People Dining on Main Street, Chagrin Falls. Image credit Lynne Neuman via Shutterstock

12 Must-Visit Small Towns in Ohio

Ohio is a four-season destination and one of the most picturesque states in the country. Although big cities like Columbus and Cleveland come up when discussing places to visit in the state, it is the small, often overlooked locations that showcase Ohio’s true charm and spirit. The small towns harbor an eclectic mix of awesome adventures rarely found in the crowded urban centers. From peaceful natural surroundings and culture-rich communities to unforgettable outdoor pursuits, only those who venture into the backcountry are lucky to experience this unique side of the Buckeye State. 


Street view of downtown Sugarcreek, Ohio
Street view of downtown Sugarcreek, Ohio, via Dee Browning /

Small-town Sugarcreek lies within Ohio’s Amish Country in Tuscarawas County. Despite its modest population of almost 2,500 residents, the “Little Switzerland of Ohio” is the perfect place to experience the state’s Swiss connection. Sugarcreek is famous for hosting the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock, a whimsical attraction and an iconic landmark in the middle of the town. Meanwhile, the Farm at Walnut Creek offers animal lovers an opportunity to show some TLC. This impressive farm houses hundreds of exotic species from 6 different continents, like giraffes, bison, and emus, delighting visitors with interactive programs like animal feeding and other close encounters.

Giant Cuckoo Clock in Sugarcreek, Ohio
Giant Cuckoo Clock in Sugarcreek, Ohio. Image credit Nina Alizada via Shutterstock

Exploring the charming town center is an excellent way to discover the local Swiss and German heritage, evident in its multiple cheese factories, such as Guggisberg Cheese. But if you want to step back in time to look into the town’s history, the Alpine Hills Museum exhibits a fine collection of artifacts and memorabilia showcasing Sugarcreek’s European roots. 


Street view in Peninsula, Ohio
Street view in Peninsula, Ohio, via

A sweet escape from the urban hustle and bustle, this modest locality along the Cuyahoga River is about a half-hour’s drive from Cleveland. It has a small population of about 600, leaving enough room to explore its charming green spaces, including the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This nature reserve houses scenic trails that you can hike to discover native plant and animal species or ride on the Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad, which passes right through the park. Peninsula retains its New England influences from the 18th and 19th centuries through gorgeous colonial architecture, visible on the downtown structures. 

You can check out one of the relics from the bygone eras at Everett Covered Bridge, Summit County’s only remaining covered bridge. It was built in the 1800s and serves as an important historical landmark. If you have a penchant for collecting memorabilia, don’t forget to stop by Peninsula Village Antiques and check out the cute assortment of antiques and collectibles. 


Main Street in the small Ohio village of Gallipolis.
Main Street in the small Ohio village of Gallipolis. Image credit Wendy van Overstreet via Shutterstock

This quaint village in southeast Ohio lies along the banks of the Ohio River, offering a dreamy escape to water-based fun like kayaking, boating, and fishing. One of the best spots in the town is Gallipolis City Park, which overlooks the scenic Ohio River. Besides offering facilities like picnic benches, swings, and free Wi-Fi, it is a popular convergence point that hosts many community events, including the River Recreation Festival. 

Gallipolis takes pride in being called “The Old French Settlement” and boasts a historic charm showcasing its links to the French. You can explore this heritage at the French Art Colony Museum, a multi-arts center offering art classes, exhibits, and other community events. Alternatively, the Gallipolis Railway Freight Station Landmark is another historical site offering a glimpse into the town’s past. 


Austrian Beer Garden on South Bass Island in Put-In-Bay, Ohio
Austrian Beer Garden on South Bass Island in Put-In-Bay, Ohio

A hub for remarkable family-friendly adventures, Put-in-Bay is a charming little village on Lake Erie’s South Bass Island. It has an exciting mix of kid-friendly fun featuring cave exploration and wildlife encounters. You can’t miss the imposing Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial, a 352-foot monument commemorating the Battle of Lake Erie. Most families in town will gravitate towards the Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center, a remarkable complex housing a limestone cave, rock wall, and butterfly house. 

But if you prefer to explore the open spaces, South Bass Island State Park offers countless outdoor opportunities, including fishing, camping, boating, and swimming. Finally, you can’t leave the town without sampling the local wine scene. Put-in-Bay Winery is an excellent spot to try this.  The laid-back establishment has a tasting room and charming outdoor seating overlooking the harbor. 


Street view of downtown Loveland, Ohio
Street view of downtown Loveland, Ohio

Loveland boasts all the markings of a quintessential scenic town: vibrant main square, quaint farm-to-table restaurants, gorgeous historic architecture, and a slew of fun festivals. This tiny location in southwest Ohio hosts unique attractions like the landmark Chateau Laroche (Loveland Castle). This beautiful museum, built in the 1920s, showcases an intricate mix of architectural styles: French, German, and English. Meanwhile, Home of the Brave Park is a recreation hotspot with fun amenities like basketball courts, tennis courts, a playground area, a picnic shelter, and a paved hiking trail. 

Anglers can take advantage of the fishing opportunities on Lake Isabella. The 76-acre park waters host a large population of cormorants, catfish, and northern pikeminnow. Lastly, an excellent way to traverse the small town would be to hop on two wheels, and Loveland Bike Rental has all your preferences, from hybrids and cruisers to recumbents. 


Aerial View Of Lake Erie Coastal Town, Geneva-On-The-Lake, Ohio.
Aerial View Of Lake Erie Coastal Town, Geneva-On-The-Lake, Ohio.

Considered among the best lakeside towns in Ohio, this picturesque resort town sits on the southern shore of Lake Erie. It is an excellent family getaway, thanks to attractions like Geneva State Park, a 698-acre expanse portraying the beauty and character of Lake Erie. This idyllic four-season playground impresses with fun opportunities like fishing, hiking, boating, camping, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. GOTL’s “The Strip” is renowned for hosting an eclectic blend of businesses and restaurants worth popping into, including Noble Art Entertainment for those who appreciate performance arts. 

More family-friendly fun awaits at Adventure Zone, which guarantees uninterrupted entertainment for everyone with activities like go-karting, bumper boats, climbing walls, and an arcade. Elsewhere, The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake is a charming accommodation option just outside Geneva State Park and the perfect jump-off point for all the water adventures. 

Yellow Springs

The Little Art Theater in Yellow Springs is a local landmark built in 1929.
The Little Art Theater in Yellow Springs is a local landmark built in 1929. Image credit Madison Muskopf via

Yellow Springs is a small but colorful location outside Dayton famous for its natural iron-rich springs. It is an excellent escape for the outdoor inclined, thanks to the multiple natural wonders it harbors. You can pursue such endeavors at the 1000-acre Glen Helen Nature Preserve, where over 20 miles of trail await exploration. The park also hosts diverse landscapes, ranging from waterways and woodlands to prairies. Another great option to be in the company of nature is the John Bryan State Park, which presents wild camping and hiking excursions, with the opportunity to discover a stunning limestone gorge.

People shopping and browsing at a public street fair in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
People shopping and browsing at a public street fair in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Image credit Adam Lovelace via

Although outdoor escapades dominate many visitors’ itineraries, Yellow Springs is also known to have a luscious culinary scene. At the Calypso Grill and Smokehouse, you can savor sweet island cuisine like coconut rice, jerk chicken, and refreshing cocktails. Elsewhere, don’t forget to stop by Young Jersey’s Dairy to curb your sweet cravings with an ice-cold treat. 

Kelleys Island

Kelleys Island State Park Entrance.
Kelleys Island State Park Entrance. By Mbrickn - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

If you fancy low-key lakeside getaways surrounded by beautiful natural scenery, Kelleys Island is an enticing option. This idyllic island on Lake Erie hosts a meager population of nearly 300 residents, providing the privacy and room to enjoy a stress-free vacation. You will have a surreal experience at Kelleys Island State Park, with recreational opportunities like fishing, boating, camping, and swimming. Additionally, you can take a lazy stroll along the secluded Scheele Preserve, which takes you through a quiet woodland area before culminating in a pristine, sandy beach. 

History enthusiasts can explore the island's past at Kelleys Island Historical Association, which houses a historic church, a museum displaying artifacts, and a gift shop selling unique souvenirs. Also, the Inscription Rock is another worthy point of interest listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 


Buildings on the eastern side of Main Street in Waynesville, Ohio
Buildings on the eastern side of Main Street in Waynesville, Ohio

Nicknamed the “Antiques Capital of the Midwest,” Waynesville beckons shoppers to sample its numerous vintage shopping venues. Antiquing is a mainstay in this quaint town, with multiple stores like Brass Lantern Antiques housing unique collections. But there is more to Waynesville than its classic collectibles. Outdoorsy visitors will feel at home exploring the sprawling Caesar Creek State Park, which provides diverse recreation opportunities, including boat riding, trail hiking, horseback riding, and fossil hunting. 

For history buffs, the Museum at the Friends Home presents a unique look into different aspects of history in Waynesville. Besides hosting exciting artifacts, the small museum stages events throughout the year, such as historical narrations and ghost-hunting classes. Meanwhile, one of the best times to be in Waynesville is during the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival for a weekend of endless fun featuring live music, good food, and lively parades. 

Chagrin Falls

Historical buildings in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
Historical buildings in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Editorial credit: Lynne Neuman /

Another storybook location in Cuyahoga County, this Cleveland suburb delights with a bustling arts scene and charming outdoor escapades. There are numerous artsy attractions, starting with the Glass Asylum. This premium glass-blowing studio displays unique handcrafting techniques to produce intricate glassware. Next up is the GHill ART gallery, which houses a beautiful collection of print and digital art. But you can’t be Chagrin Falls and fail to check out what inspired the community’s name. The Chagrin Falls waterfall is a gorgeous 20-foot cascade in the heart of the town, with a spectacular viewing platform from which you can admire the natural wonder. Meanwhile, the walkable downtown houses quaint stores and cafes worth popping into. If you’re feeling puckish, you can walk into Flip Side Chagrin Falls for delicious burgers with a glass of cocktail. 


Street view in Logan, Ohio
Street view in Logan, Ohio, via Wendy van Overstreet /

The seat of Hocking County, this small community about 50 minutes off Ohio’s capital, is a prime playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Among its notable highlights is the Hocking Hills State Park, which hosts endless recreational opportunities. The park boasts more than 25 miles of scenic trails that you can explore to discover unique rock formations, stunning waterfalls, and hidden caves. Alternatively, take to the water with Hocking Hills Canoe Livery and enjoy an easygoing kayak, canoe, or raft trip down the river. 

Those inclined to stay within four walls will find the perfect pastime at Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum, where you can browse over 3,400 pencil sharpeners collected over a 2-decade period. Lastly, you can stop by Hickory Hills Winery for a tour and tasting of the locally produced wines. 


A pink Ford on a summer cruise night in downtown Milan, Ohio
A pink Ford on a summer cruise night in downtown Milan, Ohio. Image credit Keith J Finks via Shutterstock

This tiny village with just under 1,500 residents is famed for being the birthplace of inventor Thomas Edison. It houses several historical landmarks, including the Thomas Edison Birthplace Museum. The small museum shines a light on the early years and life’s work of the inventor through a collection of documents, early inventions, and mementos related to the Edison family. Meanwhile, the Milan Museum chronicles the bygone eras of the town using historic buildings and fantastic exhibits. 

If you want to step outside, the Coupling MetroPark has a serene space with quiet, isolated trails where you can relax and unwind. Lastly, target the Milan Melon Festival for an unforgettable family vacation in the town, where lively parades, kiddie games, and melon-eating contests provide day-long, family-friendly fun. 

The Takeaway

Ohio’s small-town escapes offer visitors a fantastic opportunity to witness an authentic side of the Buckeye State, impossible to experience in its big cities. The best small towns in Ohio host unique historical landmarks, unique cultural attractions, and fun outdoor escapes to guarantee an unforgettable holiday experience. 

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