Summer is road-trip season, and Central Ohio is ideally situated for parents to explore numerous nearby museums, parks and other attractions around the state.
We've compiled a list of some favorite destinations that provide ample opportunities for family fun, while still close enough to be day trips.
Before you hit the road, be sure to check online or call ahead to verify operating hours and costs. Note that most of these venues are closed on major holidays.
Check out the online version of this story at ColumbusParent.com for links to past articles about some of these destinations.
AHA! A Hands-on Adventure: A Children's Museum
315 S. Broad St., Lancaster; 740-653-1010; aha4kids.org
This nonprofit children's museum, which opened in 2008, is geared for ages 8 and younger. More than 30 exhibits occupy the 4,000-square-foot space.
Activities include tables with dominos, painting, rocks, trains and water; music stations; wooden vehicles; destinations such as a bank, market and vet's office; and a “Plop Zone” with floor space for ages 24 months and younger.
Tables are available for visitors who bring snacks and drinks. The museum sells bottled water. Same-day re-entry is offered. There is no stroller parking inside the venue, only in the lobby. Free coat closets and lockers are available first come, first served.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, plus noon to 4 p.m. Sundays from November to March.
Cost: $6, free for ages 6 months and younger. Parking is free.
Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
2600 DeWeese Parkway, Dayton; 937-275-7431; boonshoftmuseum.org
Founded in 1996 as the Dayton Museum of Discovery, this children's museum offers special exhibits and permanent offerings that explore topics such as Earth, space and zoology—the latter through a zoo with more than 100 animals. Kids can burn off energy in the multistory climbing tower, play at the water table, perform hands-on experiments and more.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays (special exhibits open at 11 a.m.) and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
Cost: $14.50 adults, $12.50 seniors, $11.50 children ages 3-17 and free for ages 2 and younger. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and COSI members receive half off admission.
Carillon Historical Park
1000 Carillon Blvd., Dayton; 937-293-2841; daytonhistory.org/destinations/carillon-historical-park
While this facility focuses on Dayton history, many aspects will appeal to residents of other areas. There are numerous buildings on the 65-acre property including the Wright Brothers Aviation Center, which features one of their aircraft, and a transportation-focused center that shows other modes of transportation such as a locomotive and a Conestoga wagon. Separate exhibits focus on the Great 1913 Flood and World War I. A café operates seasonally.
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
Cost: $8 adults, $7 seniors, $5 children ages 3-17 and free for ages 2 and younger. Parking is free.
Historic Roscoe Village
600 N. Whitewoman St., Coshocton; 800-877-1830; roscoevillage.com
The centerpiece of this 1830s port town on the Ohio and Erie Canal is a mile-long stretch of period businesses including a general store, a jeweler, a sweets shop and others. Horse-drawn boat rides are offered on the canal from May through September.
Living History Tours take visitors to a blacksmith shop, residence, doctor's office, one-room schoolhouse and other destinations. Children can participate in a historic scavenger hunt or see old-time playthings in the Toll House Toy Cellar.
Hours: The visitor center is generally open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, though Sunday hours are noon to 5 p.m. January through March. Tour schedules vary seasonally.
Cost: Walking through the village is free. Tours, boat rides and other activities have fees.
Hocking Hills State Park
19852 State Route 664 S., Logan; 740-385-6842; parks.ohiodnr.gov/hockinghills and hockinghills.com
Most visitors to this 2,356-acre state park come for the natural scenic beauty of its trails, caves and waterfalls. While Old Man's Cave is the best-known spot, Ash Cave is the state's largest recess cave. Cedar Falls is accessible by a 100-step stone walkway. The state opened two new hiking trails—one with a suspension bridge—in May.
The Hocking Hills also offers several zip-line tours, horseback riding, canoeing and the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway (which runs the popular Santa Train in December). Looking for something quirky? Take a tour of the Columbus Washboard Co. factory or the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum.
Little Buckeye Children's Museum
44 W. Fourth St., Mansfield; 419-522-2332; littlebuckeye.org
This venue in downtown Mansfield, which opened in 2011, is geared to ages 2-12. Activities are themed around art, science and imaginative play and include a dinosaur dig, science lab, toddler area and destinations such as a market, bank and farm. There is an on-site McDonald's.
Round out the trip with a visit to Richland Carrousel Park (75 N. Main St.) or the Mansfield Fire Museum and Education Center (1265 W. Fourth St.).
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays Memorial Day to Labor Day; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays the rest of the year.
Cost: $8 ages 2 and older. COSI members get half off admission.
The Mazza Museum
Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion, University of Findlay, 1000 N. Main St., Findlay; 419-434-4560; mazzamuseum.org
This unique facility has the world's largest collection of original artwork from children's books, including notables such as Eric Carle and Maurice Sendak. Funday Sunday events, held on select afternoons, include activities, games and storytime. The gift shop has a wide selection of literary-themed items.
Wrap up your visit with a stop at Dietsch Brothers (400 W. Main Cross St.) ice cream and candy shop.
Hours: noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Open other times by appointment. The facility recommends using 201 College St. to get GPS directions.
Cost: free but donations are accepted. Tours are offered for a fee.
2210 E. State Route 245, West Liberty; 937-465-4017; ohiocaverns.com
The largest cavern system in Ohio has 2 miles of passageways winding underground in Champaign County, to a depth of 103 feet. The caverns, which maintain a geothermal temperature of 54 degrees year-round, have various rock formations, stalagmites and stalactites.
Several tours are offered for a fee. The 35-acre site includes gem mining, a gift shop and picnic area. Some areas in the caverns are too narrow for wheelchairs and strollers, but the Limestone Tour is accessible (advance registration is required).
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily May 1 to Sept. 30 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 1 to April 30.
Cost: varies by tour, $17-$29 ages 13 and older, $9-$15 children ages 5-12 and free for ages 4 and younger.
Velvet Ice Cream's Ye Olde Mill
11324 Mount Vernon Road, Utica; 800-589-5000; velveticecream.com/visit
Velvet Ice Cream has been in business since 1914, but Ye Olde Mill has only been around since 1970. Visitors can buy a sweet treat in the ice cream parlor, eat in the restaurant, see the milling museum and walk around the 20-acre grounds.
The annual Utica Sertoma Ice Cream festival takes place, in part, at Ye Olde Mill over Memorial Day weekend. Admission is $5 per car.
Hours: Half-hour walking tours are offered at the top of the hour between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. May 1 to Oct. 31.
Cost: Tours are free.
14000 International Road, Cumberland; 740-638-5030; thewilds.org
This conservation center owned by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than two dozen species—many of them unusual or endangered—that roam 10,000 acres of reclaimed surface-mining land. The Wilds opened to the public in 1994.
A variety of safari tours through the grounds are offered. Other activities include zip-line tours, horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing, bird watching and a butterfly habitat. A café and gift shop are on-site. Lodging options are available.
Hours: Tours are offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily May to September and on weekends in October. Limited tours are offered the rest of the year. Reservations are recommended.
Cost: $30-$125, based on tour type. Zoo members get a 50 percent discount on open air safari tours.
The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology
55 S. First St., Newark; 740-349-9277; attheworks.org
This family-focused museum—an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution—offers hands-on science labs, local history exhibits, art galleries, a glass-blowing studio and more on a 6-acre site that spans a city block in downtown Newark. There is an on-site café.
The Works is partnering with Ohio State University's Newark branch on a planetarium that is expected to open in 2018.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Cost: $10 adults, $8 seniors, $6 children ages 2-17 and free for ages 1 and younger. COSI members receive half off admission.
Young's Jersey Dairy
6880 Springfield-Xenia Road, Yellow Springs; 937-325-0629; youngsdairy.com
This Greene County institution offers kids activities, mini golf, batting cages and a petting zoo in addition to its restaurant and well-known ice cream parlor. The venue hosts numerous special events throughout the year.
While you're there, check out the shops in downtown Yellow Springs, or venture outdoors to explore the 268-acre Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve or John Bryan State Park, where a portion of its limestone gorge is designated as a national natural landmark.