The state of Ohio is filled with diverse ecosystems from the Great Lakes in northern Ohio to the warmer climate of Southern Ohio. Picturesque state parks are located throughout the state, and a few minutes drive out of the major cities will propel you into the gorgeous palette of fields as far as the eye can see. Cabins are available for rent in most parks for a memorable and inexpensive weekend getaway.
Ohio has six fish hatcheries that provide wildlife viewing opportunities, have special events for youth hunting and fishing, and let kids learn about hatchery production. The Castalia hatchery raises steelhead and rainbow trout on 90 acres, just Southwest of all the theme parks in Sandusky.
Homegardner Road, Sandusky, Ohio. All hatcheries are open to the public from 8am-3pm, Monday through Friday; advanced reservations are required for tour groups. 419-684-7499
This is not really a farm, it is a park about farming. Kids will discover where their food comes from by milking a cow, grooming a horse and even sheering a sheep. Then in the dairy parlor, kids can make ice cream from cow’s milk. Exhibits include a giant tomato plan and a working honeybee comb. The seasonal activities are amazing and sure to stimulate wonderful discussions.
8800 Euclid Chardon Rd, Willoughby, OH 44094. 440-256-2122. Closed Mondays January through March. Open daily from 9am–5pm. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors (60+), and $4 for children (2-11).
The former home of writer Louis Bromfield now serves as a wonderful park and farm for all to visit. The farm has remained exactly as it was in Bromfield’s time. Outbuildings and pastures still hold chickens, goats, and cattle, and it is still a working farm. There are many seasonal events including haunted evenings, maple sugaring tours, and opportunities for kids to assist with farming, planting, and harvesting. This is a great way for kids to learn about farming and experience agriculture. The park features 12 miles of trails for walking, cross country skiing, and horseback riding. Fishing is also possible in the pond by the farm.
Grounds are free of charge. Big House Tour is $4 for adults and $2 for children. Tractor Drawn Tour is $2 for anyone 6+. Tours are 10am-4pm, weekends only.
Hueston Woods State Park, located in Butler and Preble counties, is nearly 3,000 acres. The park provides a place for hiking, fishing, canoeing, and, unique to this region, fossil hunting. The park surrounds Acton Lake, with campsites, cabins, and a resort lodge for overnight visits. A big feature of this park is the Nature Center with crafts programs, movies, fossil activities, and encounters with animals like bobcats, cougars, bunnies, snakes, and turtles. The raptor rehab center also provides great materials for discussion.
6301 Park Office Rd., College Road, OH 45003. Open 365 days a year.
The story behind this amazing medieval castle set in the outskirts of Cincinnati is as romantic as its turrets. Harry Andrews served as a medic in WWI and was mistakenly declared dead. By the time the error was rectified, his fiancee had married someone else. He remained a bachelor for the rest of his life, and dedicated all of his spare time to building this castle for his young friends whom he called his “boy knights.” The project took his entire life and the castle was so secure that it was declared the safest bomb shelter in Ohio. This is a wonderful destination for picnicking, listening to ghost stories, seeing swords and weapons, and learning about architecture.
12025 Shore Rd, Loveland, OH 45140. 513-683-4686. Open weekends from 11am-5pm from October through March. Open 7 days a week from 11am-5pm from April through September. Admission is $3.
At the Slate Run Historical Farm, families can experience first-hand what life was like on an Ohio farm more than 100 years ago. As you stroll through the gardens, barns and farmhouse, you will see people dressed in period costumes going about their daily chores. You may see the farmer plowing the fields with the help of the draft horses or sawing wood. The kitchen might have a few women baking cookies and finishing a stew on a wood stove. The pantry will be filled with canned produce from the heirloom garden. Kids will love seeing all the animals including hogs, sheep, and draft horses. There are also flocks of ducks, chickens, turkeys and geese milling around. Kids will be particularly interested to play with period toys and learning that you can have fun without batteries.
1375 State Route 674 N. Canal Winchester, OH 43110 614-833-1880. Hours vary but even in winter, the farm is open. Free of charge.
Alum Creek is the place to sunbathe for Columbus residents because it houses Ohio’s largest inland beach on a 3,387 acre reservoir. In addition, the park offers 4,630 acres of gently rolling fields and woodlands for hiking, flying kites, and discovering nature. Fishermen generally seek out the quiet coves of the Northern shore while sunbathers gather on the beach by the thousands.
3615 S Old State Road, Delaware, OH 43015.
This large mound is considered a sacred site by Ohio’s native American population. It is a massive circle, 1200 feet in diameter than was used as a vast ceremonial site by the Hopewell culture 2000 years ago, around the same time as the New Testament. The Great Circle is one part of the largest system of connected geometric earthworks built anywhere in the world. Octagon Earthworks and Wright Earthworks are both additional local sites that preserve other features of this majestic remnant of prehistoric Ohio.
455 Hebron Rd., Newark, OH. 800-600-7174. The park is open all year in daylight. The museum explaining the site is open Monday through Friday 8:30pm–5pm, Saturdays 10am–5pm and Sundays 1pm-5pm. Admission is free.