I’m often asked for ideas of things to do in Ohio. And until a few weeks ago, I was pretty confident that if there was something worth checking out in northeastern Ohio, I pretty much knew what it was, or at the very least, had heard of it. I now stand corrected.
I was recently invited to visit Wooster. A short 30-minute drive from my home in Mansfield, I’d driven through the town on several occasions. I’ve even shopped at some of the big chain stores north of downtown. What I’d failed to do was stop and explore downtown, which turns out was a BIG mistake on my part. Downtown Wooster (pronounced WUSS tur, not WOO stir) offers a swanky boutique hotel, high-end shopping, and a culinary experience to make the foodie in your life drool and does so with a small town feel. Walking through downtown Wooster, you notice shoppers and diners are greeted with a smile and by name. This isn’t a destination to get lost in a sea of faces, instead you’re warmly welcomed, a rarity these days.
My first stop on my visit was to drop off my bags and check in at the St. Paul Hotel. This property was not at all what I would expect from what I equated as a farm community. The upscale, trendy décor includes stylish black and white images of the community on the walls, a comfortable private seating area outdoors, and 12 stylish guest rooms with an amazing shower (review of the property to come). I soon learned that the St. Paul Hotel offers the prime location for those who prefer to drop off their car and explore on foot. No worries if you’re not staying overnight in Wooster, you’ll find free parking on the street and plenty of public parking areas.
A Foodie’s Paradise
Known as a growing culinary destination, Wooster has over 22 restaurants downtown with several, including Muddy Waters Café & Grille, the Spoon Market & Deli, and Louie’s Local Meats, a meat shop housed in the rear of Spoon’s, expanding. During my stay, I had the opportunity to eat at several of the restaurants and eateries and can’t wait to return to try those I missed.
Broken Rocks Café & Bakery is known for their Italian dishes, fresh ingredients, and freshly baked artisan bread. The hard wood floors and exposed brick walls decorated with large pieces of colorful artwork, lead to a comfortable, urban feel. Adjoining Broken Rocks is the recently opened Rox Gastropub.
It wasn’t open during my visit, but I was able to tour the restaurant whose décor is equally appealing. This is a great spot for friends to grab a bite to eat or two and catch up over a drink or two. I’ve heard their cheese plate is a must.
My stroll downtown included stepping inside some of the many specialty shops in Wooster. These included:
- Roomscapes, specializing in custom-built furniture, unique gifts, artwork, and accessories.
- The Urban Cottage, an upscale consignment shop, offers an eclectic mix of furniture and décor.
- Amish Country Essentials, a family-owned business specializing in natural skin care products, you’ll find soaps and lotions for every member of your family, including pet care products.
- Poppy by Pursesnickety offers trendy clothing, shoes, and accessories.
- Friendtique is a busy thrift store whose proceeds support Hospice and Palliative Care.
- Everything Rubbermaid features four floors of plastics and everything from baby items, to containers to organize your home, to outdoor tool sheds.
- Today’s Kitchen Store offers kitchen gadgets and specialty products for the cooking enthusiast.
- Local Roots Market & Café features seasonal produce, frozen meats from grass-fed beef to pastured poultry, pork and lamb, unique gifts and craft items and parking with charging stations for electric cars.
- Tulipan, a Hungarian Pastry and Coffee Shop offers a selection of Old World Pastries and scrumptious desserts.
I was disappointed to find that some of the shops I wanted to check out were closed on Monday. Faithful Little Cupcake which features Coblentz Chocolates, JAFB Wooster Brewery promotes itself as having a family-style atmosphere and Lucky Records, specializing in vinyl records, are a few of the stores that I’ll check out on a future visit.
After a stroll through downtown, I grabbed a pick-me-up smoothie at Spoon. “Mr. Bean”, with instant coffee and cocoa provided just the shot of energy I needed before dinner at The City Square Steakhouse, featuring hand-cut Certified Angus Beef ®. I believe this is the best steak I have ever eaten. Seriously. It is that good. No wonder it was voted one of the Top 100 Steakhouses in America.
If you’re not tired after a relaxing dinner on the patio at The City Square Steakhouse, First Amendment Public House (1A), two short blocks away provides the perfect venue for a nightcap and serves up a delicious Pomegranate Sangria or craft beers if that’s more your style.
Beyond Downtown Wooster
It’s unlikely that you’ll run out of things to do in Downtown Wooster, but if you do, there’s a bevy of attractions waiting to be explored in Wayne County.
A short drive from downtown, you’ll find Secrest Arboretum tucked away on the campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), the arboretum’s mission is to encourage the public to learn, explore, wonder and connect and are open, free to the public, 365 days a year with over 125 acres with theme gardens and trails to enjoy.
The J.M. Smucker Company Store & Café in Orrville is the flagship Smucker’s store. Showcasing everything Smucker’s, this store features an interactive museum area, an ice cream counter, café, tasting counter and selection of the brands that Smucker’s represents which include Pillsbury, Folgers, Jif and Sahale snacks.
P. Graham Dunn Gift Shop and Factory Outlet, a short drive away in Dalton, offers a large selection of inspirational art, home décor and gifts with over 500 items to choose from for on-the-spot engraving.
Shisler’s Cheese Shop in Orrville has been in business for over 50 years and has quite the bustling operation; selling more than 2,000 pounds of Swiss cheese each week and as second largest distributor of Heggys premium hand crafted chocolates. Hmmm…cheese and chocolates, can you think of a better combination?
Lehman’s Hardware Store in Kidron is not just for men and shouldn’t be sworn off due to the word “hardware” in its name. This huge store offers something for everyone and I don’t make that claim lightly. Part antique store with interesting overhead displays, part specialty store, Lehman’s has it all. From kitchenware, to toys, to supplies for prepper’s (think canned bacon) to home goods, candies and fudge, this destination should not be overlooked. And when you’re tired of shopping, or your feet need a break, grab a bite to eat in their on-site café.
While it may be too late to attend this year, The Ohio Light Opera is one event you shouldn’t miss. The summer resident company of the College of Wooster recently wrapped up their 37th season, drawing thousands of visitors from across the country. I had the pleasure of watching an afternoon performance of “Oh, Kay” at the Freedlander Theatre which started with a special backstage tour. I enjoyed the performance which was witty and entertaining.
So, if you’re like me and simply overlooked Wooster as a destination to explore, you can remedy that. Visit MainStreetWooster.com to learn more about the revitalization of downtown Wooster or visit WCCVB.com to plan your visit.
For More Information:
Main Street Wooster
Address: 377 W. Liberty St. Wooster
Wayne County CVB
Address: 428 W. Liberty St. Wooster
Special thanks to Green Door Media for arranging my stay and showing me around Wooster and Wayne County.