A Day Trip to Lancaster


At just over 30 miles away from Columbus, Lancaster is the perfect day trip for the whole family!

A big topic with my mom friends right now is, “What are you doing this summer?”  While I love taking big family vacations, it’s not always easy or feasible with a toddler, which is why I really like doing day trips.

One of the best parts about living in Columbus is that there are so many things to do within an hour or two drive and today I’m spotlighting the humble town of Lancaster!  Did you know yours truly grew up there?  While I still visit frequently, I realize that not everyone may realize all that Lancaster has to offer.

Located less than an hour down the road, it’s an easy day trip to do with children of any age.  Even Emily, who doesn’t love long car rides can easily handle the drive.  Since I’m usually visiting family when I go, it wasn’t until I started to compile this list that I remembered all this small town has to offer. 

If you’re in search of something to do with your kids or somewhere to go, a little trip to Lancaster might just be what you’re looking for!

Where to Play in Lancaster

Aha! Children’s Museum – (Pictured above) I was amazed the first time I visited at all they had for kids to do.  There are two huge rooms to play in, including an art center, water area and even an enclosed play area for those 24 months and under.  I honestly think Emily could have happily played there all day!  Make this your first stop in town to burn off some energy after sitting for the car ride down.

Art & Clay on Main – Who doesn’t love to paint their own pottery and have a memorable keepsake of their trip to Lancaster?  They also have a coffee shop located inside in case you need to re-caffeinate!  Pieces do take about a week to be finished in their kiln, but that’s okay because it gives you a reason to come back to visit and see some of the other attractions on my list here!

Rising Park – Complete with a playground with separate areas based on age groups, two ponds (with ducks to feed!), tennis courts, a shelter house and Mount Pleasant to climb, you could easily spend hours here.  Mount Pleasant has an easy to walk path to the top, which overlooks the town and fairgrounds.  I’ve climbed this mountain many times and I always love the view from the top.  While there’s a railing at the top, if you have adventurous little ones you might want to leave this activity until they’re older. 

Sherman House – For the history buffs, did you know General William Sherman was born in Lancaster?  You can visit his early childhood home and see what life would have been like in the early 1800’s in central Ohio and learn more about the Civil War General.  This is one of those rites of passage when you grow up in Lancaster, so even I have visited this historical site in elementary school.  

Skyview Drive-In – This was a warm-weather favorite and I went many times as a child. With so few drive-ins left today, this is truly an attraction you don’t want to miss.  Emily might be too little now to really enjoy this, but I’m sure in a few years she would love it!  I know I always did when I was little.

Lancaster Festival – This is probably the premier event in Lancaster every year.  Held the last two weeks in July, the whole city really comes out for this one! During the week there’s music during lunchtime at the downtown gazebo, an Art Walk through downtown businesses and two large shows held at the OU-Lancaster campus. This year’s headliner is the Beach Boys! 

Where to Eat in Lancaster

The Well – (Pictured Above) Located just a block away from Aha! this little café is the perfect place to rehydrate.  Their strawberry-banana smoothie was delicious and they served it in the cutest glass mason jar.  Also, in case your children are not tired of playing, they have a huge play area for them to work off some more of that endless energy they have!

Four Reasons Bakery & Café – One of my Lancaster favorites!  If you’re looking for something close to Aha! with a larger menu, this café located right around the corner is just what you’re looking for.  They have a large assortment of deli sandwiches, salads, and cookies literally the size of your head! Definitely, don’t leave without getting one of those! The M&M one is my personal favorite.

Traders Café – I had to add this one to the list because my first job was a waitress here.  Traders is a quaint, small-town diner with menu items like a Tenderloin Sandwich or Cottage Cheese with Peaches.  It feels a little like taking a step back in time, but in a good way!  The hot shredded chicken sandwich is my personal favorite and I actually had my mom bring these up to me when I was pregnant.  I sure wish I got the recipe while I was working there!  

Gypsy Joe’s Ice Cream – This is hands-down one of the best ice-cream shops around and not just beacause I also worked here for a few summers during college.  They have a ton of flavors, plus a large assortment of donuts!  My favorite ice cream flavors are Eskimo Kisses and Banana Pudding, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them.  They have a large open area for children to run around and a little play area just for them.  They also carry donuts, which just happen to be buy one get one 1/2 off after 6 pm! 

Donut World – Also a local gem, which has been around since I was little.  Donuts were a treat growing up, but on special occasions, my mom would get a box and I remember being so excited about which one to eat!  They have a large assortment of donuts and considering how long they’ve been around, you know they’re going to be good! Also, since they’re open 24 hours/day it would be a perfect stop before you leave town so you can have breakfast ready for the next day.

Looking for somewhere else to eat?  Click here for other dining options in the quaint downtown Lancaster area. 

Well friends, there you have it! There’s truly something for everyone on your list and if you find yourself thinking about where to spend a free day, a trip to my hometown of Lancaster should really be on your list!


  1. Michelle,
    Love this! Next time you’re in town come see The Decorative Arts Center of Ohio! We have docents that would love to give you a tour of the historic floor of the house and then give you a tour of our exhibition space!

    • I’m glad you liked the article! I will definitely have to stop by – thank you for letting me know about it!

  2. I agree about the Decorative Arts Center. It’s an amazing old home, turned museum.

    I’d also add Diamond Jim’s to the awesome local food list.

    Correct name of the Drive-In is Skyview Drive-In.

    Great article. Our town has SO much potential!

    • Yes, there’s really so much to do in Lancaster! I’ve heard good things about Diamond Jim’s – I will definitely have to add it to my list of places to visit 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  3. Shopping at A Season In Time is easy to do with kids. There’s a seating area with cartoons playing to keep them entertained, and it’s spacious enough to push a stroller through. It’s a great boutique with lots to offer (clothing, fashion accessories, antiques, chalk-painted furniture, home decor – a lot of it locally handmade)!! On the corner of Main St. & Columbus St.

    • Good to know! How nice that there’s things for the kids to do while mama shops! You don’t see that very often 🙂 Great location too! Thank you for sharing!

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