Last Updated on September 24, 2023 by Kristin

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Ohio’s sprawling capital city of Columbus is big enough to offer genuine cosmopolitan appeal. And yet it still manages to create a laid-back environment for tourists, whether on the Ohio State University campus or the trendy Short North Arts District. However, the city is also a central springboard to other great Midwestern destinations. Here are five of the best road trips from Columbus.

Fabulous Road Trips from Columbus


74 miles / 1 hr. 12 mins.

The picturesque university town of Athens is nestled near the Hocking River in the hills of Ohio’s Appalachian region. Ohio University’s campus overlaps with the quaint city center, which features beloved restaurants like Casa Nueva and Donkey Coffee as well as live music venues like The Union. However, one of the best parts of Athens is its proximity to outdoor adventures. Visit Hocking Hills State Park and Wayne National Forest to explore an expansive array of hiking trails, waterfalls, cliffs, lakes and campgrounds.


107 miles / 1 hr. 35 mins.

Head southwest to explore Ohio’s third-largest city, Cincinnati, which borders Kentucky across the Ohio River. Explore the world-renowned Cincinnati Zoo, or tour museums including the Contemporary Arts Center and Cincinnati Art Museum. For a laid-back afternoon plan, cross the river to browse the unique shops and public art in the Licking Riverside historic district of Covington, Kentucky. Hungry? Stop into Skyline Chili to try Cincinnati’s signature dish —  chili made with a special blend of spices over spaghetti.


143 miles / 2 hr. 9 mins.

Located on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland provides everything from sandy beaches to world-class museums and eclectic, artsy neighborhoods. Pay homage to music legends at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and visit the Cleveland Museum of Art’s expansive collection. Hungry? Browse the West Side Market to savor fresh-made cannolis, pierogis and specialty items from more than 100 vendors. Enjoy stunning lake views from Edgewater Beach, and browse the boutiques and galleries in the neighborhoods of Ohio City, Tremont and Detroit-Shoreway.

Indianapolis, Indiana

176 miles / 2 hr. 42 mins.

To continue touring state capitals, head to Indianapolis, Indiana to find a wide variety of activities for every type of visitor. Art buffs, for example, should not hesitate to visit the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. Racing fans won’t want to miss the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, and the world-renowned Indianapolis Zoo is a perfect place for families to see penguins, elephants, giraffes and more. Looking for a place to eat? The downtown corridor of Massachusetts Avenue is bursting at the seams with great restaurants and bars. >> Recommended hotels in Indianapolis

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

185 miles / 2 hr. 53 mins.

Pittsburgh is arguably one of the most underrated cities in the country, and it lies just under three hours by car from Columbus. Steel City has some of the best cultural attractions in the country, including the Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. To get a feel for the hilly landscape, take a trip up the unique Duquesne Incline opened in 1877. When you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the Strip District to try Primanti Brothers’ famous stacked sandwiches.