Nowadays, traveling during the summer months has become quite a hassle, from trying to get to your destination, where you end up waiting in airport lines for hours just to be bumped off your overbooked flight, to sitting in traffic with all the other road trippers taking the same route as you. And if this were not bad enough, there are the popular attractions that hit capacity every day during peak tourist season to contend with. Even accommodations can be difficult to find, and they are astronomically more expensive than at other points in the year. Add the ever-increasing summer temperatures, and a good case is made for traveling at a different time of year.
For those considering taking a vacation in the fall, Ohio offers something for every interest, all mixed into the gorgeous rural landscape that comes alive as the leaves turn. From national parks with stunning fall foliage, the many small-town fall and harvest festivals, and some of the best Oktoberfest festivities in the United States, you will fall in love with Ohio in the fall.
Jackson, Ohio - Jackson Apple Festival
As the leaves begin to change color and the summer heat is well in the past, the town of Jackson, Ohio, rings in the autumnal season by holding the Jackson Apple Festival. This event was founded by the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, which wanted to create something festive and meaningful for the people of Jackson County, and apple production is one of the county’s most important industries. This five-day festival dates back to 1937 and is celebrated annually during the third week in September.
Jackson comes to life during the Jackson Apple Festival, filled with many events and activities for children and adults. There are contests such as the apple pie eating contest, a baby crawling contest, and the Blizzard (DQ Ice cream) eating contest. There are many local food trucks and live, local music. There are carnival rides set up, there is even a hay ride, and the entire town is decked out in apple-themed autumnal paraphernalia. For these five days in September, Jackson radiates coziness and fall festivity, helped along by all the trees in and around town bearing fall foliage that is a perfect complement to the Jackson Apple Festival.
Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls
For those looking to relax in the great outdoors of Ohio, a stay at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls is the perfect choice. Cedar Falls offers a range of accommodations, including Hocking Hills luxury cabins, Pacific-style yurts, cottages, geodomes, and even full lodges, which are rentable for large family vacations. The land owned by the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls is a green-certified property. At Cedar Falls, you will find two restaurants, the Kindred Spirits Restaurant and the Urban Grille, a full-service spa, a golf course, and a range of hiking trails.
A visit to Cedar Falls in the autumn provides gorgeous foliage directly outside of your room window. And, for those planning to stay at a geodome, fall is the best season. The acreage on which the inn sits also offers a range of hiking trails, as well as the surrounding Hocking Hills State Park that, in the fall, is a mesmerizing display of autumnal colors.
Hocking Hills State Park
For those who want to experience fall, Hocking Hills State Park is a great place to spend a few days. Hocking Hills is one of the few national or state parks that offers the opportunity to stay in the park, besides at campgrounds. Hocking Hills State Park Campground is a highly rated site, but if you are visiting during the fall, it does get a little nippy at night. The other option for staying in Hocking Hills State Park is at the Hocking Hills State Park Lodge. With 81 rooms, indoor and outdoor heated pools, a restaurant, and a lounge, Hocking Hills State Park Lodge combines the perfect amounts of rustic and luxury.
In the fall, Hocking Hills State Park transforms into a majestic landscape colored by the fall foliage of the oak-hickory forests that cover the 2,356 acres of this park. Hocking Hills also offers a range of fall events, including the Hocking Hills Glass Pumpkin Festival, Grandma Gatewood's Fall Colors Hike, and the Hocking Hills Trail Run.
Sugarcreek, Ohio - Annual Ohio Swiss Festival
Known as the "The Little Switzerland of Ohio," Sugarcreek is the closest you will get to Switzerland without actually being in Switzerland. With quintessential Swiss architecture, food, and culture, this town is charming throughout the entire year. However, only a fall visit to Sugarcreek will provide you with the opportunity to attend some of the most popular fall events in all of Ohio.
The fall festivity season in Sugarcreek officially begins at the end of September with the Annual Ohio Swiss Festival. Popular events and activities include live music, a Little Swiss Miss Contest, a demonstration by the Garaway Marching Pirates, lots of rides for kids and adults, and a range of artist booths selling handcrafted items. On the final day of the Annual Ohio Swiss Festival, the festival concludes with a parade as well as the Steinstossen (Swiss stone toss competition).
Landoll's Mohican Castle
Landoll's Mohican Castle (also known as "the Castle") was commissioned by Army Veteran turned book publisher Jim Landoll. Inspired by the European castles he had seen while serving overseas, building a castle in their image was his lifelong dream. In 1997, after selling The Landoll Publishing Company for millions, the construction of the Castle began. During the building process, Landoll's wife Martha convinced her husband to turn the Castle into a hotel, and so Landoll's Mohican Castle was born. The Castle sits on 30 acres of land and has 31 suites beautifully staged in a rustic elegant style. Guests can explore the lovely trails found on the Landoll's Mohican Castle acreage, which are particularly beautiful during the fall season when the foliage becomes a kaleidoscope of fall colors.
When you stay at the Castle, you are in the perfect place to visit a range of Ohio towns with some of the state's highest-rated fall festivals. In Loudonville, Ohio, just north of the Castle, there is the Oktoberfest Weekend, which attracts visitors from all across Ohio. A little farther afield in Wooster, Ohio, which is 27 miles northwest of the Castle, the Wayne County Fair and Woosterfest are held, both great fun for the whole family. In Big Prairie, Ohio, 12 miles northwest of the Castle, there is the Apple Dumpling Festival Weekend, a unique event unlike anything you have experienced. If you are staying at the Castle around Halloween, make sure to take the guided Ghost Hunt Tour offered to guests of Landoll's Mohican Castle.
Beverly, Ohio - Annual Food Truck Fall Festival
Along the lovely Muskingum River sits the town of Beverly, Ohio. For all the foodies out there, this town is for you. Here, you will have the chance to celebrate Beverly’s annual Annual Food Truck Fall Festival. Held at the local elementary school, this event has live music, lots of craft vendors, and Food Trucks! After spending a day filling up on all the local goodies, head out to Big Bottom State Memorial Park, just 11.4 miles west of Beverly, for a relaxing and educational experience. Or, a little farther afield, there is Wolf Creek Wildlife Area, which is 24.9 miles west of town. Here, you can explore the fall foliage, as it is a prime location for bird watching.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Known for its many natural features, including Brandywine Falls, the Ledges (moss-covered sandstone walls), and the Everett Covered Bridge (the only covered bridge in Summit County), Cuyahoga Valley National Park is paradise in the autumn, which makes it a major attraction to visitors looking to do some leaf peeping. Because Cuyahoga Valley National Park is such a densely forested park, it is a prime local to enjoy the autumnal colors of the season. For the best leaf peeping experience, visit during October, and more precisely, mid-October. Besides hiking and bicycling, there are other fantastic ways to enjoy the fall foliage of this park. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which runs north-to-south through the park along the 87-mile Towpath Trail, offers a chance to relax and take in the foliage from a unique perspective.
With so much to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, setting up a base camp as close as possible is important. Sitting along the eastern border of this national park is the town of Northfield, Ohio. Not even a 5-minute drive (2.5 miles) east of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, just past the West Highland Road entrance, is Shady Oaks Farm Bed and Breakfast, one of the highest rated Bed and Breakfasts in the region and the perfect place to return to after long hours in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Waynesville, Ohio - Waynesville Fall Fest and the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival
The fall season in Waynesville, Ohio, is a very busy few months. With many fall festivals and events held in this town, it is the perfect place to visit to enjoy the fun and hospitality that Ohio has to offer during the autumn. The Waynesville Fall Fest and Ohio Sauerkraut Festival are the most popular fall events in the region. The Waynesville Fall Fest has excellent activities for the entire family. From the Wildwater Mining Co., the Splash Landing Expedition to the (fictional) town of ‘Skeleville’ where the Skelepeople live, a giant corn maze, pumpkin painting, gaga ball, all the way to a lovely petting zoo, this festival is great fun for everyone.
One of the other highlights of the fall season in Waynesville is the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival. With 460 vendor booths, live music, and of course, tonnes of great sauerkraut to try, spending some time at either of these festivals will be a good time for everyone. And, if you are searching for a great place to stay in town, try the historic Hammel House Inn, which dates back to the early 1800s.
Circleville, Ohio - Circleville Pumpkin Show
Circleville, Ohio, is another great town to visit in the fall, particularly during the Circleville Pumpkin Show. This festival, held in mid-October, offers a range of activities, including many competitions, including a baked goods contest, a parade float competition, a window decorating contest, and even a most creative baby stroller contest.
The highlight of all the contests is the biggest pumpkin event, which brings people from across Ohio to enter their pumpkins. In previous years, the largest pumpkins have weighed nearly 2,000 pounds. Each year, approximately 100,000 pounds of pumpkins, squash, and gourds are on display during the Circleville Pumpkin Show. And, if you plan to stay for the entire event, The historic Castle Inn is the perfect place to enjoy a cozy evening after a long and festive fall day.
Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio
For those who love amusement parks, and rollercoasters in particular, a visit to the beachfront resort of Hotel Breakers is just for you. Sitting directly beside Cedar Point, known as the "The Roller Coaster Capital of the World," it is no wonder that it is a big tourist destination during summer. But for those who want to get in more rides and spend less time standing in line, visiting this park in the fall is the perfect way to get the most out of your day. With this hotel having a dedicated entrance to Cedar Point and Cedar Point Shores, when you stay at Hotel Breakers, you also have access to the best beach along Lake Erie.
During the fall season, Hotel Breakers pulls out all the stops. Putting on many events for their guests, this historic, 100-year-old hotel is decked out for the fall season, and, closer to Halloween, Hotel Breakers becomes a spooky enclave that kids will love. With so much to do at Hotel Breakers, and at Cedar Point in the fall, you will need a vacation to recuperate from all the fun you will have.
The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake
Are you looking for a great place to spend a family vacation during the fall? If so, the Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake might be just what you are looking for. The Lodge offers a range of great fall activities on and off its grounds. There is a Wine Shuttle for those looking to explore the local wineries, an onsite golf course, access to water sports gear (including kayaks, canoes, paddle-boards, etc.), as well as a concierge who will help you book tours or plan a lovely fall day in Geneva-on-the-Lake.
In town, there are some wonderfully unique fall events, including the Geneva Grape Jamboree. Other great local attractions during the fall season in Geneva-on-the-Lake include numerous lovely covered bridges to explore, the fall foliage at Geneva State Park, and the Lake Erie Canopy Zipline Adventure Park, providing a vantage point of the local forest canopy unlike any other.
Regardless of where you choose to spend your visit to Ohio or what you plan to do for your fall vacation, you will surely find great food, fun festivities, and the most welcoming of people. Head to Ohio for the fall ambiance and cozy weather, or spend your time hiking through the many state and national parks throughout Ohio. No matter what you choose to do, you will be awed by the fall season in the state of Ohio.