We all have summer goals. Some people begin the summer with a new diet plan, one that we will completely and utterly follow and keep as a strict guideline, unlike the diet plan we had all of last year. Others will count down the days until the glorious vacation trip, the day when the sun never seems to set and your martini glass seems to never empty. But unlike them, my bank account is not bursting at the seams, and mom and dad aren’t funding my vacation to Myrtle Beach this year. For those like me, finding new and exciting summer goals or plans not only have to fit the heart of an avid explorer, but to the wallet of a smart spender.
This summer, I plan to explore and taste the simple luxuries of Clarion County, experiencing a vacation not 20 miles from my doorstep and yours. Here are some simple and local favorite places to visit, see and, in certain cases, taste that have made my summer plans.
It’s always fun to start the summer with a new sight, a place to scour over and get the mind off of final grades and the long work schedule ahead. My first mini vacation will be a trip to the Beartown Rocks in Clear Creek State Park. The Rocks are located in Sigel, which is a mere 25-minute taxi ride from the center of Clarion. According to the Clear Creek State Park website, the natural landmarks include a large collection of house-sized boulders that were created by glaciers. The park also offers several hiking and biking trails, the perfect location to admire Mother Nature’s creations and get a work-out at the same time.
Ten minutes away in Cooksburg is the French and Indian War Encampment Reenactment that begins showing in June. Located at the Cook Forest State Park in the Sawmill Center for the Arts, this show highlights British, Colonial, French and American-Indian re-enactments among the beautiful Cook Forest area. This show is perfect for the average history buff and action-seeking traveler like myself. After the show, a long, mid-afternoon stroll on the nearby Black Bear Trail is a must.
Although I love hiking, I don’t want my entire summer to be located on the ground on a hiking trail. For a little more adventure, visiting and climbing the Cook Forest Fire Tower will bring anyone’s summer plans to a higher level. This 87.5-foot tower was built in 1929 to help give firefighters a wider range of view of the Clarion River Valley. Although still accessible, the tower was retired in 1966. The tower is located right next to the Seneca Point Overlook, which sits at an elevation of 1,600 feet. Talk about taking your breath away.
Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but after a long day of hiking, I am parched. However, it is summer and time to break the afternoon tea habit and switch to a sweet, white wine. Thus, visiting the Clarion River Brewing Company is a must. Located on Main Street in Clarion, this microbrewery offers entrees featuring local produce and meats and hand-crafted beers brewed on site with local ingredients. It’s always a plus to enjoy the fruits of life and support local businesses at the same time.
A summer vacation would not be complete without some local favorites. To start, I plan on stopping by Toby Hill Bar and Grill on Thursday nights. They offer a variety of wing flavors. Some of my favorites are Mom’s Hot and Tangy, Rollercoaster, Spicy Cranberry, Dirty, Hell and Dude Ranch. I can’t help buying a dozen or two and let my taste buds ride on a dirty rollercoaster through Hell.
Besides wings, meals that can be bought at local restaurants range from steak to classic meat lover’s pizza, Stromboli’s and various salads. At Daddy’s located on Main Street, their entrees vary in names I can’t even pronounce, hence dining there on Friday night is a no-brainer. Their special menu includes entrees such as the Miami Cuban, a pulled pork, ham and dill pickle sandwich; the Crabby Patty, a deep fried crab cake; the Sloppy Drunk, a half-pound burger with bacon, cheese, hash brown patty and a homemade Bavarian beer mustard; and the Alligator Po Boy, a hand breaded, fried Louisiana gator with mayo, lettuce and tomato. With names like these, you have to sneak a peek and try something new and completely different than anything else on Main Street.
The best way to end any vacation is with something sweet and The KB&B Dugout offers just that. Located on Route 322 right outside of Clarion, The Dugout offers various top-notch meals and twists on the standard ice cream cone. Their menu includes an authentic Philadelphia-style cheese steak, shrimp, cheese balls, deep fried mushrooms and a plethora of sundaes, floats and ice cream flavors: all served in a building the size of a baseball dugout. The Dugout is the only place in Clarion that I’ve found that serves the famous Blue Goo ice cream, a flavor that brings back childhood memories of playing mini-golf. Speaking of mini-golf, the Dugout offers an 18-round mini-golf course too, complete with corn hole and dugout-style seating area.
If you are looking for something to do that is budget friendly, new and exciting, all located within a 20-mile radius of Clarion, feel free to join me in my summer plans. Who ever said summer goals for a vacation had to be 200 miles away and cost a fortune?
(Kayla Handy is a Clarion University student contributor to VenangoExtra.com & ClarionExtra.com. Email Kayla your weekend events to firstname.lastname@example.org.)