My Town at Velvet Ice Cream in Utica, OH

Summer Small Town Finds in Licking County, OH!

My Town on Sandstone Cliff Overlooking Blackhand Gorge

Is there anything better than finding that perfect roadside stand, charming restaurant or historical location on a road trip? Whether a welcomed unexpected surprise or a planned destination, you will love the Small Town Charms of Licking County, OH this summer.

Newark Earthworks

Have you ever heard of the Newark Earthworks? Do you know what an Earthwork is? Do you know why they are great historical places to visit?

In Newark, OH there is a very special place called the Newark Earthworks. The Earthworks are large earthen enclosure mounds. You may be familiar with Native American Burial Mounds; these are not the same thing. These large earthen structures can go on for miles, be over eight feet high, and are much older. The Newark Earthworks were built by the ancient Hopewell Culture between 100 B.C. and 500 A.D. The structure was originally over four miles in length and was used for several ceremonial and astrological purposes.

How To Get There

The Mounds can now be visited at three sites to experience their grandeur and read about the history of this ancient culture of Ohio.

*Great Circle Earthworks (455 Hebron Rd., Heath, OH):

*Octagon Earthworks (125 N. 33rd St., Newark, OH):

*Wright Earthworks (On James, north of the intersection of James and Grant; west and parallel to State Route 79): 

The Newark Earthworks are also incredibly special because they are not only the largest geometric earthen enclosures in the world, a National Historic Landmark, and a designated “official prehistoric monument of the state;” but in addition, those in charge of its preservation are working diligently on having this prehistoric treasure become Ohio’s First “World Heritage Site”!

Plus, you may be thinking… Are they hard to get to? Do I need to do a lot of hiking? Nope! These locations are pretty much in the middle of Newark. One is even part of a golf course! In fact, all three locations you can drive up, park, and walk right on over to see these incredible mounds of history.

Here’s a little sneak peek with our AMAZING Guide, Bill Weaver! Click Here

Black Hand Gorge and Erie Canal Lock 16

Visitors, hikers, kayakers, and explorers have been flocking to Blackhand Gorge for nearly a century for its incredible beauty and unparalleled history in the region of Licking County.  What is it exactly?

Entry to Ohio & Erie Canal Lock 16 Trailhead from Blackhand Gorge Parking Lot

“The Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve is a 4-mile-long (6.4 km) sandstone formation through which the Licking River flows in Licking CountyOhioUnited States. Located 12 miles (19 km) east of Newark near the tiny town of Toboso, 957 acres (387 ha) along the gorge were designated an Ohio Nature Preserve in 1975. The gorge is a capsule of Ohio’s transportation history, having hosted canal boatssteam railroadselectric interurbans, and automobiles through the years. It is named for the black hand petroglyph that was found on the cliff face by the first settlers to the area. Black Hand Sandstone is a resistant rock that also forms the backbone of the Hocking Hills region.” (

I don’t usually quote Wikipedia, but for anyone who loves the technical part of this type of geological formation, here you go! And honestly, it was a pretty good description. Here is a great video that will take you through Blackhand Gorge!

The trails at Blackhand Gorge are wonderfully maintained. You can keep the hiking as easy as you’d like, or climb up rock trails to view the beautiful Licking River. Plus, you will love walking through the old rail tunnel. Parking is located in what used to be the busy little rail town of Toboso. You can see what one of its original buildings would have looked like on-site.

Downtown Utica, OH

Nearby Small Town Utica

Utica is an adorable small town in Licking County that’s located only 12 miles from the Newark Earthworks and about 25 miles from Blackhand Gorge. There are several places of note you don’t want to miss.

Where to Grab Lunch And Ice Cream

Ye Olde Mill- Velvet Ice Cream

Velvet Ice Cream is a Licking County staple that not only has an incredible product but a great historical location for you to visit! You will love the ambiance of the Old Mill that houses Velvet Ice Cream. It’s been family-owned- and operated for four generations. It all began in 1910 with founder Joseph Dager, who started in a local confectionary. By the 1930’s Velvet Ice Cream was selling to local grocery stores. Now the fourth generation Luconda & Joanne Dager are in charge of a national company.

The ye Old Grist Mill was purchased by the family in the 1960s and renovated for visitors to have a great social experience with ice cream. Consequently, The Mill had been a pillar of the community for social events since the early 1800s, and the Dager family is continuing that tradition. When visiting, you will love their hospitality, unique atmosphere, and over 30 flavors of delicious ice cream!

My Town loved that they offer “ice cream flights.” A super fun way to experience several flavors! Try combining this with a delicious panini sandwich for lunch! Click Here To See Post. Plus, The Dager family has also steadily been working on a great little museum on site. This is a fun stop where you can see the history of Velvet Ice Cream, and other ice cream-related topics; like the history of the ice cream scoop!

Why My Town Loved It: Delicious Food, Great History, Great Stop For All Ages

Where To Grab Dinner

This is the small towner’s dream diner! Watt’s Family Restaurant has been a local institution since 1912. This amazing little spot is ALWAYS busy and is serving up homemade favorites all day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You will love their cozy booths and traditional counter seating where they keep all their sweet treats! Also, Watt’s specializes in homemade pies, and I recommend not only saving room for a seasonal favorite, but taking home a whole pie! My Town took home local favorite- peach, and had a delicious Walleye Dinner! Click Here for Video

Bakery & Counter Seating at Watt’s Family Restaurant

Why My Town Loved it: Traditional Diner Style Home Cooking, Counter Seating & Homemade Baked goods

Where To Stay

Grain Mills are definitely a common site in Ohio, and for that matter in Licking County! So isn’t it fitting that two very talented entrepreneurs put their heads together to renovate a town icon in Utica into an Airbnb & event space?

AirB&B Space at Historic Campbell Grain Mill- Utica, OH

Mill Street Grains and Gatherings is not just a place for regional and local events; their vision encompasses guests from all over to stay in their beautiful 2-bedroom lofted suite, located at the top of the Historic Campbell Mill. This historic structure is the tallest building in Utica that used to grind, mix, and store grain for local farmers. Its rustic charm is not lacking in luxury, as the owners are also sought-after restoration experts. I love staying in places where someone’s passion is truly brought to life. You will see the love and craftsmanship put into each room, and MANY original rustic pieces brought back to life to fit this unique space. Click Here For Video .

Beautifully Curated And Crafted

Currently, your stay will include luxury bedding, bath, a beautiful bar area with a kitchenette, and access to the gathering space downstairs. Additionally, Recently opened in May, 2022-there is also a distillery on-site for your enjoyment! This distillery is an incredible restoration feat that specializes in bourbon and brandy made in specialty copper stills. These are very special stills, made by the oldest coppersmith in Ohio! All this sounding amazing? Well, if you want to bring more guests to stay and play in the Utica area, Mill Street has that covered too. Within walking distance of The Mill, and right in the heart of downtown Utica, you can also stay at The Mill House- a 4,500 sq. Ft. 1856 Mansion!

Want To Hear More on Licking County, OH? Listen To Our Podcast Episode Below

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