Located on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border and about 60 miles from Cleveland, this former steel town has a rich history but a bleak future. In the former half of the 20th Century Youngstown was a prosperous city, the pride of the Mahoning Valley. Birthplace of several celebrities including the famous mall-building Debartlo and Cafaro families, most of the big businesses moved out after the devastating depression of the 1970s brought on by the collapse of the steel industry, Youngstown's main staple. Despite attempted revivals by the municipal government, Youngstown will never be more than a shadow of its former glory.
Things to Do and See
Despite the rather gloomy introduction, Youngstown still has a lot to offer in the way of sightseeing and recreation. Here are some of the most prominent attractions:
The Butler Institute of American Art, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the first structure built in the United States dedicated to house priceless works by American artists. Owning more than 10,000 permanent works of art, which travel all over the world, the Butler showcases masterpieces by Audubon, Winslow Homer, Remington, Mary Cassatt and more. The museum is considered an architectural masterpiece. Joseph G Butler Jr built the institute as a gift for the people of Youngstown. All group tours are treated to a special guided tour highlighting the finest works in the museum. Admission is free, donations are accepted and it's closed on Mondays.
The Youngstown Playhouse is located across from the Mill Creek Park Entrance on Glenwood Avenue, and was founded in the 1920s by the established Youngstown Players. The Playhouse is the only community theatre in Ohio to receive major institution support from the Ohio Arts Council. It has achieved national recognition as one of the country’s oldest, largest and most respected community theatres. The season runs from September to June and also has a mid-summer production running on the weekends in August.
The Youngstown Symphony Orchestra was organized in 1926 and the symphony society offers a subscription series, pop series, opera, ballet and classical film showings. It also sponsors a symphony chorus, opera chorus and youth orchestra. Even if you aren't interested in symphony orchestras, at least drive by to see the spectacular neoclassical building.
Youngstown State University is an accredited, state affiliated institution with an outstanding record of academic achievement, public service and physical growth. Situated in metropolitan Youngstown, the University is the centre of cultural and recreational opportunities that extend its resources beyond campus. The academic sector of the university is made up of seven major units offering over 100 undergraduate majors at the associates and bachelor’s levels, as well as 21 masters degrees. Tours are available to the public but you'll have to call for scheduled times and dates.
Mill Creek Park is a very large and beautiful park, perfect for hiking. While you're there, be sure to visit Lanterman's Mill, one of the most famous landmarks in the Youngstown area.
Boardman Park is much more tame and mild. Perfect for picnics, but not so impressive for hiking.
Places to Shop and Eat
Youngstown is the hometown of the father of former San Francisco Fortyniners1 owner, Edward J Debartlo Jr whose name happens to be, (who would have guessed!), Edward J Debartlo Sr. He was one of the world's greatest mall developers, so be sure to check out:
The Southern Park Mall is a state-of-the-art shopping mall complete with full food court and over 100 different stores, including big department stores like Sears and Kaufman's, smaller chain stores like Camelot Music and Suncoast Videos, lots of little trendy stands with neat nick-nacks, and a big Victoria's Secret2.
The Boardman Plaza is another great place to shop with a wonderful Chinese restaurant (see Dining Out section).
The Shops at Boardman Park is located next door to the aforementioned Boardman Park and is another popular shopping centre for all the usual tidbits.
Twice-Loved Books is a great place to find rare and used books. Items include a (used) rare edition of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
There are restaurants for all tastes in Youngstown. Some of the best include:
Handel's Homemade Ice Cream is listed in the New York Times '10 best ice cream shops in America', it has won world renown for its unique taste, and it can't be found anywhere else3. All the flavours are great, but the most popular is the Chocolate Pecan.
House of China may not be well known, but it is the best Chinese restaurant around. The decor is nice, but the food is the real attraction here. Order the fried rice (beef, pork, chicken, or vegetarian) if you want to be safe. When you leave, make sure you buy some packets of chow mein noodles to go at the counter.
The Cancun Mexican Restaurant is a bit out of the way, as it's not really within the city limits, but if you have the time, it's well worth the inconvenience. The service isn't the best - you'll have to grab a waiter and tell him in a clear voice that you would like to order now. However, they make up for it tenfold with the best Mexican cuisine in town. Order the quesadillas4, get two of them, maybe with some rice on the side and you won't be sorry.
The Inner Circle Pizza has a casual sports-bar atmosphere with good pizza and buffalo wings.
Places of Worship
As well as catering for its population's material needs, Youngstown also tries to cover the spiritual requirements of its populus:
St Columba Cathedral is the central Catholic church of the Diocese of Youngstown.
Pleasant Valley Church is a non-denominational place of worship.
Temple El Emeth is the city's central synagogue.
The Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown caters for the requirements of Youngstown Muslim population.
The above will make your trip to Youngstown more agreeable but here are a few tips for travelling in Youngstown and the surrounding area:
Stay near the YSU Campus as much as possible at night time. This is the safe side of town. Youngstown has the 3rd highest per-capita murder rate in the United States, but it almost all takes place in the ghettos. If you're in the suburb of Campbell however, and you hear a loud noise, don't be alarmed. It's probably just someone among the Greek population. Half of Campbell is Greek, and they celebrate everything with firecrackers - from Easter to hitting the lottery.
If you have to go through Poland township, make sure you're well below the speed limit. If you're a mile over the speed limit, they'll grab and arrest you.