Exterior of Ford Nature Center at Mill Creek Park in Youngstown (photo by Kevin G. Reeves)
Travel | Cities

4 Reasons to Visit Youngstown This Summer

These Mahoning County favorites have new additions and expansions that make it a great time to plan a visit.

Ford Nature Center at Mill Creek MetroParks

Nature and outdoor lovers can find plenty to enjoy in Mahoning County’s Mill Creek MetroParks, which includes attractions such as Lanterman’s Mill and Covered Bridge, Fellows Riverside Gardens, a bike trail and a golf course. New for 2023 is Mill Creek Park’s renovated Ford Nature Center — a stone mansion the local Ford family donated in 1968 that opened to the public four years later.

The Ford Nature Center holds a variety of nature-education programs for adults and kids, as well as indoor exhibits on the flora and fauna of the area. The Ford family home, which was constructed in 1912, had not received any renovations in its 50 years of use by the park system, leading to a total of $4 million in updates that were completed this spring.

“The approach is that we bring everybody to the center,” says Justin Rogers, planning and operations director for Mill Creek MetroParks. “We want it to be the starting point for self-guided tours and experiences throughout Mill Creek Park.”

The renovated property includes a new exhibit hall and nature-themed gift shop, history room, bird-observation room, updated restrooms, outdoor classrooms and trails. Rogers hopes that all visitors will walk away with an appreciation for nature, and more knowledge than they had when they arrived.

“Everything that we do has an educational component,” he says.

While you’re at the park, be sure to take a stroll through Fellows Riverside Gardens, which contains a parade of seasonal blooms. 840 Old Furnace Rd., Youngstown 44511, 330/740-7107, millcreekmetroparks.org

Exterior of Youngstown’s Penguin City Brewing Co. (photo courtesy of Penguin City Brewing Co.)
Penguin City Brewing Co.

“Tough times don’t last. Tough cities do.” That is the Youngstown-loving motto painted on the metal exterior wall of this 32,000-square-foot warehouse along Federal Street at the east end of downtown. In July 2022, it became the new location for Penguin City Brewing Co. The property — a former steel mill supply factory that sat vacant for several years — is a much bigger venue than the brewery’s original location at the former B&O railroad depot on the other side of downtown Youngstown.

“We went from 10 barrels to 20 barrels [of production],” says Aspasia Lyras, one of the brewery’s owners. “We wanted to create a brewing company that represented the history, pride and people of our area, and we wanted to make our mark in the beer industry in Ohio and beyond.”

Penguin City, which has been a Youngstown favorite since 2018, routinely has a selection of about 10 beers on tap, ranging from year-round staples like Penguin City Lite and Penguin City Golden Ale to seasonal favorites like the brewery’s Oktoberfest Bier and Winter Warmer. Penguin City does not have a kitchen, but food trucks are on-site daily. Favorites include TortA’Mo, which serves Mexican-style sandwiches, and Cheezelouize, which offers comfort favorites like mac and cheese. The brewery is family friendly and welcomes dogs both inside and outside.

“A lot of people are surprised by just the size of [the place],” Lyras says. “They don’t realize how big it is until they actually walk in.” 460 E. Federal St., Youngstown 44503, 330/755-0709, penguincity.beer

Woman playing indoor game at Steel Valley Brew Works in Boardman (photo by Steel Valley Brew Works / Bentley Photography)
DeBartolo Commons at Southern Park Mall

Southern Park Mall in Boardman added several new businesses to its lineup within the past two years, thanks to a $30 million redevelopment project. Additions include new restaurants and entertainment options, but DeBartolo Commons, a 4-acre outdoor venue that includes a sports field and green space for festivals and public recreation, is something entirely different.

Unless a group has the space booked, visitors can play a spontaneous soccer or baseball game at the commons, which also has enough room to host summer concerts and food trucks. The holiday season will bring festive events and an ice-skating rink.

“It’s an outdoor community hangout,” says Linda Macala, executive director of the Mahoning County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Inside the mall, visitors can view the DeBartolo Commons Legacy Exhibit, which celebrates the life of namesake Edward J. DeBartolo. A Youngstown native, DeBartolo came from humble beginnings and studied engineering at the University of Notre Dame and served in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. DeBartolo had a passion for construction and was a pioneer of the shopping mall. He also owned sports teams, including the San Francisco 49ers. The Legacy Exhibit tells the story of DeBartolo’s life.

DeBartolo Commons is part of a larger expansion of the southern end of the mall, which is also home to The Bunker, an indoor space to learn and play golf; and Steel Valley Brew Works, a large lounge that boasts a fun atmosphere for socializing with friends while enjoying indoor games alongside food, beer, cocktails and coffee. 7401 Market St., Boardman 44512, 330/758-4512, debartolocommons.com

Vincent & Phyllis Bacon Grand Gallery at The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown (photo courtesy of Butler Institute of American Art)
The Butler Institute of American Art

Visitors to Youngstown’s art museum, which Joseph G. Butler Jr. founded in 1919 as the first dedicated exclusively to American art, can now explore the Vincent and Phyllis Bacon Wing. The new exhibition space is connected to the historic museum building and named after two longtime museum supporters.

Inside the 3,810-square-foot Bacon Wing, the Bacon Grand Gallery provides a space for the display of large paintings and other works of art. In the $2 million addition designed by architect C. Robert Buchanan, visitors will see artist Pierre Soulages’ giant ceramic-tile mural, “14 May, 1968.” The 14-by-20-foot mural graces a wall facing floor-to-ceiling windows that allow sunlight to spill in and illuminate the art. 

“People will love the way light is reflected,” says Louis Zona, executive director of The Butler Institute of American Art. “That’s the way the architect has designed it: directionally toward the sun.”

Along with Soulages’ work, the Bacon Grand Gallery will periodically house traveling exhibitions and pieces from the museum’s collection.

The Butler houses a permanent collection of more than 22,000 works, which is displayed across galleries that focus on the American West, sports and more. Known as the heart and soul of The Butler’s collection, Winslow Homer’s 1872 painting “Snap the Whip,” which was purchased the year the museum opened, depicts boys frolicking in front of a rural schoolhouse.

“Visitors will see one of the really great American collections with classic works that are often seen in textbooks,” Zona says. 524 Wick Ave., Youngstown 44502, 330/743-1107, butlerart.com


Wineries: Travelers looking for a glass of wine can go to Lowellville to relax and drink at L’uva Bella Winery. Other options include Woodland Cellars in Hubbard and D.O.P.E. Cider House and Winery in Youngstown. luvabella.com, woodlandcellars.comdopethebrand.com

Kids Stuff: If you’re traveling with youngsters, Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology is a must visit. The hands-on museum includes an Earth & Weather Wow! Zone, where kids can do their TV weather report. ohwowkids.org

Live Music: Kid Rock headlines the fifth annual Y-Live concert on July 29 at Wean Park in downtown Youngstown. Other summer concerts include REO Speedwagon on June 21 and The Doobie Brothers on June 28, both at The Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre. ylivemusic.comtheyoungstownfoundationamp.com