A Love Letter to Kent, Ohio

Am I allowed to make a confession?

In high school, I’d never been to a certain large university in our state’s great capital city, but I wanted to attend, hands down. My family took me to see area schools, and I was slated to see that other university too.

Embarking on only my second tour, I saw what Kent State University had to offer, and I was sold. Forgetting any other options, I moved an hour north and happily settled in Kent – a small, college town with big city connections. I won’t lie: it’s a weird little place but in the best way possible. Snugly tucked away from any major highways, it seems like a love child of Coventry in Cleveland Heights and Waterloo in Cleveland.

Though I live in Lakewood now, I can’t stay away for very long. I lived in Kent for four years and even over summer break once, so I like to think of myself as a former local. Here’s a list of my favorite haunts in town:

Wild Goats Café

I don’t know about you, but I could eat breakfast all day long. Come to Wild Goats and eat a cinnamon bun “the size of your head,” as a friend of mine describes them.

Last Exit Books

No college town (or any town, really) is complete without a local bookstore. Last Exit has an excellent selection of used books perfect for a rainy afternoon.

Einstein’s Attic

I’m the self-proclaimed king of thrifting. A few months ago I picked up a pair of Ferragamo shoes for $8. That blessed find didn’t occur at Einstein’s Attic, but my clothes that get the most compliments usually come from Einstein’s.

Tree City Coffee

I once tweeted, “I can’t decide between going to [competitor] and Tree City Coffee.” They tweeted me back and said I had a free drink coupon waiting for me at the register. Freakin’ cool people at Tree City.


Go for brunch. It used to be a depot, and now they’ve hung things like buggies and canoes from the ceiling above the heads of their patrons. Try not to get whiplash as you look down at your food and back up at the awesomeness above.


New Age, chocolate, incense. I can’t count how many henna tattoos I got here. Empire is one elegant store. Ambient, relaxing, and wondrous. No trip to downtown is complete without a stop here.

Franklin Mills River Edge Park

For those times when you’re broke or just need some natural beauty in your life, no need to leave downtown. The Cuyahoga River flows through the heart of Kent, and this beautiful park takes you out into the river. Plus, it’s connected to a trail that hugs the riverside. One of my very first professors in freshman year said this was a great spot for a date. She wasn’t kidding.

Fellow Golden Flashes, whether you’re an alum or a current student, what are your favorite places that are uniquely Kent? Let’s get weird.

Ryan Collins
Ryan Collins

Ryan Collins is a writer and traveler. Currently based in Lakewood, he has lived all across Northeast Ohio. A Kent State University alum, today, Ryan works in admission at Baldwin Wallace University. His work has been published by Cleveland Plus, Belt Magazine and in conjunction with Destination Cleveland. Learn more at www.ryanscollins.com.