Lancaster, Ohio, is the perfect destination for families — there is so much to do here with kids of all ages. Just southeast of Columbus, Lancaster has a supremely walkable and historic downtown center, lots of opportunities to make and experience art, beautiful parks and outdoor areas, and great food.
If you’re looking for a weekend getaway road trip destination, this small town (with big-town vibes) might be the perfect place to visit! Here’s what my family did during our weekend in Lancaster, Ohio!
What to Do in Lancaster, Ohio
Immerse Yourself in Art
Right away, I was struck by how much visual art there was to enjoy in Lancaster. From art studios to public art pieces, we took advantage of many of the opportunities there are in this town to get creative.
My kids and I agreed: This was one of the most fun activities we had done as a family in a long time! Young at Art offers art lessons and canvas painting parties, but if you have active boys like I do, you’ll want to try out Young at Art’s splatter studio. This is a kid’s dream activity: they can throw paint, make a mess, get covered in paint — and all of it is encouraged! Energetic music is playing during the session to help get your creative juices flowing. At the end of the splatter session, we got to take home our unique paintings, as well as memories of making a mess as a family.
This place is part clay painting studio, part coffee shop (it’s also the location of Square Seven Coffee House) and very popular! At Art & Clay on Main, you just pick a piece to paint — anything from plates, cups, vases, figurines, kids’ pottery, and seasonal items like ornaments — pick your paints and get creative! After you’re finished, Art & Clay dips and fires your work to make the paint permanent and add a glossy shine, and you can pick up your artwork a week or two later. It’s a fun, relaxing place to be creative while sipping coffee or hot chocolate.
Fairfield County is bursting with art history, and one great place to experience this is at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio. This non-profit museum in Lancaster has free admission and three stories of permanent and temporary exhibitions. When we visited, I was stuck by how kid-friendly the museum was. One whole floor was dedicated to an interactive exhibit about Highlights Magazine, which has its headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. Another exhibit showcased world-changing Ohio innovations in dozens of original works of children’s picture book art. Kids were welcome to stop and read a book at little nooks created just for them. And because we visited around the holidays, we got to experience the exhibit A Storybook Christmas featuring A Very Brady Holiday, which mixed classic children’s books with costumes and memorabilia from the Brady Bunch TV series.
Art is all around you in Lancaster, from murals on buildings and in alleyways, to sculptures on sidewalks. The FC Public Art Trail makes it easy to find all of the public art hidden around town — many of them located downtown.
Explore the Area’s Glass History
Ohio’s glassmaking history is on full display in Lancaster. Here are two downtown places that are located just steps from each other where you can learn more.
You’ll learn a lot about glass and its importance to the economy and history of Ohio at the Ohio Glass Museum. Peruse hundreds of carefully curated glass pieces, and stand in awe at what humans were able to make with elements found in the earth. You can also get a hands-on glass experience at the Ohio Glass Museum’s glass blowing studio, where an instructor will guide through the glass blowing process from start to finish — or just sit and watch the action happen from seats nearby.
If you’re visiting Lancaster and Gay Fad Studios is open, your should definitely pop in. This was a place that I visited by myself — without kids — because kids and valuable glass objects can mean potential headaches! Founded by Fran Taylor, the “Glassware Rebel,” Gay Fad Studios was started in the 1940s. Along the way, Taylor broke numerous glass ceilings and inspired many artists to use their voices creatively. Now in operation by avid glassware collectors, Gay Fad Studios displays many of Taylor’s original works at the shop, and also continues the tradition of supporting women artists by selling their works in their shop.
Visit a Park
Lancaster has an abundance of public parks to visit. Although parks are more of a warm-weather destination, my kids are up for playing at a park during all seasons, so we visited two: Sensory Trail Park and Flight of the Hawk Park.
Sensory Trail Park has nature stations, a tree house, swing set, musical instruments and more, all designed to stimulate your five senses. All throughout the park, there are areas filled with colors, textures and sounds.
A truly one-of-a-kind park, Flight of the Hawk Park gets its name because of the huge sculpture of a red-tailed hawk with a 14-foot wingspan perching 42 feet above ground. All around this small park, you’ll see sculptures of Ohio woodland animals, including white-tailed deer, turkey vultures, and a wild-turkey. The sculptures are created from welded metal by local artist, Ric Leichliter.
Where to Eat
Breakfast + Coffee
Provisions Bakery & Cafe satisfies my need for an excellent breakfast — try the avocado toast! — while also being surrounded by a giant wall of wine. (Yes, Provisions is also a great place to pick up a bottle of wine to go!) They also offer a wide lunch menu, a deli counter, and a huge bakery case filled with delectable goodies like almond croissants, bars and cookies, cinnamon rolls and lots more.
L-City Coffee + This place is a great coffee shop, with a twist: In the basement of the shop is The Underground, a hang out spot with music and games, including more than 150 board/dice/card games to choose from. For a $4 cover charge, you can enjoy your beverages and food in The Underground while trying to beat your family members at Pictionary.
Lunch + Dinner
JB’s Downtown Grill This restaurant offers local, made-from-scratch comfort food, with a creative menu that has something for everyone. Portions are big, but if you’re looking to experience Chef Jaime’s range in a tinier portion, order the sliders. Our favorites were the pork belly sliders and the fried chicken sliders, which paired well with the crunchy onion rings and the seasonal, freshly made butternut squash soup.
The Downtown Bistro This restaurant serves lunch and dinner favorites like steak and seafood, but also salads and chicken stir fry. Although there isn’t a designated kids menu here, the vibe is still kid-friendly. Pro tip: You can order takeout from The Downtown Bistro and enjoy it next door in The Underground!
O’Huids Gaelic Pub O’Huids has all of the Irish pub favorites, as well as a big kids menu with all of the kid favorites, including mac & cheese and burgers. For the adults, they serve a variety of local beers on tap, as well as a fun menu of crafted cocktails.
Cherry Street Pub The food is great at Cherry Street Pub, and so is the atmosphere. All along the walls, you’ll find tchotchkes and memorabilia that celebrates local Lancaster figures, important dates, special happenings and more. Adults can grab a drink at the famous bar — which was built in the early 1900s — or families can cozy up in a booth or table and watch one of the sports games on the many TVs around the restaurant.
Sweets + Treats
Donut World This is a Lancaster favorite that has been around for more than 30 years, and I can see why it’s so beloved by the community. Donut World offers a wide variety of classic donuts at extremely budget-friendly prices, and best of all: They’re open 24 hours a day!
Nancy’s Scoops My family enjoys ice cream all year round, so Nancy’s Scoops was a must on our visit to Lancaster. The decor is nostalgic and retro, and the menu huge and varied: You can get everything from sweet treats like sundaes, parfaits and milkshakes, to lunch and dinner fare, like corn dogs, zucchini fries and salads.
Downtown Fruit Passions Sometimes, I just want a green smoothie to reset my palate. Downtown Fruit Passions fits that bill with their menu of smoothies, acai bowls, organic salads and more. They also make fresh crepes and serve a variety of ice cream, in case you’re looking for something sweet, too!
This is just a small taste at what’s in store for families when they visit Lancaster, Ohio. For more ideas, visit here.