Worth the Trip

The joy of travel lives in the surprise of discovery. In Mansfield, surprises hide around every corner, making it every bit worth the trip.  

Despite its small footprint, the city is big on fun with experiences you won’t find anywhere else. Since Hollywood’s 1950s heyday, Mansfield has been a favorite spot for movie stars and location scouts. Now visitors can hang out where celebrities came to chill and tour real-life movie sets.

One such spot is Malabar Farm State Park, once home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author and screenwriter Louis Bromfield, today a working farm and an Ohio state park. Visitors can tour the farmhouse and grounds where Bromfield’s celestial pals like Jimmy Cagney, Lauren Bacall and Humphry Bogart came to escape Hollywood. Hear how Bogie and Bacall slipped away to Mansfield, then stand in the very spot where the duo tied the knot.

The Shawshank Trail (shawshanktrail.com) takes travelers to 15 sites where The Shawshank Redemption was filmed, including Historic Ohio State Reformatory. The building’s stunning Gothic architecture starred as Shawshank Prison, also playing roles in Air Force One, music videos and more. Shawshank corrections and industrial museums share real estate with “Old Sparky,” Ohio’s original electric chair, actual movie sets and even a few ghosts. Haunted tours and ghost hunts help paranormal fans indulge their penchant for the metaphysical. July’s massive Inkcarceration Festival brings tattoo artists and big-name rockers to the Reformatory.

Downtown Mansfield’s Historic Carrousel District lets visitors ride the first new, hand-carved carrousel built in the U.S. since the 1930s at Richland Carrousel Park. A short walk away at the Mansfield Memorial Museum, you can discover fascinating Mansfield history and meet Elektro, America’s first robot.

There’s nothing like a visit to Kingwood Center Gardens, where you can snoop inside a dazzling industrialist’s mansion with three levels, servants’ quarters and 12 fireplaces, then search for peacocks as you wander 47 acres of breathtaking gardens and woods. Workshops, events, plant sales and greenhouse displays invite return visits every season. Beautiful grounds also mark one of the nation’s top motorsports courses. Much-lauded Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course hosts INDYCAR, NASCAR and vintage motorcycle and Grand Prix events with up-close-and-personal fan experiences.

Dining makes a Mansfield tour even more worth the trip. Unlike anything else in the Midwest, splurge on the eight-course dinner with pairings at Prohibition at the Caverns, hidden in secret stone-lined caverns beneath the city. Upstairs, Hudson & Essex serves a wildly creative menu and house-produced wines in a beautifully restored former car dealership where elegant 1920s architectural details have been carefully preserved.

For the best-ever burgers, hand-cut fries and onion rings, it’s worth a drive up the hill to Buckeye Express Diner. Eat inside antique railroad cars and pull the rope on the world’s largest bobblehead. Recently restored after lying headless in a field for more than 50 years, the mammoth 35-foot-tall 1950s fiberglass Chef Jacques statue welcomes everyone. Nearby, bustling 5 acre you-pick The Blueberry Patch is home to a full-service restaurant, gift shop and 1285 Winery. Take home some delicious blueberry donuts and blueberries grown on site — which are available frozen, even when they’re out of season.


By Amy Weirick