If you’re looking for an Ohio weekend getaway, whether for a friends getaway, romantic weekend or simply a change of scenery, Youngstown has something for everyone.
As avid outdoor explorers with well-loved hiking boots and golf clubs that don’t get used often enough, we found Youngstown to be a perfect playground for an adventure in northeast Ohio. In fact, Youngstown’s several lakes and waterways, miles of hiking trails, vast green spaces and challenging golf courses meant there were activities galore that we enjoyed on our three-day weekend getaway.
DAY ONE: Unique Outdoor Activities, Including an AMAZING Botanical Garden
We started our first morning reconnecting with nature. After all, it’s a great way to decompress and connect with each other, too, especially if your getaway is serving double duty as a romantic weekend!
We started our day by hiking the award-winning Gorge Trail in Mill Creek MetroParks. This unpaved trail is a breathtakingly beautiful two-mile loop along Mill Creek. The trail consists of a boardwalk and is bordered on one side by the stream and on the other side by a massive wall of sandstone. Features include Umbrella Rock and views of the Cinderella Bridge and Lanterman’s Falls. If you’re looking for a smoother or more leisurely walk, there are also paved hiking trails throughout the park. (We recommend the beautiful quarter-mile loop around the Lily Pond, where ducks swim around the floating boardwalk and turtles sun themselves on logs.) You can also find a bouldering area behind the Bears Den cabin. A complete Trail Guide & Map can be downloaded here.
The Gorge Trail Loop starts and ends at the parking lot for Lanterman’s Mill. You will definitely want to plan a stop here to see history in motion—literally! This operational grist mill gave us a glimpse into the innovation of the 1840s. We got to watch how corn and wheat were ground down using hydropower and stone and even bought a bag of the gift shop’s stone-ground flour to create some tasty treats at home.
After witnessing water’s awesome power, we headed over to Lake Newport, the largest of Mill Creek Park’s lakes, to rent kayaks from the boathouse and give our legs a break. Then we popped over to Lake Glacier to learn more about the area’s nature and history with a naturalist-led passenger boat tour. Several people had rented pedal boats and were taking leisurely floats around the lake.
Fellows Riverside Gardens at the north end of the park and just “up the hill” from Lake Glacier is a real gem. This beautiful botanical garden offers acres of flower displays to walk through, and it was a great place to get inspiration for our (admittedly smaller) gardens at home. If you visit in the summer like we did, the roses are spectacular. We learned that in the spring, over 40,000 bulbs bloom brilliantly, and the fall color is gorgeous, especially the scenic views overlooking Lake Glacier.
That evening, we walked down Phelps Street in downtown Youngstown to check out the new Jackie Robinson—George Shuba “Handshake for the Century” statue. For a little background, in 1946, when Robinson (the first African American Major League Baseball player) hit a homerun while playing for the Montreal Royals (minor-league team of the Brooklyn Dodgers), none of his teammates came to the plate to congratulate him. However, Youngstown-native George Shuba, who was on deck, did not hesitate to do the right thing and meet Jackie with a congratulatory handshake as he crossed home plate. This simple gesture and significant moment bridged a barrier. A commemorative statue in Wean Park celebrates the 75th anniversary of this silent action against racial injustice. While in the park, we grabbed a photo for Instagram at the iconic Youngstown sign just before the sun went down.
As with any weekend getaway, great food is a must!
We spent the rest of night one under twinkling string lights in the brand new Phelps Street Gateway. Transformed just last year from a narrow street into an open and welcoming plaza, this pedestrian-only space was great to explore and to grab a bite for dinner.
We opted for classic Italian dishes at Prima Cucina Italiana, but you can also check out the extensive wine collection at V2 Wine Bar Trattoria, eat south of the border from a menu of Mexican favorites at Gringos Tacos & Tequila or enjoy modern American fare at West 34.
Next time, we want to time our visit with one of the outdoor shows or community events at the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre. This large (4,800 capacity), unique northeast Ohio concert venue has a picturesque backdrop of the city skyline.
DAY TWO: Biking, Boating and Bar-B-Que
With all the moving and shaking we did our first day, we decided to take our second morning a bit more slowly.
We rented a pontoon boat from the marina at Lake Milton and spent the morning gliding peacefully on the lake. Others enjoyed kayaking and canoeing or rented jet skis, which we’ll definitely try next time for a little more speed.
After a nice float, we amped up the pace a bit, pulled out our mountain bikes and took to the twisty 10.5-mile Lake Milton Mountain Bike Trail. It features tight turns around trees and very minimal rocks and roots, so it’s great even for a beginner.
If you schedule your day correctly, you may also be able to squeeze in a visit to the world-renowned Butler Institute of American Art. We explored over 300 years of American history told through sculptures, oil paintings, charcoal drawing and other media; see Jackson Pollock’s abstract expressionism, a painting of Abraham Lincoln by beloved artist Norman Rockwell and even Winslow Homer’s masterpiece, Snap the Whip! Depending on when you plan your weekend getaway, you might even catch the annual National Midyear Show, which each summer features works submitted by artists from throughout the United States.
With big appetites after the morning’s activities, we headed back to the downtown area where there are plenty of options for fueling up. We feasted on ribs made with a special barbecue sauce recipe used since 1911 at Charlie Staples Bar-B-Que. We felt like we’d stepped into New Orleans’ French Quarter: one wall was even painted with a colorful street parade mural. On future visits, we want to try the Italian dishes at Cassese’s MVR and play bocce on the patio, or get scrumptious burgers or hot dogs with inventive toppings from The Federal or Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts.
For dinner, we had reservations at Aqua Pazzo and enjoyed their stunning patio and modern Italian dishes. Next time we’ll opt to enjoy Bistro 1907, elegantly styled as an old-time American bistro with a Parisian twist.
We ended our day the same way we started it: relaxing—but this time, with some great wine!
Youngstown has five wineries on the Wines of the Valley Wine Trail, each worth a visit and a great way to “wine” down from a busy day. On the expansive patio at The Vineyards at Pine Lake we enjoyed delicious wine paired with crème brûlées to finish our evening on a sweet note. Some other highlights of the wine trail include the vineyards at Mastropietro Winery (and their gas fire pits for chillier evenings), the signature wines named with a connection to local history at Halliday’s Winery, wines named after the K-9 “kids” at Lil Paws Winery and the California-style atmosphere at L’uva Bella Winery.
DAY THREE: Enjoying Youngstown’s Numerous Golf Courses
Ranked fourth in the country for top quality, affordable public golf courses, the Youngstown area was an ideal location for a day spent hitting the links. We could have planned a long weekend just devoted to golf—and we will in the future!
We opted to start at Mill Creek Golf Course, which is part of Mill Creek MetroParks. The course offers two 18-hole championship courses, both par 70, designed by Donald Ross. We took on the streams and classic Donald Ross final-hole challenge of the South Course, but you can also play through the trees and natural hazards of the North Course.
When we go back to Youngstown, we definitely want to try out the other courses in the area. Reserve Run Golf Course has great lakes, rolling hills and a covered patio to enjoy lunch and celebrate a low score. You can also play Kennsington Golf Course, where strategically placed bunkers and fairways create a challenging but rewarding 18-hole course. Also perfect for winter visits, Kennsington has new full swing golf simulators, with over 80 championship courses available to play at the adjacent Waypoint 4180 center. We plan to book one of the Stay-and-Play packages available at three different hotels in the area.
After a successful day on the fairway, we took our winning streak to Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course. We enjoyed the simulcast horse racing from around the country—it’s available year-round—but if you visit between October and April, there’s also live thoroughbred racing. The video lottery terminals cover all denominations from one cent to $25, so we had a blast trying out the different machines and finding our favorites.
When we took a break to eat, we chose Skybox Sports Bar, which was great for relaxing at the end of the day with a drink.
By the end of day three, we were craving something sweet and Youngstown didn’t disappoint! We’d heard through the grapevine about Handel’s Ice Cream, and after visiting, it’s an absolute must! When it comes to homemade ice cream, Handel’s lives up to its reputation as the BEST ice cream on the planet.
With so much to do in Youngstown, we simply couldn’t hit it all in one long weekend. But, since it’s so accessible from Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and even Cincinnati, we’ll certainly be back.
If you’re planning an Ohio weekend getaway, we hope these ideas help you get started—the opportunities to explore are endless! Need more insight? Start planning your trip by exploring youngstownlive.com in more depth. You’ll find lodging options and even more activities to add to your itinerary.
From hotels to B&Bs, Youngstown offers plenty of options for places to rest your head. Take advantage of great amenities, convenient locations and even Stay-and-Play packages that will enhance your golf experience.
Whether you choose to tee off at stellar golf courses, explore miles of hiking and biking trails, enjoy wine at local wineries or get out on the water, you’ll find unforgettable activities to enjoy in and around Youngstown.
Bring your appetite – Youngstown is filled to the brim with unique dining options to satisfy any craving. From Italian to Middle Eastern, from casual barbecue to upscale fine dining, you’ll find your palate pleaser here.