Think of Canton, Ohio (if you’re not a local) and there’s probably one place on your radar and it involves all-things football. Sure, fans flock to it in droves every year. Heck, even I had a great time on a recent visit. But, what else is there to do in Canton? You know, what makes Canton, Ohio unique? A visit to the city gave me so much insight into the fun that can be had and I’m excited to share the hot spots with you. Here are 10 unique things to do in Canton, Ohio!
So, why Canton, Ohio? For Mr. Locke & me, the choice is very clear. Not only is it close to several larger cities (Pittsburgh, PA, Cleveland, & Columbus), but it has a cool blend of modern and historical. And it’s that blend that intrigued me. Here are my top choices for where to go, what to see, and where to eat.
- A City Gastro-Tour
- The Cleanest Flea Market you’ll ever See
- Try to Escape Downtown
- A Presidential Homage
- Tribute to U.S. First Ladies
- A Lesson in Military Aviation
- Tuscany in Ohio
- Old School Biking
- An Ice Cream Shop for Football Stars
- Small City, Big City Coffee Vibes
1. Canton Food Tours
We’ve taken several food tours in other cities, so I kind of knew what to expect. Or so I thought, anyway. Owner, Barb Abbott, really steps up the food tour game with her passion for city history and restaurant choices. I like to think of it as a progressive dinner on steroids as we didn’t run from food stop to food stop but leisurely walked the city to learn about what makes the city unique.
I mean, did you know that the historic Lincoln Highway runs straight through Canton? Yep, you can drive from NYC to San Francisco and never have to switch roads.
During our tour we visited four places, but I have to write that the first stop’s offering was the unique part of the tour. Bender’s Tavern has a claim to fame in that it’s Canton’s oldest restaurant, but it’s the Turtle Soup that made me raise my eyebrows over my reading glasses. Made with, yes, Snapping Turtles caught in the area, Mr. Locke took the wheel to taste-test it. Part soup, part stew, Bender’s Turtle Soup is surprisingly sweet.
Now, let’s talk modern. Basil Asian Bistro was the last stop of our Canton Foodie Tour and I didn’t mind a bit. In fact, I’d been to its additional location in Wooster, Ohio, so I knew what I was in for: delicious Asian dishes with fun spins. Basil is also my favorite place for Pad Thai, so if you’re a fan, make a beeline.
2. Hartville MarketPlace & Kitchen
You’ll have to drive about 15 minutes out of the city to visit Hartville MarketPlace, Hartville Collectibles, and Hartville Kitchen, but you’ll be happy you did. Part indoor market, part outdoor flea market, part giant hardware store, and part kitchen, there’s a common theme that ties it all together: spotlessness. I’m not kidding, even the parking lot is pristinely clean.
What’s unique about the Hartville Locations is this: I’ve never met a nicer staff. I see how much each loved the job they were doing, and that made me want to hang around even longer.
If I have to name shining stars, it’s these: Hartville Kitchen & Hartville Market.
At the Kitchen, everything is freshly-prepared, including its “broasted” chicken. No worries if you don’t know what broasted is, I had to ask myself. It’s a special way to prepare chicken using a pressure cooker to keep in the juiciness. What else surprised me were the prices. What I found was highly affordable, plentiful meals with side dishes that are delicious.
Hartville Market offers everything from a deli to bulk cupboard staples to candy and craft sodas. We grabbed a cart outside and filled it up with several styles of flour, coffee, candy, cheese, and soda. Asian, the affordable prices will make you shake your head.
3. Escape Room Downtown
I love the idea of a good escape room. Actually, I had been to one in Frankenmuth, Michigan, with a group of writers and we successfully escaped, so I went into the experience with a “no problem” attitude.
And then we actually attempted it. We attempted the most difficult of the rooms, The Bootlegger’s Lair. Attempted without success, honestly. That knocked me down a couple of pegs.
Escape Room Downtown has made it a point to make its rooms some of the most difficult so that they’re true challenges. What you will find is lower pricing (anywhere from $20-$25) and fun staff that will give you hints, although cryptic. As it’s only an hour-and-change drive from our house, I have to re-visit to try it again!
4. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum
Did you know that Ohio has more U.S. Presidents than any other state? True story.
The McKinley Presidential Library & Museum is an area in the heart of Canton that honors William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States. It honors him with a beautiful memorial that steps in line with those in Washington D.C. But, what makes it unique is the fact that there’s plenty of other things to do when you visit.
Using McKinley’s passions of science and astronomy, the Museum has both a science museum, as well as an onsite planetarium. There are also lovely grounds for walking and strolling or even to have a picnic.
5. National First Ladies’ Library & First Ladies National Historic Site
Sure, President McKinley is Canton’s hometown hero, but the city pays homage to the First Ladies with its National Library and Historic Site. Guided tours will take you through the Saxton McKinley home (the spot where Ida & William lived with her sister and family), but it;s the history of the home that’s unique.
A quick timeline is this: beautiful Victorian home turned bar and boarding house turned restored museum. While that’s only a sentence, learning the history of the restoration through the staff’s passion is energizing. Truth? It makes me want to add Victorian touches to my own home.
6. MAPS Air Museum
I enjoyed MAPS Air museum much more than I thought I would. What I thought was a walk around a hangar to check out military airplanes and uniforms. 20 minutes and done. What I got was so much more.
The staff of MAPS really made my visit. Why? Each of the planes truly means something to them. They know the names, who flew them, why they came to the museum. And they love questions. I found myself, two hours later, immersed in the history.
There’s also the fact that many of the flying machines are hands on. By that, I mean you can actually climb inside. I sat in a plane that had a true ejector seat. Then I climbed into a helicopter that was used during a war. I walked inside of a blimp and sat in its seats. It’s the ability to look through the windows of the crafts and put yourself in the actual pilot seats that makes MAPS a must-visit.
7. Gervasi Vineyard
A bit of Italy in Central Ohio? Indeed! The attention to Italian details in Gervasi Vineyard is everywhere, and from the Villa Suites to its restaurants, I truly felt like I was spending my days in the beauty of an Italian winery- without ever having to pull my passport out of storage.
We checked out both restaurants, took an Exclusive Pairing Tour at The Crush House, and walked the property. I highly recommend the tasting. It’s only $19 per person and is absolutely worth it.
Yes, the Villas are luxurious and are a place that I highly recommend to anyone looking for overnight accommodations. Both restaurants, The Crush House and The Bistro are top notch. But it’s the fact that, coming in the next few months, Gervasi Vineyard will be a true destination in Canton. This autumn, GV will be opening a luxury boutique hotel and distillery. Ambitious, no? I can’t wait to see the new additions!
8. Ernie’s Bike Shop
Up until a couple of months ago, I hadn’t been on a bicycle for years. And I mean years. Going with old adage “It’s just like riding a bike”, we visited Ernie’s Bike Shop and rented a couple for two hours.
What makes Ernie’s unique is the fact that one of its properties sits right on the Ohio & Erie Canalway. Taking the Lake Avenue Trailhead, we rode from Massilon to Canal Fulton and back, 15 miles round trip. Ernie’s rents bike by the day and hour, and it really is an affordable way to take in a piece of Ohio history.
9. Taggart’s Ice Cream
Only a few minutes’ drive from McKinley Presidential Library & Museum is Taggart’s a hometown favorite. Since 1926, Taggart’s has been the go-to spot for giant ice cream sundaes and milkshakes, but the lunch and dinner menu is just as classic. I loved the Club Sandwich and Brownie Sundae. Again, another affordable place to enjoy a meal when in Canton.
When you visit, keep an eye out for Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees – they love to visit when in town.
10. Tremont Coffee Co.
Last, but definitely not least on this list, is Tremont Coffee Co. True, it officially calls Massillon, Ohio, home, but there’s plenty of love between the cities.
Tremont is a cool coffee shop. It’s cool in the fact that, when we walked up to the counter to order, it’s like we knew all of its staff already. They helped me to narrow down my order, no easy feat, and the vibe is hip without being pretentious.
What to try: A coco NUTS Macchiato and one of its giant muffins. If you’re a classic coffee drinker, ask for a single origin coffee – it’s its specialty.
Where We Stayed in Canton, Ohio
Here’s the scoop on Springhill Suites by Marriott Canton. The beds, super comfy. The room, huge. And the freebies, plentiful. We had the pleasur eof free wifi, breakfast, and parking. Then there are the gym room and indoor pool to discuss. The pool is not giant, but it is roomy enough for swimming. The gym room is clean. Also, the hotel is close to just about everything including shopping and dining.
Disclosure: I was graciously hosted by the folks at Visit Canton to give to the scoop on what makes it unique. All opinions are my own!