CINCINNATI - If you’re traveling from Cincinnati to Buffalo, N.Y. to watch the Bengals take on the Bills on Sunday, you’re likely focused on getting to Ralph Wilson Stadium as quickly as possible. But the 468-mile trek features a bevy of things to do, see and taste along the way.
While the approximately 8-hour-and-14-minute trip might seem daunting to some, you'll be hard-pressed to find a prettier time of year to journey through Ohio, a part of Pennsylvania and into western New York. Plus, the $80 ($160 for round-trip) you'll spend on gas is a lot cheaper than than $901 it would cost to purchase a round-trip Delta ticket to fly out of Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport on Saturday.
With the help of the people from the website Road Trippers, 9 On Your Side put together a list of a handful of unique, nontraditional photo-ops and dining establishments that will make your trip to the other Queen City.
No. 1 Ohio Stadium
No football-centric trip through the Buckeye state is complete without a pilgrimage to the house that Woody Hayes built. Road Trippers first stop on the trip is Ohio Stadium.
Located just over 100 miles from Cincinnati, the home of the Ohio State University football team has featured numerous college football legends and Heisman Trophy winners since it opened in 1922. It also makes for a fantastic photo-op.
One of the top sights is the famed Ohio State rotunda at the north end of the stadium. It is adorned with stained glass murals of the offensive and defensive squads that comprise the Buckeye football team. It was designed to look like the dome at the Pantheon in Rome.
If you had the foresight to plan ahead by two weeks, you could have a guided tour of the stadium ground for about $100 (for groups of less than 10 people. The price changes for more than 10 people).
During a tour of Ohio Stadium, you will have an exclusive look at some of its most treasured spaces:
- Walk the sidelines where Woody once roamed, Archie made history and where the Buckeyes have battled since 1922.
- Experience the Yassenoff Recruit Center filled with pictures of current and former Buckeye greats.
- Travel up to one of the nation's largest collegiate press boxes, where over 400 media personnel and staff are seated for games.
- See the Huntington Club level and view the field from one of the 81 suites.
- Visit the $1.5 million Steinbrenner Band Center, home to the "Best Damn Band in the Land."
- Explore other areas of the "the Horseshoe" for a unique Buckeye experience.
Sadly, the undefeated Buckeyes are off this weekend, but that should provide a chance to take a few keepsake snapshots around The Horseshoe that aren't photo-bombed by drunken tailgaters.
In the early 1900s, Grandpa Yarman sold his only possession, a portable RCA radio, for his first wheel of Ohio Swiss, and started his own cheese house, “Yarman’s” in West Salem, Ohio. Soon he started to smoke his own country hams and bacon and enlarged his store and a Buckeye state icon was born.
The tradition of quality in-home smoked meats, superior Ohio cheeses, the best available candies and ice cream can be found at what is now known as Grandpa’s Cheesebarn and Village, at Interstate 71 and U.S. Route 250 in Ashland, Ohio.
About 80 miles from Columbus, the Mecca of central Ohio cheese facilities is open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 6p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It also features a café that is open each day two hours before the close of the store.
Worried about keeping your delicious dairy products and sweet treats from sister store Sweeties Jumbo Chocolates? Don't worry. All of the goods can be purchased online.
If you're looking for something a little sweeter, you can give the J.M. Smucker Company Store and Café a try.
The Orville, Ohio store (33 Wadsworth Road) offers a wide array of products, branded apparel and household items including gifts and exclusive merchandise for the kitchen and home. You can also walk through an on-site museum to learn about the company's heritage and journey - spanning over 100 years.
The café offers delicious recipes made with ingredients from Smucker brands, but if you're looking for something unexpected you can try one of their wood-fired pizzas made in our wood-fired oven.
If you've made it all the way to Cleveland, you're probably looking for a fun place to eat. If you want to dine in a unique space that also serves up a heaping helping of delicious, you should consider checking out Johnny's Little Bar and Grill. It's about 63 miles from the Cheese Barn and has a definite Arnold's (downtown Cincinnati) feel.
Living up to its name, the bar is a cozy, come-as-you-are kind of place in an alley behind its sister restaurant, Johnny’s Downtown. Little Bar, at 614 Frankfort Avenue, features a full bar with over 40 different beers, eight of which are on tap. Careful, though -- it's a fun place but having too much "fun" could sidetrack the rest of your travel plans.
If food is a little more your speed, the menu ranges from burgers, made from the filet trimmings from Johnny’s Downtown kitchen, to veal or chicken parmesan, a selection of sandwiches, daily specials, and late night offerings.
Little Bar offers a game day brunch special but that's only before Browns games. You can ask if they have a Saturday Bengals fan special, but you might not like what ends up on your plate.
No. 4 Cellar Rats Brewery
Cellar Rats Brewery will infest you!
Alright, even if you don't like bad puns, you can definitely get behind the beer created by the brewmaster at this Madison, Ohio site.
Located about 45 miles from our last venue, Cellar Rats creates "fresh, fun and interesting" beers based on numerous brewing traditions. While the general recipes are familiar to an everyday beer drinker, the brewers at Cellar Rats say they like to add their own “interpretation” of how the styles can be best matched from our taste to those of their consumers.
Some of the signature beers include the Rat Tail Ale, the Piper India Pale Ale, the Black Rat Imperial Stout, the Field Rat Wheat, the Rat Trap Lager and the P.O.C. (Pride of Cleveland), which is described as a Euro-style pilsner.
It's open from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and offers tours on Mondays from noon to 6 p.m.
No. 5 Harbor Perk
Whether coffee is a little more your speed or you just need a little caffeine after our last two stops, the 22-mile journey to Ashtabula, Ohio to visit Harbor Perk will be well worth your time.
Named after its location in the historic harbor district, this independent coffeehouse and roaster only uses the finest arabica green beans in its drinks, so it varietals vary by season. Similar to the downtown Cincinnati hangout Coffee Emporium, this laid back coffee shop allows you to watch the roasting process as you sit back and relax a small part of your day away before you get back on the road. It's open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. so what part of the day you "waste" is up to you.
Of course, if you're not in the mood for a cup of Joe, you can also try one of the fine crafted espresso drinks, locally baked goods, frozen coffee drinks and/or an assortment of all-fruit smoothies.
No. 6 Plummer's Tavern
Plummer's Tavern in Ripley, N.Y. might not be the first watering hole you stumble across when you enter the Empire State but it's undoubtedly one of the westernmost bars in the state. And, after spending a little bit of time there, you'll probably be happy you made the 71-mile trip to get there from Ashtabula.
The owner's of Plummer's describe it as as a "casual dining" establishment that emphasizes having a good time by listening to live music, enjoying great people and savoring amazing drinks. The bar has more than 60 domestic, imported and micro-brewed beers and, according to Yelp!, you should go for the aptly named Plummer Burger with all the toppings if you're hungry.
If you're still hungry afterwards, you might want to check out Meeder's Restaurant, a local favorite and a great place to get a slice of homemade pie.
A slightly different option is Jack's Barcelona Drive-In. Located along the beautiful shores of Lake Erie near Chautauqua, N.Y., the eatery is described as the place to go if you’re looking for a waterfront patio restaurant. You can also dine indoors to experience a casual, summer cottage atmosphere.
It's also a mealtime option for people looking for a restaurant after spending the day at the Lake Erie Wine Trail.
You've Made It To Buffalo!
Whether you're traveling from Ripley or Chautauqua, Buffalo is about an hour away at this point and NFL football is in your immediate future. However, while you might be anxious to get to Ralph Wilson Stadium, don't overlook some of the great entertainment offerings Buffalo has to offer.
No. 7 Buffalo Naval and Military Park
There's been a lot of eating and drinking on this trip so far, but there's nothing wrong with adding a little educational sightseeing to the mix.
Located about three miles from the stadium, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, formerly known as The Buffalo Naval and Servicemen's Park, is home to several decommissioned United States Naval vessels, including the Cleveland-class cruiser USS Little Rock, the Fletcher-class destroyer USS The Sullivans, and the submarine USS Croaker. All three are open to the public for tours along the shore of Lake Erie.
A new synergy has come to Buffalo's Waterfront, known as Canalside, and the Naval Park abuts the historic Commercial Slip. New structures were added including a new museum, and the new Liberty Hound restaurant opened in the summer of 2012.
No. 8 Gabriel's Gate and Frank & Teressa's Anchor Bar
How can you visit Buffalo and not try the chicken wings?
While there are numerous spots in the city known for their wings, we've decided to focus on two places we think you'll enjoy most.
Frank & Teressa's is arguably the best place for wings in the wing capital of the world. As legend has it, one night back on March 4,1964, Dominic Bellissimo was tending bar at the now-famous eatery when a group of his friends arrived with ravenous appetites. Dominic asked his mother, Teressa, to prepare something for his friends to eat. What she made looked to the diners like the part of the chicken that usually went into the stock pot for soup.
But what she had created was culinary revolution.
Teressa had deep fried the wings and flavored them with a secret sauce. The wings were an instant hit and it didn't take long for people to flock to the bar to experience this new taste sensation. From that evening on, buffalo wings became a regular part of the menu at the Anchor Bar.
The phenomenon created in 1964 by Teressa Bellissimo has spread across the globe. Although many have tried to duplicate Buffalo Wings, the closely guarded secret recipe is what makes Frank & Teressa's one of the best places for wings in the world.
While it's hard to compete with the original, Gabriel's Gate holds its own in the chicken wing game. Sitting in the heart of Allentown, Gabriel's is one of the historic Tift Row Houses, which were built in 1864. While it offers a great dining experience with a full menu that includes steaks and stellar entrees, people still go there for the wings.
The publication Buffalo Spree called the wings the "Best wings in (western New York). Buffalo Spree highlighted "the sauce, the price, the environment, the flaming torch -- they always get it right" a few years ago and the reputation has survived over time.
Food Network featured the eateries wings during a wing special, according to Gabriel's website.
Just for future reference, the 2014 National Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival will be held Labor Day weekend (Aug. 30-31) in downtown Buffalo.
No. 9 Dug's Dive
They say dairy products help people handle spicy foods, so after ingesting all that buffalo sauce it might not be a bad idea to have a little ice cream (Has there ever been a better rationalization for chowing down on a frozen treat?)
If you're looking for a picturesque location that serves great ice cream you can't go wrong with Dug's Dive (1111 Fuhrmann Boulevard). Located alongside Buffalo's remarkable waterfront, Dug's offers families and couples the opportunity to enjoy food and (adult) beverages but the selling points are the ice cream and the view of Lake Erie.
Dug's is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday so you can get your ice cream fix at almost any time of the day.
Ralph Wilson Stadium
You've finally arrived at the stadium. Getting to the stadium was hopefully one heck of the ride, but now the focus is on football.
Buffalo, by virtue of its position downwind of Lake Erie, is one of the nation's windiest cities, and as a result, Ralph Wilson Stadium often is a difficult stadium for kickers, with swirling winds that change direction rapidly.
The 73,079-seat open-air stadium was also one of the first venues to adopt the A-Turf Titan playing surface, which the organization hoped would help the team combat those frigid western New York winters.
Luckily, it's still fall and meteorologists predict mild temperatures and only a little bit of rain on Sunday.
You can find the directions to these locations at the following link: roadtrippers.com/trips/520d75624203c3bcd70006b6/
Author's note: The decision was made not to include on this list places like Niagara Falls State Park due to the time it would take to visit the natural wonder. With that being said, it's a wonderful place to visit so if you have the time, check it out. Here's some information:
Niagara Falls State Park is in Niagara Falls, N.Y., part of the Buffalo–Niagara Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area. In addition to the spectacular falls, which are are illuminated each night (fireworks are fired from the Canadian side each week during the tourist season), the park has several attractions, including: Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist, Prospect Point and its observation tower, Niagara Discovery Center (Also known as the Schoellkopf Center) and the Aquarium of Niagara.
Know an exciting place to visit along the way that didn't make the list? Post it in our comment section below.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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