If there is one city in America that boasts history, then that would be Mount Vernon.
Mount Vernon first became a village in 1830 and eventually became a city in 1880.
Before it metamorphosed into the thriving place that it is now, Mount Vernon only used to be a stop on the railroad that connected Cincinnati, Pittsburg, Chicago, and St. Louis.
Today, it lures thousands of tourists to its magnificent array of sites—from churches and old mansions to parks and museums.
There are a plethora of sites worth visiting in this city.
Not to mention, it is home to the oldest known ‘free-standing’ opera house in America, the Woodward Opera House.
It’s the place of music and arts festivals, car shows, big band entertainment, the city’s annual Christmas parade, and the largest garage sale in Ohio.
Interested to know more about this stunning place?
Here are the 15 best things to do in Mount Vernon, Ohio:
Explore the Contrast of the Architecture and Nature at Ariel-Foundation Park
Standing on the former site of a glass-making factory right in the heart of Mount Vernon is the Ariel-Foundation Park, spanning a 250-acre piece of land that exemplifies adaptive reuse.
It is connected to the Kokosing Gap Trail and the Heart of Ohio Trail.
This massive area features steel structures, walking trails, a museum, an observation tower, lakes, and architectural ruins.
The Tree of Life Labyrinth is one of its most fascinating offerings, characterized by a 1,000-foot winding skyway that celebrates the virtues of hope, charity, love, faith, and peace.
You can walk the path and take pauses to reflect on life.
Many visitors say they have left the place feeling more at peace.
Follow the Kokosing Gap Trail
The Kokosing Gap Trail is nothing like the ordinary.
Traversing the Kokosing River twice, it spans 14 miles and is built on the former Pennsylvania Railroad line, ending in Danville, Ohio.
The trail is characterized by railroad bridges that are over 250-feet long and dotted with villages, forests, agriculture, and wetlands along the way.
You’ll be fascinated by the trail in Gambier as it features a 1924 Chesapeake & Ohio caboose as well as a 1940 Alco 0-6-0 locomotive.
Make sure to stop by the park next to the trail in Howard and explore its amazing play structure.
You can take breaks at the different park benches, situated every 1/2 mile, or get your bikes a check at the bicycle repair stations in Howard and Gambier.
Take the Family on an Excursion to Mavis Island
Mount Vernon is a kid and family-friendly city, and Mavis Island is one of the must-see places for the family.
Situated within the Ariel-Foundation Park, Mavis Island is a man-made island that was built in honor of Mayor Richard K. Mavis, who envisioned and developed the park.
Families can enjoy bonding activities such as boating, strolling, and fishing, as the park is complete with amenities to make your stay convenient and comfortable.
Get Wet and Wild at Hiawatha Water Park
Bring everybody to the Hiawatha Water Park and enjoy a mind-blowing, fun day of water adventures.
This place is relatively new as it utilizes the old community pool, transforming it into a water park.
It’s popular among locals and tourists as a fun escape from the summer heat and a great venue for gatherings of families and friends.
Hiawatha Water Park has two pools.
One of these is Olympic-sized with eight swimming lanes—plus two 30-foot water slides, water basketball, and two one-meter diving boards.
You can lounge at any of the umbrella-shaded parts surrounding the pool, allowing you to bask in the sun or simply watch everyone having a great time.
Feel the Thrill of the River of Glass
Another can’t-miss attraction of the Ariel-Foundation Park is the River of Glass, inspired by the creativity of American landscape architect Charles Jencks.
Walk along the spiral paths that lead to the terrace peaks while marveling at the surrounding curvilinear reflecting ponds.
The peak gives you a bird’s eye view of the park.
The River of Glass honors PPG Works No. 11, with a ‘river of glass’ flowing down one of the hillsides with chunks of glass and crushed glass.
What makes it more interesting is that the crushed glass was taken from when the glass-making factory was demolished.
Explore the Memorial Park - Harmony Playground
Most playgrounds are just for kids but not Harmony Playground.
Located inside Memorial Park, Harmony Playground is an all-inclusive place with amenities and equipment for people of all ages.
So, both kids and kids at heart can have their share of fun here.
You can take your time exploring its 10,000-square feet of space filled with a wide variety of modern equipment.
In fact, there are several types of equipment so rare you wouldn’t even know how to use them.
The good thing is that you can use your smartphone camera to pull up a guide so that you can use the item.
You won’t even worry about getting dirty as you hop from one piece of equipment to another because the floors are made of colorful rubberized material.
Even your toddlers are safe on this bouncy flooring.
Walk the Path of the Tree of Life Labyrinth
As already previously mentioned, the Tree of Life Labyrinth is one of the most famous attractions in the Ariel-Foundation Park.
It is operated by the Foundation Park Conservancy and features a 1,000-foot walkway that lets visitors walk while having the chance to ponder on life.
Many people who have been here say that they felt more at peace with themselves as they left the place.
The Tree of Life Labyrinth is the perfect place for walking meditation and personal reflection.
Marvel at the Beauty of Ariel-Foundation Park from atop the Rastin Observation Tower
Considered one of the park’s most unique vantage points, the Rastin Observation Tower features a spiral staircase that wraps around PPG’s industrial smokestack built in 1951.
The smokestack is Knox County’s tallest architectural structure and is considered the centerpiece among the park’s ruins.
Feel your legs shake as you climb the tower one step at a time until you reach the top, where spectacular views of Mount Vernon await.
Before deciding to go up the tower, it’s worth knowing that you’ll be climbing 224 steps to reach the observation deck at 140 feet.
Marvel at the Urton Clock House
The Urton Clock House is not your typical museum but is also an event space available for rent.
Explore the site and get a deeper look into the interesting past of one of the world’s largest plants of its kind, the PPG, and its employees.
More significantly, it brings you back to the time when PPG started and was filled with male workers.
As the glass-making industry was considered dangerous at the time, the jobs were reserved only for men.
However, when WWII broke out, and the men were sent to war, the women were finally allowed to take on the jobs, which were considered among the highest-paying jobs at the time.
Roam the Historic District of Mount Vernon
After exploring the Ariel-Foundation Park, it’s time to take a different direction and head to the historic district of Mount Vernon.
Aside from being historic, it’s also beautiful and scenic.
You’ll surely be captivated by the Downtown Mount Vernon Historic District thanks to its mix of traditional architecture, with many structures dating back to the 1800s.
One of the proofs of this city’s iconic style is it's being listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.
This is obvious in the Public Square and South Main Street, which are among the most prominent locations in the district.
You can’t miss the Woodward Opera House, which is considered the oldest of its kind in all of America.
It hosted its first event in 1851 and has since been a staple for events in Mount Vernon.
As you continue to explore the area, make sure to spot the brown historical markers scattered around the district, which commemorate some important events and people throughout the history of Mount Vernon.
Discover the History of Mount Vernon at ‘The Ag Museum’
The Knox County Agricultural Museum, or simply ‘The Ag Museum,’ is located in the Knox County Fairgrounds.
It takes you on a trip down the memory lane of Mount Vernon through its more than 5,000 historical items on display.
Be fascinated to find tons of Native American artifacts, school supplies, tools, household items, and the antique machinery that once belonged to the early settlers from the 1800s through the early 1900s.
Bring the Kids to Spi
Located along S. Main Street, Spi aims to help develop kids’ natural curiosity, especially in science, as well as their confidence in problem-solving through play.
The museum provides a space for visitors where they can enrich their knowledge through various playful activities.
Bring out the child in you as you participate and experience science through your mind, body, and environment.
Thanks to its many age-appropriate areas of play, both children and adults can have a better understanding of both technology and the natural world.
Spi also conducts camps, activities, and special programs for schools, community events, and organizations throughout Knox County.
Join the Walk Eat Mount Vernon Excursion
What better way to explore Mount Vernon than through a walk-and-eat tour?
Join the many other tourists who have found the best way to see Mount Vernon, which is through the eyes and the stomach—simultaneously!
Walk through the heart of Mount Vernon and marvel at the wonderful sights throughout the city while stopping at several restaurants and establishments to taste their food and drinks.
Admire the stunning architecture, monuments, and landmarks.
Additionally, it is available in two different tours—one delights the history lover in you, while the other takes you on a gastronomic excursion through the city’s most popular breweries and restaurants.
Take your pick!
Travel Back in Time at the Knox County Historical Museum
Learn about how Knox County evolved to become what it is today with a visit to its museum, located in Harcourt Road.
With its aim to ‘increase, interpret, and preserve the history of Knox County, Ohio,’ the museum will amaze you with its ever-increasing collections of artifacts that date back to hundreds of years ago.
Admire the different exhibits, which constantly change, to learn about the interesting local history.
Make sure to visit their permanent research library, which is open to visitors and members.
Indeed, the Knox County Historical Museum gives you a glimpse of the beautiful history of the place in a way that no books can ever tell.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Feel the Cool Mist of the Honey Run Waterfall
If you think you can’t be close to nature, think again because the Honey Run Waterfall waits for you.
Situated within Honey Run Park along Hazel Dell Road, this waterfall is among the most beautiful you’ll ever encounter.
You can access it through the forest until you behold its stream that drops 25 feet to a sandstone cliff.
On this spot alone, you can enjoy the mist from the waterfall and splash some water to refresh yourself.
If this is not enough, you can follow the trail further until you arrive at the Kokosing River, passing by towering cliffs.
All these sites to see and things to do in Mount Vernon say that Mount Vernon is not your average type of tourist destination.
It is a beautiful combination of history, industrialization, progress, and the people’s desire to share their heritage with their visitors.
If you are looking for a good vacation destination for your family, Mount Vernon in Ohio definitely hits the spot.
It’s the perfect place to unwind, relax, learn something new, and spend quality time with the family.
Wait no more and explore Mount Vernon today!