Central Ohio stay-at-home-moms understand that single-income families survive on tight budgets—as well as tight, stressful schedules during the school year. While many families plan trips over the summer and winter holidays and spring break, there is a long school year dotted with four-day weekends that beg for some family down time. The many four-day weekends recognized by Columbus City Schools and surrounding districts offer the perfect opportunity to visit one of Ohio’s hidden vacation spots: Hocking Hills. Ignore your fears that a third or fourth family vacation is beyond your budget—there are a number of free—yes, FREE, activities for families of any size and activity level to enjoy in the breathtaking Hocking Hills. With an easy hour drive from Columbus’ East Side, Central Ohio families may discover some pleasant surprises hidden away “right next door”!
Visit Hocking Hills State Park, Nature Preserves and National Forests. Ohio is one of only two states in the United States that does not charge park admission or parking fees for admission. In fact, admission is free to state parks, nature preserves and forests. Hocking Hills is home to several hiking trails, scenic overlooks, picnic areas, forests, preserves and campgrounds—as well as a number of natural wonders that amaze Columbus families!
Venture onto hiking trails and scenes galore. It is free to hike through Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, Ash Cave, Conkle’s Hollow, Rock House, Cantwell Cliffs, and the Rock Bridge. Pack a picnic lunch or dinner to save cash, or stop in to one the area’s restaurants for lunch or dinner instead. The kids will be so amazed by the rocks and formations that spending money will not occur to them! Stay on posted trails and read the signs and guide maps to ensure that your chosen trail is acceptable for your family’s hiking ability.
Visit historic Nelsonville and Logan. Both Nelsonville and Logan offer some of the best artisan shops and historical sites of the region. Whether traveling with a historic train lover ready to visit the cars in Nelsonville—or with an artist in training, there are music shops, pottery shops, and other arts, crafts and antique shops sure to please. Window shopping is free!
Watch the calendar for Hocking Hills State Park Naturalist Programs. Throughout the year, the Hocking Hills State Park offers outstanding naturalist guided activities and events such as the Haunted Hocking Tours and the Winter Ice Hikes. These educational, family friendly activities are typically offered free of charge by the Friends of Hocking Hills State Park and are a terrific way to fill the kids in on all of the field trips they are missing in local school district budget cuts!
Visit the Columbus Washboard Factory. Ever played a washboard? Perhaps, even it has never been a goal, per se, there is an opportunity to make a joyful noise during a free tour of the Columbus Washboard Factory, the last washboard factory in the United States.