Aerial view of Mount Vernon, Ohio.

Ohio's 10 Most Underrated Towns To Visit In 2024

Famous cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati steal much of the spotlight when it comes to Ohio destinations. Unsurprisingly, most tourists have them at the top of their travel itinerary. But the Buckeye State is home to countless charming small towns that are grossly overlooked. Hidden in the backcountry and shielded from the chaos in the metro areas, they provide a fresh experience with lots of fun surprises on offer. In 2024, consider getting away from it all and spending some time in one of these underrated towns in Ohio off the beaten path. 

From historic main streets and picturesque landscapes to art scenes and tasty eats, these destinations offer a lower-key trip packed with personality. Whether you enjoy browsing local boutiques, soaking in natural beauty, or simply slowing down your pace, each will provide the perfect backdrop for relaxation. So, if you are planning to visit Ohio anytime, check out these low-key destinations for a change. 


Highland County Courthouse in Hillsboro, Ohio.
Highland County Courthouse in Hillsboro, Ohio. Image credit: Jimmy Emerson DVM via

With so many Hillsboro in the United States, it is easy to forget that Ohio has its own Hillsboro that people rarely talk about. However, this tiny village in Highland County harbors a decent mix of attractions worth checking out. It is probably known for housing the World's Largest Horseshoe Crab. At 67 feet long and 12 feet high, this quirky roadside attraction is an immediate attention grabber for motorists driving into the town. To better acclimate to Hillsboro, you can visit the Highland County Historical Society. The center preserves and interprets regional history through archives and artifacts. 

Hillsboro notably hosts the Rocky Fork State Park, assuring outdoor enthusiasts of endless opportunities in the open space. Straddling over 2,000 acres, it is a popular recreation hub with adventures like camping, hiking, boating, fishing, and swimming to explore. When you need to eat, you can choose from several options, including 24 Deli & Pizza. 


Granville, Ohio.
Churches and businesses line a shady block of Broadway Avenue in Granville, Ohio. Editorial credit: Kenneth Sponsler /

Granville is just 35 miles from Columbus, which explains why most tourists overlook it for the glitz and glam of the capital. But this humble college town offers more than many realize, from historical gems to charming green spaces. You can learn about its interesting history and the Granville Historical Society Museum by browsing a comprehensive collection of artifacts.

Denison University has greatly raised Granville's profile as an artsy destination. At the Denison Museum, connoisseurs can examine several fine and liberal art exhibitions. For some fun outdoors, the Spring Valley Nature Preserve presents a beautiful open space with various recreation opportunities, including hiking, picnicking, and wildlife viewing.


The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield Ohio
The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio.

Tracing its beginnings to 1808 when it was founded, Mansfield has a rich heritage that has not fully been explored. Tourists can look forward to an immersive historical experience in this Richland County town, starting at the Ohio State Reformatory. This iconic landmark is a 19th-century prison designed for young offenders. The prison is famously known for being the set of the popular movie Shawshank Redemption. For a deep dive into the region's history, the Mansfield Memorial Museum exhibits a comprehensive collection of artifacts and specimens covering military, natural, and aviation heritage. 

But there is more to Mansfield than its history; the thriving arts scene provides a charming mix of venues for enthusiasts. Noteworthy mentions include the Mansfield Art Center and Mansfield Playhouse, inviting lovers of visual arts and theater art alike. Also, do not forget to step outside and enjoy the delightful formal green oasis at Kingwood Center Gardens. 


USA Farmers Market in Urbana, Ohio.
A Farmers Market in Urbana, Ohio. Image credit: J03K64 via Wikimedia Commons.

History buffs in Urbana can expect to learn captivating local, state, and aviation history. The town draws aircraft enthusiasts to the Champaign Aviation Museum, with the opportunity to inspect a fine collection of antique planes, including the iconic B-17 Flying Fortress bomber from World War 2. If you prefer to spend time outside, you will find an exquisite environment to hang out at the Cedar Bog Nature Preserve. The sprawling park harbors a diverse ecosystem featuring swamps, boreal forests, prairies, and more. Alternatively, you can book a tour with Birch Bark Canoe Livery to enjoy a laidback kayak or canoe trip down the Mad River. 

West Liberty

West Liberty, Ohio
West Liberty's annual antique tractor parade. Image credit: Nyttend via Wikimedia Commons.

This hidden gem in Logan County promises underground adventures, dramatic castles, and beautiful parks that you would not expect to find in a tiny village. West Liberty proudly invites adventurers to explore the Ohio Caverns, which holds the title of Ohio's largest cave system. Descending into the caves reveals a magical scene, with dramatic stalagmites and stalactites protruding from the floor and roof throughout the caves. If you yearn for a little bit of activity, Lions Club Ball Park offers the opportunity to stretch your legs and break a little sweat. You can play an exciting game of baseball and softball before cooling off at the onsite splash pad. 


Part of the Hudson Historic District in Hudson, Ohio.
Part of the Hudson Historic District in Hudson, Ohio. Image credit: Kevin Payravi via Wikimedia Commons.

This suburban community in Summit County charms with green surroundings and a rich historical heritage. It has several historical sites, led by the Clocktower, arguably the most conspicuous landmark in Summit County. But there is more interesting history to discover around the Hudson Historic District. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the neighborhood features a mix of historic homes and old structures currently housing restaurants, pubs, and other businesses. Complete the historical tour by visiting Case-Barlow Farm for a glimpse of Hudson's agrarian past. 

For the outdoorsy traveler, Hudson Springs Park spoils you with 260 acres of recreation-worthy terrain full of meadows and woodlands. It also has a 50-acre lake where you can fish bass and bluegill. After working up an appetite from a day of exploring the town, stop by Downtown 140 to restock with a wholesome American dish. 

Yellow Springs

The Little Art Theater in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
The Little Art Theater in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Image credit: Editorial credit: Madison Muskopf /

For a small community of less than 4,000, Yellow Springs hits way above its weight class when it comes to outdoor opportunities. Its rich surroundings provide the perfect setting to get lost in the Ohio wilderness. The town's name was inspired by a beautiful natural spring inside the sprawling Glen Helen Nature Preserve. Adventurers gather here to take advantage of 20 miles of trails as an avenue to discover beautiful waterfalls, wildflowers, and local wildlife. The town is also home to the John Bryan State Park, an additional 752 acres of wild terrain presenting adventures like hiking, camping, and fishing in the Little Miami River. When you have had enough of the open spaces, you can unwind with a family-friendly movie at the Little Art Theater. But before that, be sure to stop by Young's Jersey Dairy to indulge your sweet cravings with a delicious scoop of ice cream. 

Mount Vernon

Aerial view of Mount Vernon, Ohio.
Aerial view of Mount Vernon, Ohio.

Mount Vernon is among the best towns in Ohio for vacationing families, thanks to its exciting array of kid-friendly attractions. This lovely community along the Kokosing River has multiple parks that invite you to spend a fun day out with loved ones. The 250-acre Aerial Foundation Park delights with varying recreational opportunities, from hiking to picnicking. It even has a small lake where you can fish and kayak. Also, the kids will fancy some aquatic fun at the Hiawatha Water Park, which provides pools for all ages, water slides, and sports facilities like baseball fields and tennis courts. 

After all the fun and games, you can take them to SPI Spot for an exciting learning experience. This remarkable children's museum has interactive exhibits and hands-on activities that help kids acquire science knowledge. Away from the kiddish attractions, try exploring the town's rich history of transportation, industry, communication, and arts and entertainment at the Knox County Historical Society. 


Community Christmas tree in Worthington, Ohio.
Community Christmas tree in Worthington, Ohio.

This laidback Columbus suburb harbors a fascinating part of Ohio's history and delights with classic New England heritage that can be seen in its old buildings. At Jeffers Mound, you will be intrigued by an elaborate Native American burial mound stretching back to between 100 B.C. and 400 A.D. Worthington's Village Green Park provides a pleasant nature space in the heart of the town center, where people can escape for fresh air or relax in a calm environment. It is a popular gathering spot that hosts different community events, including concerts and festivals. 


Paddleboats and canoes line the shore of the lake at Scioto State Park in Chillicothe, Ohio
Paddleboats and canoes line the shore of the lake at Scioto State Park in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Chillicothe's claim to fame is Ohio's first capital in the early 1800s. Aside from this, you can also find traces of indigenous legacy at the burial mounds and earthworks of the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. The site is also home to a geometric attraction, the Seip Earthworks. which held a ceremonial significance to the Native Americans of Hopewell Culture. Elsewhere, nature lovers will find respite at the 48-acre Yoctangee Park, bordering the Historic First Capital District, with amenities like courts for basketball, softball, and tennis alongside wooded trails. Meanwhile, shoppers can browse the relaxed atmosphere of Chillicothe Mall before fueling up at a variety of dining options. 

Final Thoughts

While Ohio's major metro areas receive much of the attention, the state is filled with hidden gems with their unique slice of Midwestern charm. These represent just a sample of underrated towns in Ohio waiting to be explored at a leisurely pace. Whether seeking historic main streets, cultural offerings, natural beauty, or community pride, these lesser-known towns deliver in spades. By stepping off the beaten path in 2024 and spending time in one of these fascinating locations, travelers are sure to encounter warm hospitality and leave with an even deeper appreciation for the Buckeye State. 

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