Adventuring in Ohio: My Weekend Visiting Mount Vernon

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

This post is a paid partnership with Ohio. Find It Here. & the Mount Vernon Arts Consortium. As always, all views are my own.

One of the things I’ve missed most during these pandemic times is travel. In 2019, I traveled out of state at least once during every single month of the year!

As travel returns & places start to open up, I’m still not quite comfortable making bigger, out-of-state treks. So when I was invited to visit Mount Vernon, OH, for a weekend getaway, I was thrilled to experience someplace new & fun & so close to home.

Remember my mom, Joyce? Sure you do. We got on the road on a Friday after work, & made the two-hour drive from Cleveland to Mount Vernon in time for dinner. Here are some of the highlights of the weekend, all things I’d recommend if you make a visit.

Drinking & dining at Stein Brewing Co.

When we arrived in Mount Vernon, our first stop was Stein Brewing Co., Knox County’s first consumer craft brewery since 1878. located on the first floor of The Woodward Opera House (more on that in a minute).

We decided to go all-out & really enjoy ourselves; my mom even ordered a beer (fine, it was a cider), & I got the Becca Blueberry Kolsch while we started with the cauliflower wings in BBQ sauce. I ordered the Whiskey BBQ Chicken, a juicy sandwich topped with bacon, cheese, BBQ sauce, beer-battered jalapenos, & crispy onions that just turned out to be actual onion rings; my mom went with the brisket sandwich & with Swiss cheese & horseradish sauce… & yes, everything was just as good as it looks.

Exploring Downtown Mount Vernon

Joyce couldn’t stop remarking on how cute Mount Vernon’s downtown area is. We’ve all been to small towns where the downtown used to be the heart of it all but now sits abandoned & desolate — but that is not the case here, where nearly every downtown storefront is occupied.

We sifted through vintage treasures at Woolson’s, bought gifts for friends at Main Street Makers Market, & chatted about my mom’s interest in learning to crochet with the owner of The Makery. We also got our caffeine fix at Happy Bean, a spacious, upscale coffee shop with a little gift shop of its own.

Relaxing at The Mount Vernon Grand Hotel

We were only in town for one night, but what a relaxing night it was. We stayed at The Mount Vernon Grand Hotel, a 46-room, Victorian-style boutique hotel owned by Mount Vernon Nazarene University, whose campus is down the road.

I hadn’t slept in a hotel bed in ages, & these were reaaaaally good hotel beds. My mom also spent some time trying to determine how she could redesign her home in the style of the hotel’s décor.

Enjoying the Mount Vernon Music & Arts Festival

OK, OK, you can’t do this one when you go visit unless you’re in town at exaaaactly the right time next summer. Sorry. But we were so excited to learn that the Mount Vernon Music & Arts Festival was happening right outside the windows of our hotel.

On our first night, we wore our pajamas on the hotel balcony & listened to the sweet sounds of headliner Six Miles to Nellie. The next day, we watched in awe as artists from Columbus’s Chalk the Block collective chalked elaborate creations on the main street downtown. Oh, yeah, & I did what I do at festivals: ate food on a stick.


Falling in love with the Dog Fountain

Are you ready for the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? No, like, really, are you ready? Please look at this fountain made of adorable dog statues. At Mount Vernon’s Dog Fountain, 18 pups spit water at a golden bone while a judgy cat named Bob has his eye on two little bird statues on a nearby lamp post.

My mom just kept yelling things like, “This is the happiest I’ve ever been!” while we took photos from every angle imaginable. We came to see it three times during our 26-hour stay because it’s just that darn fun.

Eating breakfast at North Main Café

I’m not always a breakfast person because, well, I don’t usually wake up in time to be a breakfast person. But with my mom’s help & her not-so-gentle urging, I got up in time for us to make an early start of it, fueled by breakfast at North Main Café, a super cute, hip, indie-vibes spot right at the edge of downtown.

Joyce got the veggie avocado toast, & I got the quiche with hash browns, & we both fueled up with coffee for the day. This place was absolutely packed — but with friendly service & really great, simple food, it wasn’t hard to see why it’s a neighborhood hang.

Touring The Woodward Opera House

Though we weren’t in town at quite the right time to catch a show, we had the honor of a private tour of The Woodward Opera House with the house manager, Dena, who took us behind the scenes (literally) & told us the history of this beautiful, refurbished building in the heart of downtown Mount Vernon.

It’s America’s oldest authentic 19th-century theater still standing, & it’s beautiful inside, thanks to a 30-year restoration. They reopened in 2019, right before the start of the pandemic, so they’re just finally ramping up with shows, event space, & more.


Marveling over Ariel-Foundation Park

The only place we went all weekend that wasn’t within walking distance of our hotel really was, as it’s under two miles away. Covering a whopping 250 acres, Ariel-Foundation Park exemplifies the best of the concept of “adaptive reuse.”

Created on the former site of a glass-making factory, it now features architectural ruins, three gorgeous lakes, event spaces, reclaimed glass (look at those teal chunks!), a 140-foot observation deck (upon a 280-foot tower), steel sculptures from the Chicago World’s Fair, a museum, walking trails, bridges… yeah, it’s as gorgeous & as unusual as it sounds.

We had the honor of exploring on a 4x4 with its executive director & Mount Vernon Arts Consortium’s marketing director, both of whom gave us tons of history & tidbits… & we’re already trying to figure out when we can come back next to do Joyce’s two favorite things, kayak & check out bike trails. I also want to climb the tower!

Making candles at The Scent Life

Mike & I always have candles burning at home, even in summer, but I’m pretty picky about scents, so I love these places where you can make your own. The Scent Life Candle Bar, which opened in 2019, has nearly 100 candle scents on display, & under the guidance of the owner, Angie, we got to choose from them to mix our own.

My mom made one that smelled like a boozy dessert, while I went the outdoorsy route, inspired by a recent stay at a cabin in the woods. I’m obsessed with my candle, which features the scents of leather, pine needs, cedar, & bourbon. I plan to burn that thing down to its last drop!

Getting fancy at The Alcove

For dinner, we headed to The Alcove, a gorgeous fine-dining spot in the heart of downtown. Honestly, it might be the nicest restaurant I’ve ever been to? I feel like that’s saying a lot, but I’m willing to go there. The food looked like art & tasted just as incredible.

We split the firecracker shrimp (my go-to, can’t-resist appetizer) & got drinks; mine, a twist on a Manhattan, was called the General Washington, of the original Mount Vernon. I kept things low-key with soup & salad, but the star of the show was my mom’s prosciutto-wrapped confit scallops with mushroom pesto, pea puree, pickled ramps, & cipollini onions


On Saturday night, we left for home full & happy after the perfect weekend adventure, having explored a close-to-home spot that left us feeling like we’d just experienced someplace completely new & different. There was still so much we didn’t get to do, too, that we’ve started talking about when we should go back – to climb the tower, to explore nearby Kenyon College, to see a show at Knox Memorial

A lot of folks don’t think of nearby locales when they think of travel — but I’ve always loved exploring new-to-me places near home just as much as hopping a plane & heading abroad. It’s cheaper, it’s less stressful, & there are so many domestic gems to discover & enjoy.

In short, I’m thrilled to have found Mount Vernon… & ready to hit the road again soon!

1 comment:

  1. I love that you and your mom traveled locally and enjoyed such a wonderful experience! I am hoping to find something similar later this fall, when work simmers down a bit. Communities like Mt. Vernon are among my favorites - plenty to do without the overwhelming stimulation of a BIG city! (Those are fine, too, just not all the time!) I hope you get to go back - that park looks like so much fun!


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