The Dairy Barn Arts Center exterior in Athens (photo by Michelle Waters)

5 Reasons to Visit our 2022-23 Best Hometowns

From the site of a War of 1812 fort to a museum focused on the fashion world, these destinations in our Best Hometowns 2022-23 communities are worth a visit.

The Dairy Barn Arts Center | Athens
This historic barn offers the chance to explore works by local and international artists and a window into what art means this southeast Ohio community 

The Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens represents the intersection of the arts and rural living. Built in 1914 as part of the Athens State Hospital Dairy Farm, the structure was set to be demolished in the late 1970s until the Hocking Valley Arts Council rallied local support to turn the barn into a nonprofit arts center.

The Dairy Barn presents three to four exhibitions in its main 6,000-square-foot Sauber Gallery each year. But its most notable event happens every two years, when the “Quilt National” returns. (The 2023 installment is on display through Sept. 11.)

“For many quilting artists, getting into ‘Quilt National’ is their lifelong dream,” says Leah Magyary, executive director of The Dairy Barn Arts Center.

The exhibition was conceived in the late 1970s, when quilt artists were struggling to find proper recognition in the art community. The Dairy Barn became one of the first places to celebrate this art form. Now, it is considered the most renowned contemporary quilt exhibition in the world. These are not the same quilts your grandmother made, though. Many of the contemporary versions rebel against the traditional patterns most of us associate with quilts.

The Dairy Barn Arts Center is just one example of how the arts are part of the fabric of life here. So are Ohio University’s Kennedy Museum of Art and Passion Works Studio, an arts center for people of all abilities.

“Everywhere you turn in Athens,” says Magyary, “you have the opportunity to encounter art.” 8000 Dairy Ln., Athens 45701, 740/592-4981,

Style exhibit at the Kent State University Museum in Kent (photo by Rachael Jirousek)
Kent State University Museum | Kent
This museum in the northeast Ohio college town offers a window into the history and evolution of fashion, from the mid-18th century to modern day. 

Kent State University’s School of Fashion Design and Merchandising is the top in the Midwest, which makes a visit to the Kent State University Museum a walk through the styles we have worn over the decades and what those choices say about us.

Opened in 1985, the museum was made possible by a contribution from notable New York-based fashion entrepreneurs Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman, for whom Kent’s fashion school is named. Spanning four expansive galleries, the museum showcases the university’s extensive collection.

Visitors are greeted by the “Fashion Timeline” exhibition, which features clothing from the 1750s to the present day. The series of rooms holds dresses, vests, suits, pants, skirts and more, highlighting our ever-changing fashion taste. Those shifts are especially apparent in 20th-century pieces, as distinct trends emerge by decades, ranging from women’s workwear of the 1940s to the evolution into bolder colors during the 1970s. The exhibition premiered in 2012, but garments from the collection are replaced frequently to keep things fresh.

“It allows us to share with everybody more of the collection,” says Sarah J. Rogers, director of the Kent State University Museum since 2018.

Rogers emphasizes that the museum is not just for those who attend the university’s fashion school and others on campus. She encourages members of the public to include a visit to the Kent State University Museum as part of a trip to the college town.

“What I love in talking to people coming through the galleries is their sense of surprise,” she says. 515 Hilltop Dr., Kent 44240, 330/672-3450,

Fort Meigs in Perrysburg (photo by Rachael Jirousek)
Fort Meigs | Perrysburg 
This reconstructed fort depicts the one that once stood here during the War of 1812. Today, travelers can walk the historic site and learn about its place in U.S. history. 

The earthen mounds U.S. soldiers built and used as shields while they burrowed in mud and repelled British cannon bombardment more than 200 years ago still stand at Fort Meigs. Behind these grass-covered earthworks, the soldiers held their ground in two sieges that would change the course of the War of 1812. Today, the 10-acre fort built on a bluff above the Maumee River rapids is quiet and still.

“Surrounded by the wild and this serene sense of history and battle and death, all of that provides a weird energy, a weird peace,” says John Thompson, manager of historic programming and head of interpretation. 

Fort Meigs is the largest reconstructed fort in North America. Yet, many visitors are surprised to find out it exists.

“1812 is very much a Great Lakes story,” Thompson explains. “The war is fought on the U.S.-Canadian border.”

Visitors learn that story by walking the grounds and touring the buildings, which are all reconstructed. Costumed interpreters and exhibits throughout the site show what life was like for the soldiers here and how they fought off the British in sieges that took place in April and July 1813. A visit helps make the connections between the site and familiar names from history, including Gen. (and future President) William Henry Harrison and Tecumseh, a Native American leader who fought there

“You can see those moments when light bulbs go off,” Thompson says. 29100 W. River Rd., Perrysburg 43551, 419/874-4121,

Bartender holding beer at Brewfontaine in Bellefontaine (photo by Matt Shiffler)
Brewfontaine | Bellefontaine
Sampling the curated collection of beers and ciders available at this family-friendly spot is just the start of exploring this central Ohio city's food-and-drink scene. 

Nearly a decade ago, no one would have considered the city of Bellefontaine a food-and-drink town. Adam Rammel knew that as well as anyone, working for Small Nation, which was making its first forays into local real estate. While visiting a shuttered property about a block from the Logan County Courthouse, he saw potential. 

The building had once housed Johnson’s Deli, a local favorite that had operated from 1950 to 1983. So, Rammel and his friends Jeremy Fitzpatrick and Brian Wall brought their love for craft beer to Bellefontaine.

Brewfontaine opened in 2015, and today it’s just part of this city of 14,000 residents’ rich food-and-drink scene. Six Hundred Downtown, a gourmet pizza spot that opened in 2011, was a pioneering piece of Bellefontaine’s revival. The city is also home to Flying Pepper Cantina, 2 Gs Barbecue, Kiyomi Sushi Steakhouse, Roundhouse Depot Brewing Co. and Don’s Downtown Diner.

Brewfontaine focuses on curating a lineup of great craft beers and ciders from other breweries rather than making and serving its own. The food menu features a variety of salads, sandwiches and wraps. (For those looking for a higher-end dining experience, the ownership group’s The Syndicate restaurant is located next door.) A core of the Brewfontaine concept is having just 16 taps, which adds to the sense of curation that comes when browsing the list of what is available.

“They’re changing consistently,” Rammel says, “which is what people want: fresh.” 211 S. Main St., Bellefontaine 43311, 937/404-9128,

Charcuterie board from Silas Creative Kitchen in Versailles (photo by Matthew Allen)
Silas Creative Kitchen | Versailles 
This restaurant at southwest Ohio's Hotel Versailles serves hyper-seasonal and hyper-local dishes shaped by what’s available from its farm located just a few miles away. 

When your 85-acre farm is 3 miles down the road, the trip from the field to the kitchen to a diner’s table takes on new meaning. Silas Creative Kitchen in Versailles has had the benefit of that sort of arrangement since it opened in late spring 2022.

Executive chef Aaron Allen helms the kitchen at the fine dining spot located inside the rebuilt Hotel Versailles, which is owned by Midmark Corp. The company has a strong presence in Darke County, and it also owns Sycamore Bridge Farm, which supplies much of the restaurant’s ingredients under the care of farmer Katie Bensman.

“I change two to three dishes a week based on what’s coming from the farm,” Allen says. “The menu will rotate entirely with the seasons as they change.”

Diners can expect loads of fresh vegetables during the spring and summer months, and pickled and fermented preparations as the weather gets colder. Local meats (such as Berkshire pork and Black Angus beef supplied by Winner’s Meats) cheeses, wines and beers are among what’s available here as well.

Allen, who has a pedigree that includes stints at Rue Dumaine in Dayton, Daniel in New York City, Nemacolin in Pennsylvania and Hotel Covington in Kentucky, also draws on what inspires him when turning the bounty of the farm into a cohesive menu.

“It’s that childlike curiosity about cooking,” he says. “Chefs are just obsessed with food, and I want to cook food that people want to eat.” 22 N. Center St., Versailles 45380, 937/526-3020,