One-Tank Trip: Akron, OH

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I grew up less than 10 minutes away from the Akron city line, yet I know almost nothing about it. I have a notoriously terrible sense of direction, so I just never spent much time there, & while half of my graduating class went on to college at the University of Akron, I went the other way, to Kent State. Akron & I just never really got to know one another.

That's why, when Mike & I were looking for a quick one-day trip to take on the weekend, we decided Akron would be a good, easy place to visit. At about 40 minutes away, it's a straight shot of a drive, & even though we're both originally from the area, neither of us knew much about the city. Perfect for exploring!

We started in Highland Square, a funky little neighborhood that represents Akron's small but robust arts district (& perhaps not coincidentally, it's also the gayborhood). We visited only a few days after the NBA Finals, & Akron was still celebrating the Cavs' win & its hometown boy, LeBron James, who went to high school just down the road.

We began with lunch at Mr. Zub's, a quirky shop whose menu boasts some crazy creations, all named after movie characters. Neither of us got too weird with our orders, though. In fact, we both got the Clarice Starling - plain but delicious gyros. Pay no attention to the creepy name; I swear it was lamb...

After lunch, we moseyed over to Angel Falls, a liberal coffee shop full of strange art, delicious lattes, & lots of local characters. We both caffeinated up & hung out for a little bit, admiring the space & taking in some of the details both outside & in.


Remember how I said Highland Square is super-liberal? Yeah, let's just say the good folks at Angel Falls didn't exactly seem to be looking forward to the RNC rolling into town. (And who can blame them?!) I thought this was a pretty funny spin on the city's welcome message.

How cute is this Little Free Library next door? Its angular, mod design is easily the best one I've ever seen, & it was full of Mary Higgins Clark books, one of my guilty pleasures. Alas, I left them for others to discover.


Next we headed over to Annabell's, the best dive bar in town. They play punk music on Tuesday & feature live bands on the weekend, frequented by hipsters, businessmen, & rockers alike. Cheap booze & a low-key atmosphere - my faves!

There's honestly just not that much to do & see in Highland Square, so after a quick drink, we headed to downtown Akron, which is just a couple miles away. And honestly... there wasn't that much to do downtown, either. That area, while bustling during the work week, is basically a ghost town on Sundays. We walked blocks without ever seeing another person! We did, however, explore some cool sites. One of them is the storied Akron Civic Theatre, which was recently renovated inside but sure does look a state from the road.


We explored Lock 3, an outdoor space & concert/event venue that had, just days before, hosted Akron's Cavs victory party. This banner boasting one of LeBron's most famous Akron-centric lines now hangs in a place of glory right in the middle of Lock 3. Can't miss that Akron pride!

Around the corner was this building that sent a coordinated message to LeBron himself via their windows. Fun/funny fact: Part of downtown's Main Street has actually been renamed King James Way! Not joking.

We also stumbled upon some cool artwork downtown. That first photo us of, like, an electrical box or something, decorated with kids' drawings & quotes about the city. You'll note LBJ in there again, of course, among other things.

But LeBron isn't the only point of Akron pride. Check out this amazing mural that also highlights the Goodyear Blimp, the Akron Zoo, Lock 3, the Black Keys, Devo, & the Soap Box Derby (which I just forgot the name of, so I had to Google "Akron wooden car racing" - nailed it). I love this piece of unique, colorful, 3D artwork - tucked away inside a little corporate park - so very much.

And yes, the Black Keys are from Akron! This is sort of a lackluster sign celebrating such a great band, but hey, it's something.

While we were downtown, we stopped by Rubber City Clothing, a custom T-shirt & design company that makes a whole line of fantastic shirts & other items. We picked up a small print to add to the Cleveland-centric gallery wall in our bedroom, & with difficulty, I refrained from buying yet another Cleveland shirt. Or is this one an Akron shirt?

With so little left to see downtown, we headed back to Cleveland - but not before stopping in Mike's hometown of Richfield to grab ice cream from Country Maid, where he worked in high school. It was fun to see a little piece of his past - & the honey ice cream I got was pretty damn good, too.

And onnnnne final stop: the Everett Road Bridge. Ohio is full of covered bridges - more than 2,000 of them! - but this is the last one remaining in Summit County. When I was a kid, my dad, uncle, cousin, & I used to go out in search of covered bridges, mostly because my dad loved navigation. As a result, I have a deep love of & nostalgia for covered bridges. I was so glad to explore this one, small though it may be. Did you know covered bridges emerged as a means of convincing horses to cross water? The bridges are designed to look like barns to trick the scared animals.

All in all, we had quite the little one-day adventure - & less than an hour from home! If you're a Clevelander, I encourage you to make the trip south to check out all that Akron has to offer. Mike & I are already planning which one-tank trip we'll be taking next. Got any recommendations?

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