Attractions circle Mentor, OH, a town below the radar

Sometimes when driving interstates your focus is on some destination ahead so you miss some of the gems along the way. The area around Mentor, OH, between Lake Erie and I 90, is just such a stop.

The marine museum, alone, at the haunted Fairport Lighthouse is worth a stop even if you don't make it up to the lighthouse top

The marine museum, alone, at the haunted Fairport Lighthouse is worth a stop even if you don’t make it up to the lighthouse top

While Clevelandites might consider Mentor an eastern suburb, the town is actually a traveler’s Mecca.

Just west from the intersection of Mentor Avenue (United States Highway 20) and Center Street (County Highway 615 ) sits President James A. Garfield’s Lawnfield Estate which is also his presidential library.

Learn about Garfield, the 20th President of the United States who served in 1881, as you tour this National Historic Site with a ranger or volunteer guide. Considered a brilliant man who would likely have accomplished much if not shot early in his presidency,  his home became famous for his front-porch campaign speeches. His wife and children were talented artists so look for and ask about their work.  But before you leave, be sure to watch a really well-done movie about Garfield, his life and how he became president.

A few blocks east on Mentor Avenue is a Malley’s Chocolate Shoppe and Ice Cream Parlorworth the detour. Born in 1935 during the depression, Malley’s has since expanded to nearly 25 locations in and around Cleveland as demand for its ice cream concoctions and chocolate-covered “marshmallos,” “Bordeau” toffee and pretzels increased. The Mentor location has an indoor gazebo, ice cream fountain and tables and yummy looking chocolates.

Learn about the 20th US President at Hames A. Garfield's estate in Mentor, a National Historic Site.

Learn about the 20th US President at Hames A. Garfield’s estate in Mentor, a National Historic Site.

North of Mentor, the Grand River meets Lake Erie. The Headlands, Ohio’s longest, natural sand beach, lines the Lake Erie shoreline on the west side of the river. The haunted Fairport Harbor Marine Museum and Lighthouse sits tall on the river’s east side.  The marine museum has great artifacts and the lighthouse has wonderful views. Fairport Harbor’s beach, just down the incline, is known for its beach glass.

South of Mentor, a winding road leads to the scenic Holden Arboretum. A favorite of bird watchers, Holden also has well-developed research, landscaping, shade and butterfly gardens.

Also south are the boutiques and restaurants of picturesque Willoughby Hills on the Chagrin River. Architecture aficionados will want to book a couple of nights at Penfield House, the town’s famed Frank Lloyd Wright home. The home and grounds are private so tours are not available. Reservations to stay there should be made a few months in advance. There is a two night minimum.

You can stay in Penfield House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but it is not open to public tours.

You can stay in Penfield House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but it is not open to public tours.

Arguably, the most central location to stay in the area is back in Mentor. The Lawnfield Inn and Suites, a Best Western Plus inn at the Mentor Avenue/ Center Street intersection features an upscale, gourmet dining room, casual pub, antique furnishings and friendly staff.

You will feel like an explorer who has uncovered some special treasures after visiting the lighthouse, Lawnfield and other Mentor area attractions.

Photos by Jodie Jacobs

 

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