Mansfield is a small city of less than 50,000, located halfway between Cleveland and Columbus. It serves as the seat of Richland County. Branded as “The Fun Center of Ohio,” people come here for family-friendly attractions like the Richland Carrousel Park and Little Buckeye Children’s Museum. People of all ages like to unwind at local attractions like the Kingwood Center Gardens, Ohio Bird Sanctuary, and Gorman Nature Center. The downtown area is walkable, with most museums and restaurants conveniently located between East 2nd and 4th Streets. You’ll need a car to explore the rest of Mansfield and surrounding Richland County.
Here is a 24-hour guide to Mansfield, Ohio.
The Ohio State Reformatory
Mansfield Art Center
Mansfield Memorial Museum
Kingwood Center Gardens
The Blueberry Patch
Hudson & Essex
Ohio Bird Sanctuary
Richland Carrousel Park
Gorman Nature Center
Uncle John's Place
TownePlace Suites by Marriott Mansfield Ontario
Start your day in Mansfield by exploring Kingwood Center Gardens
Start your day in Mansfield at the Kingwood Center Gardens. This 47-acre property was purchased by electrical engineer and businessman Charles Kelley King back in 1912. The entire complex is open to the public, including the gardens, greenhouse, and the French Provincial Kingwood Hall.
As there’s a lot to see, you can start with a light breakfast at Gateway Café, which is operated by local grocery chain Buehler’s Foods. They serve a variety of pastries as well as fresh fruit and yogurt. Drinks include Buehler’s Scenic River Coffee along with CBD-infused sparkling water and teas.
To get the full experience, it’s best to allow at least two hours. One to tour the ground and another for breakfast and the grandiose Kingwood Hall. The latter was King’s primary residence. It was designed in the French Provincial style and is available for self-guided tours from February to December.
Adult admission is $8 and includes the entire grounds. From February to November, admission is free on the first Monday of the month. Kingwood Hall is closed during January.
Grab Lunch at the Blueberry Patch
In addition to being Ohio’s largest blueberry farm, The Blueberry Patch is also a restaurant, winery, and event space. They also have a gift shop where you can find just about anything infused with the blue antioxidant superfruit. 1285 Winery is their dinner spot, while lunch is served at Blossoms Café. At Blossoms, you’ll be able to try daily lunch specials as well as blueberry-infused pastries inside of a greenhouse. And don’t leave without trying their blueberry donuts!
If you’re visiting during July, you can pick your own blueberries.
Tour the Ohio State Reformatory
The Ohio State Reformatory is the Buckeye State’s version of Kaufman Astoria Studios. Everything from music videos and wrestling promos to documentaries and feature films have been shot here. The Tango & Cash prison scenes were filmed here while the prison was still in use. It closed the following year (1990), which is also marked the last time that an Ohio Major League Baseball Team won the World Series.
Many people visit here as part of the Shawshank Trail. The 1994 classic starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins is set in Maine, but the majority of it was filmed in and around Mansfield. While you’re likely to see the largest groups of people taking in the second floor Shawshank Wall, there are also hundreds of artifacts dating back to 1910, when construction was completed. The original electric chair and death chamber door are encased behind glass on the first floor. On the upper floor, paint chips hang from the ceiling like bats. The peeling paint and rusty cell bars remind visitors that this was a real prison, where guests did not get to break out of their rusty cage, as Andy Dufresne did.
There are a handful of guided tours that dig deeper into the prison’s history. And in late October, they decorate the reformatory and turn it into a haunted house. Visitors have the option as to whether or not they want to be touched by the dozens of elaborately dressed terrorizers.
Meet ELEKTRO at Richland County’s Oldest Museum
The Mansfield Memorial Museum is the historical societies what Di Fara is to Brooklyn pizza. From the outside, it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing. And it looks aged on the inside. Furthermore, as of this writing, they are only open for 10 hours between Saturday and Sunday. But it’s still THE must-visit museum in Mansfield.
The three robots are the highlight for most visitors. ELEKTRO was unveiled by Westinghouse for the 1939-40 World’s Fair in Queens. The world’s oldest surviving robot was featured in two major motion pictures. Both movie posters are on display nearby.
Upstairs, there’s a collection of 690 model airplanes as well as an original Philippine Beheading Sword. An aviation museum is scheduled to open next door in 2022.
Make your own glass piece at the Mansfield Art Center
While the Mansfield Memorial Museum is geared more towards history buffs and aviation geeks, the Mansfield Art Center is more interactive. Here, you can create your own ceramics or stained glass. The exhibits feature local artists and change every three months. They also have virtual exhibitions.
Have dinner in a former Hudson & Essex Showroom
Hudson & Essex is by far the most interesting dining option in Downtown Mansfield. Pictures of old Hudson and Essex cars line the walls in this former showroom, which used to house both American manufactured automobiles. There’s also a deli off to the side from the main entrance.
Although the current owners have redone the space, the dining area still retains an old urban industrial feel with its high wooden ceiling and exposed ducting. But this is definitely fine dining all the way. The menu is New American with unique takes on items like Lobster Mac & Cheese. The Hudson & Essex version includes bacon and truffle bread crumbs. Their Japanese fried chicken is served with kimchi mayo, while the king salmon is topped with Ethiopian lentils and feta cheese.
They also have a full bar with wines from Cypress and H & E Luxury. If you’re more into beer, head one block north to Phoenix Brewing. There are a handful of Mansfield stops along the Richland County Wine & Ale Trail.
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This post was sponsored by Destination Mansfield Richland County. All pictures were shot with my Panasonic Lumix ZS100 4K Point and Shoot Camera. You can support this site at no additional cost by doing your Amazon shopping via our custom link.
During my visit, I stayed at the TownePlace Suites by Marriott Mansfield Ontario. You can get a free night at the TownePlace Suites or many of the other 7,000 plus Marriott properties worldwide by signing up for the no annual fee Bonvoy BOLD Chase Visa.
If you’d like to learn more about lesser-explored parts of the Buckeye State, check out my list of smaller cities and towns to visit in Southeast Ohio.
Have you been to Mansfield? Leave a comment below!