This small city is home to some big thinkers. Little did you know that your every day has somehow been improved by can't-live-without inventions that were hatched by Akron's brightest minds.
From the breakfast bowl of Quaker Oats that kick starts your morning to the synthetic rubber tires that get you back home at night, probably a day doesn't go by when you don't use an item birthed in Akron. In fact, enough of them were created here to inspire the city's nickname, "City of Invention." Akron touts itself as home to the first hamburger, the first ice cream cone, the first long-distance electric railway and the first American toy store, among more than a dozen other "firsts."
Take note of these notable items sprung from the minds of Akronites as you enjoy some of the region's best attractions.
Locals Frank and Charles Menches allegedly christened the hamburger at the 1885 Erie County Fair, which was held in Hamburg, New York. (Hence, the name.) As the controversial claim goes, the brothers had run out of pork and whipped up a ground beef patty instead.
Where: Swensons Drive-In (multiple locations; www.swensonsdrivein.com)
Today, this quintessentially Ameri-can dish has become a mainstay on menus across the world, but one of the best examples can still be found in its possible birthplace. Swensons Drive-In's toasted bun and creamy cheese make a mouthwatering pair, while homemade patties offer a subtle sweetness that is said to come from a hint of brown sugar added to the ground meat just like the Menches original.
What: ELECTRIC RAILWAY
Also known as the Alphabet Railroad, the ABC Line — named for the three cities it serviced, Akron, Bedford and Cleveland — was completed in November 1895, providing the world's longest-distance electric rail transportation at just 75 cents per round-trip.
Where: Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Akron Northside Station (27 Ridge St, Akron; 800-468-4070; www.cvsr.com)
Though a steam engine, a ride aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is a charming way to enjoy one of the nation's oldest railways as well as the same gorgeous scenery of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that people once saw from aboard the ABC. Ride the 51-mile track alongside the historic Ohio & Erie Canal to stops as far south as Canton and as far north as Independence.
What: FIRST TOY STORE
America's first toy manufacturer, the S.C. Dyke Co., revolutionized the toy industry when he automated his factory in 1884 and began mass-producing the clay marble. This led to other mass-produced toys and Dyke to open Akron's famed American Marble & Toy Manufacturing Company in 1891.
Where: Thinker Toys (3887 Medina Rd, Akron; 888-573-8697; www.thinkertoysakron.com)
Although Dyke's toy store burnt to the ground 13 years after opening, the days of near-magical, locally owned toy stores with friendly customer service are not a thing of the past. Full to overflowing with a huge selection of puzzles, games, art supplies and "ugly" dolls, and a staff passionate about playthings, Thinker Toys is an old-fashioned toy store of yore.
What: ICE CREAM CONE
Dayton lays claim to the cone too, but we'll give credit to Akron's Menches brothers. Allegedly, these gifted gourmets were baking waffles at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair when they had the idea to wrap them around a cone-shaped tool used to splice tent ropes. When it cooled, the waffle held its shape was an ideal, edible handle for eating ice cream.
Where: Taggarts Ice Cream Parlor (1401 Fulton Rd, Canton; 330-452-6844; www.taggartsicecream.com)
Forget whether it was Akron or Dayton that created this classic treat, it's the neighboring city of Canton that really knows how to prepare the cones. Since 1926, Taggarts has been one of the area's premier ice cream parlors. The allure is in their creamy, homemade ice cream, served atop your choice of cake, sugar or waffle cone — also homemade and baked onsite.