Canton Symphony’s Musicall of the Wild (photo by Kelly Klein Photography)
Travel

6 Reasons to Visit Akron-Canton this Summer

Whether you’re a sports fan, a music lover or an outdoor enthusiast, there’s plenty to experience in Ohio’s Summit and Stark counties this season.

CANTON
From outdoor classic music performances to the annual celebration of football’s greatest players, a visit to Canton during the summer offers a range of unforgettable experiences. 

Outdoor Sounds


In a collaboration with Stark Parks, the Canton Symphony Orchestra presents its Summer Serenades series, which runs through Sept. 5. Music lovers can spread out a blanket or pull up a chair and enjoy hour-long concerts at Quail Hollow Park, Fry Family Park, Beach City Park and Lawrence Township Park as well as the Plain Township Amphitheater, North Canton Civic Center, Beech Creek Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve, Canton Garden Center and the Huston-Brumbaugh Nature Center.

At its flagship event, MusiCall of the Wild on July 13 at Sippo Lake Park, nature and music collide during a free concert where small groups of symphony musicians perform while park staffers walk around with animals such as owls, snakes, flying squirrels, opossums and kestrels.

Nathan Maslyk, director of marketing and development for the symphony, says the performance selections are meant to mimic animal behavior and represent how they might act in the wild, not necessarily imitating the sounds they make.

“For example, owls are generally very quiet and stealthy, but there’s a sense of anticipation because they are prolific hunters and predators,” he explains. “So, we choose something suspenseful and exciting that kind of builds and builds to coincide with an owl.”

The Thursday Night Concert Series at the Plain Township Amphitheater delights audiences through Aug. 29 with cover bands that highlight the music of Frank Sinatra, Boston, Zac Brown Band, Elton John, Journey and the best boy bands of the 1990s as well as an appearance by Youngstown-based band The Vindys. Stage seating, general admission and fire pit tickets, which include six Adirondack chairs around a fire pit, are available.

During the Summer Concert Series at The Nash Family Jackson Amphitheater, which runs through Aug. 31, cover bands pay tribute to Prince, Chicago, Van Halen, AC/DC, Queen and Pink Floyd, among other notable names. Doors open at 6 p.m. and most concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. (Doors for the Pink Floyd tribute open at 6:30 p.m. with the concert set to kick off at 8:30 p.m.) Parking is free for all events.

Former Green Bay Packers safety LeRoy Butler with fans at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton (photo courtesy of Pro Football Hall of Fame)
Gridiron Greats

Imagine having your meal prepared by Pro Football Hall of Famer LeRoy Butler at your favorite local restaurant. Such was the case for patrons at Fronimo’s Downtown in Canton when the former Green Bay Packers safety was invited to kick off the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Residency Program in April.

The initiative, which runs through November, is set to bring 28 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinees to Canton. Each resident Hall of Famer will spend time greeting visitors and sharing stories at the museum, while also setting time aside to mingle with the public in a variety of ways.

From local schools to hospitals to nursing homes, there’s no telling where the famous faces might show up, says Rich Desrosiers, chief communications and content officer for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. For Butler, the residency afforded him an opportunity to show off his culinary skills and delight locals with his hospitality.

“LeRoy is a very accomplished chef and said that one of the things he wanted to do when he came to town was to prepare somebody’s food,” Desrosiers explains. “So we talked to [the restaurant owner] and he thought it was a great idea. And what a great story for those patrons to say, ‘I had my meal made by a Pro Football Hall of Famer.’ LeRoy really set a high bar for some of the other guys to reach.”

Confirmed appearances during the program as of press time include Fred Biletnikoff (Aug. 21 through 24), Tony Dorsett (Sept. 4 through 7), John Randle (Sept. 12 through 15), Ron Wolf (tentatively Sept. 25 through 28), Kellen Winslow (tentatively Oct. 30 through Nov. 2) and Andre Reed (Nov. 6 through 9).

Enshrinement Week, which runs Aug. 1 through 4, celebrates the seven members of the 2024 class, who will receive their gold jackets at a special dinner Aug. 2 before being enshrined on Aug. 3 and having their bronze likenesses added to the Hall of Fame Gallery. The Houston Texans take on the Chicago Bears Aug. 1 at Tom Benson Stadium for the Hall of Fame Game, while Carrie Underwood headlines the Concert for Legends Aug. 4.

Ducks at Beech Creek Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve in Alliance (photo courtesy of Beech Creek Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve)
Animal Attractions

The 3,000-square-foot Wings of Wonder Aviary is now open at Beech Creek Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve in Alliance. Featuring 25 individual birds and at least eight different species, the walk-through aviary focuses on teaching visitors about the preservation of birds in grassland, wetland and woodland habitats, says Melinda Carmichael, executive director of Beech Creek Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve.

“When you come in, you will actually see those three different habitats and learn a little bit about the types of trees and plants that you can use for those habitats [and] that the birds need to survive,” she says. “Perhaps it will inspire people to either create or conserve that sort of habitat in their backyard that will help promote the preservation of native birds.”

She adds that the space serves as a sanctuary for birds who have been injured and brought back to health but cannot be returned to the wild or survive on their own for various reasons. Many of the birds are flightless and are happy to interact with visitors. Among the friendliest are Bibi and Bwana, a pair of turacos, who love their new home and are eagerly waiting to show visitors around. General admission, which includes access to the aviary, is $17. Amenities are open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday through Sept. 8.

Elsewhere in Stark County, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort encourages the family pet to bask in the dog days of summer as it rolls out a new amenity this year: Clearwater Bark. The water park, which is the first of its kind in northeast Ohio, was inspired by the popularity of the resort’s annual dog swim, which is known to cater to four-legged fur babies.

The new space features a zero-depth entry wading pool, an agility course, a dog-themed splash pad and ample space for companions of camping guests and day-pass visitors to play, explore and cool off. The award-winning campground, which boasts fun for the whole family with a long list of amenities, now even includes options just for dogs.

WHEN YOU GO
For more information about other events in Canton and Stark County go to visitcanton.com.

Beech Creek Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve
beechcreekgardens.org

Canton Symphony Orchestra
cantonsymphony.org

Stark Parks
starkparks.com

Plain Township Amphitheater
plaintownshipamphitheater.com

Nash Family Jackson Amphitheater
jacksonamphitheater.com

Pro Football Hall of Fame 
profootballhof.com

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort
akroncantonjellystone.com

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AKRON
Championship PGA excitement, the slice of Americana that is the All-American Soap Box Derby and the Akron Marathon Race Series all await this summer. 

Golfer teeing off at Kaulig Companies Championship at Akron’s Firestone Country Club (photo by 2023 Tracy Wilcox/PGA Tour)
Championship Excitement

The Kaulig Companies Championship brings PGA Tour Champions players to Firestone Country Club July 10 through 14. Pro Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning will take the helm as the 2024 Ambassador of Golf, while country music star Kameron Marlowe headlines the Military Appreciation Concert July 12.

That’s just the start of what this immersive fan experience holds. This year, every tournament ticket holder has access to the Kaulig Infinity Zone, featuring the E. & J. Gallo Lounge, the Horse Soldier Bourbon Bar, the Cigar Den by Hammer & Nails, food trucks and interactive experiences from LA Golf, Kaulig Racing and One of a Kind Pets. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights as soon as play ends, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Stage hosts music from local favorites Anya Van Rose, Marc Lee Shannon, and The Vindys.

In a partnership with nonprofit Folds of Honor, July 12 is dedicated to service members and their families with everyone being encouraged to wear red, white and blue attire, says Don Padgett, executive director of Kaulig Companies Championship. The day kicks off with a performance of the national anthem at 9:30 a.m., followed by a military member hitting a ceremonial tee shot.

To continue the nods to service members, 13 scholarships will be awarded to family members of fallen heroes, while all active duty, retired and reserve military members as well as first responders and veterans receive complimentary admission to the Kaulig Companies Championship for themselves and a guest.

On the Monster Deck that overlooks the 16th green and the 17th hole, spectators can watch for a chance to win themselves.

“If the pros make a birdie, it’s actually half-price beer, so you’ll get fans rooting for those putts to drop a little bit more,” Padgett explains.

Meanwhile, a Kids Zone featuring mini golf, soap box derby cars and face painting keeps little ones busy, while the Bridgestone Golf Driving Range Experience provides novice golfers with an opportunity to take a swing on the tournament driving range.

“It’s a little bit like taking batting practice at Progressive Field,” Padgett notes. “It’s an inside-the-ropes experience, if you’re a golf nut, that normally you don’t get to be a part of.”

Racers at All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron (photo courtesy of All-American Soap Box Derby)
Racing Legacy

As more than 300 participants vie for the title of All-American Soap Box Derby champion during the 86th Annual Race Week at Derby Downs (July 14 through 20), countless families will be revving their engines as part of the crowd that cheers the racers on.

Since 1934, children have been making their own derby cars with the help of family members and friends in the hopes of scoring a spot in the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship held each summer in Akron.

“We really want to create a great experience for our champs, which are the racers that are coming in, and [for them] to experience the taste of Akron so that when they walk away from here and go back home — wherever that may be, across the country or across the pond — that they want to come back,” says All-American Soap Box Derby president and CEO Scott Taylor.

With participants ranging from 7 to 20 years old, racers have an opportunity to compete for a coveted win in Stock, Super Stock and Masters divisions.

Meanwhile, spectators are encouraged to make a day of lounging on blankets or leaning on the chain-link fence that lines the nearly 989-and-a-half-foot track to watch competitors descend the hill and jockey for position in their gravity-powered vehicles.

This year, Taylor says, event organizers are working to build on the race’s legacy, focusing on the racers, the volunteers and improving the track. Previous activities for spectators during race week have included constructing model cars and racing them on a pint-sized track as well as noshing on local food truck fare.

Race organizers also continue to focus on ways to build awareness for the derby and Akron’s iconic track with STEM-education outreach and summer-camp programs. Enthusiasts who can’t get enough of this American tradition are invited to visit the Soap Box Derby Hall of Fame Museum on George Washington Boulevard, where historic derby cars, plaques of champs, Hall of Fame honorees and memorabilia share the event’s long history.

Runners at starting line for Akron Marathon (photo by Cantor Photography)
Running Spirit

Nearly 13,000 runners, walkers, sprinters and strollers are expected to flood Akron’s downtown streets during the Akron Marathon Race Series 2024, says Anne Bitong, president & CEO of the Akron Marathon Charitable Corp.

Three notable events comprise the series: the National Interstate 1 Mile and 8K (June 28 and 29), the Goodyear Half Marathon and 10K (Aug. 10) and the FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon and Team Relay (Sept. 28).

While most of the course remains unchanged from previous years for the marquee marathon run, the race boasts spectator-friendly vantage points to follow friends and family on their journey from the starting line next to the Akron Art Museum on High Street to the finish line in front of Canal Park — home of the Akron RubberDucks baseball team.

With an uptick in interest in running events, Bitong says enthusiasm for the sport is fueling a 10% to 15% increase in the number of participants since last year’s Akron race series. She adds that the events — while competitive for many who participate — are all-inclusive.

“We’re really trying to rally that younger demographic to get new folks interested in the sport of running and also promoting that you don’t necessarily have to run, you can run and walk, and you can also [just] walk our events,” Bitong says. “It doesn’t necessarily depend on fitness level; there’s a distance for everyone.”

For those who prefer team sports, the relay breaks the marathon course into five legs ranging from 4.2 miles to 6.9 miles.

To quell post-race hunger and raise a celebratory glass, participants are encouraged to take advantage of local establishments’ race discounts and specials.

On Sept. 27, the Health & Fitness Expo from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the John S. Knight Center features more than 60 exhibitors. Speakers will also present information on the main stage from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Also on Sept. 27 beginning at 6 p.m., more than 1,000 children are expected to participate in the Kids Fun Run. The free, 1-mile event is for children 12 and under and is not timed.

WHEN YOU GO
For more information about other events in Akron and Summit County go to visitakron-summit.org.

Akron Marathon Race Series
akronmarathon.org

PGA Tour/Kaulig Companies Championship
kauligchampionship.com

All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship
aasbd.soapboxderby.org