Ohio

The 10 most charming villages and small cities in Ohio

by Paul Joseph  |  Published July 6, 2016

A TravelMag survey of US travel experts has revealed the ten most charming villages and small cities in Ohio.              .

A scenic view over a village green in Ohio

A scenic view over a village green in Ohio (Photo: Onasill ~ Bill Badzo via Flickr)

We invited 100 travel writers, photographers and selected professionals to name the places in the Midwestern state that they consider the most appealing. Those surveyed were asked to pick their three favourites, in no particular order, with only villages and cities housing populations between 5,000 and 50,000 considered. We then compiled the Top 10 based on these results.

So what do we know about the American state often described as the gateway to the West? Well, away from its vibrant cities and prominent amusement parks are some of America’s finest small towns – distinctive by their cobblestone streets, distinguished art scenes and bicycles – lots and lots of bicycles.

Indeed, it is in the region’s towns and cities that you gain a real sense of Ohio’s rich and diverse heritage. Brimming with tradition, scenic landscapes and Midwest charm, the state perfectly encapsulates small town America.

And so without further ado, here, in alphabetical order, you will find what many consider to be Ohio’s most appealing towns and small cities.

Avon Lake

Nestled on the picturesque banks of Lake Erie, between the cities of Cleveland and Lorain, Avon Lake oozes small town ambience and charm thanks, in no small part, to its strong community feel. Attractions include scenic bike trails, a large number of public beaches, golf courses, tennis courts and an outdoor ice rink.

Last year, it was also ranked 11th in a poll of the most family-friendly towns in Ohio, owing to its excellent schools and low crime rate. Meanwhile the town also offers easy access to the world-famous Cleveland Orchestra, adding a cultural vibrancy to the area.

A pretty scene in Broadway Heights

A pretty scene in Broadview Heights (Photo: Lee Hisey via Flickr)

Broadview Heights

Also just minutes from Lake Erie and favoured by a large number of families is Broadview Heights – one of the safest cities in the whole of Ohio. Boasting a rich cultural heritage and an impressive education system, there is a scholarly leaning in the air that helps give the town a distinctive character.

For convenience, it is also extremely well positioned for exploring the Great Lakes region and all of its attractions, as well as major urban centres including Pittsburgh, Detroit and Buffalo.

Overlooking the front lawn of a large house in Broadview Heights

Overlooking the front lawn of a large house in Broadview Heights (Photo courtesy of Realtor.com)

Cortland

Named last year as the top city to retire in Ohio, the ambience of Cortland seems to lend itself to an older demographic, with a strong community feel throughout. Situated on the border of suburbia and farmland, the town’s population has actually grown fairly significantly over the past few decades, but the mindset of its residents hasn’t changed a bit.

At its heart, it’s still a small, rural town of like-minded people seeking the same easy-going and simple way of life. As far as small town America is concerned, it is charm personified.

A dramatic sunset over a lake in Cortland

A dramatic sunset over a lake in Cortland (Photo: nick-sights via Flickr)

Granville

Located east of the city of Columbus, the village of Granville offers picture-perfect appeal. Its New England charm owes in no small part to the group of settlers from Massachusetts and Connecticut who came to the area in the early 19th century and modelled the village in the style of their homeland towns.

Today Granville boasts a number of legacies to its fascinating past, including historic buildings such as the eye-catching Buxton Inn, which has been in continuous operation since 1812, as well as several contemporary attractions including art galleries and vintage stores.

A cathedral at dusk in Granville

A cathedral at dusk in Granville (Photo: k_myers via Flickr)

Hudson

With tree-lined residential streets, historic homes and small-town charm, Hudson is a city steeped in tradition. It features world-class facilities and parks, wildlife preserves, and a wide range of recreational, arts and cultural venues.

Regularly hailed as the jewel of Northeast Ohio, another key factor in Hudson’s appeal is its downtown lifestyle centre, which is home to quaint retail shops and fine dining, as well as village greens and pedestrianised family shopping.

A snow-specked home in Hudson

A snow-specked home in Hudson (Photo: Lisa Pasquinelli Rickey via Flickr)

Loveland

Home to the historic Loveland Castle, this delightful town is fittingly named. It covers just five square miles in the greater Cincinnati area, making it small, but perfectly formed. The Little Miami State and National Scenic River runs through town, with plenty of spaces to skip rocks, canoe or have a riverside picnic. Loveland is also one of the more lively stops along the Little Miami Scenic Bike Trail, which runs 75 miles from Springfield to Newtown.

Visitors should take time to visit the downtown area. Filled with buildings built in the 1800s as well as the hallmarks of regeneration such as restaurants and boutiques, it is a harmonious mix of old and new.

A charming three-storey house in Loveland

A charming three-storey house in Loveland (Photo: Gregg Hothem via Flickr)

Marietta

Located on the banks of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers, and bordering West Virginia, Marietta’s attractions are apparent within moments of arriving. A historic riverboat town with origins dating back to 1788 when pioneers established it as the first permanent settlement of the Northwest Territory, it is renowned across the region for its small town charm and European-style ambience.

Picturesque brick streets are dotted with grand Victorian houses and the vibrant historic downtown area boasts a bustling array of distinctive boutiques and locally-owned eateries. If you factor in unique attractions such as a trip aboard a sternwheeler, then you can see perfectly well why Marietta made it into this list.

The sunsets over Marietta (Photo: Mike via Flickr)

Oberlin

This small but bustling town is renowned for its progressive slant, owing in large part to the presence of Oberlin College – a private liberal arts college established in 1833. It was here that gender and racial inequalities were broken down as it became the first American higher education institution to admit female and black students.

Home to a close-knit community, Oberlin has also been recognised for both its visual and cultural charm, when it was voted one of the state’s Best Hometowns in 2012. Today it remains a quintessential college town, with a rich history, stunningly preserved historic homes and several monuments to its legacy of social justice.

Striking revivalism architecture in Oberlin

Striking revivalism architecture in Oberlin (Photo: Onasill ~ Bill Badzo via Flickr)

Tipp City

Established in the mid-18th-century on the burgeoning Miami and Erie Canal, Tipp City is another small quintessential Midwestern town. It has a quaint historical downtown that is listed on the National Historic Register and where remnants of the canal can still be seen.

A large collection of antique and handicraft stores, along with cosy restaurants and beautiful parks, add to the charm, while locally held events, such as the annual Tipp City Mum Fest and Canal Music Fest, attract large numbers that give the town a more vibrant feel.

A scenic view over a lake in Tipp City

A scenic view over a lake in Tipp City (Photo: lonnie via Flickr)

Willoughby

Nestled in Ohio’s Lake County, Willoughby’s past and present are evident in its bustling and historic downtown district, where a diverse but visually cohesive collection of buildings illustrate the town’s growth and development over the past 150 years. The majority of the district is centred around River Street, Erie Street and Euclid Avenue, where you’ll find several independent shops, eclectic restaurants and private residences.

But Willoughby really comes into its own during the variety of award-winning events that take place in the area, including the Red, White, and BBQ Rib Burn Off, Car Cruise In and ArtsFest, all of which serve to create a magical vibe that gives Willoughby such a distinctive character.

A quaint parade of shops in Willoughby

A quaint parade of shops in Willoughby (Photo: hereslookingateuclid via Flickr)

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