9 Top Free Things to Do in Ohio

Kelleys Island in Ohio

Bryan Rubin / 500px / Getty Images

Enjoying Ohio—a state within the Great Lakes region of the midwestern United States—doesn't have to be expensive, whether you are visiting Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, or elsewhere. There are scores of things to experience in the Buckeye State that don't cost a dime, from touring one of the best art museums in the world to hiking and seeing the state's ancient and diverse natural wonders. Visitors also have the opportunity to walk through historic neighborhoods and check out festivals and events all year long and free of charge.

01 of 09

Head to the Beach

Headland Beach State Park

Lauren Delgado / Flickr / CC

9601 Headlands Rd, Mentor, OH 44060, USA
Phone +1 440-466-8400

Depending on what you're in the mood for, there are plenty of family-friendly beaches to choose from along the shores of Lake Erie. Seashell seekers should visit Headlands Beach State Park in Mentor, while Breakwater Beach, part of Geneva State Park in Geneva-on-the-Lake, is a prime spot for a picnic. The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, just east of Cleveland, has many trails and bird walks, and kids can enjoy learning from its animal and nature exhibits.

02 of 09

Check out Cleveland's Family-Friendly Festivals

Cleveland Winterfest

Erik Drost / Flickr

Hessler Rd, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA

Cleveland and Northeast Ohio offer numerous free activities for kids and adults to enjoy. Plan your trip around festivals like the Hessler Street Fair in June at University Circle, the Feast of the Assumption celebration in August in Little Italy, and the Geneva Grape Jamboree in September.

The winter holiday season brings its own set of no-cost activities to the Cleveland area, including events like WinterFest, the tree-lighting celebration held in Public Square with a ceremony and concert. The Little Italy Holiday Art Walk is a fun time for all, when more than 25 galleries open the first Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of December; some of them give out hot chocolate, cookies, wine, or other festive treats.

03 of 09

Enjoy Cleveland's Museums and Nature Centers

Fountain outside the Cleveland Art Museum, OH
Mark Gibson / Getty Images
11150 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA
Phone +1 216-421-7350

Cleveland, Ohio's second-biggest city, located on the southern shore of Lake Erie, is full of things to do that won't cost anything. Bring the whole family to the Cleveland Museum of Art, one of the world's most popular museums, or one of the plentiful Cleveland Metroparks nature centers and hiking trails. The Cleveland Orchestra also puts on several community concerts a year that don't charge admission.

Additional no-cost activities include browsing at the West Side Market (Cleveland’s oldest public market) and viewing the educational money exhibits and a 23-foot-tall money tree at the Federal Reserve Bank.

04 of 09

Visit Galleries and Skate Parks in Akron

Lock 3 Park in Akron
Douglas Sacha / Getty Images
990 Derby Downs Dr, Akron, OH 44306, USA
Phone +1 330-733-0810

Akron, located 45 minutes south of Cleveland, offers a bounty of free activities. The "Rubber City" is home to several beautiful parks including  Akron Skate Park, the perfect skate spot for all levels of skaters, as well as Summit County Metroparks, where you’ll find more than 120 miles of hiking and skiing trails.

Visit the Summit Artspace Gallery, which displays local artwork, and enjoy the Akron Art Museum, where children 17 and under get in free (adults must pay a small fee to enter). Nearby, Lock 3 Park hosts free family-friendly events year-round, from concerts to auto shows and trolley rides.

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05 of 09

Discover Toledo's Art Museum and Arboretum

Sculpture, Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio

Duane Schermerhorn / Flickr / CC

4131 Tantara Rd, Toledo, OH 43623, USA
Phone +1 419-841-1007

Toledo, just a two-hour drive west of Cleveland on the western side of Lake Erie, can be surprisingly affordable. Learn why this city is called the Glass Capital of the country at the Toledo Museum of Art, where you'll be able to see thousands of glass art pieces on display.

Stroll through Toledo’s historic neighborhoods like the Old West End, home to plenty of late 19th century structures including Victorian, Queen Anne, and other architectural styles spread among 25 city blocks. Visit lovely parks like the Stranahan Arboretum on the western side of Toledo, a relaxing preserve featuring lawns, ponds, ornamental trees, and natural woods.

06 of 09

See 18,000-year-old Fossils Near Cedar Point

Glacial grooves at Kelleys Island State Park in Ohio

Posnov / Getty Images

301 Jackson St, Sandusky, OH 44870-2621, USA
Phone +1 419-626-6111

Visiting Cedar Point, one of America's favorite amusement parks, can get expensive. Thankfully, Ohio's north-central region—including Sandusky, located about an hour west of Cleveland—offers plenty of fun and interesting things to do for free.

For a unique experience, check out Ice Age remnants like 18,000-year-old glacial grooves and marine fossils at the Glacial Grooves Geological Preserve on the north side of Kelleys Island State Park. The lake's coastline also offers many public access beaches like East Harbor State Park and dog-friendly Catawba Island State Park, perfect spots for a picnic or a scenic hike through the wilderness.

07 of 09

Get to Know Cincinnati’s Museums and Neighborhoods

International Butterfly Show Held In Cincinnati

Mike Simons / Getty Images

1501 Eden Park Dr, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6030, USA
Phone +1 513-421-4086

Visiting the "Queen City" doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. This southwest Ohio metropolis located along the Ohio River is home to the Cincinnati Art Museum, a wonderful free place to explore in the Eden Park cultural district, with more than 60,000 objects from European portraits to the largest collection of ancient ​Nabataean art outside Jordan.

It’s also fun to stroll around eclectic and historic Cincinnati neighborhoods like Mount Adams for shopping opportunities and diverse restaurants, as well as parks such as Sawyer Point on the riverfront, where visitors will find festivals, art fairs, fishing, and volleyball courts, among other activities.

08 of 09

Step Back Into the Past in Dayton

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park

Jasperdo / Flickr

16 S Williams St, Dayton, OH 45402-8235, USA
Phone +1 937-225-7705

This friendly southwestern Ohio city about an hour north of Cincinnati, also known as the home of aviation, features a wealth of parks (like Aviation Historic Park) and other sites honoring the accomplishments of the Wright Brothers, who invented the first power-driven aircraft.

Carillon Historical Park, with its 65-acre living history museum, makes another good stop south of downtown. The Oregon District is the city's oldest neighborhood and was the first to be designated as a historic district; today it’s home to a number of art galleries, restored homes, bed and breakfasts, and restaurants. Another site that may interest visitors is the Woodland Cemetery, one of the country's largest garden cemeteries.

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09 of 09

See Concerts and Shop at Boutiques in Columbus

An intersection in the center of Columbus, Ohio

mrtom-uk / Getty Images

480 E Broad St, Columbus, OH 43215-3823, USA
Phone +1 614-221-6801

Central Ohio and Columbus—the state capital and the most populated city in the state—offer a number of free things to see and do if you know where to look. 

The Columbus Museum of Art, which displays late 19th and early 20th-century American and European modern artwork, offers free admission on Sundays, as well as free daily entry for children under three, museum members, and members of the military and their families. If you are traveling with kids, The JPMorgan Chase Center for Creativity, located within the art museum, is filled with engaging interactive activities and exhibitions.

North Market is a great spot for people-watching, with free concerts and plenty of restaurants and boutiques to check out. Around town, Columbus Metro Parks provide locals and visitors alike with more than 175 miles of trails and a plethora of child-friendly events to choose from all year long.

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9 Top Free Things to Do in Ohio