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An Ohio Buckeye holiday

Courtesy Experience Columbus

A tour through Ohio is like a trip to a gourmet buffet — around every corner, you’ll find something new to savor.

With a Great Lake, a major river and a number of large metropolitan areas, Ohio offers an incredible diversity of experiences for group travelers. Cities, towns and destinations around the state each have their own flavor, from Dayton’s innovation heritage to Amish traditions of Geauga County. Groups with a thirst for hands-on experiences will find an abundance of options in Columbus, and the Lake Erie shore offers multiple ways for visitors to enjoy the open water.

The Ohio travel menu continues evolving, too. Cincinnati and Cleveland are both debuting major new attractions and events in 2012 and 2013, giving groups that have traveled the Buckeye State before exciting reasons to make a return trip.

For today’s bank groups, which value individuality and customized experiences, a tour through Ohio will prove a smorgasbord of possibilities.

Dayton has made its mark on America with a history of innovation and invention. When groups visit the city, they can explore the stories of the Wright brothers and other forerunners who called the city home.

Orville and Wilbur Wright lived in Dayton and operated a bicycle shop there during the time that they were developing the world’s first airplane. At Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park, visitors can tour the shop and learn about the brothers’ backgrounds.

And there are even more exciting Wright brothers displays at Dayton’s Carillon Historical Park, a 65-acre park with 25 buildings.

“They have the Wright Aviation Center, with a number of artifacts,” said Beverly Rose, director of marketing and communications for the Dayton/Montgomery County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They have the camera that took the famous picture in North Carolina, as well as the Wright Flyer III, the only plane that has been recognized as a national historic landmark. Orville Wright actually designed and supervised how this plane would be displayed.”

Carillon also has other exhibits that tell visitors about the area’s inventive spirit. One building has a display of gold-and-filigree cash registers created by National Cash Register, a company founded in Dayton. Others highlight inventions like refrigerated air and Mike Sells potato chips.

Another of Dayton’s chief attractions is the National Museum of the United States Air Force Museum, which features three massive hangars containing full-size military aircraft, including a display of several different airplanes that served as Air Force One for past presidents.

Waterfront development

This year makes a great time to revisit Cleveland, as a bevy of new projects and attractions will offer groups several new and upgraded opportunities.

“It’s a rather exciting time here in Cleveland,” said Lexi Hotchkiss, communications manager for Positively Cleveland. “We’ve got about $2 billion worth of direct tourism-related development happening. We have a new aquarium that just opened in January, and there’s a lot more coming in the next five years.”

The Cleveland Aquarium is situated in a historic former powerhouse on the west bank of the Flats. Because the 100-year-old powerhouse is a protected historic structure, the aquarium is built inside the existing infrastructure.

Visitors will find display tanks surrounded by original exposed brick, and designers retrofitted the building’s large smokestacks to serve as an overhead lobster tank.

Cleveland is also looking forward to the opening of its long-awaited Horseshoe Casino, which is also being built into a historic urban building downtown. The facility will have 2,100 slot machines and 65 table games and is set to open sometime this spring.

Beyond headliner attractions, Cleveland is enjoying a growing culinary tourism scene, with two new companies that take visitors on tasty tours of the city.

“They take groups to different neighborhoods around Cleveland and go from restaurant to restaurant, meeting the chefs and tasting the food there,” Hotchkiss said. “They have historical guides there, as well, who tell you about the neighborhoods and how the different buildings used to be used.”