In and Around Oberlin

Oberlin College is an integral part of Oberlin, Ohio, a community of about 8,600 residents located 35 miles southwest of Cleveland. It was named one of Ohio’s Best Hometowns by Ohio Magazine because of its historical architecture, quaint shopping and galleries, and entertainment. 

portrait of Slow Train Cafe window
Slow Train Café is one of several locally owned coffeehouses, where students often take a study break and visitors drop in for a cup of joe.
Photo credit: Matthew Lester

Oberlin has a number of items that set it off: historical markers; the 13-acre Tappan Square that joins the college to the town; the highly acclaimed Allen Memorial Art Museum; novelist Toni Morrison’s Bench By the Road historical marker; the Weltzheimer/Johnson House, the Usonian home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; and the Apollo Theatre, one of few remaining single-screen movie theaters around. 

Students come here from all over—from the biggest cities in the world to farming villages in sparsely populated states. Oberlin’s congenial atmosphere encourages them to learn from each other. With its incredibly active arts scene, excellent restaurants, and close-knit community, Oberlin combines the culture of a big city with the safety and peace of mind that is characteristic of many small towns.

Main Street businesses have virtually everything a student could possibly need. This quintessential college town is home to coffeehouses, thrift shops, bookstores, galleries, health food markets, a public library, a movie theater, and a yoga studio—all within walking distance. Local restaurants offer cuisines ranging from pizza and tater tots to Asian-fusion, Chinese, Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, family style, and vegan.

Live, Learn, Lead is the city of Oberlin’s motto as it strives to be a progressive and inclusive community. Main Street Chamber promotes the preservation, protection, history, culture, architecture, and diverse use of Oberlin’s downtown area, as well as the economic, civic, commercial, cultural, industrial, and educational interests of the community in general.

Explore Oberlin

The Apollo Theatre is a 1913 Art Deco-style building featuring bright neon lights on its marquee. Since its beginning, the college-owned theater remains one of the few single-screen movie houses in the United States.

The Apollo shows current films (a good balance to the college’s film series), and at an affordable $6 ($4 for students and seniors). It is notable as one of the earliest theaters to screen “talkies” and for its use as one of Northeast Ohio’s film forums.

See What’s Showing

Oberlin Public Library on the city’s Main Street is a single-story building offering a range of resources, educational programs, and services that benefit the community and the college.

Visit Oberlin Public Library

The Firelands Association for the Visual Arts (FAVA) is an independent, nonprofit art organization dedicated to enhancing public appreciation of and participation in the visual arts through exhibitions and related educational and community activities. FAVA presents exhibitions of high quality artwork in a variety of styles and media.

Students often participate in such annual arts events as Chalk Walk and From Yarn to Garment, an exhibit of artwork made by Oberlin students in a weaving workshop.

Discover FAVA

Oberlin became a site of the Bench by the Road project, an initiative by novelist Toni Morrison to pay tribute to the memory of enslaved people who sought refuge in select cities along what was called the Underground Railroad. Oberlin is part of that historic and secretive path to freedom.

The engraved bench and accompanying marker are in a landscaped area on the corner of North Main and Lorain Streets.

Toni Morrison Society
The project is supported through the Toni Morrison Society , a member of a national author society dedicated to honoring the work of great American writers. In August 2012, the society moved its home office to Oberlin College, eight miles from Morrison’s hometown of Lorain. The group operates from the Terrell Main Library in Mudd Center and organizes programs for the campus community.

Learn about the project

A community with a rich history—a penchant for progressive causes like abolishing slavery, the temperance movement, women’s suffrage, and the education of blacks and women—needs a place to document and bring to life its efforts.

The Oberlin Heritage Center is such a place. It’s mission is simple: preserve and share Oberlin’s unique heritage and to make our community a better place to live, learn, work,  and visit.

Discover Oberlin Heritage Center

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1947 and completed in 1949, the Weltzheimer/Johnson House is the first Usonian house in Ohio, and one of only a handful open to the public across the nation.

Once owned by the Weltzheimer family, it was given to the college by a former art history professor to serve as a guesthouse for the art department and the Allen Memorial Art Museum. The house is available for tours. Admission is $5.

Discover the Usonian House

Oberlin students have the best of both worlds: the safety and familiarity of small-town life, along with access to a top-notch city less than an hour away. Cultural events, museums, and great food are just a few of the reasons to visit nearby Cleveland.

Among the city’s many attractions is the Cleveland Orchestra, recently dubbed the finest orchestra in the country by Time magazine. Cleveland's theater district, known as Playhouse Square, has a combined capacity of 7,500 seats, and is the largest theater complex between New York and Chicago.

The city’s many museums include the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Cleveland Museum of Art, one of the most eminent art institutions in the country, and one of the few that has free admission. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Great Lakes Science Center, and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo—which now includes a year-round rainforest exhibit—are among other educational sites.

Cleveland is also a major-league sports city. Teams include baseball’s Guardians, perennial division and league champions; the NFL’s Browns; and the NBA’s Cavaliers.