offers just that with over 20 acres of nature. Just miles from downtown, the nature center offers free general admission. They provide families with a variety of activities, some of which have a fee. For example, Family Campfire Night is a fun-filled family activity with a fee of $30 per family, or $6 per person. It includes crafts, campfires, hiking, and of course, s’mores. Another paid event is the Bat Box Workshop. The $30 fee provides patrons the opportunity to help construct homes for local bats.
2600 South Park Boulevard, Cleveland, OH, Phone: 216-321-5935
19. Ohio Bird Sanctuary
© Ohio Bird Sanctuary
Founded in 1988 on a private farm, Ohio Bird Sanctuary in Mansfield started as a single barn readying birds for flight. Now, it’s home to four flight cages to prepare native birds to get back to the sky. The venue offers a learning experience for children of all ages. Part living museum and nature reserve, Ohio Bird Sanctuary encompasses 90 acres of marshes, woods, and trails along Clear Fork River. The sanctuary provides programs geared toward assisted living centers and others, with a 45-minute hands-on interactive approach to bird care that allows the guests to pet and learn about the different birds that the venue has.
3774 Orweiler Road, Mansfield, OH, Phone: 419-884-4295
20. Ohio Caverns
© Ohio Caverns
A National Caving Association member, Ohio Caverns located in West Liberty, Ohio. The family-owned attraction is privately owned and appeals to kids of all ages, particularly those interested in spelunking. Billed as the most colorful caverns in America, Ohio Caverns is the state’s largest cave system, and a reliably popular attraction. Open year-round, the caverns maintain a constant 54-degrees temperature throughout the year. While the caverns offer beauty underground, there is also a 35-acre park above it. The park provides several picnic areas and a playground. Tour prices vary during the course of the year, depending on season and type of tour.
2210 State Route 245 East, West Liberty, OH, Phone: 937-465-4017
21. Piatt Castles
© Piatt Castles
How many times has a child dreamt of living in a castle surrounded by a moat with fire-breathing dragons? The Piatt Castles in West Liberty offer the closest thing to a child’s dreams-come-true with these two-chateaux built in the late 1800s. Both Gothic-styled homes are on the National Register of Historic Places. The castles have unique names, as was the custom in early European society. Mac-A-Cheek was the first home completed in 1871, and Mac-O-Chee was completed in 1879. The castles offer guests a peek into the lifestyle of wealthy families of that era. Castle tours are self-guided.
10051 Township Road 47, West Liberty, OH, Phone: 937-465-2821
22. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
© Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
The heart of rock and roll is in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum along the shores of Lake Erie. This iconic museum appeals to the kid in everyone. It tells the story of rock music history with its producers, engineers, artists, and influencers. The permanent collection includes thousands of unique items like song lyrics, instruments, colorful costumes, cool stage props, and quirky memorabilia. Visitors will enjoy more than a dozen separate experiences from the The Roots of Rock Retrospective to Legends of Rock to the Hall of Fame on Level Three.
1100 East 9th Street, Cleveland, OH, Phone: 216-781-7625
23. Slate Run Living Historical Farm
Turning back time to the 1880s in Canal Winchester, Slate Run Living Historical Farm provides a hands-on experience to what life was really like on farms in Ohio. This interactive farm is designed for children who are in Middle School and lower, but is still educational for older kids. Featuring a farmhouse in Gothic style that was originally built in 1856, it offers a first-hand look at maintaining and running a farm in that century. Staff here dresses in costumes of the era as they go about the daily chores of farm life. The venue has Poland-China piglets and Percheron horses roaming the grounds.
1375 OH-674, Canal Winchester, OH, Phone: 614-833-1880
24. SunWatch Indian Village Archaeological Park
© SunWatch Indian Village Archaeological Park
Nestled along the banks of the Great Miami River in Dayton, the 13th-century SunWatch Indian Village Archeological Park is an 800-year-old reconstructed village .The village introduces visitors to the Hopewell and Fort Ancient Native Americans. When prehistoric artifacts were found in 1971, professionals were called to excavate. Now, it’s included on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum offers tours that run from 1.5 to 2.5 hours with at least one hour being outside. Children can participate in actual artifact finding excavations, with supervision. The museum offers student and senior discounts, and children five and younger are free.
2301 West River Road, Dayton, OH, Phone: 937-268-8199
25. The Bicycle Museum of America
© The Bicycle Museum of America
One of the first ways a child feels independent is riding a bike, hair blowing in the wind, zooming down a street, through an open field, or on a trail or sidewalk. The Bicycle Museum of America, in New Bremen takes the kid in everyone back in time to when bicycling was the favorite means of transportation. The museum traces the innovation of the bicycle archetype in 1817, in Germany, to today’s ultra-sleek racing bikes. Offering both guided and self-guided tours, the venue features three-stories of bicycles of every type in its collection. On a rotating basis, 230 of the museum’s 900 bikes are always on display.
7 West Monroe Street, New Bremen, OH, Phone: 419-629-9249