A longtime collaborator of Frank Lloyd Wright hailed for his innovative and organic structures, architect William Wesley Peters designed the 85,000-square-foot Norton Center for the Arts as a space where performance and visual art could commingle. Since its opening in 1973, the Center has championed both innovative and classical works and artists, with a world-renowned roster of talent appearing over the years, including James Earl Jones and the Vienna Boys’ Choir. Before entering its theater spaces, patrons' eyes catch the vibrant walls of the Grand Foyer that hold the Center’s collection of contemporary artwork displayed alongside a rotating lineup of secretly sentient statues and special exhibitions. Echoing with the memory of almost 40 years’ worth of show-stopping musical numbers and heart-rending violin solos, Newlin Hall’s plush red seats and cochleae-tickling acoustics contribute to the space’s renown as a setting for awe-inspiring performances. The smaller stage of the Weisiger Theatre captivates crowds with intimate performances where audience members in any seat of the house can hear the last-meal request of a tree on stage as it falls.
The McDowell House Museum began its life as the home of Dr. Ephraim McDowell. While he lived on its premises, during the nation’s early days, Dr. McDowell pioneered the ovariotomy, a medical treatment unheard of in 19th-century clinics. On Christmas morning in 1809, he surgically removed a 22-pound tumor from the ovary of Jane Todd Crawford—the first procedure of its type ever successfully performed.
Today, Dr. McDowell’s house stands as a monument to his medical mind and the people that it saved. On tours through the museum—which is furnished in turn-of-the-century antiques and early medical equipment—guides explain the doctor's lifesaving procedures while strolling through the home’s restored Georgian interior. Guests can wander through Dr. McDowell’s medical office, search for old-fashioned remedies in his apothecary shop next door, and recuperate from their exertions in the formal gardens. The apothecary shop contains more than 200 pieces of antique medical equipment including a leech jar, early American mortars and pestles, and fossilized tongue depressors. The house and its grounds also overlook Constitution Square State Park, which contains the first post office west of the Alleghenies along with replicas of an early jailhouse and courthouse.
The gourmands at Mermaids Bar and Bistro present a menu full of rich New American fare and southern-inspired cuisine against a cozy bistro backdrop replete with partially bricked walls and small, homey tables. Duos and quartets inaugurate feasts with starters including fried green tomatoes (an $8 value) and JR’s tempura cocktail (a $12 value)—jumbo shrimp flanked by sweet thai sauce and spicy wasabi. Popular entrees, such as the seared Atlantic salmon fillet (a $20 value) or the chorizo-anchored creole risotto (a $17 value) tastily exercise long-dormant mouth muscles and heirloom forks brought from home.
Beer Engine Microbrewery & Tap's resident beer buffs conjure signature batches of oat sodas that are brewed in-house. Sip on a quartet of samples from Beer Engine's five microbrews, which range from Freedom Ranger pale and King George's nut brown ale to Kirkner's amber––a quintessentially American brew made purely from waves of grain. Souvenir pint glasses hold aloft foamy fermentations such as virtue porter or czechvar, and half-gallon growlers allow sippers to tote their two favorite potables home and may be returned and refilled later for a fee of $11.
The Great American Dollhouse Museum houses hundreds of miniature buildings and citizens in a newly renovated 6,000-square-foot historical building, with high arched ceilings and an immense skylight. Curator Lori Kagan-Moore's vision for the museum is that each piece and scene be as authentic as possible. The exhibit begins with a timeline of U.S. history rendered in miniatures and moves to a village set in the early 1900s. The mini-land features a Shaker settlement, gypsy caravan, orphanage, and more, filled with characters wearing period-accurate clothing and interacting with period-accurate cell phones. The dollhouses are kind enough to leave their backs open so museum-goers can peek at the décor, dolls, and salivating grizzly bears. The museum concludes with a fantasy forest, complete with fairies, centaurs, and dragons.