Ohio Life

Best of the Best Hometowns 2011

Ohio Magazine's Best Hometowns — Medina, Urbana, Wapakoneta, Worthington and Zanesville — have attractions for residents and visitors alike.

Place to Chill Out
Medina is clearly on the cutting edge when it comes to embracing the throes of winter. For the past 16 seasons, artisans from around the country have congregated on the public square for the town’s annual Ice Festivalcompetition. And this year’s fete, to be held Feb. 18–21, promises to be no different. By the time Monday rolls around, 20 carvers will have fashioned crystalline creations ranging from swans and angels to a variety of abstract designs. mainstreetmedina.com 

Reason to Call Medina a Bedroom Community
It’s no wonder residents rest easy here. Since 1964, the Sealy mattress company has made a home in this northeast Ohio town. Each week, more than 4,500 bed sets — including products in the firm’s famous Posturepedic line — are produced in the Lake Road plant and shipped to dealers in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana. Sweet dreams. sealy.com

Way to Make Every Season Bright

Shedding light with Root Candles goes beyond being an aromatic way to enhance the holidays. The company, which has been in business since 1869, manufactures perfumed pillars, votives, tea lights and tapers for all occasions. The firm’s palette of 48 fragrances ranges from the comforting (Apple Harvest, English Lavender) to the exotic (Midnight Orchid, Enchanted Twilight). They are simply scent-sational. 623 W. Liberty St., Medina, 44256, 330/723-4359. rootcandles.com

Place to Get a Taste of Britain
Feel like a spot of Darjeeling? How about a raspberry scone with Devonshire cream? Whatever your pleasure, Miss Molly’s Tea Room will transport you to the motherland with a formal high tea — complete with finger sandwiches, tea breads, quiche and truffles. No wonder it’s billed as “an affair to remember.” 140 W. Washington St., Medina, 44256, 330/725-6830. missmollys.net

Picnic Food
Hankering for a taste of summer? There’s no better way to savor the season than by partaking of Grandma’s Potato Salad with Egg, whipped up by Sandridge Food Corporation. Each week, the Medina business makes and distributes 150,000 pounds of the popular side dish to local grocers (in Ohio, they include Giant Eagle and Acme). Although he won’t reveal the secret to the salad’s melt-in-your-mouth goodness, company CEO Mark Sandridge says it just might have to do with the quality of ingredients and the cooking process. Grandma couldn’t have said it better herself. sandridge.com

Aviation Restoration
Volunteers of all ages — from students to retired veterans — are turning junked parts of a Boeing B-17G bomber from World War II into the Champaign Lady. Once the plane is fully restored, it will be one of 15 of the nearly 13,000 original B-17s that can still fly. Its fame didn’t start in Urbana, though — parts of the plane were once used in the TV show “Twelve O’Clock High.” Grimes Field, 1636 N. Main St., Urbana 43078, 937/652-4710. champaignaviationmuseum.org

Way to Blaze the Trail
Thanks to Nancy Lokai-Baldwin, president of the Simon Kenton Pathfinders, the Simon Kenton Trail offers residents of Champaign and Clark counties a safe place for walking, cycling or inline skating. Currently, thanks to Lokai-Baldwin’s portion of the trail, it is possible to ride the 92 miles from Urbana to Cincinnati and, soon, the route will extend to Bellefontaine. simonkentonpathfinders.org

Java Buzz
Set in a restored train station dating to the 1890s, The Depot Coffee House on the Simon Kenton Trail is a great place to take a break and refuel. Swing by during the workweek to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi and fresh-baked goods. Add live entertainment and local art to the mix, and this is one stop generating a lot of buzz. 644 Miami St., Urbana 43078, 937/653-3768. depotcoffeehouseurbana.com

Pie in the Sky

It’s easy to miss this diner-style restaurant situated among the runways and hangars of Grimes Field, but one taste of the Airport Café’s homemade pies, and you won’t forget the location. Although the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, people frequently eat dessert first, which is no surprise considering the selection of berry pies, including peach, cherry and black raspberry, along with coconut cream and butterscotch. 1636 N. Main St., Urbana 43078, 937/652-2010. grimesfield.com
Catch of the Day
At Ohio’s largest indoor fish hatchery, David Smith, owner of Freshwater Farms, makes arguably the best smoked trout in the state. He also sells fresh and marinated fillets and trout patties, along with locally produced cheese, honey and novelty items. Patrons can also stop by the “petting zoo” where they can touch sturgeon or feed rainbow trout. 2624 N. U.S. Rte. 68, Urbana 43078, 937/652-3701. fwfarms.com

Secret Garden
The house on Wood Street in Wapakoneta is unremarkable. A little overgrown maybe, but nothing too unusual. But hidden behind the house, beyond a labyrinthine path through a garden, is the Temple of Tolerance, a structure perched atop a hill made of massive stones. The Temple is surrounded by monuments created out of rocks, an old prison door, sewer grates and more, creating something like a rock garden on steroids. The garden and temple are open to the public 24 hours a day. 203 Wood St., Wapakoneta 45895

Place to Make a Splash
When the mercury rises, Wapakoneta’s younger set cools off at the Wapakoneta WaterPark. Complete with two pools, water slides, diving boards and a children’s play area, the WaterPark is the place to be in warm weather. For grown-ups more interested in relaxing than engaging in some wet and wild fun, there are plentiful lounge chairs and a rentable cabana. Hamilton Rd. and W. Harrison St., Wapakoneta 45895.

Restoration that Makes Cents
The Copper Lady no longer presides from the tower at the top of the Auglaize County Courthouse. But thanks to the efforts of 17 area elementary schools, the copper statue found a new home in the lobby of the historic structure. In 1994, schoolchildren raised $453,589 in pennies for the statue’s restoration during a drive called “Copper Pennies for a Copper Lady” to celebrate the courthouse’s centennial. 201 Willipie St., Wapakoneta 45895, 419/739-6795. auglaizecounty.org

Place for an Out-of-this-World Experience
The sky is hardly the limit as the story of the first man on the moon, Wapakoneta native Neil Armstrong, shows. The Armstrong Air & Space Museum traces his life from a boyhood interest in aviation through modern aerospace developments with artifacts, interactive exhibits and more. 500 Apollo Dr., Wapakoneta 45895, 419/738-8811. armstrongmuseum.org

Reason to Don a Disguise
Costumed boys and ghouls of all shapes and sizes line the streets of downtown Wapakoneta for the town’s annual Halloween Parade. The motley crew heads from the Auglaize County Fairgrounds to the downtown business district, accompanied by lighted floats, marching bands and civic groups, proceeding before a cheering crowd of thousands reveling in the spooky fun that dates to the 1920s. Auglaize County Fairgrounds, 1001 Fairview Dr., Wapakoneta 45895, 419/738-2911

Stout to Sip
Craft breweries seem to be popping up everywhere these days, and Zanesville’s Weasel Boy Brewing Company is emerging as one to watch. The Anastasia Russian Imperial Stout — a bold ale that releases its full flavor as the glass warms in your hands — won a Bronze Medal at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival in Colorado. Other popular pints include the American-style White Weasel Wheat, with a refreshing hint of citrus, and the just barely sweet Plaid Ferret Scottish Ale. 126 Muskingum Ave., Ste. E., Zanesville 43701, 740/455-3767. weaselboybrewing.com 

Way to Watch for Herons
A leisurely, three-mile cruise aboard the historic Lorena Sternwheeler is a pleasant way to relax with family and friends — but keep your eyes peeled. On a recent visit we spotted not one, but two great blue herons along the banks of the Muskingum River. This magnificent bird is most often seen standing silently in the shallows, waiting for a fish, frog or other prey to cross its path. Zane’s Landing Park, Zanesville 43701, 740/455-8282

Local Scoop
When you visit Zanesville, don’t be surprised if people ask you the same question everywhere you go — “Have you been to Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl yet?” There’s a reason that this sweet shop has been a Zanesville tradition since 1948 — it serves generous portions of delicious homemade ice cream. Try the Black and White sundae with three large scoops of vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and tasty marshmallow topping. Not only does Tom’s have dessert covered, it serves soups and sandwiches, too. 532 McIntire Ave., Zanesville 43701, 740/452-5267. tomsicecreambowl.com

Reminder of the Past

In the 1830s, Stone Academy, one of two museums run by the Pioneer and Historical Society of Zanesville, was a hub of abolitionist activity. A former school and public-building-turned-residence, it also served as a station on the Underground Railroad and features a chilling reminder of those times. The museum’s most powerful exhibit is behind a door under the staircase — a small, dark space with a dirt floor where runaway slaves once hid. 115 Jefferson St., Zanesville 43701, 740/454-9500. muskingumhistory.org

Reason to Send a Card
In this technology-obsessed world, a bit of nostalgia is never a bad thing. Next time you need to send a card, forget your grocery store’s aisle of witty one-liners and mass-produced prints and instead head to Igloo Letterpress. Self-described “neighborhood printer” Allison Chapman uses 19th-century printing presses — and a dash of design brilliance — to create beautiful, unique and meaningful cards, books, journals and much more. 39 W. New England Ave., Worthington 43085, 614/787-5528. iglooletterpress.com

Place to Sample the Night Away
Whether you’re looking for the perfect bottle to pair with dinner or just looking for something to do on a Friday night, sommelier Donnie Austin’s House Wine offers an unmatched learning experience. With a focus on education and exploration, the shop offers more than 250 hand-picked labels — classified by country, food pairing and more — and a unique dispensing machine that allows customers to taste by the ounce or glass. Hungry? House Wine also serves artisan cheese plates, Italian meats and flatbreads. 644 High St., Worthington 43085, 614/846-WINE. housewine.biz

Place to Let Your Imagination Run Wild
Selected as the 2007 National Library of the Year for its fantastic community collaborations and impressive circulation numbers — 3.5 million titles circulate through three branches — the Worthington Libraries system is the city’s best resource for exploring the far reaches of the globe through the pages of a book. Committed to expanding knowledge about the world around us, the libraries also host a variety of multicultural programs, informative lectures and storytelling events throughout the year. 614/807-2626. worthingtonlibraries.org

Day to Take Out the Trash

Anyone who’s spent a considerable amount of time de-cluttering can attest to the fact that, sometimes, it’s tough to part with belongings. Sustainable Worthington came up with the perfect solution in 2010 — PreCycle Day, a communitywide free exchange of reusable items during which participants simply place unwanted-yet-worthy goods at the curb and neighbors can “shop” for items they can use. PreCycle Day keeps items out of landfills, saves residents the time of sorting and offers a quick and easy way to celebrate Earth Day in April. sustainableworthington.org

Excuse for a Sweet Treat
Enough to satisfy any sweet tooth, the historic Worthington Inn’s popular Ohio-inspired Buckeye Sundae is much more than your typical ice cream treat. A warm Godiva chocolate brownie is topped with house-made peanut butter swirl ice cream, chocolate sauce, freshly made whipped cream and toasted peanuts. Worthington Inn, 649 High St., Worthington 43085, 614/885-2600. worthingtoninn.com