Kent isn't just about living green; it plays green too. The City of Kent has spent millions of dollars in the last decade to protect Kent's natural assets, so that residents have places to experience Kent's natural habitat up close and personal.
From hike and bike trail building to new river access points, giving residents more opportunities to enjoy the abundance of Kent's outdoors is a priority. The City of Kent has a great parks network (19 City parks), and Kent Parks and Recreation offers a wide range of youth and adult recreational programs for both indoor and outdoor activities.
Outdoor activities, like mountain biking, skateboarding, and kayaking are fast becoming staples of the Kent community. With the extensive recreational opportunities afforded in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (the nation's most visited National Park) and nearby State Parks, there is everything from:
- Class 3 river rapids
- Expert mountain bike trails, and even
- Jet skiing
- Rock climbing
Kent is a 4-season climate, which means each season brings in a new set of outdoor toys to play with, and Kent has lots of places to play.
Traditional outdoor recreation like golf and tennis have a healthy following, with numerous competitive golf courses within a 20-minute drive from Kent, and public tennis courses located in Kent and on Kent State's campus.
For the more adventurous, Kent State University has its own airport, and local flying clubs offer a bird's-eye view of Kent's natural resources. If you like planes but prefer keeping your feet on the ground, Kent has a model airplane club that brings hobbyists from all over the region to create a buzz with their model planes. Hot air balloons used to be manufactured in nearby Ravenna, and in honor of that heritage, hot air balloon rides are offered to the public.
In 2008, Smart Travel magazine ranked Ohio Number 3 out of the 50 states as one of the best places to travel to and view fall foliage. Ohio is dotted with state parks offering vivid autumn colors, and Fall in Kent can be spectacular.
Conveniently located along Kent's hike and bike trail, Beckwith Orchards is open seasonally, starting in August with peaches, corn, pears, tomatoes, and other summer fruits and vegetables. But it's the fall apples, and their special recipe cider, that brings customers from miles around to shop in the country store. In October, pumpkins fill the broad front porch, and by December, Beckwith's is busy selling Christmas trees. The country store also hosts a number of fun, friendly, family-oriented events throughout the season.
Two-wheeled racers also have plenty to choose from, with a great selection of road bike races, including the annual 175-mile Pedal to the Point race (which has become a premier fund raiser for Multiple Sclerosis [MS]) to the Ohio Mountain Bike Race series. The hills of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park's 33,000 acres (20 minute bike ride from Kent) are favorite training grounds for serious road racers and with Mohican State Park located one hour south of Kent, mountain bikers can enjoy the 26-mile, free-flowing single track voted by Mountain Bike magazine as the best mountain bike trail in Ohio. Kent State University has also hosted a couple of cyclo-cross races and hopes to schedule a criterion style race in the near future.
There's also a growing off-circuit, sort of underground bike race scene in Kent. Small groups of racers gather for impromptu races that often involve a mix of road and off road riding. This unorganized and unpredictable group even sponsored a Zombie costumed bike ride on Halloween that they called Dead On Arrival. You never know what to expect from these bike subversives, except that it will be fun and involve two wheels.
Canoeing & Kayaking
Kent Parks and Recreation, in partnership with Crooked River Adventures of Kent State University, offers a canoe/kayak livery operation that includes all rental equipment and transportation. In 2010, the livery doubled the expected rental numbers thanks to all the students and community customers that took advantage of the nice weather. Tube rentals are being planned for 2011.
Cedar Point Amusement Park
If you want to go really big, Cedar Point Amusement Park offers water rides and a water park within their amusement park. It's only an hour drive from Kent to ride the 17 roller coasters at the undisputed Roller Coaster Capital of the World.
City & County Parks
The City's parks offer a variety of amenities for outdoor enthusiasts to picnic, bird watch, and cross country ski, and the many smaller parks provide places to relax and enjoy the sounds and smells of each season surrounded by distinctive natural scenery.
The Portage Park District offers 11 county parks all within a 20-minute drive of Kent. These parks offer:
- Cross country skiing
- Geocaching, for those that want to lose their troubles in the woods without getting lost
- Horse trails
- Picnic shelters
- Wedding gazebo
For the less fitness-inclined, Kent is home to some of the best corn-hole players around. This Midwest-born game is a twist between horse-shoes and bean bag toss. Put a little corn in a bag, cut a hole in a board, and you've got yourself genuine corn-hole toss. Simple fun, serious competition.
In the spring, bean bags are flying all over town - from college students to old timers - they're all out tossing their corn. It's a great way to get some sun and enjoy low-budget fun. The creative types decorate the boards with favorite team colors, fraternity names, and other artistic creations.
Cuyahoga Falls Water Works Family Aquatic Center
If playing in water is your thing, the Cuyahoga Falls Water Works Family Aquatic Center is a 20-minute drive from Kent that advertises something for everyone. Guests can choose to float down the lazy river, shoot down the tube drop or flume slides, swim laps, or just sit back and enjoy the beautiful landscape.
Education & Lifelong Learning
At the risk of stating the obvious, one of the great benefits of being in a university city is the amount of educational resources that are available in your hometown. What may not be so obvious is that these resources aren't limited to just the traditional areas of the curriculum - they include lifelong learning opportunities in outdoor pursuits like:
- Wilderness orienteering
The university isn't just for young adults, it's for the young at heart who want to try new things and learn new skills.
Footraces & Running Clubs
As great qualifiers for the Boston Marathon, the Akron and Cleveland Marathons attract large crowds of local and international athletes, from recreational runners to elite competitors. There are numerous running clubs and local races all year long in all of the typical distance categories, 3-K, 5-K, 10-K, and half marathon. There are also many traditional triathlon races in the region, as well non-traditional adventure races including Kent's Black Squirrel Adventure Race in August of each year.
Cedar Point, Put-In-Bay, and Kelly's Island are just a few of the many attractions located on Lake Erie, which has numerous parks, beaches and boat launches located up and down what the locals affectionately call the North Coast. Kent is a 40-minute ride to Lake Erie and all of its sandy beaches and romantic getaways that are surrounded by the local wineries and vineyards along the shore.
Back at the turn of the century, Kent had the largest rail yard between Chicago and New York, and while much of that old yard has been converted to hike and bike trails, trains still play a prominent role in Kent. Each year Kent gives the public a chance to experience life in the days of the steam locomotives, offering rides to and from downtown Kent in conjunction with Kent's Heritage Festival.
Kent opened its skateboard park on Admore Drive in 2010 to a standing room only crowd of boarders. The first phase of the park includes concrete ramps, railings and edges for all those free-stylers out there to rip and ride. Shred-it!
West Branch State Park
West Branch State Park is located 10 miles east of Kent. With 5,300 acres of woodlands and meadows surrounding a 2,600 acre lake, West Branch offers year round fun including:
- Horseback riding
- Mountain biking
The glacial lake is a favorite among area boaters.