By Trent Jonas
Big rivers, Great Lakes, craggy hills and spreads of forest make getting outdoors in Ohio worthwhile. One of the best ways to enjoy all the Buckeye State has to offer with a bunch of other like-minded folks is to head out to one of the many festivals that celebrate the outdoors. These are our favorite outdoor festivals in Ohio.
Folks who love fishing or are interested in learning more about the sport can find out all they need to know with a visit to the Fishing and Outdoor Festival in downtown Fremont. Programs by Ohio DNR, the Toledo Zoo, and others are sure to inform you. Meanwhile live music and food trucks are certain to feed your souls. This annual family-friendly event is sponsored by Young’s RV Centers , Happy Days Boating, and Town & Country RV Center.
Every May, birders descend on the Oregon, Ohio area—the “warbler capital of the world”—for one of the nation’s largest birding festivals: The Biggest Week in American Birding. In addition to evening socials, “Birder Prom,” and a karaoke night, participants can take advantage of dozens of birding workshops and field trips. Local sponsors include RCO Law, William Vaughan Company , and KeyBank.
When the tall ships sail into Sandusky, you can get first-class passage for a onboard tours, day sails and reenactments at the Festival of Sail. Enjoy festival foods, live music, street performers and cold, refreshing beer from Great Lakes Brewing Company of Cleveland.
For four decades, Port Clinton has hosted an annual celebration of the the beloved walleye—The Main Street Port Clinton Walleye Festival. Participatory events include a fishing derby and a 5K run/walk, as well as educational programs and activities. The festival also features live music, carnival rides and a parade. Folks like SkipperBud’s, Bauman Auto Center, Crown Battery, and Jolly Roger Seafood House help to make the event possible.
The biggest celebration of paddlesports in the United States takes place every August in Cinicinatti, on the Ohio River. Ohio River Paddlefest features a paddler’s party and camping the night before the put in and a finish line festival after the paddle. Rental vessels—kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards—are available for those who need them. St. Elizabeth Healthcare is a major sponsor of the event.
Cycling enthusiasts will definitely appreciate NEOCycle—the largest urban cycling festival in the U.S.—where y’all will find all sorts of things to do, including a night ride, a neighborhood tour, a mountain bike race and even velodrome racing, thanks to folks such as CoverMyMeds and Cleveland Clinic Sports Health. There’s also live music, thanks to IGS, as well as food and refreshments from the likes of Platform Beer Co.
Biking, hiking, paddling and drinking beer? Who wouldn’t be in?! And that’s what the River, Trails and Ales Fest is all about. Showcasing Southeast Ohio’s Appalachian foothills, events include a bike scavenger hunt, a paddlers riddle run, an adventure paddle, a family dun bike ride and a gnome hike. Thirsty adventurers can quench their thirst at Marietta Brewing Company, Harmar Tavern, Boathouse BBQ or Gator’s Easy Wind Pub.
Every fall, the town of Rarden hosts a festival to celebrate the whitetail deer, deer hunting and the outdoors, in general. You can participate in a muzzleloader or bow competition, play a 3-on-3 basketball game, sign up for the cornhole tournament or hit the road for a 5K run. Live music and food from local restaurants round out the festivities.
CanoeGrass celebrates paddling, bluegrass music and the outdoor lifestyle over the course of a three-day weekend every August. In addition to several live music options, festival goers will find plenty of on and off-the-water activities to pack their weekends. Events include canoe jousting, a zip line, sand volleyball, blob bouncing, a tug of war contest and a “massive bonfire.” Prepare to camp; bring your own food or hit up the on-site food trucks for sustenance. The fine folks at Wagner Subaru, MastersOutdoor Retreat and Tomfoolery Outdoors make CanoeGrass possible.
There’s no better way to celebrate all the hiking opportunities that Ohio offers than to get out and hike the state’s trails. And that is exactly what the annual Buckeye TrailFest is all about. Encouraging hikers to get out onto the Buckeye and North Country Trails, the festival is a weekend of organized hikes and adventures that include caves, waterfalls and spring wildflowers. Stops at Brewery 33 and Jackie O’s Brewery will help to tamp down your thirst, and Orthopedic ONE is close at hand in case of trail mishaps.