Explore All Ohio Has to Offer with These Five 'Funtastic' Freebies
Sometimes, the best things in life really are free. Spend your next Ohio family fun day exploring art, aircraft or even wild animals. These five fun options span the state, so no matter where in Ohio you are, you're not too far from adventure.
Inspire Your Artistic Side at an Art Museum
Three well-known art museums in Ohio offer free general admission for all ages every day, making them ideal for a weekend when it's too cold, hot or rainy to do much outdoors. The Cleveland Museum of Art (11150 East Blvd., Cleveland, OH) is about much more than looking at paintings on a wall. The entire family will enjoy looking at medieval suits of armor, Native American art and clothing, ancient Egyptian art and African sculptural pieces, to name just a few types of the museum's many offerings.
For those based in the southern part of Ohio, the Cincinnati Art Museum (953 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati, OH) also offers free entry every day. Like the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cincinnati's collection includes works spanning the ages from the Americas, Europe and Asia. Musicians and curious kids will appreciate the elaborate and unusual musical instruments on display here, which are works of art in themselves.
The Toledo Museum of Art (2445 Monroe St., Toledo, OH) also offers free general admission. This museum houses works by famed artists such as Van Gogh, El Greco, Matisse and Monet, as well as sculptural pieces and jewelry dating back at least four thousand years.
Fantasize About Sky and Space Travel
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton (1100 Spaatz St., Wright-Patterson AFB, OH) offers a completely different way to spend an afternoon. Although it is a military museum, its numerous aircraft and spacecraft displays make it an interesting site for anyone who enjoys learning more about aircraft and astronauts too. Check out all kinds of planes and helicopters from several different wars, as well as presidential aircraft, missiles and even a real space shuttle. The kids can stretch their legs a bit at the museum's outdoor air park afterward, which also includes a playground.
Learn About Wild Animals at the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center
The Lake Erie Nature and Science Center (28728 Wolf Road, Bay Village, OH) offers kids an up-close look at live animals, such as a bald eagle, boa constrictor, turtles and a fox. The center rehabilitates injured animals, so there's a good chance for kids to spot an animal on the road to recovery and to ask about the rehabilitation process. Outside, the center has more animal exhibits and a pond, making it a worthwhile destination any time of year.
Bliss Out at the Beach
The northern edge of Ohio offers plenty of beaches that are ideal for a family swim outing, sand-castle contest or even a way to simply relax as the kids work off their energy outdoors.
Huntington Beach (28649 Lake Road, Bay Village, OH) sits just across the street from the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center, so make a day of it and hit both destinations in one outing. This beach offers plenty of room to spread out a blanket on the sand, and kids swim under the watchful eye of a lifeguard. There are quite a few steep steps down to the beach from the parking area, so this beach is best for those able to handle lots of stairs. The upper cliff-side area is set up like a park, with plenty of picnic tables, grills and a shaded playground.
Edgewater Park (6500 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway, Cleveland, OH) offers amazing views of the Cleveland skyline, plus plenty of room for everything from flying kites to swimming, biking and barbecuing. The brand-new Edgewater Beach House near the swimming area hosts free live music on select evenings, plus it serves as the starting point for a number of kids' programs in the summer. A fitness and biking trail around the grassy areas of the park provides plenty of room for a family walk or bike ride with great views of this expansive park. On windy days, this park is a favorite for flying kites of all sizes, which is fun to watch even if you didn't bring a kite of your own.
Go on a Geocaching Adventure
Geocaching offers kids of all ages the chance to search for hidden treasures with the help of a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit. Several parks in the Dayton-area Five Rivers Metroparks system participate in a geocaching program. Participation requires the ability to log into the internet to identify geocache treasures waiting to be found. The Five Rivers "Cache in, Trash Out" program encourages kids to bring a trash bag and pick up any trash found along their expedition, which is a fun and educational way to encourage appreciation of the environment. Even for those not into geocaching, this and other Metroparks systems across Ohio provide excellent opportunities for hikes and outdoor adventures. You never know what woodland or water-based creatures you might spot along the way.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.