Sitting on the banks of the Little Cuyahoga River in northeastern Ohio, Akron is a former industrial powerhouse -- it was once home to corporations as diverse as Firestone and Quaker Oats -- that has transformed itself into an affordable, post-industrial Midwestern city. Akron's name is derived from the Greek word meaning "high," and the city's hilly terrain makes it a highly appropriate choice. A leading educational institution, the University of Akron, anchors an array of artistic and cultural attractions. A zoo, an art museum and local sports teams round out the city's offerings.
Visit the Zoo
The world-class Akron Zoo houses over 700 animals on 50 acres of land situated just west of downtown. Highlights include Sumatran tigers, snow leopards, Humboldt penguins and Komodo dragons. Other unusual residents include the sloth bear, the sika deer, the Himalayan tahr and the pygmy slow loris. The zoo has six separate themed areas, including a large saltwater aquarium exhibit complete with jellyfish, stingrays, viper eels and a giant Pacific octopus. In the winter -- the zoo is open year-round -- you can feed the penguins for a small fee. Special tours such as "Zookeeper For a Day" are offered with advance notice.
Admire the Art
The Akron Art Museum contains over 80,000 square feet of exhibition space in two interlinked buildings, one an historic brick structure and the other an award-winning modern design of steel and glass that opened in 2007. Collection highlights include strong holdings in local Ohio artists, Surrealist art, Pop art and outsider art. In 2011 the Akron Art Museum was the recipient of a portion of the collection belonging to Dorothy and Herbert Vogel, acclaimed patrons of contemporary art. Take note that admission is free on Thursdays.
Catch a Game
Sports fans can catch a game featuring the Akron Rubberducks, formerly known as the Akron Aeros. This minor-league baseball team affiliated with the Cleveland Indians plays at a 9,000-seat baseball stadium located in downtown Akron. Soccer fans, on the other hand, should not miss the Akron Zips. The University of Akron men's soccer team is consistently ranked as one of the top squads in the nation. They play at FirstEnergy Stadium, part of the University of Akron's Lee R. Jackson Field Complex.
Tour a Manor
Akron has a number of stately mansions and manors dating to its emergence as a center of manufacturing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens is open from April to December; it was originally the manor of F.A. Seiberling, the founder of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Nowadays you can take a guided tour of the grounds or attend one of the myriad seasonal events -- ranging from an antique car show to performances of Shakespeare's plays -- held near the lagoon. At Hower House, a National Historic Landmark located on the University of Akron campus, you can attend one of several seasonal, child-friendly tea events in addition to visiting various exhibits. Afternoon tours are held on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Akron has gained recent renown as a craft beer destination, with three excellent breweries located within the city limits. The Hoppin' Frog, the Thirsty Dog and the "nanobrewery" Trailhead all have tasting rooms.
If you're looking for more substantial fare, try Swenson's, a local ice cream parlor and burger chain. Swenson's has been cited for offering one of the best burgers in the U.S. by sources as diverse as Forbes and the Food Network.