Road Trip! Destination: Canton, Ohio
In our little corner of the world, so much is explained simply by football. Mention Cleveland, for instance, and you’ll get a reaction. Not good.
All because of football.
But shift your conversation to a place just down the road, about an hour south of Cleveland to Canton, and the results are a bit different. Hey, it’s full of Pittsburghers, and old friends n’at. That would be if you’re counting the Steelers inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The motto Stark County (its Tourism Bureau, at least) has adopted is “America’s Playing Field,” and it’s not bad, as these things go. Canton separates itself from every other faded Midwestern run-of-the-mill mill town through playing up its connection to America’s sport. Professional football may have been born in Pittsburgh, but the forerunner of the National Football League (the American Professional Football Association) began at a Canton car dealership in 1920.
While football is still the main selling point to the Canton area, there’s more to do that is entirely unrelated to football.
Pro Football Hall of Fame
It’s always a home game for Pittsburghers at the hall, given the number of Steelers players whose likenesses reside there.
Of the 24,000-or-so players to have played professionally, only 287 have made it into the Hall of Fame. All the stuff you remember is still here: the records broken, the memorabilia, the game-worn jerseys, the trophies, “Mean” Joe Greene’s actual (giant) helmet. Save plenty of time for screenings at the Super Bowl Theater — NFL Films’ productions have played a huge part in building the game’s historical mythos.
The Hall of Fame is at 2121 George Halas Drive NW, Canton. Details: 330-456-8207 or profootballhof.com
The Canton Classic Car Museum
Sure, they didn’t have seatbelts, they guzzled gas like Steelers fans guzzle Yuengling, and they helped turn America’s towns into parking lots. But will we ever see a car as beautiful as a shiny burgundy 1932 Chrysler Custom Imperial Series CL Eight 4-Door Sedan (custom built for founder Walter P. Chrysler)?
The Canton Classic Car Museum houses 45 rare and unusual classic and special-interest automobiles.
There’s also a 1937 Studebaker President Bullet-proof Police Car and a German-built 1962 amphibious Amphicar.
The museum is at 123 6th St. SW, Canton. Details: 330-455-3603 or cantonclassiccar.org
William McKinley Presidential Library & Museum
William McKinley was president in a fascinating time period, 1897 to 1901, although today he’s known mostly for being assassinated. He was a pretty interesting guy, though, working his way up from private to major in the Civil War, then going on to lead the nation to victory in the Spanish-American War.
His library and museum in Canton features everything from a planetarium to a science center to a historical library to the “Street of Shops,” a full-sized replica of a working turn-of-the-century town.
There’s a model-train layout inside a replica of Canton’s old train station.
The site is at 800 McKinley Monument Drive NW, Canton. Details: 330-455-7043 or mckinleymuseum.org
The National First Ladies Library
Ida Saxton McKinley’s historic home contains outfits, photos, memorabilia and other exhibits about all the first ladies. The current exhibit “Mom-in-Chief” focuses on the lives of the first ladies with their children, away from the spotlight.
The library-museum is at 331 S. Market Ave., Canton. Details: 330-452-0876 or firstladies.org
Harry London Chocolate Factory
Now part of the Fannie May empire, the North Canton chocolate factory does free 45-minute tours.
Discover how the humble cocoa bean turns into one of around 500 confections. The factory uses 30,000 pounds of chocolate and 10 gallons of real vanilla every day. Specialties include Pixies, Buckeyes and Trinidads.
Don’t miss out on the Harry London 70 percent Dark Chocolate Batons.
The factory is at 353 Lauby Road, North Canton. Details: 330-494-0833 or fanniemay.com/harrylondon
They call it Canton’s oldest restaurant, and legend has it that the details of the football league that would eventually become the NFL were hashed out here over beers. The game’s first true legend, Jim Thorpe, was a regular.
Since 1902, this historic landmark has been selling fresh seafood, shipped in from Foley Fish in Boston. Dark wood, red brick, historic ambience, fresh-yet-not-fussy food. Open for lunch and dinner.
Bender’s is at 137 Court Ave. SW, Canton. Details: 330-453-8424 or bendersrestaurant.com
MAPS Air Museum
The Military Air Preservation Society has a pretty solid collection of vintage aircraft. They range from the World War I vintage (Sopwith Triplane), to recent vintage, like the recently retired F-14B Tomcat naval fighter, to a restored Russian-made MiG-17 fighter, to a Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter.
The museum is at 2260 International Parkway, North Canton. Details: 330-896-6332 or mapsairmuseum.org
Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected] or 412-320-7901.