Living in a house of boys, I knew of Canton, Ohio because of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but I honestly didn’t know much about what else the city had to offer. To my surprise, Canton can be a great destination even if you are not into football.
My older son was originally supposed to join me on this trip but unfortunately he had school testing that he couldn’t get out of so my mother/son trip turned into a girlfriend getaway with my friend and fellow travel writer, Terri Weeks. The beautiful part about our itinerary was that it really could work for either scenario…except for the wine drinking, but I’ll get to that later.
Our first adventure in Canton was the “Hall of Fame City food tour.” Food tours are one of my favorite ways to discover a city because you learn so much about the history and local cuisine. Food tours are typically only offered in larger cities which makes Canton Food Tours even more impressive. Their food tours focus on local businesses that provide local, seasonal food. Our walking food tour lasted around 3 hours and visited 4-5 restaurants and points of interest along the way. At each of our restaurant stops we received a “Chef’s Choice” small plate entree. Come hungry because you will be full by the end of the tour and you even get to satisfy your sweet tooth with dessert.
Founded in 1805, Canton was also part of the 1st Coast to Coast Highway. If you turn right on the Lincoln Highway you will end up in at Times Square in New York and if you continue left you would end up in San Francisco, California.
Our first restaurant stop was Bender’s Tavern, a 4th generation family owned and operated business, known for their seafood that comes from Foley’s in Boston, who served us Saffron leek risotto with scallops and turtle soup to try.
With a history that dates back to the early 1900’s, the signs on the building outside indicate a different day when men and women had a separate entrances. Women could be shielded from the men’s drinking by entering through the door to the dining room.
The Birthplace of the NFL
During the tour, we stopped to pass the ball on the steps of the building where Jim Thorpe had a meeting to organize the game. where on Sept 17, 1920, the National Football League was born. What started as the American Professional Football Association (APFA), later became the NFL in 1922.
During the tour we learned more about Canton’s history and other significant events including the city’s ties to the birth of the vacuum cleaner. You will have to take the tour to find out more, I’m not giving away all of the secrets.
More Food & Drink Stops
A few other stops along the way were George’s Lounge, serving locally sourced fresh meals, for a wonderful burger and hand cut fries, a beer sampling of Cascade Beer that the founding fathers were drinking when they formed the NFL at Canton Brewing Co., Thai crispy eggplant and Pad Kee Mao (Rice noodles stir fried with vegetables and basil in a spicy soy sauce) at Basil Asian Bistro and dessert at JAA.
Canton Escape Room is conveniently located downtown and offers some really fun themed escaped rooms. Our group chose “The Moonlight Gallery” that takes place in a private art gallery where we were given the role of the criminals armed with only flashlights on the quest to find hidden jewels. In the dark, we had to find all the clues for the location of the jewels before we were discovered by the night watchman. I loved the creativity used in the design of this escape room and the challenging clues. It was fun to mix it up by solving the puzzles in the dark for the first time.
My favorite surprise in Canton was the amount of art located throughout the downtown in the Arts District in the form of sculptures and street art with pieces that create fun photo opps.
The Canton Arts District also offers community events to look forward to all year long.
The mural “The Reintegration of Pro Football” (pictured below) showcases a significant time in the history of the game. From 1938-46 Pro football had no African American players.
The mural highlights how everything changed in 1946 when Woody Strode and Kenny Washington were signed to the Los Angeles Rams and Marion Motley and Bill Willis were signed to the Cleveland Browns. These four players permanently reintegrated the game a full year before Jackie Robinson did it for baseball. You can learn even more of the story in the documentary “The Forgotten Four.”
Walk slow, pause, and look up, because Canton has some beautiful building downtown. Keep your eyes out for the “Trumpeters of Justice” on top of the Stark County Courthouse and make sure that you also check out the lobby at The Onesto.
This newly remodeled building was once a popular destination for overnight guests ranging from big entertainers and politicians.
Get Crafty at Cantonology
With contagious enthusiasm, the owners of Cantonology share a love for the city combined with their passion for creativity. You can purchase gifts or make your own in the studio. We were invited to participate in an “Art Make and Take” by creating a simple craft using the word Home with the “O” shaped like Ohio. We each added our own flair to the sign and took home a nice momento from our visit.
Winery with a View
Gervasi Vineyard is located 15 minutes from downtown Canton and offers a few different restaurants onsite for guests to choose from. Gervasi’s Italian Bistro is perfect destination for a romantic dinner with a loved one and since this was a girlfriend getaway, we opted for a casual dinner on the balcony of the second floor at The Crush House with vineyard views.
For dinner, I selected the “Housemade Goat Cheese Ravioli” made with goat cheese filled, eggplant “meatball”, spinach, cherry tomatoes, marinara. Terri ordered the “Vegetariano Piada” made with eggplant “meatballs”, arugula, fresh mozzarella, spicy marinara and a side salad. Of course we had to try the wine too and I’m hungry again just talking about the food.
Football Hall of Fame
Of course no visit to Canton is complete without a visit to the Football Hall of Fame. It’s what put Canton on the map!
You don’t have to be a die hard football fan to appreciate what’s on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It felt a bit like a time capsule into my childhood. I’m not a huge fan of football, but I do have base level knowledge of the game and the players from growing up around people who loved watching the game. I really enjoyed learning more about the heroes of the game and taking a trip down memory lane.
One of my favorite areas of the museum was the room with the bronzed busts on display featuring players who were inducted into the Football Hall of Fame. Each bust is incredibly lifelike with every facial detail. I have to also mention that Anthony Munoz (pictured on the bottom left corner) played for the Cincinnati Bengals and was also at my 5th grade DARE graduation.
Exciting Things to Come
The $600+ Million Johnson Controls Pro Football Hall of Fame Village development project is going to make a visit to Canton even more incredible, giving even more excuses to want to come back!
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Village project includes an array of programming that will bring to life the Hall of Fame’s Mission and the core values learned from the game – Commitment, Integrity, Courage, Respect and EXCELLENCE!
Johnson Controls is the “Official Smart City Partner” of Hall of Fame Village, which will include venues such as a virtual reality, state-of-art Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Experience. Additionally, the company will also be the presenting sponsor for the annual celebration in Canton each summer that will be known as the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Week Powered by Johnson Controls.
The main components to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village development include:
- Exciting upgrades to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Museum
Check out the new “A Game For Life” virtual locker room experience now open!
- Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium & Entertainment Complex
Check out the live construction cam at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
- National Football & Youth Sports Complex
Phase 1 is complete and OPEN NOW! By May 2018 Hall of Fame Village will be home to 11 turf playing fields.
- Center for Excellence
This Safety, Health & Performance Center also includes programming for Coaches University, Academy of Corporate Excellence, and Officiating Clinics.
- Main Street Hall of Fame
Enjoy thematic restaurants and retail venues in the Hall of Fame Village.
- Four-Star Hotel & Conference Center
See the spectacular design of this 243-room property opening Summer 2018.
- Legends Landing Residential & Assisted Living Facility
- HOF/NFL Family Experience
High-tech virtual reality experiences and rides.
Where we stayed
During our visit, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Canton located less than 10 minutes from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Our suite had a microwave, mini fridge, sofa sleeper, two flat panel televisions, 2 queen sized beds and a nice sized bathroom.
Canton, Ohio definitely exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to return with my sports loving family!
Thanks again to Visit Canton for hosting our visit.