Get Your Kicks On Ohio Route 66

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Story & Photos by Matt Bayman

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Ohio Route 66 is known as the Miami & Erie Canal Scenic Byway, but it has much more to offer travelers than just canal history and sightseeing.


   The 118-mile rural highway starts in Piqua and travels north to Fayette. It ends less than 3 miles south of the Michigan state line and passes through some of the most charming small towns in Ohio, plus a portion of the Land of Crossed Tipped Churches. In fact, several towns along the route have what are arguably the most spectacular churches with this designation, including St. Michael Church in Fort Loramie and St. Augustine Catholic Church in Minster. Both churches tower above their communities and can be seen from miles away. However, it is the close-up details that really shine.
 

   For much of its southern portion, Route 66 follows the former Miami and Erie Canal, passing through historic and eclectic canal towns, such as Piqua, Fort Loramie, St. Marys and Delphos, as well as by secluded canal locks, historic sites and bridges. This includes Bloody Bridge in St. Marys, where a canal-era murder supposedly took place, and Deep Cut Historical Park in Spencerville, where one of the greatest construction efforts of the canal took place, including hand-digging a 52-foot-deep canal bed.

 
   North of Delphos, the landscape changes from canals to rivers. During this portion of the trip, Route 66 is never far from the Auglaize, St. Marys or Maumee River. (Interestingly, rivers north of Delphos flow in to Lake Erie, while those south of Delphos flow to the Ohio River. This is because this part of Ohio is located on the St. Lawrence Continental Divide).


   Along with plenty to see and do in Defiance, highlights of the northern portion of Route 66 include Sauder Village in Archbold, where visitors can find living history, camping and shopping, and Harrison Lake State Park, an isolated park with plenty of relaxing recreation, and one of several state parks found along Route 66.
 

   Although not as abundant as other back roads in Ohio, Route 66 does feature a number of antique shops and variety stores, most notably, Field of Memories in Archbold and Fort Defiance Antiques, not to mention four antique stores in downtown Piqua. There are also a number of boutiques and specialty stores to be found in almost every town along the route, and there is certainly no shortage of unique places to eat, from fine dining at 17 West in New Bremen, to the 50’s inspired Mom’s Diner in Archbold, and everything else in between. There are also plenty of bake shops that offer ice cream, donuts, fresh-baked pies and pastries.


   This road trip follows Route 66 from start to finish and can be done in one day, or over several days. There are plenty of hotels, lodges and campgrounds to choose from, including a fun resort at Sauder Village, and there are a number of great festivals that take place in the towns along the route. Timing up this road trip with a festival or two can enhance the experience. 
Please drive safely and enjoy!

Highlights of this Trip Include:

  • Johnston Farm & Indian Agency

  • Sauder Village

  • The Bicycle Museum of America

  • Green Thumb Café

  • Lockington Locks

  • Bloody Bridge

  • Field of Memories Antiques

  • Deep Cut Historical Park

  • St. Michael Church

  • Memorial Park & Covered Bridge

  • 17 West restaurant (pictured at right)

  • Delphos Canal Museum

  • Keyhole Pizza  

  • Mayflower Hong Kong Restaurant

  • Independence Dam State Park

  • Andrew L. Tuttle Memorial Museum

  • Harrison Lake State Park

  • Delphos Museum of Postal History

  • Brucken’s Neighborhood Pub

  • Lake Loramie State Park

  • Wooden Shoe Inn

  • St. Augustine Catholic Church 

  • Lock One Park (pictured at right)

  • Grand Lake St. Marys State Park

  • World Barn Mural

  • Immaculate Conception Church

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Piqua & Lockington
Ohio Route 66 starts on the north side of Piqua and, technically speaking, is one of the oldest pathways in Ohio, having once connected Native American villages in modern-day Piqua with those in Fort Loramie, and later on, trading posts located in those villages.

   The path also helped in the construction of the Miami and Erie Canal and, today a section of the Buckeye Trail follows Route 66 and the old canal towpath. This means there are plenty of great hiking and cycling opportunities to enjoy.

 

   The Johnston Farm & Indian Agency in Piqua is a great place to get acquainted with local Native American and canal history. This will come in handy during the rest of your trip when these two themes come up again.
On the weekends, Johnston Farm offers canal boat rides, and throughout the summer and fall there are a number of special events, including Family Days, History Alive and Evening on the Canal.

 

   Before continuing north of Route 66, take a short 3-mile detour to nearby Lockington Locks. This canal site is special because it contains seven cascading locks. Even if you’re not interested in canals, the site is impressive. Visitors can park and explore the locks on foot, all while enjoying the peace and quiet of Lockington. It is free to visit.

 

   On the way to the locks, Lockington Dam is visible. It was constructed in 1919 in response to the Flood of 1913 and holds back Loramie Creek.

Directions to Lockington Locks from Route 66: Take Hardin Road past Johnston Farm until it turns into Fessler-Buxton Road, continue east. This will lead in to Lockington. The locks will be on your right. To get back to Route 66, return the way you came in, and then turn right (west) on Miami-Shelby Road. This will pass by WoodsWalk Farm Bed & Breakfast (and apple orchard in season) before reaching Route 66.

Points of Interest
 

  • Johnston Farm & Indian Agency, 9845 N Hardin Rd

  • Col. John Johnston & Fort Pickawillany historical markers and Civil War monument on Hardin Road

  • General Harrison canal boat ride at Johnston Farm

  • Lockington Locks & Lockington Dam

  • Shopping and dining in downtown Piqua

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Houston – Newport – Fort Loramie
   After passing through another quiet village, Houston, drivers will cross State Route 47 and enter Newport. Each July, thousands of country music fans pass through Newport on their way to the Country Concert in the Hills, located just up the road on Route 66. When they do, they also pass by the equally famous Keyhole Pizza.
Through the years, many performers at the concert and guests from far and wide, have found their way to “the Keyhole” to enjoy their signature-style pizza.

 

   Also in Newport is the stunning Saints Peter & Paul Church, which, although not part of the Land of Cross Tipped Churches, is one of the most majestic buildings on this trip.
 

   Continuing north brings drivers to Fort Loramie, a community filled with great history and warm charm. A highlight is the Canal and Museum District, which features a number of historical markers and canal relics, a log cabin and the Wilderness Trail Museum, plus the Dairy King & Motel and Brucken’s Neighborhood Pub, which is known for its broasted chicken dinners.
 

   On the south end of town, watch for a huge sculpture of Big Foot at the Fort Loramie Trading Post. On the north end of town, stop by the Small Town Boutique and make sure to visit St. Michael Church, which is one of the most stunning of the Land of Cross Tipped Churches structures.
 

   Finally, before continuing north, visit Lake Loramie State Park, which sits on the edge of town on Ohio Route 362. The park offers rentals of canoes, kayaks and paddle boats, as well as disc golf, swimming on a 600-foot sandy beach, several miles of hiking trails, fishing, and peaceful picnic and cook-out areas. Route 362 continues north for a few miles before reconnecting with Route 66 in Minster.

Points of Interest
 

  • Houston Congregational Christian Church
    4883 Russia Houston Rd., Houston

  • Keyhole Pizza
    6621 Rt. 66, Fort Loramie

  • Sts. Peter & Paul Church (pictured at right)
    6788 Rt. 66, Fort Loramie

  • Country Concert in the Hills
    7103 Rt. 66, Fort Loramie

  • White Oak Campground & Jamboree
    2988 Loy Rd., Fort Loramie

  • Al’s Place Pizza
    91 S. Main St., Fort Loramie

  • Fort Loramie Canal and Museum District

  • Dairy King & Motel
    33 N. Main St., Fort Loramie

  • Wilderness Trail Museum
    37 N. Main St. Fort Loramie

  • Brucken’s Neighborhood Pub
    10 Elm St., Fort Loramie

  • Small Town Boutique
    15 Elm St., Fort Loramie

  • St. Michael Church
    33 Elm St., Fort Loramie

  • Lake Loramie State Park
    4401 Fort Loramie-Swanders Rd.

  • Morrie’s Landing restaurant
    11003 Rt. 362, Fort Loramie

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Minster & New Bremen
   Just a blink north of Fort Loramie are two of the most interesting towns on this trip, Minster and New Bremen.
Both of these communities are very Rockwellesque, with storybook downtowns, pristine parks and friendly people. They also have great attractions and restaurants.

 

   New Bremen is home to The Bicycle Museum of America, which is an exceptional  museum that’s free to visit, as well as 17 West, an elegant restaurant that offers indoor and outdoor dining and historic charm.
 

   Another highlight of New Bremen is Lock One Park. This public space sits next to a watered section of the Miami and Erie Canal and features sculptures and other outdoor art, plus a preserved canal lock and historical markers.
New Bremen hosts several wonderful festivals each year, including Bremenfest and the New Bremen Pumpkin Show.

 

   Minster is best known for its annual Oktoberfest on the first weekend of October. It’s also known for The Wooden Shoe Inn, a restaurant with popular fried chicken and a monthly all-you-can-eat German buffet. Other dining options include the Dutch Mill Café and Bud’s Pizza, while shopping highlights include JBoutique, JJ Kids & Co. and Emmy’s Bridal.
 

   Something that can’t be missed in Minster, literally and figuratively, is the St. Augustine Catholic Church, which is another member of the Land of Cross Tipped Churches. It has two steeples and German-influenced architecture. 

Points of Interest
 

  • Wooden Shoe Inn (pictured at right)
    6 N. Main St., Minster

  • Bud’s Pizza
    6 S. Main St., Minster

  • Dutch Mill Café
    153 W. 4th St., Minster

  • St. Augustine Catholic Church
    48 N. Hanover St., Minster

  • Lock One Park in New Bremen

  • The Bicycle Museum of America
    7 W. Monroe St., New Bremen

  • 17 West restaurant
    17 W. Monroe St., New Bremen

  • Fireman Statue at the New Bremen Library

  • New Bremen Coffee Co. & Books 
    115 W. Monroe St.

  • Bolly’s Restaurant
    202 N. Main St., New Bremen

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St. Marys
   Plan to spend some time in historic downtown St. Marys, especially along Spring Street, which also happens to be Route 66, and at Memorial Park, which contains a clock tower, a covered bridge and a veterans memorial, not to mention a replica canal boat that can be toured free of charge.


   The downtown is home to several antique shops, boutiques and unique eateries, as well as Heritage Park, where beautiful murals depict the history of St. Marys.
 

   Visitors can park anywhere along Spring Street and be close to each of these attractions, shops and eateries, as well as the colorful architecture and historic bridges.
 

   Shopping highlights include Island Dress Shop, Anita’s Morning Glory Boutique, Christabella’s Ltd. (vintage, primitives, antiques and gifts), Effie’s Boutique and TnT Treasures. Dining options include Generations Café and Guarnieri Pizzeria, not to mention a number of coffee shops.  
 

   Although Route 66 does not run next to Grand Lake St. Marys State Park, it is not far from the downtown. At the park, and nearby Celina, there are additional dining, shopping and tourist attractions.
 

   On the way out of town, stop and stretch your legs at the Dr. Elizabeth Yahl Kuffner Nature Preserve, which features 1.4 miles of hiking trails, a vernal pool and lots of spring and summer wildflowers.

Points of Interest

  • Memorial Park
    228 E. South St., St. Marys

  • Heritage Park
    202 E. Spring St., St. Marys

  • Kuck’s Kiwanis Cove Park
    127 W. Madison St., St. Marys

  • Island Dress Shoppe
    132 W. Spring St., St. Marys

  • Grand Lake St. Marys State Park
    St. Marys Township  

  • Guarnieri Pizzeria
    220 E. Spring St., St. Marys

  • TnT Treasures
    325 E. Spring St., St. Marys

  • Anita’s Morning Glory Boutique
    110 W. Spring St., St. Marys

  • Effie’s Boutique
    212 E. Spring St., St. Marys

  • Elizabeth Kuffner Nature Preserve
    14840 Co. Rd. 66A, St. Marys

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Bloody Bridge – Deep Cut - Spencerville
   After passing through St. Marys, Route 66 enters a beautiful and peaceful stretch of countryside. The old Miami and Erie Canal and St. Marys River are never far from the road, and there are a number of unique attractions to explore, including Bloody Bridge and Deep Cut Historical Park.


   For the full story on Bloody Bridge click HERE. But in short, it’s the site of an alleged lovers quarrel and murder that took place during the canal days, and it became a local legend. The bridge is now part of a park that contains a trailhead, parking area for hiking and biking and an historical marker that discusses the legend.


   Just north of Bloody Bridge is Deep Cut Historical Park, which, as mentioned before, is the location where the greatest excavation of the Miami and Erie Canal took place and also a registered National Historical Landmark. The park provides access to a bike path that follows the old canal towpath into nearby Spencerville, which contains a large veterans memorial that’s worth a visit.


   After Spencerville, watch for an interesting and colorful barn painting of the world. 

Points of Interest
 

  • Bloody Bridge
    Rt. 66 at Rt. 182, St. Marys

  • Deep Cut Historical Park & Towpath Trail
    3659 Ohio Rt. 66, Spencerville

  • Spencerville Area Veterans Memorial Park
    Downtown Spencerville   

  • World Barn Mural on Route 66

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Delphos - Ottoville - Oakwood
   There are several noteworthy attractions in Delphos, including the Delphos Canal Museum, the Delphos Museum of Postal History and the amazingly nostalgic Mayflower Hong Kong Restaurant, also known as Pete’s Mayflower. The architecture of this restaurant is very unique, with covered stairways and tunnels protruding from the sides of the building. In fact, the canal-era architecture found throughout the historic district is a highlight of this trip.


   Shopping in downtown Delphos is diverse, with highlights being  Interfaith Thrift Shop, Toxik Rumurz, Victorian Rose Boutique and Mary’s Pet Store.  
 

   Along with Pete’s Mayflower, other dining opportunities include Jim’s Restaurant (try the famous tenderloin), The Grind Café & Coffee House, Pat’s Donuts & Kreme and Topp Chalet.
 

   Another highlight in Delphos is the magnificent St. John the Evangelical Catholic Church, which is hard to miss.  
More dining options, and another beautiful cross-tipped church, can be found in Ottoville. For a small town, Ottoville has several notable restaurants, including Black Angus on Main, Millie’s Café and Turtle’s Tavern.
The Immaculate Conception Church, with its tall, dual steeples, and the Quarry Wilderness Area, round out a visit to Ottoville.

 

   After Ottoville, Route 66 makes a 30-mile trek through Ohio’s farmland, before reaching Defiance. While there are not many attractions during this stretch, the scenery remains good, with many historic farms and barns to see.

Points of Interest

 

  • Delphos Canal Museum
    241 N. Main St., Delphos

  • St. John’s Catholic Church
    331 E. 2nd St., Delphos

  • Delphos Museum of Postal History
    339 N. Main St., Delphos

  • Pete’s Mayflower restaurant
    100 W. 3rd St., Delphos

  • Jim’s Restaurant
    727 E. 5th St., Delphos

  • Pat’s Donuts & Kreme
    662 Elida Ave., Delphos

  • The Grind Café & Coffee House
    226 N. Main St., Delphos

  • Immaculate Conception Church
    189 Church St., Ottoville

  • Millie’s Café
    141 W. Canal St., Ottoville

  • Black Angus On Main
    605 E. Main St., Ottoville

  • Ottoville Quarry Wilderness Area
    Ottoville

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Defiance & Archbold
   After a peaceful drive through the countryside, Defiance will be the largest city passed through on this trip.
Defiance sits at the fork of the Maumee and Auglaize rivers, and several parks in the community are located on the banks of the rivers, including Old Fort Defiance Park and Independence Dam State Park, which is located east of town on Route 424.


   While in Defiance, make time for the Andrew L. Tuttle Memorial Museum, which houses a collection of Native American items, and for plenty of shopping and dining.
 

   Highlights include: Fort Defiance Antiques, Packrat’s Pawn Shop, Wooden Indian Pawn Shop, Meek’s Pastry Shop, Eric’s Ice Cream Factory, Kissner’s Restaurant, and the Defiance Pancake House, among others.  
 

   Not far north of Defiance in Archbold is Sauder Village, known as “Ohio’s largest living-history destination.” It’s a family vacation destination that offers camping, weekend stays at the Sauder Heritage Inn and pool and a host of events and activities in the summer and fall. At the village, guests can visit with costumed guides and learn how families in these parts lived 100 years ago. There are also a number of antique shops and hotels in the area, including the huge Field of Memories antique mall, not to mention several worthwhile dining opportunities in Archbold, including the 50s-style Mom’s Diner, Downtown Restaurant and Home Restaurant, just to name a few.

Points of Interest
 

  • Defiance Pancake House
    2023 Jefferson Ave., Defiance

  • Riverside Park in downtown Defiance

  • Old Fort Defiance Park
    320 Fort St., Defiance

  • Andrew L. Tuttle Memorial Museum
    514 W. 3rd St., Defiance

  • Kissner’s restaurant
    524 Clinton St., Defiance

  • Independence Dam State Park
    27722 Co. Rd. 424, Defiance

  • Wooden Indian Pawn Shop
    5727 N. Ohio Rt. 66, Defiance

  • Mom’s Diner
    213 N. Defiance St., Archbold

  • The Home Restaurant
    218 N. Defiance, St., Archbold

  • Downtown Restaurant
    301 N. Defiance St., Archbold

  • St. Peters Catholic Church in Archbold
    614 N. Defiance St., Archbold

  • Sauder Village
    22611 OH-2, Archbold

  • Barn Restaurant
    22611 OH-2, Archbold

  • Field of Memories antiques
    5115 Ohio Rt. 66, Archbold  

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Harrison Lake State Park & Fayette
   Between Defiance and Fayette is Harrison Lake State Park.

   The park offers camping and cabin rentals, boating and fishing on a 142-acre lake, 3.5 miles of hiking trails and a variety of special events that take place throughout the year. It is not one of the most well-known state parks in Ohio, but it is worth checking out. A highlight is the lake spillway, which creates a cascading waterfall and an interesting optical illusion when seen from certain angles. The park is also popular for dog owners as it has its own designated area for dogs to swim.
 

   Harrison Lake State Park is located just west of Ohio Route 66. Watch for the brown signs between Archbold and Fayette.
 

   Fayette is the end of the road for Ohio Route 66, and a fitting one.
 

   The vibrant little town has some wonderful architecture and historic buildings, including the unique United Methodist Church, and the same small town charm that’s so easy to find along Route 66.
Before heading home, drive by Hal’s Garage to see vintage signs and vehicles, and, if you’re in town for the night, the Fayette Opera House is a local gathering place for entertainment and music.

Points of Interest
 

  • Harrison Lake State Park
    26246 Harrison Lake Road, Fayette

  • Fayette Opera House
    105 E. Main St., Fayette

  • Fayette United Methodist Church
    305 E. Main St., Fayette

  • Hal’s Garage
    200 E. Main St., Fayette

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Getting Home
   Depending on your mood, there are two other ways to return home. Fayette is located on U.S. 20, which connects with I-75 in Toledo to the east and, a little more peaceful in my opinion, U.S. 127 to the west, which itself passes through a number of colorful Ohio towns, including Bryan, Van Wert and Celina.

Below are some of the things you can see when taking 127 home...

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