Canton First Friday: Arts, Food, Music & More
When we first moved to Canton 14 years ago, I recall driving around with my hubs on a warm mid-August night to explore the new terrain, only to find downtown Canton…..completely dead. Had we missed an evacuation order? Of course, we quickly discovered that, yes, everyone had ‘evacuated’……to eat and shop in the Belden Village/Strip area (aka retail heaven). I’ll admit it – during those first years in Canton, we didn’t venture downtown much at all.
What happened in Canton’s “urban core” since that summer night, however, borders on the miraculous. Drive (or bike – we have bike lanes now!) downtown and you’ll find live music venues, restaurants serving everything from Pan-Asian to Tapas (coming soon!), hipster dive bars, a top-notch deli (where I eat weekly), a martini bar (where I drink weekly…kidding), three coffee shops, all sorts of small businesses, and last but not least, an ever-growing arts community.
Speaking of the arts (and this is point of my post) I can’t talk about our city’s downtown revitalization without mentioning Canton First Friday, a monthly party on (you guessed it – the first Friday of each month) from 6-10 PM in the Canton Arts District, with a First Stop at Canton Museum of Art at 5:30 PM. It’s a hodge-podge of street party, art walk, music fest, food fest, and more. Each month there’s a unique and fun theme, from ‘Icy Resolutions’ (works of art carved in ice) in January to ‘Chalk the Walk’ (sidewalk chalk art using pastels) in July – all created by local artists.
The great thing about Canton First Friday is that it works for all ages and types of party goers. Want an outing with the fam? There’s plenty of crafts, live music, street performers, public art exhibits, and family-friendly restaurants to enjoy. (Our family go-to is Napoli’s on Market. PIZZAAAA!!!!) My kids loved getting to “chalk the walk” last year with their own creations (free chalk provided) and devour ice cream from Almost Heaven. Want a date night? We’ve done that one, too – strolling through some of our favorite galleries on 4th St., eating dinner at one of our downtown favorites like Basil, and enjoying drinks afterwards at George’s. Want a party night? Plenty of people come solely for the music and bar-hopping and stay well after FF officially ends at 10 PM. Buzzbin, Picciano’s, Imperial Room and Conestoga are good stops for that.
If you just want to come down for dinner and forgo the art scene, you’ll find all the restaurants buzzing and usually some FF specials. If you’re only interested in the arts, you’ll find busy streets filled with friends, couples, and families exploring various local galleries. And really, that’s the part of Canton First Friday I love most – businesses and streets full of people seeing what Canton has become and is still becoming.
A few fun FF bonuses:
- The Palace Theater offers a FREE family-friendly movie just about every month on FF
- Thirteenth Floor Gallery opens their Speakeasy every month on FF (good & strong artisan cocktails in a very cool space). Also, that pic of Lisa and I in the sidebar? That’s at the Oct. 2013 FF at the Speakeasy.
- Elemental Arts and Colette Wasdahl Fashion Studio (just outside the ‘official’ arts district on Walnut) open their doors for business (you don’t want to miss this furniture + fashion stop!)
- Wander the streets of the arts district and you might find freebies — like fire pits and all the ingredients for s’mores at the January FF.
Where is the Canton Arts District?
Officially speaking, it’s between Cleveland Ave. and Market Avenue, and 6th St. NE and Tuscarawas St.
Where can I park?
Free metered parking after 5, plus a couple of paid garages in the area, and free parking at the Stark County Library.
Is it EVERY First Friday?
Yep, year-round – rain, snow, sleet, or shine! And in Ohio, you’re sure to get all four, maybe in the same night.
Where can I get more info?
Visit CantonArtsDistrict.com for the complete 2014 schedge.
A few pics of the FF fun:
photo credits: cantonrep.com, bztat.com, cantonartsdistrict.com