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

9 Picturesque Small Towns in Ohio for a Weekend Retreat

Small-town Ohio harbors a broad range of natural splendors and cultural gems waiting to be discovered. If your idea of a weekend retreat involves green countryside, quaint historic districts, or down-to-earth communities with a simple way of life, it doesn’t get better than the little-known rural destinations in Ohio. Adventurers will find endless outdoor thrills, culture connoisseurs will experience unique traditions, and food lovers will sample locally sourced delicacies. 

Each of the small towns in Ohio offers a distinct vibe with diverse points of interest to explore. From the waterfront beauty of Put-in-Bay to the nature-based charisma of Yellow Springs, there is something for all types of travelers. The slow pace of life and the quiet, rural atmosphere present the perfect combination for a weekend escape from the chaos and commotion in the big cities. So, if you are thinking of visiting the Buckeye State for the weekend, these charming small towns will be an exciting option. 


Vermillion, Ohio boat dock
Vermillion, Ohio boat dock

This easygoing harbor town on the picturesque shows of Lake Erie delights visitors with laidback open spaces, a historic district with stunning Victorian-era homes, and fun aquatic adventures. At Vermilion River Reservation, you’ll find one of the coolest hangout spots in town, featuring tree-shaded nature trails, secluded picnic areas, and water access for anglers. The park is also a popular bald eagle habitat, making for exciting wildlife viewing opportunities. Rising above the shores of Lake Erie, the Vermilion Lighthouse is a prominent historical landmark that will interest historians. Its beach location offers the ideal setting to relax and unwind while taking in the water scenes. 

But for a deeper look into the history of the town, you can visit the Vermilion History Museum to check out archives, old documents, and other memorabilia chronicling its colorful past. When it’s time to call it a day, the Old Vermilion Jailhouse B&B promises a unique accommodation experience inside a former Jail transformed into a hotel. 

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 Shutterstock.

Yellow Springs places you in the heart of Mother Nature, promising wild outdoor adventures in a lush environment. This tiny Greene County village gets its name from the natural wonder inside the Glen Helen Nature Preserve. The beautiful nature space straddles about 1,000 acres, delivering fun opportunities for hiking, cave exploration, and admiring gorgeous waterfalls. The town also houses the John Bryan State Park, which promises more outdoor adventures across its over 700-acre expanse. These include everything from fishing and rock climbing to camping and wildlife viewing. 

After a tedious session of exploring the great outdoors, you can recharge and unwind with a locally crafted beer at the Yellow Springs Brewery. Alternatively, Young’s Jersey Dairy serves generous scoops of ice cream if you are alcohol intolerant. Finally, you can spend the nights at the lovely Mills Park Hotel, which sits smack dab in the middle of downtown. 

Chagrin Falls

North Main Streen in Chagrin Falls is lined with popular shops and restaurants that maintain a vintage charm in this Cleveland suburb
North Main Streen in Chagrin Falls is lined with popular shops and restaurants that maintain a vintage charm in this Cleveland suburb, via Kenneth Sponsler /

Chagrin Falls stands out for the charming river flowing through its downtown, with the focal point being a gorgeous 20-foot waterfall along the town’s main street. The waterfall is a beautiful sight through the seasons, drawing crowds to snap spectacular photos and enjoy the chill atmosphere surrounding it. Away from the downtown, Chagrin Falls provides a green outdoor space perfect for relaxing at Riverside Park. The atmosphere here is family-friendly, featuring plenty of park benches, a play area for kids, and grounds to walk your canine companion. 

The town’s vibrant art scene is something to look forward to, with multiple venues entertaining visual and performance art lovers. Theater enthusiasts can catch an engaging live performance at the historic Chagrin Valley Little Theater. Dating back to 1930, it is among the country’s oldest community theaters and continues to captivate guests with plays, concerts, and musical shows. Also, don’t forget to book a room at the Inn of Chagrin for your nightly stays. 


Urbana, Ohio
Urbana, Ohio, By Logan Rickert - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Urbana is a mixed bag of surprises, offering a slice of adventure for all types of travelers, from aviation enthusiasts and history buffs to outdoor lovers. One of the biggest tourist draws in Urbana is the Champaign Aviation Museum. It displays an impressive fleet of antique planes, with a focus on World War 2. Guests enjoy up-close views of historic aircrafts and learn about their legacy during the famous conflict. As the seat of Champaign County, Urbana is home to the Champaign County Historical Society Museum, which preserves local history. It houses a vast collection of artifacts, documents, and relics offering a glimpse of the town’s rich past. 

Beyond its historical attractions, Urbana provides amazing open spaces, none more impressive than the Cedar Bog Nature Preserve. Covering about 450 acres, the park boasts a rich ecosystem with the most diverse plant species you can find in the region.  For a good night’s sleep, the Victorian-style Scioto Inn offers a lovely lodging experience and sits about 5.3 miles away from Cedar Bog Nature Preserve. 


Downtown street in Granville, Ohio. Image credit Kenneth Sponsler via Shutterstock
Downtown street in Granville, Ohio. Image credit Kenneth Sponsler via Shutterstock

Granville’s scenic natural surroundings comprise the rolling contours of the Welsh Hills and the glistening waters of Lake Hudson. Located just 35 miles from Columbus, it is a sweet escape from the capital and delights in a laidback rural atmosphere with endless outdoor opportunities. The great outdoors is best experienced at Spring Valley Nature Preserve. This densely wooded sanctuary provides a peaceful setting with marked nature trails for hikers and an open field for picnickers. Alternatively, you can go for a swim at Lake Hudson, a popular summer spot to fish for catfish and mouth bass. 

The Granville Historical Society Museum allows visitors to explore the town’s rich past. It harbors a charming cluster of artifacts offering a window into over two centuries of Granville’s history. Meanwhile, the Granville Inn is one of the best accommodation options in the area, with a legacy dating back to 1924. 


Main Street, Milford, Ohio
Main Street, Milford, Ohio, By Traveler100 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

This quaint Cincinnati suburb sits along the scenic banks of the Little Miami River. Thanks to its beautiful natural scenery, Milford is one of the best towns in Ohio for outdoorsy tourists. Some of its highlights include the Cincinnati Nature Center, a 1,800-acre oasis housing a mix of prairies, forests, wetlands, and ponds, and presenting opportunities for hikers, anglers, campers, and nature explorers. For some fun on the water, River Dog Paddle Sports schedules exciting canoeing and kayaking tours that let you explore the beauty of Milford’s wilderness from the calm waters of the Little Miami River. 

History lovers will be intrigued by Promont House, an iconic landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1865, it sports a wonderful Italianate-Victorian architectural style and belonged to former Ohio governor John M. Pattison. After touring all the main points of interest in the town, you can enjoy a 4-star accommodation experience at Tru by Hilton. 


Chardon Courthouse Square District
Chardon, Ohio Courthouse Square District, By Chris Light - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

This tiny Geauga County village lies in the heart of Ohio’s maple industry and offers multiple green spaces for communing with nature. It houses the Bass Lake Nature Preserve, a 606-acre park with a mix of outdoor opportunities. Exploring the park, you’ll encounter the 160-acre Bass Lake formed along the Chagrin River, offering generous opportunities for bass fishing. Additionally, the Walter C. Best Wildlife Preserve promises more adventures in the open spaces, hosting a rich mix of flora and fauna. The restaurant scene in Chardon is buzzing, with several eateries spread across the town. At Square Bistro, you can savor great food, with vegetarian alternatives, accompanied by a mean cocktail. Also, don’t forget to hunt for a chic souvenir at Antiques On the Square before leaving Chardon, and when you want to sleep, consider staying at the Lodge at Bass Lake. 


Central business district in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Central business district in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Chillicothe boasts a rich legacy, which includes serving as Ohio’s first capital at statehood in the early 1800s. As such, it houses a handful of historic sites worth exploring, including the Adena Gardens & Mansion Historic Site. This 2,000-acre estate includes the beautiful Adena Mansion, which was built in 1807 by the former state governor, Thomas Worthington. Housed inside are original furnishings and other period artifacts that give an idea of upper-middle-class life during the time. For a broader perspective of the town’s rich history, you can check out the exhibits inside Ross County Historical Society. 

The outdoor inclined will find an adorable nature space at Yoctangee Park, which borders the Historic First Capital District. The 48-acre park offers vital recreation amenities like basketball courts, softball fields, and tennis courts. Meanwhile, shopaholics will fancy a relaxed retail therapy session at the Chillicothe Mall before retiring to bed at the Holiday Inn Express Chillicothe.  


Aerial view of Delaware, Ohio
Aerial view of Delaware, Ohio

Home to the Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware has a thriving arts and culture scene with multiple exhibition and performance centers. You can get a feel of this at the Richard M. Ross Art Museum, affiliated to the Ohio Wesleyan University. It exhibits a wonderful collection of permanent and rotating pieces, featuring works by famous artists like Picasso. Delaware’s green spaces provide the perfect setting for a family day out. A good example is Blue Limestone Park, a rehabilitated quarry with lovely walking trails, a playground, picnic shelters, basketball courts, and a fishing hole. 

Those who want the complete outdoor experience can spend the nights at Alum Creek State Park Campground. Also, Delaware hosts an impressive craft brewery and winery culture, presenting visitors the opportunity to sample locally crafted beers and wines at establishments like Blend of Seven Winery and Staas Brewing Company. Finally, accommodation options abound and one of the top-rated hotels to consider in Delaware is Quality Inn & Suites. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you are after creative inspiration, historical experiences, or outdoor adventures for your weekend escape, these small towns in Ohio have the perfect rural atmosphere. They are a needed break from the city rigors, thanks to a slower pace of life and a rich sense of community. They also offer outdoor recreation opportunities in their sprawling state parks and house unique historical landmarks. It doesn’t matter if you are a food lover, history enthusiast, or outdoor thrill seeker, these scenic towns promise a rejuvenating weekend in the Buckeye State. 

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