Time for another great American road trip! We put in three months and over 15,000 miles on our Fabric of America road trip back in 2013, and we wanted to do another – albeit shorter – one this summer.
I really wanted to return to the mountains of Appalachia, as we’d both been there before but not spent a lot of time exploring. So, we decided to take our month-long road trip in that direction. First, though, we had to actually get there.
Being we were coming from visiting family in the Chicago area, it’d be a rather long drive to our first destination. We didn’t have any real inclination to spend a ton of time in between our jumping-off point and our destination, so we hit the highway and booked a hotel about 2/3 of the way to West Virginia.
And this is how we ended up in Circleville, Ohio.
You might be asking yourself, Why Circleville? Well, Why not? It was about the proper distance we wanted to drive in one day as we don’t like our drives to be too long, and we don’t particularly like staying in big cities – especially for a short stay. Circleville had a hotel whose company we have a lot of points with, it was the right distance away, and it looked like it could be interesting. So, there you have it.
This town of around 13,000 is about a half-hour south of Columbus, Ohio. It is home to quite a bit of industry, but it’s an otherwise small town with a very country feel.
Interestingly, it’s called Circleville due to an old, Hopewell Native American earthwork series of circles that stretched to 1,100 feet in diameter. The town was originally laid out in a circle, and some of the buildings around town still feature curved facades due to that. We didn’t see any of them, unfortunately, but think about how interesting that must have been when the town was built up in the early 19th century!
The town was eventually relaid in a grid plan, so it unfortunately lost nearly all of that uniqueness that it originally had. It’s now your typical north/south, east/west town, spreading out from the old, historic downtown in the center to residential areas, and strip malls and whatnot beyond that.
We originally planned to stay here two nights as we hate staying anywhere less than that, but we extended it to three due to unforeseen natural disaster issues at our next destination. (More on that in our next post.)
So then, let’s see what Circleville was all about!
Where We Stayed
First off, we should talk about the place we got work done and rested our heads during our stay in Circleville. Depending on where we are, we stay in a specific chain of hotels while we’re on the road so we can rack up those tasty points and use them to our benefit. In this part of the country, it meant staying in IHG hotels as we’re gold members or whatever. So, we grabbed ourselves a suite – for work and for pleasure – at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites, just on the edge of town.
If you’ve stayed in one of these before, then you know how it goes. This one has an indoor pool, and we spent some time there so we could feel like we were doing something exercise-y. Swimming is nice! We didn’t take part in any breakfast shenanigans, so I can’t comment on that. The room was huge and comfortable, so we never felt cramped in there like in so many other hotels.
Most importantly, the staff here was tremendous. Lindsay made our day, every day, and we probably spent way too much time talking to her and keeping her from whatever her boss probably wanted her doing. Top-notch customer service, we say! She was a dream and deserves a huge raise.
We’d also like to give a shout-out to Natasha, who was also very welcoming and friendly, although we didn’t see her very much. She also helped us get an extra night booked at the last minute due to that unfortunate natural disaster I mentioned before.
All in all, we can highly recommend this particular hotel if you ever find yourself in Circleville.
What We Did
We didn’t have any plans coming into town. We really just planned on walking around, eating, and relaxing. As we’re suckers for a good fair, we couldn’t resist when we saw this on the table in the hotel lobby:
Oh yes, the Pickaway County Fair. It was on. We made it a point to head over there, but the weather was so blistering hot when we went that it was mostly dead. We were also there at the very end of the week, so it had died down a bit from that, too. It did pick up quite a bit at night, but we had other plans.
So, we walked around the fairgrounds, checking out all the interesting food booths and having a look at the rides.
Due to the heat, we spent most of our time ogling all the cute animals that were part of the 4H competition that took up most of the fair.
All the surrounding area here is farmland, so there are plenty of people who spend their youth raising animals and participating in 4H. We think this is a wonderful thing, and we were happy to stroll around, checking out all the barnyard animals and their proud owners.
Bunnies! These guys looked kind of skeptical.
The auction for the rabbits category was on and poppin’ when we arrived, so we took a seat in the small arena to see some action.
It was really surprising – to us, anyway – how much money these guys were fetching. Hundreds. Literally. Per rabbit. I presume most of it was to support the local 4H, so that’s good. Very good.
The competition was fierce, my friends.
Later that night, it was time to get our race on!
We love some good, local racing, and on the agenda this particular day was some dirt-track drag racing. It wasn’t as exciting as some other dirt-track races we’ve seen in the past, but it was a real sight to see.
People from all ages were drag racing their ATVs; and after that, there were literally hours of other races.
We watched most of the Street Diesel races, which are street-legal pick-up trucks going for bragging rights. Quite a lot of huge beasts and way too much rolling coal for us, but still quite an experience!
Outside of that craziness, we got ourselves some nature by heading over to the nearby A.W. Marion State Park. This park features the decent-sized Hargus Lake (complete with boat rentals if you didn’t bring your own), hiking trails around the entire lake itself, and plenty of woods for some natural relaxation.
As previously noted, it was brutally hot during our visit, so we didn’t stay too long. We walked around part of the lake’s five-mile loop and watched the greenery go by, but Louis was looking awfully heated so we didn’t think it was a good idea to do the whole thing.
It was a nice respite from civilization, and good to see that quite a few people around here were taking advantage of the area as well.
The only other thing we really involved ourselves in, town-wise, was to have a walk around the Main Street area downtown. It’s not very big, and felt rather underused and a bit underdeveloped for being the county seat.
Alas, it does have some nice architecture and we could both see its potential to be better if it’d get some local investment here instead of in strip malls on the outskirts of town.
Where We Ate and Drank
We arrived way later than we wanted to on our first night, due to construction and traffic that made it take us over two hours just to get out of the Chicagoland area. (Yay.) So, we just ate at a regional chain across from our hotel as most other things were closed by the time we arrived so exhausted.
Basically, American takeout of the less-than-healthy variety.
The nice ladies at the hotel told us that the best burgers in Circleville could be found at Gibbys, right in the heart of downtown. It sounded like the perfect place to stuff ourselves with calories, so we headed over there and loaded up. The burgers were definitely on-point, but the cheesesteak we ordered was seriously under-flavored. Ah well! Everything else was good, and we can recommend this place for its local bar ambience, a nice selection of beers, and even a patio – something that’s sorely lacking at so many restaurants and bars these days.
Being that we spend most of our time in Spain, where good Mexican food is an extreme rarity, we decided to delve into some of that goodness while in town. Not far from our hotel, in an unassuming strip mall, was El Palomar. And it hit the spot just, so right. So much so that we forgot to take pictures.
The most important thing that is lacking in Circleville is good coffee. We did see one cafe-slash-bakery downtown, but it was always closed. The only other option was Tim Horton’s, and their coffee was definitely nothing to be proud of. It was rather awful itself, the only saving grace being their blended drinks. We found ourselves struggling for good coffee in Circleville, but we did have a Keurig in our hotel room, so that was better than nothing.
Hey, people of Circleville: Open a good coffee shop! Please and thank you. 🙂
Sadly, such is life some places. Hopefully, they get something decent in the future.
And that was that! We unexpectedly spent an extra day here, and that was just fine as we got to explore a tad more and see a very pretty state park. Most people were very nice as well, and we were able to relax before hitting the road for West Virginia. Thanks to all the people who were kind to us here, we really appreciate it!
Read more of our American road trip posts right here.
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Have you ever been to Circleville, Ohio? If so, what’d you think? If not, what say ye? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!