We’re taking a trip this month to the greatest city in Ohio and maybe America.
I am (of course) talking about Kent. I am admittedly very biased because I grew up there.
My Kent roots run deep—my mom was a child there during the 1970 Vietnam War protest, my parents met at a bar downtown and I still celebrate my summer birthday by attending the city’s heritage festival with my high school friends.
Kent has gotten quite the upgrade since I moved away for college in 2007, so if you haven’t been lately, I highly recommend you go back. And, bonus: It’s only about 30 miles away from Canton. Here are my hometown picks.
For coffee: Start your trip off downtown at Tree City Coffee (135 E Erie St.) If school is in session, get there early to snag a spot by the fireplace in the center of the shop or by one of the huge garage door windows. I usually order a Tree City Latte or a maple cream cold brew (when it’s in season), and they have the best scones ever.
For food: If you want a more casual meal, I suggest Fresco Mexican Grill and Salsa Bar (100 E Erie St. Suite 112) or Twisted Meltz (164 E Main St.). Fresco has burritos and tacos, but the best part of the restaurant is sampling all the free salsas. Twisted Meltz makes gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. You either can pick from the menu or design your own.
For more upscale dining, try Mediterranean restaurant Laziza (195 E Erie St.) or Treno Ristorante, which is in the former train station along the river downtown (152 Franklin Ave.).
For dessert: If you happen to be heading out of town going west, keep an eye out for Stoddard’s Original Frozen Custard (1321 W Main St.). It always has vanilla and chocolate custard, and the custard flavor of the day is displayed on a sign you can see from the road. (If you happen to hit it on chocolate-almond custard day, you are very lucky.)
For shopping: Kent (adorably) has named its downtown shopping area Acorn Alley—a nod to the black squirrels that run rampant throughout the city. Some of the shops you definitely should hit are:
• Popped! (175 E Erie St., #201): Don’t leave Kent without taking a bag of homemade popcorn home with you. The caramel corn is my favorite—it’s almost more candy than popcorn. The Firehouse Caramel (with a kick of cayenne) also is worth trying.
• Kent Cheesemonger (155 E Erie St. #201): Stop in for a grilled cheese or a cheese plate and pick up some wine or mead while you’re there.
• Off the Wagon Shop (152 E Main St.): If you’ve ever wondered where you could buy candy canes flavored like macaroni and cheese, then you’ll love Off the Wagon and its weird, gag toys. The store is connected to Red Letter Days, which has tons of cute cards, socks, mugs and other things you’d want to gift to people.
• The Works (130 E Main St.): The Works has been a staple in Kent for so long that I remember going in as a little girl and getting strict warnings not to touch anything. It’s full of beautiful pottery, art and jewelry.
• Gracylane (100 E Erie St.): This boutique carries products from Simply Southern, Vera Bradley, YETI and Alex and Ani to name a few. My sister and I love it so much we once sat outside for an hour waiting for it to open.
For other fun activities: Away from downtown, my favorite place in Kent is Beckwith Orchards (1617 Lake Rockwell Road). At the end of the summer, they have peaches, and all fall, there are apples and the best cider I’ve ever had. You can walk through the orchard, shop for holiday decor and sample apples and baked goods at the store on site.