Ohio has often been described as the cradle of Americana, and rightly so. Of all of the 50 states, Ohio is perhaps the best microcosm of the United States. It is the birthplace of eight U.S. presidents, and has given the country other notables like the fathers of aviation, Orville and Wilbur Wright, light bulb and phonograph inventor Thomas Edison, astronauts Neil Armstrong (the first man to walk on the moon) and John Glenn (the first American in Space), Bob Hope (America’s most famous entertainer), and Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning Toni Morrison who is one of the most influential African Americans of her time. More impressive is the fact that no U.S. president since Ulysses Grant in 1856 has been elected president without also winning the electoral votes of Ohio. This is no coincidence. As a state, Ohio features a slice of everything American. Its mixture of blue-collar and white-collar districts, conservative and liberal populations, urban and rural areas, and cultural attributes that resemble parts of the northeast, the south, and the Midwest make it not just a “swing state” on election day, but the perfect embodiment of America. Unequivocally, Ohio is America’s heartland – the funnel through which the rest of the country was settled and populated.

But this is not the only thing that makes Ohio so alluring to visit as a tourist. The state has a country appeal to it. It is home to the largest Amish community in the world who work the fertile farmlands at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The northeastern part of Ohio, meanwhile, features thriving glass and pottery communities, attracting antique hunters and bargainers.

And, of course, sports and outdoor lovers will enjoy the thousands of hiking and biking trails, the hundreds of golf courses, and the numerous campgrounds and hunting retreats of Ohio. Most of these offerings are found at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the fifth most visited park in the country. In addition to being a natural beauty of winding river valleys, majestic waterfalls, rugged limestone cliffs, and forested hills, most of which can be observed aboard a scenic railroad tour ride, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is also a leisure center. It hosts outdoor concerts and festivals as well as permanent and temporary art exhibits.

Ohio’s Lake Erie Islands are another huge draw for visitors. These islands are located north of Ohio’s Lake Erie coast between Toledo and Cleveland. The major islands include Bass, Pelee, and Kelleys, among 25 other, and can be accessed by ferry or by private boats. From wineries, to beaches, marinas, restaurants, and bars, these islands are extremely popular among Canadians and Ohio residents, and have even been dubbed the “Key West of the North”.

Also of interest are the North Coast beaches of Ohio along the shores of Lake Erie. Many of these beaches have been designated state parks and are equipped with resort-like facilities. You’ll also find a number of the state’s golf courses in this area. Among the more popular beaches include Headlands Beach in Mentor, Edgewater Park near Cleveland, and Lake Erie Beach in Toledo.

Ohio was first inhabited 10,000 years ago by prehistoric people evidenced by the thousands of mounds they built. These mounds and prehistoric remains can be visited at Ohio’s various prehistoric sites, which include among others Hopewell Culture National Historic Park in Chillicothe, the Adena Conical Burial Mound in Columbus, Moundbuilders Earthworks in Newark, the Great Serpent Mound Memorial in Peebles, the SunWatch Indian Village in Dayton, the Flint Ridge State Memorial near Newark, and the Leo Petroglyph State Memorial near Leo.

The French explorer La Salle was the first European to explore the region in 1670. The French controlled the area until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Most of the early settlements were founded by New Englanders who set up posts along the Ohio River. After the Louisiana Purchase, Ohio was made a state. After the Civil War, Ohio entered its heyday. Its strategic location between Lake Erie and the Ohio River made it important transportation. Many towns, cities, and manufacturing companies, especially iron and steel manufacturers, were set up in Ohio during the industrialization of the U.S. to take advantage of the easy transport of goods along these two waterways. Even with the advent of interstate highways, airports and the decline of America’s industrial sectors, Ohio today remains an important producer of agricultural and manufacturing goods. And while it no longer yields the considerable influence it once did over the country, Ohio’s fortunes have not deteriorated in any significant way.