Hometown Highlights

Stroll the charming streets and check out the shops, historical sites and parks of this year’s Ohio Magazine Best Hometowns: Cambridge, Granville, Sylvania, Willoughby and Yellow Springs.

The Buxton Inn, Granville

Amanda Lloyd


Lathrop House in Sylvania was once a stop on
the Underground Railroad.

 

Pretend you’re a paleontologist at Fossil Park in Sylvania.

 

Built in 1840, the Kennedy Stone House is a beautiful example of restored, historic architecture in Cambridge.

 

Two “coal miners” welcome visitors to the shelter at the Byesville Scenic Railway, southeast of Cambridge.

 

Band concerts are a popular Thursday evening attraction in Willoughby.

 

The Homestead Bed & Breakfast offers soothing getaway packages in Willoughby.

 

Feeding goats at Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs.

 

A wine tasting at Emporium Wines and the Underdog Cafe in Yellow Springs.

 

Neighborly Spirit — Granville

By Jennifer Rogers

Any small-town resident knows that summer is synonymous with fresh food, community gatherings and peaceful, laid-back afternoons. And Granville does small-town summers by the book.

A sun-drenched carriage ride from Granville Carriage Co. is an idyllic way to begin your Granville experience. The tour, led by Toby, a 17-hand gray Percheron gelding, winds through the village’s uptown and back into shaded residential streets as Toby’s owner, Diana Jones, points out Granville highlights. Part history, part folklore and entirely scenic, the tour is a great way to learn about Granville’s past and present before exploring on your own.

Satisfy post-ride hunger with a sandwich or ice cream at an umbrella-topped table outside Victoria’s Parlour, or with a garden-side bite at the historic — and as rumor has it, haunted — Buxton Inn. If it’s Saturday, though, your best bet is to create your own picnic basket with a trip to the Granville Farmers Market where colorful produce fills the stalls, the scent of fresh-cut flowers fills the air and friends and neighbors gather in clusters along the sidewalks of Broadway, the village’s main thoroughfare. If you visit Granville during the summer, you’re more than likely to be a part of this weekly tradition. Community gatherings define summer in Granville, and the market is just the start.

The great lawn at Bryn Du Mansion — where the Columbus Polo Club hosts matches on Sundays through Sept. 26 — is a popular gathering spot when the weather’s warm, and it’s a beautiful place for the picnic lunch you’ve just put together. If you’re looking for a spot within walking distance of the market, the Denison University Fine Arts Quad — known fondly as “the green” — is also a relaxing spot. On Sunday evenings, the green is host to the Concerts on the Green series, family-friendly musical performances that take place through the end of the summer.  

Other community events include Granville’s 4th of July Street Festival, held uptown July 2–5, the annual Cruise-in at Infirmary Mound Park, held Aug. 28, the 10th annual Hot Lick Blues Fest, held uptown on Sept. 18, and the Bryn Du Art Show, held on the great lawn Sept. 30–Oct. 8.

As for overnight plans, the Granville Inn — located in the heart of uptown — provides a romantic escape from the commotion of day-to-day life. The staff is gracious, the rooms are elegant yet homey, and the restaurant boasts one of the best menus in town. The Inn is Granville’s wedding hub in the spring and summer, so don’t be too surprised if you see a blushing bride and her party having their pictures taken on the lawn.

Additional lodging includes the Buxton Inn and several bed and breakfasts, and for outdoorsy types and those traveling with families, the campsites and cabins at Lazy River at Granville are very popular.

If you’re looking for more outdoor destinations, the village offers numerous open-air excursions. Granville Bike Rentals & Guided Tours, Ltd., offers tours of Granville and beyond, while golf enthusiasts can take advantage of two 18-hole public golf courses and history buffs can enjoy the Historical Society-sponsored walking tour.

For more information about Granville, visit granville.oh.us or lccvb.com.
 
Classic Combination — Sylvania

By Ilona Westfall

The city of Sylvania toes a fine line between cosmopolitan and cozy. It seamlessly juxtaposes the kind of quaint, tree-lined downtown that’s typical of a much smaller burg with things like live entertainment and art festivals befitting an urban enclave.

Needless to say, visitors to the Toledo suburb will find a variety of attractions and activities to please every style.

Sylvanians pride themselves on their abundance of recreation options, so it’s no wonder the city boasts more than 200 acres of green space to explore.

History waits in the sedate Harroun Community Park, home to Lathrop House, a stop on the Underground Railroad for slaves on their way to freedom in Canada. While the interior of the structure is undergoing renovations to restore it to its former glory, guests can still take a look at the outside while breathing in the soft aroma of surrounding wildflowers.

Dig in the dirt at the city’s famous Fossil Park, one of only two Devonian Era sites in the world. The unique park lets you pretend you’re a paleontologist by hunting for fossils hidden in shale and then taking your finds home.

A must-see on any tour of the area’s park offerings is Wildwood Preserve, just outside Sylvania in Toledo. The park is the former estate of Robert A. Stranahan Sr., co-founder of the Champion Spark Plug Company. Hike on trails winding through the beautiful grounds or tour the 1930s-era Georgian Colonial Manor House.

The former Stranahan home is a sprawling expanse of opulent room after room of antique chandeliers and wallpaper from French chateaus. Be sure to head around the back of the building to see the Shipman Garden, a rare surviving plot by famed landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman.

While not technically a park, the campus of Lourdes College, a private Franciscan school, might as well be. Stroll through the lovely grounds, replete with peaceful reflecting areas and religious statuary.

Of course, the best time to visit Lourdes is for the Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Arts & Crafts Festival on Sept. 12. The festival hosts artisans from across the country for a day of art, shopping and local entertainment.

Had your fill of outdoor adventures? Head to Sylvania’s charming downtown area, where modern shopping and dining options reside in historic buildings. Grab a souvenir at C’est La Vie, a gift shop packed with girly rhinestone jewelry, accessories, body products and home decor.

Head across the street along a crosswalk adorned with Sylvania’s maple leaf logo to Canterbury Home, where you can pick up delicate home and garden accoutrements like curling wrought iron furniture and crystal chandeliers.

Grab a bite to eat at the Chandler Café, the unofficial gathering place of the city’s residents. Mingle with friendly locals and try a fresh sandwich or salad, many named for Sylvania landmarks.

No trip to Sylvania is complete without a concert at Centennial Terrace. What once was a 1939 outdoor ballroom is now freshly outfitted with a state-of-the-art sound system, massive stage and a polished concrete dance floor where you can dance the night away to everything from swing bands to big-name touring acts like Ted Nugent (July 25) and Rick Springfield (Aug. 8).

For more details on Sylvania, visit sylvaniachamber.org.

Ride Through Time — Cambridge
By Marie Catanese

From November through the first of the year, both Dickens Victorian Village and the beautifully choreographed courthouse holiday light show make Cambridge a prime wintertime destination. But spring, summer and fall also bring plenty of reasons to visit.

It takes about five minutes aboard the Byesville Scenic Railway for “coal miners” Dave Adair and Steve Stolarik to transport riders back to the early 1900s, when the bustling mines just south of Cambridge employed thousands of southeast Ohio workers.

Over the course of a one-hour, round-trip train ride past long-abandoned mine sites, the two men give an engaging narrative that describes the world of the mines, the working conditions deep underground and what community and family life was like for the coal miners. They wear traditional gear — complete with ash-smudged faces — and use music, historical photographs and antique mine equipment, most of which is donated by local miners’ families, to illustrate their story. Ride with them, and you’ll learn everything from the politics of company towns to what the miners’ wives packed in their lunch pails.

Whether you come for the history, or simply to check out the trains and catch some Appalachian scenery, the Byesville Scenic Railway is a must-visit. The 2010 train schedule includes wine tastings, fall foliage tours and special excursions celebrating Veteran’s Day, Halloween and Christmas. Plans are also in the works to extend the railway line all the way to Cumberland, where visitors can hop off and spend a day at the Wilds, one of the world’s largest wildlife conservation facilities.

Celebrating its 36th season in 2010, the Living Word Outdoor Drama brings visitors to Cambridge by the busload for larger-than-life performances on a spectacular 400-foot outdoor set. The play, set in Old Jerusalem, tells the story of the life of Jesus and is produced by a volunteer cast and crew. To date, more than 340,000 visitors have attended the drama, a remarkable achievement for the nonprofit theater.

While it’s largely the religious aspect of the drama that draws visitors from far and wide, there are moments during the performance — such as when actors on horseback come galloping down the steep sides of the amphitheater — that are thrilling in any context.

The Living Word Outdoor Drama is performed every Friday and Saturday evening through Sept. 25. One hour before show time, guests are treated to a free set tour and pre-show music.

For a different kind of outdoor adventure, pack a picnic and head to Salt Fork State Park, where you and your family can enjoy fishing, swimming, hiking and biking. This pristine state park is Ohio’s largest, with 17,229 acres of places to play including a challenging 18-hole golf course, basketball courts, mini-golf, two marinas and a nature center. From May through October, history buffs will enjoy a visit to the Kennedy Stone House Museum, located on the park property. The museum is open for docent-led tours Fri.–Mon., 1–4 p.m.

The park also offers overnight accommodations that include the 148-room Salt Fork Lodge & Conference Center, nearly 200 campsites, two-bedroom rental cottages and chalet cottages — cozy retreats that feature both fireplaces and hot tubs.

For more to see and do in Cambridge, visit the Guernsey County Visitors and Convention Bureau, visitguernseycounty.com.

Summer Central — Willoughby

By Linda Feagler

Willoughby’s storied past is certainly worth celebrating. Which is why “Last Stop Willoughby” has become an August tradition. The two-day event – held the third weekend of the month (Aug. 21 and 22 this year) — offers a proud acknowledgement of the bygone days of the CP&E, the Lake County town’s electric trolley line, which was in service from 1895 to 1926. (The event is also a nod to Episode 30 of the 1960s TV classic, “The Twilight Zone,” aptly titled “A Stop at Willoughby.” Although local historians can’t prove Rod Serling had their town in mind when he penned the script, there’s no other spelled the same way.)

And when it comes to a first stop for summer fun, Willoughby is clearly a destination station. For starters, there’s the Thursday concert series, which brings residents and visitors together at 7 p.m. in the shadow of the gazebo gracing the town square. This year’s lineup includes the Latin jazz and swing sounds of the David Sterner Quintet (July 15), smooth Sinatra-style tunes, courtesy of the Don Disantis Orchestra (July 22) and Cats on Holiday, a hard-rockin’ band specializing in Cajun and blues (Aug. 26).

There’s no better way to savor the season than at the Outdoor Market. A downtown tradition, it’s open for business on Saturday mornings through October from 8 a.m. to noon. For 31 years, local vendors have tended booths brimming with coffees and teas, jams and jellies, baked goods, seasonal fruits, vegetables, homemade pasta and the maple syrup our state is known for.

’Tis the month to pay homage to our armed forces past and present. Willoughby does it in grand style July 9–11 with “A Gathering of Eagles XIV: Meet the Heroes” at the Willoughby Lost Nation Municipal Airport. Veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars will be on hand to remember and share their memories about decisive moments in our country’s history. Visitors will be able to tour — and in some cases ride — vintage aircraft.

Culture mavens won’t want to miss the 19th annual ArtsFest, held on July 17 at Point Park. Paintings, drawings, woodworking, sculpture, ceramics, fiber art and jewelry are just a few of the mediums showcased in the juried show, in which 140 artists participate.

With so much to see and do here, it’s no wonder visitors often spend the night — or two or three. The Homestead House Bed & Breakfast is just the place for a little R & R. Innkeepers Fred and Deanna Rowe have lovingly restored the charming Italianate painted lady back to her 1884 Victorian elegance. The couple offers a variety of getaway amenities, including a Massage Therapy Package for Two that features a one-hour massage or facial and breakfast in your room.

Fine dining is right down the block at a variety of restaurants, sure to please every appetite — from the Willoughby Brewing Co., known for brews, pizzas and pastas, to Gavi’s Restaurant, which offers a cozy Italian dining experience. Cap off the night on the patio at Corks. Patterned after the classic wine bars of Europe, the establishment proffers more than 60 wines, champagnes and ports by the glass or bottle.

For more information about what’s happening in Willoughby, visit willoughbyohio.com.

Artful Adventures — Yellow Springs

By Jessica Esemplare

Summer’s in full swing, which means events and activities abound in the small community of Yellow Springs, just 21 miles northeast of Dayton.

Quite possibly the heart of Yellow Springs is its art, which appears around town in shops, galleries and even trees wrapped with colorful knitting. So it’ s no surprise that a good portion of the town’s events involve the arts, including the premiere of The Yellow Springs Experience, An Immersion in Arts & Culture, running July 9–18 in conjunction with the 25th annual Antioch Writer’s Workshop.

Designed as a Chautauqua-like event, the 10-day Experience is perfect for anyone looking for art lessons, wellness classes, nature hikes and tips on sustainable living. Visitors also will enjoy a street carnival and a skate music concert.

Perhaps the most popular arts events in Yellow Springs are the street fairs, held each June and October, offering live entertainment and more than 200 vendors. Along with traditional arts and crafts, shoppers can purchase clothes, jewelry, purses, candles, lotions, soaps and fair-trade products, all while sampling international cuisine or enjoying a music festival and beer garden. The next street fair is scheduled for Oct. 9.  

You don’t have to wait for these festivals to enjoy all that Yellow Springs has to offer. On the third Friday of each month, known as Friday Fling in the Springs, most of the galleries, shops and restaurants have extended hours, special events and live entertainment, including performances by the fire-dancing group Soul Fire Tribe, wine tastings at Emporium Wines and the Underdog Cafe, beer-making demonstrations at Main Squeeze juice bar, and art gallery openings and receptions.

The small village of Yellow Springs has enough art, dining and shopping to keep you occupied for the whole summer but, while you’re there, it’s also worth traveling just north of town to sample the homemade ice cream and cheese at Young’s Jersey Dairy. The farm is a place where young and old delight in petting the animals, riding the 10-passenger “moovers and shakers” train, playing 18 holes of miniature golf at Udders and Putters or sliding down the newest attraction, the 30-foot Cowvin’s Fast Slide.

There’s also plenty going on at Young’s in the summer, like the Small Town American Celebration BBQ Weekend, July 2–4. Visitors can expect favorites — like hot dogs and pulled-pork sandwiches — along with barbecued black Angus burgers and sundried tomato and artichoke pasta salad.

Feel the need to burn off all that food? Return to Young’s for the eighth annual charity bike tour. There are one- and two-day options for riders; proceeds benefit area organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association and South Community Behavioral Healthcare. Join the tour this year on July 24 and 25.

After all of that activity, you’ll want to unwind in one of the many cozy bed and breakfasts or inns around town. Try the nature-themed Arthur Morgan House Bed and Breakfast, the Grinnell Mill Bed and Breakfast in a restored historic water mill or a unique women’s retreat at Creative Explorations. It will help you unwind, recharge and regroup for the next day’s activities.

For more information about dining, playing and staying in Yellow Springs, visit yellowspringsohio.org.