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The 11 Best Things About Living in Downtown Akron

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There are so many reasons to love living in downtown Akron, a place described in Vogue–that’s right, Vogue–as having “that bucolic, small-town charm going for it.” It’s the perfect place for those who want the excitement of city life while also craving the warmth of a tight-knit community. It’s full of bustling restaurants, quaint coffee shops, opportunities to move your body, live music venues, art galleries, brand new apartments, and so much more. Read on to see the 11 things we love most about living in downtown Akron (because we couldn't pick just 10).

Above: Interior of an apartment at the Bowery (Photo: The Bowery)

1. The digs

Downtown Akron is full of luxury apartments in renovated historic buildings, right in the heart of the city, with amenities to ensure you’ll always be comfortable in your home. Fitness centers, community rooms, bars, electric car charging stations, yoga and pilates studios, and business centers are just some of the amenities offered by downtown apartment properties. Living downtown makes it easy to walk wherever you need to go. Select properties even offer discounts for employees of preferred downtown employers.

Whether you’re looking for a studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, or townhome space, there’s sure to be something to suit your taste. With high ceilings, stone countertops, hardwood floors, large windows, and modern, state-of-the-art appliances, downtown Akron’s apartments are truly stunning. Bonus: most of the properties are pet friendly, and a few even have pet spas in the buildings. 

Above: Nachos from El Patron (Photo: Jenn Kidd)

2. The food

Downtown Akron is home to roughly 50 restaurants and counting. They run the gamut from a New York style deli to fiery Thai cuisine, late-night calzones to high teas, Vietnamese coffee to gourmet grilled cheese, authentic tacos and Irish pub food to pizza for every state of mind. We’ve got rooftop patios, sauerkraut balls and jojos, locally brewed beer, fine dining with skyline views, hidden speakeasies, signature sushi rolls, gluten-free tapas, and one-of-a-kind ice cream flavors you wouldn’t believe. (Is your mouth watering yet?)

A number of our downtown dining establishments participate in our Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) program. This means that when you purchase alcoholic beverages from participating bars and restaurants, you can take them with you as you explore the parts of the city center within DORA limits.

Check out some of our favorite ideas for both fine dining and casual dining in downtown Akron.

Above: Main Street during the Akron Pride Festival 2021 (Photo: Chris Rutan)

3. The culture

When you’re tired of the same old, same old, downtown Akron is sure to inspire you with its diverse flavor–not only in terms of food options (mentioned above), but in the colorful cultural events that take place throughout the year. Watch the Dragon Dance at downtown’s Lunar New Year Celebration. Walk among the sakura trees and sip sake at the Cherry Blossom celebration. Share a meal and dance on Juneteenth. Walk down Main Street with cannoli at the Italian-American Festival. Join tens of thousands of visitors at the Akron Pride Festival in the heart of downtown. Have a pint for Oktoberfest. And watch as more and more cultural festivals continue to crop up. Bonus: Downtown Akron’s local, nonprofit cinema often adds to the festive atmosphere by screening independent films from around the world that pair nicely with the events (not to mention, the cinema has a cocktail bar inside to take your movie-watching experience to the next level). 

When you live in Akron, you’re surrounded by people from all different walks of life. There’s always something new to learn and discover and interesting people to meet. There’s a sense of warmth and openness downtown–in the people, the mindset, the cultural events, the art, the food, and more. 

Above: Local hiking group Black Women Explore hikes the Adam’s Run Trail at nearby Hampton Hills Metro Park (Photo: Bronlynn Thurman)

4. The parks

When you live in downtown Akron, you’re never far from the beauty and stillness of the natural world. Summit Metro Parks, which sustainably manages 15,000 acres of land in the area and boasts 150 miles of trails, has options for enjoying nature at every skill and fitness level. Explore meadows, forests, and caves; or take a kayak, canoe, or paddle boat on one of the lakes or rivers on park property. Ride your bike on a paved path or mountain bike course, fish in a tucked-away pond, shoot your shot at an archery range, or camp at a campground. It’s easy to access the parks from downtown, and you can head to Summit Metro Parks’ website for more information on things to do nearby. 

Akron is also the gateway to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. That’s right–a national park! With the Cuyahoga River winding through, it encompasses rolling hills, expansive forests, breathtaking waterfalls, and sprawling farmland. It’s only a short drive away; however, you can also access the national park by way of the Towpath or the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which has a station in the Northside District of downtown Akron and opportunities for taking your bike or kayak aboard, too.

Above: The Ohio & Erie Canal and Towpath Trail near the Northside District in downtown Akron (Photo: Shane Wynn)

5. The canal

Step aside, river walks. Hidden behind Main Street’s storefronts is the historic Ohio & Erie Canal–once a major waterway connecting Lake Erie and the Ohio River that allowed goods, news, and people to travel quickly. Back in the day, the canal played an important role in Akron’s economy. Today, you might not see canal boats floating through town (although check out Lock 2 park for an idea of what they looked like), but the canal is still central to the downtown experience. It’s flanked by the Towpath Trail, a premier, 101-mile walking and biking trail that’s easily accessible. Only two miles along the Towpath to the south, you’ll reach Akron’s sprawling, stunning Summit Lake, as well as an impressive nature center run by Summit Metro Parks. Cascade Valley Metro Park and Cuyahoga Valley National Park lie to the north.

The canal is beautiful year round. However, in the springtime, it’s especially picturesque, as the Towpath is lined with 472 Japanese sakura trees that create a dreamy canopy of pink and white cherry blossoms overhead. 

Walk or cycle along the canal, or rent a bike from Summit Bike Share and explore away! 

Above: Thousands of people enjoying a musical performance at Lock 3

6. The music

Akron is home to a thriving music scene, and when you live in downtown Akron, you can experience it any day of the week. Visit one of the city’s several live music venues–Jilly’s Music Room, Musica, Blu Jazz, and more–to get a taste of the local, regional, and national bands that make this city feel so rich. You can also listen to Akron’s listener-supported, mission-driven, public radio station, 91.3 the Summit, to discover new music every day, including more than a few of Northeast Ohio’s talented homegrown artists.

For those who are partial to classical music, you can check out the Akron Symphony Orchestra, who’s always thinking of innovative ways to bring classical music to more diverse audiences–such as through unique performances with EarthQuaker Devices, digital programming, and collaborations with other local organizations such as the Summit County Historical Society.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers to listen to tried-and-true favorites you already know, don’t worry, we see you. Every summer, the city partners with radio station 97.5 WONE to put on Rock the Lock at Lock 3, Akron’s “central park.” Rock the Lock is a concert series that features a large number of tribute bands to well-known favorites like Queen, Foreigner, STYX, Michael Jackson, the Beatles, and more. The Akron Civic Theatre, located in the heart of downtown, also hosts concerts of nationally famous musicians throughout the year. 

Whatever your taste, there’s music for you in Akron.

Above: People enjoying Lock 4, featuring a mural created by artists El Mac and Aiseborn  (Photo: Denzel D. Washington)

7. The arts

Downtown Akron has a vibrant arts scene. You can hardly turn a corner without coming across  murals on walls, the ground, and under bridges–let alone sculptures and arts venues. We have a Historic Arts District, an area consisting of a few square blocks that’s teeming with art and music venues; ArtWalk, a quarterly celebration of local artists during which community members can enjoy the food, music, and art of downtown Akron; and several organizations working to make the city’s local arts scene thrive.

Visit Summit ArtSpace, a gallery that’s always free for the public to enjoy and which prides itself on providing resources to and showcasing the work of local artists, or the Emily Davis Gallery on the University of Akron’s campus. Stroll through the Akron Art Museum, which comprises over 7,000 works from 1850 to the present, including works by Andy Warhol, Jenny Holzer, Mickalene Thomas and many others, and is free on Thursdays. Get to know Akron Soul Train, which has a gallery in the heart of downtown, and the Akron Black Artist Guild, which creates a space for Black artists to grow, partner, and thrive. And be sure not to miss the exhibitions all along Main Street, where Curated Storefront works with local artists to create displays in street-level windows.

For those who love performing arts, Akron is brimming with theater troupes and venues, as well as a vibrant dance scene. Between shows at Akron Civic Theatre, Broadway productions at E. J. Thomas Hall, seasonal performances at the University of Akron School of Dance, the National Choreography Center at the University of Akron (NCCAkron), Millennial Theatre Project, BOOM! Theater, Ohio Shakespeare Festival, Summit Choral Society, and more, there’s never a shortage of performance art to enjoy in Akron.

Above: Full stands at a 2014 RubberDucks game (Photo: David Monseur)

8. The champions

Akron is for sports fans! If you came into this guide knowing nothing else about Akron, you probably at least knew it’s the hometown of basketball star LeBron James. Fun fact: Main Street is actually named after him (it’s also known as King James Way). He grew up here, went to school here, and is famous for giving back to the city–funding public schools, housing projects, community centers, the university, and more. 

While LeBron might not be here permanently, we do have two playoff-worthy college basketball teams at the University of Akron, one of the best college soccer teams in the country, and a Division I football team, as well as the RubberDucks, a minor league baseball team that has games all spring and summer long in the heart of downtown. (What’s better than having a beer and a hotdog at a baseball game in the middle of summer? We’ll wait.)

For backyard champions, Summit Sports and Social is the perfect solution for adults itching to join games of sand volleyball, kickball, bocce ball, Spikeball, and dodgeball. You can also sign up for the Akron Marathon, which takes place every September. 

Above: The polymer building on the University of Akron campus, featuring the famous “rock candy” sculpture (Photo: University of Akron)

9. The knowledge

Fun fact: Some of the smartest people in the world live in Akron.

Akron is home to the University of Akron, which was recently ranked the number one polymer science university in the world (yes, the world), with faculty who have invented over 300 issued and pending patents. The university’s Law and Business schools are also highly ranked nationally, and they have over 200 degrees and programs available, taught by expert faculty. The university boasts lots of experiential learning opportunities and now has select degree programs that can be completed 100% online.

If your university days are behind you, fret not–you can still take advantage of the vast knowledge contained in downtown Akron. The city is home to a state of the art library that, in addition to having a catalog of 2.4 million items available to borrow, also boasts a library of things, notary services, printing services, tax assistance, and a TechZone that has everything from computers and sewing machines to recording studios and a 3D printer. The library also hosts events for people of all ages, several days a week.

Above: A bus driving past the METRO Transit Center in downtown Akron (Photo: METRO RTA)

10. The public transit

It’s easy to be green when you live in downtown Akron because there are so many options for getting around that don’t involve cars.

METRO RTA, our public transit system, has buses running throughout the city and county–and even one that runs all the way up to Cleveland. Even better: University of Akron faculty and students can ride for free just by swiping their Zip Cards in the buses’ fareboxes. 

Every year, METRO transports over six million passengers to work, school, medical appointments, and more. This year, they debuted two fully electric buses, with plans to acquire two more by the end of 2023. You can easily chart out your trip on METRO’s website to get wherever you need to go in Summit County. 

You can also scoot around town with our abundant supply of electric scooters that can be activated for a low cost using an app, or by grabbing your bike and traveling via downtown’s protected cycletrack.

Above: Dozens of people taking a Drum Fit class on Cascade Plaza in 2019 (Photo: DAP Staff)

11. The free things to do all year long

Get outside, stay active, and enjoy downtown Akron’s scenic spaces in the summer with free fitness classes and activities throughout the week, hosted by Downtown Akron Partnership. Sign up online to get moving with Zumba, Drum Fit, yoga, line dancing, and even roller skating parties. These events are totally free and open to the public–we just recommend that you register online ahead of time.

In the fall, we continue to host events on Cascade Plaza such as the Smells Like Snow Coffee Festival (for fans of Gilmore Girls and/or the local coffee scene, which–by the way–is incredible) and autumn celebrations for university students.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, though. Organizations throughout downtown are constantly putting on free or low-cost things to do–free movies in the library’s auditorium, ice skating in the winter at Lock 3, lunch-hour and happy-hour musical performances on Main Street, walking tours, biking tours, salsa nights, game tournaments, and more. There’s so much. We’ve done some of the legwork and put together this guide to free and low-cost things to do downtown. You should also bookmark our calendar of events–one of the most frequently updated, comprehensive lists of things to do in downtown Akron all the time. 

There’s so much to love and so much to do here. Come join the fun and make this place your home–or your favorite place to hang out, catch a show, have dinner, and stroll about. It doesn’t take long to realize: downtown is where Akron happens.

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