Looking for a unique road trip that pleases adventurers, history buffs, nature lovers, families, sports fanatics, and foodies? Look no further than Ohio! Surprised? Yeah, so were we.
Before embarking on this 8 day road trip, many people asked why we were traveling to Ohio. It may not be the first place you think of when planning a vacation, but I am here to say it is should be added to your bucket list! Ohio is a state with endless possibilities of experiences for all travelers. From vibrant city life to escaping in nature, as well as a plethora of cultural attractions – there truly is something for everyone.
Our family drove to Ohio from Raleigh, North Carolina. The trip there was 6.5 hours of driving time to our first stop in Glouster, OH at Burr Oak Lodge.
Burr Oak State Park is Located in Glouster, Ohio and is an amazing destination to reconnect with nature. We stayed at Burr Oak State Lodge, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and on the shore of Burr Oak Lake. Here you can stay in the lodge, a cabin, or get a campsite for a more rustic experience. We stayed in a suite at the lodge, which has one king-sized bed and a set of bunks in an adjoining room. There was a refrigerator, as well as two bathrooms. The lodge itself is a little dated, but I found it to add to the charm of the overall experience.
On site you will find a restaurant that has some of the best food and service. The Cardinal Dining Room offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a view of the Burr Oak Lake (and what a view it is).
Burr Oak State Lodge is also home to an indoor swimming pool, mini golf, storybook trail, play ground, and many nature walks. The playground and storybook trail are next to each other, making it a perfect after dinner activity to get all that extra energy out.
Hocking Hills State Park – An hour’s drive from Burr Oak Lake is Hocking Hills State Park (a MUST VISIT!). Weaving throughout the park you will find over 25 miles of hiking trails, rock formations, waterfalls, and recess caves.
Ash Cave is a natural cavern with a waterfall that will leave you breathless, and wondering if you are actually still in Ohio. It is a short hike on a paved path to get to Ash Cave, and I would strongly suggest if you have little ones to go back the same route. There is an exit which is up and then down many steps, but if you have small children or are handicap you can go back the easy way you came in (we did not… do not make that same mistake!).
Cedar Falls is a short drive from Ash Cave and also a short hike away. We spent a lot of time here skipping rocks and marveling at the beauty of the waterfall.
Pontoon Boating – Just a couple of miles from Burr Oak State Lodge, there is a dock that you can rent pontoon boats and kayaks/canoes hourly (and very reasonably priced). We took one out for an hour and relaxed, swam, and enjoyed the beautiful Burr Oak Lake. I would highly recommend this!
Cardinal Dining Room – We had all of our meals at Burr Oak Lodge’s restaurant, and it always hit the spot. The staff treated our kids like family, and always checked into see if we needed anything. All the meals we had were delicious, and had very large portions!
We packed our bags and went three hours North to the Drury Plaza Hotel Cleveland Downtown. This was my first stay at a Drury Property, and I was blown away!
The hotel itself was gorgeous and centrally located within walking distance of FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland Browns), Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Cleveland Indians’ Progressive Field. The Drury Plaza Hotel Cleveland Downtown is the former Board of Education building, and was completely renovated in 2014 to become the beautiful preserved property you see today. The rooms were impeccably clean with modern finishings. I also appreciated that there was a separate living room and bedroom (this is crucial when traveling with children). We had a refrigerator in the room as well.
Now to the part that sets Drury Hotels apart from all others – free breakfast, dinner, and drinks (3 per guest over 21)! Yes, you read that correctly, I was shocked (in the best way possible) at the level of hospitality offered here. There is also a beautiful fountain just outside which the kids loved visiting each day.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Can you even go to Cleveland without visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Maybe… but I would highly recommend visiting! Our girls are in love with Rock and Roll music, and even though the entire museum is from before their time, they loved it! They have curated wonderful displays, musical exhibits, a garage band (where you can play all the instruments!), and so much memorabilia that really makes you feel nostalgic. They also had an incredible Super Bowls through the years hall that was a lot of fun.
Edgewater Beach – Just a short drive from downtown you can find this beautiful “beach” where adults and kids alike can play in the waves of Lake Eerie. This was the first Great Lake I have ever visited, and I was just in awe of it’s beauty. It really did feel like we were at the beach, with slow rolling waves and sand. This is also where you can find the cursive Cleveland sign overlooking the downtown skyline.
Great Lakes Science Center – This is a must visit if you have children, or a love for aerospace. Home of the NASA Glenn Visitor Center, the Great Lakes Science Center makes science come alive! Filled with STEM education and interactive exhibits, our kids had an amazing time here. You can easily spend 2-3 hours here.
Collision Bend Brewing Company – This brewery was located in “The Flats” district which came highly recommended. Though truthfully, it seemed more like a place for adults at night (a lot of bars). I did enjoy the food and drinks at Collision Bend, but I would not go out of your way when there are so many great spots downtown.
Drury Plaza Hotel Cleveland Downtown – As I mentioned above, we had breakfast and dinner here both days. The food was very good and filling! Plenty to choose from and great service.There was everything from a nacho bar, hot dog station, pasta, potatoes, bread, salad bar, chicken nuggets, green beans, etc… and it changes every night!
National Museum of the US Air Force
On our drive from Cleveland to Columbus we took a *small* detour to the National Museum of the US Air Force. This was something near and dear to my heart, my dad went to AFIT at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and served in the Air Force for half of his life. I just had to see the history and aerospace engineering!
The museum’s collection contains many rare aircrafts of historical importance, and memorabilia/artifacts from the development of aviation. They house four Air Force One’s that you are able to walk through (so amazing) – they are from Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy. If you are a history buff, this was the plane that took him to Dallas the day he was assassinated, and brought his body back.
Consisting of four hangars and 1,120,000 sqft – be prepared to spend a lot of time here (you can truthfully spend days if you wanted to read everything). The museum is FREE (gasp!), but with any donation you receive a map to help your navigate the many planes. This stop was a huge highlight for me, and I am so thankful we were able to visit as a family!
Located in the heart of Dublin (Ohio) is the Embassy Suites by Hilton Columbus Dublin. Dublin won over our hearts, and is truly a city worth visiting. It is vibrant and urban, with small town hospitality. The camaraderie between the locals and small businesses is so inviting and was a breath of fresh air.
The Embassy Suites is located within walking distance of these shops and restaurants, and only 10-15 minutes from the Columbus Zoo. With free breakfast and an evening social, Embassy Suites is one of our tried and true hotels when traveling with kids. This property specifically stood out to me because of the greenery inside! Yes, you heard me – this is a plant lovers dream hotel. I admired all the plants and was even given a clipping from the staff (my favorite souvenir!).
The rooms at Embassy Suites are our ideal option, with a separate living room, bedroom, and bathroom. Everything was spotless and the service was very quick when we called down for an extra pillow. If you are planning a trip to the Columbus area, I would suggest staying in Dublin for the small town feel next to the big city!
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium – Have you ever watched Secrets of the Zoo TV show on National Geographic? It is based right here at this zoo in Columbus, and many people we met had traveled far just so come see these animals up close! Rated as one of the top 5 zoos in the country, the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium is a must visit. Home to more than 7,000 animals representing over 800 species, we have never seen such active animals at any zoo before. My personal favorite was the polar bears – they were SO playful and I had to be dragged away by my kids.
Be sure to stop by the Cheetah exhibit to watch a demonstration of how fast they can fun (you get to watch it live!). After that, stop by the Giraffe’s and feed them some lettuce!
Fairy Door Scavenger Hunt – In Dublin there is a fairy door scavenger hunt for the kiddos. This was a huge highlight for the girls, as they got to go into local businesses and find the secret fairy doors. After they collected them all, we stopped at the visitor’s center for some special prizes! I wish more cities did this!
Windrose Outdoor – Located in Bicentennial Park in downtown Columbus is Windrose Outdoor! If you are a fan of stand up paddle boarding or kayaking, this is for you! You get incredible views and it is an amazing way to spend time in downtown Columbus. We shared paddle boards with the kids, and they loved hopping off for swims along the way!
Splash Pad Downtown Columbus – The Scotio Mile Fountain in downtown Columbus might the most amazing public splash pad I have ever seen in my life! My jaw dropped, and so did the kids, when we turned the corner to see this amazing resource for everyone to enjoy on hot summer days!
Indian Run Falls – Practically in Downtown Dublin, park your car and walk a very short distance to see this tranquil waterfall! We enjoyed the peace and quiet early one morning on the way to the zoo, and had it all to ourselves.
Dublin Link – The bridge is the only single-tower S-shaped suspension bridge in the world, and is a beautiful connection of Dublin’s historic district and downtown. We walked across this many times contemplating if we should move to Dublin (yes, we loved it that much!).
World’s Largest Gavel – I am always looking for random things – and the World’s largest gavel in downtown Columbus is one of them! Is it worth stopping… eh maybe not. But we checked it off the list.
(most places in Dublin have a Happy Hour from 3-6pm, take advantage of those deals!)
Dublin Village Tavern – Promise me you will stop here, okay? Seriously though, you will feel like you are actually in Dublin (Ireland, not Ohio) when eating at this Irish inspired tavern. The comfort foods are endless and Guinness beer flowing on tap. Get the meat loaf… you won’t regret it!
Getaway Brewing Company – A brewery in Dublin with a lot of beautiful plants and good beer! We stopped here and played cards with the kids while having a cold one.
North High Brewing Company – So nice we came here twice! We loved the happy hour specials at this centrally located brewery. This was our favorite beer in Dublin!
Kilwins Dublin – A sweet tooth’s dream! Kilwins has everything you could want, from ice cream to handmade sweets (we watched them make some delicious candy apples). This was a great place to get some souvenirs for family back home! The ice cream was out of this world – try the chocolate coconut (I am still drooling).
North Market (Downtown & Dublin) – We visited both the North Market in Downtown Columbus and in Dublin. You get a wide variety of foods from Vietnamese to Italian. There are also many hand crafted shops and it’s a great way to support local business! We loved all the food we tried, and got some canned goods to bring back home. The downtown location is larger, but the Dublin location was not as crowded.
Until next time…