Monday, March 28, 2016

The Hartville Trifecta

In the picture perfect town of Hartville, Ohio, located in Northern Stark County, there is a trifecta of attractions that can't be missed: The Hartville Marketplace, The Hartville Kitchen, and Hartville Hardware. All of these great establishments are in the same family company, and each is special and worthy of visiting for its own reasons.

I live not far from the city of Hartville, so I tend to take out-of-towners to visit one or all of these three great spots whenever they come to visit. While there's something for most everyone, I will admit that these are places that are most appealing to folks in my parents' or grandparents' generations (and, yes, I have brought my parents AND grandparents when they were in town).

Let's take a closer look at each of the three highlights of what I call "The Hartville Trifecta":

Photo by OHventures - Cornhole boards with my high school name & mascot!

The Hartville Marketplace
I could really go on and on about the Hartville Marketplace! It's part flea market, part mall, part grocery store, and part farmer's market. You'll find rows and rows of vendors selling everything from across the spectrum: odds & ends, knick knacks, collectibles, and trinkets can be found in one corner, while hand crafted items, one-of-a-kind artwork, and expensive furniture can be found in another.

There's aisles of locally made foods: candies, meats, cheeses, and produce, all made or grown in Ohio. In warmer months, you'll find an outdoor section with even more vendors, many of which are selling random fifty-cent items, or produce.

As if you can't tell already the vast selection of merchandise at the Hartville Marketplace, let me give you a sampling of a few things I've personally purchased there: a winter hat, bird seed, Amish cheese, and bed sheets. While I was there recently with some family members, my dad bought a wallet, my aunt bought a coffee maker, and my mom bought some pepperoni rolls.

Yes, that is how eclectic and interesting the Hartville Marketplace is! You can even take a break from shopping and have a meal at Sarah's Grille while you're there (that is, if you don't want to head over to the Hartville Kitchen, which is next on the list - read on)!

Photo by OHventures

Photo by Canton Repository (I ate my food too quick before I could take a photo of my own)!

The Hartville Kitchen
For down home cooking and a warm, inviting atmosphere, there is no where I would rather go than The Hartville Kitchen (second to my own mother's kitchen, of course). Serving up hot platefuls of comfort food for decades, the Hartville Kitchen is never without a long line throughout the building, with hungry patrons ready to be fed!

This is some of the most "Ohio" country cooking you will ever come by: chicken, meatloaf, turkey and stuffing, Swiss steak, fish, roast beef sandwiches and gravy, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and roast pork are just some of the specialties that will have your mouth watering. The salads are finely chopped, with a slew of tantalizing dressings to choose from. Thankfully, they sell their dressings by the bottle (and literally by the bucket) so you can slather it on your food at home! Their home baked rolls and soups of the day are to die for.

But what most people love about The Hartville Kitchen - if you save enough room after dinner - is their desserts! The pies are out of this world. Luckily, you can visit the bakery shop on your way out to take a pie home if you are too stuffed to indulge while you're there.

The best part is that the price is right! My grandparents have taken me here on several occasions, and we eat a feast for far less than a fortune!

Hartville Hardware
Why on earth would I be featuring a hardware store on OHventures? What could possibly be exciting about a hardware store? Well, Hartville Hardware is unlike any other hardware store you will encounter! I don't even own a home (yet, that is), and even I love going to this place!

Right when you walk inside Hartville Hardware, you'll see the giant model home (pictured above) in the dead center of the store. Walking inside is like entering one of the awesomely remodeled homes on HGTV! It's called "The Idea House" and it gives you some of coolest inspirations for ways you can remodel or spruce up your current or future home! I seriously have gotten so many great ideas and inspirations from visiting the Idea House (hidden pantries, secret lofts, and a top notch man cave, to name a few).

Other than the Idea House, the Hartville Hardware store has everything you would need to build, fix, install, create,or design almost anything in and around your house! The lower level is dedicated to lumber, windows, doors, and the like. Upstairs, you'll find everything from patio furniture to pet supplies! It's a great place to go for gifts, or to get all you need for that special project.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Photos by OHventures

While this is one of the oldest tourist excursion railways in the country, it is one of the most recent attractions I have visited on my growing Buckeye Bucket List!

The CVSR can be found in Northeast Ohio, running through the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (the one and only national park in the state of Ohio). The main portion of the railway runs northbound from Akron in Summit County, all the way to Independence in Cuyahoga County. There are smaller stops along the way, such as at the town of Peninsula. Occasional trips are planned to Canton as well, but they have not been on the regular schedule since 2012.

There are many ways in which one can experience the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. The most common way is by purchasing a round trip ticket, boarding at any one of the stations, and taking the full 3 hour ride. You can get coach seats (seats are in sections of 2 seats facing 2 seats), first class seating (cushioned seats in sections of 2 seats facing 2 seats, with plenty of leg room), and upper dome seating (elevated section with a panoramic view of the National Park). 

This is a great way to see the beautiful landscapes roll by: trees, rivers, hillsides, meadows, and some residential areas. You can take an audio tour (called "Voices of the Valley") upon request. Wearing this set of headphones will allow you to hear the tales of the history of the National Park, some facts about the wildlife, and more. 

You could also opt out of the audio tour, and simply enjoy the company of the fellow passengers and the knowledgeable volunteer staff. On my recent trip, the staff pointed out a large eagle's nest, and told us some more fun facts along the way. Take a book or magazine to read, and definitely a camera or camera phone to capture some of the scenery. A snack bar is located in one of the cars in the back of the train, which offers hot dogs, popcorn, chips, candy, beer, wine, soda, and more! There are also souvenirs, like shot glasses, stuffed animals, and t-shirts.

Aside from a regular trip, there are many extremely creative and exciting special events that take place at different times of the year. Some of these events include:

Grape Escape: A 2-hour wine tasting excursion, with 5 different wines paired with hors d'oeuvres. There are several Grape Escape themes, such as California Wines, Summer Wines, and Ohio Wines.

Ales On Rails: Much like Grape Escape, but with beer instead of wine! You get 5 different beers paired with hors d'oeuvres. Again, different themes exist for each ride, including: Hoppin' Frog Beers, Summer Brews, and Thirsty Dog Brewing Company Beers.

Bike Aboard!: This special feature allows you to bring your bike on board the train for just $3. However, this is just a one-way trip! Take it to another station and then bike back to your car at your starting point!

Polar Express: This extremely popular event takes kids and their families on a holiday themed train ride the the "North Pole!" Complete with elves, Santa Claus, hot cocoa, and a train station transformed to look like it's straight from the famous children's book!

Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch & Dinner: Special meals are served for those that want to dine on more than just snacks during their train ride. Tickets go fast, so if you want to have this cool dining experience, be sure to plan ahead!

There are tons of other fun events, such as a "Day Out With Thomas The Tank Engine," and Murder Mystery experiences, so be sure to check the website.

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is something everyone should try in one form or another!