When it comes to weekend getaways from Cleveland, there really are so many options to choose from, whether you’re looking for a lakeside adventure, a city break, time out in nature, or something in between. Ohio really has it all.
I recently had the chance to spend time in the little city of Mount Vernon, and think it would make a great overnight getaway suitable for the whole family.
If you’re looking for a fun overnight getaway that mixes some history in with a cute city center and some unique outdoor spots, here’s a quick guide for visiting Mount Vernon.
Where is Mount Vernon?
Mount Vernon, Ohio, is located about halfway between Mansfield and Columbus, less than a 2-hour drive from Cleveland. The city is located in Knox County, and has a population of around 17,000 people.
And yes, the city was indeed named for the Virginia estate of George Washington.
Where to stay in Mount Vernon
My trip to Mount Vernon was partially hosted by The Mount Vernon Inn, which is a family-owned 15-room inn not far from the center of town. The inn is equal parts cozy and tranquil, with a variety of rooms and suites to choose from.
Each stay at the Mount Vernon Inn comes complete with a hot, cooked-to-order breakfast each morning, as well as a complimentary drink from the bar in the evening.
And by far the best part of staying here (after the warm hospitality) is the inn’s gorgeous courtyard garden. It’s a perfect spot to sip a glass of wine, or just relax after a day of exploring.
5 things to do in Mount Vernon
Here are the top things to do on a weekend trip to Mount Vernon, Ohio.
1. Ariel-Foundation Park
By far the most unique thing to do in Mount Vernon is to spend some time at Ariel-Foundation Park. This large park covers 250 acres and features walking trails, lakes, terraces, a museum, and more.
The park sits on land that used to be home to a PPG Glass Company factory. The factory closed down in the 1970s, and quickly fell into disrepair. The whole area became a big brownfield dotted with crumbling buildings.
The city eventually wanted to demolish everything, but in the early 2010s a plan was hatched to turn the space into a public park instead. The Ariel Corporation and the Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County worked together from 2012-2015 to transform those 250 acres into one of the most unique parks I’ve ever visited.
They repurposed some of the factory ruins into community event spaces. They took some of the factory rubble and refuse and turned it into modern art. They added cement walkways, a labyrinth, earthen terraces, and even an observation deck around one of the old smoke stacks.
And it’s all completely free to visit!
This is definitely a place you need to spend some time. Bring a picnic lunch or dinner to enjoy alongside one of the beautiful lakes.
2. Explore the historic district
The downtown area of Mount Vernon is simply adorable; there’s no other way to describe it. And it’s historic, too. In fact, the Downtown Mount Vernon Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. This district (concentrated around Public Square and South Main Street) boasts an eclectic mix of architectural styles, with many buildings dating back to the mid-1800s.
The most notable historic building is probably the Woodward Opera House, which is the oldest opera theater of its kind in the United States.
As you’re wandering around downtown, keep an eye out for the brown historical markers, too – there are several of them that commemorate important people and events from the city’s past.
And if you’re visiting Mount Vernon with kids, you definitely won’t want to miss the Fountain of Dogs on South Main Plaza. It’s not historical in any way (in fact, it was only installed in 2019), but it sure will put a smile on your face.
3. Shop and eat local
Mount Vernon, like most small towns in Ohio, has a variety of locally-owned shops and businesses. As you’re exploring the downtown historic district, be sure to allow some time to pop into some local shops.
Some spots you may want to visit include:
- Paragraphs Bookstore
- Almost Famous Sweets And Sodas
- The Makery (yarn store)
- Woolson Co (for antiques)
- Kudos Art Co-op
- Schnormeier Gallery
- The Scent Life Candle Bar (make your own candle!)
And there’s plenty of local food to enjoy, too! Places I’d recommend include:
- Happy Bean Coffee Shop
- Satiated (a food truck with an outdoor seating area)
- Stein Brewing Company (for lunch or dinner)
- The Alcove (for a fancier meal)
4. Hit the trail(s)
If you’re into cycling or just walking, Mount Vernon is a great spot, as it’s the terminus for two notable trails:
Kokosing Gap Trail – The Kokosing Gap Trail is a 14-mile-long paved trail between Mount Vernon and Danville built along a former railroad line. The trail crosses the Kokosing River twice using old railroad bridges.
Heart of Ohio Trail – This is a 15.7-mile-long paved trail between Mount Vernon and Centerburg.
You can actually get on both of these trails at Ariel-Foundation Park.
5. Visit a waterfall
People from outside of Ohio often don’t know just how many great waterfalls we have! If you want to visit a nice waterfall during your time in Mount Vernon, you can make the short drive to Honey Run Park, where a trail through the forest leads to Honey Run Waterfall.
Here the Honey Run stream cascades 25 feet down a sandstone cliff, making for a great spot to splash around or take photos. Following the trail further will take you past more cliffs and eventually to the Kokosing River.
This is a great little hike suitable for the whole family, and is a great way to round out your visit to Mount Vernon.
Who wants to plan an overnight getaway to Mount Vernon?
Amanda was born and raised in northeast Ohio, and has always been a fangirl of her home state. Now, she’ sharing her love of the Cleveland area with the world, highlighting all the best things to do, see, and eat in the CLE. She’s been running Cleveland Traveler since January 2019.