Ohio is the seventh-most populous state in The United States, and is often stereotyped as socially-conservative farm country with cornfields as far as the eye can see. This isn't a total lie—there is at least one working farm in all 88 counties—but it's not the whole truth either. The Buckeyenote State is also one of the most heavily urbanized states in the country. With over 11 million people, it's the densest state outside the Atlantic coast. It has six cities of 100,000 or more, and several smaller cities north of 50,000. As such, it's more diverse in people and belief than many outsiders realize.
Most of its major cities are known for their industrial base, with the notable exception of Columbus. Like elsewhere in the Great Lakes region, current major cities started as industrial towns that grew along trade routes and attracted job-seeking immigrants from all over: Irish, Germans, Eastern Europeans, African Americans, and smaller but still significant Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, and African populations as well. The strong presence of racial minorities and a legacy of labor unionsnote have given Ohio's urban and suburban areas a Liberal lean, though Conservatism is strong in the rural areas. This combined with Ohio's size makes it a battleground state during election season. Presidential candidates on both sides will make an effort to appeal to Ohio, and since the state has voted for the winning president all but twice (in 1944 and 1960) since 1896—the longest "winning streak" in the nation, this makes the political furor that much more intense.
Unfortunately, the state was hit hard when industrial and manufacturing companies left the Great Lakes region around the 1970s, and most of its cities except Columbus (more on that later) became Dying Towns and Wretched Hives overnight. The low employment led to high crime rates that the state still struggles to contain. However, The New '10s have seen some improvement in this regard, as the cities have been trying to base their economies around health care, education, finance, technology, etc.
After Virginia, Ohio is the state with the second most presidents born within its borders, with seven — all late-19th to early 20th century Republicans (Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, McKinley, Taft, Harding),note and is also the birthplace of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon. Other luminaries include fellow astronaut John Glenn (the namesake of Columbus's airport), James Thurber, and a number of professional athletes, actors, and musicians. The United States Air Force maintains two bases in Ohio, one in Toledo and one in Dayton, the latter being where the 1998 Dayton Peace Accords were signed.
The state is generally divided into five regions:
- Northeast: By far the most populous and urbanized region, this is where you'll find Cleveland along with the smaller metropolises of Akronnote , Cantonnote , and Youngstown. The winters are notoriously harsh, since the "Snow Belt" starts around here and extends to Buffalo, New York.
- Northwest: Home of Toledo—a war was fought with neighboring Michigan over the territorynote . From this is born a rivalry between two universities—Ohio State and Michigan—and two states note . You'll also find some popular summer getaways here like Cedar Point, generally considered the best amusement park in the country, sometimes the world. Forget Disney World, this place puts it to shame. There's also Kelley's Island, a popular island and resort town in Lake Erie. Fans of Glee may be interested to know that Lima is located in this region as well, though the real city is unsurprisingly nothing like on the show (there are no palm trees, for starters). Has a tendency to have very wet summers, as it was formerly known as the Black Swamp, and had to be drained by ditches and canals before it could be settled en masse.
- Southwest: Culturally, this region also includes Northern Kentucky (where its main airport is located) and a tiny bit of Indiana due to the Cincinnati Metropolitan Area extending into both states.note Cincy has a slightly better reputation and economic outlook than Cleveland, which isn't saying much, but the city has a mediagenic glamor that most of Ohio lacks, and quite a few TV shows, movies, and books are set here, and a solid counterpark to Cedar Point in Kings Island. Dayton is in this region as well, hometown of Wilbur and Orville Wright, inventors of the modern airplane (though their first flight was in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina). Several institutions are named after the Wright Brothers, including the city's main airport, and aviation technology is a big field here. It's also home to Union Terminal, an art-deco train station that was the artistic basis for the Hall of Justice (Cincy-based Taft Broadcasting owned Hanna-Barbera at the time, and several HB artists visited Taft's corporate headquarters, likely explaining the similarities). In a case of full-circle irony, stock footage of Union Terminal was used as a Hall of Justice-esque building by The CW's Arrowverse crossover event Invasion!.
- Southeast: Welcome to Coal Country. Sparsely populated, Southeast Ohio lacks an urban presence other than the college town of Athens. It is part of the larger Appalachia region and culturally has more in common with neighboring West Virginia than the rest of Ohio. Mining, natural gas, and lumbering are the order of the day. Unlike much of rural Ohio, this area was historically a Democratic stronghold thanks to the strength of the miners' unions, though clashes between the labor and environmentalist wings of the Democratic Party have pushed it (along with much of Appalachia) into the Republican camp. The region is also known for its beautiful scenery, as it is the only part of Ohio to avert The Mountains of Illinois trope (as most of the rest of Ohio was flattened by glaciers). Hiking, hunting, and camping are popular here.
- Central: This region is essentially the Columbus Metro Area. As mentioned earlier, Columbus is an anomaly among Ohio cities. Its economy is centered around the state government and The Ohio State University, the largest college in the U.S. by enrollment, rather than any specific industry at the mercy of economic trends. Snarkier observers refer to Columbus as the world's largest college town, but on the other hand, it hasn't been subjected to the Midwest's usual woes. For this reason, along with the city's low cost of living and relatively low crime, Columbus is becoming increasingly attractive to young professionals looking to build their lives. In 2012, Columbus was chosen as the most gay-friendly city in the nation. It doesn't hurt that its Short North district is the most well-established Gayborhood in Ohio.
Way to go Ohio.