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Things to do in Central Ohio - 5 Great Places to Visit for Free

Updated on September 8, 2012
A waterfall at Old Man's Cave in the Hocking Hills State Forest, Ohio.
A waterfall at Old Man's Cave in the Hocking Hills State Forest, Ohio. | Source

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!


Looking out at one of many spectacular views at Old Man's Cave.
Looking out at one of many spectacular views at Old Man's Cave. | Source

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.


A view of the main barn at Slate Fun Historical Farm.
A view of the main barn at Slate Fun Historical Farm. | Source

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!


The Great Horned Owl is one of many types of raptors visitors can see up close at the Glen Helen Raptor Center in Yellow Springs, OH.
The Great Horned Owl is one of many types of raptors visitors can see up close at the Glen Helen Raptor Center in Yellow Springs, OH. | Source

Yellow Springs

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!


Vacation cottage on an island in Indian Lake.
Vacation cottage on an island in Indian Lake. | Source

Indian Lake

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.


A view of the waterfall in the rock garden at Inniswoods Metro Gardens.
A view of the waterfall in the rock garden at Inniswoods Metro Gardens. | Source

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.


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    • Alyssa Nichol profile image

      Alyssa 

      2 years ago from Ohio

      Great ideas! We have visited Indian Lake State Park several times. It's one of our favorite places! Hocking is on our list. I've seen so many beautiful pictures and there is so much to do there! I haven't heard of Yellow Springs. We will definitely have to check that out!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      4 years ago from North Texas

      Looks like lots of great things to do and perfect for a weekend or a stacation. I drove through Ohio a few years ago on my way back from Massachusetts (moving) and I still remember how beautiful and green it was. It was May. I've always hoped to get back to Ohio when I had time to look around and you have some great places to visit listed here.

    • Jenn-Anne profile imageAUTHOR

      Jenn-Anne 

      4 years ago

      Thanks so much for reading, CMHypno!

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 

      4 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      I've never been to central Ohio, so thanks for all the great information and the beautiful photos

    • Jenn-Anne profile imageAUTHOR

      Jenn-Anne 

      5 years ago

      Thanks so much Peggy! Old Man's Cave is very, very cool - well worth a visit!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Great photos of these interesting and beautiful places in central Ohio. Thanks for introducing them to us via this hubpage. Going to share this with my followers + tweet so that others can also learn about these sites. Old Man's cave looks amazing!

    • Jenn-Anne profile imageAUTHOR

      Jenn-Anne 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for reading frogyfish! I need to find a better pic for Indian Lake. Most of the houses there are amazing! Old Man's Cave is fantastic hiking - hope you get to check it out some time.

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 

      5 years ago from Central United States of America

      The cave sounds like a great hike-to place. Your barn photo would be a fantastic Christmas card with snow - beautiful like it is too. But the island cottage at Indian Lake gave me the the heebiejeebies...it looks like a flooded place...so I had to realize it, and then of course it is absolutely quaint and beautiful! Thank you for a quick photogenic trip in central Ohio: Very enjoyable!

    • Jenn-Anne profile imageAUTHOR

      Jenn-Anne 

      5 years ago

      Thanks Suhail! This is a fantastic time of year to check out Hocking Hills and Old Man's Cave - the temps are good and the changing leaves make for even more fantastic scenery. I hope you get a chance to check it out!

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      6 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      My prayers were answered here. Always interested in knowing and visiting Ohio. My family has never been to this state, except for traveling between Chicago - New York or Chicago - Washington DC. The State Park definitely looks worth exploring and hiking through.

    • Jenn-Anne profile imageAUTHOR

      Jenn-Anne 

      6 years ago

      Thanks Billybuc! To be fair, there are whole stretches of Ohio that are flat and unremarkable, but that just makes the hidden gems even more lovely to visit.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great tour of an area I have not visited. The pictures are great and honestly, I had no idea it was that beautiful there. Thanks for the tour.

    • Jenn-Anne profile imageAUTHOR

      Jenn-Anne 

      6 years ago

      Thanks Vampsdes! Yes, the Old Man's Cave area is unique and not what you'd expect to find hiding out in the middle of Ohio. It's a fabulous place to spend the day.

    • Vampsdes profile image

      Jenny Stub 

      6 years ago from Missouri, US

      Wow I must say that Old Man's Cave looks incredible! That is certainly a place worth visiting. If we are ever up that way we will be sure and visit it. Voted up!

    • Jenn-Anne profile imageAUTHOR

      Jenn-Anne 

      6 years ago

      Thanks dsmiller! There's more to Ohio than most people realize. If you are ever out this way I hope you'll spend a day or two.

    • dsmiller profile image

      dsmiller 

      6 years ago from Canada

      We haven't been to central Ohio, so thanks for sharing your ideas of things to do there. It looks like an enjoyable place for a family vacation.

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