Ohio is known for our love of sports, our delicious Buckeyes and our rock and roll — but our incredible state is also bursting with history. Not only are we the birthplace of aviation, but we have also been home to several presidents and inventors and the site of plenty of historic battles.
There are hundreds of historic sites in Ohio that are waiting to share the stories of great people, places and events that made our home what it is today.
We rounded up 19 of the must-see attractions around the state, so you can get started on planning your historic tour of Ohio! Which landmark will you visit first?
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The dramatic stone mansion on a hill north of Chillicothe, Ohio, was the home of Thomas and Eleanor Worthington and their 10 children in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Thomas Worthington was one of Ohio’s first U.S. senators and served as the sixth governor of Ohio from 1814-1818. You can visit their incredible home which is surrounded by extensive gardens — that include a fruit tree orchard, grape vines and plots for vegetables — and get a unique view into 19th-century life.
The Arcade Cleveland opened in May of 1890 as the first indoor shopping center in America. It was designed by John M. Eisenmann and George H. Smith and financed by some of the most esteemed businessmen of the late 19th century, including John D. Rockefeller and Charles Brush. Today, the gorgeous building is one of Cleveland’s most popular landmarks and premier destinations for shopping and dining. You can even stay in the luxurious Hyatt Regency Hotel that occupies the top three levels!
Thomas Alva Edison, inventor of the phonograph, the incandescent light bulb and many other devices that make our lives simpler, was born in Milan, Ohio in 1847. Visit the Edison Birthplace Museum and peruse their rare collection of Edison’s early inventions, documents and family mementos. The museum is open February through December, so make sure to stop by the next time you’re in the area to learn all about Thomas Edison’s life and how he began the Age of Invention.
This famous music hall was originally built in 1878 with private money from what is believed to be the nation’s first matching grant fund drive. It was recently reopened in October 2017 after an extensive renovation and is currently home to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, the Cincinnati Opera and the Cincinnati Ballet. You can find this remarkable structure in the heart of Over the Rhine right behind Washington Park, which is always bustling with fun events and festivals for you to enjoy!
Photo courtesy of the Cincinnati Observatory Center
In 1842, Cincinnati professor Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel had a dream: to build a local observatory in the heart of Cincinnati that would help expand astronomy research. He went door to door, soliciting $25 a piece to invest in his endeavor. Eventually, he was able to make his dream a reality, with the observatory building coming to fruition in 1843. The building served as a strictly research-focused center until 1999, when it was resurrected into a center for astronomy education. Today, the observatory is open to the public for tours during the week and public stargazing most Thursday and Friday evenings.
The Cincinnati Zoo is home to two National Historic Landmarks, the Elephant House and the Reptile House. The Reptile House is the oldest zoo building in the world, built in 1875 in Turkish style. The building originally housed monkeys but is now home to more than 35 reptile species. The Elephant House, a Taj Mahal-looking structure, was constructed in 1906 atop the zoo’s highest hill. The gorgeous building is one of the zoo’s most popular destinations, home to several endangered Asian elephants.
The Dayton Aviation Heritage Park is a national park that commemorates three important historical figures — Wilbur Wright, Orville Wright and poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. The park features several historical landmarks including the Wright Cycle Company Complex which is home to the Wright brother’s last surviving bicycle shop, the Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial, the Huffman Prairie Flying Field and many others! Visit to learn all about these famous Dayton residents’ lives and their massive impact on the world.
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Set amidst the backdrop of Miami County’s vast farmland and the tree-lined Great Miami River, the Eldean Covered Bridge is one of only two covered bridges remaining in the area. While it was once the second longest of its kind in Ohio, it is the longest “Long Truss” covered bridge in the nation. Visitors are welcome and encouraged to cross over the bridge on foot or by car, but no matter how you decide to journey across, the gorgeous barn-red bridge will no doubt take you back to another time.
Fort Meigs was built during the War of 1812 along the Maumee River to provide a supply depot and staging point for United States military operations in Canada. Today, Fort Meigs is the site of a 65-acre park that includes a full-size 10-acre replica of the 1813 fort. If you’re looking to get a taste of American history, you can visit the reconstructed fort any time you’d like! Bring the whole family and enjoy one of their battle reenactments or one of their historical demonstrations, which take place throughout the year.
Along the landscape of the Ohio River Valley, you can find earthen mounds and embankments that come together to create geometric structures. These astonishing creations were built by local Native Americans almost 2,000 years ago. These natives called themselves the Hopewellians and they gathered at these earthworks for feasts, funerals and rites of passage. You can learn all about them, and see them in person, at the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe.
The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, named for the civil engineer who designed it in 1867, has been an iconic bridge along the Cincinnati skyline for nearly a century and a half. It was the first bridge to employ several new techniques, making it an engineering marvel during the time of its construction. When you’re in the area, make sure to take a stroll across it to get a better look and mark the RoeblingFest on your calendar in June, when hundreds of Roebling enthusiasts come together to celebrate the landmark.
This magnificent site features the world’s largest serpentine effigy mound yet to be discovered. The mount winds through trees on a cliff overlooking the Bush Creek Valley in Adams County, averaging about 1,330 feet in length and three feet in height. Historians don’t know why this great serpent exists, only that it might have been created by the Adena people over 2,100 years ago. The mysteries don’t stop there, however. The ground under the mound is full of cave-like, hollow structures that puzzle historians and visitors alike. We might not ever solve all of the serpent’s secrets, but one thing is for sure — it is really gorgeous to look at!
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Former president William McKinley spent much of his life in Canton, where he practiced law and married his wife, Ida Saxton. The McKinley Monument is the final resting place for the 25th President of the United States and his wife. This breathtaking, round building is located in Canton, towering above the trees in Canton and settled at the top of 108 steps. If you’re interested in learning more about President McKinley, head down the street to the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, which serves as an educational center of history and science for both the local community and a global audience.
Not only is this district adorable, but it’s also an area full of rich history. Mount Pleasant was founded in 1803 by anti-slavery Quakers and was a well-known safe haven for fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad. The entire town is a must-see for anyone who loves history. We recommend stopping by the meeting house, where Ohio Quakers would meet once a year, and the Burris General Store, which was built in 1895, where you can get a look at all of the original equipment and pick up a souvenir! But, no matter what you decide to do while you’re in the area, you should definitely take a moment to stroll along the quiet streets and look at the remarkable historic homes.
The Ohio Statehouse is our state capitol building and is truly a magnificent sight to behold! Unlike many of the other states’ capitol buildings, the Ohio Statehouse didn’t take inspiration from the United States Capitol, because it was actually designed and built before the glorious building in D.C. was ever erected. Instead, it was built in the Greek Revival Style, with many features drawing inspiration from the Tholos of Delphi and the Parthenon of Athens. You can tour our historic capitol building for free — Monday through Friday every hour on the hour, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
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While this stunning theater is one of the state’s most beautiful buildings, featuring Spanish-Baroque architecture with breathtaking details (including the 21-foot high chandelier!), it was created as “a palace for the average man.” Thomas W. Lamp, the Scottish architect in charge of the Ohio Theatre project in the 1920s, envisioned a place where anyone, regardless of wealth or status, could go and see a film or a live performance. To put the finishing touches on the theater, they chose Ann Dornan, one of the first women to graduate from the Columbia School of Architecture, who traveled around the world to select art and furnishings. Today, you can experience all of the history and majesty at one of the 100+ performances the theater puts on each year.
Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial was established to honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie, during the War of 1812. And, to celebrate the long-lasting peace among Great Britain, Canada and the U.S., the Memorial, a Doric column that rises 352 feet over Lake Erie, is situated five miles from the longest undefended border in the world. For a truly incredible view, head up to the Observation Deck of the Memorial when you visit, where you can get a 360-degree view of the Lake Erie Islands and the shorelines of Ohio, Michigan and Ontario.
Photo courtesy of Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens
Located in one of our favorite Akron neighborhoods, Merriman Valley, Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens is a prime example of the area’s stunning architecture. The castle-like residence served as the home for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company’s founder Frank A. Seiberling and is a popular landmark and tourist attraction today.
Rutherford B. Hayes was the 19th president of the United States from 1877 to 1881, having also served as an American representative and governor of Ohio for several years. Shortly after his death in 1893, his son set about creating a museum and library as a memorial to his father in Hayes’ home of Fremont, Ohio. You can visit the estate and museum Monday through Saturday and peruse artifacts from our former president’s life. We recommend taking a picnic lunch and settling in a shaded spot on the lush grounds while soaking in the beauty and history of Fremont!
Ready to explore?
Which of these historic Ohio sites are you most excited to see? Let us know in the comments or show us on Instagram using #CutlerExplores!