Local Tourism Puts Focus on the Outdoors

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Whether old favorites or new experiences, interest in local attractions is on the rise, the region’s tourism bureaus report.

Shopping outlets, golf destinations, nature sanctuaries, and a host of outdoor recreational and entertainment venues are all strong draws for the Mahoning and Shenango valleys, they say.

Moreover, local tourism helps to generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the region’s economy.


Linda Macala, executive director of the Mahoning County Convention & Visitors Bureau, says outdoor recreation continues to be important.

Golfing and discovering wineries and craft breweries have been of particular interest, Macala says.

“People want to get away, unplug and rediscover how good it is to be outdoors enjoying nature,” she says.

A study by Tourism Economics showed that the economic impact of direct visitor spending in Mahoning County was $581 million in 2021.

“Two new Marriott hotels will be opening in August at the Westford Complex in Canfield,” she says. “[There will be] Towneplace Suites and Springhill Suites, which will add an additional 100 rooms to Mahoning County’s inventory.”

Birds in Flight Sanctuary intends to open its new aviary in Canfield by the end of summer, she says, and a couple of other projects in the area have recently been completed.

“Ford Nature Center in Mill Creek Park just recently reopened after undergoing a $4 million renovation and The Butler Institute of American Art just completed a $2 million expansion,” Macala says.

In addition, Macala says, the ongoing dam removal project on the Mahoning River has opened up kayaking between Struthers and Lowellville with no obstructions, she says.


Among the most nostalgic attractions in Trumbull County are old-fashioned drive-in theaters, says Beth Kotwis Carmichael, executive director of the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau.

“There are only about 300 drive-ins left in the United States and we are so fortunate in Warren to have two,” she says, citing the Skyway Twin Drive-In Theatre and Elm Road Triple Drive-In Theatre.

“We see a lot of older people that just want to relive that experience and memory when they were kids. But there are also a lot of younger people going there because it is such a cool experience,” Carmichael says.

Carmichael says there’s been a push this year for outdoor tourism, such as birding and highlighting the local rivers and lakes.

Mahoning River Adventures is coming back for its fifth year, Carmichael says. Participants can kayak on the Mahoning River using their own or rental kayaks.

Mosquito Lake also recently opened a new marina and boat rental shop.

“A lot of the things we are doing this year are about nature – birding, our agrotourism experiences, and the 60-mile yard sale is happening – and we want to raise awareness about Pymatuning Creek,” Carmichael says.

Carmichael says the Western Reserve Greenway Trail, which connects to Lake Erie, is in the process of completing the final five miles to the Ohio River.

Meanwhile, new shops, restaurants and leisure destinations at the Eastwood Mall Complex in Niles and Howland are also driving more traffic to that part of the county, she adds.

Carmichael says in 2021, direct visitor spending in Trumbull County alone was $489 million. When applying a multiplier effect, that spending translates to approximately $842 million within the local economy, including $23 million in tax revenue.

Marketing, Carmichael says, is vitally important. A recent study shows that for every dollar spent on advertising, another $194 is generated by visitors.


Bryce Miner, president of the Columbiana Tourism Bureau, said one of the county’s biggest attractions  – the Columbiana Wine Festival – will take place June 3.

“Last year we had our largest one ever and this year we have added more wineries, more food vendors [and] it’s going to be a really great event,” he says.

Other popular events include the Shaker Woods Festival in August at the Shaker Woods grounds and the Joy of Christmas Light Show in November in Firestone Park. New this year, the chamber of commerce will also present a Christmas in July celebration in Firestone Park July 21 and 22.

“We have welcomed Columbiana High School students onto our board,” Miner says. “We created a high school student committee where we have five students that are going to sit on our board and bring a younger person’s perspective to tourism in Columbiana and how we can attract younger folks to Columbiana, as well.”

Miner says although most tourists are within a couple of hours’ drive of Columbiana County, visits are on the increase.

“We recently met with a brewery in town, and they said that 70% of their business comes from out of town,” he says. “Columbiana County is doing a great job with sustainably growing, welcoming a lot of new businesses in town, and we are trying to do all that we can to create events and welcome people to Columbiana.”


Janet Falotico, executive director of Visit Lawrence County, says tourism is the second-largest industry in the county.

In 2021, Falotico says, the total impact of visitor spending was $124 million – $7 million for lodging, $32 million for food and beverages, $25 million for retail, $25 million for recreation and $34 million for transportation. In 2020 the total impact was just $96 million.

Among the county’s attractions set to open are a distillery and new wine trails, Falotico says.

“We have a bicycle route that is about to be unveiled for downtown New Castle and they’re going to partner that with a new brewery [Neshannock Creek Brewing] that is opening,” she says.

Outdoor excursions, Falotico says, are the most popular attractions in Lawrence County. Indeed, the most visited tourist spots in the county are McConnells Mill State Park, the Stavich Bicycle Trail and the North Country Trail.

“It has also become very popular to go to Mines and Meadows in Wampum,” she says. “They’re a premier ATV resort. They’re the largest [on the eastern seaboard] and they go underground.”

Another outdoor destination, especially for those coming from long distances, is to experience Amish country in New Wilmington and Volant, she says.

For city dwellers, the Historic Warner Cascade Theatre Museum in downtown New Castle is showing classic movies at noon Wednesdays to celebrate 100 years of the Warner Brothers. On Saturdays, it hosts “Looney Noons” where they show 90 minutes of Looney Tunes cartoons at noon.

“It’s been going on for over a month now and is well-received,” Falotico says. The Cascade was the Warner Brothers’ first theater.

While the specific number of annual tourists isn’t tracked, Falotico says she printed 10,000 more guides this year than the previous year’s 40,000, which she believes may not be enough.

“I think it’s the thirst for travel,” she says of the growing tourism industry.


Peggy Mazyck, president and CEO of Visit Mercer County PA, says the agency has a comprehensive program for promoting tourism through partnerships, shows, advertising and social media.

This year, Mazyck notices a growing trend for more reunions and weddings. She says sports teams are also more active and wine and brew tourism is increasing in popularity.

“We still have shopping but shopping is more of an influencer rather than the destination,” Mazyck says. “The [Grove City] Outlets used to be the destination. I think it still is an influencer. But with the competition from online shopping and other things it is not quite as strong of a draw as it used to be.”

Mazyck says the trend now seems to be for outdoor attractions such as kayaking and canoeing on the Shenango River, Keystone Safari, Pymatuning Deer Park and golf.

“Golf has been very popular and has been even more popular with the pandemic because people wanted to be outside,” she says.

Mercer County will also be running its second annual Lake-to-Lake Paddle Challenge – a 30-mile kayaking and canoeing race on the river, Mazyck says. The race will go from Pymatuning State Park to Shenango Lake.

Cobblehaus Brewing Co. also just opened up a brewery in Springfield Falls last October, Mazyck says. She says Nova Destinations will also host “The Block” this year, including a singular line-up of restaurants and bars in Sharon, Pa.

Pictured at top: Off-road vehicle riders drive into an abandoned mine at Mines and Meadows ATV resort in Wampum, Pa.