July 2011 Issue
Right at Home
Jessica Esemplare, Linda Feagler, Christina Ipavec, Jennifer Rogers, Ilona Westfall
The quality of life in Ohio Magazine’s Best Hometowns is enhanced by great family-friendly events and recreation opportunities for residents and visitors alike. Check out the communities of Medina, Urbana, Wapakoneta, Worthington and Zanesville for your next day trip or weekend getaway.
Eventful Season: Worthington
As one of Ohio’s Best Hometowns, Worthington is, indisputably, a great place to live. Fantastic schools, a lively arts scene, one of the nation’s best libraries … the city has all of this, and then some. And, like any celebrated community, Worthington’s also an attractive travel destination — and, luckily for us, this summer Worthington is more travel-worthy than ever.
You can’t talk about summer in Worthington without mentioning the city’s famed summer farmers market, which takes over downtown every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to noon.
“We actually did a survey to see where the people who attend our farmers market are coming from,” says Lisa Staggenbord, Worthington resident and organizer of Sustainable Worthington. “And at least a quarter of visitors come from [out of town]. People like to bring visitors to the market, and for a long time, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association rated Worthington the number one market in the state.”
The market is where you find central Ohio farms’ freshest produce and Worthington residents chatting and making plans for the next communitywide event. Make your own plans for the day over lunch at the Worthington Inn, located in the middle of the hubbub on High Street. Light brunches and lunches (the key lime chicken salad is fantastic) are a specialty.
Summertime is the season of community events in Worthington, and July is host to some of the best. Explore the city’s historic homes during the Worthington Tour of Homes (July 10), or enjoy culinary treats and antiques the following weekend, when the popular Taste of Worthington (July 15) and Treasures on the Green flea market event (July 16) return. Taste of Worthington, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer, features affordably priced appetizers, entrees and desserts from the city’s favorite restaurants, and guests have the opportunity to vote for the People’s Choice award. (The Worthington Inn’s famous Buckeye sundae might just win you over.)
Old Worthington Market Day, a Worthington must-visit for more than 150 years, marks the end of summer on September 24. More than 200 art and craft vendors will set up booths for the event, which on average draws a crowd of more than 20,000 people.
Arts lovers will want to check out the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center, the restored school building that now serves as a community arts space and is home to a gallery with changing exhibits, arts education space and a theater. There, you’ll find the Worthington Community Theatre’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie” on stage July 29–30 and August 5–7. Also at the “Mac” this summer is the annual Summer Sparkles event, July 19, a fundraiser for the center. Guests will experience an evening of cocktails and laid-back entertainment.
Of course, Worthington is an ideal destination even when the calendar isn’t so packed. Candle Lab and Igloo Letterpress are shopping favorites for those looking for heartfelt, unique gifts (both offer hands-on gift-making opportunities), while House Wine is a fantastic spot for an evening of casual wine tasting with friends. Sign up for the Wax, Wicks and Wine experiential tour, hosted by the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Worthington, to enjoy Candle Lab and House Wine together. —JR
For details, go to visitworthingtonohio.com.
Singular Attractions: Wapakoneta
It’s no secret that we’re over the moon for Wapakoneta. And why shouldn’t we be? The hometown of Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the lunar surface, is packed with amiable people and one-of-a-kind attractions.
Start your visit to Wapakoneta by taking a stroll through the city’s downtown, populated by small independent shops and eateries tucked into restored storefronts. Boasting 65 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, the wide range of architectural styles includes Queen Anne residences, former vaudeville venue The Wapa Theatre and the stunning Auglaize County Courthouse, built in 1894.
Mingle with some friendly Wapaks (as residents of Wapakoneta refer to themselves) at the Riverside Art Center. More than just an art gallery, Riverside hosts classes, poetry readings and wine tastings. You may even get to see an artist hard at work on his or her newest piece.
Pick up bargain-priced souvenirs in downtown’s antiques shops or the 25,000-square-foot antiques mall. Dairy fans won’t want to pass up the Wapakoneta Wine and Cheese Cottage, purveyors of all-natural cheeses and other Ohio-made foods.
Saturdays through October bring the Wapakoneta Farmer’s Market at Heritage Park, tucked behind downtown near the winding waters of the Auglaize River. Listen to live music while you shop for fresh produce, homemade jams and bakery.
After taking in downtown’s sights, you’re going to want to fuel up with a bite to eat. For a quick snack, stop in at Cloud Nine Café for one its signature salads and panini-style sandwiches or a cup of joe.
Or head to Marley’s Downtown, housed in a former Elks Lodge dating back to the 1920s. Today, the regal exterior of the renovated building welcomes visitors to a stylish interior decked out with leopard-print carpet, chandeliers, a light-up bar and baby grand piano. But don’t be intimidated by the elegant décor — the casual vibe and diversity of the menu (serving up everything from cheeseburgers to rib-eye steaks) ensure that anyone will feel welcome to stop in for a meal. Try to get a table on the terrace offering fantastic views of the Courthouse.
Don’t miss the must-be-seen-to-be-believed Temple of Tolerance, located outside of downtown on South Wood Street. Hidden behind a seemingly normal residence is a temple made of massive pieces of salvaged stone. The towering pile of rocks is encircled by rock formations, statues, an old prison door that once confined members of John Dillinger’s gang in the Wapakoneta jail and a plethora of fascinating objects that will keep you wandering around the grounds for hours. The temple is open to the public 24 hours a day, and if you’re lucky, your visit will coincide with one of the frequent jam nights for local bluegrass musicians.
No trip to Wapakoneta would be complete without a visit to the Armstrong Air and Space Museum. Following the history of the city’s most popular hometown hero, the museum features interactive exhibits, the Gemini VIII spacecraft, a moon rock, two full-size airplanes flown by Armstrong and more out-of-this-world fun. —IW
For more information, visit wapakoneta.com.
Perfect Mix: Urbana
If you’re planning a getaway, Urbana might be just what you’re looking for: rural enough to have a relaxed vibe, yet modern in its downtown amenities.
For city slickers, the historic town square offers shops, restaurants and cafes that rival any large town; for those who prefer to take it slow, there are plenty of leisurely, family-friendly recreational activities. The Mad River is perfect for paddling a canoe — the gentle, shallow, spring-fed water is never crowded and has a year-round temperature of 56 to 58 degrees.
Numerous farms dot Urbana’s landscape. Bring your kids to the sustain-able Freshwater Farms of Ohio for a unique spin on a “petting zoo.” David Smith, owner, has a solar-powered barn for all his fish, plus toads, salamanders and snapping turtles. Kids can feed sturgeon, trout and catfish and — if they’re not squeamish — touch the sturgeon as they leap through their tanks. Stop by Sept. 16–18 for the 10th annual Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival. It’s the perfect opportunity to sample the farm’s famous smoked trout products and freshwater shrimp while listening to live music and enjoying kid-friendly play zones. Other fried fish varieties and to-die-for kettle chips, all cut and fried on site, are also available. If you’re feeling lucky, you can even enter the shrimp peel-and-eat contest. For those who prefer to prepare a more leisurely meal at home, area farmers sell freshly harvested shrimp on the second day of the festival, but they sell out quickly, so arrive early.
More outdoor fun beckons visitors to Cedar Bog — a natural wonder deposited by retreating glaciers — with family-friendly summer and fall activities. Explore 450 acres of diverse habitats, including wildflowers that attract a variety of butterflies and dragonflies, plus reptiles, birds, mammals and amphibians. Fun, educational hikes take place all year, including Boo in the Bog, Oct. 14–15, which takes children on night walks to learn about nocturnal animals. Volunteers carve pumpkins to light the paths, which have learning stations along the way that focus on nighttime inhabitants of the bog. Children also enjoy storytelling around the campfire.
Although it’s only two rooms (the museum and a gift/reception area), the recently renovated Johnny Appleseed Education Center and Museum serves as a memorial to John Chapman, a missionary known for spreading apple seeds as he traveled. Visit Urbana University’s campus to see the largest collection of Appleseed memorabilia in the world, including a circa-1850 cider press, bark from his trees, books and historical information. There’s also an educational table with crafts for kids.
Don’t overlook the fairs and festivals throughout the summer. Urbana’s most popular summer draw is the annual Champaign County Fair, Aug. 5–12. Residents save their vacation days for the whole year just to camp at the fairgrounds with their kids, who often raise animals for the 4-H competitions. Even if you’re not a local or a competitor, stop by for fair games, treats, shows, harness racing and even Sunday sermons.
Not a camper? Stay at one of Urbana’s bed and breakfasts, like High Street Manor, located two blocks from the town square, where owners Harold and Carolyn Carr offer four luxurious guest rooms and a hearty home-cooked meal every morning. —JE
For more information, visit urbanaohio.com.
By the Riverside: Zanesville
There’s no single way to sum up the small city of Zanesville. A mixture of historical landmarks, arts and crafts and local food treats, the community has much to offer visitors, especially in summertime.
No trip to Zanesville is complete, or even imaginable, without seeing the famous Y-Bridge. Rebuilt four times since it first opened to traffic in 1814, the wishbone-shaped structure has become a symbol of endurance and pride for local residents. Sure, you can cross it, but the gazebo in Putnam Hill Park offers the best view: the Licking and Muskingum rivers flowing together, the ornate churches with their steeples, the historic downtown and the railroad bridge.
It’s a time for festivals and farmers markets. Once dubbed the “Pottery Capital of the World” for the area’s abundance of clay and clay products, Zanesville celebrates its origins through the Zanesville Pottery Festival, July 9–17, and the newer Y-Bridge Arts Festival, a gathering of crowds and craftspeople along the Y-Bridge. If you’re in the mood for the freshest fruits and veggies, swing by the Zanesville Farmer’s Market from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at the Muskingum County Fairgrounds to pick up produce from area vendors.
Experience the river firsthand by taking a scenic ride on an old-fashioned paddlewheel boat. The white-and-crimson Lorena Sternwheeler, named after the heroine of a popular Civil War song, travels the Muskingum River Water Trail from May through October. Join Captain Bill and crew for lunch, dinner and twilight cruises — depending on the theme, you might even come away with a coupon for a visit to the nearby John and Annie Glenn Historic Site, or a piece of local pottery Zanesville has become known for.
Once a stop along the Underground Railroad, the George Guthrie House stands as a reminder of Zanesville’s role in the abolitionist movement. Nearby, the Putnam Presbyterian Church was the platform from which Rev. William Beecher — brother of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe — spoke out against slavery. Across the way, the Putnam Underground Railroad Education Center offers living-history demonstrations, using artifacts such as an original red clay “beehive” oven to show how slave women cooked food.
Among the more than 50 dining spots along Maple Avenue is local favorite Adornetto’s Pizza, which draws hungry crowds for made-from-scratch pastas and pizzas. For dessert, Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl is hailed by locals as one of the best ice cream parlors in the state. The plain-but-classic red lettering outside is as indicative of the store’s interior as the ice cream it sells: little has changed since Tom’s opened in the 1950s, including the more than 30 homemade flavors, half of which are seasonal. Chocolate lovers are sure to delight in Tom’s original chocolate caramel marshmallow fudge and French vanilla with cherry and chocolate chunks.
If a cold brew is what you’re looking for, head to Muskingum Avenue, where Weasel Boy Brewing Company produces some 17 craft beers on a seasonal basis. On Saturday nights, you can enjoy a pint of Ornery Otter Blonde Ale or White Weasel Wheat along with live blues, roots or rock music.
The Zanesville area has two truly unique attractions: the Wilds conservation area in Cumberland, where you can see rhinos, zebras, giraffes and other animals, and Blue Rock Station in Philo, which offers workshops on sustainable living and tours and hikes such as the popular llama treks. —CI
For more information, go to visitzanesville.com
Fare With Flair: Medina
When it comes to experiencing the joys of summer, Medina celebrates warm weather in style. This quaint, charming, eclectic town has it all — which is why it attracts visitors from around the state. Throughout the year, Medina’s Public Square — the heart of the community — sets the stage for a variety of free events you won’t want to miss.
For a luscious taste of the season, stop by the Medina County Farmers’ Market, held Saturday mornings through October 15. More than 70 vendors sell a cornucopia of bounty that includes fresh produce, baked goods, jams and meats.
Since 1859, music aficionados of all ages have congregated on the square Friday evenings for the hour-long community band concerts. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and pack a picnic for the noteworthy interludes, which take place this month beginning at 8:30 p.m.
Arts lovers will delight in the host of events created just for them. Arts Week, held July 11–15, celebrates all forms of artistic expression with a series of presentations by local artists, including drumming circles, magicians and musical performances. Now in its 38th year, Art in the Park, Medina’s renowned juried show, will spotlight 130 of the country’s top visual artists on July 17. An Affair on the Square Craft Fest, held Aug. 14, will feature handmade items from around the state. More than 150 vendors will showcase their wares to the tune of blues music and Dixieland jazz played on the gazebo.
For 164 years, the Medina County Fair has commemorated summer with old-fashioned fun. The fair’s daylong kick-off party on July 24 brings highlights to downtown Medina with favorite midway fare, a petting zoo and tunes performed by a medley of local bands.
On Aug. 27, travel the world without leaving Ohio. The third-annual Medina International Fest features a look at the culture, ethnicity and diversity that spans our globe. Highlights include an international bazaar filled with art and clothing, a food court of tempting dishes and a world’s worth of family and children’s activities.
And the fun continues throughout the fall. Step back in time by taking a Walk with Spirits of the Past, beginning at 7 p.m., Sept. 9–11. These lantern-led strolls offer riveting history lessons about Medina and include presentations by costumed performers portraying former residents. (Tours begin at the Public Administration Building, 144 N. Broadway. Cost is $5 for adults and $2 for children.)
Medina ushers in autumn Oct. 21– 22 during a fall festival that’s filled with hay rides, pumpkin carving, a costume parade and a variety of family activities.
Warm up to winter Nov. 18–20 with the 27th annual Medina Candlelight Walk and Holiday Parade of Lights. More than 1,300 candle-filled luminarias will light your way to revelry that includes seasonal music, trolley and carriage rides, lighting displays and a visit from Santa Claus. Known worldwide for colorful tapers, Root Candles will host a Holiday Farmers’ Market filled with gift ideas sure to make holiday shopping a breeze.
When it’s time to take a break, head to Main Street Café. This palate-pleasing eatery, housed in a building dating back to 1870, is lauded for its award-winning steaks. The signature dish is stuffed chateaubriand for two — one pound of center-cut filet mignon, stuffed with Maryland blue crab meat, asparagus spears and lobster cream sauce baked in a French puff pastry. —LF
For more information about Medina, visit mainstreetmedina.com.