Parts Unknown: Lorain County, Exploring Local Funtivities with your Host, Ben Richman


“I’m boreddd!! There are no fun activities driving distance from campus!!”


If this sounds familiar then maybe you should check out the Lorain County Welcome Center. The eye catching sleek modern architecture was the first thing I noticed when my good friend PJ and I arrived on a dreary Tuesday afternoon. We entered into a large room filled with pamphlets and flyers cataloging all of the many trails, shops, museums and biblical reenactments Lorain County has to offer. On this campus it’s often easy to forget that there is a whole world outside Oberlin. As we gear up for the coming darkness of winter, instead of secluding yourself to your dorm, why not pester a friend who has a car and get them to explore the many funtivities (fun activities) and spots of intrigue within our local community. Taking the helm from the late Anthony Bourdain, allow me to be your tour guide as I take you through some of Lorain county’s Parts Unknown.


The first thing the women working at the front desk mentioned to us, after offering us jolly ranchers, was the Cupcake Crawl, which had unfortunately just ended. This foodie scavenger hunt spanned eight bakeries, each with their own signature flavor and a T-shirt prize for anyone who went to all eight. Luckily, however, the center is currently running a specialty cocktail trail. If you’re of age (wink wink) and have a nice friend who’s willing to be your designated driver, this classy holiday themed booze tour titled “Shaken and Stirred” is the perfect way to add some festive charm to this holiday season. The event, which runs from November 15 - January 1, includes 17 bars and restaurants each with their own signature cocktail. The specialty drinks vary from twists on classics, like the “Fall Old Fashioned” with apple brandy and walnut bitters to wacky original creations, like “The Lumber Jack” which includes bacon infused bourbon and hints of chili maple syrup. Though this cocktail crawl sadly does not have any prizes, the gift of getting drunk off of liquor that tastes like bacon is good enough for me.


If getting drunk off of holiday themed booze doesn't suit your fancy then maybe ALPACAS might! Yes, you heard me right! Our Little World Alpacas is home to 50 cute and friendly alpacas who are available to be pet and fed. The small farm located 25 minutes away can be a fun excursion for any antsy students looking to make some new furry friends who, as their website states, might “steal a kiss when you are standing around.” I can’t think of a better stress reliever than caressing alpaca fur or buying socks knit from alpaca yarn. Before recommending this funtivity I do have to repeat a warning mentioned on the website: “Be careful; an alpaca may steal your heart.”


Okay, if a booze tour and alpacas don’t please you then maybe you should lighten up. I can’t do all the work. If you’re gonna be a stick in the mud then there’s not much I can do to help. But I digress... there are so many more cool places that deserve our attention. Maybe history is more your thing. Beyond our own Oberlin Heritage Center, which hosts tours of preserved homes from the 19th century, Lorain County has lots of other historical sites, which give a peek into Lorain’s past. I immediately was drawn to the dark blue pamphlet with a retro train car displayed on the front flap. I have to come clean. I love trains! They are so cool. What is not to love? But I digress… again… The L&WV Railway, Lorain County’s premier historic train line, provides scenic tours from within preserved train cars from the 50’s. The train line, originally built in 1906, gives a window into Ohio’s industrial past. This fun family activity is perfect to distract any bored younger siblings who come to visit their cool older sibling.


Other honorable mentions include Jamie’s Flea Market, which is only a fifteen minute drive from campus. This extensive market has everything from antiques to groceries, along with home made goods, collectibles, books, clothing, and anything else you might imagine. This market, open Wednesdays and Saturdays, is perfect for holiday shopping on a budget. If the materialism of the holiday season is getting you down, then maybe some of Lorain’s natural wonders can brighten your spirits. Did you know that the Lake Erie coast is home to more than 300 bird species? Lake Erie Wing Watch is a committee dedicated to promoting birding in the Lorain County area. The region from Oak Harbor to Lorain includes marshland, deep forests, natural springs, quarries, and beautiful rocky shoreline, as well as majestic and colorful birds, including bald eagles, warbles, and blue herons. Some notable birding spots in the area include Carlisle Reservation, which encompasses 1,700 acres, including a duck pond and restored wetlands. Another local hot spot is Castalia Quarry Metropark, an abandoned quarry surrounded by forests and fields, which offers views of migrating raptors and sparrows.


I hope something in this brief glimpse of Lorain County peaked your interest. If not, there is a lot more information available at the Lorain County Welcoming Center and online on their website. No, I am not being paid off by the Lorain County Tourism Board. (I do get a small cut from all L&WV train ticket sales, but that’s beside the point.) It was obvious from my brief visit to the center that the people who work to organize and spread information about the many events, sites, and activities within the county truly care about everything their local community has to offer. So why not support our neighbors and do some work to appreciate the world outside our campus?

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