Hands-on experiences are one of the best ways to learn and make education more engaging. Give your students the opportunity to make lasting memories and to learn something new as you consider this list of free activities and field trip locations, from great works of art to the great outdoors! If you’re a teacher or a parent looking for free learning opportunities for your curious crew, check out one of these free field trip destinations around the great state of Ohio! Please note that large groups sometimes require advance reservations; be sure to contact the organization you’re interested in directly for more information.

In and around Akron, Ohio

Akron Police Museum

For those interested in law and order, consider a tour of the Akron Police Museum and learn about the history of the Akron Police Department. Police equipment, uniforms spanning the decades, historical photos, and a 1965 Harley-Davidson police motorcycle are some of the displays you will encounter in the museum.

Operating Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:00am-3:30pm

Notes: Check the website or contact the Community Relations Department for current hours and availability of tours.

Website: https://www.downtownakron.com/go/akron-police-museum   

Phone: 330-375-2390

Akron Art Museum

Live creatively! Thursdays are free admission days at the Akron Art Museum, so visit their renowned collection of modern and contemporary art! Growing from a small, eclectic collection housed in two borrowed rooms in the basement of the public library, the Akron Art Museum has blossomed into a 63,000 square foot location filled with a variety of art and artists, rotating exhibits, and art programs for children and adults of the Akron community.

Admission to the Bud & Susie Rogers Garden on the Museum grounds is free.

Operating Hours: Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-5pm; Thursday, 11am-9pm Bud & Susie Rogers Garden Hours: Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm; Thursday, 9am-9pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10am-5pm

Notes: Gallery and Museum are closed Mondays and most major holidays

Website: https://akronartmuseum.org/

Phone: 330-376-9185

The Butler Institute of American Art

This museum celebrates American art and showcases the works of American artists in all media. With over 20,000 individual works, the Butler is considered “America’s Museum”. From their locations in Youngstown and Howland Township, the museum holds juried exhibitions and rotating collections of art ranging from printmaking to photography. Their “Arts in the Early Morning Programs” offer free activities focused on specific age groups from strollers to seniors – check out their website for a complete calendar of events.    

Operating Hours: The Butler Institute of American Art (Youngstown): Tuesday-Saturday, 11:00am-4:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm-4:00pm; closed Mondays and major holidays. The Butler Trumball Branch (Howland): Wednesday-Saturday, 11:00am-4:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm-4pm, Closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and major holidays.

Notes: Guided tours available

Website: https://www.butlerart.com  

Phone: 330-743-1107 (Youngstown); 330-609-9900 (Howland)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Part of the National Park Service, the Cuyahoga Valley Park is full of activities and adventure for all ages! Visit the Park’s website for a list of daily activities and events and plan to visit the Boston Store Visitor Center at the start of your trip to familiarize yourself with all the Park has to offer. The Canal Exploration Center is a historic building that now houses an interactive Canal Era exhibit for children and adults. The Hunt House offers child-friendly, hands-on nature exhibits. Rangers and volunteers are available throughout the Park to answer questions or provide guidance. The Park offers a variety of day field trips and student explorer opportunities; please check the website for details.

Operating Hours: Open every day of the year; Boston Store Visitor Center closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day

Notes: Some areas close at dusk, the remaining areas are open 24/7 – check the website for a list of closed areas; some activities within the park do charge a fee (i.e., the scenic train ride) – check the website for fees

Website: https://www.nps.gov/cuva/index.htm

Phone: 330-657-2752

In and around Ashland County, Ohio

Ashland County Historical Society

Did you know that Ashland, Ohio was once the balloon capital of the world? Learn more about Ashland County’s rich history with a visit to the Ashland Historical Society. Comprised of three fully restored historical houses and a nineteenth-century barn, visitors can step back in time to experience Ashland at the turn of the 19th century, visit what was possibly the first brick house built in the town, and browse through antiques and collectibles, including photos, newspaper clippings, and histories of the county. There is a collection of military weapons and other collectibles and the Veteran’s History Committee is recording the oral histories of Ashland County veterans, the videos of which are kept in the Society’s library and are accessible for public viewing. Don’t forget to check out the Thornburg Insect Collection, one of the largest collections in the U.S.!

Operating Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays, 11:00am-2:00pm (April through December)

Website: http://www.ashlandhistory.org

Phone: 419-289-3111

Ashland Symphony Orchestra

Music lovers, rejoice! The Ashland Symphony Orchestra presents a variety of free concerts and events throughout the year and offers some outreach programs free of charge. Check out their website for a complete calendar of events or to schedule a visit with a Conductor or Musical Ensemble.

Operating Hours: Office hours for Orchestra Tickets are Tuesday-Friday, 9am-12pm.

Website: http://www.ashlandsymphony.org/

Phone: 419-289-5115

In and around Athens, Ohio

Kennedy Museum of Art, Athens

Located on the campus of Ohio University, Athens, the Kennedy Museum of Art is open to the public for viewing of its national and international exhibitions. Collections of Southwest Native American textiles, ceramics, and jewelry; American paintings; drawings and photography; contemporary prints; and ceramics and sculpture make up its permanent collections and exhibitions. Rotating visiting exhibitions and collections are also on display – check the website for current exhibitions.

Operating Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am-8:00pm; Friday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Saturday-Sunday, 1:00pm-5:00pm

Notes: Closed on University holidays

Website:  ohio.edu/museum

Phone: 740-593-1304

In and around Canton, Ohio

Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center

Learn about the wildlife in your own backyard! The Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center offers displays of Ohio and North American wildlife, a kids’ discovery room, a snake and insect display, and Native American artifacts for visitors to learn about and view. Programs including learning about local reptiles, a wildflower hike, and a butterfly activity for the whole family are offered free of charge. Check their website for an updated calendar of events.

Operating Hours: Saturday and Sunday, 1:00pm-5:00pm (first weekend of May through the first weekend of October)

Notes: Some workshops require pre-registration due to space limitations.

Website: https://www.beavercreekwildlife.org

Phone: 757-876-5438

Canton Museum of Art

Calling all art enthusiasts! The Canton Museum of Art showcases a collection of American watercolors and works on paper from the 19th century to the present and contemporary ceramics and sculpture. The museum also offers art workshops for all ages, though fees may apply. Their artisan boutique located on-site supports local Ohio designers and artists by showcasing local artisan crafts.

Operating Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 10:00am-8:00pm; Friday and Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Sunday 1:00pm-5:00pm

Notes: Free admission to the gallery every Thursday and free the first Friday of every month; regular hours do not apply during exhibit installation and changeovers or special event periods, so please check the website or the museum’s Facebook page for updated hours.

Website: https://www.cantonart.org

Phone: 330-453-7666

In and around Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati Art Museum

Get lost in time with a visit to the Cincinnati Art Museum. With a collection of more than 67,000 pieces of artwork spanning 6,000 years and multiple continents, visitors are invited to view the permanent collection and the traveling exhibits hosted throughout the year. Wander the Museum on your own or sign up for a free docent-led tour, available daily. The Museum offers a wide range of art-related programs for all ages – visit their website for more details.

Operating Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 11:00am-5:00pm; Thursday, 11:00am-8:00pm

Notes: Closed Mondays, general admission to the museum is free, though there may be a fee for some special exhibitions – check the website for details

Website: http://www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org/

Phone: 513-721-2787

Cincinnati Library

More than just a public library, the Cincinnati Library has a variety of programs geared toward all ages, from kids to teens to adults and seniors. From homework help to the Veterans History Project, the Cincinnati Library offers thousands of free programs each year for all ages. Check their website for a complete list.

Operating Hours: Main Library: Monday-Wednesday, 9:00am-9:00pm; Thursday-Saturday, 9:00am-6:00pm; Sunday, 1:00pm-5:00pm

Notes: Check the website for a current list of events – some may require registration

Website: http://www.cincinnatilibrary.org

Phone: 513-369-6900

Contemporary Arts Center

Tired of the same old, same old? A visit to the Contemporary Arts Center will cure that as the Center is a non-collecting institution, meaning that there is no permanent collection housed there and the exhibitions on view are temporary displays and are constantly changing. Encouraging artists everywhere to experience contemporary art, the Center hosts community events, exhibitions, performances, and art outreach programs for all ages – visit their website for details.

Operating Hours: Saturday-Monday, 10:00am-4:00pm, Wednesday-Friday, 10:00am-9:00pm

Notes: No backpacks, large bags, food, or drink in the Galleries

Website: https://www.contemporaryartscenter.org/

Phone: 513-345-8400

Eden Park

Take a nature walk in the heart of Cincinnati. Eden Park and its 186 acres is home to a variety of city landmarks and memorials, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Krohn Conservatory, and Hinkle Magnolia Garden. With picnic areas and playground features, stroll through the park and enjoy scenic river and lake views, public art, and manicured gardens. Check the website for a calendar of free community events.

Operating Hours: Daily, 6:00am-10:00pm

Website: http://www.cincinnatiparks.com/central/eden-park/

Phone: 513-357-2604

In and around Cleveland, Ohio

Baseball Heritage Museum

Celebrate America’s favorite pastime with a trip to the Baseball Heritage Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. Share in the love of the game viewing memorabilia and equipment from major names in baseball and the unsung heroes. Exhibits showcasing women’s baseball, baseball in Cuba, and Satchell Paige’s Traveling All-Stars are among the exhibits on display.

Operating Hours: Summer Hours: Saturdays, 10:00am-4:00pm; Sundays, 12:00pm-4:00pm; Wednesdays and Fridays, 1:00pm-5:00pm

Notes: Hours vary by season – check website for current hours

Website: http://baseballheritagemuseum.org

Phone: 216-789-1083

Cleveland Cultural Gardens

A collection of more than 30 gardens representing the diversity and multiculturalism of Cleveland, the Cleveland Cultural Gardens are a beautiful way to enjoy Cleveland. From Albanian to Vietnamese gardens, each garden section is carefully designed and cultivated by cultural or national groups. And with the wide variety of gardens, something is always in bloom. In addition to the flora, the gardens also include depictions of notable cultural figures and monuments to specific achievements of each nation. The Gardens are a part of Rockefeller Park and extend roughly 1.5 miles on MLK and East Boulevards. There are also a variety of events held in the park and various gardens, so visit their website for an up-to-date list of events. The One World Day celebration held at the end of the summer is an especially popular event.

Operating Hours: Daily

Notes: Walking tours may be booked – contact the organization regarding fees and scheduling

Website: http://www.clevelandculturalgardens.org/

Phone: 216-220-3075

Cleveland Institute of Music

Enjoy an evening (or morning or afternoon) of classical music! The Cleveland Institute of Music is an independent music conservatory that offers free concerts and master classes to the public. CIM is one of three music conservatories in the US devoted exclusively to the performance of classical music. They have world-renowned musicians and conductors speak and perform as part of their concert series. Check their website for a list of free to the public concerts and events available.

Operating Hours: Concert and event hours vary

Notes: Some events require the purchase of a ticket or seating pass

Website: https://www.cim.edu/concerts-events

Phone: 216-791-5000

Cleveland Museum of Art

When Jeptha Wade deeded the land the museum now sits, he noted that it was to be used “for the benefit of all the people forever”. Thus, the Cleveland Museum of Art is committed to welcoming members of the community and visitors to the area into its collection art representing the human experience. The Cleveland Museum of Art opened in 1916 to serve a community seeking a comprehensive art museum. In its 100+ year history, the Cleveland Museum of Art has established art programs for children and adults and has gained an international reputation in its collection of significant works. Rotating exhibitions and permanent collections inspire all who share the experience of being human.  

Operating Hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: 10:00am-5:00pm; Wednesday and Friday, 10:00am-9:00pm.

Notes: The Museum is closed on Mondays; some exhibits may require the purchase of tickets – see the website for a list of events, performances, and exhibits; some events are free, but require registration – see the website for a list of events, performances, and exhibits.

Website: http://www.clevelandart.org/

Phone: 216-421-7350

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

Do you like money? The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland offers hands-on, interactive exhibits to teach visitors about personal finance, economics, and the history of money. You can trade on Barter Island to test your ability to trade for what you need in a world without money, stand beneath their 23-foot money tree, see if you can spot counterfeit money, and pick up a free financial skills booklet that introduces kids to the concept of money.

Operating Hours: Monday-Thursday, 9:30am-2:30pm

Notes: Visitors age 16 and older must present a valid driver’s license, school ID, or other photo ID for admission into the building; closed Fridays and for occasional special events – call or check the website before arriving; group tours may be scheduled in advance for groups larger than 10 and may be scheduled for Tuesdays at 2:00pm or Thursdays at 10:00am.

Website: https://www.clevelandfed.org/learningcenter

Phone: 216-579-3188

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument

Remember the sacrifices made by the soldiers and sailors who have fought for American values and freedom when you visit the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in the Public Square of Cleveland, Ohio. The monument commemorates the American Civil War and consists of a 125-foot column with a Memorial Room and esplanade at its base. The interior of the monument is newly renovated, with its original coloration restored, new lighting, and refurbished stained glass windows. The Tablet Walls list the names of honored veterans who have served their country.

Operating Hours: Daily from 10:00am-5:30pm with additional hours as posted

Notes: Hours vary by season – check the website for current hours

Website: http://www.soldiersandsailors.com

Phone: 216-621-3710

In and around Columbus, Ohio

Al’s Delicious Popcorn Tour

If the smell of popcorn sets your mouth to watering, check out the free tours offered at Al’s Delicious Popcorn. A small, family-owned and operated business, Al’s obsession with delivering a quality product has resulted in a wide variety of hand-crafted gourmet popcorn selections that you can sample for a small fee at the end of your tour!

Operating Hours: Tours are offered January 15th through September 15th and you must make an appointment ahead of time

Notes: Tours are available by appointment ONLY, and are offered at 11:30am or 1:30pm Monday-Friday; tours are free, but sample bags are $1.25-$1.50 and must be ordered ahead of time so they are available at the end of your tour.

Website: http://www.alspopcorn.com 

Phone: 614-451-7677

Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum

Looking for a little humor? Billy Ireland was a self-taught cartoonist who worked for the Columbus Dispatch newspaper drawing editorial cartoons. He also penned a weekly feature, The Passing Show, a full-page color strip published every Sunday. His work targeted local politics, culture, and the locally beloved Ohio State sports teams. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, part of the Ohio State University Library system, is home to the world’s largest collection of cartoon and comic-related materials, including original art by Ireland and others, comic books, archival materials, and newspaper comic strip pages and clippings.

Operating Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 1:00pm-5:00pm

Notes: Closed Mondays and major holidays – check the website for a complete list; the site may also be closed during exhibit installations

Website: https://cartoons.osu.edu

Phone: 614-292-0538

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Located just two miles east of downtown Columbus, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens operates from within Franklin Park and offers visitors a look at lush gardens, special seasonal horticulture and art exhibitions, and a variety of botanical biomes. The Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Garden Campus, a 4-acre garden with community garden plots, a rose pavilion, and berry house, is free and open to the public daily from dawn to dusk.

On the first Sunday of each month, the Conservatory is free for residents of Franklin County and the City of Columbus (with valid ID) during normal operating hours of 10am to 5pm. Check their website or call the location to inquire about other free events sponsored by the Conservatory.

Operating Hours: 10am-5pm daily

Website: https://www.fpconservatory.org/

Phone: 614-715-8000

Ohio Statehouse

Visit a working body of government as you tour the Ohio Statehouse, Senate Building, and Atrium. Completed in 1861, the Statehouse is an example of Greek Revival architecture while the Senate Building boasts the Grand Stair Hall, created in Carrara marble with murals on the ceiling. The Atrium is a recent addition, completed in 1993 as a connector between the Statehouse and the Senate Building. However, the Atrium is home to the Lincoln Plaque, commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s visit to Ohio in 1859 where he spoke from the area where the Atrium is now located. All of these buildings, as well as the statues and monuments located throughout the 10-acres that make up Capitol Square are open to the public.

Operating Hours: Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm; Saturday-Sunday, 11:00am-5:00pm

Notes: Free guided tours are offered Monday-Friday every hour on the hour from 10:00am-3:00pm and Saturday-Sunday every hour from 12:00pm-3:00pm. “Monument Cell Phone Tours” are also available to learn about the history of the monuments on the Capitol grounds – check the website for instructions; the Ohio Statehouse is closed on major holidays – see the website for a complete list.

Website: http://www.ohiostatehouse.org

Phone: 614-752-9777

Riffe Gallery

Immerse yourself in Ohio art and culture as the Ohio Arts Council showcases the work of Ohio artists and curators with rotating exhibitions at the Riffe Gallery. Events and programs including “Artist Talks” are free and open to the public. See their website for current exhibitions.

Operating Hours: Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am-8:00pm; Saturday, 11:00am-4:00pm

Website: http://www.oac.ohio.gov/Riffe-Gallery/On-View

Phone: 614-728-2239

Robbins Hunter Museum

On the National Register of Historic Places, this historic house museum is filled with 18th and 19th-century decorative arts collected by the home’s original owners and added to over the years. Completed in 1842 and serving as a private residence until 1903, the Avery-Downer House, which houses the Robbins Hunter Museum, was also used as a fraternity house until the 1950s when it again became a private residence and then was transformed into a museum to celebrate this stellar example of Greek Revival architecture in the heart of Granville, Ohio. Rotating exhibits and events on the museum grounds and gardens are accessible to the public.  

Operating Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 1:00pm-4:00pm (April-December)

Notes: Admission is free, though donations are graciously accepted. If you are going with a group of 10 or more, you must make a reservation and pay $5/person. Special exhibitions may require purchased tickets for entrance. 

Website: http://www.robbinshunter.org/

Phone: 740-587-0430

Thurber House

“Where laughter, learning, and literature meet.” This is the tagline for the Thurber House, a museum, of sorts, dedicated to literacy and literature. Housed in the home of James Thurber, celebrated humorist, author, and New Yorker cartoonist, the literacy center hosts author readings, writing classes for children and adults, and awards the prestigious Thurber Prize for American Humor. The museum portion of the home includes a wide range of Thurber memorabilia.

Operating Hours: Daily, 1:00pm-4:00pm

Notes: Self-guided tours are free; guided tours are available ($4 for adults, $2 for students and seniors) on Sunday afternoons, from 1:00pm-4:00pm; some programs and events are fee-based – see website for details.

Website: http://www.thurberhouse.org

Phone: 614-464-1032

Topiary Park

Is that a…monkey?!? Come see living art at the Topiary Park in Columbus, Ohio. This garden is a landscape of a painting of a landscape and the vision of sculptor James T. Mason, who created the idea of bringing George Seurat’s famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte to life through topiary. Located on the grounds of what was once the Ohio School for the Deaf, the 7-acre park is meticulously landscaped and includes more than 220 trees, a variety of flowerbeds, and of course the topiary figures.

Operating Hours: Seasonal: May-September, weather and conditions permitting, open daily, 11:00am-3:00pm

Notes: Check the website for off-season event openings and park hours

Website: http://www.topiarypark.org

Phone: 614-645-0197

In and around Dayton, Ohio

Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm

An environmental education and nature center, Aullwood Audubon Center provides activities and programs that help the community learn and understand about the preservation of the planet. With miles of walking trails and over 200 acres of nature sanctuary, thousands of people come each year to get back to nature.

Operating Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9:00am-5:00pm, Sunday 1:00pm-5:00pm

Notes: There is a daily admission fee, but check the website for the calendar of free events.

Website: http://aullwood.audubon.org

Phone: 937-890-7360

Aullwood Garden

Aullwood Garden, part of the Five Rivers Metroparks organization, is named in honor of Marie Aull, the “godmother of the environmental movement in southwestern Ohio”. The grounds include expansive gardens, a native prairie, and giant oak, ash, and sycamore trees, including the 600-year old “Marie’s Sycamore”, which was growing at the time Columbus sailed to the Americas. The Aull House, dating back to 1907, is open occasionally for tours. Wander the mile-long garden path to enjoy the variety of flowers, catch a glimpse of butterflies, and see hummingbirds, finches, and sparrows in their native prairie habitat.

Operating Hours: April 1-October 31, 8:00am-10:00pm; November 1-March 31, 8:00am-8:00pm

Website: https://www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/aullwood-garden/

Phone: 937-275-7275

Bear’s Mill

Step back in time by visiting the Bear’s Mill, one of the few water-powered mills still in operation today. Grain takes a journey through the Mill’s four-stories, passing through French Buhr millstones to be ground into healthy, minimally processed flours and meals. Numbered signs located throughout the Mill building provide insight and history of the Mill’s role in the community. In addition to its rustic setting, Bear’s Mill also features a rotating exhibition of art and photography of the region.

Operating Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11:00am-5:00pm; Sunday, 1:00pm-5:00pm

Notes: Free self-guided tours can be taken through each floor of the mill or organized tours are available for a fee.

Website: http://www.bearsmill.org/

Phone: 937-548-5112

Brukner Nature Center

Enjoy some time outdoors and perhaps catch a glimpse of some local birds and wildlife with a visit to the Brukner Nature Center. Committed wildlife conservation and rehabilitation, the 165-acre wildlife preserve has 6 miles of hiking trails, an Interpretive Center with seasonal wildlife exhibits, and a log house dating back to 1804. The Nature Library is open to the public and has an extensive collection of picture books for children. Visitors can also visit the Tree-Top Bird Vista, a premier birding spot for bird enthusiasts.

Operating Hours: Interpretive Center Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9:00am-5:00pm; Sunday, 12:30pm-5:00pm; Brukner Nature Center trails are open sunrise to sunset 7 days a week

Notes: Sunday admission is free, there is a $2.50 charge per person all other days of the week; Interpretive Building is closed on major holidays and for special events, so please check the calendar on the website; no credit cards; no pets

Website: http://www.bruknernaturecenter.com  

Phone: 937-698-6493

Carriage Hill

If a return to simpler times is what you are looking for, you’ll find it at Carriage Hill. Part of the Five Rivers Metroparks organization, Carriage Hill includes a Visitor’s Center with an interactive “classroom” for the kids, fishing at Cedar Lake, and miles of hiking trails. The historical farm on Carriage Hill recreates what life on a family farm was like in the 1880s. Volunteers and staff demonstrate period farming techniques and domestic activities throughout the year. Visitors can explore the blacksmith shop, historic farmhouse, barn, and woodshop. Heirloom vegetables grow in the garden and a variety of farm animals call Carriage Hill home.

Operating Hours: April-October: Visitor Center, Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Sunday, 12:00pm-5:00pm; Historical Farm Grounds: Tuesday-Sunday 8:00am-5:00pm; Historical Farm Buildings: Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Sunday, 12:00pm-5:00pm; November-March: Visitor Center, Tuesday-Sunday 12:00pm-4:00pm; Historical Farm Grounds: Tuesday-Sunday, 8:00am-4:00pm; Historical Buildings: Saturday-Sunday, 12:00pm-4:00pm

Notes: The Carriage Hill Metropark Riding Center offers trail rides, though fees may apply; check the website for a calendar of events and daily demonstrations; guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more, call the site to schedule; all farm facilities are closed on Mondays.

Website: https://www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/carriage-hill/

Phone: 937-275-7275

Cox Arboretum

Master the maze! Hike the trails! Visit the butterfly house! A trip to the Cox Arboretum, part of the Five Rivers Metroparks organization, keeps visitors busy with a wide variety of activities. The butterfly house features native pollinator plants that attract birds, bees, and butterflies and has tips on how to make home gardens more pollinator-friendly, which helps make the garden and environment healthier. The Barbara Cox Center for Sustainable Horticulture offers opportunities for visitors to learn about sustainability and horticulture while the Tree Tower offers an 81-step climb up a Douglas Fir to witness breathtaking panoramic views from 65 feet above the conifer collection at the park. The Bell Children’s Maze challenges kids (and adults!) to navigate their way through 1,175 boxwoods to the center of the maze – and back again!

Operating Hours: Park Hours: April 1-October 31, 8:00am-10:00pm; November 1-March 31, 8:00am-8:00pm; Zorniger Education Center Hours: open year-round, Monday-Friday, 8:00am-5:00pm and Saturday-Sunday, 11:00am-4:00pm.

Website: https://www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/cox-arboretum/

Phone: 937-275-7275

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

Explore the “Birthplace of Aviation” with a trip to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. The park consists of 5 locations in and around Dayton, Ohio, but the start of things is at the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center where you can explore the early careers of Wilbur and Orville Wright as printers and newspaper editors. With historical artifacts, memorabilia, and photographs learn about the impact and contributions these brothers made to modern aviation.

Operating Hours:

Notes: There are some fees to enter parts of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park – check the website for a list and for an updated calendar of free events, exhibitions, and opportunities.

Website: https://www.nps.gov/daav/index.htm

Phone: 937-225-7705

Englewood Metropark

Relax to the peaceful sound of waterfalls with a visit to Englewood Metropark, part of the Five Rivers Metropark system. Limestone and shale rocks are being carved by a series of three waterfalls, accessible on the green trail loop. Test your frisbee skills with a round of disc golf at the Blue Heron Disc Golf Course, located within the park. The Benedict Blincoe Wildlife Observation Area boasts one of the best birding sites in the area, along with possible sightings of beaver, muskrat, and raccoons.

Operating Hours: Park Hours: April 1-October 31, 8:00am-10:00pm; November 1-March 31, 8:00am-8:00pm

Notes: The lake on Martindale Road is open 24/7 for fishing and the North Park fishing ponds are open 24/7 from April 1-October 31 for fishing only; fishing activities may include fees – check the website for details.

Website: https://www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/englewood/

Phone: 937-275-7275

Germantown Metropark

Hike the 15+ miles of wooded trails, sit by the Twin Creek stream, be awed by the largest old-growth woodland in Montgomery County, and take in the spectacular views from the Valley Overlook. All of this and more await you at the Germantown Metropark, part of the Five Rivers Metroparks system, just 20 minutes from Dayton. The Welcome Center orients visitors to the area and provides interpretive displays about the local flora and fauna while hiking trails await those looking for adventure in a beautiful natural setting.

Operating Hours: April 1-October 31, 8:00am-10:00pm; November 1-March 31, 8:00am-8:00pm

Website: https://www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/germantown/

Phone: 937-275-7275

National Museum of the US Air Force

Attention pilots and aviation buffs! The National Museum of the US Air Force presents military aviation history along with historical and sensory exhibits designed to bring history to life. From flight’s early beginnings to the research and development that will launch us into advanced aerospace understanding, visitors can view the missile and space galleries, warplane examples, and see how American presidents from Roosevelt to Clinton traveled in the Presidential Gallery. The Memorial Park on the Museum’s grounds honors those who have served in Air Force-associated units for their service and sacrifice to defend the principles of American freedom.

Operating Hours: Daily, 9:00am-5:00pm

Notes: Some exhibits have special hours – check the website for details; there is a charge for the AF Museum Theater and the flight simulators; adults may be asked to show picture ID before entering

Website: http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil

Phone: 937-255-3286

Paul Laurence Dunbar House Historic Site

“I hope there is something worthy in my writings and not merely the novelty of a black face associated with the power to rhyme that has attracted attention.” – Paul Laurence Dunbar  

The fully restored home of acclaimed African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar is open for free tours for visitors to view some of Dunbar’s literary treasures, personal items, and family furnishings. Dunbar’s bicycle, a gift from neighbors Orville and Wilbur Wright, is on display, as is the desk and chair where Dunbar penned some of his most famous works. Also on display is Dunbar’s collection of Native American art and a ceremonial sword gifted to Dunbar by President Theodore Roosevelt, for whom Dunbar wrote a campaign poem. The house has been restored to the appearance it had when Dunbar and his mother lived there (early 20th century).

Operating Hours: Friday-Sunday, 10:00am-4:00pm

Notes: Hours tours are given throughout the day, with the last tour departing at 3:30pm

Website: www.ohiohistory.org/visit/museum-and-site-locator/paul-laurence-dunbar-house

Phone: 800-860-0148

Possum Creek

Visit the Education Center at Possum Creek to learn about local food and the environment. The “Edible Farm” located in the park, part of the Five Rivers Metropark system, promotes small-scale food raising for the local community and encourages novice “urban farmers” to expand their yards’ potential beyond just growing fruits and vegetables. Argonne Lake provides free-of-charge fishing, while the Argonne Forest and the Jean V. Woodhull Prairie offer visitors a glimpse into the history of land use in the area and promotes the need to conserve natural space in its natural state.

Operating Hours: Park Hours: April-October, 10:00am-10:00pm; November-March, 10:00am-8:00pm; Farm buildings at the Edible Farm are open 9:00am-3:30pm daily

Website: https://www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/possum-creek/

Phone: 937-275-7275

Taylorsville Metropark

A popular fishing and hiking spot, Taylorsville Metropark is part of the Five Rivers Metroparks system. It sits at what was once the bustling trades town of Tadmor, one of the busiest crossroads in the country. The Old National Road, Great Miami River, the Miami-Erie Canal and multiple railroads all converged here and Tadmor was considered one of the most important transportation centers in the country. Today the Park has more than 8 miles of trail, some through old-growth forest and with spectacular river views, remnants of the great Miami-Erie Canal, and visitors can walk up stone stairs to explore small caverns created by water traveling through the stone over time.

Operating Hours: April 1-October 31, 8:00am-10:00pm; November 1-March 31, 8:00am-8:00pm

Website: https://www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/taylorsville/

Phone: 937-275-7275

Wegerzyn Gardens

Get your green thumb blooming with a visit to Wegerzyn Gardens. Part of the Five Rivers Metroparks organization, a trip to Wgerzyn Gardens will help inspire your inner gardener. With insight and expertise from volunteers, visitors can learn about native plants, view design ideas for their own gardens, and discover environmentally-friendly plant combinations and cultivation techniques successful in the Miami Valley. There is also a Children’s Discovery Garden where little gardeners can get their shovels dirty and build a love for gardening.

Operating Hours: April 1-October 31, 8:00am-10:00pm; November 1-March 31, 8:00am-8:00pm; Children’s Discovery Garden Hours: March 1-March 31, 10:00am-8:00pm; April 1-October 31, 10:00am-10:00pm; November 1-December 31, 10:00am-8:00pm (closed January and February)

Notes: The water feature in the Children’s Discovery Garden is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, 10:00am-8:00pm.

Website: https://www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/wegerzyn-gardens/

Phone: 937-275-7275

In and around East Liverpool, Ohio

Beaver Creek State Park and Pioneer Village

Pioneer Village, located within Beaver Creek State Park, is a collection of log structures built in the same fashion and using the same materials as the original log structures of the early 19th century. The grist mill, canal lock, blacksmith shop, log cabin, chapel, schoolhouse, and covered bridge take visitors back to life in a pioneer village. A collection of antiques and replicas of items used by early pioneers in their daily lives are on display throughout the village.

Operating Hours: Saturday and Sunday, 12:00pm-4:00pm, May-October

Website: http://friendsofbeavercreekstatepark.org/

Phone: 740-632-1450

In and around Hocking County, Ohio

Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve

Conkle’s Hollow is a State Nature Preserve, meaning that the area tries to balance user access with the least amount of physical impact on the environment and natural ecosystem. Conkle’s Hollow is famous for its sheer Black Hand sandstone cliffs and a deep gorge that runs through the Hollow’s floor. Beautiful scenic views abound, the Lower Gorge Trail has been redesigned to accommodate visitors of all abilities, and there are 3.5 miles of trails to explore.

Operating Hours: Daily, 30 minutes before sunrise-30 minutes after sunset

Notes: Drinking water is not available on-site; see website for a complete list of rules and regulations

Website: ohttp://naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/conkleshollow

Phone: 614-265-6561

Hocking Hills State Park

Hocking Hills State Park is a part of the Ohio State Parks and Watercraft system. Explore the hollows and caves that have seen human contact for more than 7,000 years, carved into the sandstone and shale rocks that illustrate the geological history of Ohio. Naturalists and docent volunteers are on-hand to answer any questions.

Operating Hours: Daily, 30 minutes before sunrise-30 minutes after sunset

Notes: Check the website for updated events, closures, and conditions

Website: ohiodnr.gov

Phone: 740-385-6842

In and around Jackson Center, Ohio

Airstream Factory Tour

If you have kids who love anything with wheels, check out this American classic! Watch the Airstream assembly process from parts to hand rivets. Airstream Factory Tours are available Monday-Friday at 2pm and last approximately 1.5-2 hours over a one-mile walk. Please show up approximately 15 minutes early for the tour and wear close-toed shoes; hearing and eye protection will be provided.

Operating Hours: 8am-4pm, Monday-Friday

Notes: Tours offered at 2pm only; Friday tours may not include the plant in full production; call in advance to verify tour schedule or to make a reservation for groups of 10 or more

Website: https://www.airstream.com/company/tours/

Phone: 877-596-6111

In and around Sugarcreek, Ohio

Alpine Hills Historical Museum

The Alpine Hills Historical Museum in Sugarcreek, Ohio is a complete introduction to Amish Country. The free tour begins with a short video exploring Amish culture and introducing visitors to the Swiss immigrants’ impact on local history. Historical artifacts and exhibits await visitors to the museum and no trip would be complete without a try at playing their Alphorn! Across the street, you will find the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock and The Brick Wall Sculpture, a collection of 13 sculptured brick panels chronicling the local history of the area.

Operating Hours: Open April 1st – October 31st; Monday-Thursday 9:00am-4:00pm; Friday and Saturday 9:00am-5:00pm, Closed Sundays

Notes: Although there is no admission fee, donations are always accepted and greatly appreciated to help defray the costs associated with museum upkeep

Website: http://alpinehills.webstarts.com

Phone: 888-609-7592

In and around Toledo, Ohio

Bowling Green State University Fine Arts Galleries

Celebrate the arts with exhibitions of student and faculty work, in addition to nationally recognized artists, by visiting the Fine Arts Galleries located on the campus of Bowling Green State University. The Dorothy Uber Bryan Gallery boasts over 4,600 square feet of large-scale contemporary artwork pieces; within the Hiroko Nakamoto Gallery is an authentic Japanese tea ceremony room; the Little Gallery welcomes guest artists and student work, and the Willard Wankelman Gallery provides space for BFA student exhibitions. Exhibitions in the galleries are on a rotating basis of 12-14 per year, so check the website for the most up-to-date exhibit information.

Operating Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11:00am-4:00pm; Thursday, 6:00pm-9:00pm; Sunday, 1:00pm-4:00pm

Notes: Hours may change during summer exhibitions. Check the website for the most up-to-date hours.

Website: https://www.bgsu.edu/arts-and-sciences/school-of-art/galleries.html

Phone: 419-372-2786

Marblehead Lighthouse State Park

Attention mariners! Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the Great Lakes, providing a beacon of light on the Marblehead Peninsula since 1822. Visit the Lighthouse Museum and learn about the history of the lighthouse and its keepers, including two women, and the evolution of the light source from whale oil to LED bulbs.

Operating Hours: Park grounds are open year-round; Museum Buildings open daily, 12:00pm-4:00pm from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day

Notes: There is a cost to climb the lighthouse ($3 per person 6 and older, cash only); lighthouse tours may be canceled due to weather

Website: http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/marbleheadlighthouse

Phone: 419-734-4424

Maumee Bay State Park

Maumee Bay State Park is a tribute to Lake Erie, one of the largest bodies of freshwater in the world. Recreational activities including boating, fishing, nature walks, and wildlife viewing abound. The wetlands of Maumee Bay are teeming with wildlife and over 300 species of birds have been recorded there, including a number of nesting pairs of bald eagles. The Trautman Nature Center has interactive displays and is staffed by naturalists who can answer questions and provide history about the park. The Park also hosts a variety of community events – check the website for an updated calendar.

Operating Hours: Daily, 6:00am-11:00pm

Notes: Some fees may be associated with certain activities – check the website for pass and fee requirements

Website: http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/maumeebay

Phone: 419-836-7758

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

A visit to the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge exposes visitors to the flora and fauna native to northwest Ohio and the shore of Lake Eris. The roughly 6,500 acres of wetland, grassland, and wooded habitat includes portions of the Great Black Swamp and the ecosystem that lives there. The Visitor’s Center tells the history of the refuge and the surrounding lands. 10 miles of hiking trails meander through a variety of habitats. The refuge offers a variety of programs and events that are free to the public – check the website for more information and to plan your visit.  

Operating Hours: Trails are open daily from dawn to dusk; Visitor’s Center is open daily from 9:00am-4:00pm

Notes: Portions of the refuge may be closed due to weather or natural conditions – check the website before you visit; the refuge wildlife drive is not open every day – check the calendar of events on the website to see if the drive is scheduled to be open the day you plan to visit

Website: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/ottawa/   

Phone: 419-898-0014

Toledo Museum of Art

The Toledo Museum of Art prides itself on its art education for the public. In its 100+ year history, TMA has worked to educate people on how to integrate art into their lives. In addition to their Galleries, TMA offers programming and events to the community. From ancient Egyptian art and artifacts to public glass blowing demonstrations, the Toledo Museum of Art will engage at lovers of all ages.

Operating Hours: Tuesday-Wednesday, 10:00am-4:00pm; Thursday-Friday, 10:00am-9:00pm; Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Sunday, 12:00pm-5:00pm

Notes: General admission to the Museum is free, but some exhibits or events may require purchased tickets

Website: toledomuseum.org

Phone: 419-255-8000