We love exploring America’s back roads and small towns and finding overlooked gems that the tourist brochures never cover. In a series of weekly blog posts we will be sharing some of America’s lesser-known small town museums, historic sites, and oddball attractions, on a state-by-state basis. We don’t have room to cover each and every attraction in every state, but hope to give you some ideas for places to see in your travels.
Archbold: At Sauder Village costumed guides demonstrate how families lived over 100 years ago while craftsmen demonstrate their skill and creativity in glass, metals, fabric, wood and clay, and rural crafts from a century ago.
Bath: Hale Farm and Village is a living history museum preserving the culture and traditions of the people of 18th Century Ohio.
Canton: The three-story Victorian house where President William McKinley lived during his fourteen years in Congress is located in Canton. The home has been restored and is now the National First Ladies Library.
Canton: President William McKinley is buried in Canton at the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum, which also includes the largest collection of McKinley artifacts in the world and chronicles the life and career of our 25th President from his birth to his tragic death at the hands of an assassin in 1901.
Canton: The Canton Classic Car Museum exhibits 45 rare and unusual classic and special interest automobiles and thousands of pieces of historical memorabilia displayed throughout the museum. The museum has something for everyone, including antique autos, vintage toys, steam engines, and movie posters.
Canton: Pro football was born in Canton in 1920, and at the Pro Football Hall of Fame you can see exhibits on the greatest players ever to grace the gridiron.
Chillicothe: Hopewell Culture National Historical Park preserves ancient Indian earthworks and mounds dating back to 200 B.C.
Cincinnati: The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center stands as the nation’s newest monument to freedom, bringing to life the importance of struggles for freedom around the world and throughout history, including today. Exhibits tracing the history of slavery in America include a slave pen, shackles, dioramas, and historic artifacts.
Cincinnati: The home where America’s 27th president, William Howard Taft, was born is now a National Historic Site.
Cincinnati: The Fire Museum of Greater Cincinnati displays a nice collection firefighting equipment and honors the men and women who have served the city as fire fighters.
Cincinnati: The American Sign Museum explores the history of sign making and sign design. The museum displays vintage signs, sign making materials and tools, sign salesman’s samples and other exhibits that characterize the sign industry.
Cincinnati: The Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum offers fans of the Reds, and of baseball, the first comprehensive look into the sport’s heralded past. The museum displays a collection of artifacts from the first professional baseball team and its rich history in the major leagues.
Cincinnati: The family home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, has been restored and furnished with period items and is open to tours.
Cleveland: The International Women’s Air & Space Museum, located at Burke Lakefront Airport, honors womens’ achievements in aviation and space.
Cleveland: The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is regarded as one of the finest natural history museums in North America. Permanent exhibit galleries deal with ecology, evolution, dinosaurs, anthropology, cultures, insects and more. Exhibits include Lucy, a three million year old ancestor to humans; dinosaur skeletons, moon rocks and more.
Cleveland: The Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum showcases nearly 200 antique, vintage, and classic automobiles and aircraft ranging from an 1897 Panhard et Levassor (the first enclosed automobile) to Bobby Rahal’s 1982 Indy 500 Car. The Crawford collection is one of the top ten in the nation, according to Car Collector magazine. Northeastern Ohio’s contribution to aviation is also showcased in the Crawford Museum. The cornerstone of the aviation collection is a circa 1912-14 Curtiss Hydroaeroplane flown by Cleveland’s most prominent aviator, Al Engel.
Cleveland: The greatest names in rock and roll are honored at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Cleveland: The World War II submarine USS Cod is on display on Cleveland’s waterfront. The Cod won fame for attacking a massive Japanese convoy heading for Subic Bay in the Philippines, sinking a Japanese destroyer, several cargo ships and troop carriers in a courageous torpedo attack. On Cod’s seventh and final war patrol, she performed the only international submarine-to-submarine rescue in history, when she rescued the crew of the stranded Dutch submarine O-19, which had grounded on a coral reef.
Cleveland: Children of all ages will love the hundreds of hands-on exhibits at the Great Lakes Science Center, one of America’s largest interactive science museums.
Cleveland: The retired Great Lakes bulk freighter William G. Mather is now a floating museum to Great Lakes shipping on Cleveland’s waterfront.
Cleveland: The Cleveland Police Historical Museum has a wide variety of arresting displays and artifacts, including death masks, motorcycles, the first call box, and case files and police blotters dating back to 1866. Photographs and scrapbooks depict notorious crime stories in the area’s history.
Cleveland: Once a stagecoach stop on the Buffalo-Cleveland-Detroit post road, today Dunham Tavern Museum is the oldest building still standing on its original site in the city of Cleveland. The 1824 home of Rufus and Jane Pratt Dunham is now a museum offering insight into the lifestyles of early Ohio settlers and travelers.
Columbus: The childhood home of noted author James Thurber (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) is furnished in the style of the 1913-1917 period that Thurber lived in the home with his parents, two brothers, and several canine companions. The first two floors are open daily for tours.
Columbus: The Central Ohio Fire Museum is an authentically restored 1908 engine house featuring hand-drawn, horse-drawn, and early motorized fire apparatus.
Columbus: You can learn more than you ever wanted to know about whistles during a tour of the American Whistle Corporation, the only manufacturer of metal whistles in the United States.
Dayton: You can learn about the Wright brothers and their quest to conquer flight at Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. The park includes the brothers’ bicycle shop and print shop.
Dayton: Housed in the historic Pollack House, the Dayton International Peace Museum is devoted to a world without warfare.
Dayton: The world’s largest and oldest military aviation museum, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force displays more than 300 aircraft and missiles, including many rare and one of a kind models, along with thousands of historical items and powerful sensory exhibits that bring history to life and connect the Wright brothers’ legacy with today’s stealth and precision technology.
Dayton: America’s Packard Museum is the world’s only restored Packard dealership operating as a museum, and the only fulltime museum dedicated exclusively to the Packard Motor Car Company, its products and philosophies. The museum features over 50 automobiles on display in the restored Art Deco showroom, service department and pavilion.
Dover: At the Warther Museum in Dover you will see some of the most fascinating examples of wood and ivory carving to be found anywhere. The creations of Earnest Warther include intricately detailed locomotives and railroad cars.
Fort Recovery: Fort Recovery State Memorial offers visitors a glimpse of the Indian Wars of the 1790s, featuring two reconstructed blockhouses with connecting stockade, a monument, and a museum.
Fremont: President Rutherford B. Hayes is buried at his estate in Fremont, now the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center.
Georgetown: Grant Boyhood Home State Historic Site preserves the home of Ulysses S. Grant, 18th president of the United States, from 1823, when Grant was one year old, until 1839, when he left to attend West Point. Ulysses Grant lived in this home longer than any other during his lifetime.
Greenville: The Garst Museum, located at 205 N Broadway, has displays on Annie Oakley, mastodon bones, pioneer broadcaster Lowell Thomas, and Ohio history.
Lebanon: The Golden Lamb Inn, the oldest inn still in operation as a hotel in Ohio, has been serving the traveling public since 1803. Over the years the historic inn has hosted ten U.S. presidents: John Quincy Adams, Van Buren, both Benjamin and William Henry Harrison, Grant, McKinley, Hayes, Garfield, Taft, and Harding. Other notables who have stayed at the inn include: Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Harriett Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and James Whitcomb Riley, to name just a few. The inn is supposed to be haunted by at least two ghosts.
Mansfield: The old Ohio State Reformatory, built in 1886 to house youthful offenders, is said to be haunted. Today the old prison is open for guided tours. The prison has been used for many movies and television shows, including the Shawshank Redemption, Blind Justice, Air Force One, and Tango & Cash.
Marblehead: Marblehead Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the Great Lakes, has guided sailors safely along the rocky shores of Marblehead Peninsula since 1822. The lighthouse is now an Ohio State Park.
Marietta: The Ohio River Museum in Marietta is a must see, with displays on the Golden Age of riverboats in America.
Marion: The home of President of Warren G. Harding is located at 380 Mount Vernon Avenue. Harding and his wife are buried in a beautiful tomb in Marion.
Marion: The largest collection of popcorn poppers and peanut roasters in the world, dating back to 1890, is on display at the Wyandot Popcorn Museum.
Mentor: James A. Garfield National Historic Site preserves Lawnfield, the Garfield home, the site of the first successful front porch campaign, which saw Garfield elected as the 20th President of the United States in 1880. Following Garfield’s assassination, the Memorial Library wing was added by Mrs. Garfield and her family, setting the precedent for presidential libraries.
Milan: The Milan Historical Museum complex village includes the Doll & Toy House, a blacksmith shop, general store, and other buildings.
Milan: Inventor Thomas Edison was born in Milan in 1847, and the Thomas A. Edison Birthplace home and a small museum next door tell visitors about the life of America’s greatest inventor.
Mount Pleasant: Quaker Meeting House State Historic Site is a three-story brick building erected in 1814 that was the first yearly Quaker meeting house west of the Allegheny Mountains. Mount Pleasant was founded in 1803 and soon became an important market for Quaker settlers. The Mount Pleasant meeting house was used regularly until 1909.
New Bremen: The Bicycle Museum of America displays bicycles from the earliest days, including an 1892 Victor, 1880s high-wheeler designs and the 1886 model of the bicycle-built-for-two, balloon tire bikers of the 1940s and 1950s, and modern bicycles, including race models.
New Philadelphia: The Moravian Church founded Schoenbrunn (beautiful spring) in 1772 as a mission to the Delaware Indians. The settlement grew to include sixty dwellings and more than 300 inhabitants who drew up Ohio’s first civil code and built its first Christian church and schoolhouse. The American Revolution prompted Schoenbrunn’s closing in 1777. Today the reconstructed Historic Schoenbrunn Village includes seventeen log buildings, gardens, the original mission cemetery, and a museum and visitor center.
Niles: President William McKinley was born in Niles. His birthplace, memorial library, and museum display artifacts and documents from his life and career.
North Canton: The MAPS Air Museum restores and displays some of the world’s greatest military aircraft, from a Martin B-26 Marauder to a McDonnell F-101B Voodoo fighter and a 1908 Martin glider.
Oberlin: The Oberlin Heritage Center includes three historic buildings: the 1836 Little Red Schoolhouse, the 1866 Monroe House, and the 1884 Jewett House. Exhibits include life in the 1830s, 1915 Oberlin, African-American history, the Underground Railroad, women’s history, scientific discovery, and missionary, temperance, and other reform movements.
Peebles: Serpent Mound State Memorial preserves America’s largest and finest serpent mound, at 1,348 feet long.
Perrysburg: During the War of 1812, Fort Meigs was a bastion of American military power, repelling several attacks by the British and their Indian allies. Today visitors can tour the old stockade and learn about the harsh life the soldiers who were stationed here endured.
Pickerington: Need a thrill? The Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum here tells the story and history of motorcycling, and honors those who have contributed to life on two wheels.
Point Pleasant: Civil War general and United States President Ulysses S. Grant was born in Point Pleasant in 1822. The restored three room cottage where he was born is furnished with period items and is a State Historic Site open to tours. At one time the birthplace made an extensive tour of the United States on a railroad flatcar and was also temporarily displayed on the Ohio State fairgrounds.
Ripley: Now a State Historic Site, the John Rankin House was an important stop on the Underground Railroad in southern Ohio through which many slaves escaped from the South to freedom.
Toledo: Considered one of the finest museums in the world, the Toledo Museum of Art features a collection of more than 30,000 works of art in more than 35 galleries, including paintings and sculptures by Cezanne, Cole, Degas, Gainsborough, Holbein, Kiefer, Miro, Monet, Picasso, Rembrandt, Rubens, and van Gogh.
Upper Sandusky: In a scenic location along the Sandusky River, Indian Mill, built in 1861, is the nation’s first educational museum of milling in its original structure. The restored three-story structure replaces the original one-story building that the U.S. government built in 1820 to reward the loyalty of local Wyandot Indians during the War of 1812.
Wapakoneta: In Wapakoneta you can tour the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, dedicated to Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, who was born and raised here.
Zanesville: Author Zane Grey was born in Zanesville, and the National Road/Zane Grey Museum has exhibits on his life, as well as on America’s first highway, U.S. Route 40.
Congratulations Joe and Nikki Wright, winners of a set of all four audiobooks in my friend Carol Ann Newsome’s popular Dog Park mystery series. We had 185 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.
Thought For The Day: If a woman tells you that you’re right, that’s called sarcasm.