10 Must-Visit Small Towns in Ohio

Written by Niccoy Walker
Updated: July 23, 2023
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While you may not peg Ohio as a vacation destination, this Midwest state is a thriving hub for art, culture, and award-winning cuisine. With museums, science centers, and recreational areas in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus, there are endless things to do in this state. But if you venture to its quaint small towns, you will find charming neighborhoods, historic downtowns, and delicious mom-and-pop restaurants. Discover the 10 must-visit small towns in Ohio and learn about their attractions, where to stay, and what to eat.

Geneva-on-the-lake, or GOTL, is on the shore of Lake Erie in Ashtabula County

1. Sugarcreek

Evening settles over a rural farm scene as cattle feed on hay on an Amish farm near Sugarcreek, Ohio. Twin silos and a corn granary can be seen along with a white, board fence enclosing the yard.

Sugarcreek is one of the best must-visit small towns in Ohio.

©Landon Troyer/Shutterstock.com

Location: Sugarcreek is as sweet as it sounds. This little town is known as “The Little Switzerland of Ohio,” and is located in Amish country. While it’s a popular tourist spot, Sugarcreek still keeps its small-town charm. You can find it in Northeast Ohio, south of Akron.

Attractions: World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock, The Farm at Walnut Creek, Age of Steam Roundhouse, Alpine Hills Museum, Walnut Creek Amish Flea Market, and Ohio Star Theater at Dutch Valley

Where to Stay: Carlisle Inn (inviting 3-star hotel), Sugarcreek Village Inn (3-star hotel with vintage train car sleepers)

What to Eat: Dutch Valley Restaurant (hearty American country-style), Park Street Pizza (counter-serve locavore pies)

2. Geneva-on-the-Lake

Aerial View Of Lake Erie Costal Town, Geneva On The Lake Ohio.

This small town is on the shores of Lake Erie.


Location: Geneva-on-the-lake, or GOTL, is on the shore of Lake Erie in Ashtabula County. This little resort town is northeast of Cleveland and is an excellent family-friendly getaway.

Attractions: Geneva State Park, Adventure Zone, Geneva Township Park, Allison’s Mini Golf, Breakwater Beach, Old Firehouse Winery, and Pucker Up Candy Shoppe

Where to Stay: The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake (laidback 4-star hotel), The Lakehouse Inn (cozy lakefront lodge)

What to Eat: Sportsterz Bar and Grill (dive bar with live music), Piero’s Pasta House (casual Italian) 

3. Peninsula

The everett road covered bridge in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The bridge is red with a white interior. It is a snowy day, and the nearby trees in the forest are covered with fluffy white.

Peninsula is tucked away in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

©Showcase Imaging/Shutterstock.com

Location: The village of Peninsula is part of the Akron metropolitan area. It only has a population of a little over 500, but it is a popular tourist area due to its location. This town is nestled in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Attractions: Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Boston Mill Visitor Center, Ledges Overlook, Tree Farm Trail, Deep Lock Quarry Metro Park, Brandywine Falls, Szalay’s Farm & Market, and Boston Mills Ski Area

Where to Stay: Stanford House (historic indoor lodging), Inn at Brandywine Falls (traditional B&B)

What to Eat: Winking Lizard (casual American), Fishers (beer and pub fare)

4. Gallipolis

A view of the downtown storefronts in Gallipolis, Ohio

Gallipolis is the second-largest community in the rural Point Pleasant micropolitan area.


Location: Gallipolis is one of 15 towns located in Gallia County. The township resides along the Ohio River in Southeast Ohio and started as a haven for French settlers during the late 1700s. Today the region is big on coal-mining and farming.

Attractions: Mothman Museum, Wet and Wild, Haskins Memorial Park, French Art Colony, Gallipolis City Park, and Raccoon Creek County Park

Where to Stay: Lowe Hotel (haunted historic hotel), Downing House Bed and Breakfast (historic restored B&B)

What to Eat: Tuscany Italian Restaurant (modest Italian and wine), Shake Shoppe (laidback burgers and shakes) 

5. Marietta

A scenic byway feeds tourists into the downtown area in the settlement called Marietta in Ohio State

Marietta is at the confluence of two major rivers.

©Real Window Creative/Shutterstock.com

Location: Marietta is in Washington County in Southeast Ohio. The small city sits at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers and is a popular area for its small-town charm and attractions.

Attractions: The Castle Historic House Museum, Children’s Toy and Doll Museum, Valley Gem Sternwheeler, Lookout Point, Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption, and Kroger Wetlands

Where to Stay: Lafayette Hotel (Old World 1918 hotel), The Hackett Hotel (historic 3-star boutique hotel)

What to Eat: Boat House of Marietta (waterside spot for brisket and ribs), The Galley (American pub fare)

6. Granville

Shops on north side of Broadway, looking east,, Granville, Ohio

Granville is a village in Licking County and is home to Denison University.


Location: This New England-style village is in Licking County in the rural area of Central Ohio. It sits along the Appalachian Plateau’s western edge and is home to Denison University and many historic buildings.

Attractions: Spring Valley Nature Preserve, Robbins Hunter Museum, Wildwood Park, Licking Park District, Bryn Du Mansion, and Alligator Mound

Where to Stay: Granville Inn (3-star English manor), Historic Buxton Inn (historic 3-star lodge)

What to Eat: Broadway Pub (casual burgers and beer), Day Y Noche (classic Mexican)

7. Yellow Springs

A Natural Spring With Stone Stairway And Path Through A Forest Ablaze With The Colors Of Autumn, Glen Helen Nature Preserve; Yellow Springs Ohio, USA

Yellow Springs is known for its natural springs that leave a yellow coloring on the rocks.

©Doug Lemke/Shutterstock.com

Location: Yellow Springs is a quaint village part of the Dayton metropolitan area. It’s located in Greene County and is known for its natural iron-rich springs that leave a yellow coloring on the rocks.

Attractions: The Yellow Spring, John Bryan State Park, Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, Glen Helen Nature Preserve, and House of Ravenwood Tarot Readings and Gifts

Where to Stay: Mills Park Hotel (unique 2-star hotel), Jailhouse Suites (3-star hotel inside a historic jailhouse)

What to Eat: Young’s Jersey Dairy (ice cream shop with restaurant and games), Peach’s Grill (burgers, cocktails, and live music)

8. Millersburg

Nineteenth Century Architecture in Millersburg Ohio

Millersburg is a popular tourist town in Amish country.

©EZ Miles/Shutterstock.com

Location: Millersburg is a little over 60 miles south of Cleveland in Holmes County. It is in the heart of Amish country and a popular tourist area.

Attractions: Victorian House Museum, Hershberger’s Farm and Bakery, Holmes County Open Air Art Museum, Hipp Station, Guggisberg Cheese, Millersburg Brewing Company, and Yoder’s Amish Home

Where to Stay: Hotel Millersburg (Victorian-style 2-star hotel), The Inn at Honey Run (adults-only boutique hotel)

What to Eat: Bags Sports Pub (a quaint bar serving American food), Jitters Coffee House (low-key coffee shop with sandwiches and salads)

9. Put-in-Bay

aerial view of Put in Bay's marina and Perry's Victory & International Peace Memorial, Kelley's Island in the far background; Put-in-Bay, South Bass island Ohio USA

Put-in-Bay is on South Bass Island in Lake Erie.

©SF photo/Shutterstock.com

Location: Put-in-Bay is a tiny village on South Bass Island in Lake Erie. The area is a popular spot for recreation, cave exploring, and historical landmarks.

Attractions: Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center, Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial, Butterfly House, Crystal Cave, Lake Erie Island Historical Museum, South Bass Island State Park, Scheef East Point Nature Preserve, Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center, and Put-in-Bay Winery

Where to Stay: Put-in-Bay Resort Hotel (modern 3-star hotel), Commodore Resort Hotel (simple 2-star hotel with a swim-up bar) 

What to Eat: The Boathouse Bar and Grill (busy burger joint with live bands), The Keys (Caribbean waterfront spot) 

10. Loveland

A Castle built by the Boy Scouts in Loveland, Ohio

Loveland features a castle museum.

©Wayne Via/Shutterstock.com

Location: Located in Southwest Ohio, Loveland is a small city along the Little Miami River. This flourishing community features beautiful parks and a thriving art and culture scene.

Attractions: Loveland Castle Museum, Home of the Brave Park, Lake Isabella, Kings Island, Nisbet Park, Blooms & Berries Farm Market, and Kelley Nature Preserve

Where to Stay: The Loveland Lofts (small boutique hotel), Hilton Garden Inn (3-star chain hotel)

What to Eat: The Works (vintage brick-oven pizza), El Picante (relaxed Mexican fare)

Summary of the 10 Must-Visit Small Towns in Ohio

RankSmall Towns in OhioLocation
1Sugar CreekAmish Country
2Geneva-on-the-LakeAshtabula County
3PeninsulaAkron metropolitan area
4GallipolisGallia County
5MariettaWashington County
6GranvilleLicking County
7Yellow SpringsDayton metropolitan area
8MillersburgHolmes County
9Put-in-BaySouth Bass Island in Lake Erie
10LovelandSouthwest Ohio along the Little Miami River

The photo featured at the top of this post is © SF photo/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals, and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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