The best last-minute getaways

Caves in Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio. The son of a photographer killed by a falling log last month said his mother would forgive the teens arrested for the crime if the kids just didn't know any better.
Caves in Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio. The son of a photographer killed by a falling log last month said his mother would forgive the teens arrested for the crime if the kids just didn't know any better.

Calling all vacation-planning procrastinators: We’re here to help. If you’re still struggling to find an equally safe (read: socially distanced) and fun Labor Day weekend day trip or escape that doesn’t require a long road trip, we’ve assembled a list of the best and brightest options in the state of Ohio.

From Hocking Hills to Cleveland, we’ve gathered a list of events and vacation ideas sure to please everyone — whether you enjoy booze-filled boat rides or strolls through natural landscapes. These are the best last-minute quick trips for your Labor Day weekend spent in Ohio.

ExploreWORTH THE DRIVE: Lake Erie the perfect destination for socially distant escape

🚗🌞Cleveland Metropark Zoo’s Asian Lantern Festival

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo comes alive after dark for six weeks for the Asian Lantern Festival, presented by Cleveland Clinic Children’s. The festival, which showcases more than 40 stunning lantern displays, is back on select nights through July 28 after breaking attendance records last year. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY KYLE LANZER/CLEVELAND METROPARKS
The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo comes alive after dark for six weeks for the Asian Lantern Festival, presented by Cleveland Clinic Children’s. The festival, which showcases more than 40 stunning lantern displays, is back on select nights through July 28 after breaking attendance records last year. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY KYLE LANZER/CLEVELAND METROPARKS

Where: The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, 3900 Wildlife Way, Cleveland

When: Wednesday, Sept. 2, Thursday, Sept. 3 and every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Sept. 20 from 6:30-10:30 p.m.

More info: Website | Facebook

The Asian Lantern Festival, presented by Cleveland Clinic Children’s and taking place at the Cleveland MetroParks Zoo this year, has become one of the most popular special events in the state, attracting thousands of guests per year. Guests can walk or drive through this year’s display.

This summer’s event in Cleveland has been extended through Sept. 20.

Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, guests will be able to see live acrobatic performances, juggling, dancing and colorful displays of lanterns on the Fifth Third Bank stage at the Cleveland Zoo. In its entirety, the Asian Lantern Festival features more than 1,000 illuminated lanterns with more than 70 never-before-seen displays.

Tickets are $20 per person, $60 for a group four-pack and free for children two years of age or younger. Cleveland Zoo members are $18 per person and $54 for a group four-pack. For those purchasing their tickets on the day of their desired event, tickets will be $22 per person and $66 for a group four-pack. To ensure that the event doesn’t reach an unsafe capacity, tickets are scheduled in half-hour time slots from 6:30-10:30 p.m. every night of the event. Regular zoo admission will not give you entry to the festival.

ExploreWORTH THE DRIVE: Admire hundreds of illuminated lanterns at Asian Lantern Festival this month

🚗🌞Take a tour of Preble County’s covered bridges

Christman Bridge, on Eaton-New Hope Road, is one of eight  covered bridges in Preble County. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Christman Bridge, on Eaton-New Hope Road, is one of eight covered bridges in Preble County. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: LISA POWELL / STAFF

Before the summer ends, be sure to take a drive to see the oldest covered bridge in the state of Ohio. To see this historical site, you’ll need to travel to Preble County, where seven other covered bridges exist in quaint communities and rural roads.

The oldest covered bridge in Ohio is the Roberts Bridge, built in 1829 and located on Beech Street in Eaton.

The seven other bridges gracing the most rural parts of Preble County were built in the 19th, 20th and early part of the 21st centuries.

Here is the full list of covered bridges to explore in Preble County:

Northern tour:

  • Warnke Bridge, Swamp Creek Road
  • Dixon’s Branch Bridge, Lewisburg Community Park
  • Geeting Bridge, Price Road
  • Christman Bridge, Eaton-New Hope Road

Southern tour:

  • Roberts Bridge, Beech Street
  • Harshman C Bridge, Concord-Fairhaven Road
  • Hueston Woods Bridge, Camden College Corner Road
  • Brubaker Bridge, Brubaker Road
ExploreWORTH THE DRIVE: Charming covered bridges offer a trip back in time

🚗🌞Go hiking at Hocking Hills State Park

Visitors explore a natural amphitheater cut out of sandstone by a 105-foot waterfall, a highlight on Whispering Cave trail, during the inaugural hike of the new Hemlock Bridge Trail at Hocking Hills State Park near Logan on Monday, May, 8, 2017. This is the first new trail system opened at the Hocking Hills State Park in the last 50 years. More than 150 volunteers helped put in steps, cut down trees and haul stone to open the old trail back up after a 30 to 50-year hiatus. [Barbara J. Perenic/Dispatch]
Visitors explore a natural amphitheater cut out of sandstone by a 105-foot waterfall, a highlight on Whispering Cave trail, during the inaugural hike of the new Hemlock Bridge Trail at Hocking Hills State Park near Logan on Monday, May, 8, 2017. This is the first new trail system opened at the Hocking Hills State Park in the last 50 years. More than 150 volunteers helped put in steps, cut down trees and haul stone to open the old trail back up after a 30 to 50-year hiatus. [Barbara J. Perenic/Dispatch]

Credit: Barbara J. Perenic

Credit: Barbara J. Perenic

Hocking Hills State Park, located outside of Athens, is home to a number of Ohio’s most treasured natural landmarks, such as Ash Cave, Old Man’s Cave, Conkle’s Hollow, Cedar Falls, Cantwell Cliffs and Whispering Cave.

To comply with COVID-related social distancing measures, all of the trails that lead to these landmarks are one-way.

For a more thorough guide to all that Hocking Hills has to offer, read Dayton.com’s guide to the area.

🚗🌞Cincinnati Museum Center’s Shakespeare in the Park(ing Lot)

The Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal in Cincinnati offers museum experiences for all ages. CONTRIBUTED
The Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal in Cincinnati offers museum experiences for all ages. CONTRIBUTED

Where: Cincinnati Museum Center, 1301 Western Ave., Cincinnati

When: Friday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m.

More info: Facebook

This Friday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m., the Cincinnati Museum Center will be putting on a free performance of “Macbeth,” performed by the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, in their parking lot.

Guests will able to sit anywhere in the parking lot, just as long as they maintain proper social distancing. Additionally, guests are asked to wear a mask when moving around or near other groups of people. There are limited drive-in spaces, and these should be reserved for immuno-compromised people only.

Parking and seating opens at 6 p.m., with the show starting at 7 p.m.

🚗🌞Check out the country’s largest free outdoor climbing wall in Columbus

Tyler Miller, 23, of Bexley, descends the climbing wall at the Scioto Audubon Metro Park, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012. (Dispatch photo by Courtney Hergesheimer)
Tyler Miller, 23, of Bexley, descends the climbing wall at the Scioto Audubon Metro Park, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012. (Dispatch photo by Courtney Hergesheimer)

Credit: Courtney Hergesheimer

Credit: Courtney Hergesheimer

Scioto Audubon Metro Park in Columbus is home to the largest free outdoor climbing wall in the nation. The wall, reaching an impressive 35 feet and extending over 6,100 square feet, features bouldering, top rope and lead climbing. Along with rock climbing, Scioto Audubon Metro Park also boasts 120 acres of trails and recreational activities like boating, kayaking, an obstacle course and educational nature centers.

Climbers must be 13 years of age or older, though there is no age restriction for bouldering on the 10-foot boulders.

Scioto Audubon Metro Park is located at 400 W. Whitter St. near downtown Columbus. The park is open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

For more information, visit the park’s website.

🚗🌞Take the whole family to The Wildnerness Center outside of Akron

Located outside of Akron in Wilmot, The Wildnerness Center features an interactive playground for children, surrounded by acres of sprawling forests and wildlife. In the Nature Playscape, kids are encouraged to dig, climb and explore the playground made of only natural materials like streams, plants, boulders, logs, earth mounds and structures like tepees.

The Wildnerness Center is located at 9877 Alabama Ave SW. in Wilmot, and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information about The Wilderness Center, head to their website.

🚗🌞Rent a motorized tiki bar in Cleveland

Are you in need of a booze-filled Labor Day vacation? Simply hop aboard the CLE Tiki Barge, a tiki-style boat comfortable pontoon-syle seating and bar stools around a center bar where good times can be had with drinks in hand.

The two-hour cruise, which sets sail at 1180 Main Ave. in Cleveland, can accommodate up to 20 guests and is BYOB. On board, guests will have access to ice, coolers, a Bluetooth sound system, a bathroom, a designated driver (the captain) and a bartender.

Guests can either book a public cruise for $40 per person or a private cruise for at least 20 guests is $700.

For more information about the CLE Tiki Barge and to book your ride on the boozy CLE Tiki Barge, pay a visit to their website.

🚗🌞Take a tour of the interesting rock sculptures at Cleveland’s Hinckley Reservation

Aside from the many hiking trails and 90-acre Hinckley Lake serving as a draw to visitors around the Cleveland area, there is another more alluring reason to visit the Hinckley Reservation. Visitors who hike through the Worden’s Ledges loop trail will have a chance to see unique carvings made by Noble Stuart, the son-in-law of Hiram Worden, the namesake of the trail, in the 1940s.

While walking along this .7-mile trail, you’ll be able to spot the faces of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, along with a pirate ship, a guardian sphinx, Christ on a crucifix and more historical figures, people and themes from the Stuart’s private life.

Hinckley Reservation is located at 432 Bellus Rd. in Hinckley. More information about the Cleveland park can be found at their website.

🚗🌞Climb aboard the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway

The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway offers tours of the Hocking Valley on historical trains. CONTRIBUTED
The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway offers tours of the Hocking Valley on historical trains. CONTRIBUTED

For the past few decades, the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway has offered a unique way to traverse the idyllic landscapes of Nelsonville, Hocking Hills, Athens and the surrounding area. Each weekend, guests are able to board a historic train at the Nelsonville Depot and embark upon an hour-and-a-half or two-hour train ride to see sights like an old canal lock from the Hocking Canal, the remains of the Nelsonville Brick Company, the original depot at Haydenville and more.

Currently, guests can choose between a number of different train experiences, like the hour-and-a-half-long Haydenville-bound train, the two-hour-long East Logan-bound train, the Caboose Train ride, which features multiple cabooses and the Ohio’s Friendliest Robbery Train, where passengers will be robbed of their fake money by a group of bandits on horseback at some point throughout the ride.

Prices start at $16 per person and vary depending on the train ride. Children between the ages of three and 12, senior citizens over the age of 60 and members of the military can receive discounted rates. Most train rides take place on weekends.

Guests will board each train ride at the Nelsonville Train Depot, located at 33 W. Canal St. in Nelsonville. This location is also where the train ride ends. Most of the regular weekend trips, unless otherwise noted, include a 30-minute stop at Robbins Crossing, a recreated pioneer village on the campus of Hocking College.

For a full list of train schedules and to purchase your tickets, pay a visit to the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway’s website.

ExploreWORTH THE DRIVE: Hop aboard a scenic railroad tour of the Hocking Valley