Main Street in the Upscale Historic Village of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Image credit Lynne Neuman via Shutterstock

9 Most Vibrant Towns in Ohio

Rivers are usually the fertile regions for which great and vibrant communities spring forth. Because the state of Ohio comes from the Iroquois word “ohi-yo” meaning “great river,” the most vibrant towns in the Buckeye State have many fruitful attractions for you to savor. Verdant trails and magnificent landscapes characterize small towns like Yellow Springs and Chagrin Falls. Native American history comes alive in well-preserved villages as seen in Granville and Marietta. Most of all, beauty and harmony abound in opulent places such as Put-In-Bay and Ashtabula. Treat yourself to a desirous exploration to the state of Ohio, a prosperous region where the Erie people once roamed.

Yellow Springs

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

Yellow Springs is a village of natural allure. Only about 30 minutes from Dayton, an air of ethereal tranquility permeates the nearby Glen Helen Nature Preserve, a haven of woodland trails and camping grounds to relish the sounds of nature. The 752-acre John Bryan State Park boasts an astonishing limestone gorge bisected by the scenic Little Miami River, one of the longest rivers in Ohio.

Outside of the natural attractions, the nearby historic Clifton Mill embodies Yellow Spring’s industrial past in the grist mill business. But be ready to run and scamper when all the fruit trees in the area begin to blossom in April. During this period, Earth Day is celebrated with a festive and hectic race to pluck as many fruits as one can seize. Once you have as many cornucopias of delicacies to enjoy, sample them in the luxurious lodgings of Mills Park Hotel, The Owl’s Roost, or Jailhouse Suites.

Chagrin Falls

Summer Late Afternoon Warm Sunny Scene of Sidewalk and Shops on Main Street in the Business District of Historical Downtown Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
Downtown Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Image credit Lynne Neuman via Shutterstock

Let your chagrin fall away as you explore the merry village of Chagrin Falls. Located about 40 miles from Cleveland, Chagrin Falls derives its name from the spectacular and silver-rushing waterfalls that flows through the historic downtown. Aside from the placid waterfalls as better observed in the Chagrin River Park, the village contains the Glass Asylum where visitors can purchase or make custom-made, glass-blown materials.

One can learn of Chagrin Fall’s trials and tribulations since 1833 at the Chagrin Falls Historical Society & Museum. Or perhaps the historic Popcorn Shop—a sweet shop rooted in the town’s heritage—can provide a savoring lesson of the past. Do consider staying a while at the Inn of Chagrin.


Aerial view of downtown Marietta, Ohio.
Downtown Marietta, Ohio.

At the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers, and about two hours away from Columbus, the town of Marietta stands as the oldest settlement in Ohio since 1788. Marietta was once the territory of the Hopewell and Adena Native American peoples before early pioneers established a permanent residence there. The town is so historically attractive for Westward expansion that Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough wrote a novel called The Pioneers to illustrate Marietta’s invigorating past.

For generations, the townsfolk have continued to preserve the Native American mounds, embankments, and passageways the ancient tribes left behind, as well as showcasing earthenware at the Mound Cemetery or Marietta Earthworks. Even today, the Delaware, Mingo, and Shawnee tribes aid the education of local and cultural history for all. Besides the intriguing history, Marietta promotes nearby natural amenities such as the Wayne National Forest, Gunlock Park, and the Kroger Wetland. Most importantly, Marietta offers a number of excellent lodgings like the Lafayette Hotel and the Hackett Hotel.


Shops, businesses, and dining establishments in Granville, Ohio.
Shops, businesses, and dining establishments in Granville, Ohio. Image credit Kenneth Sponsler via Shutterstock

About 33 miles from Columbus, the town of Granville is riddled with history. Several Native American mounds dot the region. Infirmary Mound, for example, is located in the aptly named Infirmary Mound Park. Another small mound can be found in Salt Run Park, and an early settlement site has been perfectly preserved in Raccoon Valley Park. The Hopewell Native American peoples were said to be the ones that constructed many of these mounds in addition to the Newark Earthworks uncovered in the Licking County Area.

Visitors can learn more about the Native American influence of Granville at the Great Circle Museum, or you can tour the Robbins Hunter Museum, Bryn Du Mansion, and Granville Inn for more direct lessons of Granville’s heritage following the pioneer settlements. The Granville Inn, specifically, welcomes tourists with warm accommodations, as do the Broadway Guest House, the Porch House Bed & Breakfast, and the Historic Buxton Inn.


Boats tied up at a dock with the famous Put-In-Bay "The Boardwalk."
Boats tied up at a dock with the famous Put-In-Bay "The Boardwalk." Image credit LukeandKarla.Travel via

Put yourself in Put-In-Bay, a luxuriating village on South Bass Island in the magnificent Lake Erie. Often called the “Key West of the North,” Put-in-Bay features a few notable historic attractions. Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, for example, commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie in the year 1812. The Lake Erie Islands Historical Museum exhibits memorabilia and artifacts illustrating the winemaking and ship-building enterprises of Put-In-Bay. Kimberly’s Carousel, constructed by Allan Herschell, has entertained travelers with its vintage motions since 1917.

A butterfly house and a limestone can be explored at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center. The Benson Ford Shiphouse looms towards Lake Erie, a forecastle of a huge cargo ship created for hauling iron ore in the Great Lakes for Henry Ford and his company. For local events, there is the annual Blessing of Fleet ceremony in March, and the Put-In-Bay Spring Fling in May. For lodgings, look to the Commodore Resort, Victory Station Hotel, or Bird’s Nest Resort.


A castle in Loveland, Ohio.
Castle in Loveland, Ohio.

Be ready to love Loveland, a gorgeous small town only 24 miles from Cincinnati. Known affectionately as the "Sweetheart of Ohio," Loveland is a designated Buckeye Trail Town, meaning that there are several hiking and biking trails like the Little Miami Scenic Bike Trail surrounded by the iconic buckeye tree.

The town’s history can be gleaned at the Loveland Historical Society & Museum, while live performances and shows flourish at the Loveland Stage Company and the Loveland Artist Studios on Main. Visitors can tour the medieval-style architecture of the Loveland Castle (Chateau Laroche), or the equally entertaining Castle Skateland where one can do skating, recreational games, and other fun activities. Remember to book rooms first at the Loveland Lofts.

Mount Vernon

Distant city of Mount Vernon Ohio in drone view of destroyed factory at Ariel Foundation Park trails
Distant view of Mount Vernon, Ohio.

Located 40 miles from Columbus along the Kokosing River is the town of Mount Vernon. So named after George Washington’s famous house, there are many historic landmarks that testify to the town’s bountiful past. The Woodward Opera House, for instance, is the oldest known “free-standing” opera house in the US. Mount Vernon was the birthplace of two notable historic figures—first, Daniel Decatur Emmett, the composer of “Dixie” and other well-known songs; and second, Mary Ann Bickerdyke, a pioneering war nurse serving the Union armies during the American Civil War.

Outdoor enthusiasts might consider traversing the Kokosing Gap Trail, beginning from Mount Vernon and winding 14 miles through the most resplendent landscapes in Ohio. You do not want to miss out on a few local events, including the Mount Vernon Music and Arts Festival in August and the Knox County Fair in July. Lastly, do not forget to find accommodations at the Mount Vernon Grand Hotel, the Mount Vernon Inn, or the Coleman Family Gallerie Suite.


Classic Cars meet on the town square for cruisers night.
Classic Cars meet on the town square for cruisers night in Milan, Ohio. Image credit Keith J Finks via

Milan in Ohio derives its name from Milan in Italy, and although the latter is a more popular tourist site, one ought not to dismiss the former’s appeal. Established by Moravian missionaries in 1804 in a Native American village called Pequotting, Milan continues to exude simplicity and wonder. Only about 36 miles from Put-In-Bay on the Huron River, visitors can learn all about Milan’s history at the Milan Historical Museum.

This rustic and unassuming town is notably the birthplace of American inventor Thomas Alva Edison. The redbrick house on Edison Drive where he spent much of his early childhood now functions as a museum illustrating the legacy of the inventor. Do spend your time at the White Dog Bed & Breakfast or Alto Inn.


Lake Erie Coastline, Ashtabula, Ohio
Lake Erie Coastline, Ashtabula, Ohio.

On the shores of Lake Erie, and 53 miles from Cleveland, the humble town of Ashtabula draws visitors with a bevy of bubbling beverages. Ashtabula, and the county of Ashtabula, is renowned for its luxurious and refreshing wine. Approximately 30 wineries reap rows of vineyards in the nearby Grand River Valley, where 50% of Ohio’s aggregate grapes grow.

The word “Ashtabula” comes from the Algonquian word meaning "river of many fish," and these days, one can venture through Walnut Beach Park and Ashtabula River Trail to see the many aquatic denizens of Lake Erie. For history lovers, the Hubbard House Underground Railroad Museum offers a riveting narrative of Ashtabula’s contribution to the abolitionist movement.

Ohio was the birthplace of several presidents, notably William Henry Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant, and Rutherford B. Hayes. It is also the birthplace of aviation, where the Wright brothers tested their prototypes in flight. But most of all, Ohio is the birthplace of your latest adventures and most cherished memories. In the most vibrant towns of the Buckeye State, you will want for more epic trails and fresh breezes from Lake Erie. The history of the pioneers and Native Americans that shaped the land will give you a greater appreciation of nature. And the many amenities from Ohio’s small towns will wash away your weariness like great rivers scrubbing rocks. So treat yourself to a desirous exploration in Ohio, where the land is wild and free.

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