Ohio is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, great sports teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and the Ohio State Buckeyes, and Cedar Point, repeatedly voted America’s Favorite Amusement Park. However, the Buckeye State is also full of smaller, quirky, one-of-a-kind attractions, perfect for a short distraction as you travel around Ohio’s highways.
Serpent Mound – Located east of Cincinnati in Adams County, the Serpent Mound is a unique burial site that dates back to the days of the Adena and Hopewell tribes that once populated the area. According to the Ohio Historical Society, the snake-shaped formation is the largest and finest serpent effigy in the United States. The site is open daily during daylight hours. Admission (2011 prices) is $7 per vehicle.
The “Y” Bridge – Located in downtown Zanesville, about an hour’s drive east of Columbus, this bridge spans both the Licking and Muskingum Rivers. The fifth bridge to built on this spot, the Y Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The fork in the middle of the bridge is fun for kids and adults alike. What’s more: it’s free. The bridge is easy to find; it’s located right on US 40.
The Polka Hall of Fame – Just east of Cleveland in the suburb of Euclid, Ohio, sits the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame. Northeast Ohio, home to many Polish, Czech and Slovenian immigrants, has produced a number of renowned polka musicians, including Frankie Yankovic. This free museum contains a treasure of polka memorabilia, photographs and recordings. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday noon to 5:00 p.m. and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The Smolen Gulf Bridge – Ashtabula County, in extreme northeastern Ohio, is home to 17 covered bridges. Among these is the Smolen Gulf Bridge, the longest covered bridge in the United States. The 613-foot bridge is located on State Road, just south of downtown Ashtabula. It’s free to drive across the bridge and there’s a lookout point and visitors center on the south side.
Festivals – If quirky festivals are your passion, Ohio is happy to oblige. There’s the Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival, held the third weekend in August; the Avon Duct Tape Festival, held each June; the October Circleville Pumpkin Festival; and the Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival in August, just to name a few.
Quilt Barns of Adams County – Gone are the old Mail Pouch barn signs. They’ve been replaced, at least in Adams County, by larger-than-life quilt patterns painted on the sides of vintage barns. There are more than 20 of these colorful displays throughout the county, which is located in southern Ohio, east of Cincinnati.
World’s Largest Horseshoe Crab – The world’s largest horseshoe crab (or at least a replica of one) is located in Blanchester, Ohio, about 35 miles northeast of Cincinnati. The giant crab, originally designed for the Baltimore Maritime Museum, sits in front of the Freedom Worship Baptist Church at the edge of town. Modified to be a pavilion that seats up to 60 persons, the crab is part of the church’s Biblical Scripture Garden.
Topiary Garden – French Impressionist art moves out of the gallery at the Columbus Topiary Park, located just east of downtown. The topiary bushes in the seven-acre park are all sculpted to represent the characters from George Seurat’s famous painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of la Grande Jatte.” The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset and there is no admission fee.
Longaberger Headquarters – The home offices of the Longaberger Company, makers of those unique well-crafted baskets, is shaped like an enormous, woven basket. The seven-story, 180,000-square foot building is located in Newark, Ohio, about one hour’s drive east of Columbus. The facility, which opened in 1997, is striking from the road or you can schedule a free tour with one of Longaberger’s home consultants.
Ohio State Reformatory at Mansfield – This somber former boys reformatory, located in Mansfield, is reputed to be haunted. It’s also been used in several films, including “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Air Force One.” The Gothic fortress-like stone structure closed in 1990, and today, self-guided tours are offered Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for those age 7 through 17 (2011 prices.) Children under 7 are discouraged from visiting due to environmental concerns and the nature of the facility.
Other Ohio Travel Articles by Sandy Mitchell
Ohio’s Best Spas
Tracing the Steps of Ohio’s Presidents
Where to Stay in Northeast Ohio’s Wine Country
City of Zanesville: Y Bridge