As a Northeast Ohio native, I had many friends who decided to stay local after high school. There were (and still are) so many great local options for higher education such as Akron and Kent State. While I, however, decided to skip town and boomerang back in my twenties, I ended up spending quite a bit of time on local campuses visiting friends. Some of my fondest memories of college are visiting friends at Kent State University.
In growing older and branching out from frat parties, I did not know what to fully expect in returning to the big small town of Kent. Spoiler: I was pleasantly surprised and my love for Kent continues to grow with each visit.
Here’s what you can expect when you visit:
The downtown area of Kent has been completely revitalized. Updated buildings and shopping plazas include a more wide array of restaurants as well as storefront boutiques. The new Kent State Hotel and Conference Center is smack dab in the center of it all, making it a much more welcoming environment for foot traffic and out-of-town visitors.
Restaurants + Bars
Fresco Mexican Grill and Salsa bar, which serves homemade burritos, bowls, and tacos with seemingly endless amounts of fresh salsa. Oh, and they have frozen sangria and frozen margs, too. My favorite dishes are the Santa Fe Tacos and Queso appetizer! Make sure you bring a friend to share because the portions are generous!
Ray’s Place is a longtime Kent staple, but it’s not just for undergrads. Besides the traditional gastropub fare, you can also find an incredible selection of craft beer on draft. My book club regularly meets at the pub for sweet potato fries (a fan favorite) and an IPA!
Brimfield Bread Oven is, in my opinion, the most underrated restaurant in all of Northeast Ohio. The restaurant features all bread and pastries made from scratch and baked in a woodfired oven. It’s slightly off-the-beaten-path location is just outside of town, but nestled into this small building is big flavor. Using all-organic flour, these artisan bakers make some of the best danishes and pizzas I’ve ever had.
The Freedom Trail, a bike-and-hike trail supported by Summit MetroParks, runs from the Portage County line in Kent all the way through Tallmadge Circle. It’s flat, paved, and partially covered for optimum trail conditions (especially for runners with strollers). I’ve long said that this particular trail is my favorite of all, making it easy for moms to get fresh air and exercise!
The Haymaker Farmers’ Market, held every Saturday beneath Haymaker Parkway Bridge, is a great way to meet the producers of our local agriculture. Besides the traditional fresh fruits and vegetables, the markets’ regular vendors also include businesses such as Lucky Penny Creamery, local honey producers, and Ohio City Pasta. Bonus? The market always offers live music while you shop!
101 Bottles of Beer on the Wall is exactly what you might expect, except better. This craft beer shop features walls and walls of coolers of craft beer from across the world, sold both by the bottle and six-pack. Additionally, the full on-site bar allows patrons to sit back and enjoy a pint or flight 7-days a week! Although there is no on-site kitchen, the store frequently hosts food truck events in the parking lot.
The Kent Cheesemonger is a rather new store located in Acorn Alley. This cheese shop is a great spot to grab a bottle of wine and cheese board accouterments for your upcoming party (or as I like to call it, dinner). If you’re unsure of how to pair your wine and cheese, the staff of the Cheesemonger is always willing to step in and help.
Handcrafted in Kent is a super cute boutique featuring all handmade art from artists right here in Ohio! From candles and soaps to photography and mixed media, this shop has it all. And the best part of it all? Shopping here directly impacts the artists that are from right here in our local communities.
One thing is for certain — it’s easy to hear the word “Kent” and think of the university; but there is so much more to Kent, Ohio than just the school. There is culture, food, and fun, so take a day trip to Kent and see for yourself!