Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens may have been built more than 100 years ago, but it has definitely changed with the times. In fact, this year for the first time the Akron Marathon, Sept. 28, will place its starting line at Stan Hywet. Not a runner? You can do yoga on the West Terrace, take your dog for a walk or view hundreds of collector cars. All without venturing inside the stately mansion.
In fact, there are dozens of activities and programs – almost all outdoor – you can participate in. You can shop at the Vintage Markets, Ohio Mart, the hall’s gift shop or at the spring plant sale. Get engaged and married here, or host a corporate event. Eat alfresco after picking up lunch from Molly’s Cafe. Hunt for Easter eggs after meeting the Easter bunny. Admire the blooming flowers in one of the estate’s many gardens. Attend one of two car shows a year, which bring generations of families together, according to Donna Spiegler, communications manager at Stan Hywet.
For families visiting Stan Hywet, the Playgarden is the most popular part of the estate, says Spiegler. The Playgarden includes a Tudor Revival playhouse, lawn bowling and a splash pad, so bring swimsuits, she says, adding you can “hear the kids hooting and hollering” on a warm summer day. During a recent visit to Stan Hywet, about 20 children ran around happily while their moms watched.
Families may also visit the butterfly garden, do Geocaching and Questing, use Explorer Backpacks (“filled with tools just right for an adventure”) or crawl and climb on interactive installations.
I have a long history with Stan Hywet. I started going there in 1987 when I was a University of Akron college student. The gardens were free to everyone and I would sit on a bench and do homework.
Like many Akronites, whenever someone was visiting from out of town, I would take them on a tour of the grounds. I’ve been to several special events as well as a wedding. When I had children, I treated the grounds as an alternative to our small yard.
‘Akron’s Best Backyard’
Stan Hywet is actually referred to as “Akron’s Best Backyard,” Spiegler says. I thought my children were so lucky to be able to run and play on the same grounds the family of F.A. Seiberling (co-founder of Goodyear Tire & Rubber and the man who built the estate) used in the early- to mid-1900s.
My kids always loved to explore the grounds, and they especially loved going there the two summers (2007 and 2008) the estate had treehouses all over the grounds. That was one of the most popular of the garden’s themes, Spiegler says, noting that people still talk about it. Even one of her doctors in Cleveland was telling her how he had taken his grandchildren there.
This year’s garden theme is “Lasting Impressions,” which celebrates the paintings of Gertrude Seiberling (F.A. Seiberling’s wife). Seiberling didn’t begin painting until she was 64 and she painted until she died at the age of 80. Northeast Ohio artists created metal sculptures to complement her work.
With almost 140,000 visitors coming to Stan Hywet each year (the property is open April through December), it’s the “Deck the Halls” event that attracts the most people, Spiegler says. With over a million lights, a light show, cocoa, hot gingerbread and more, plus special themes for the house (this year’s is, “A Classic Comic Hero Christmas”), the event brings in about 40,000 people during the 26 or so days it’s open in November and December.
Members may take self-guided tours of the house and visit the grounds for free (family memberships cost $85 a year). They also get reduced rates for guided house tours and special events. Members may also get in free to gardens across the country (other than the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, which is within a 90-mile radius).
In addition, Stan Hywet participates in the Museums for All program. Admission is $3 for any guest (up to four guests, 18 and over) who presents the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card when they arrive. Youth and children accompanying the EBT card-holder are free.
Children 5 and under are always free.
If you think you’re going to be a frequent visitor to Stan Hywet, it’s best to buy a membership as admission fees can really add up, especially for families. But Spiegler points out that it takes a lot of money to keep the place running.
Being one of the city’s top attractions (currently ranked No. 1 at TripAdvisor) doesn’t come for free. Especially when the memories it makes are priceless.
For info, visit www.stanhywet.org.