Monday, June 9, 2014

Top Ten Akron Dates

So, there is this magazine called Akron Life Magazine. On its surface, it seems like a great magazine where Akronites can find out about local events and people and happenings. The reality though is that the magazine focuses less on the happenings in Akron and more on what's going on in and around Akron. It bums me out, because the cover will often advertise some sort of top ten list about fun things to do or whatever, but the second or third item is ALWAYS in Cuyahoga Falls or Barberton or Hudson and then as the list continues, items as far away as Canton are listed. The same goes for when they feature interviews from business owners or shop pets. Every single time, I open up the magazine, I find myself disappointed that they can't seem to stay in Akron.

In response to the poor representation of Akron provided by its own magazine, I've decided to come up with my own list. As I created this list, I started to think of even more things I could add. I wanted to keep the list short and digestible, at ten items. But I kept wanting to add special mentions. I'm thinking this might have to be a feature. There is so much to do, within the city limits of Akron, and I want to write about it and really showcase this city I live in that I have grown to love over the years.


Top Ten Akron Dates

01. Lunch at Urban Eats with a visit to the Akron Art Museum
This was always going to be my number one item, because Urban Eats is absolutely my most favorite place to eat in Akron. (Open 8a-4p Mon-Fri and sometimes during events at Musica) For starters, the food is AMAZING! It's all homemade and the cooks (owner, Jason Scala and employee J.Bo) are just the coolest guys. The menu is super affordable with one price for all of the "entrees" and changes every month. If you were to hit up Urban Eats once a week, you still wouldn't be able to eat the nine main "entrees" which consist of three wraps, three paninis, and three pizzas. If you were to visit once a month, there would always be a really great variety of things to eat with the ever changing menu. Urban Eats also offers soups and gelato as well as occasional sides and baked goods, depending on the whim of the other owner, Liz Tyran. The atmosphere is ALWAYS friendly and bright. You can enjoy espresso drinks or canned or bottled beverages from the cooler. They have a small book shelf with art books, keeping the theme of "pop art cafe," and owner, Jason Scala, has his own art on display and for sale. Every Wednesday in the summer, they feature a live band on the upper balcony from noon-1p. After your amazing lunch and possible concert, it's a short walk to the Akron Art Museum. If you head to the Akron Art Museum on a Thursday, admission is free!

02. Movie at Highland with dinner at Aladdin's
I have the immense pleasure of living in Highland Square, which I consider to be the best neighborhood in Akron. Just a block from my house are the best bars and best places to eat. I enjoy the best art and music festival, Squarefest, once a year. It's pretty awesome. Another great part of my neighborhood : The Highland Theater. This single-screen theater is a real gem, not just of Akron, but also of America. The Highland runs first-run showings and at $5 a ticket, it's affordable for ANYONE. During the week, they have one evening showing while the weekends offer three or four showings. The theater offers the usual snacks and also beer. The back of the theater has booths and high top tables while the main section of the theater is a standard raked floor with theater seating. The place is just cool. Down the block from the theater is Aladdin's Eatery, a chain of restaurants headquartered in NEOhio. I've had mediterranean fare all over the U.S., and Aladdin's remains a favorite of mine. I absolutely love their chicken chili, but their menu is friendly to meat eaters, veggies, and vegans alike. And of course, their selection of homemade desserts is just AMAZING! During the warmer months, Aladdin's has a patio open and you can enjoy eating under the night sky...but this date is equally suitable to colder months as well. Parking at the lot next to the Highland Square branch of the Akron Public Library makes it only a walk across the street and down the block for the entire date!

03. Dinner at Luigi's followed by Art Walk
Luigi's is an Akron institution. Whether you're a fan of their iceberg lettuce salad with a mountain of cheese, their pizza, or their pasta dishes, there is something on the menu for absolutely everyone. Luigi's is in Akron's Northside, and shares a parking lot with a few bars as well as other local businesses. Luigi's stays open real late, 4:00am most days, and is a popular post-bar spot. However, during the first Saturday of every month, Luigi's is a great spot to start for the Akron Art Walk, hosted by the Downtown Akron Partnership. The Akron Art Walk hosts a trolley that can take you to all of the different locations to enjoy the artistry happening in Downtown Akron. The Art Walk gives anyone an reason to enjoy what Downtown Akron has to offer!

04. Music/Bar night in Highland Square
This is yet another Highland Square date! Highland Square is home of the best bars in Akron. Whether you grew up in Kenmore, North Hill, or Goodyear Heights, it's pretty much mandatory that you've heard of Annabell's, the best place for local live music. While there are other music venues in Akron, not many of them have the charm of Annabell's or the likelihood that your best friend will be a member of the band. From Annabell's, the next two blocks host The Matinee (the hipster bar), Ray's Pub (the redneck bar), and The Square (the gay bar). Each of these bars offers something different in music: indie music (and sometimes live music), classic rock and top 40, and a great dance floor with awesome dance music. In the midst of these bars is The Highland Tavern, the new, grown-up bar. The Highland Tavern caps the volume of their jukebox, so you can enjoy a good beer AND conversation. Among these bars, you can find anything to drink from domestic beer to local brews to fancy beer to mixed drinks. While there might be a cover for a band, most of the bars don't charge a cover, so you can hop about to your fave spot for whatever you're feeling throughout the night. This date is great for groups as you can text and meet up with your friends throughout the night. Finish your night at Mr. Zub's, home of the best sandwiches on the face of the planet...and one of the few places where you can get a side of tater tots. All the sandwiches at Zub's are named after characters in pretty famous movies, and all of the sandwiches are oversized, interesting, and delicious. Since Zub's stays open 'til the bars close, you can grab food whenever you're hungry during the night.

05. Otani's in The Valley with a walk on the Towpath
Otani's is a great little hibachi restaurant in The Valley on Merriman Rd. The entrance looks like a dive bar and the interior is not much different. If it's possible to have a dive hibachi restaurant, then this is the place. The interior is dark and slightly smoky. The cooks are less interested in providing entertainment than getting your food on your plate. The drinks are colorful and the atmosphere is pretty chill. This is a great date for a group of people as each table seats several. If you don't want to be seated near strangers, be sure to bring some friends along! Plan for an early dinner so you can finish the evening with a stroll on the Towpath. Entrance to the Towpath is just across the street, behind the other businesses on Merriman, or just across the street and headed up Merriman toward downtown. Depending on the time of year, the underpass of the Towpath beneath Portage Path may be flooded. However, the rest of the Towpath weathers storms well. Start your stroll either North or South and you'll be insulated from the sound of the traffic pretty quickly. This is a date for any time of year as the Towpath is always open. After your stroll, if you're in the mood, there is a collection of bars down Weathervane Lane, or you can even catch a show at The Weathervane Playhouse, an Akron jewel.

06. Lunch date at Bob's Hamburg followed by stroll on Summit Lake
We've definitely reached the Towpath portion of my date suggestions, because this is the second date featuring a stroll along the Towpath! There's a little diner on East, near the entrance to the highway, open only until 3:30p during the week, that has the best burgers in Akron. Akron is kind of a hamburger mecca, but the absolute best place for a burger in Akron is Bob's Hamburg on East. The diner is TINY. There are very few booths and the flat top grill is one of the smallest I've ever seen. You can watch the cook make your food, which will come to you on a paper plate. But the food cannot be beat. The service is fast and no nonsense. The food is also cheap! But it's definitely a hidden gem that even most Akronites don't know about. Following your lunch, it's a short drive to the Summit Lake Community Center where you can access the Towpath just before it crosses Summit Lake. Summit Lake was an important part of the Erie canal. The canal boats would chill out on the lake as they waited their turn for the 13 locks in Akron. Now, the Towpath has a floating bridge that stretches from the community center to a very industrial part of the Towpath before heading into Kenmore and then on down to Canal Fulton. Now, there might be differing opinions on the cleanliness of Summit Lake, but a walk along the floating bridge provides a nice view anyway. I'm particularly found of Summit Lake in the winter, but those who don't like to bundle up to enjoy the great outdoors might prefer this walk in the warmer months!

07. Kayaking on Lake Nesmith
Another great day date to enjoy the outdoors Akron has to offer is kayaking on Lake Nesmith which is on Manchester Road nearing the border of Coventry. The park appears to have no specific hours but does have a ball field, probably for little league games. The famous Young's Restaurant used to sit on the shores overlooking the lake but has since been torn down. From May through October, you can rent a kayak or other boats (and bikes) through Canal Fulton Livery. If you're hungry afterward, simply cross the street to enjoy local fare or Pizza Hut, if that's what you desire!

08. Bowling in Lakemore
There are several bowling alleys in Akron, and if you wanted to join a bowling league throughout the year, it wouldn't be hard. But my fave lies just at the very edge of Akron before entering Springfield Township. Bill White's Akron Lanes is a fantastic bowling alley featuring lanes that run along two sides of the building. In between the lanes is a fantastic bowling snack bar with really good food, a little arcade, and a bar that hosts karaoke once a week. Whatever your pleasure from Cosmic Bowling to drinking and singing, you can find entertainment any night of the week at Bill White's Akron Lanes. The games are cheap, the staff is friendly, and the food is good! This date is especially great in the depths of the winter when cabin fever is driving you insane. Get out of the house but stay warm inside!

09. Dinner at Lockview and music at Lock 3 (or 4!)
Have you ever had gourmet grilled cheese? If you're used to having a grilled cheese of Kraft singles on white bread and a side of Campbell's tomato soup, then you should head on down to Lockview in Downtown Akron for the best grilled cheese you will ever have. Seriously, it's that good. Lockview has a full bar with a lot of beer options for those who enjoy a good brew. Once you're done with dinner, cross the street for whatever is happening at Lock 3. Throughout the year, Lock 3 features a variety of events from live music to figure skating. Whether you're interested in a concert or Christmas shopping, you can usually find something awesome at Lock 3. Don't forget that Lock 4 also has music happenings!

10. Akron Rubber Ducks
My final event is for those sports lovers out there. The Akron Rubber Ducks (formerly the Aeros, formerly whatever) have a beautiful stadium right in the heart of Downtown Akron. In an effort to keep entertainment affordable, the general admission is only $5. Of course, there's food inside the stadium, so this is a one-stop date. If you're not into baseball or it's not baseball season, simply head east for some Akron Zips action. The University of Akron has several options for the sports lover, including football, soccer, and basketball. With the addition of the Infocision Stadium, there is no need for the long trek to the Rubber Bowl. Simply head over to campus and watch the Zips in action!

Of course, this list is not exhaustive! If I haven't found something that will tickle your fancy, here are a few special mentions!

  • The Akron Symphony hosts concerts throughout the year, including one in Glendale Cemetery!
  • Prentiss Park in Kenmore hosts summer concerts throughout the year as well as Kenmore Community Days once a year!
  • Miss Julie's Kitchen is a vegan kitchen on Main St. near the Firestone Complex. Miss Julie makes the best oatmeal raisin cookies in history!
  • The Linda is another single-screen theater located in Goodyear Heights. The Linda runs first-run showings and classic movies throughout the year and tickets are only $5!
  • Here's a comprehensive list of places to eat in Downtown Akron!

6 comments:

  1. This is a great idea for a feature. The funny thing is that my ex-best friend Bryn and Jessica's husband are both from there as well. Small world!

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    1. Yep, I know! I've actually photographed Bryn in the past. I think this is a good idea for a feature. I'm going to write a comprehensive travel guide to Akron!

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  2. This list is great! I love the idea of featuring lists of great places to go (of your favorites, and not necessarily the popular or well-known places.)

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    1. I think it's easy to list all the popular places. Any guide book could do that. It's way better to talk about someone's fave places or secret places!

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  3. Hah, I'll keep this in mind if we're ever in Akron that long. Scott likes to stay indoors a lot unless it involves getting a beer with his buds/brothers or going to a game, which would involve beer. Actually, Scott is from Lorain, but he has family that we do visit in Akron whenever we're there. Urban Eats definitely sounds like my kind of place to eat. Actually, these all sound like places I'd love to explore if I ever have the opportunity to. I say "opportunity" because we are always running around trying to visit all his family and friends. -Jess L

    Again, a good feature. Charisma suggested that I make one for San Diego.

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    1. Weeeelllll...you and I could do some of these! They're all pretty great outings, though. Like, you could totally do kayaking with the entire family. Also, I agree with Charisma that you should do San Diego! I want Charisma to do Orlando!

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