People travel for many reasons and in different ways.
They visit an area for pleasure, business, or to visit someone or someplace. Some may enjoy camping and the outdoors, while others would rather stay at luxury lodging facilities. Tourists and visitors travel by car, motor homes, motorcycles, and other means of transportation.
Your traditional vacations, like amusement parks, beaches and resorts are great, but Belmont County’s outdoors, heritage and events are bringing thousands of tourists, visitors to the area each year.
With there being over 30 different types of tourism, this article will outline the types of tourism that bring visitors to Belmont County, Ohio. Hopefully, it inspires you to get out and experience the area a little bit differently.
Cultural Heritage Tourism means traveling to experience a place and or activities that represent the people and the past and present. It includes historic, cultural, and natural resources. Appalachian Ohio, Belmont County is known for its heritage tourism, as it is our most prominent type of tourism. Cultural activities include visiting a museum, trying a local restaurant, visiting churches and other religious centers, meeting the local residents, learning how they live, and popular in Belmont County, visit during a local holiday, festival or celebration.
This area is well known for its festivals that represent the community’s history or heritage.
The Belmont County Heritage Museum has welcomed visitors from all over the country. Since opening for the 2021 season in April, there have been over 180 visitors representing over 20 U.S. states. The museum is a collection of displays representing the rich history of Belmont County. The stories of its communities and traditions; its landmarks, industries, businesses, and schools; its triumphs and tragedies; its people and their contributions to the county, state and country are woven together in a rich tapestry that reflects the resilience and determination of the people of this area. The eight rooms of displays allow visitors to step back in time while exploring the county’s communities.
The museum also serves as a nucleus for the six other museums in the county.
The National Road Wagon Train is an activity that many come to participate in. This annual event has been taking place in Belmont County for many years. This year, 15 covered wagons and 10 outback riders traveled segments of the Old National Pike, drawing attention to the way of travel that was common along the original National Road.
One of several natural resources that bring many to this area is the Barnesville petroglyph site. The Barnesville petroglyph carvings were created centuries ago by Native American people. The precise cultural affiliation of its creators is uncertain. Some have attributed the site to the Adena, who inhabited the region approximately between 500 BC and AD 300.
Another natural resource bringing heritage tourism enthusiasts to the area is Raven Rocks, located at the western side of the county. Raven Rocks by the early pioneers was named after the many ravens that used to nest in the overhanging ledges of the unusual, yet astonishing rock formation.
Indigenous people of the Ohio River and Captina Creek valleys left evidence of repeated visits here for over a period of 200 years.
Some travelers are looking for a place to relax, enjoy quiet, laid back areas to visit. They seek a place that will take them away from their day to day, fast-paced lives. So, they travel and visit slower moving rural areas. This is Rural Tourism.
Because rural areas do not offer many major tourist attractions, these tourists spend much of their time enjoying the outdoors. You can find tourists like these at Barkcamp State Park and Zion Retreat. They can be found at Piedmont Lake. And you can also find them staying at smaller hotels or motels and B&Bs in the area.
Because we offer that Appalachia hospitality to our visitors, these tourists love to visit Belmont County.
Traveling somewhere to experience nature, hiking trails,biking, and exploring rural areas or wilderness is considered Adventure Tourism.
Belmont County is known for its rolling hills and natural landscapes. I have already shared Raven Rocks, but there is so much more. Many travel to Dysart Woods, a 50-acre tract of old-growth oak forest known as the largest remnant of the original forest of southeastern Ohio. The beautiful hiking trails welcome visitors year-round.
Another trail drawing nature and adventure tourists to Belmont County is the Captina Birding Trail. This trail is a photographer’s dream come true. If you visit the tourism website, you can view photos taken in this area.
Adventure tourists love this area for its waterways, like the Ohio River, kayaking at Barkcamp and fishing at Piedmont or Zion. Belmont County has the most beautiful, natural landscape!
And new to Belmont County is the Eastern Ohio Back Road Biking Trail, where you can explore miles of beautiful gravel and dirt roads by way of bicycle.
Motorcycle Tourism is simply travel by motorcycle. This is a great way to see the area! And, with three registered scenic byways, Belmont County is popular to these tourists. Motorcycle tourists travel The Historic National Road, the Ohio River Scenic Byway and Drovers Trail regularly. But probably the most popular route for our motorcycle tourists is Ohio 26, which was once featured in the national publication Roadrunner Magazine. Motorcycle tourism is popular in our area because of our beautiful landscape and easy to travel roads. The absolute feeling of freedom is hard to beat. And again, known for our hospitality, motorcyclists love traveling through Belmont County!
When people travel to an area for entertainment such as music concerts, this is called Music Tourism. This sort of tourism can bring thousands of visitors and have a large economic impact to the area. Belmont County welcomes these tourists annually, with an outdoor country music festival. We also have these tourists in the area attending other music concerts at our parks and many local establishments.
With the pandemic, staycations became very popular. Many of us choose to stay in our area and visit our local attractions and events. We explored and reconnected with places very close to our homes. We began exploring in our own backyard. We stay, shop, and play locally. This is known as Backyard Tourism.
Having said that, regardless of where you live, there are probably dozens of interesting sites to visit within your local area.
And many times,in our lives, we have all been a backyard tourist.
Some people argue that there is no tourism in this area. I hope that this article will change their opinion, as tourism is alive and well in Belmont County, Ohio. I also hope that this column prompts you to try something new and expand your horizons!
Remember, there is only one thing more precious than our time and that’s how we spend it. Get out there and explore, experience and enjoy!
Barb Ballint, executive director of the Belmont County Tourism, provides information about the tourism office, local attractions, upcoming events, online resources and other local finds in Belmont County. Each month she shares information about the travel and tourism industry and its impact on our local economy.