Mohican Covered Bridge — Photo credited by Caroline Eubanks
Set amidst the hills between Cleveland and Columbus, charming towns feel tucked away from bustling cities. This area is also where much of Ohio’s Amish community resides and where stars of the big screen have found solitude. It’s a place where you can disconnect, spot horses and buggies, and indulge in artisanal cheeses and fudges.
Although there are many places to explore in this region, these seven towns are particularly attractive.
Berlin and Millersburg
Begin your visit to Amish Country at the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center, which educates visitors about the Amish, Mennonite, and Hutterite communities and their beliefs. Exhibits include an Amish schoolhouse, a traditional Pennsylvania barn, and a Cyclorama painting.
For shopping for Amish arts and crafts, Sol’s Palace is a sprawling mall of stalls selling quilts, furniture, candles, and pottery. Schrock Heritage Town has Amish-made furniture to take home. You can also travel like the Amish do with a buggy ride with Mel’s Horse Buggy Rides.
Open since 1938, Boyd & Wurthmann is where the locals eat, with a daily changing menu of dishes like meatloaf and chicken fried steak with traditional dandelion sauce. Berlin Farm is another favorite and also has a theater that hosts musicians and other performers.
from Millersburg Bunker Hill’s Chalet du Fromage is a family run shop since 1935 that makes cheese from local Amish farms. The building itself is reminiscent of what you might find in the family’s native Switzerland.
To completely disconnect from the outside world and soak up the surrounding nature, the best place to stay is Les Mohicans, a secluded luxury resort with no cell service or internet. Kevin and Laura Mooney purchased property in 2005 and now have several treehouses.
Two of the treehouses were built for the “Treehouse Masters” show with the help of local Amish carpenters. There are also cabins and an Airstream. All are equipped with a kitchenette, a shower and a large bed.
During the warmer months, visitors can join one of the canoe tours that operate on the Black Fork Mohican River. Tree Frog Canopy Zipline Tours is just down the road from the Mohicans and offers thrilling zipline rides through the trees.
Downtown Loudonville — Photo credited by Caroline Eubanks
The town of Loudonville may be small in size, but it’s the gateway to Mohican State Park. The 1,100-acre site is home to stunning waterfalls, a historic flour mill, covered bridge, and miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking.
During the warmer months, Shipley Canoe Livery bustles with activity, serving as a canoe outfitter, tavern and campground. Join a 3-7 mile guided river trip before sharing pizza and settling into a riverside campsite.
Opened in March 2020, Bistro Fourchette Noire has become a favorite local restaurant for the menu that includes hearty sandwiches and burgers, as well as the best craft beer in Ohio.
Malabar Farm State Park — Photo credited by Caroline Eubanks
Louis Bromfield, author and Pulitzer Prize-winning conservationist, purchased a 900-acre estate in his hometown, adding to the farm and restoring the land to working order. While here he was a prolific writer, writing dozens of novels and short stories which were adapted into screenplays. He befriends Humphrey Bogart, arranging the actor’s wedding to Lauren Bacall.
Now operating as Malabar Farm State Park, the house is open for tours, with original Bromfield furniture and paintings by Grandma Moses. The park is also home to one of the locations on the Shawshank Trail; the Pugh Cabin was used in the film’s opening scene. There are also beginner-friendly trails ranging from less than a mile to 7 miles.
The Malabar Farm restaurant is located in a 19th century house on the property that Bromfield envisioned as an inn. The menu features favorites like steak, seafood, and meatloaf.
Ohio State Reformatory – Photo credit to Caroline Eubanks
First opened to inmates in 1896 after a decade of construction, the Ohio State Reformatory is a must-see landmark in Mansfield. It was designed by Levi Scofield, a notable architect responsible for many of Cleveland’s iconic buildings. Unlike other institutions, the focus of the reformatory was rehabilitation and eventual release. The 1960s brought changes to the prison system and the building fell into disrepair over the following decades.
It finally closed in 1990 before being turned into a museum. Today, it welcomes 120,000 visitors a year, including ghost hunters eager to catch a glimpse of the spirits that roam the halls. He also appeared on screen in “The Shawshank Redemption”, “Air Force One” and “Judas and the Black Messiah”. There is also a Shawshank museum with props from the film.
After wandering the odd rooms, grab a meal and drink at Cypress Hill Winery in Hudson and Essex. The tasting room serves varietal California-style wines, as well as gourmet dishes like flatbreads and pork tenderloin.
Wooster — Photo credited by Caroline Eubanks
The tree-lined college town of Wooster is packed with shops and restaurants in Victorian-era buildings. Sure House Coffee Roasting Co. is the best place to start the day, with an Earl Gray latte and a scone, before hitting the streets. Local favorite Broken Rocks Café serves artisan bread with daily fresh soups, salads and sandwiches.
The town is also full of independent shops. Pick up souvenirs at Stock Books Used & Rare Books and Blackbird Records. At Operation Fandom, visitors can relive their childhood with memorabilia from classic TV shows, movies, and comics. Blue Spruce Shop offers a wide range of home decor and gifts, including cookbooks and candles.