Here’s a secret: there’s more to Canton, OH than the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sure, that’s what you’ll go for – the most inspiring place on earth as it strives to be – but once you arrive, you’ll find many more reasons to stay.
I discovered this secret for myself on a recent visit. The farm-to-table food, craft beer and spirits, and escape room movements which have swept across the country can be found there as well, along with wine, golf and American history.
A noticeable civic pride serves as a backdrop to it all.
Welcome to Canton
You’ll have no trouble travelling to Canton. The Akron-Canton Airport is small and easily manageable; if that airport isn’t serviced from where you fly out of, Cleveland sits an hour away. Columbus, OH and Pittsburgh are both less than a two-hour drive.
If your travels take you to any of those cities, an overnight trip to Canton will be rewarding.
My visit began with dinner at lively Table Six Kitchen + Bar. “Made from scratch comfort food” is how it describes the menu. Sharable appetizers steal the show.
Let me recommend the lobster mac + cheese, maple pecan bacon, and pretzel board. For my entrée, I chose the Monte Cristo – ham, turkey, swiss and gouda on French toast (more or less). Order it without powdered sugar. Raspberry preserves and bourbon maple syrup on the side for dipping provide more than enough sweetness.
Table Six Kitchen + Bar offers a full wine and beer list, with numerous interesting choices, and its creative, handmade cocktails compete for attention with the food.
On to the Hall
Depending on how big of a football fan you are, give yourself at least a couple hours to experience the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Hall does an excellent job marrying technology with the “attic” feel I like from sports halls of fame.
I stare at a computer all day, I don’t need more screen time on vacation. While the Hall offers its share of “interactive” computerized displays for the youngsters, people of my age will appreciate the “stuff.” Historic jerseys, balls, rings, shoes, photos and knickknacks tell the NFL’s story, from its 1920 founding in Canton (that’s why the Hall is here) to the present day game.
The rotating exhibit on display when I visited was the most exceptional collection of football trading cards in the world.
The Hall’s “A Game for Life” holographic experience narrated by Joe Namath in hologram was unlike anything I’ve seen before. Be ready for chills – and maybe tears.
While the mainstream media does its best to run down the game of football, the Hall offers a counterbalance, a refreshing reminder of the game’s greatness, positive impacts and importance to our culture.
And of course there are the busts. The bronze carved heads of each Hall of Famer for which the building is known.
What else to do?
The William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum honors our 25th president. I’ve yet to visit a presidential library that wasn’t worth the trip.
American history buffs will also enjoy the National First Ladies Library, a counterpoint to the various presidential libraries found across the country. The First Ladies Library, operated by the National Park Service and located smack dab in downtown Canton, can accompany a Canton Food Tour or escape room experience which are both nearby.
Escape Room Downtown was my first try at an escape room. Admittedly, the group setting is not my forte, but for bachelor, bachelorette or birthday parties, I can see this being a hoot. By the end my group’s hour in the room, we were all having a good time.
Downtown Canton is small enough to visit all of these attractions, along with numerous bars and restaurants, comfortably on foot.
Firestone Country Club in next-door Akron hosts the Bridgestone Invitational PGA event annually. Firestone does offer one course open to the public.
Northeast Ohio offers a surprisingly robust golf scene. A quick Google search reveals any number of playing opportunities for all skill levels and budgets.
If you’re staying in The Villas at Gervasi Vineyard – more about them shortly – you’ll enjoy exclusive access to Glenmoor, a Jack Nicklaus signature course.
Wine? In Ohio?
When a visit to the Gervasi Vineyard appeared on my Canton itinerary, I was admittedly skeptical. It ended up being a highlight of the trip.
I don’t drink wine, but my wife, who does, assures me what she sampled on-site was excellent.
What makes Gervasi Vineyard a must-see for a non-wine drinker? Start with the fantastically scenic grounds. Weddings commonly use Gervasi Vineyard for a picture-book backdrop. Trees, ponds and walking paths make the Vineyard a great opportunity to stretch your legs and enjoy the fresh air.
The Villas located on property would be THE place to stay in the area. The Tuscan-inspired rooms offer luxury with easy access to everything the Vineyard has to offer. They’re not cheap, but not outrageously expensive either. Space is limited and books up fast, so plan well in advance – months – if you want to stay there.