There is no shortage of options when it comes to planning a vacation from Columbus — whether it’s for spring break, a honeymoon or just a casual getaway. The John Glenn Columbus International Airport offers direct flights to hundreds of destinations all over the world, but there are also plenty of fun spots within driving distance. In fact, you probably won’t need to drive more than six hours to find a dream vacation spot, and some are right here in our backyard.
We rounded up the best road trip destinations within six hours of Columbus, so grab some snacks, roll the windows down, turn up the music and hit the road! Adventure awaits.
Photo courtesy of the Hocking Hills Tourism Association
Distance: 57 miles, 1 hour 10 minutes
What to Do: This popular, outdoorsy destination is filled with some of the most interesting scenery in the country, from breathtaking sandstone cliffs and waterfalls to caves and colorful forests. During the day, you can hike, bike and fish your way around the hills, or visit the charming towns nearby — complete with art galleries and farmers’ markets.
While locals and visitors alike flock to Hocking Hills for the camping, we highly recommend booking a cabin for a weekend or longer — there’s just so much to see here! Most of these cabins are outfitted with hot tubs, fireplaces, hammocks and spectacular views (of course).
Things to See Along the Way: Ohio’s Ravenwood Castle is near Hocking Hills, and is one of the 14 coolest castles in Ohio. Consider stopping by for a meal or even staying a night on your way to or from.
Where to Stay: The Cabins at Hocking Hills
Distance: 107 miles, 2 hours
What to Do: There is no shortage of fun activities in the Queen City, whether you’re a foodie, an outdoor adventurer or a history buff. In fact, we came up with 50 things that should be on your Cincinnati bucket list! The city is also home to Over the Rhine, which is quickly rising the charts as one of the coolest neighborhoods in America.
Regardless of what you decide to see and do while you’re here, you should start every day off at one of the area’s best coffee shops, and finish it off with happy hour at a local hotspot. You’ll also need to have Cincinnati-style chili at least once to see what all the fuss is about.
For an added dose of history (and to see Cincinnati from another angle), explore the historic Ohio River on a tour with BB Riverboats. Top off your trip by seeing a show at one of the 9 coolest music venues in town!
Things to See Along the Way: Visit the strange collectibles shop in Loveland, Memento Mori. You’re sure to find a few conversation starters. Also make sure to stop by the Golden Lamb in Lebanon — the oldest operating hotel in Ohio that is also rumored to be haunted. Make a reservation for dinner or even stay the night!
Where to Stay: Hilton Cincinnati at Netherland Plaza
Photo courtesy of Cedar Point Amusement Park
Distance: 116 miles, 2 hours 30 minutes
What to Do: The city of Sandusky boasts 22 miles of shoreline within its city limits, and is known for its perfectly manicured parks and architecture. Basically, it is the definition of a charming lakeside town. Sandusky is also home to the widely renowned Cedar Point amusement park, which spans 364 acres and is dubbed the “roller coaster capital of the world,” but also includes a beach for lounging in the sun, a water park and resort-like amenities.
Things to See Along the Way: Seneca Caverns, located in Bellevue, is one of the area’s largest underground caverns and also one of America’s most fascinating geological wonders. Don’t miss it!
Where to Stay: Hotel Kilbourne
Distance: 143 miles, 2 hours 30 minutes
What to Do: This city on the shores of Lake Erie is a wonderful place to spend the weekend — although there are so many incredible cultural attractions and museums you could easily hang out here much longer! Tour the area’s six most historic neighborhoods or (if the weather is nice enough) visit a nearby swimming hole. Our favorite things to see in town are the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the historic West Side Market, the Great Lakes Science Center, and the Terminal Tower.
If you’re looking to get some shopping in, the Cleveland Arcade is an exquisitely ornate indoor mall with amazing restaurants and elegant shops. Finally if you’re a fan of the iconic movie, A Christmas Story, tour the Christmas Story House in the Tremont neighborhood — we triple dog dare you.
Things to See Along the Way: Grandpa’s Cheesebarn, located in Ashland, is a family-owned spot selling fine cheeses, smoked meats and candies — the perfect road trip snacks! Also just before the city limits is Cuyahoga Falls, a charming city named for the falls in the heart of town.
If you’d like to extend your trip a bit, we also highly recommend the charming Treehouses at the Mohicans, located in Glenmont. Each treehouse is custom designed for a cozy (and photo-worthy) experience.
Where to Stay: The Kimpton Schofield Hotel
Distance: 176 miles, 2 hours 40 minutes
What to Do: The beautiful skyline, cultural attractions and exciting sports scene makes Indianapolis a fun road trip destination for people from all walks of life.
While you’re here, window shop on Massachusetts Avenue and step back in time when you step into Stout Shoes — the oldest shoe manufacturer in the country. Also make sure to wander down Canal Street. At one end, you’ll find the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial and the Indiana State Museum, and on the other, the limestone monument to the USS Indianapolis. You’ll also have to visit the Indianapolis Zoo, the White River State Park and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (if you’re a racing fan). Finish off the day at the Rathskellar, which features a gorgeous beer hall and views of the skyline. And if you’d like to stay for dinner, you can enjoy top-notch German food!
Things to See Along the Way: The trip to Indianapolis is a very straight shot, but you’ll still have the chance to grab lunch in Dayton (or stay awhile and explore the city).
Where to Stay: The Conrad
Distance: 185 miles, 3 hours
What to Do: In Pittsburgh, you’ll find a stunning skyline, a vibrant nightlife, a constantly evolving dining scene, and plenty of interesting cultural attractions. This nearby hub was named as one of the 17 Best Places to Travel by Harper’s Bazaar, and lucky for us, it’s within easy reach at just three hours away! It’s impossible to experience everything this town has to offer in just a few days, but highlights of your trip should include the Andy Warhol Museum or the Carnegie Museum of Art for art enthusiasts, Butcher & the Rye for foodies, and a visit to Heinz Field or PNC Park for sports fans. And we’re going to go ahead and add on the Strip District — because everyone will enjoy that.
Things to See Along the Way: Along the way, you’ll have opportunities to visit the historic town of Zanesville and the Toy and Plastic Brick Museum in Bellaire.
Where to Stay: The Distrikt Hotel
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Photo courtesy of Destination Ann Arbor
Distance: 186 miles, 3 hours and 15 minutes
What to Do: Ann Arbor is undoubtedly one of the most charming towns in the Midwest, and if OSU fans can look past the fact that it’s home to the University of Michigan, they are bound to enjoy their time here! Ann Arbor was recognized by Business Insider as one of the coolest small towns to visit in 2018, and by Forbes as the number one best college city in America. In fact, it’s been listed on so many “top 10” lists, it’s difficult to keep track of them all! While you’re here, make sure to keep an eye out for the fairy doors — artist-designed miniature doors hidden on walls or in entryways in downtown. You should also make sure to rent a canoe or kayak at Gallup Park and grab lunch at Zingerman’s, a historic marketplace that serves as a gathering place for locals and visitors alike.
When it comes time for a refreshment, take a self-guided brewery tour through town! Favorites include HOMES Brewery, Arbor Brewing Company, and Jolly Pumpkin Café and Brewery.
Bonus: If you’re looking for a bigger city to explore, Detroit is less than an hour away!
Things to See Along the Way: We recommend stopping for lunch in Maumee, a charming town located just outside of Toledo. Grab some supplies and have a picnic by the river, or simply spend an hour or two roaming town.
Where to Stay: The Bell Tower Hotel
Distance: 350 miles, 5 hours
What to Do: You might have seen the stunning falls on postcards or on a list of the country’s most popular attractions, but did you realize they’re within easy reach of Columbus? Don’t miss an opportunity to see the majesty for yourself.
The Discovery Pass is the most economical way to see it all, offering admission to all of Niagara’s most popular attractions, including Cave of the Winds, the Adventure Theatre, Maid of the Mist, and the nearby Aquarium. The scenery is spectacular year-round, so regardless of when you choose to visit, remember to bring a camera.
Extend your trip and visit Toronto. The city is located just a short drive past Niagara Falls on Lake Ontario’s northwestern shore and has cultural attractions, restaurants and the like to keep you entertained for days.
Things to See Along the Way: The scenic drive along Lake Erie on I-90 E provides plenty of opportunities for picnicking on the beach! We recommend stopping for lunch in Cleveland before hitting the road, and maybe perusing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while you’re at it.
Where to Stay: Prince of Wales Hotel
Distance: 355 miles, 5 hours and 30 minutes
What to Do: There is so much to see and do in the Windy City, from thrilling theatre shows and comedy clubs to interesting museums and extraordinary restaurants. Take in the sights (and ride the ferris wheel) at Navy Pier, experiment at the Museum of Science and Industry, take a picture with the bean in Millennium Park, marvel at the history of the Field Museum, or view the fish at the Shedd Aquarium. Ready for a cocktail? Opt for the Chicago Athletic Association, a luxe hotel with multiple floors offering different experiences — you’ll find a casual pub with games on the second floor, and incredible views in a swanky atmosphere from Cindy’s on the top floor.
Things to See Along the Way: Enjoy lunch (or stay the night) at the halfway point in Indianapolis before continuing your trip!
Where to Stay: The Chicago Athletic Association
Distance: 380 miles, 5 hours 40 minutes
What to Do: There’s a reason Nashville is called Music City. The southern town lights up every night with local and national acts performing live either in grand venues or bars on Broadway. In fact, many well-known musicians credit Nashville for their big break.
During the day, explore the shops, restaurants and cafes along 12 South, a colorful street and gathering place. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to take a commemorative photo or two against the beautiful murals in the area, or big up a custom bouquet from Amelia’s Flower Truck. Also, you can’t visit Nashville without tasting the city’s famous hot chicken! Hit up Hattie B’s, which is known to have some of the best in town. After your meal, lounge in Centennial Park (which features a gigantic copy of the Parthenon), visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, and roam through Germantown. By night, you can wander up and down Broadway and visit the honky tonk bars, or see a concert at Ryman Auditorium!
Things to See Along the Way: The trip down to Nashville is an exciting one! You’ll go through Cincinnati and Louisville, Kentucky on your way.
Where to Stay: The Omni Nashville Hotel
Traverse City, Michigan
Photo courtesy of Sleeping Bear Dunes
Distance: 430 miles, 6 hours 30 minutes
What to Do: Outdoor enthusiasts will find solace in Traverse City, which provides a vast outdoor playground for visitors and locals alike. Bike or paddle your way along the miles of scenic trails and coastline, try your luck at fishing, or enjoy a serene hike through the forest. While you’re here, don’t miss Sleeping Bear Dunes, known as one of the most gorgeous spots in the country.
You’ll need some provisions after all of that adventuring! There are plenty of vineyards in the area worth exploring (including Left Foot Charley and Mari Vineyards).
Things to See Along the Way: Traverse City is a little over six hours away, but the beautiful scenery and fun tourist attractions along the way make it worth including on this list. Make sure to take at least a bit of time (maybe even a day or two) exploring Ann Arbor and Detroit, and drive through the Huron-Manistee National Forest.
Where to Stay: The Grand Beach and Sugar Beach Resort Hotels
Enjoy your trip!