As I tried to wrap my head around the perfect introduction to Seneca County, my thoughts kept going back to one word, memories. I love all the small towns I visit, each one unique in its own way. But every once in a while I am blessed with a trip that sets my creativity on fire. A trip that when I look back, I think wow! These memories not only need to be shared, but I’m left with a yearning to return to that location.
Don’t you love looking back at a trip you have taken that makes you feel that way? Seneca County may be the home of Tiffin & Heidelberg Universities, but their small town experiences for visitors offer so much more. I may not be able to guarantee the weather, cost changes, or even your mood for your small town visit. Obviously, these things are out of my control. But I can guarantee that the following locations will leave you with lasting memories for your small town adventure.
Where to Find Memorable Experiences- My Town’s Top Locations For The Small Town Explorer
Welcome to Tiffin’s “Local Speakeasy” The Renaissance & Barrel 51! Run by a gentleman I want to be my new best friend, Dave Spridgeon!
Dave has and continues to make the Renaissance an incredible 1920’s experience for visitors. The completely refurbished historic space used to be Tiffin’s Cigar Factory (You can still see remnants on the tin ceiling).
Walking in, take the time to notice that much care was taken in making the true “speakeasy” feel. The front entrance is very subtle and unassuming. Next, you walk down a few steps into the main bar where the awesome custom-made space begins to be revealed.
The sunken-in bar creates more social engagement between the guests and bartenders. As you continue on, the space becomes quite large, as you now “step up” into a great social gathering room.
The lighting and décor are all curated by Dave to fit the era and create relaxation. All the drink ingredients are fresh and hand-crafted. Many of the décor items were also created by Dave.
You’ll see if you have the pleasure to meet him, how much Dave loves his job. It’s hard not to get happy just by walking in here! There’s live music on the weekends, and you can bring in food from other Tiffin locations. So stop in and stay a while! And by the way, The Renaissance was also recently named Small Business of the Year by Heritage Ohio!
Did you know you can visit an underground river while in Seneca County? You can in the subterranean cave at Seneca Caverns! The cave is a natural wonder that has been purposely kept untouched as possible to preserve its natural state. The cave entails seven layers that you traverse downward on its beautiful, massive, rocks.
There are several types of rock formations in the cavern including fossils, but the cavern was created by two fractures in the “middle Devonian Columbus and Lucas Formations” Read all about the formations and history here before you visit. Another aspect I loved about the history was that it was founded in 1872, but it’s been in the Bell family since the 1930s. This definitely added to the small-town feel of visiting this geological wonder.
Panning For Treasures & Planning your Adventure
In addition, when visiting especially if you have kids, panning for gemstones on a fully operational sluice is something you don’t want to miss! I traveled by myself and had a blast finding gemstones, minerals, crystals, arrowheads, and fossils! You simply purchase a bag and get to work panning. A bonus is that Sandy Creek Mining Company who puts these bags together is located in nearby Fostoria.
Since My Town just had the awesome opportunity to hike Seneca Caverns, I have to say this is an Ohio Must-Do! The river once you reach the seventh level is known as the “Ole Mist’ry River” and is 110 feet below the surface!
Seneca Caverns is a historic landmark in Ohio, and you can see this awe-inspiring location for yourself- no reservations required! But plan ahead, Seneca Caverns is a seasonal business opening the first weekend in May.
Every once in a while you run into a retail location that truly is an experience. A place that you would recommend others to visit in a heartbeat and rave about your time there. For My Town, in Tiffin, that was Ralph’s Joy of Living. This super unique family-owned store has been an appliance store since 1950, but when Ralph’s son (Ralph II) came into the family business, it became a store like no other.
First adding kitchen design and cabinetry, and then his wife Julie made things very interesting. With a passion for cooking and wine, Julie helped to bring ideas and eventually bring those ideas to life with a large addition to indulge the love of wine, cooking, and specialty foods. Furthermore, the store now includes a specialty line of Olive Oils from Olivelle, that comes with a wonderful recipe card display to get you started!
They also offer tons of specialty kitchen essentials, unique household finds, specialty foods, and of course lots of great beer & wine! Ralph’s Joy of Living is the nation’s only appliance store with a liquor license, making it a very unique blend of business for community development as they appeal to residents and visitors. Make sure to check out the video here.
Where To Find History- Top Locations for the History Lover
Another great area to visit in Seneca County is small town of Fostoria. Located about 15 minutes away from Tiffin, there are a few great places you don’t want to miss for your small town fix. For the history or train enthusiast, you will love exploring Iron Triangle Park.
Named for exactly what it sounds like, the park is surrounded by three double-track mainline freight lines that pass through Fostoria. This Triangle sees over 100 trains daily, giving visitors an awesome experience to watch the freight lines any time of day from its viewing platform. It’s also a nice spot to walk around after eating the best small town meal ever from Dell’s – Fostoria’s Family Restaurant! See Below.
The Ritz Theatre is a major historical fixture in downtown Tiffin. The awesome part about visiting isn’t just the great shows they are bringing in, but the fact that you can see a completely original 1928 vaudeville era movie palace. Everything in the Ritz is original to the 1928 structure, and much has been preserved. The Ritz underwent a huge six million dollar renovation in 1998, so it’s an absolutely gorgeous walk back in time. Upon arrival you won’t be able to miss the massive 1,200 lb. chandelier made of 20,000 Czechoslovakian crystals, or the beautiful Greek Fresca’s everywhere. The Ritz was designed to mimic a Greek palace. It’s the perfect fit for your small town evening out. Click here for upcoming shows.
I was overjoyed to see the huge interest happening at The American Civil War Museum of Ohio when visiting Tiffin. So many museums are revamping their programs and displays to become more interactive & experiential; and in Tiffin, they are doing a great job with hands-on displays, informational videos, and a pace that keeps you engaged!
This nonprofit organization is dedicated to collecting, preserving, displaying, and educating the public on the American Civil War, Ohio’s role in that war, and its impact on the current generation. Through a unique collection of authentic civil war relics and experienced guides, you will leave knowing you truly learned a great deal about this huge piece of American history. Even if you are someone who loves Civil War history, I guarantee you will learn something new and be able to see incredible preserved finds.
Wondering if you are connected to a Civil War Veteran? You can find out in The American Civil War Museum’s Library & Research Center. Are you part of a Homeschool Community in Ohio or within a few hours’ drive? This is an awesome place for field trips, and they have great hands-on exhibits for kids.
If you have been reading about many of the small towns My Town has visited in Ohio, you may have figured out many of them have something in common, and that’s glass. The natural resources and conditions for making glass are perfect in the state, and in Tiffin, you can find another glass legacy that lives on in the community today and even throughout the country.
The Tiffin Glass Museum preserves the heritage established by the men and women of what’s called Tiffin’s “Glass House.” When visiting you discover the rich history that happened between 1889-1984, and view a bounty of preserved glass collections and unique pieces.
A fun feature is visiting the Gift Shoppe, where you can take home products from the original Tiffin Glass Factory. They even have enough inventory to sell full sets of beautiful stemware. What a great gift idea when visiting Tiffin!
Where to Eat- The Delicious & Delectable of Seneca County
You know those restaurants that are always busy and you know if you go in you will want to order all the dishes you crave because they look so good? That is definitely what you will experience at MST Pub & Grub. I do not doubt that their salads are amazing, but there was no way I was ordering a salad when “Loaded Chicken Chunks”(see pictured) were on the menu.
Yes, apparently parts of Northeastern Ohio (and MST Pub & Grub) are known for Chicken Chunks, and I have been missing out. They are all-white meat, lightly breaded, tossed in your favorite sauce, and used in a variety of dishes. Or order them on their own. What a delicious way to have a casual lunch or dinner out. And MST Pub & Grub are also Tiffin’s #1 ranked restaurant on TripAdvisor.com!
My Town readers know that if there’s a good coffee shop to be found, I’m going to find it! In Tiffin, there are two great places that compliment each other well to start your morning off right- Bailiwicks Coffee Company and JT’s Bagel Bar. Bailiwicks offers great specialty coffee & baked goods while JT’S Bagel Bar offers delicious homemade bagels, donuts, and bagel sandwiches. Both are located located on Washington Street so you can grab something from each for your perfect morning fix!
Conveniently located in Downtown Tiffin, you will fall in love with the small town atmosphere of this Italian Restaurant and Bar. Specializing in Pizza and homemade pasta, My Town had the opportunity to try Reino’s during one of Tiffin’s signature events – The Downtown Tiffin Pizza Party. Their sweet sauce and a blend of cheeses made me a happy visitor. Try one of their first local favorites when you visit, like a Frankie’s Original Pizza; (Tiffin’s first and finest pizza first introduced in 1951; three different kinds of cheese, chunky pizza sauce & hard stick pepperoni).
One of the great walk-up style eateries you can find in Seneca County. You will not be disappointed with any choice on their large menu. But they specialize in made-to-order burgers and the area’s famous chicken chunks. My Town recommends the Flippin’ Cheeseburger. A surprise here – it’s a double and I added bacon, because why not?!
A family-style diner that’s been in Fostoria for more than 80 years! This is a place that the community gushes about because there are so many memories. I had the pleasure of meeting for lunch with Mayor Eric Keckler of Fostoria. It was so fun to listen to his childhood stories. He talked about how his mom always came to Dell’s for their spaghetti on Wednesday nights, and how putting gravy on everything is a must (like their famous Roast Beef Manhattans)!
At Dell’s you’re going to get meals like you’re visiting mom and a big dose of small town community! Plus, they were named the 2014 People’s Choice at the Ohio State Fair for ribs, pork, and sauce. And they are one of the top-ranked restaurants on TripAdvisor.com.
In addition, during My Town’s chat with the Mayor Keckler, we learned that Fostoria is bringing great businesses to the area, and that “Fostoria is going to look very different in the next seven years” (Mayor Eric Keckler of Fostoria). This was an exciting conversation about the growth and continued improvements coming to Fostoria. Like many small towns, Fostoria is beginning to dive into investments in the arts. Starting with a Sculpture Walk & Building Murals. Just another reason to visit so you can see the growth yourself!
A Fun Time Of Year To Plan Your Visit to Seneca County
My Town had the pleasure of visiting Seneca County during a a great event in Tiffin, The Downtown Pizza Party. Small Town Events are a great way to get familiar with a town, and get to see community pride up-close. An event like the pizza party takes a lot of community participation. It’s always fun for My Town to see a community’s joy of their town on display. In addition, fall is a great time to visit Ohio in general for the weather & foliage, so make sure to start planning your fall getaway for Seneca County now. Click link below to for up to date inform on this event as it’s posted.
Information on Downtown Pizza Party: “Stroll trough the largest pizza party ever in Downtown Tiffin and redeem $1 tickets for a pizza item from participating vendors. Half of each ticket goes to the Salvation Army Tiffin Citadel. Also, Tiffin participates in the DORA Program. While you’re downtown, stop by a drink/DORA vendor for a beverage to-go.”(facebook.com/events/downtown-tiffin)
Where To Stay-Hampton Inn Tiffin
Many My Town Readers know that My Town specializes in unique, small town, lodging. But when you travel for a living, you need additional options. And one of My Town’s favorites is The Hampton Inn. The Hampton Inn Brand was purchased by Hilton in 1999, giving it a gold-standard for customer-satisfaction. I have always enjoyed my time when staying at a Hampton Inn. And I love that I can always look forward to their clean rooms, fitness center, cozy seating areas where I can get work done, & great breakfasts consistently.
This continued to be the case while visiting The Hampton Inn of Tiffin, OH. Plus, many Hampton Inns are locally owned and/or managed and are supporting the the economic development of the small town you are visiting. So when visiting Seneca County, look into The Hampton Inn!
My Town Market Finds & Where to Shop
Great Antique Shops, Boutiques, and Farmers Markets are familiar sights in small towns. This can include Thrift Shops, Local Eats, and The Like! In Seneca County, there are great unique finds everywhere you look. Here a a few of My Town’s Favorite Finds.
Simply Susan’s: Boutique & Fine Chocolates.
Hawkes Crystal: Handmade gifts by Tiffin’s local master etcher. This is a one-of a-kind stop in Tiffin.
Soul Boutique: CBD, Homeopathic, Unique Gifts & More.
Washington Street Outfitters: A curated assortment of women’s
and men’s apparel, accessories, home goods, and music.
A Note From My Town & Seneca County Photo Gallery
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