CINCINNATI - If you’re traveling from Cincinnati to Cleveland for the first installment of the 2013 Battle of Ohio, you’re likely focused on the game between the Browns and the Bengals. But the 304-mile trek features a bevy of things to do and see along the way.
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 approximately five-hour trip to and from northeast Ohio something to remember.
No. 1 Ohio Stadium
No football-centric trip across 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 over the years, but also makes for a fantastic photo-op.
If you're on the road Saturday, we advise stopping at an area near the on-campus stadium to take in some of the pageantry surrounding the showdown between Big Ten rivals No. 23 Wisconsin and fourth-ranked Ohio State.
Kick-off was at 8 p.m.
What’s more fitting for a build up to an NFL football game than beer and BBQ? The answer: nothing!
Barley’s Smokehouse & Brewpub is located about five miles from the Ohio State campus and makes for a great layover spot to watch college football while dining and smoked meats and enjoying the finest craft brews.
Located at 1130 Dublin Road in Columbus, Ohio, the eatery features a variety of award-winning custom brews ranging from wheat beers to a Russian imperial stout and seemingly everything in between.
If you’re looking to find something that’s not on the liquid diet, the eatery’s menu features a variety of items but is differently known for its BBQ selections. One of the more popular items on the menus is the “Wholly Smoke! Carnivore Sampler,” which gives a dinner the chance to try between two to four of the smokehouse’s famed smoked proteins.
The best part about road trips is venturing to places you would never have an excuse to visit otherwise. One of those places is Lexington, Ohio, which is about 65 miles from the previous stop.
Located 60 miles north of Columbus and 75 miles south of Cleveland near Mansfield, the town features a comprehensive motorsports facility called the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The track has been called the most competitive in the U.S. and annually hosts a diversity of locally, regionally and nationally sanctioned racing events for amateur, club and professional drivers and riders.
Even if there isn't an event taking place, the sports car course is something to see and experience for auto-racing fans.
The facility is located at 7721 Steam Corners Road.
No. 4 Hoppin’ Frog Brewery
Supercharged by the pageantry of racing at your previous stop, you’ll make the 73-mile journey to Hoppin’ Frog Brewery in Akron in no time. And the pay off will be well worth it.
Hoppin’ Frog is a small, hands-on brewery located at 1680-F East Waterloo Road. It makes flavorful beers in the most flavorful beer styles.
The brewery is especially proud of its flagship beer – B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal Imperial Stout rated the best beer in Ohio for 2013 by Rate Beer.
In addition to serving up something great to drink, homebrewers and people who appreciate a top-quality approach to brewing beer will enjoy the brewery’s attention to detail.
“We brew high quality beers with an uncompromising focus on detail, from the ingredient selection to the brewing process. A specially designed JV Northwest brewing system creates more flavorful beers by allowing more barley to be used in the brewing process,” the founders of the venue wrote on their website.
The brewery was rated the 17th best brewer in the world in 2013 by Rate Beer. Rate Beer conducts the largest beer competition in the world with more than 180,000 beers from over 13,000 brewers worldwide tallied in the 2013 results.
Hoppin’ Frog Brewery has been rated in the Top 25 brewers in the world for the last four years and six years in the top 100 brewers.
The tasting room is open from noon until 11 p.m. on Saturday. Sadly, it’s closed Sunday and Monday.
Some other regional alternatives include The Brew Kettle Taproom and Smokehouse at 8377 Pearl Road in Strongsville. It offers over 70 different brews from brewmaster Chris McKim, the winner of nine National Brew-On-Premise Medals (five gold medals).
The pub is open until midnight on Saturday and 9 p.m. Sunday.
Do you remember when Roger Bacon High School won the Division II Ohio basketball championship in 2002? Maybe not. But do you know who does? LeBron James.
The Spartans upset James' St. Vincent-St. Mary team 71-63 in before a then-tournament-record crowd of 18,375 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio.
St.V-St.M had been 75-0 vs. Ohio teams the past three seasons and sought a state record-tying third consecutive state title. Jerry Lucas led Middletown through a state-record 76-game winning streak in the 1950s.
While James spurned some basketball fans across the state when he decided to depart Cleveland for the neon-colored pastures of Miami, he had a lasting impact on Ohio high school sports and is undoubtedly one of the most significant athletes in state history.
For those who want to pay homage to King James' glory days, you can make a pilgrimage to his school to his high school in Akron. It’s located at 15 North Maple Street . It's about seven miles from Hoppin' Frog Brewery.
No. 6 Winking Lizard Tavern
If you’ve made it to Coventry Road, you’ve traveled approximately 37 miles and almost made it to Cleveland Browns Stadium. What you’ve also done is made your way to area of one of the best sports bars in town.
Winking Lizard Tavern offers some of the best bar food in Cleveland. While there are 14 locations across the state, the location at 1852 Coventry Road is the one that's the most fun.
The concept behind the eatery was founded in 1983 on solid operating principles that focused on food, service, and atmosphere. The Lizard quickly became a favorite with the “locals.”
Offering high quality food served in a friendly, unique atmosphere was the foundation of our “culture” and a way of doing business that has persevered for over 29 years.
The people behind the location also call it one of the best bars in town of Cincinnati Bengals fans. Be careful, though. That’s Browns territory and we’re not entirely sure if they’re intentionally inviting you to hostile territory.
No. 7 Johnny's Little Bar And Grill
If you've made it all the way to Cleveland, you probably have tickets to the game. But if you're looking for a fun place to eat before or after the game -- or somehow managed to leave your tickets at home -- you should consider checking out Johnny's Little Bar and Grill. It's seven miles from the suggested Winking Lizard location.
Living up to its name, the bar is a cozy, come-as-you-are kind of place located in the alley behind its sister restaurant, Johnny’s Downtown. Little Bar, located at 614 Frankfort Avenue, features a full bar with over 40 different beers, eight of which are on tap.
The food 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 also offers a game day brunch before the Browns football games.
To me, the feel is similar to Arnold's in downtown Cincinnati but with a bit more of a sports bar feel.
No. 8 Happy Dog
The two-mile trek to Happy Dog is a two-mile trek well made.
Happy Dog is a neighborhood corner bar in the best sense of the term. Five friends got together back in August 2008 to preserve the unique character of the venue, which was originally built in the '40s.
The multi-purpose venue boasts a broad beer menu and features live music that ranges from rock and country to punk and polka. The bar itself is open and inviting - a racetrack oval wood bar, with plenty of old chrome barstools. It's not retro because it's pretty much unchanged from the time the Socotch family built the place.
As far as food goes, the restaurant decided to strip down the menu just hot dogs, veggie dogs, tater tots and French fries. While not Senate, the dizzying array of toppings, all made in-house, and the low-key feel make it a fantastic spot for before or after the game.
No. 9 Cleveland Browns Stadium
Just two miles away is Cleveland Browns Stadium, the site of the Battle of Ohio 2013 - Cleveland edition.
Tradition is such an important part of the Browns and its fan base, so it's important to note that ever since they were born in 1946, they have played on the same site on the shores of Lake Erie.
From 1946-95, their home was Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Browns won all eight of their league championships there and hosted 17 postseason games. It is also where 16 men -- 15 players and one coach - built careers that eventually landed them in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
On that same footprint is Cleveland Browns Stadium (or FirstEnergy Stadium, as it will soon be called), which was opened in 1999. To keep that tradition going, the playing field at Cleveland Browns Stadium runs east to west, just like it did before, and the Dawg Pound can still be found on the east side of the stadium.
Even if their team is struggling, the Dawg Pound won't stop barking so make sure to wear your black and orange earmuffs.
You can find the directions to these locations at the following link: roadtrippers.com/trips/520d75624203c3bcd70006b6/itinerary
Know of an exciting place to visit along the way? Post it in our comment section below.
Author's note: Places like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland's Westside Market and well-known landmarks were intentionally left off the list in order to bring attention to a few lesser known and not typically thought about establishments.
We strongly advise checking out those places as well if you get the chance.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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