Those who come to Ohio often head straight to Cleveland, Cincinnati, or Columbus, missing out on all the small-town fun that makes Ohio the great state that it is.
In fact, much of Ohio is comprised of small towns, so even driving through the state, you’re bound to see a few.
From Amish Country to small towns with a New England vibe to unassuming towns hiding historical significance, there are so many different types of villages to choose from.
National parks host perfect spots for cycling, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and exploring while the towns themselves are often treasure troves filled with boutique shops, museums, Victorian-era architecture, and friendly locals who don’t mind spilling their hometown’s hidden secrets.
As a fun fact, seven of the U.S. presidents and many famous inventors like Thomas Edison come from Ohio, mostly from small towns themselves.
When you’re passing through for a visit, it’s very possible that you’re in the birthplace of a notable figure who once walked the same street or ate at the same restaurant right before he or she made history!
Though we recommend that you hop behind the wheel of a car and stop at wherever looks interesting, here is our list of the best small towns to visit in Ohio:
Marietta is a small town nestled at the point where the Ohio and Muskingum rivers join, where visitors can enjoy historical sites, adventuring through nature trails, and enjoying the antique atmosphere.
Marietta is the oldest settlement in the Northwest Territory, and its rich history can be found within the exhibits at the Campus Martius Museum, the Ohio River Museum, the Basilica, and The Castle, a Gothic Revival style home.
There is also a performing arts hub called the Peoples Banks Theatre that screens movies both new and old as well as live entertainment events.
Marietta has an old-time feel with plenty of activities to do around its small parameters.
With a name like Charm, this small town works hard to live up to its namesake reputation.
Charm, Ohio is in the heart of Amish Country and takes pride in its slow-paced lifestyle, friendly locals, and unique venues.
Visitors can try all types of candy at the Charm Sweet Shoppe, visit the Keim Limber Company, fabric stores, and many more high-quality custom shops.
Eat at one of the handful of home-cooked restaurants and watch the locals drive around town in their traditional Amish buggies and carriages.
To stay overnight, head to Mrs. Miller’s Cabin, a beautiful homestay that accommodates up to ten people.
Of course, each bed has a homemade quilt to snuggle under after a full day of exploring.
Travelers who love to be lured to new destinations by their taste buds should head to Hudson, a small town with big meals featured on its restaurant menus.
Hudson also has over one thousand acres of parkland, meaning that activities like fishing, kayaking, hiking, team sports, cycling, and more are all within a few steps of wherever you stay in this exciting town.
Its best to visit during a holiday, when local festivals and events bring the town to life.
Or, visit in Autumn, when the town hosts a Search for Bigfoot event.
4. Chagrin Falls
If peace and relaxation is what you’re after, Chagrin Falls is where you’ll find it.
This small-town hosts nature excursions, winery tours, horseback riding through bushlands, and more.
It is clean, easy to navigate, and offers a plethora of shopping and dining options.
The town itself focuses on maintaining a thriving community spirit that puts on frequent cultural events and live performances.
Chagrin Falls, Ohio is named after its beautiful waterfall that flows all-year-around.
It is easily accessible and you can even stop for some handmade ice cream, popcorn, or other delicious snacks nearby.
Granville’s tagline reads, “New England Charm in the Heart of Ohio,” – and with stunning New-England style architecture, well-maintained parks, and locally-owned businesses, it’s easy to see why.
The town is surrounded by rolling hills, farms, parks, and other natural sites.
Some must see sites include the park of Alligator Mound, the Bryn Du Mansion, the Buxton and Grandville Inns, the Denison Museum, the Robbins Hunter Museum, and the peaceful Dawes Arboretum.
Granville is home to Denison University, a private college with over 500 acres of biological reserve.
Though the permanent population hovers around 3,500 residents, it grows to 5,600 residents when class is in session.
6. Yellow Springs
Yellow Springs is a culturally diverse and simply cool destination in Ohio with over 65 shops and galleries to peruse amidst woodlands and farmland.
It’s famous for attracting creative minds and philosophers who love its laid-back aura.
Adventure travelers will love venturing through the thousands of acres of woodland, rivers, and hiking trails within the parks of Glen Helen Nature Preserve, John Bryan State Park, and the Clifton Gorge.
One of the best trails to cycle, skate, or walk through is the Little Miami Bike Trail that weaves through farmland all throughout Southwest Ohio.
For the best souvenirs, try browsing the unique shops of Asanda Imports, Back to Now, Atomic Fox antiques, and Dark Star Books, a well-rounded bookstore with comics and games.
Put-in-Bay is a small town located on the South Bass Island beloved by Ohioans and out-of-state visitors alike.
This small town is best visited in the warmer months of the year, as many businesses shut down for the winter.
Take a ferry or short flight to get to Put-In-Bay and navigate through the town in the comforts of a golf cart – transportation is half the fun, right?
Adrenaline junkies can go kayaking, explore caves, rent jet skis, and even go parasailing.
Nature lovers will love visiting the wildlife center, the butterfly house, the nature preserve, and even a park with panoramic views of the harbor.
It’s the island life at full throttle! Though it’s not exactly off the beaten path, it’s a top place to visit for small town entertainment.
American icon and inventor Thomas Edison was born in Milan, Ohio.
The town now takes great pride in promoting his heritage within the parameters of its small town made up of stunning red brick buildings.
Visitors can visit the birthplace of Thomas Edison, a great stop for history lovers who love tracing the origins of the world’s greatest geniuses.
The museum is small but filled with photos and stories of Thomas Edison’s youth.
There is also the Milan Historical Museum that exhibits artifacts from early American life and even an assortment of penny candy.
For when you’re not geeking out on history, head over and grab a bite to eat at Jim’s Pizza Box or have a drink at the lively Wonder Bar.
For such a small town, Oberlin sure has a ton of things to do for travelers in search of the perfect day trip from Cleveland.
Tourists can go ziplining on the Common Ground Canopy Tour or hike through nearby woodlands.
History buffs check out the many historical sites of Oberlin like the Underground Railroad Center, an important building that played an important role in leading American slaves to freedom.
There is also the Oberlin Heritage Center, the home of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Allen Memorial Art Museum to discover.
Medina, with expertly preserved Victorian-era buildings lining its streets, has a New England atmosphere with a small-town personality.
But don’t let its old style and atmosphere fool you, this town prides itself in progression and innovation.
Visitors will love checking out the Medina Toy and Train Museum, Buckeye Woods Park, Carolyn Ludwig Mugrage Park, and the handful of boutique specialty shops scattered throughout town.
All throughout the year, there are tens of festivals, concerts, and art shows that take place in the public areas.
Bring a camera to picture-perfect Medina and spend at least one day here for the best experience.
It’s a shame that “What’s not to Love?” isn’t the official tagline for Loveland, for this unique town has everything one could ask for from a small town stay.
Downtown Loveland is made up of buildings established in the 1800s who now house an array of boutiques, antique stores, and mom-and-pop restaurants.
Don’t miss the Loveland Castle, a nod to tenth century knighthood and bold architecture.
One man, Sir Harry Delos Andrews built the castle himself after being inspired in Europe and pining for a time when people engaged in hand-to-hand knight combat instead of warfare from a distance.
The castle is also rumored to be the residence of over five ghosts – maybe one of them is Harry’s?
The Little Miami State and National Scenic River both run through town, where tourists can fish, swim, hike around, and kayak in during summer.
What makes Willoughby so fantastic is its stable population of lively residents, who put on a handful of interesting festivals throughout the year.
Visit Willoughby during the Red, White, and BBQ Rib Burn Off that takes place around Independence Day.
There is also an Artsfest, a Scarecrow Contest, a Chili Cook Off, and Car Cruise In to enjoy.
When not attending festivals that celebrate the finer things in life, you can have a picnic at Sunset Park, explore the Penitentiary Glen Reservation, or go on the Willoughby Ghost Walk.
There are also a range of restaurants and small shops to enjoy.
An away from the city Oasis, Wooster is a small town with a plethora of performance venues and eateries to spend your time at.
Tourists can’t miss spending a few hours at the Pine Tree Barn, a tree farm, furniture store, and beautiful restaurant that overlooks sparkling lakes.
There’s no other venue like it, making it one of the interesting things hidden in the small towns of Ohio.
For more foodie delights, head to the Blue Barn Winery or Troutman Vineyards to taste the local wine.
Don’t miss seeing a theater performance at the Ohio Light Opera, walking through the shady Wooster Memorial Park, or learning more about the region at the Wayne County Historical Society and Museum.
14. Mount Vernon
Picture peace at Mount Vernon, a town surrounded by emerald colored rolling hills and the Kokosing River.
And because it’s just an hour away from Columbus, Mount Vernon makes the perfect day-trip getaway for when the city life just becomes a bit too intense.
History enthusiasts will love a few points of interest at Mount Vernon like the Woodward Opera House, the oldest opera theater in the United States, Dan Emmett Birthplace House, the Knox County Agricultural Museum, and the Knox County Historical Society that features interesting artifacts collected all throughout the region.
There are an array of restaurants, shops, and public parks perfect for spending your time while in Mount Vernon.
Adventure travelers can use it as a base for exploring the Kokosing River, where you can take guided rafting tours or outdoor excursions.
Perrysburg is a small town that caters to tourists of all types through its delicious restaurants, unique shops, welcoming inns, and historical sites.
For those who want a jam-packed itinerary, head to the historical battlefield that was a battle site during the War of 1812. Then, check out Fort Imagination and play disc golf at Woodlands Park or golf of the traditional kind at Crosswinds Golf Course.
Finish the day at one of the many eateries before watching a live performance at the Funny Bone Comedy Club or at the Perrysburg Symphony Orchestra.