After building up one of the state’s most successful furniture companies, woodworker Erie Sauder paid tribute to northwest Ohio’s pioneers with an open-air museum dedicated to re-creating the idyllic charm of a 19th-century rural village. To make his dream an even more vivid reality, Sauder moved dozens of historical structures to the village, restoring them and filling them with traditional pottery and tinsmithing shops, general stores, and schools. Costumed actors guide visitors of all ages through the traditional chores and activities of the 1800s, such as singing hymns, shearing sheep, or rebooting the hard drive on the printing press. Exhibits place guests directly into the lives and experiences of the Great Black Swamp’s settlers, from the earliest native peoples to the hardworking farmers and master craftsfolk of the late 1800s.
As patrons send themselves back in time with the village’s sights and sounds, they treat their taste buds to handmade sweet rolls from the Doughbox bakery, or dine on feasts of roast beef and chicken amid the hand-hewn rafters of the Barn Restaurant. Overnight guests lodge at the spacious campground or the beautiful Heritage Inn, replete with exercise rooms, a gorgeous 25-foot tree, and WiFi access powered by a horse on a treadmill.
Patrons walk up the black-and-red checkered sidewalk, entering Tiffany's Cafe to step back in time. The cafe reflects fondly back upon 1950s American diners with retro decor and hearty homestyle fare. Within its kitchen, the restaurant's chief cook and namesake, John S. Tiffany, labors over classic diner breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Decadent portions of omelets, sandwiches, and specialty dishes are complemented by lighter options served with cottage cheese, vegetables, and a miniature dumbbell. House-made pies, cookies, and cakes rise in ovens, awaiting a union with scoops of ice cream.
Originally opened as the Top Hat Drive-In in 1953, Sonic has grown into a burger-franchise mecca that today operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and marshmallow Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast, as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top five fast-food restaurants in three categories: Best Value Menu, Best Milk Shake, and Best Drive-Thru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through their program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.