COLUMBUS, Ohio – It’s no secret that all eyes are on the 2016 presidential race, and Ohio’s swing state status casts a spotlight on the destination every election year. While candidates campaign across the Buckeye State and delegates prepare for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, travelers can discover plenty of one-of-a-kind experiences that will inspire them in Ohio. Eight commanders-in-chief were elected from the state, and their presidential homes, museums and libraries provide insights into their personal lives and career paths.
Ohio: “Mother of Presidents”
Ohio offers the nation’s oldest presidential library, cuisine fit for a commander-in-chief, behind-the-scenes information about the first ladies, tours of Air Force One aircraft and more.
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center (Fremont)
The nation’s first presidential library celebrates its centennial this year with a host of activities on Memorial Day weekend
, including a grand reopening of the museum’s $1.3 million renovation and a keynote speech by Cokie Roberts, ABC News and National Public Radio analyst and best-selling author. Other experiences always available at the site include touring Hayes’ two-story, 31-room home at his Spiegel Grove estate (with the original White House gates), library, tomb and viewing the president’s Brewster carriage.
James A. Garfield Memorial Cabin, James A. Garfield National Historic Site, Garfield Monument (Moreland Hills, Mentor and Cleveland)
These three sites, all located within a one-hour loop in northeast Ohio, tell the story of Garfield’s life – an unexpected candidate -- and ultimately president, who served just four months in office before his assassination. Visit Garfield’s modest birthplace
in Moreland Hills; his home and infamous front porch
in Mentor, where he greeted thousands during his 1880 campaign; and his final resting place
at stunning Lake View Cemetery, where his presidential casket is on full display.
Harding Home Presidential Site (Marion)
The home of Warren G. and Florence Harding depicts life as it would have looked in 1900, with 95 percent of its objects being original. The site also includes the 1920s-era Press House, where the press corps covered Harding’s Front Porch Campaign, and a mobile voting booth similar to those used from 1880-1930 throughout the Midwest. This year is a good time to visit, as the site recently announced it will soon renovate the home and construct a new Harding Presidential Center
, just in time for the 100th
anniversary of Harding’s election in 2020.
McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, McKinley National Memorial, National First Ladies’ Library (Canton)
Presidential history buffs will love the chance to explore multiple sites that celebrate our 25th
president, including the McKinley Gallery
, boasting artifacts like the president’s rocking chair and other original home furnishings and 1900 campaign memorabilia. The grand McKinley National Memorial
lies 108 steps up on a hill, where the former president, his wife and their young daughters rest in the rotunda. The nearby National First Ladies’ Library
, including the Saxton McKinley House
(Ida McKinley’s family home), pays tribute to the “other halves” of the commanders-in-chief.
William Howard Taft National Historic Site (Cincinnati)
This site, which includes both Taft’s birthplace/home and the Taft Education Center
, highlights the life of the 27th
president and his prominent political family. Take a (free) guided tour of the home, which has been restored to its original appearance, and check out interactive exhibits at the adjacent education center – where an animatronic figure of Taft’s son, Charlie, recounts the family’s history. Interesting fact: Taft was the only person to serve both as president and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
William Henry Harrison Tomb (North Bend)
Although William Henry Harrison was born outside of Ohio, he settled in the Buckeye State and was elected president from Ohio. Harrison’s grandson, Benjamin, later followed in his footsteps as president. Visit this monument and tomb
, which includes 24 vaults housing the bodies of William and his wife, their son (Benjamin’s father), and several other family members.
U.S. Grant Birthplace, U.S. Grant Boyhood Home & Schoolhouse (Point Pleasant, Georgetown)
See where this two-term president and Civil War hero was born
, in a modest Point Pleasant cottage, and then head a half hour down the road to Georgetown to see where he grew up and attended school
before leaving for West Point. A major restoration of the home, which took years to complete and cost $1.4 million, wrapped up in 2013.
“Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland)
Showcasing the intersection between music and politics, this one-of-a-kind exhibit
will open May 20 in Cleveland and then move on to the Newseum in Washington, D.C., in January 2017. Video, photographs and artifacts – including the guitar John Lennon used to introduce the anti-war anthem, “Give Peace a Chance,” will explore how rock changes and impacts patriotism.
Presidential Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (Dayton)
Aviation buffs will flip over the chance to view this extensive collection
of historical presidential aircraft, including the opportunity to walk through four planes – one being the aircraft that carried John F. Kennedy’s remains from Dallas to Washington, D.C., following his assassination in 1963. This longtime exhibit will reopen in a new, larger fourth building
at the museum on June 8. Tip: museum admission is always free.
Eat (And Sleep) Like a President
Ohio plays a critical role every election year, making it a popular stop for those on the campaign trail. Take a look at the spots where candidates and presidents have stopped to indulge.
The Golden Lamb (Lebanon)
Ohio’s longest continually operated business, The Golden Lamb
has hosted a whopping 12 presidents since 1803 – everyone from Martin Van Buren and John Quincy Adams to George W. Bush. Now each commander-in-chief who stopped at the 18-room inn has a room named after him.
Sokolowski’s University Inn (Cleveland)
President Clinton enjoyed Lake Erie perch at Sokolowki’s University Inn
, Cleveland’s oldest family-owned restaurant serving Polish delights. Other not-to-miss dishes the institution is known for: pierogies, stuffed cabbage and smoked kielbasa.
Red Brick Tavern (Lafayette)
Six presidents have broken bread at Red Brick Tavern
, Ohio’s second oldest stagecoach stop and a hot bed of activity in the 1800s thanks to a location along the National Road/Route 40. Although it’s unclear what the special guests – including John Tyler and Zachary Taylor – ordered, the steak dinners are among the most popular menu items nowadays.
Historic Harding Cabin (Mt. Sterling)
, constructed by Warren G. Harding’s strategist and U.S. Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty, is said to have been a retreat for President Harding and his close circle of friends. Now Deer Creek guests can rent the secluded, three-bedroom retreat, which boasts a private boat dock and views of the 1,277-acre lake.
The Pine Club (Dayton)
Even the Bush family couldn’t get special treatment at this Dayton institution
, as George H.W. and wife Barbara waited 45 minutes for a table during a visit. The old-school establishment, known for its steaks, also does not take reservations or credit cards.
Skyline Chili (Cincinnati)
Both President Obama and former president Jimmy Carter have stopped at Cincinnati’s legendary Skyline Chili
, with one difference: Obama skipped onions on his 4-way and coneys, while Carter went “all in” on his order.
For information on Ohio’s additional presidential sites and events, and to order the free 2016 Ohio Travel Guide and Ohio Calendar of Events, visit Ohio.org. To stay up-to-date on Ohio’s latest opportunities, follow TourismOhio on Twitter @DiscoverOhio, like Discover Ohio on Facebook, or read our blog at DiscoveringOhio.com.
TourismOhio, operating within the state of Ohio's Development Services Agency, works to ensure Ohio is positioned as a destination of choice, enriching lives through authentic travel experiences. The branding Ohio. Find It Here. supports Ohio's $42 billion tourism industry. For more, visit Ohio.org.
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