Things to do in Central Ohio - 5 Great Places to Visit for Free
Some great places to visit without spending a lot of money.
If you live in Central Ohio, or if you are planning a visit to the area and are looking for fun things to do, here are some great places to spend the day. All are within a comfortable driving distance from Columbus, the state capital, and feature a variety of interesting things to do, including biking, hiking, boating, shopping and eating ice cream! Best of all? They’re free!
Old Man’s Cave
Some of the most unique and gorgeous scenery in Ohio can be found at Old Man’s Cave, which is located in the Hocking Hills State Forest, just to the southeast of Lancaster Ohio. Named after a settler who made his home in rocky shelters, the area consists of a series of recessed caves and rock formations that feature amazing cliffs and stunning waterfalls. There are over 25 miles of hiking trails that wind through the region. If you go make sure you bring sturdy shoes and watch your footing – the trails are often damp and can be slippery. If you want to make a weekend out of your visit there are many camping facilities as well cabin rentals through-out the Hocking Hills area.
Slate Run Farm
Slate Run Farm is located off Route 674 in Canal Winchester Ohio, to the southeast of Columbus. Step back in time at this living historical farm which is still run just as it was in the late 1800s. Guides in period costume grow vegetables in the garden, feed chickens in the barnyard and perform a wide variety of other tasks. Visitors are invited to participate in special events and activities at the farm, including helping with morning chores, learning how to hitch the horses to the plow and working in the garden. The house and barns are open to guests and offer an interesting glimpse into what daily life was like 100 years ago. There are even period toys available for children to play with, including stilts and a rope swing. And yes, there are outhouses on the premises as well!
This quaint little town offers something for everyone. If you enjoy cycling, the Little Miami Scenic Trail runs right through town. No bike? No problem! Bicycle rentals are available just off the trail. If hiking is more your style, spend some time in Glen Helen Preserve, Clifton Gorge or John Bryan State Park. Have you ever wanted to see birds of prey like owls and hawks up close and learn more about them? Then stop by the Glen Helen Raptor Center. If you like shopping then you must visit some of many little boutiques and shops in town. If ice cream is your passion then be sure to stop by Young’s Dairy. You can even play a round of putt-putt after you finish eating!
Indian Lake is located just to the northwest of Bellfontaine. It covers 5800 acres and is a boaters’ paradise with lots of open water that is ideal for water skiing or personal watercraft. The lake is dotted with small islands and surrounded by wildlife areas as well as stunning vacation homes that range from quaint cottages to sprawling estates. (Eric Clapton is rumored to have had a home on the lake at one time.) There are restaurants and attractions right on the lake’s edge, many with boat parking which makes them easy to get to whatever your mode of transportation. Don’t own a boat? There are boat rentals available. (I recommend renting a pontoon boat as portions of the lake are somewhat shallow.) If you want to stay the weekend there are several campgrounds in the area, including Indian Lake State Park which features its own beach and boat ramp.
Inniswoods Metro Gardens
Inniswoods Metro Gardens is located just to the northwest of Columbus. It features a variety of plants and displays including an herb garden, a biblical garden (filled with plants that have biblical names or that were mentioned in the Bible), a rose garden and a spectacular rock garden complete with gentle waterfalls and quiet pools. Additionally, Inniswoods has a delightful children’s garden featuring a storybook maze in which children navigate the pathways while reading the story of Sky Woman, a Native American fable about the creation of the earth. The children’s garden also has a play area with a water table and a tree house to climb.