A Year-Round Wonderland

There’s something about going home for the holidays – it might be the delicious food I’m way too amateur to cook for myself, or the fact I can actually see stars (!) from my family’s home in the countryside, or maybe it’s because I get mobbed by the cat and dog before I barely get in the door.

I live in one of Cleveland’s densest neighborhoods, but I grew up in the Wooster and Ashland area. When the land becomes wild and all I can see are endless trees or the occasional farm, I know I’m getting close. With snow on the ground or not, it’s a winter wonderland.

At the exit featuring the much-loved Grandpa’s Cheesebarn, I pull off and head into the countryside to get home. Winding roads, rolling hills, and little houses greet me to an area of Northeast Ohio that’s often overlooked.

Between the natural beauty (it’s seriously an astronomer’s dream out here), the adorable little shops, and the lights dotting small country cottages or stately homes in town… I know this is home, and I’m always welcome.

Some parts of town are glorious in colder weather, such as shopping in downtown Wooster. Other places out in the country are best explored in warmer weather (but can be year-round activities for anyone impervious to the chill!) like Malabar Farm State Park.

READ ALSO: Love Letter to Kent, Ohio


Here are some of my favorites just a short drive from my home base for the holidays.

Books in Stock, a true destination bookstore in downtown Wooster.


Malabar Farm State Park 

Great for hiking and seeing Hollywood history, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married in the park’s mansion, former home to author Louis Bromfield. Don’t miss the Mt. Jeez overlook. It’s in Lucas, near Mansfield. (These photos were taken last fall).



Tulipan, a Hungarian Pastry and coffee shop nestled in downtown Wooster…


… and this beautiful tree is nearby for the winter!


In just an hour or two from Cleveland (give or take), you can enjoy a slice of life that I grew up with. For me, it was no big deal taking a bike ride along a rural two-lane road, or picking strawberries at the farm a five-minute walk from my house, or swimming in the pool at night with countless shooting stars for company.

Enjoy what you might have thought was drive-by country, and you can always comment asking for more recommendations.

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.