Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Richland County, OH

  • Published 2023/02/17

Richland County in Ohio is known as the place where makers are born.

Located north of the state, the county that covers about 500 square miles was first organized in 1813 and was named after its rich soil.

The county seat was later on decided as Mansfield in 2000.

Despite being heavily rural, the products that come from here are used worldwide, whether it be from food packaging to the automotive industry.

Many residents find their employment in agriculture due to a large number of farms that exist within the area, as well as the manufacturing, service, and healthcare industries.

The place has more of a countryside vibe, offering a chance to get away from the city to unwind.

Check out these 15 best things to do in Richland County, Ohio:

Walk amid Nature at the Kingwood Center Gardens

Lily pad pond at Kingwood Center Gardens

shriesik /

Renowned for its one-of-a-kind floral displays, the Kingwood Center Gardens in the city of Mansfield is where you can have a refreshing walk.

After Charles Kelly King acquired the land in 1912, he grew and developed it until his death in 1952; it then opened to the public as a memorial garden.

Since then, this green space has flourished into what we know today.

Mansion at Kingwood Center Gardens

Steve Boice /

Unique plants, a display greenhouse, duck ponds, and woodland trails on top of the historic mansion and garden are part of its attractions.

It also features the new Garden Gateway visitor center with seating areas, an on-site cafe, a gift shop, and an exhibit gallery.

Enjoy the exquisite view of the garden estate and everything it has to offer!

Flowers at Kingwood Center Gardens

shriesik /

Unwind at the Wishmaker House

The Wishmaker House is a 10,000-square-foot home constructed in the 1800s for Dr. Eli Stofer and his family, the former County Coroner and a prominent physician.

The property in Belleville Township eventually became home to Myers Furniture, an exquisite furniture shop that sadly closed down in 2010.

Since then, the house has been abandoned and left vacant.

Brad and Karen Smith breathed new life into the dilapidated home, transforming it into one of the county’s most exquisite bed and breakfasts.

Tourists flock to take in its tranquility, with a town park and beautiful 1879 bandstand.

It has earned its reputation as one of the finest B&Bs around.

Donnie and Jennifer Van Meter took over in operating the B&B when they purchased the property in 2018.

Dine at the full-service restaurant and order one of their signature wines like the award-winning Harvest Moon, Daydreamer, and Midnight Rendezvous, among many others.

Begin your trip with some relaxation at the Wishmaker House Bed and Breakfast!

Make Time for Recreational Activities at Cooke Family Wildlife Conservation Park

Located in Shiloh, the stunning 163-acre Cooke Family Wildlife Conservation Park was first established by two brothers from the Cooke family as part of their hunting activity.

The property has more than three miles of hiking trails that pass through different kinds of environments, such as hardwood forests, wetlands, beaver ponds, and prairie grasslands.

Animals who love being on wetlands have made the 16-acre marsh in the park their home and you’ll get to see muskrats, birds, mink, and amphibians along with unique plants and different native sedges.

Included in the property are a three-acre fishing pond and a trap shooting range.

If you enjoy wildlife and nature, Cooke Family Wildlife Conservation Park is a must-visit.

Enjoy Arts and Entertainment at the Renaissance Theatre

Exterior of the Renaissance Theatre

User:OHWiki, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Renaissance Theatre started as a $500,000 theater by Ike and Jacob Silverman in the city of Mansfield called The Ohio when movies were booming in Hollywood during the 1920s.

Architect Nicola Petti designed the theater, and the first feature picture they showcased was “Get Your Man,” in which Clara Bow and Charles “Buddy” Rogers starred.

The first 20 years of the theater were profitable, but it was later on affected by the rise of television.

The theater reached its all-time low when it became a movie house that featured X-rated films in 1979.

Exterior of the Renaissance Theatre

User:OHWiki, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

However, a high-profile event was held in the theater in 1980 that helped it get back on its feet until it was purchased in 1980 by the non-profit group Renaissance Theatre through local philanthropists Fran and Warren Rupp.

Restorations have been continuous since 1985 to bring back and maintain the original look and the grand state of the century-year-old theater.

Musicals, films, concerts, and workshop showcases, among many others, are available at the Renaissance Theatre.

As one of the places listed in the National Register of Historic Landmarks, this should be one of your go-to places when visiting the county!

Explore the Iconic Shawshank Trail

Movie fans would love the Shawshank Trail in Mansfield!

For those who have not watched it yet, “The Shawshank Redemption” is a novel-turned-film by Stephen King where two inmates bond during their time in prison and eventually find solace and redemption through basic acts of decency.

The trail was created at the height of the film’s popularity in 2008 by Destination Mansfield – Richland County, and people from all over the world came to visit.

The trail offers a self-guided driving tour where you can start and end anywhere you want, although there are suggested routes you can take so you would not get lost.

The Shawshank Trail offers 15 film sites you can explore.

Get Active at Richland B&O Trail

Enjoy leisure activities at the Richland B&O Trail, which connects you from the village of Butler to the city of Mansfield.

Operated by the county’s park district, this trail is the 700th in the country when it was introduced to the public in October 1995.

The trail is a paved path that stretches 18.4 miles where you can go cycling, have a leisure run, try in-line skating, and even go cross-country skiing during winter.

You will pass through glacier-carved forest areas and open farmland if you cross all of the 18 bridges on the trail.

You can rent a bike at the villages of Bellville, Butler, and Lexington if you have a library card to get the full experience of the Richland B&O Trail.

Explore Malabar Farm State Park

The house at Malabar Farm State Park

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The 900-acre country estate of the Malabar Farm State Park located in Lucas is one of the country’s most famous farms.

Purchasing multiple lands in the county during the 1930s, Pulitzer Prize author, an agricultural conservation pioneer, and part of the state’s Agricultural Hall of Fame Louis Bromfield bought this estate to showcase his philosophies about farming and to put them into practice.

You can walk through the barn to visit the animals it houses or ride a wagon to explore the home where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, famous Hollywood stars, got married.

Interior of the house at Malabar Farm State Park

Niagara66, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Their visitors’ center is full of displays of natural history and the agrarian vision of Bromfield that is interactive; you can also find Bromfield’s books and fresh farm produce in the property’s gift shop.

Replenish your energy at the Malabar Restaurant or pack a picnic to enjoy in the park’s picnic area.

Events and workshops are also held within the estate throughout the year, like the Ohio Heritage Days Festival or the Maple Syrup Festival.

If history and agriculture are something you are interested in, then the Malabar Farm State Park is the perfect place for you.

Bedroom in Malabar Farm State Park's house

Niagara66, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Splash Around at Comfort Inn Splash Harbor

If you are looking for a waterpark in Bellville, dive into the family waterpark of Comfort Inn Splash Harbor.

Experience an indoor water park that was built in 1989 with your family, friends, or even with your pet, and let your worries float away.

There are plenty of activities for kids, like the water basketball hoop, water spray ground, family whirlpool, and floating rafts, but these activities can be enjoyed by the adults too!

Hot tubs are also available for adults who want to keep a watchful eye on their little ones.

Comfort Inn Splash Harbor also offers games you can play after taking a splash, like arcades, air hockey, and a pool table.

Visit the Biblewalk

Ohio’s only museum of life-sized wax figures, the Biblewalk, features over 325 figures and about 100 scenes depicted in the bible.

The Living Bible Museum was an idea of Pastor Richard and Alwilda Diamond when they toured a historical wax museum during their visit to Atlanta, Georgia.

The couple viewed scenes of war heroes, past generals, and presidents, but the scene that captured their attention was the Ascension of Jesus Christ.

They reportedly both felt the holy presence of God and felt that He spoke to them and gave them the inspiration to glorify His great works by building the museum.

Although it was initially difficult for them to acquire new fiberglass or wax figures, they focused on acquiring used figures from Bill Warren’s outdoor Bible walk in Pennsylvania.

The building, together with nine bible scenes, was completed in the Easter of 1987, and the Biblewalk officially opened its doors in August 1987.

Have a Thrilling Tour at the Ohio State Reformatory

Exterior of the Ohio State Reformatory

Sandra Foyt /

The Ohio State Reformatory was constructed between 1886 and 1910 in Mansfield and was designed by the renowned prison architect, who was also a native of Cleveland, Levi Scofield.

After 10 years of construction, the facility’s first inmates were admitted in 1896 with the goal of rehabilitating and reforming them as they received three programs during their stay, which were education, trade, and religion.

The model was promising since the facility’s success rate grew while its relapse rate lowered.

In the early 1960s, Ohio withdrew its funds from the reformatory, transforming it into a maximum security facility.

Since the building had been created for rehabilitation purposes and not to house inmates securely, it deteriorated rapidly.

Dining room in the Ohio State Reformatory

ehrlif /

In response to this mistreatment of prisoners in state custody, inmates filed a lawsuit against Ohio in the 1980s and won their case; due to this decision, the establishment officially closed down in 1990.

Maintenance and restoration of the facility are being handled by a non-profit organization called The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society, which is being overseen by a volunteer Board.

The official Ohio State Corrections History Museum is one of the facility’s most visited places by ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts, but its overall striking architecture is the most sought after by filmmakers.

Multiple music videos and films have been made at the reformatory, including “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Air Force One,” and “Escape Plan: The Extractors.”

The Ohio State Reformatory offers a special paranormal tour with experts if you are up for the thrill.

You can also simply tour the facility and the Shawshank Museum when you visit!

Jail cells in the Ohio State Reformatory

Shanelb /

Appreciate Nature at Shelby Reservoir and Wetlands Trail

The Shelby Reservoir and Wetlands Trail, one of the county’s hidden gems located on London West Road of Shelby, provides a breathtaking view of different wildflowers and diverse wildlife.

You will get to see wild Hyacinths, Great White Trilliums, and Virginia Bluebells that cover the forest floor and other spring wildflower species in the wetlands.

Ephemeral pools, river oxbows, and swamp forests can also be seen within the vicinity that houses distinct plants and wildlife.

Controlled fishing, canoeing, and paddleboarding are some of the water activities you can do in the 50-acre body of water of the reservoir.

You can also hike on the wooded nature trail that stretches over three miles or walk on the paved surface stretching 1.25 miles that hug the property.

If you are looking for a scenic place to enjoy tranquility, Shelby Reservoir and Wetlands Trail is a must-visit.

Catch a Show at Springmill Drive-In Theater

Charles M. and William Mosser, owners of Fremont Drive-In Theaters and Fremont Construction Co., opened the Springmill Drive-In Theater in Mansfield in 1950.

The theater could accommodate over 600 cars when it was first introduced to the public.

The first shows that were featured were “The Gal Who Took the West_,”_ starring Yvonne DeCarlo, Scott Brady, John Russell, and Charles Coburn, and the short film called “The Uninvited Bride,” starring Leon Errol and the cartoon character “Kangaroo Kid.”

Great Eastern Theatre Co. bought the theater in 1985, and a second screen was added in 2008, which can accommodate 150 more cars.

Springmill Drive-In Theater is open rain or shine, so bring your family, friends, or date with you to watch a film the old-school way; do not forget to bring a working radio!

Relive Your Childhood at the Richland Carrousel Park

Exterior of Richland Carrousel Park

OHWiki, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Both kids and kids at heart will enjoy Richland Carrousel Park.

Built in the 1930s in Mansfield, the carousel was the first hand-carved ride to be operated in the country and has been the downtown area’s centerpiece for restoration and redevelopment.

Alexander-Seckel Architects’ Dan Seckel designed the structure, which was completed in April 1991.

It has been home to the 80×80 feet carousel, with its tallest point at 30 feet.

Each of the 52 figures was carved in the style of one of the well-known carvers during the 1900s, G.A. Dentzel, and all of them were made by the Carousel Works of Mansfield.

Enjoy the lights and the music even after you are done riding, and make sure to replenish yourself with some snacks and slushes at Richland Carrousel Park!

Book a Tee Time at Deer Ridge Golf Club

Take on the challenge of Deer Ridge Golf Club’s stunning course located in Bellville.

This championship-caliber public golf course built in 1998 was designed by Brian Huntly and has been carved out of Mohican Valley’s rolling hills.

The course has 18 holes that include breathtaking views of tree lines and large elevations and features four sets of tees for different expertise, so even beginners can play.

Deer Ridge Golf Club also has a timbered clubhouse and footlog stretching 12,000 square feet that overlooks the golf course, the perfect spot to have a peaceful meal after your play.

There’s a restaurant called the Black Dog Tavern, which was named in loving memory of the owners’ dog T-Bone.

Visit the Ohio Bird Sanctuary

The Ohio Bird Sanctuary, originally known as the Richland County Raptor Center, was founded in 1988 on Chris and Gail Laux’s private farm.

It started with three enclosures placed adjacent to a barn that was home to the first educational birds, which also functioned as a practice place for the birds’ flight conditioning.

In 1995, the owners relocated it to the Boy Scout Camp Avery Hand and leased 52 acres of land since the sanctuary outgrew its location.

Caring for and rehabilitating injured or abandoned birds is the sanctuary’s top priority, and with the many native birds it houses, the sanctuary is considered a living museum.

You can hike and visit the birds or join educational programs at Ohio Bird Sanctuary in Mansfield.

Final Thoughts

A land filled with greens, such as Richland County, is the perfect place to have a relaxing vacation.

Even though it has more rural areas, it offers many fun activities on top of its rich and interesting history.

Include these best things to do in Richland County, Ohio, when you start listing your must-visit destinations!

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