Delicious diversions await groups convening in Ohio.
From interesting tours with historic slants and group-friendly dining options to memorable cooking classes and various wine and beer tastings, the Buckeye State delivers tasty activities to round out any meeting itinerary.
Ohio’s capital is a foodie city waiting to be explored. To that end, local tour operators such as Columbus Food Adventures (CFA) can facilitate a fun outing for groups.
“Tours are based on neighborhood or type of food,” says Brian Ross, president and CEO at Experience Columbus. “A fan favorite takes place in Columbus’ German Village.”
Stops during this tour include Katzinger’s Delicatessen, where attendees might sample traditional Jewish dishes, and Schmidt’s, which is known for its jumbo cream puffs and German dishes, including schnitzel and bratwurst.
For sweet tooths in the group, CFA also offers a three-hour, all-dessert tour featuring creamy delicious spoonfuls at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and whoopie pies at Pattycake Bakery.
Toledo Flavors Food Tours, according to Sherri Hudson, convention services manager at Destination Toledo CVB, also offers a dessert tour, as well as a popular tour through downtown Toledo’s warehouse district.
“I have been on the tour twice and was surprised by the things I didn’t know about the history of many of the downtown buildings,” she says, adding samples along the way include Grumpy’s famous garbage salad, hot dogs and pickles at Tony Packo’s, and wine and cheese at Veritas Cork & Craft.
John Brich, director of sales at Cincinnati USA CVB, recommends groups book an outing with Cincinnati Food Tours to explore the recently revitalized Over-the-Rhine (OTR) Historic District.
“You’ll try samples along the way, stopping everywhere from a macaron shop to a Vietnamese gastropub,” he says. “The best part? Each tour ends at Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest continuously operating public market, so your foodie adventure can continue even after the tour is over.”
Brich also recommends the Queen City Underground tour, which concludes at Christian Moerlein Brewing Company, which offers beer and food pairings.
Cincinnati’s Taft’s Ale House, which opened last year in the OTR district with three levels, including a large beer hall with communal tables, is one of Ohio’s many places to toast fellow attendees over a cold microbrew.
There is also Dayton’s Carillon Brewing Company, which according to Bev Rose, director of marketing and communications at the Dayton CVB, is a standout operation as it’s located on the grounds of the 65-acre Carillon Historical Park.
“They produce beers utilizing historic recipes, equipment and methods in a beautiful brick building designed to replicate breweries in Dayton in the 1850s,” she says. “Listen to docents in period costume explain the brewing process and watch as they create the historically authentic beers you can sample in the restaurant.”
At Hofbrauhaus Cleveland, a German microbrewery, attendees will find an Oktoberfest-like experience, according to Emily Lauer, senior director of PR/communications at Destination Cleveland.
“Groups can be part of the fun in the 440-seat Bier Hall or choose a private event space and create a customized Oktoberfest experience,” she says.
The newest craft brewery in downtown Toledo is Black Cloister Brewing Company, where Destination Toledo CVB’s Hudson says the decor is reminiscent of a monastery and Gregorian chants are often playing in the background.
Tours are also available at Zanesville-based Weasel Boy Brewing Company, which has a private room overlooking the Muskingum River for group events.
And at Port Clinton-based Catawba Island Brewing Company, tours are available and attendees are encouraged to sample the recently released Lake Erie Love Light Beer, as proceeds from every keg of this beer go to the Lake Erie Improvement Association.
Among the amazing array of group-friendly dining options throughout the Buckeye State is Orchids at Palm Court, Ohio’s only AAA Five Diamond restaurant.
Located at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, which was voted Hilton’s No. 1 F&B hotel in the U.S. for six of the last seven years, Orchids specializes in French-inspired American cuisine, including blue cheese beignets and smoked duck breast.
Chef Todd Kelly’s philosophy of “living off the land” has produced some exciting projects, including making artisan cheese in-house, farming locally produced caviar and harvesting honey from a rooftop apiary.
For a more casual experience there is the Lodge Wood Fired Grill at the Great Wolf Lodge Cincinnati/Mason, which specializes in wood-fired steaks.
Also casual, the recently opened Marblehead-based Erie Social Shuffleboard Club & Bar, Ohio’s first indoor shuffleboard club, is a fun place to grab a meal.
According to Amanda Smith Rasnick, group sales manager for Lake Erie Shores and Islands, it features six regulation-size shuffleboard courts and a deli/bar offering signature cocktails, including the rum-based Lake Erie Splash, and sandwiches starring everything from pastrami to hummus.
One of Greater Akron’s newest dining experiences is the Twisted Olive Italian American Kitchen.
“Three-stories of smartly appointed dining rooms and unexpected spaces offer groups of all sizes a culinary event they will not soon forget,” says Jim Mahon, vice president of marketing and brand management at the Akron/Summit CVB.
A popular specialty here is meatballs, served either “naked” with only sauce and cheese or “smashed” over garlic toast with sauce and cheese.
In Dayton is El Meson Restaurant, which features traditional dishes from Spain, including homemade chorizo and steak encebollado, and South American dancers to entertain groups.
And Fremont-based Down Thyme Cafe Coffee Shop & Restaurant, which has a private banquet room, is one of Sandusky County’s newest eateries.
“Opened in late 2015, this upscale restaurant features fine dining in a quaint setting,” says Peggy Courtney, executive director at the Sandusky County CVB, who adds that a coffee shop adjoining the restaurant serves specialty coffees, gourmet sandwiches and homemade desserts.
Team-bonding cooking classes are also found throughout Ohio, including in downtown Cleveland, where the Western Reserve School of Cooking teaches everything from making pierogis to the Art of the Pie.
According to Destination Cleveland’s Lauer, the private events here focus on either collaborative hands-on instruction or learning-based demonstration, and attendees take home a copy of each recipe prepared in class.
In Columbus there are several locales offering hands-on cooking activities, according to Experience Columbus’ Ross.
Among them are The Kitchen, the Seasoned Farmhouse and Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
Not to be outdone by its output of beer, Ohio also pours some fine wines.
At New Concord-based Terra Cotta Vineyards, situated in a picturesque setting, a cellar tour/chef experience is available.
“It begins with a wine tasting, then a local chef prepares and serves the meal, describing to the group how the dishes are created,” says Lori Kappes, marketing/sales manager for the Zanesville-Muskingum County CVB. “The meal is finished with a flaming dessert that is prepared in front of the group.”
Located inside Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio’s only national park, is Sarah’s Vineyard Winery & Art Gallery, which according to Akron/Summit CVB’s Mahon offers wine tastings, a great menu and comfortable group-friendly spaces.
And at Helena-based Chateau Tebeau Winery, according to Sandusky County CVB’s Courtney, tours and tastings are available, as well as a large banquet area that hosts live weekend entertainment.
Nearly 20 varieties of wines are available here, as well as a menu including baked brie and cheese platters, homemade soups and a variety of sandwiches.