A tour through Ohio is like a trip through the centuries.
Since the 1700s, the Buckeye State has played a significant role in American history. Traveling around the state, groups can see how local and national history intersect at a number of sites, including national museums, historic mansions and Amish communities, where they can learn about 18th-century life in the Northwest Territory, 19th-century farming traditions and 20th-century industry, giving them a snapshot of America through the ages.
This itinerary showcases distinctive historic sites and experiences in Ohio. It begins in Columbus and heads northeast to Amish Country in Holmes County and then to Akron. From there, it circles back, going south to Steubenville and then west to Cambridge. Groups can close the loop by returning to Columbus or head south to points in West Virginia. Planners should allow five to six days to experience the best these destinations have to offer.
A Moving Memorial in Columbus
Located in the center of the state, Columbus is Ohio’s political capital as well as one of its most culturally and historically rich destinations. There, a new marquee attraction captures historic elements of the history of the Buckeye State as well as the entire country.
Opened in 2018, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum is the only institution of its kind that tells the stories of American veterans and fallen soldiers and their families. The experience at this high-tech museum is built around the distinctive life stories of numerous veterans and uses a blend of artifacts and videos to help visitors learn about the military experience and appreciate the sacrifices all American service members make.
Throughout their visit, guests will see many moments in the life of a veteran, from the first day at boot camp to combat deployment and returning home to family. At the end of the tour, a two-and-a-half-acre memorial grove offers a peaceful place for contemplation and beautiful views of downtown Columbus.
While you’re there: Owned and operated by the state of Ohio, the Ohio History Center gives visitors a look at life in the Midwest over a variety of periods. Among the most unique exhibits is “1950s: Building the American Dream,” which includes a Columbus-manufactured prefabricated home outfitted with furniture and appliances from the ’50s.
Living History in Amish Country
Departing from Columbus and heading northeast, groups travel about an hour and a half to reach Holmes County, better known as Ohio Amish Country. About 37,000 of the county’s residents are Amish, making the destination one of the largest Amish settlements in the world.
Though customs vary from one order to the next, Amish communities are recognized for a lifestyle that has changed little since the 19th century, famously eschewing many of the technologies and conveniences of modern life. As such, spending time in Amish communities is akin to visiting the past — a living history in the most literal sense.
Groups visiting Holmes County can take guided tours of several Amish communities around the area. Some of the tour companies are owned and operated by local Amish entrepreneurs.
While you’re there: In Sugarcreek, the Dutch Valley Restaurant and the Ohio Star Theater offer dinner-and-a-show pairings for tour groups. The restaurant features classic homestyle Amish fare. After eating, groups can move next-door to the theater, where they can enjoy concerts, comedy acts and live musicals.
A Stunning Home in Akron
Continuing 60 miles northeast from Amish country brings groups to Akron, a growing city with a rich industrial past and a high-tech future. The city made a splash in the early 1900s as the home of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, and Goodyear co-founder F.A. Seiberling went on to build what would become the city’s signature historic attraction: the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens.
Constructed between 1912 and 1915, the Stan Hywet Hall is a 65-room Tudor Revival manor house that served as the Seiberling family home until it opened to the public as a house museum in 2015. Tours of the home showcase its remarkable architecture and many original furnishings.
In addition to tours of the home and gardens, groups can arrange some special experiences at the Stan Hywet Hall that dive deeper into the history of the home and its legacy in Akron.
While you’re there: At Hale Farm and Village, groups get a glimpse of northern Ohio life in the 19th century. This living history site is operated by the Western Reserve Historical society and features a blacksmith, candlestick makers, cooks and other interpreters working in historic shops and homes. There are also a variety of farm animals to meet up close.
A Historic Fortress in Steubenville
From Akron, groups following this historic Ohio itinerary should turn south and travel 100 miles to Steubenville. Just across the state line from Pennsylvania, Steubenville is best known as the home of Fort Steuben, a historic site available for tours.
In 1786 and 1787, the 1st American Regiment built a fort to protect government surveyors working in the Northwest Territory, which would eventually become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. The fort was named after George Washington’s drillmaster, Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. The original structures didn’t survive, but re-creations of the fortress and many of its buildings now stand on the original site.
During a tour of Historic Fort Steuben, groups learn what 18th-century life in the Northwest Territory was like for early American soldiers. Highlights include officers’ quarters, a blacksmith shop, an herb garden and a hospital. There is also a modern visitors center and an on-site gift shop.
While you’re there: In downtown Steubenville, visitors can enjoy an artistic depiction of area history via a series of more than 20 public murals. Among the subjects are life on the Ohio River, historic Market Street and Steubenville medical heritage. Groups can arrange to have guided tours of the murals with a local step-on guide.
A Singular Schoolhouse in Cambridge
The final leg of this historic journey takes groups southwest. About halfway between Steubenville and Columbus is Cambridge, the seat of Guernsey County, with a population of about 10,000 people. Groups learn about the county and get an immersive historical experience with a stop at the Guernsey County History Museum.
Visitors begin their museum visit by admiring the building’s historic exterior. The institution is housed in a restored 16-room home that dates to the early 1830s. Inside, visitors find antique furnishings, products and personal items from throughout the county, as well as an exhibit that depicts working in an area coal mine in the 1890s.
Many groups enjoy having a historical experience in the museum’s re-created one-room schoolhouse. With notice, the museum can arrange to have a schoolmarm interpreter lead the group through a lesson on the history of frontier schools and their impact on education in the 19th century.
While you’re there: For 48 years, a nondenominational group of actors and artists from around the Cambridge area have been producing the Living Word Outdoor Drama, a Passion play that tells the story of the life and death of Christ on an epic 400-foot-wide panoramic stage. Performances for 2022 are scheduled on Friday nights from June 17 through September 30.