Bruce Jarvis likes to compare Canal Winchester's downtown to a Norman Rockwell painting. "We consciously try to make a feeling of small town America," said Jarvis, the executive director of Destination Canal Winchester. "I think we're pretty successful at it."

Bruce Jarvis likes to compare Canal Winchester's downtown to a Norman Rockwell painting. "We consciously try to make a feeling of small town America," said Jarvis, the executive director of Destination Canal Winchester. "I think we're pretty successful at it." The historic downtown is home to several thriving, locally owned businesses and restaurants, Jarvis said. The city also is served by a bustling retail district on Gender Road that offers numerous chain restaurants and stores. Jack's Pets is a fun stop on the way in or out of town. The friendly staff is open to answering questions and willing to let kids pet and hold many of the critters. "It has a small town feel with all the amenities of a city," said resident Amanda Lemke. "We can go do things just like we were in larger city and then go the center of town and feel like we're in a small community." Many locals like to start their day at the Wigwam Restaurant, an old-school diner with a counter where patrons can watch their food be prepared. The eatery, which closes at 2 p.m. most days, specializes in breakfast and pie. Another yummy spot for good java and great meals is Harvest Moon Café. Located in the same building as The Garden Herb Shop, the restaurant focuses on healthy foods made with fresh ingredients and organic herbs and spices. Families also enjoy eating at Shade on the Canal, a sports pub that welcomes children, or at Kingy's Pizza Pub, which attracts families from all around the area. For something sweet, stop into Fantasy Cupcake. The quaint bakery usually has 12 different flavors of homemade cupcakes from which to choose. They also sell cake pops for a smaller treat. A few doors down from the bakery is CornerSmiths, a shop that's chock full of treats for mommies. The store carries unique antiques and funky home goods as well as handmade accessories for women. Parents can easily pay a quick visit with kids in tow (they have bribe ammo - candy dishes - strategically placed around the store) Families also are invited to visit Studio 7.5, a working artist studio and gift shop. The studio is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by appointment. The downtown also is home to The Ed Jeffers Barber Museum. "It's the only one of its kind," Jarvis said. "It's very stunning to step in there and see all the back bars, fancy bottles and shaving mugs." The museum, which is open by appointment, began as the personal collection of Ed Jeffers, a lifelong Canal Winchester resident, said Mike Ippoliti, president of Canal Winchester Area Historical Society. The society also gives tours of a one-room school house, historic grain elevator and railroad depot located at the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society Complex. "They're all available to tour by appointment," Ippoliti said. "You don't have to be a group."
The tours offer a flavor of the area's history and the role agriculture and the transportation industry played in it. The Mid-Ohio Historical (Doll and Toy) Museum is another interesting museum in the area: With a million-dollar inventory of mostly dolls (some hundreds of years old), train sets and toys, it's a must-see for doll scholars! The museum re-opens for 2012 on April 4. Families can learn more about the history of farming at nearby Slate Run Living Historical Farm that depicts farm and family life in the 1880s. The historical farm, operated by Columbus Metro Parks, offers visitors the chance to perform chores and interact with costumed staff members. Other fun outdoor places to visit are Guiler Park, which features the local pool and playground equipment, and the James H. Kelley III Preserve, which features a covered bridge, creek access and hiking trails.
Photos by Alysia Burton