5 Best Hometowns to Visit this Summer
From sites that illuminate Ohio history to downtown shopping and dining, explore these spots we discovered while visiting our Best Hometowns 2021-22.
One of our state’s most iconic images can be traced to a hilltop in Chillicothe, where the Adena Mansion & Gardens welcomes visitors today.
The Great Seal of the State of Ohio depicts a bundle of 17 arrows standing alongside a sheaf of wheat. Both sit in an open field in front of the sun rising over a mountain. It is an image that longtime Ohioans have seen countless times, but many probably do not know that the sunrise depicted was inspired by a real one witnessed more than 200 years ago.
Step up to the overlook at Adena Mansion & Gardens in Chillicothe, look between the trees that lean in, and you can see the same profile of Mount Logan depicted on our state’s official coat of arms. The Great Seal was adopted in 1803, and although it has been modified over the years, the presence of Mount Logan has always remained.
The story goes that Thomas Worthington (one of Ohio’s first two U.S. senators), Edward Tiffin (Ohio’s first governor) and William Creighton (Ohio’s first secretary of state), experienced the sunrise together one early morning from Worthington’s two-story log home, which was located on the hilltop where the Adena Mansion stands today. A marker near the spot shares that tale, and Adena Mansion & Gardens Historic Site executive director Kathy Styer says history buffs frequently ask about it when they visit.
“Everybody wants to see the inspiration for the Great Seal of Ohio,” she says. “There is a nice area to sit and reflect and just imagine being able to see it from the perspective of those gentlemen, who stood out on the porch of the original home that was built up there.”
Chillicothe is rich in moments like this that provide a chance to look back through the centuries. Just 4 miles away, Hopewell Culture National Historical Park shares the story of the native people who thrived in this area thousands of years ago and built elaborate earthen structures for ceremonial purposes. For the past 50 years, Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre has staged “Tecumseh!” an outdoor drama that tells the tale of the Shawnee leader, who was born near Chillicothe and fought to protect his ancestral lands as settlers encroached upon them in the late 1700s.
Chillicothe was the capital of the Northwest Territory between 1800 and 1803, and briefly served as the capital of Ohio — twice — until Worthington helped orchestrate the relocation of Ohio’s government to Columbus in 1816.
Worthington went on to become the sixth governor of Ohio in 1814, and moved into the mansion built on his estate in 1807. The state of Ohio has owned the property since 1946, and an update to coincide with Ohio’s 2003 bicentennial brought it even more in line with how it looked when Worthington and his family lived there. Guided tours are available from April through October.
The Adena Mansion is also noteworthy because it is one of just a few homes still in existence designed by renowned architect Benjamin Latrobe, whom Thomas Jefferson hired in 1803 to work on the south wing of the U.S. Capitol building.
“Benjamin Latrobe is known as America’s architect,” Styer says. “The fact that we have one of three Benjamin Latrobe homes still standing today in our hometown is significant.”
When You Go:
Adena Mansion & Gardens, 847 Adena Rd., Chillicothe 45601, adenamansion.com
Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, 16062 St. Rte. 104, Chillicothe 45601, nps.gov/hocu
Tecumseh! Outdoor Drama, 5968 Marietta Rd., Chillicothe 45601, tecumsehdrama.com
Wadsworth is home to a fun collection of foodie finds in its city center, from Creole and cocktails to brewery bites to gelato served in a former movie theater.
What began as a coffee cart in an art gallery in 1995 evolved into a coffee shop that served deli sandwiches. Later, it introduced live music, craft beer on tap and a great whiskey lineup. Sonnets Coffee & Whiskey Bar has become a downtown Wadsworth fixture for those looking for a morning pick me up or an evening wind down.
When the pandemic temporarily shuttered Sonnets’ kitchen, owner Brian Power brought in Zydeco Bistro food truck chef Johnny Schulze to whip up a menu of Creole classics. The popularity of his po’ boy sandwiches, jambalaya and gumbo led Power to plan a kitchen expansion and a permanent home for Zydeco Bistro’s fare. It also prompted Power to add more cocktails, like the bayou-ready Sazerac, Hurricane and Zombie.
“It brought it all together,” Power says. “I like the idea of coffee and beignets in the morning and cocktails and jambalaya and shrimp Creole in the evening.”
Just around the corner sits Wadsworth Brewing Co., a casual spot that serves brewed-on-premises beer, such as the Thelma Lou blonde ale and The River Styx Monster double IPA, as well as creations that branch out into the realm of experimentation. One was inspired by a customer who asked the bartender to mix two limited-run beers on draft — a peanut butter blonde ale and a grape-jelly-flavored beer.
“It’s almost like you pulled a Wonder Bread PB&J out of your paper lunch sack,” says owner Ernie Joy, who added the mashup to his lineup, calling it When I Was Your Age.
The taproom’s food menu spans thin-crust pizzas, barbecue nachos and soft pretzels made with spent grains from the Thelma Lou blonde ale and served with beer cheese.
“The pretzels have so much more substance,” Joy says. “They’re just crispy enough on the outside, but still soft and chewy inside, and they make a sizable meal.”
Nearby, gelato gets a starring role at Dolce at The Strand. Built inside the former Strand movie theater, Dolce opened in 2019, serving both classic and creative gelato varieties made using machines imported from Italy. Boozy shakes, wine, coffee, cocktails and desserts are on the menu as well. Owners BJ and Nicole Mikoda got training from a native of Italy who has a family history steeped in baked goods and gelato before opening their spot.
“We learned how to balance a recipe,” Nicole says. “It’s just like chemistry. It’s the first time chemistry was ever fun to me.”
When You Go
Sonnets Coffee & Whiskey Bar, 117 College St., Wadsworth 44281, sonnetscoffee.com
Wadsworth Brewing Co., 126 Main St., Wadsworth 44281
Dolce at The Strand, 123 Broad St., Wadsworth 44281, dolceatthestrand.com
From century-old finds to more recent retro discoveries, take a trip into the past during a day of antiques shopping in downtown Delaware.
Located about 30 miles north of Columbus and near two other communities known for antiquing — Sunbury and Powell — Delaware provides an inviting and walkable destination to look for one-of-a-kind finds during a day of exploration. From Revolutionary War-era trinkets to European china to retro fashions, the city’s downtown antiques shops offer a little bit of everything.
The Delaware Antique Mall covers 8,900 square feet and stocks vintage and antique goods from nearly five dozen vendors. Booths packed with vintage clothes from the 1960s through the 1980s provide some pleasant blasts from the past for shoppers, but those are just the start of the retro finds throughout the place that bring back rushes of nostalgia.
“It’s the memories that come back to people when they’re walking around, and they see a cup and saucer that matches the dishes their grandmother had,” says owner Debbie Collom.
Just around the corner, Sandusky Street Antiques specializes in old paintings, architectural pieces, books and clocks. (Store owner David Kessler repairs the latter.) Built in 1869, the building was originally a haberdashery and today houses two floors of antiques across 10,000 square feet of space that features booths from 50 vendors. The various display areas combine wares from different sellers to provide shoppers some style inspiration for their own homes.
“If you’re decorating properly, you can tie in so many different eras and styles and make your room so much more interesting and involved,” says manager Janet Sinks.
Just a few doors down, shoppers can fuel up with some caffeine and browse a curated selection of antiques, gifts and new items at Coffeeology, a space that’s equal parts boutique and coffee shop. The unique concept came from owner and California native Melissa Rideout’s shopping trips with her mom (a silent partner in Coffeeology and a certified antiques appraiser), during which they would always buy coffee.
The result is a space that has a small selection of antiques sourced by the duo. Finds during our visit included Native American jewelry, Prussian teacups and a hand-carved wooden barber chair. Modern accessories by independent designers are also available.
“We noticed that West Coast antiques differed from Midwest collectibles,” Rideout says. “The West Coast had a lot of European style items, such as crystals. So we wanted to bring that to the Midwest.”
When You Go
Delaware Antique Mall, 17 W. William St., Delaware 43015,
Sandusky Street Antiques, 30 N. Sandusky St., Delaware 43015
Coffeeology, 43 N. Sandusky St., Delaware 43015, coffeeologyoh.com
Explore the city of Sandusky’s reimagined Lake Erie waterfront, inviting public spaces, new downtown businesses and family-friendly destinations.
A visit to Sandusky’s Paddle & Climb makes you feel as if you’re in on a secret. That is especially true upon reaching the back of the small shop, which stocks outdoor gear and surf apparel and has a 31-foot climbing wall rising through the middle of it, to discover what owner Ryan Whaley calls his “World Famous Paddle Bar.”
There, visitors can grab a seat on one of the brightly colored chairs, belly up to the wooden bar and order from a menu of island-style drinks that feels right at home along the Ohio shore. There is also an adjoining patio and deck that offers patrons Lake Erie views and a space to enjoy live entertainment and fare from the food trucks routinely parked outside. Visitors can also rent paddleboards and kayaks (prior to the cocktail, obviously).
“The idea was to bring an outdoor vibe — almost a mix between California and Colorado — to Sandusky,” says Whaley, who opened Paddle & Climb in 2018. “It’s such a beautiful area on the water.”
Paddle & Climb is one of many new additions to downtown Sandusky over the past several years that have marked a shift in how the community has embraced its location on the Sandusky Bay. It used to be that most travelers’ familiarity with the city started and ended with Cedar Point amusement park.
Times have changed, and any visit to Sandusky is now incomplete without a trip downtown. The Jackson Street Pier is an achievement in linking the public to the lake — taking a parking lot and turning it into a shoreline gathering place. The boat lines board nearby, with the Jet Express making trips to the Lake Erie islands and Cedar Point, the Pelee Islander providing passage to Canada and the classic Goodtime I ferrying tourists on island-hopping, party and sunset cruises.
Exploring Sandusky’s walkable downtown district treats travelers to a family-friendly shore-town feel. Soda Pop’s delivers a nostalgic sugar rush of beloved candies, while Lakelynn Design sells clothing and decor that exude an on-the-water vibe. When it comes time to eat, Small City Taphouse serves Asian cuisine and sushi alongside over 80 beers, while the Hotel Kilbourne’s OH Taco offers a hip and casual space to grab dinner and sip margaritas. (The hotel also has a 21-and-older rooftop patio.)
While in the area, check out the Merry-Go-Round Museum, located just south of downtown next to Washington Park. (Plus, admission comes with a ride on the museum’s 1939 Allan Herschel Co. Merry-Go-Round.) Opening in 1990 in the city’s historic post office building, the fun and interesting museum showcases the artistry and history of carousels and features more than 100 carved carousel horses on display.
“People are very surprised and intrigued by the artistic value that goes into it … and the time and detail these craftsmen took to create a ride,” says Kurri Lewis, executive director and curator of the Merry-Go-Round Museum. “But to them it was a work of art, and it was their livelihood.”
When You Go
Paddle & Climb, 305 E. Water St., Sandusky 44870, paddleandclimb.com
Merry-Go-Round Museum, 301 Jackson St., Sandusky 44870, merrygoroundmuseum.org
Heavier Than Air Brewing Co. in Centerville soars with a lineup of beers that reflect the wealth of history that can be explored along Dayton’s Aviation Trail.
Not long after walking into Heavier Than Air Brewing Co., your curiosity starts to take flight. There are various aviation-related artifacts, and a row of large photos displayed on the wall illustrates Ohio’s ties to aviation and aeronautics, from first flight to present day. One of the TVs is even permanently set to the NASA station.
Co-founder Nick Tarkany Sr. opened the Centerville craft brewery and taproom in 2017 with his brother, Chris, and his sons, Ben and Nick Jr. The family members’ roots in homebrewing went back more than a decade before the brewery opened, and they’ve long had an affinity for aviation history and innovation.
“We were right straight off the flight path,” says Tarkany, who recalls seeing military jets as they were heading to and from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base while growing up in Centerville. “I actually started flying when I was 19. It’s part of my life.”
If it wasn’t clear from the decor, the names of Heavier Than Air Brewing Co.’s beers offer a second chance to catch onto the theme. The Earn Your Wings golden ale is an easy-drinking option. Other big sellers include the Falcon Project New England IPA, a citrusy offering with a lot of hop flavor without being overly bitter, and the Balloon Factory ESB, one of the brewery’s gold-medal-winning beers.
There’s not a full kitchen at the taproom, and outside food is welcomed. Instead, the Tarkanys focus on their brews, including seasonal options like the Oktoberfest coming in September and an Irish Red available in the spring.
One popular year-round offering is the JP-7 MKII American IPA. It gets its name from a jet fuel that was used for the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a long-range, high-altitude, supersonic military aircraft.
“It’s a little bit more potent fuel, so it’s a little bit more potent beer,” Tarkany says of the hoppy brew. “It’s a little bit more, let’s just say, assertive. It lets you know it’s an IPA.”
As a suburb of Dayton, Centerville is a fitting location for this brewery. Less than 20 miles from Heavier Than Air Brewing Co., you can see a Lockheed SR-71 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The world’s largest military aviation museum, it is one of 17 stops on Dayton’s Aviation Trail.
The Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center and Aviation Trail Visitor Center is a great starting place to dive into the area’s heritage, says Tarkany, who’s on the board of directors for the Aviation Trail. About 10 miles from the visitor center, the Wright Brothers National Museum at Carillon Historical Park further explores the lives of Wilbur and Orville Wright. The museum houses the original 1905 Wright Flyer III, the world’s first practical airplane. It was made with lumber from Dayton’s Requarth Co., giving Heavier Than Air Brewing Co. another chance to tap into the area’s heritage. At the time of our visit, the tap handles were made out of Requarth Co. lumber.
“That’s an example of the kind of detail we put in,” Tarkany says.
When You Go
Heavier Than Air Brewing Co., 497 Miamisburg Centerville Rd., Centerville 45459, heavierthanairbrewing.com
National Museum of the United States Air Force, 1100 Spaatz St., Wright-Patterson AFB 45433, nationalmuseum.af.mil
Carillon Historical Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd., Dayton 45409 daytonhistory.org
Driving Ohio’s Scenic Byways
The Ohio Department of Transportation has identified 27 routes. Here are 12 that highlight history, nature and favorite attractions throughout the state. READ MORE >>
Best Hometowns 2022
This year, we honor Athens, Bellefontaine, Kent, Perrysburg and Versailles. These five communities embody the characteristics that make us proud to call Ohio home. READ MORE >>
Best Hometowns 2022: Bellefontaine
This city located 60 miles northwest of Columbus is experiencing a downtown revival that is shining a light on historic properties while reinventing them for a new generation. READ MORE >>