If you’re like me, there are few things in life you enjoy more than a good road trip with a full itinerary. Ohio is the perfect destination – just 6-8 hours from Nashville (with convenient stops in between if you want to break it up further), and TONS to do – museums, parks, breweries, sports – it’s a great, easy vacation destination for solo travelers, families, or anyone looking for a change of scenery.
Here is a suggested itinerary.
Day 1: Head up to Marion, Ohio to see the Warren G. Harding Presidential Site. I suggest two hours here, so plan to leave Nashville early to allow time to tour before the museum closes. There’s not a lot else happening in Marion, but it is a sweet little town.
Pro Tip – Elizabethtown, Kentucky had the cheapest gas on my route both up and back. Check there first!
Day 2: The next morning, grab a coffee at The Remnant in downtown Marion, one of the cutest shops I’ve been to, before heading north to Fremont, OH to catch one of the first tours at the Rutherford B. Hayes museum. This museum is the first Presidential library (kinda; there are two ways to define that term) and the grounds are beautiful.
Next head to Cleveland where you can catch a later tour of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This museum is HUGE – and honestly, overstimulating. But, it is worth a visit, and you could spend all day here if you wanted. I spent about two hours which was hurried, but also adequate for my interest level.
Pro Tip – if you plan to visit both Rock & Roll and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, buy your tickets as a package. They can be used on different days and it saves you about $18.
After the museums, refuel at some of Cleveland’s great restaurants and bars. Noble Beast Brewery has delicious beer and killer nachos, and the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library is a must visit. This dive bar was named after our 13th President and Alec Baldwin’s doppleganger when the good people of Cleveland realized he was the only President without a library. lolol.
Day 3: Grab some breakfast at the VERY cute and equally delicious Juneberry Cafe before heading to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Another place where you could stay all day, I spent about an hour and a half doing a waterfall hike, and it was just so peaceful and lovely. Also, this park was the most organized and well-staffed I’ve visited. They even had volunteers stationed throughout the high traffic areas in case anyone needed help.
From there, head to Mentor, Ohio to tour the beautiful home of James A. Garfield, perhaps our most intelligent President, who was tragically assassinated a few months into office. And then back to Cleveland for a complete change of pace…touring the Christmas Story house! This time capsule tour was definitely worth it, but an hour was sufficient for me.
For dinner, check out another great Cleveland brewery, Great Lakes Brewing Company, the first microbrewery in the state. This place is huge and they have great food (I recommend the fish and chips).
Day 4: On your way out of Cleveland, be sure to stop by West Side Market, the lively permanent market full of beautiful fruit and vegetable vendors, tempting bakeries, and plenty of prepared food and drink options.
The First Lady’s Presidential Site was my first stop in Canton. To be honest, that museum was very disappointing. HOWEVER, this is the departure point for tours of the home of President McKinley (another assassinated President) and his wife Ida, and that tour was very good (one room of that home had 26 individual wallpapers and it was lovely).
Next I headed over to the McKinley museum and memorial. Y’all…just skip this one. I included it in case you’re trying to get to all the Presidents, but the museum was an embarrassment, unless you were really into the history of the city of Canton/the county. The (free) memorial is worth visiting, but that’s it.
For dinner, Fat Head’s Brewery in North Canton was so good and such a fun vibe. And while you’re there, pop over to TJ Maxx in that same plaza. I kid you not – that is the BEST TJ Maxx I have EVER been to.
Day 5: Start the day at the Pro Football Hall of Fame – an absolutely incredible museum. It is so well-organized and has interesting exhibits for the historian, the modern fan, kids, adults – everyone. Their interactive films were impressive and interesting, and the Hall of Fame itself was easy to navigate and take pictures with your faves. I was there for at least 2.5 hours and probably could have spent longer.
When you are ready to begin the trek back to Nashville (a little longer on the way back then up), don’t be sad – there are still some fun things for your return journey! Take a snack break at Grandpa’s Cheese Barn where you can ask for samples of almost all of their products – as well as order prepared food from their deli. And of course, when in Ohio, a Skyline pit stop is an absolute must.
Please note: I was able to accomplish this itinerary in 5 days, but it’s very ambitious – I was traveling alone AND I’m a huge nerd so give me all the museums in one day, please!
To make this more manageable, I recommend stopping in Cincinnati and/or Louisville on the way up or back, and then spreading everything out over 7 days instead of 5. Bonus: if you stop in Cincinnati, you can add one more Presidential museum – William H. Taft.
While my trip definitely skewed more intellectual, there really is something for everyone in Ohio (One of the things I loved most about touring the Presidential homes in close succession was seeing the changing architectural and interior design. If you’re not a history buff but you are into design, you might find that part interesting, as well.)
Be sure to add this underrated destination to your list for when you want a low key, budget and family-friendly (or solo-traveler-friendly!), easy trip out of town.