Family Fun in Stark County
From history to sports to nature, check out these five spots.
Located in northwest Stark County, Canal Fulton is full of charm and opportunities for outdoor fun. With a historic district that includes more than 80 properties, it is easy to break away from the commotion of modern life for a little while.
“It’s like stepping back in time,” says Paulette Snyder, president of Canal Fulton Canoe Livery. “That’s the best way to put it.”
History buffs can take a ride down the Ohio & Erie Canal on the St. Helena III canal boat, and outdoor enthusiasts can hit the Muskingum or Ohio & Erie Canalway Towpath trails.
The Canal Fulton Canoe Livery, which is located between the two trails, offers 6- and 11-mile excursions as well as sites for primitive camping. “Eighty percent of our campsites are right on the river’s edge,” says Snyder.
Canal Fulton’s emporiums create a fun shopping experience. The Toys Time Forgot offers the chance to relive childhood memories, while Keillor’s A Teddy Bear Shoppe offers a large selection of everyone’s favorite stuffed animal. The good times continue at Sluggers & Putters: Family Fun Park, which features batting cages, an arcade, miniature golf and rides. Canal Fulton Canalway Center, 125 Tuscarawas St. NW, Canal Fulton 44614, 330/854-6835, discovercanalfulton.com
Otis Clay founded Clay’s Park Resort more than 60 years ago, and since then it has grown in both size and reputation as a go-to spot for family fun.
The park’s campground offers both primitive sites as well as those with electrical hookups, and its 10-acre, sand-bottom lake is a hub of summer fun. The water park features 150-foot-long slides, ring swings, zip lines and the barrel roll — a longtime favorite.
“The swim lake opened in 1955, and it’s been here since the beginning,” says Peggy Clay McQuaide, the park’s brand ambassador and the granddaughter of founder Otis Clay.
Use of the park’s kayaks and canoes is included with the price of admission, while anglers can try their luck at the stocked, 20-acre fishing lake. For families looking for fun on land, Clay’s Park offers an 18-hole miniature golf course, as well as basketball and tennis courts. Live entertainment is also scheduled on most weekends at both the beach and the park’s on-site restaurant, John O’s.
McQuaide, who spent her childhood summers working at the park, says the resort has become a family tradition for those who visit as well, with many returning year after year and generation after generation. “There are three or four generations of families that are here now,” she says. Visit website for hours and pricing. 13190 Patterson St. NW, Lawrence 44666, 330/854-6691, clayspark.com
Football fans have been flocking to Canton to experience the Pro Football Hall of Fame since its opening day in 1963. Now, more than 50 years later, the hall is bigger and better after completing a $27 million expansion and renovation in 2013. New attractions this summer include a holographic, immersive experience titled “The Game for Life,” as well as an exhibit of the Hunt-Casterline Pro Football Hall of Fame card collection.
“This is the world’s rarest and most valuable card collection that dates back to the 1800s,” says Pete Fierle, chief of staff and vice president of communication.
The Hall of Fame showcases the history of the game and the legendary players, but it also explores five core values learned from football. “We think that these values — commitment, integrity, courage, respect and excellence — not only are things that make an individual a hall of famer or a great football player, but also make someone a great business person or mom or dad,” says Fierle.
Visitors to the museum during Hall of Fame Week in August are invited to take part in the festivities. The Concert for Legends featuring Tim McGraw kicks off this signature event, which also includes the Enshrinement Festival and the Hall of Fame Game. Visit website for hours, admission and details about enshrinement-related events. 2121 George Halas Dr. NW, Canton 44708, 330/456-8207, profootballhof.com
Covering 175 acres, Beech Creek Gardens has four nature trails and picnic areas along the way to stop for a break. There’s even a free scavenger-hunt kit available to help engage everyone in the family along the trail.
“It is a very inexpensive opportunity for a family to come spend the day together exploring nature,” says Beech Creek Gardens associate director Melinda Carmichael. “My personal favorite is Fern Ridge Trail. It’s not difficult, and you go from one ecosystem to the other … you get to see different plant life and different terrain.”
The Butterfly House and Caterpillar Nursery provide further entertainment and teach visitors about the life cycle of the insect. A gazebo located in the center of the Butterfly House has microscopes and books where guests can learn more about the variety on display. There’s also the Amazing Garden, featuring more than 20 hands-on stations.
“You can engage in learning, but you’re having fun while you are doing it,” Carmichael says. Open year-round during daylight hours; visit website for Butterfly House, Caterpillar Nursery and visitor center hours. 11929 Beech St. NE, Alliance 44601, 330/829-7050, beechcreekgardens.org
The secluded, 701-acre Quail Hollow Park is home to marshes, towering pines and thick forests that provide guests a variety of ecosystems to explore. Add to that easy hiking trails, fishing on the 2-acre Shady Lake Pond and a 9,000-square-foot herb garden, and you have the makings of a great day.
The park has eight hiking trails of varying difficulty, and the routes explore a range of habitats, from the Coniferous Forest Trail to the Woodland Swamp Trail to the Tall-Grass Prairie Trail. If you’re looking for a stroller-friendly or handicapped-accessible option, check out the paved, half-mile Nature For All Trail. There’s also a 5-mile mountain biking trail that can be extended to a loop by using nearby roads.
The on-site nature center with live animals and activities provides an up-close educational experience. “We have increased the nature center hours so that families have more of an opportunity to come in and learn about the animals,” says Stark Parks education manager Christina Kulick. The park has also expanded programming to include Sunday activities such as outdoor life-size board games, scavenger hunts and geocaching. Open during daylight hours year-round, visit website for nature center hours; 13480 Congress Lake Ave., Hartville 44632, 330/877-2457, starkparks.com