Ohio may be popularly denoted as a state of standing Northern American living, but reading between the lines reveals a unique and charmingly sarcastic sentiment. A deep history and a strong sense of belonging create a cultural playground for the state's past and current residents to indulge in some strange and noteworthy creative desires. The best of these endeavors are on display in these six quirkiest towns in The Buckeye State.
Athens, Ohio, is the most popularly off-putting town because of the allegedly haunted buildings in its surrounding area. The headline scary attraction is the originally developed site for the Athens Lunatic Asylum over 150 years ago, now recognized as The Ridges after recent redevelopment from the state of Ohio. Initially a Kirkbride Plan mental hospital to serve the mentally unwell, its renovations now serve as classrooms and office buildings. Twenty-five Kirkbridge Plan asylums survive in the United States today, inspiring many fictional locations in movies and TV shows, like the Arkham Asylum in Batman. Ohio University also holds the infamously haunted Wilson Hall, where officials permanently closed room 428 due to multiple reports of paranormal activity. Visitors can also learn of the region's history at the OHIO Museum Complex, spend a leisurely afternoon walking Athens West State Park, or enjoy the popular O'Betty's Red Hot eatery.
Peninsula is a funny town because it is not in the form of a peninsula. The town's name comes from the strange bend in the Cuyahoga River that creates a lake reservoir in the town's central district. Other than its quirky name, Peninsula is home to the wide range of natural beauty that Cuyahoga Valley National Park has to offer. Less ambitious travelers can enjoy the surrounding dense forests by foot trails like the Lock 29 Trailhead that crosses the river towards the Peninsula Toepath and ends at the character-filled Winking Lizard Peninsula restaurant. More energized outdoor enthusiasts should walk from the Bridge at Brandywine Gorge Trail towards Brandywine Falls.
Delaware, Ohio's quicky character comes from its old age. The town was founded over two centuries ago in 1808, making for impressive historic buildings and architecture like that on display at the local Ohio Wesleyan University and its iconic Stuyvesant Hall. An even greater testament to its aged and civilized character is the Delaware County Fairgrounds Race Track, where the Little Brown Jug Harness Race is the title annual event. The contemporary presence of the town is most evident in the Boardman Arts Park, where interactive creations and new plus-sized artistic exhibitions are on display by local crafters and creatives. For visitors seeking some reclusion, the best retreat is Hogback Ridge Park along Alum Creek Lake.
Yellow Springs has a vibrantly eccentric feel throughout its downtown area. The Yellow Springs Pottery House, for example, is decorated with fantastic purple and yellow; the Richard P. Eastman Covered Bridge overhead the Little Miami Scenic Trail is full of bright colors and exotic design; and Miguel's Tacos features a popularly charming symmetrical storefront design. Young's Jersey Dairy also uniquely houses its animals nearby for full-family fun. Outside of the bustling downtown area, natural attractions are equally unique. The most popular is The Yellow Springs River, which follows through the densely forested Glen Helen Nature Preserve, recognized for the unique orange-yellow hue that forms on the stream's rocks.
Peebles is defined by one landmark historic novelty that still challenges scientists and historians and fascinates visitors. The small town is home to the largest earthwork effigy in the world. The Great Serpent Mound is a 1,376-foot-long mound, a surviving relic of the "Mound Builders" of North America. While effigy mounds are documented in other historic cultures, the Great Serpent Mound leads all because of its size and its significance. While its purpose is continuing speculation, some archaeologists believe that the serpent was considered an affinity of Christianity that indicated the location of the Garden of Eden. It was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2023. After visiting the Serpent Mound, travelers can find a scenic and secluded walk through the wildflowers of the Plum Run Prarie Preserve and eat at the popular Amy's Place family restaurant.
Apart from its renown as the "Pottery Capital of the World," Zanesville is known for its weird construction projects, buildings, and bridges. The most popular of these is the Zanesville Y-Bridge, a historic three-way bridge that is noted for its unique claim of 'being crossed without changing sides of the river.' Also, a part of its unique infrastructural heritage is Lock #10 on the Muskingum River, a double lock system used for waterway management, historically featuring a lockmaster using a system of gears and levers and still appearing today as it was built 170 years ago, making it one of the few remaining canal locks in the country. Visitors can also connect with the town's pottery character at 'Vasehenge', a circle of giant vases epitomizing the town's unique and colorful culture. Stop at the Zanesville Museum of Art for a unique character, or walk through the beautiful Mission Oaks Gardens to fill delightful afternoons in the Zanesville area.
Embrace Ohio's Weirdness
Nowhere else in the United States is such a unique feeling of community so apparent through the historical and present cultural tales within each of these quirky towns. From the zany streets of Yellow Springs filled with bright colors and brick undertones to the centuries-old questions raised by the landmark Great Serpent Mound in Peebles to the haunted horrors of Athens, Ohio's quirkiest towns offer a piece of everything to travelers searching for intrigue and character in this surprising state.