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12 of the Best Weekend Vacations From Columbus

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman 12 of the Best Weekend Vacations From ColumbusUnion Station in Kansas City, Missouri — just under a 10 hour drive from Columbus.
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The approaching summer months mean vacations and long weekend trips for Central Ohioans. Of course New York City is an all-time favorite, and newer tourism hubs like Charleston, SC may already be on your radar. But there are some cities that are regularly looked over. (Detroit, for one, has a rather impressive art scene and is just around a three hour and 15 minute drive from Columbus.)

From the South, East Coast and Midwest, here are 12 recommendations for weekend trips from Columbus, including three-hour, five-hour, and 10-hour drives.

3-Hour Drives

Detroit, MI – The Motor City is best known for its auto industry legacy and the birthplace of Motown Records, but the internet has given the city a few titles of its own: A study by travel platform WanderU named Detroit a top city for singles. (Rankings were based on number of single residents, as well as more arbitrary factors like most quality cupcake bakeries and takeout options.) and two Detroit restaurants, Joe Muer Seafood and Iridescence, topped OpenTable’s list of most scenic restaurants in 2018.

There are a few attractions dedicated to Detroit’s past as well; The Motown Museum features art, memorabilia and costumes from the record label’s hay day, while the Henry Ford Museum and Estate, and the Detroit Industry Murals by artist Diego Rivera in the Detroit Institute of Arts exist as an ode to the Motor City.

The Detroit Institute of Art’s gallery collection is also considered among the top six museums in the U.S. For a more urban art setting, however, check out The Belt, an alleyway deemed in downtown Detroit that is a popular destination for public art installations and murals curated by Detroit-based art gallery Library Street Collective.

Louisville, KY – At an estimated three hour and 15 minute drive, Louisville, Kentucky has the southern charm without the southern drive. Quite the busy city, notable museums in Kentucky include the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, where Major Leaque Baseball bats are produced, and the Muhammad Ali Center, featuring memorbilia and spotlighting the humanitarian efforts of the superstar boxer. In May, the city hosts the weeks-long Kentucky Derby Festival, featuring free concerts and community events. Other festivals throughout the year include: the Bourbon and Beyond Festival — which is reportedly the largest bourbon festival in the world — Lebowski Fest, Kentucky Reggae Festival, Louisville Tango Festival and others.

Among the more eclectic attractions in Louisville is the Louisville Mega Cavern, an underground inside a former limestone mine that features a bike park and zipline. Louisville also has one of the best haunted attractions in the country, according to the Haunted Attraction Association. The Haunted Hotel is an award-winning, continuously running attraction that is considered extreme by some. Though not an actual hotel, the experience may seem all too real since actors are allowed to touch guests.

Indianapolis, IN – Amongst the list of “drive-through” cities recently getting their just due is Indianapolis, just two hours and 45 minutes away from Columbus. One of the city’s biggest draws is the world’s largest Children’s Museum, which features interactive exhibitions for everything from retro Barbies to Samurai suits of armor, a planetarium, a carousel, science labs, a library and more.

Another big draw to Indy is of course the Indy 500 on Memorial Day Weekend, but tours of the speedway and the Motor Speedway Museum are available year round. Coinciding with the big race is the 500 Festival, featuring antique cars, a parade and floats. Indianapolis is also one of several cities where Midwest-style comfort food is in high demand. The city is listed amongst the best restaurants to splurge on and the best brunch restaurants in America, according to Yelp.

5-Hour Drives

Nashville, TN – The self-described “drinking town with a music problem” gets enough tourism for those reasons alone, but other draws to the city are emerging as well. Nashville’s restaurant scene, which historically has been dominated by fried food, is said to be experiencing a renaissance — including everything from local coffee shops and breweries to modern twists on southern comfort food. There is also a historical focus: Greek Revival-style architecture, found on structures like The Parthenon, a full-size replica of a Greek landmark, and The Hermitage, the slave plantation of former President Andrew Jackson.

But there’s no beating the plethora of live music venues in the country music capital. Taking a trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Johnny Cash Museums could make any music lover’s trip, as could a quick tour of Broadway Street and Music Row.

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Olmsted Parks.

Buffalo, NY – At just under five hours, Buffalo, New York has emerged as an underrated travel destination. The city known for Buffalo chicken wings has much more to offer, including its unique Chicago/New York-style pizza. As far as tourism: There’s the Canalside waterfront, which hosts hundreds of events — including festivals, concerts, fitness classes, sailing tours, pedal boating and ice skating — and is the site of a newly opened Children’s Museum.

Buffalo is also a travel favorite for skiing — Take a trip the Buffalo Ski Center, which boasts 43 slopes and 3 lodges, or visit Holiday Valley, though, at an hour south of Buffalo, will take the same driving to get to from Columbus to Ellicottville, New York. It’s also worth adding that Buffalo is along the route to Niagra Falls, adding just 20 minutes by car from Buffalo.


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