Take a drive up Interstate 71, the expressway that cuts across Ohio from southwest to northeast, and you'll see signs for historic sites, amusement parks, and many other things to do. You'll also hit each of Ohio's three largest cities: Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. The three cities have plenty in common—blue-collar industrial backbones, die-hard sports fan bases—but visit each and there will be no mistaking one for the other.
The state capital and home of The Ohio State Buckeyes, Columbus encompasses vibrant neighborhoods such as the Short North district. There, on the first Saturday of each month, people come to peruse paintings and sculptures at dozens of galleries and non-traditional exhibition spaces in an event known as Gallery Hop. Plan on returning to Columbus frequently, since the city hosts numerous other events, including the annual Ohio State Fair.
Though second in population to Columbus, Cleveland holds its own culturally. Its most famous destination is perhaps the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Here, rotating exhibits examine both individual acts (The Beatles, Michael Jackson) and rock's origins and evolution ("The Architects of Rock and Roll"). Another must-see destination is NASA's Glenn Research Center, which highlights Cleveland's contributions to the space program.
Cincinnati was once a center for trade along the Ohio River, and today you'll still find paddle wheelers floating along the water. But you'll also find plenty of high culture. Music Hall showcases two of Cincinnati's premier performing groups: the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Pops Orchestra. Whereas the CSO breathes new life into classical music, the Pops are known for their orchestral arrangements of modern tunes.
To begin exploring some of Ohio's smaller towns, you could head east of Cincinnati to Peebles, home of Serpent Mound, a snake-shaped earthwork created by ancient Native Americans. Visitors can also view the nearby conical burial mounds, two of which were created by the Adena Culture, who thrived in the area from 800 BC–100 AD.
North of Cincinnati lies Warren County and Fort Ancient, where visitors can hike through dense forests or visit a 9,000 square foot museum that houses exhibits such as "When Worlds Collide," a look at the first contact between Europeans and Ohio's Native Americans. The outdoor drama Tecumseh! also takes as its subject these interactions between Native Americans and European settlers. During the play, which is performed in the hilly forests of Chillicothe, audiences sit beneath the stars as actors bring the story of the legendary Shawnee leader to life.
Some of the world's tallest and fastest rollercoasters can be found in Ohio, namely at Cedar Point. The seasonal amusement park, built on a Lake Erie peninsula in the town of Sandusky, thrills visitors with more than 15 coasters, including the 310-foot, 93-mile-per-hour Millennium Force.