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Culture abounds in Ohio and the state does a great job of recognizing its heritage and protecting it. One of the state’s great cultural institutions honors a relatively recent cultural phenomenon: rock and roll. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland is the world’s top spot for learning about the greatest rockers, producers, and engineers of all time. Opened in 1995, the “Rock Hall” anchors Cleveland’s redeveloped North Coast Harbor.
Why Cleveland? Disc jockey Alan Freed from local station WJW coined the term “rock and roll” and was one of the genre’s biggest boosters. The hall of fame building is seven levels of history and memorabilia. Learn about the roots of rock music – gospel and blues, for example – and its more modern iterations, such as hip hop and soul. Many exhibits focus on individual artists and bands, such as the Beetles, Jimi Hendrix, and the Rolling Stones. There are interactive exhibits on one-hit wonders and artifacts from legendary instrument builders such as Les Paul.
Ohio has had many great residents, and one of the greatest was the astronaut Neil Armstrong. Armstrong and others deeply involved in space exploration are honored at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta.
This museum is crammed with unique artifacts. See the Gemini VIII spacecraft, spacesuits that Armstrong wore on his Gemini and Apollo trips, and a moon rock gathered by the Apollo 11. Explore seven interactive exhibits, three simulators, and 10 audio/visual stations. One of the coolest lets you practice docking the lunar module and space shuttle – it’s a great challenge for kids and adults alike. Sit back and watch a 25-minute documentary movie about the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Ohio is closely tied to America’s success in launching crafts into the air. The MAPS Air Museum at the Akron-Canton Regional Airport honors part of that history. Stowed in a former U.S. Air National Guard hangar are 47 aircraft including an F-4 Phantom, an F-14 Tomcat, and a C-47 Skytrain. You can also see the gondola from the Spirit of Akron blimp and three helicopters.
Air Force history is preserved at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. Here you can find rare and important aircraft. See planes used by presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the Boeing 707 on which Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as president shortly after John F. Kennedy’s death. Learn about the pioneers of flight, see a replica of the Wright brother’s Military Flyer, and see displays of uniforms which belonged to famous Air Force figures.
Yet another Ohio museum dedicated to aircraft is the Liberty Aviation Museum. Located in Port Clinton, this smaller museum displays a number of planes, including a Ford 5-AT-B Trimotor and a Grumman Avenger. Also on site is the Tin Goose Diner, a vintage 1950s diner.
A truly sacred Ohio landmark is the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. Located near Chillicothe, this park has been nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park protects six archaeological sites important to Native Americans who once lived here. You can see earthworks in the form of squares and circles and the spots where the dead were cremated. A museum in the visitor’s center has artifacts excavated from the site, including a raven effigy pipe.
Journey to Northeast Ohio for a sampling of world-class performing and visual arts. Classes are available at the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Butler Institute of American Art. See sculpture, paintings, photography, and more at hallowed sites such as the Akron Art Museum, Bonfoey Gallery, Canton Museum of Art, Dead Horse Gallery, Great Lakes Science Center, Kent State Gallery of Art, the Riley Galleries, and The Sculpture Center.
Several dozen organizations offer music, theater, dance, and film experiences in Northeast Ohio. Enjoy music from the Akron Symphony, Cleveland Opera, the Ohio Light Orchestra, and the Youngstown Symphony. Top-rated theater can be seen at the Actor’s Summit, Dobama Theatre, the Players Guild Theater, and Porthouse Theatre. See classic and modern dance at the Ballet Theatre of Ohio, the Fairmount Center for the Arts, and the Ohio Ballet. Art films show at the Case Western Reserve Film Society and the Cleveland Cinemas. Live music has a home at venues like the Beck Center for the Arts, Cain Park, the Cleveland Play House, Packard Music Hall, Powers Auditorium, and the Tower City Amphitheater.
Kids love culture when it’s fun, and it’s super fun at the Cincinnati Museum Center – spend a day and visit the Cincinnati History Museum, the Museum of Natural History and Science, and the Duke Energy Children’s Museum. In Greenville, visit the Garst Museum and the Annie Oakley Center to learn about Native Americans, pioneer life, and local military history.
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and you can learn about that book and the abolitionist movement at the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati. Nearby, learn about the abolition of slavery and slave trade at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
Curious about what Ohio was like in the 1800s? You can visit a recreated village at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus. Ohio Village has a bike shop, exhibits which show how photos were made during the period, a town hall, a lodge, a pavilion and village green, and more.
The Maritime Museum of Sandusky is one or several marine museums in Ohio. This center teaches about maritime history stretching from the modern era back to the early days of Great Lakes navigation. Learn about fishing fleets, shipping before the days of refrigeration, and how ice was harvested from the bay. In Marietta, the Ohio River Museum focuses on steamboats and boat building.
Whether your idea of culture is the history of rock and roll or high art in a hushed museum, there’s plenty to explore in Ohio.
Named the "#1 Science Center For Families in the U.S." by Parents Magazine, the Center of Science and Industry is located on the bank of the Scioto River in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Known affectionately as COSI, the Center features over 300 interactive exhibits in areas following themes such as Energy, the Ocean, Space, and Gadgets.
Families traveling with young children can let them loose in the Little Kidspace, while visitors of all ages get a thrill from exhibits like the outdoor Big Science Park, as well as Lily Pad. COSI’s ample exhibition space makes it an ideal host for traveling exhibitions – past favorites have included “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” and “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination”.