Canton, Ohio, doesn’t have a professional football team. But it’s one of the most important football destinations in America.
Canton is home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the country’s pre-eminent museum dedicated to the sport. Though the institution isn’t officially linked to the National Football League, generations of NFL players and fans recognize it as spiritual home of America’s most popular professional sport.
“The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a huge draw to our area,” said Allison Rowe, marketing coordinator at Visit Canton. “One of the best things they have for church groups is ‘A Game for Life.” It’s a three-dimensional immersive theater. It tells football players’ stories and talks about life lessons you learn through the game of football.”
In addition to this program, the hall of fame also features the Super Bowl Theater, which shows in-depth, behind-the-scenes footage recorded at the Super Bowl and throughout the football season. Fans will also find uniforms, memorabilia and other personal items from some of their favorite players on display in the 118,000-square-foot exhibit space.
Many groups of football fans plan their visits to Canton around Enshrinement Week, an annual series of events in early August during which a new class of Hall of Fame honorees is inducted.
“Enshrinement week is huge, with activities all throughout the weekend,” Rowe said. “The Hall of Fame Game is Thursday night. Friday is a fashion show at lunch and the Gold Jacket dinner, when the inductees get their gold jackets. On Saturday morning there’s a huge parade, and there are activities all throughout the day. Enshrinement happens Saturday night. Then Sunday we conclude the weekend with a big concert at the stadium.”
Enshrinement week attracts thousands of fans throughout the country, but groups can secure tickets and hotel rooms by working directly with the hall of fame, which offers special group packages and room blocks.
Whether your group visits for Enshrinement Weekend or comes to Canton at another time of year, they’ll find plenty to do. In addition to its football fame, Canton is home to numerous historic sites and serves as a gateway to Ohio’s Amish country. Here are several other popular attractions to include on your Canton itinerary.
About 12 miles north of Canton, the Mennonite community of Hartville has become a favorite shopping and heritage destination for groups. At the center of the attraction is the Hartville Marketplace and Flea Market. Originally intended to be a temporary outdoor flea market, this marketplace quickly grew to become an indoor-outdoor, year-round market. During popular summertime weekends, it’s not uncommon to find thousands of vendors there.
Also in the area is Hartville Hardware, a seven-acre hardware store with full-size display homes built inside it. And groups love Hartville Kitchen, where they can enjoy Amish style meals of chicken, mashed potatoes and pies. The restaurant also hosts a faith-based concert series.
William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum
Though he was born in Niles, Ohio, William McKinley considered Canton his home. The popular public servant and statesman spent much of his life there before becoming the 25th president of the United States in 1897. He was assassinated by an anarchist just four years later in 1901.
Canton visitors can learn more about McKinley and his remarkable life at the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum. Exhibits at the museum detail McKinley’s childhood in Ohio, his life of public service, his accomplishments as president and his assassination. The site also includes a science center and planetarium. Many groups also visit the McKinley Memorial, where the president was buried.
Canton Classic Car Museum
During the golden age of American auto manufacturing, numerous companies built cars throughout Ohio, including Holmes, which had a factory in Canton. Today, the Canton Classic Car Museum pays homage to this automotive legacy with a display of more than 40 beautiful vehicles from Ohio and beyond. Visitors will find memorable cars ranging from a 1901 Oldsmobile to a 1911 Ford Model T, a 1966 Ford Mustang and a 1970 Plymouth Super Bird. Other highlights include a Marmon, a Pierce-Arrow, a Cord and a Packard.
In addition to automobiles, the museum features a collection of Ohio memorabilia, including vintage toys, roadside advertising and items belonging to William McKinley.
P. Graham Dunn Factory
A short drive east of Canton brings groups to the P. Graham Dunn Factory in the Ohio Amish Country. P. Graham Dunn is known for its high-quality wood items, such as cutting boards and photo frames, as well as decor and gifts. Groups that visit the factory can enjoy seeing these items made and exploring the scenic campus.
On a factory visit, visitors get a view of the production floor from above and watch as craftsmen use computerized routers, powerful lasers and other techniques to make the company’s signature products. The on-site gift shop spans more than 20,000 square feet and features elaborate wall art, engraved scripture and thousands of distinctive gifts.
First Ladies National Historic Site
William McKinley wasn’t the only White House resident from Canton. His wife, Ida Saxton McKinley, hailed from Canton as well. Today, her ancestral home, the Saxton McKinley House, is preserved as part of the First Ladies National Historic Site in downtown. The house has been restored to the Victorian era and was the primary home the McKinleys lived in while William served in the House of Representatives from 1878 to 1891.
Also part of the historic site is the 1895 City Bank Building, less than a block away from the Saxton McKinley House. This seven-story structure houses a rotating lineup of exhibitions detailing the lives and accomplishments of America’s first ladies.