Lonely Planet Writer

The birthplace of aviation marks the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing

There aren’t many places in America that have sent more astronauts into orbit than Ohio, and this summer, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, the state is throwing a serious party to celebrate. 

An astronaut walking on the moon
July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing. Image by fStop Images - Caspar Benson/Getty Images

The birthplace of Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, and 23 other outer-space explorers – not to mention the Wright brothers, and aviation itself – is going all out, with communities around the state offering special events, exhibits, and even lunar-themed food and drink to mark the occasion. 

Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta is really leaning in. The town’s annual First on the Moon festival features 10 days of programming that includes a hot-air balloon rally, a ‘60s-era dinner at the Armstrong family’s home church, and a parade honoring its most famous native son, plus food trucks, a beer garden, and 15 bands performing on two stages. Visitors can also take a shuttle over to the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, where they can check out the original Gemini 8 capsule, meet visiting NASA astronauts, and participate in interactive science experiments and rocket launches. 

Travel News - Armstrong Air and Space Museum
The Armstrong Air and Space Museum is in Neil Armstrong's hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio. Image by TourismOhio/Ohio.org

Ready to get going? There are a couple of itineraries to help the space-crazed and the astro-curious alike plan a pilgrimage. With nine stops covering some 540 miles of ground, the To the Moon and Back road trip hits the highlights: Cincinnati’s Museum Center, which will display the Apollo 11 command module at the end of September; Columbus’s Ohio History Center, where Dr Kathryn Sullivan, an Ohio native and the first American woman to walk in space, will appear to talk all things NASA on July 20; John Glenn’s childhood home (now a museum) in New Concord, just east of the capital; the Great Lakes Science Center, where visitors can get a feel for anti-gravity with the Living in Space exhibit; and Geauga Observatory Park, up north on Lake Erie. Set on a 418-hectare (1033-acre) preserve, the park is prime stargazing territory, thanks to its International Dark Sky certification and research-grade telescope. 

For those who’d rather eat their way around the state, there’s a plethora of moon-oriented options on offer. In Wapakoneta alone, the Moon Menu food trail boasts 29 items over 12 stops (think: pun-tastic dishes like cinnaMOON pancakes and “Houston — We have a Pot Roast”), but businesses in all four corners are getting in on the action as well. In Columbus, local fave Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams combines blue violet and vanilla marshmallow flavors for its Supermoon concoction, while further north in Utica, Velvet Ice Cream’s Blue Moon scoop will be available all summer at Ye Olde Mill. 

Travel News - CinnaMoon pancakes
Sample the CinnaMoon pancakes. Image by Lucky Steer

The state’s craft breweries are getting into the spirit of things too. In Dayton, Warped Wing Brewing’s Space Food IPA is a nod to the city’s own Maurice Krug, the engineer who invented astronauts' first form of sustenance back in the ‘50s. Over in Cincinnati, Fibonacci Brewing Company’s Lower Gravity is a sour ale made with star fruit and local blueberries. Space Chimp, a guava and passion fruit-inflected witbier, is available year-round at Cleveland’s Terrestrial Brewing Company, and in the capital city, hop heads can try Land-Grant Brewing Company’s Space-Grant Series, a range of space-inspired black IPAs like the Tranquility Base.

For more on statewide events, happenings, and all things lunar landing, visit To the Moon and Back.