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Chillicothe, Ohio is a gem of a destination! With small-town appeal, historic attractions and great eateries, the city attracts all types of visitors. To help fellow travelers plan their trip, we have rounded up the absolute best things to do in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Why Visit Chillicothe, OH?
I have to be honest, when Kris first came up with the idea that we should visit Chillicothe, Ohio, I was skeptical. Growing up in Columbus, I couldn’t recall anyone ever talking about Chillicothe as a destination.
But then Kris mentioned that one of our favorite Ohio craft breweries had opened a location in the historic First Capital District in Chillicothe, and my interested was piqued. After a little research, I was intrigued by the many Chillicothe things to do.
We decided to spend 2 days in Chillicothe – and we are thrilled that we did! Chillicothe is a fantastic weekend getaway, and we are highlighting the top Chillicothe sights to help other travelers plan their time in the city.
Chillicothe, OH FAQs
Before we dive into what to do in Chillicothe, Ohio, we want to cover a few frequently asked questions about the city.
Where is Chillicothe?
Chillicothe is located about 50 miles south of Columbus, Ohio in Ross County. The city is bounded by the Scioto River on the east and Paint Creek on the south. It is easy to reach Chillicothe by car. At the end of the post, we cover how to get to Chillicothe from nearby major cities.
How is Chillicothe Pronounced?
One of the first things you need to know before visiting the city is how to pronounce Chillicothe. If you are not from the region and familiar with the name, it can be a bit of a tough one.
The word Chillicothe is an English spelling of the Native American Shawnee tribe word, Chalahgawtha, which means Principal Village (and was used to specify where the tribal chief lived).
These two Chillicothe pronunciation guides can help: chi·luh·kaa·thee or chil-akoth-E – or take a listen here.
What Does Chillicothe Mean?
The meaning of Chillicothe is Principal Town. The word is a Native American word of the Shawnee Tribe – with Chillicothe meaning ‘the settlement and home of the principal leader.’
What are some Fun Facts about Chillicothe?
- The Hopewell People, an ancient civilization, resided in the region in 200 BC.
- Chillicothe hosted the Ohio Constitutional Convention for statehood.
- Chillicothe served as the first and third capital of the State of Ohio.
- The city is a designated a Tree City USA.
Are There Free Things To Do in Chillicothe?
Yes! There are several things to do in Chillicothe, Ohio for free. We include several free-of-charge and inexpensive things to do on our list of activities.
Are There Things for Kids To Do in Chillicothe?
Yes! There are many family-friendly activities in Chillicothe. While our list is not specifically designed around family fun, there are many attractions that kids – and the whole family – can enjoy.
How Many Days in Chillicothe?
How many days you spend in Chillicothe will depend on your interests and sightseeing pace. Many of the sights in Chillicothe can be visited in a single day. That said, we recommend staying at least one night to really get a feel for the city and discover the best Chillicothe attractions.
At the end of the article, we share top picks for accommodations in Chillicothe.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN CHILLICOTHE, OHIO
Now that we have covered the basics of visiting Chillicothe, let’s jump into the top things to do! Our comprehensive list includes the top attractions – plus a Chillicothe map and pertinent travel info.
Save, Pin or Bookmark our Chillicothe Travel Guide to plan your trip to Ohio!
#1 Discover the Indian Mounds in Chillicothe, Ohio
Discovering the earthworks of the ancient Native American Hopewell Culture is one of the top things to do in Chillicothe.
Long before the City of Chillicothe was established, the land in the Chillicothe region was used by the Hopewell Culture for ceremonial gatherings. Giant mounds were constructed for burial purposes and many artifacts have been unearthed from within the mounds.
The Mound City Group is the best-preserved earthwork complex and is designated as a part of the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. Additionally, in September 2023, Hopewell was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Top Tip: Visiting the park is free! There is no admission fee for visitors to walk around the mounds and see the artistic relics in the on-site museum.
#2 Explore the Adena Mansion and Gardens
Exploring the Adena Mansion and Gardens Historic Site is one of the Best Things To Do Chillicothe, Ohio. Thomas Worthington – the 6th Ohio governor and former US Senator – built the home in the early 1800s as a residence for his family.
The historic site has been beautifully restored – and many original furnishings are displayed inside the home. Visitors can tour the home (for a fee) and explore the grounds, which includes five original buildings and formal gardens.
Top Tip: From an overlook on the property, guests can peer through a clearing in the trees to view the landscape that provided inspiration for the Great Seal of the State of Ohio.
#3 See Historic Chillicothe and the First Capital District
The First Capital District in Chillicothe is the historic core of the city that is bounded by Mulberry, Walnut, Water and Fourth Streets. The urban district has been recently revitalized, retaining architectural gems, while simultaneously breathing new life into the old buildings.
At the center of the district is the grand Ross County Courthouse, which features an ornate columned facade and a rising clocktower. It was completed in 1858 and sits on the site of the first Ohio Statehouse.
Top Tip: Visitors who want to see what the original Ohio Statehouse looked like can seek out the Chillicothe Gazette building, which was built in 1940 as a replica of the first statehouse in Ohio.
#4 Take a Self-Guided Walk of Downtown Chillicothe, Ohio
One of the fun Chillicothe things to do is to grab a map and set off on a historic self-guided walking tour. Highlights include the city’s most significant buildings, beautiful Chillicothe churches and architecturally unique houses.
Visitors can use outlined brochures to see the sights in the First Capital District, the attractions on Old Second Street or the historic buildings on Paint Street. Furthermore, there are guides to the historic residential homes, churches in Chillicothe, as well as Ross County cemeteries.
#5 Seek Out the Best Chillicothe Murals
Seeking out street art murals is another one of the fun things to do in Chillicothe, Ohio. The three murals in the First Capital District are the Mail Pouch mural, Chillicothe Telephone mural and the Canal mural.
The Mail Pouch mural on the side of the historic Machinery Hall building on Second Street was painted sometime in the late 1800s. It was only revealed after the building next door was torn down.
Visitors can find the Chillicothe Telephone art mural (a work by Eric Henn painted in 2006) on Main Street. The Canal mural (painted by Jeff Speakman in 2003) is at the corner of Mulberry and Second Streets and depicts what the city looked like when the Ohio Erie Canal ran through the city in the 1830s.
Pro Tip: Travelers visiting nearby towns can also find murals in Bainbridge and Frankfort.
#6 Contemplate Art at the Pump House Center for the Arts
While we love street art, it isn’t the only place to see art in the city. The Pump House Center for the Arts, a landmark in Chillicothe, is a small art gallery housed in the historic brick Water Pumping Station.
The renovated pump station gallery features a variety of artworks created by local artists. Showcased artwork changes frequently, so there is always something new! Many of the displayed works of art are also offered for sale – and the adjoining gift shop sells numerous locally crafted gifts and collectibles.
Pro Tip: There is no admission fee to the Pump House Center for the Arts – it’s one of the top free things to do in Chillicothe, OH!
#7 Relax at Yoctangee Park
Yoctangee Park is the green oasis in the city and an ideal spot for a stroll and relaxation. The park features sports fields, a skate park, a kids’ playground, walking paths and a pond. Spending time at the park is one of the fun, kid friendly things to do in Chillicothe.
Many of the annual events in Chillicothe, Ohio – like the springtime Feast of the Flowering Moon Native American Festival and the autumn Farmer’s Fall Festival – are held on the park grounds.
Pro Tip: A dedicated Veterans Memorial Park within the Yoctangee Park honors the city’s World War II veterans.
#8 Visit the Ross County Heritage Center
The Ross County Heritage Center, which is managed by the Ross County Historical Society, is a small complex of museums in Chillicothe that display the rich heritage of the city and region.
For a small fee, visitors can learn about history of Ross County through various displays in the Heritage Center Museum. Guests are also invited to visit the Knoles Log House, which dates to the 1820s and houses furnishings of the time.
At the Franklin House Museum, which was designed by famed Ohio architect Frank Packard, visitors can view significant architectural details and home furnishings from the late 19th century.
Pro Tip: The McKell Library is also part of the complex and boasts thousands of archival documents, books and photographs related to Ross County and Chillicothe history.
#9 Experience Chillicothe Shopping
Shopping in Chillicothe, Ohio is one of the main attractions for tourists. Shops dot the city center and offer an abundance of unique products – including home goods and gifts.
Treasure hunters will find numerous antique stores in Chillicothe, Ohio – the American Vintage Warehouse and Chillicothe Antique Emporium are two top picks.
Visitors interested in bookstores in Chillicothe, Ohio should check out Wheatberry Books, a locally-owned book shop. The History Store also has an excellent collection of books on the history of Chillicothe, Ohio (plus they have heaps of military miniatures!).
Pro Tip: For a dose of nostalgia, Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop is a must! The fun, old-fashioned candy shop sells novelty items and hard-to-find treats and sodas.
#10 Hike at The Arc of Appalachia Highlands Nature Sanctuary
Active travelers looking for things to do around Chillicothe, Ohio can hike the trails at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary – which we think are the best hiking trails in the area (next to Hocking Hills!).
Centered on the Rocky Fork Gorge and managed by the Arc of Appalachia, the Sanctuary features a plethora of nature trails that wind through forested landscapes to grottos, caves and rock formations. The region was formerly known as The 7 Caves – and some caves are still accessible.
Our favorite trek is the 1.2-mile looping Etawah Woods Trail that includes a spur trail to see the unique 3 Sisters rock formations.
Pro Tip: We recommend starting at the Appalachian Forest Museum and Office – where you can pick up maps and get info; the staff is so helpful!
#11 Trek around Great Seal State Park
Another one of the best things to do outside in Chillicothe is to go hiking at Great Seal State Park. The park is noted for having challenging trails that offer incredible vistas of the Scioto Valley – but there is also a Disc Golf Course, a Storybook Trail and picnic shelters.
Twenty-three miles of trails traverse the park – 17 of which can also be used by mountain bikers and horseback riders. While the trails tend to be on the shorter side, the steep inclines make them strenuous – so make sure you are prepared with proper footwear and plenty of water if you plan to hike.
Pro Tip: Looking for more great parks? Visiting Tar Hollow State Forest is one of the things to do near Chillicothe, Ohio for outdoor enthusiasts. Although we have yet to visit the park, we have family and friends that highly recommend it! Scioto Trail State Park is another one of the state parks near Chillicothe, which features a heavily wooded forest and amazing viewpoints.
#12 Step Aboard the Chillicothe Railroad Museum
The two red cabooses that sit on the edge of Yoctngee Park along Water Street are top attractions in Chillicothe.
A small museum is housed inside the two red train cabooses. The museum details the history of the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) railway.
Pro Tip: The museum has limited hours – and was not open during our visit. That said, it was still fun to get an up-close look at the historic train cabooses!
#13 See a Show at the Majestic Theater
The famed Majestic Theater in Chillicothe ranks as the oldest continuously operating theater in the United States – and is still one of the best places to catch a live show or movie today!
Dating to 1853, the Majestic Theatre stage has been graced by a slew of acts – from opera singers to country stars to local comedians. During the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, the theater was used as a temporary morgue – which is when the back alley got the nickname, Bloody Alley.
Tickets to upcoming shows are available on the theater website.
Pro Tip: The Chillicothe Civic Theatre is another city theater offering live theatrical performances.
#14 Learn about Lucy Hayes
Lucy Hayes – the wife of 19th US President Rutherford B Hayes – was born in the city in 1831…and her childhood home has been preserved as one of the Chillicothe points of interest.
Visitors can learn about the life of Lucy Webb Hayes at the home, now called the Lucy Hayes Heritage Center, on guided tours. The center hosts events throughout the year, as well. Check the Facebook page for information.
Pro Tip: There is a small fee for the guided tours, which are offered on summer weekends.
#15 Watch Tecumseh! Outdoor Drama
Watching the Tecumseh drama on the outdoor stage at Sugarloaf Mountain is one of the best things to do in Chillicothe, Ohio at night. The performances take place during the summer in the Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheater.
The play tells the story of Tecumseh, a legendary Shawnee tribe leader who was dedicated to defending his homeland. The performance is both entertaining and educational.
Pro Tip: Buy your tickets in advance – as they often sell out!
#16 Go Canoeing and Kayaking in Chillicothe
Floating down Paint Creek in a canoe or kayak is one of the best Chillicothe, OH things to do!
Waters Edge Canoe Livery rents both canoes and kayaks for varying length trips – plus organizes drop off up the creek – for a fun day on the water. Paddling down scenic Paint Creek is fairly easy, with plenty of time to relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.
Pro Tip: Book your trip in advance!
#17 Catch a Chillicothe Paints Baseball Game
The Paints Baseball Club is a collegiate summer baseball team that is part of the Prospect League. Attending a game is one of the fun Chillicothe, Ohio things to do in the summertime!
Games are held at the VA Memorial Stadium on the north side of the city and single game tickets cost less than $10.
Pro Tip: Check the calendar for upcoming promotional events – like Thirsty Thursdays and Fireworks Nights.
#18 Eat at the Best Restaurants in Chillicothe, OH
When we decided to spend a couple of days in Chillicothe, we sought out the best food in the city using local recommendations and online reviews. Our list of the Best Food: Chillicothe, Ohio includes the top eateries in the city.
Old Canal Smoke House for the Best Chillicothe Food
The Old Canal Smoke House specializes in savory, smoked meats served in a welcoming and cozy environment. Every dish that came out of the kitchen looked delicious, but we loved the classic smoked Angus beef brisket – and highly recommend the potato salad as a side.
Burger Bar at 50 West for Burgers
The menu at 50 West Burger Bar is not complicated: It’s classic burgers, fries and shakes. What makes it exceptional is the ‘coast to coast’ toppings. You can’t go wrong with a Classic Style burger, but it’s hard to resist the ‘Ohio’ – which is piled high with Cincinnati chili, shredded cheese, house mustard and onion.
Carl’s Townhouse Chillicothe, Ohio Diner
A local favorite throwback diner, Carl’s Townhouse serves up classic American breakfasts and lunch platters. The Cheeseburger Baskets are the way to go – but leave room for dessert!
Crispie Creme Donut Shop
Crispie Creme (not to be confused with Krispy Kreme, but pronounced the same way) is an old-school donut shop that makes delectable old-fashioned donuts at incredibly reasonable prices. The shop has been in business since 1929…and everything they make is tasty (but, seriously, try the cake donut sticks!).
Hometown Hibachi for Asian Eats
Although we didn’t make it to Hometown Hibachi, it gets rave reviews as the best Asian food in Chillicothe. It was always crowded when we walked by and the portions looked huge.
#19 Drink Local Craft Beer at the Best Bars in Chillicothe
Craft beer is one of the reasons we ended up visiting Chillicothe – and we have to say that for the size of the city, the options for craft beer in Chillicothe are excellent! Within just a couple of blocks, there are three incredible craft beer taprooms in downtown Chillicothe.
50 West Brewing
We got our first taste of 50 West Brewing at a restaurant in Covington, Kentucky – and the 50 West Brewery in Chillicothe is what prompted our visit to the city.
Housed in an old bank building, but renovated into a bright and fun space, 50 West produces beer onsite and offers a long list of tasty brews (which you can sample before you buy!). Don’t miss happy hour and be sure to check out the upcoming event nights!
Old Capitol Brewing
A locally owned brewery, Old Capitol Brewing opened in 2021. The dimly lit, industrial-slash-chic taproom is cozy, inviting and a fine place to sip fresh craft beer.
The Pour House at Machinery Hall
Although not a brewery, The Pour House restaurant has an extensive tap list of 30 beers – with an emphasis on brews from Ohio.
Without a doubt, the absolute best place in Chillicothe for hand-crafted cocktails, Steiner’s Speakeasy is a bar that is dedicated to making excellent libations – and they have a great range of craft beers, too!
#20 Attend the Best Events in Chillicothe, OH
From festivals to fairs and markets to marathons, Chillicothe hosts an array of fun and exciting events for both visitors and locals. Find out what Chillicothe events are coming up on the official calendar of the Chillicothe Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Map of Chillicothe, Ohio
Use this link to Google Maps for an online, interactive version of our Chillicothe Map of Attractions.
How To Get To Chillicothe
Chillicothe is best reached by car and is well-connected to major nearby cities.
Visitors from out of state who are traveling by plane to visit will find two airports near Chillicothe, Ohio: Rickenbacker International Airport (LCK) and John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH). While Rickenbacker is closer to Chillicothe, it is serviced by far fewer flights.
Directions to Chillicothe, Ohio
Chillicothe is easy to reach from major Ohio cities. We highlight the distance and drive times for each route.
Columbus, Ohio to Chillicothe, Ohio: Chillicothe and Columbus are well-connected via Route 23. The distance from Columbus to Chillicothe is about 50 miles and it takes just about an hour to make the drive. MAP.
Cincinnati to Chillicothe: The most direct route from Cincinnati, OH to Chillicothe is a via I-71 and SR 35. The distance is about 105 miles and takes about 1.5 hours to drive. MAP.
Cleveland to Chillicothe: The best route to get to Chillicothe from Cleveland is via I-71 and 23. The route’s distance is about 190 miles and will take just around 3 hours to complete in a car. MAP.
Use this link to Google Maps for directions from your location.
Hotels in Chillicothe, OH
Visitors staying more than one day in Chillicothe have a few options for accommodations. We recommend staying close to the historic district so that you can easily explore the city on foot. That said, there are options outside the city for camping in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Hotels in Chillicothe, Ohio
While there are several Chillicothe hotels near the highway, there are very few within the historic center. We recommend using our tips for Booking the Best Hotels – and using Booking.com for your search!
Aqua Door Suites
Visitors looking to rent an entire house for their trip should check availability at Aqua Door Suites are available. The two-bedroom house is stylishly renovated with modern features in a historic dwelling.
Bed and Breakfast and Airbnb
Guests will find that there are more options for lodging in the historic center – such as boutique B&Bs (like the Atwood House) and Airbnb rentals. We stayed at the Blue Brick Inn and it was absolutely lovely!
Campgrounds in Chillicothe, Ohio
Campers will find camping near Chillicothe at the state parks (Tar Hollow and Great Seal State Parks both have campgrounds) as well as privately owned campgrounds. Camping sites at the state parks need to be booked through the online reservation site.
The Walnut Creek Campground has tent sites, RV sites and cabins, too. Visitors can also find cabins near Chillicothe, Ohio at Kick Back Ridge, which is close to Sugarloaf Mountain and the Tecumseh play.
What You Will Need for Your Trip to Chillicothe
Whether you are planning on hitting the nearby trails or are navigating the historic district, you will want to do it in comfortable walking shoes! I like to wear lightweight sneakers for city walks and easy trails – and Kris likes to wear Merrell Trail Glove shoes for men. Read our tips for the best travel shoes to find the right shoe for your trip!
There is so much to see and do in Chillicothe – and if you are anything like us, you will be snapping photos as you go! We use a DSLR Canon Rebel camera with an 18-135mm lens for our trips. The budget travel camera is easy to use, comes with heaps of accessories and takes excellent photos.
Map of Chillicothe
If you like taking road trips in Ohio, then an Ohio Atlas is a must! The detailed atlas highlights points of interest – including some of the lesser-known (and often unmarked) roads required to reach them. It’s great to have in the car when you are ready to go explore!
More Top USA Destinations in and around Ohio
If you like our Chillicothe guide, then you should use our travel guides to other nearby cities and attractions!
- Find out the Best Things To Do in Columbus, Ohio (and nearby Dublin, OH!)
- Use our tips to Spend a Weekend in Cleveland, Ohio
- Get the details for planning a Trip to Cincinnati, Ohio (plus nearby Covington and Newport, KY, too!)
- Hit the trails surrounded by amazing nature at Mohican State Park and in Hocking Hills
- Read our complete guide for A Weekend in Indy or One Day in Yellow Springs, Ohio
- Discover the top attractions in Louisville, Kentucky (including great Louisville Craft Beer!)
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