Alyssa loves exploring new places with her family and taking a lot of pictures! She is a wife, a mom, and a coffee enthusiast.
The United States boasts some of the world’s most awe-inspiring sites. Each state has its own collection of special landmarks and areas that pull visitors in from all across the globe.
Ohio is a midwestern state known best for its football teams and beautiful state parks. However, there are plenty of off-beat, bizarre, and interesting places that remain unknown to those outside of their local areas.
The places on this list are some of Ohio's best-kept secrets. Whether you're an Ohio native or just passing through, be sure to stop by and visit a few of these unique gems!
1. Center of the World
Not many places can claim grandiose titles, but there’s a small town in Ohio that has an interesting story to share. Located in Northeast Ohio, Center of the World is a town which saw its big dreams shattered by emerging technology and innovation.
Back in the 1840s, Randall D. Wilmot vehemently believed this small area, situated along the Pittsburgh and Akron Stagecoach route, would soon be a major commercial and economic center. He aptly named his town Center of the World in anticipation. Unfortunately, Wilmot’s dream was never realized. The railroad came along and built tracks in Warren instead, driving traffic and people away.
Center of the World, however, survived as a small, charming town that people can visit today. A green sign greets drivers on OH-82 and is a popular photo-op spot.
2. Worden’s Legends
At first glance, Hinckley Reservation may seem like any other metro park. Featuring a 90-acre lake popular with fishermen and kayakers, there are plenty of trails waiting to be explored and scenic spots for picnicking. Tucked away along the Worden’s Ledges loop trail, however, is a surprising series of stone carvings that transport hikers into another world.
The land once belonged to Hiriam Worden and he passed it on to his daughter. Her husband began carving the sandstone ledges in 1945 after she died. Drawing inspiration from his favorite figures past and present, he created a total of nine carvings, all of which remain today. Notable figures include a sphinx and two U.S. Presidents.
3. Leo Petroglyphs
Ohio is a state rich in history. It’s no secret that Native Americans dominated the landscape for centuries. Many prominent Ohio landmarks, towns, rivers, and parks take their names from the Native American language. Ohio itself comes from the Iroquois word, OYO, meaning river.
Nestled in Jackson County lies Leo Petroglyph and Nature Reserve. This site is a glimpse of the Fort Ancient Culture, a group of people who lived in the area of Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky from around 1000 – 1650 A.D. They left their rock art on a large, flat sandstone slab. There are between 30 and 40 carvings depicting a range of animals, humans, and plants.
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4. Historic Loveland Castle and Museum
The last place anyone would think to find a castle is in Ohio, but surprisingly, the state has a staggering number of these amazing structures. 30 minutes outside of Cincinnati, near the Little Miami River, stands Chateau Laroche.
Modeled after a 10th century French Norman Castle, Harry Delos Andrews designed and built the castle himself. He used stones and bricks from the river as well as those donated from all 50 states and 40 countries.
Today the castle is owned and operated by the Knights of the Golden Trail. Visitors can travel back in time as they explore the castle and its historical artifacts, including a collection of period swords and weaponry. Watch out for ghosts! Paranormal activity is rumored to wander through the halls and the castle has pictures and stories on display.
A German game room provides chess, checkers, and a variety of other strategic games to test the mind. Visitors can stroll through the grounds, relax in the garden, or enjoy a riverside picnic. The castle also offers scheduled appointments for overnight stays for scouts, small weddings, and professional photo shoots.
5. Dave Grohl Alley
Nirvana is an iconic rock band from the 90's and, like many, Joe O’Grady, a police sergeant, was surprised to learn that drummer Dave Grohl was born in Warren, Ohio. Joe had been searching for a way to inspire the youth of his town and this information inspired him to dedicate an old alley to Dave. After getting permission from the city council, he started cleaning it up, while local artists decorated the walls of buildings and the pavement with paintings, murals, and canvasses. The town held an official opening ceremony in 2009 with Dave Grohl in attendance.
A rock star alley is cool, but adding an element that can claim to be the world’s largest is even better. In 2013, the world’s largest drumsticks were unveiled in the alley. Joel Eggert, a local artist, carved two, 23-foot-long drumsticks out of poplar logs. Weighing 900 pounds, these larger-than-life drumsticks give the alley a flair and cement it as a must-see place for music lovers all around the world.
6. The Temple of Tolerance
Many people set out to change the world, but few ever see that dream realized. After spending time working as a teacher in a prison, Jim Bowser set out to find a way to prevent people from getting into that situation in the first place. In 1981, he started building a peaceful getaway in his backyard. The idea was to give troubled kids in the neighborhood a place to escape. Over the years, his original idea expanded beyond his backyard to include additional pieces of land, culminating into this local Wapakoneta gem.
Jim created a garden maze, filled with historical and interesting rocks, structures, unique artwork, places to sit, and other oddities. All paths lead to the pièce de résistance, the temple. Made from rocks Jim found and rescued, the temple displays a sign that describes it as “a physical manifestation of a philosophical concept. More a state of mind than a place.”
7. The Troll Hole Museum
The idea of trolls first appeared in Scandinavian folklore. They were magical monsters who ran the night and scared humans. As time passed, the troll decreased in size, first becoming human-like and later on, striking a resemblance to elves. Mischievous and destructive creatures, trolls have appeared in pop culture throughout history. The most recent surge of troll popularity comes from the Dreamworks movies, featuring the voices of Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake.
Walk down East Main Street in Alliance and enter the world of trolls. The Troll Hole Museum holds the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of trolls. There are 14 themed rooms where trolls of all shapes and sizes reside, from the classic 80’s gem-belly troll to celebrities re-imagined as trolls, and everything in between. Customers can grab coffee and treats at the museum’s aptly named coffee shop, The Grumpy Troll. Additionally, the museum hosts physical and virtual tours as well as an after-hours, PG-rated comedy show.
8. The Wall of Gum
Many walls have made their mark on history, but perhaps the most curious and strange lies in a small town in Darke County Ohio. The Wall of Gum is exactly what it sounds like, pieces of chewed gum stuck to three outer walls of a sandwich shop.
The Maid-Rite Sandwich shop is housed within a brick building in the heart of Greenville. Famous for their steamed, loose-meat sandwiches, they’ve also become known for the gum covering their establishment.
While the exact history of when it all began is murky, customers would stick their chewing gum to the wall before entering through the back door. It’s a tradition that stuck and has sparked interest for years. Couples come to the wall to stick gum there as a mark of their love. Some leave messages, coins, or other mementos with their gum. Others find it a fascinating photo opportunity. Leaving the gum on three of the buildings' walls is important to the owners as a way of honoring their customers’ memories. They only remove the gum from the drive-thru section to prevent issues with bees.
9. The Field of Corn
Rising up out of the ground, 109, larger than life, concrete ears of corn stand stoically, a stark white contrast against the green grass. For the locals in Dublin and the surrounding area, it’s just another drive down Frantz and Rings Road. This unique display of art is an homage to the area’s farming and rural communities. The site was intentionally chosen as it was once a field owned by Sam Frantz, a pioneer in corn hybridization.
Artist Malcolm Cochran drew inspiration for his layout from military gravesites, a commentary on the life and death of societies, and how they change over time. Each ear stands tall at 6 feet 3 inches, weighs a hefty 1500 pounds, and no two kernels look the same. Along the west end of the park are Orange Osage trees, benches, and plaques that explain the story behind the aptly nicknamed, “Cornhenge.”
Hartman Rock Garden (Springfield)
10. Hartman Rock Garden
Rocks have always been a source of interest. Pet Rocks were one of the biggest crazes in both the 70's and 90's. People love to collect them and skip them across a body of water. Some enjoy stacking them in a river as a source of Zen, and others utilize them as pieces of interest in their gardens.
For Ben Hartman, what started out as a perimeter around his small fish pond in the backyard, grew into the charming rock garden the people of Springfield consider a local gem today. As a molder for the Springfield Machine Tool Company foundry, Ben was accustomed to working with his hands. The Great Depression left him with a lot of time and he devoted himself to creating interesting works of art with natural materials.
He spent twelve years crafting buildings and figures out of hundreds of thousands of stones, inspired by his ideals of patriotism, religion, and life itself. After his death, his loving wife maintained the garden and gave tours until 1997. The garden went through a period of neglect until The Kohler Foundation purchased and restored it. Ownership was transferred to a local foundation, The Friends of Hartman Garden, and experienced a grand re-opening in 2010. Today, people from all over the world are able to walk through and enjoy the familiar and unique scenes.
- Hartman Rock Garden
- Field of Corn (with Osage Orange Trees) | Dublin Arts Council
- The Maid-Rite Gum Wall
- Places To Go | The Troll Hole Museum | United States
- Temple of Tolerance
- David Grohl Alley, World's Largest Drumsticks, Warren, Ohio
- Loveland Castle
- Leo Petroglyphs and Nature Preserve | Ohio History Connection
- Hinckley Reservation | Northeast Ohio Parks | Cleveland Metroparks | Cleveland Metroparks
© 2022 Alyssa