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Oberlin, Ohio

The allure of Oberlin, Ohio is akin to being caught in the gravitational pull of a planet. It is its own world beckoning you home. Oberlin is both earthy and cerebral, edgy and refined. Juxtaposing Oberlin College’s picturesque historical architecture is an unwavering commitment to engaging the complex issues of the day. This is indeed that kind of town. Progressive is an attitude long entrenched here, from its history as part of the Underground Railroad to the newly instituted Environmental Dashboard, where residents can view the town’s water and electricity use in real time in an effort to promote conservation and sustainable practices in the community. You’ll be charmed as much by the tree swings in Tappan Square as you will by  the water balloons in the local 5&10 or the bizarre vintage doll art at Ratsy’s. The accessibility of world-class music and great locally-sourced food lends this college town just enough sophistication to keep you hooked. Whether it’s toasty drinks at The Feve after sledding down Arb hill or the exuberant celebration of life each spring as The Big Parade takes over downtown streets, there’s no denying Obies know how to make the best of the season. We suggest you follow their lead.

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Infinite Monkey Comics and Games is for those that spend a huge part of their day inhabiting imaginary worlds. You know who you are. 65 E. College St. (S)

Dave’s Cosmic Subs  Get a taste of the Ohio “sub-culture” known as Dave’s Cosmic Subs,“the Woodstock of the sub world.” The Crazy Dave was voted the best sandwich in Cleveland. Best of all, their craft beer flights are only 6 bucks. Drink local. 55 E. College St. (E)

Cowhaus Creamery  With locally-sourced ingredients and intriguing flavor profiles like Black Sesame or Guiness and Ganache, Cowhaus Creamery has earned a loyal following. Clever names like Cartoon Milk make eating this delicious artisan ice cream even more fun. 55 E. College St. Suite 1 (E)

Slow Train Cafe  This bustling coffee shop is the sister location of The LocalSlow Train is the older sibling, just so you know. If the weather is drizzly, foggy, snowy, or otherwise inclement, literally the whole town is in one of these two places. Perhaps we exaggerate. It just seems so.  Beyond excellent, ethically-sourced coffee, Slow Train offers a full bar along with local craft beer. If your timing is right, you might stumble upon the occasional live music act as well. 52 E. College St. (E)

Kim’s Grocery & Carryout  Part restaurant, part international foods grocery–Kim’s is solid choice for a quick tasty lunch or bite on the run like Kimchee pancakes, Bulgogi bowl, or Dol-Sot Bibimbap Hot Pop32 Eric Nord Way (E)

Apollo Theatre  Whether opera, a cult classic, or something between is your speed, there’s nothing like seeing it on the big screen at this historic movie house. 19 E. College St. (D)

1833 Restaurant  Upscale, but approachable, 1833 serves elegant seasonal fare in the warm contemporary dining space on the first floor of The Hotel at Oberlin. The name stems from the year the college and town were founded. Partnering with local farmers, 1833 has the same commitment to sustainability as the hotel. Enjoy a few small “social” plates like the Sweet Pea & Basil Hummus or Beet Root & Gin Cured Salmon. Indulge in a popular house specialty like the Ale Battered Lake Erie Walleye or more casual eats like their Black Bean Burger. 10 East College St. (E)

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Allen Memorial Art Museum  Students can rent a piece of art for five bucks a semester, no joke. Come on First Thursdays to hear fascinating guest lectures. During the May 3rd after-hours event, you’ll get the skinny on possible new acquisitions to the Allen’s collections as curators pitch their finds to the public. Sorry, only members are allowed to vote for their favorites. So now you have another reason to strike up a more permanent friendship with the Allen. Drop in on Sunday afternoons at 2 for the student-led Object Talks, mini-art history lessons featuring a selected work. 87 N. Main St. (D)

Oberlin Bike Co-Op  Learn to fix your own bike while getting advice from volunteer mechanics during open shop hours: Monday-Thursday 7-10 p.m. and Friday-Sunday 1-4 p.m. Need wheels this semester? The Bike Co-Op sponsors a rental day each semester where names are drawn by lottery to score a sweet deal on a rental, just 15 bucks with a 20 dollar deposit. Keep apprised of the goings on via their Facebook page. If you’re super handy, or just want to be, take advantage of the Bike Co-Op Build Your Own Bike Brogram. 154 N. Main St. basement (D)

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Johnny’s Carryout is the area liquor store known for its tremendous craft beer selection. Bring cash. 12290 Leavitt Rd. (S)

Observatory and Taylor Planetarium  Peters Hall Observatory deck is the place to view the constellations the first and third Fridays from 7-9 p.m. during the academic year. Be amazed by the compelling mysteries of the stars and feel like another tiny speck in the vast universe. 50 N. Professor St. (D)

Oberlin College Conservatory of Music hosts 500 concerts a year in unique venues such as a Medieval-inspired sandstone chapel (Fairchild), the gorgeous Romanesque Finney Chapel, and the stunning “penthouse” of Bibbins Hall (Stull)–to name a few. Cultural opportunities abound from performances by The Oberlin Opera Theater to guest concerts from Grammy award winning musicians.

Sterk’s Brickyard Bar and Grill  When you’re hankering for a massive burger, Brickyard has you covered. Their custom blend of brisket and short rib is sure to satisfy any hangry carnivores. Try their outrageous burger of the month like The Lumberjack: “topped with hash browns, bacon, lettuce, tomato, maple-bacon aioli, over-medium egg sandwiched on a grilled cheese.” Enough said. 580 W. Lorain St. (E)

Cat in the Cream  Since 1975, this storied coffee shop and performance venue has been booking unforgettable shows, fueled no doubt by massive cat cookies. Spoken word, EP release shows, Jazz Forums on Fridays and more–free admission for all events. 180 W. Lorain St. (D)

Oberlin College Lanes  For some pin action sans alcohol, strike it up at College Lanes. Open to the public 180 W. Lorain St. (D)

Dinoysus Disco, or the ‘Sco,”attracts a variety of alternative bands, along with many top-notch musical combos formed by Oberlin students. Located on the ground floor of Wilder Hall, the ‘Sco has an impressive selection of beers on tap, as well as games of darts, billiards, and foosball. Student DJs keep the dance floor spinning on nights when there are no live acts.” 180 W. Lorain St. (D)

Independent radio rocks! Listen to WOBC 91.5 when you’re in town (and even when you’re not). Tune in Sundays from 2-3 p.m. Eastern Time for Live from Studio B and groove to real-time performances by local and touring artists.

Longform and Shortform Improv  So, there’s a whole improv scene happening at Oberlin College with four different troupes performing at Warner. Go beef up their audience and watch the hilarity unfold. Check out the Facebook feeds of The Sunshine Scouts, Primitive Streak, Kid Business, and Neurotic Fiction for upcoming shows. 30 N.Professor St. Studio 2 (D)

Bead Paradise is a jewelry-maker’s mecca with fascinating beads from all corners of the world, from tribal conch shells to antique Venetian glass. They’ve even got lava beads to douse with essential oils; work them into your designs and bring aroma therapy with you all day. Shop for gifts, clothing, self-care products, and accessories like Boho leather bags and colorful yoga mats. 29 W. College St. (S)

RED Chinese Bistro serves authentic Chinese dishes in this sleek bistro downtown. 27 W. College St. (E)

Hanson Records  Scale the steps to score some epic vinyl from this small, but mighty record shop and label owned by Aaron Dilloway of Wolf Eyes fame. Though the inventory is heavy in noise and experimental sound, you’ll find obscure jewels from a wide breadth of music genres if you’re willing to hunt for it. 25 1/2 W. College St. second floor (S)

Agave Burrito Bar and Tequilaria This spunky local eatery is the perfect vibe for a college town–inexpensive, fresh, flavorful Mexican food with plenty of unique fixins like mashed sweet potatoes or vegan chorizo, late hours, and a full bar to boot. How can you resist a drink called Agave-maria or the festive Jarritas?  19 W. College St. (E)

Ben Franklin 5&10/MindFair Books  Most everything you can think of and a few thinkkgs you keep forgetting are at the 5&10. Feed your mind with a book from MindFair, pick up a great houseplant to adorn your pad, take advantage of their frame shop, lose track of time as you browse the toy aisle, and otherwise avoid responsibility for a few precious minutes. They carry Oberlin apparel, too. Stop in Saturdays for in-store concerts, and shore up your courage to read at one of MindFair Poets’ monthly poetry readings in the gazebo. 13 W. College St. (S)

Aladdin’s Eatery  This Ohio-founded Lebanese-American eatery is spot on when you’re craving Mediterranean fare. Aladdin’s serves an expansive menu of fresh, feel good food free from sulfites or preservatives. Order one of their raw juice combos to feed that brain of yours. 5 W. College St. (E)

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Oberlin Arboretum, affectionately known as The Arb, is a lovely preserve on the southside of campus perfect for a meditative respite or a raucous afternoon of sledding down the reservoir–depending on your mood (weather permitting). 289 Morgan St. (D)

Black River Cafe  Known for their vegan pancakes, crepes and other hearty breakfast fare, Black River is a solid brunch spot, but don’t overlook their dinner either. Shake your groove thing on Thirsty Thursday’s disco extravaganza. The kitchen will be open till 1am. 15 S. Main St. (E)

Ginko Gallery & Studio is a beacon of love and light downtown. Representing over 250 individual and small studios, Ginko is known for its incredible array of artwork: fiber art and handmade paper, ceramics, jewelry, wood, glass, metal and mixed media. Shop for art supplies, watch the silk worms do their thing, head to the back and play with the foster kittens past the artist studios. 19 S. Main St. (S)

The Local Coffee and Tea  This is not your mother’s basement. Descend the steps into this gorgeous hipster cavern of a coffee shop and see where everybody’s been hanging out. Now serving craft coffee from five Ohio roasters including Duck Rabbit Coffee, Rising Star Roasters, Six Shooter Coffee, Phoenix Coffee, and Ackron Roasters as well as bagels and irresistible baked goods, The Local has all you need to keep your day humming. Try their house-bottled Cold Brew or Cleveland’s Bearded Buch!  23 S. Main St. (E)

Swerve Bike Shop  If you haven’t saddled up your bike in a while, Swerve will definitely inspire you to log some road time. The downtown shop is warm, friendly, and downright cool. Walk upstairs to find even more drool-worthy wheels and their full-service bike repairs. Sign up for a Fix a Flat or Wheel Truing workshop, chat about local trails, or tag along when they venture to Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park in Cleveland. This bike shop’s passion for building the local cycling community is infectious. 23 S. Main St. (S)

Ratsy’s  If you’re not acquainted with Ratsy’s spunky shop downtown, you haven’t truly experienced Oberlin, or maybe you’re just taking life too seriously. For truly unusual wares and gifts, “pre-loved” and vintage clothing, records, sunnies, and socks that do your talking for you, Ratsy’s is your jam. If baby doll heads freak you out, you might have to avert your eyes. No worries, there’s a plethora of oddities, plaid, and tulle to keep you occupied. 27 S. Main St. (S)

As Found Gallery  A box of antique keys struck our fancy, but you never know what you might find in their eclectic collection. 29 S. Main St. (D)

The Feve is the rockstar of the town, and we mean that in the best possible way. This bustling eatery’s renown spreads farther than the county line, too. Ohio Magazine readers voted it the Best Brunch in Ohio. The Feve cheekily promises, “From decadent pancakes to enchiladas to tandoori chicken, we guarantee you’ll overeat and go right back to bed afterwards.” We can live with that. The food is locally sourced and handsomely presented. Everything is delish, but we feel you owe it to yourself to give Grandma Irene’s Sauerkraut Balls a try. It’s an Ohio thing. 30 S. Main St. (E)

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The Lily McGregor Skybar have coffee and an erudite conversation or just zone out in this light-filled facility in the music building on campus. Above the Betram and Judith Kohl building on campus (D)

The Oberlin Market  Essentially located in the parking lot beside the Kohl Jazz Studies building, The Oberlin Market is the town’s natural food grocery and tea room. Pick up a scratch-made sourdough loaf, freshly ground organic peanut butter, scrumptious gluten-free baked goods, local produce, kombucha and more. 22 College Place (S)

Blue Rooster Bakehouse  How could one possibly choose between the decadent cakes and goodies waiting patiently under glistening glass domes? The only rational decision is to visit this charming bakeshop often. They’ve got freshly made bagels, savory goods, plus vegan and gluten-free options. Look no further for your Bulletproof coffee either folks–Blue Rooster’s take, the Nervous Rooster Butter Brew with MCT and Irish butter, has you covered. 38 S. Main St. (E)

FAVA Gallery (Firelands Association for the Visual Arts) FAVA’s Festival of Fine Art and Fine Wine, coming up April 7th, is a spirited evening art auction featuring wine and food from New Zealand and Australia. Don’t wait until then to support the gallery though: stop in to see the newest installation or pop in their on-site gift shop, Uncommon Objects, for “handcrafted original contemporary art.” Unlock your potential with FAVA’s classes for kids, teens and adults, covering a wide range of art forms from Wheel Throwing to Printmaking. Members can hone their skills during Monday Night Life Drawing Studio sessions, 7:30-9:30. 39 S. Main St. (D)

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Experimental College or “ExCo” Broaden your horizons with these non-traditional courses taught by Oberlin student, faculty, and members of the community. The curriculum is designed to “reflect the current academic, cultural, social, political, and intellectual trends of the Oberlin community.” From Zombie Survival to rock climbing, ExCo has the class to keep you sharp. Get more deets. here. (D)

Oberlin Kitchen  Diner fans will love this casual spot for its hearty fare. Try the homemade soups or stop in for a carb-loading breakfast of corned beef hash or cinnamon roll pancakes. 51 S. Main St. (E)

Lorenzo’s Pizzeria, The Beautiful Flame  A bottle of Chianti, a seat under the umbrellas, chicken pesto or your wood-fired pizza of choice–Lorenzo’s got game. Pleasing Obies for over 30 years, Lorenzo’s now offers gluten-free and whole wheat crust options. Kick back with a pitcher on the patio. Those meatballs aren’t coming to you. 52 1/2 S. Main St. (E)

Mandarin Chinese Restaurant is your local hook-up for sushi. 82 S. Main St. (E)

Lupita’s Mexican Restaurant  Sometimes just the cheery decor is enough to raise our spirits. Though it might have been the margarita special. 84 S. Main St. (E)

Farmers’ Market  In the growing season, support local farmers by making the Saturday morning market a habit. You’ll find live music, coffee, hand-crafted goods, and plentiful fruits, veggies, cheese, and jams. The Oberlin Farmers’ Market is held May through October in the parking lot by the Oberlin Public Library. 69-85 S. Main Street Saturdays 9-1 p.m. (S)

Midcentology Vintage and The Mad Cow Curiosity Shop upstairs at Campbell House Antiques  This is the equivalent of a carnival funhouse for all you retro lovers out there. Midcentology has scores of  Insta-ready vintage duds upstairs, and Mad Cow has amassed a wicked record and cassette inventory for your listening pleasure. 95 S. Main St. (S)

3 Door Studios  Cozy up in this Victorian house for an intimate set of dope music. 3 Door books experimental music bands that you’ll want to see up close. Don’t miss their occasional collab with Oberlin Film Cooperative–marathon horror film screenings either. 121 S. Main St. (D)

Quick and Delicious serves homey food like your grandma would make and offers free hugs if you’re feeling mopey. 311 S. Main St. (E)

Dairy Twist serves the old-school soft-serve of your Insta-dreams. 45721 US Highway 20 (E)

Country Skateland  You know you want to lace up those skates. Don’t front. Music, lights, a fog machine–all the essentials to make you feel 10 again. At the corner of SR 303 & SR 58 (D) 

To let you know how civic-minded the folks that live here are, they started a Plant a Row initiative reminding residents to plant an extra row in their gardens and contribute the harvest to those in need. Righteous.

Not To Miss Events

The Big Parade  Join in for a day of raucous good times watching floats, puppets and other creative merriment parading through the streets. May 5th, 2018, 11-4 p.m. (D)

Oberlin Chalk Walk  A favorite summer event, the Chalk Walk invites professional artists and community members alike to adorn Oberlin’s sidewalks in a riot of color and form. Don’t be shy, pastels are provided. You don’t even need to pre-register–just stop by one of the tents to sign up the day of the event. Saturday June 23rd from 10-4 p.m. Downtown Oberlin (D)

The Oberlin Summer Theater Festival is a non-profit festival producing three plays a season which are performed in rotating repertory. All performances are FREE. Don’t miss these top-notch productions of the classics every summer in Hall Auditorium. Support OSTF with a donation, big or small, and keep live theater alive. 67 N. Main St. (D)

Out of Doors

Common Ground Canopy Tours  For 2 1/2 hours you’ll never forget, book a tour with Common Ground, “a state of the art Zip Line Adventure that takes you up into the tree tops of the breathtaking Vermilion River Valley.” For a transformative journey of a different sort, sign up for the next Firewalk in September. Find out more here. 14240 Baird Rd. (D)

Don J. Pease Memorial Bike Path is a great place to get your head straight. Jump on bike or take a walk on the scenic 3 mile trail. If you’re looking for a longer excursion, this the Pease Memorial Bike Path is part of the larger North Coast Inland Trail which extends 13 miles from Kipton to Elyria. (D)

No need for a gym–work that bod on the outdoor fitness equipment near 200 S. Main St. (D)

The 43rd annual Red Flannel Metric Century is October 28th! Start training now and find out more here.

More the competitive type? NCN Racing organizes several area events including the epic Inland Trail Half Marathon & 5K in November. Murray Ridge Center 9750 Murray Ridge Rd. Elyria (D)

Nearby & Notable

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The Unicorn Restaurant & Pub  has been consistently voted a favorite in Lorain County by Pulse readers. While traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage is a powerful draw itself, don’t overlook Unicorn’s surprisingly non-Irish nightly specials like Maine Lobster tail or Herb Crusted Walleye with white wine, clam and tomato broth drizzled with basil oil and micro greens. 423 N. Main St. Grafton (E)

Jamie’s Flea Market  Calling all pickers and bargain hounds, Jamie’s Flea Market in Amherst is your litmus test for haggling skills. With over 200 indoor and 500 outdoor vendors, Jamie’s in an all day affair.   Wednesday and Saturday 8-4 p.m., year-round 46388 Telegraph Rd. Amherst (S)

Vintage Lighting & Supply  So much design inspo here, your head will be spinning. MacGyver your very own pulley light with their antique parts or browse their unique industrial-chic designs and decor. 201 Park Ave. Amherst (S)

Cole’s Public House & Cork Tree Tavern  Absolutely worth the short drive over, this family-owned gastropub and adjoining wine bar are top notch. The thoughtful wine selection and chef-driven Northern Italian cuisine of Cork Tree Tavern are perfect for an intimate dinner. When you’re feeling “extra,” book the Chef’s table at Cork Tree Tavern and bring along some friends for an exquisite tasting menu seated at the gorgeous sandstone table. Cole’s Public House is equally appealing with a creative spin on comfort food like Short Rib Osso Bucco  or Pork Belly Mac & Cheese with Ohio maple syrup and white cheddar. 209 S. Main St.Amherst (E)

Rebman Recreation  If you want a few more bells and whistles while you bowl, including booze, you’ll need to head to Lorain. Wednesdays are Women Bowling with Wine, plan accordingly. 5300 Oberlin Ave. Lorain (D)

Speak of the Devil  This cheeky cocktail lounge is a sweet hideaway–tasty noshes, chill vibe, and most importantly, barkeep that know how to perfect a libation. 201 W. 5th St. Lorain (E)

The Lorain Palace Theater  Constructed in 1928, The Lorain Palace is a stunner, complete with an 87-bulb Yugoslavian cut crystal chandelier that weighs nearly a ton. See a show and soak in a bit of history. Event lineup here. 617 Broadway Ave. Lorain (D)

Bascule Brewery and Public House The taproom is still under construction, but you can still swing in Wednesday through Saturday 4-7 p.m. for growler fills of Bascule’s  Amandus, a tart Belgian Ale with raspberry notes, Bona Fide Traveler Irish Red Ale, Steam Powered Dream Ale, and the like. Check their Facebook page for what’s on tap. 1397 Colorado Ave. Lorain (E)

Cleveland has a plethora of cool places to visit, but to whet your whistle we suggest making a trip to their Final Friday Night Market, June through September, from 5-11p.m.”The series is a balanced mash-up of farmer’s market, meets maker’s market, meets food festival, meets entertainment series, with each aspect pulling from local and regional talent and treasure.” East 21st and Rockwell, Cleveland (S)

© 2018

11 Responses to Oberlin, Ohio

  1. Diana Miller

    Thank you! This is such a beautifully written article! I worked in Oberlin for 27 years and will occasionally still go there to grab a bite or walk through town and window shop. That being said, I didn’t know about many of these places. I’m definitely going to check some of them out. It will be like visiting a whole new town.

  2. Native Oberlinian

    Great article. But how could you not include Gibson’s – it has anchored downtown Oberlin since the 19th century! Their whole wheat donuts are legendary for generations of students and townies.

  3. Keith DeLong

    Impossible not to notice the very conspicuous lack of any reference to Gibson’s Bakery. In light of recent events, one can’t help but wonder who sponsors

    • hiptraveler

      It is such an inflammatory issue there–we thought it best to steer clear. We don’t have a sponsor.

  4. Darrell Gerhart

    I travel from the Northern part of Elyria to Gibson’s Bakery at least once a month. They’ve so friendly there. Great products. If you order a special bread they’ll ask you what time you want it. The bread will still be warm. Try it out some time.

  5. Jen Libertowski

    Great article and some of our absolute favorites! Don’t forget about Common Ground. Our beautiful 30 acres in Oberlin is home to a top rated zipline canopy tour, low/high ropes course and more. Please come on out sometime. We’d love to show you around!

    • hiptraveler

      Jen, we’d love to! You must have missed it the first time. You’re already in there. We even included a link! Look under under “Out of Doors.” Common Ground is the first listing toward the bottom of the guide.


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