Every major city in Ohio has a major museum worth exploring.
The Buckeye State enjoys a wealth of notable cultural institutions, most of which are in its five most significant cities. Groups that enjoy history, music, art, science and other interests will find some of the country’s leading museums in those fields during a trip through Ohio.
This itinerary begins in Cincinnati, on the state’s southern border, and works its way north through Dayton to Columbus, then on up to Cleveland before crossing along the lakefront over to Toledo. Taking five days and four nights will allow time to travel the moderate distance from city to city and see the main highlights. Add another day or two for more in-depth exploration.
Underground Railroad Museum
For many slaves running away from their homes in the South, crossing the Ohio River from Kentucky to Ohio represented an important milestone on the path to freedom. Today, the Underground Railroad Freedom Center stands on the banks of that river in downtown Cincinnati to commemorate their struggle and the heroic efforts of those who helped them.
Opened in 2004, the museum now consists of three buildings symbolizing courage, cooperation and perseverance. The museum’s exhibits use a mix of historic artifacts and modern technology to tell the stories of the Underground Railroad. Highlights include an early-1800s slave pen recovered from a nearby Kentucky farm and “Brothers of the Borderland,” an immersive 25-minute film that depicts one slave’s flight to freedom with the help of two Cincinnati-area Underground Railroad conductors.
The museum also focuses on modern-day freedom fighters and encourages visitors to get involved with efforts to abolish human trafficking and other slavery around the world.
While you’re there: Cincinnati has a number of other noteworthy museums, including three — a history museum, a children’s museum and a science museum — under one roof at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, a 1933 Union Terminal train station that still features many historic elements and Art Deco touches.
Air Force Museum
About 60 miles north of Cincinnati, Dayton is home to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, one of the largest Air Force installations in the country. There, groups will find the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the world’s largest and oldest military aviation museum.
More than 1.3 million visitors visit the museum each year to explore more than 17 acres of indoor exhibit space. There are 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles on display, as well as thousands of other artifacts. Highlights include a Wright Brothers plane, a NASA shuttle crew compartment trainer and the world’s only permanent public display of a B-2 stealth bomber.
In addition to the exhibits, the museum features a number of thrilling interactive experiences. Groups can try out several simulators at the museum or see one of the multiple daily 3-D screenings in the Air Force Museum Theatre. And the museum’s cafeteria even sells freeze-dried “astronaut” ice cream.
While you’re there: Dayton’s aviation roots run much deeper than the Air Force. Groups can discover the bicycle shop where the Wright Brothers perfected their airplane designs at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, which also preserves the historic home of Paul Laurence Dunbar.