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Destinations

 

From rock 'n' roll and the great outdoors to world-class thrills and dining, Ohio brings something unique to the table, no matter where you're seated. Pull up a chair and see what's in store!

Known as the "Crossroads of America," Toledo has much to offer groups, especially those seeking experiential and hands-on adventures. Groups could tap into the city's roots in glass history with classes and demonstrations at renowned studios such as Gathered Glassblowing Studio, Copper Moon Studios, Toledo Museum of Art's Glass Pavilion—also home to a world-renowned glass collection—and more.

Quench your thirst at the breweries on the 419 Ale Trail and refuel while downtown at the new Bobcat Bonnie's, where groups could enjoy a meal from locally-sourced ingredients in a fun atmosphere. We mean it! There's even a Keystone Arcade in the basement level. Also check out Proper Tea at Clara J's Tea Room and authentic Hungarian delights at Tony Packo's Café. Groups who are feeling lucky could keep the fun going with the table games and slots at Hollywood Casino Toledo!

Birdwatchers will also rejoice at the opportunity to admire the thousands of warblers and songbirds that flock to the northwest shores of Lake Erie from all around the world to refuel before traveling over the Great Lakes each spring. Set out on the new Great Lake Erie Birding Trail to get the most of the experience.

Nearby groups will find Shores & Islands Ohio, which offers a unique mixture of history, nature, adventure and fun, all spanning along an impressive 152 miles of Lake Erie shoreline. To the surprise of many, Ohio does indeed have islands, all of which have different personalities. Groups could easily explore Kelleys Island, Middle Bass Island and Put-in-Bay/South Bass Island, thanks to multiple ferry and land transportation options.

The destination boasts outstanding Great Lakes fishing, along with an abundance of family- and group-friendly attractions, including the world-famous Cedar Point Amusement Park, Kalahari Resort & Conventions, the birthplace of Thomas Edison, Ghostly Manor Thrill Center and more.

2022 welcomes the new retreat and meeting place, Sawmill Creek, and the newly reimagined Castaway Bay indoor water park resort—both by Cedar Point Resorts. Also freshly opened is Clubhouse No. 3 SportSocial, a sports-forward, activity-based gathering place offering amenities including a full-service bar, golf/multi-sport simulator bays, tabletop shuffleboard and pinball machines.

The celebrations continue with the bicentennial of the iconic Marblehead Lighthouse, the oldest continuously-operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes. New public art installations, kids' activities, special tours, new exhibits and free concerts are among the planned anniversary happenings.

About an hour east, groups will find Cleveland, a hub of world-class arts, culture and rock 'n' roll. This mid-sized lakefront city is bustling with special attractions and experiences, including the iconic A Christmas Story house, the over 100-year-old West Side Market, the new Eagle Zip Adventure at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, urban kayaking near a variety of new dining establishments in the Flats East Bank district, and more.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and its exhibit The Beatles: Get Back to Let It Be is a definite must on your Cleveland itinerary. Through original instruments, clothing and handwritten lyrics—loaned directly by Paul McCartney, Ringo Star, and the estates of George Harrison and John Lennon—groups could step inside The Beatles' January 1969 rehearsals, studio sessions and legendary Apple Corps rooftop concert—the band's final live performance. The exhibit serves as an immersive complement to Peter Jackson's highly regarded docuseries, The Beatles: Get Back.

Visit the Cleveland Museum of Art to view The New Black Vanguard, an exhibit presenting vibrant images of Black lives, bodies and heritage through a combination of photographs, videos, publications and fashion installations, running through September 11.

For a view of the city unlike any other, cruise the Cuyahoga River or Lake Erie aboard The Nautica Queen, which offers luxury dining with both enclosed and open-air observation decks and musical entertainment. The Goodtime III, a quadruple-deck, 1,000 passenger luxury ship offering sightseeing tours, dinner events and live entertainment, is also a perfect option.

To the southwest is the fascinating and energetic city of Columbus. Ohio's capital city boasts neighborhoods with strong identities and communities that imbue the city with passion, innovation and resilience. Attractions like the Kelton House—an Underground Railroad stop, the stunning Franklin Park Conservatory—home to several works by Dale Chihuly, and the one-of-a-kind National Veterans Memorial and Museum—an institution sharing stories and shared experiences of Veterans throughout history, make for robust itineraries.

A stop at the group-friendly historic North Market food hall is a fun way to try a variety of cuisine from an eclectic mix of more than 30 independently owned small businesses. Whether you prefer Bavarian pretzels, bubble tea, ramen, vegan soul food, Himalayan dumplings, Somali cuisine, authentic Mexican tamales, burgers or something else entirely, chances are you can find it here.

Be sure to also spend time in German Village, one of the most charming and storied neighborhoods in the nation. It's here groups will find the delightful 32-room Book Loft, along with local coffee shops and businesses, while the vibrant Short North Arts District is dotted with stunning street murals, galleries and locally-owned boutiques and restaurants. Nearby Gahanna (the herb capital of Ohio) and Dublin (home to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium) are also worthy stops on your trip.

Situated along the Ohio River just north of the Kentucky border is Cincinnati, a city beaming with activity, especially when it comes to professional sports. Cheer as the Bengals take to the field at Paul Brown Stadium, see the Reds take on rivals at Great American Ball Park, enjoy an FC Cincinnati match at the brand-new TQL Stadium, and more.

The importance and relevance of struggles for freedom throughout history and today are shared at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, while cultural events, programming and tours are held at the nearby Harriet Beecher Stowe House.

Of course, groups won't want to leave without a visit to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, the second-oldest zoo in the country. It's even been nicknamed "World's Sexiest Zoo" for being home to more births than any other zoo in the world. That's a lot of baby animals! Small groups could even take advantage of some behind-the-scenes animal encounters.

In the Greater Lima region, agricultural fun is easily found, thanks to the area's deep roots in farming. Groups could take advantage of u-pick apples at Sugar Creek Orchard, sip on an incredible selection of Ohio red and white wines at Sycamore Lake Wine Co., dine at the Old Barn Restaurant & Grill and plenty more.

Opportunities to get your creative juices flowing also abound. Pottery classes at SLAK Designs Pottery Barn will encourage groups to step outside their comfort zones, while Elida Candle Company beckons groups to blend their own custom fragrances, hand pour their own candles and personalize their labels. Don't forget a friendly cupcake decorating competition at Sara's Sweets!

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for Groups Today.

This article originally appeared in the May/Jun '22 issue of Groups Today.

 

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