A Comprehensive Oberlin Bucket List

This Week spread from the print edition on October 8, 2021.

At first glance, Oberlin College may feel small, but once you dive in, there are multitudes of unexplored corners that many people don’t even realize exist. From the depths of the Conservatory, to the Arboretum, to the second floor of Apollo Theatre, to the far reaches of the athletic fields, Oberlin spans a sizable distance and offers plenty for curious minds to explore. Students, both new and returning, have been itching to embrace all the activities and dimensions of Oberlin campus that were previously inaccessible due to COVID-19. Half the student body can finally experience a somewhat normal campus for the first time. If you’re at a loss for what to do now that you’re on campus, you are not alone, and this list is a great place to start! Below is a compilation of some highlights, many of which are endearing, quirky, and quintessentially Oberlin. 


Visit the Allen Memorial Art Museum and Participate in Art Rental

Admission to the AMAM is free to all. This fall, the AMAM Art Rental will occur on Oct. 16 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For the uninitiated, the Art Rental program takes place each semester and is an opportunity for Oberlin students, faculty, staff, and community members to rent a piece of art from the museum for $5. Art Rental has been a defining feature of Oberlin’s culture, and in the decades the program has been held, no pieces have ever been damaged or lost.

Keep in mind that in years past, the night before the Art Rental, dedicated students have camped outside the AMAM and waited in line for the morning, so be sure to snag a spot in the queue. Former highly sought-after Art Rental pieces include works by Marc Chagall, Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol.

Location: Allen Memorial Art Museum (87 North Main Street)


Eat in a Co-op 

Try a meal made with love from a co-op kitchen! Swing by during mealtime (lunch or dinner) to discover how co-op food tastes compared to Campus Dining Services. If you are not a part of the co-op, you may eat up to three meals there before you are required to work a crew shift. 

The Oberlin Student Cooperative Association (OSCA) is a student-run organization that offers an alternative dining experience to the meal plan. Co-ops are groups of 30–150 students who plan out meals, organize work schedules, and divide cooking and cleaning responsibilities. Approximately 15 percent (400 students) of the student body is a part of OSCA. Many students find it to be a more affordable and nutritionally balanced option. Harkness House, Keep Cottage, Tank Hall, and Third World Co-op all provide dining and housing, while Pyle Inn only provides dining. 

Location: various buildings on campus


Get Some Cat Therapy: Meet the Kittens in Ginko Gallery & Studio!

Venture downtown for some kitten therapy after a stressful day. From the outside, Ginko Gallery looks like an ordinary art supply store, but as many in the Oberlin community know, the back room of Ginko’s is home to abandoned and stray kittens. Ginko’s store owner, Liz Burgess cares for and fosters the kittens until they can be adopted, through a local animal rescue, Community Action to Save Strays. On any given day, you can find students huddled in the back room cradling kittens. Ginko Gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Location: Ginko Gallery & Studio, 19 South Main Street


Go to Afrikan Heritage House’s Lord-Saunders Dining Hall for a Sunday meal of fried chicken

Sunday nights at Lord-Saunders Dining Hall on South Campus have always been popular. Sunday fried chicken nights started in 2016 after students from ABUSUA, Oberlin’s Black Student Union, gathered outside of Afrikan Heritage House to protest the food Campus Dining Services serves in Lord-Saunders. Students urged CDS to prepare more traditional African-American meals.

Now, on Sundays, Lord-Saunders Dining Hall serves various intentionally-prepared Southern comfort food including collard greens, corn on the cob, fried chicken, garlic bread sticks, meatloaf, and rice. Sunday night dinner at Lord-Saunders is served from 5–7:30 p.m.

Location: Afrikan Heritage House (126 Forest Street) on South Campus, by the Conservatory


See a planet through a telescope at the Observatory and Taylor Planetarium

Take a peek through one of six telescopes atop the Observatory viewing deck, and listen as Astronomy professors and majors lead guided tours of the night sky. In the case of inclement weather, the Observatory closes and the Planetarium opens. Weather permitting, both are open on the first and third Fridays of each month. Through the rest of 2021, open hours are Oct. 15, 7:30–9:30 p.m.; Nov. 5, 7–9 p.m.; Nov. 19, 7–9 p.m.; and Dec. 3, 7–9 p.m. Visit Oberlin.edu/events to see all future viewings. 

Location: Peters Hall (50 North Professor Street), across from Mudd Library (Tip: enter from the southwest entrance facing Warner Center, and walk to the top of the staircase.)


Visit the free store in the basement of Asia House

The Oberlin Free Store is a magical place to find miscellaneous treasures. Students can donate items in good condition and pick up items for free. Browsing through the Free Store, you can find almost anything: clothes, shoes, furniture, decorations, and kitchen supplies, among an array of other items. Fall 2021 hours are Monday through Thursday, 7–9 p.m. and Saturday, 1–3 p.m.

Location: Asia House, Room 024 (50 West Lorain Street)



Take a public tour of Weltzheimer/Johnson House

Designed by renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, W-J House embodies Wright’s creative style of incorporating beauty and environmental consciousness into his architectural works.

W-J House reopened Sept. 5, 2021. Open houses are held on the first Sunday of each month from April to November, from 12–5 p.m, with presentations on the history of the house occurring every hour. Admission is $10 for adults and free for Oberlin College students and individuals under 18. Be sure to register in advance!

Location: Weltzheimer/Johnson House (534 Morgan Street)


Watch a movie at Apollo Theatre

Now that the Apollo has reopened, there are screenings happening daily, typically with two showtimes per movie each day. Tickets are $4 with the exception of shows after 6 p.m., which cost $6 for adults. A notable landmark in Oberlin since 1913, Apollo Theatre is the go-to, walking-distance theater in downtown Oberlin.

Location: The Apollo Theater (19 East College Street)





Lie on the Finney Chapel stage during an Organ Pump 

Before COVID-19, students would look forward to the first Organ Pump of the year at midnight on Halloween. Organ majors from the Conservatory would get up on the stage in Finney Chapel to perform on the four-story organ. Students eagerly await the part of the program where audience members are invited to lie on the stage to feel the vibrations of the organ. The organ housed in Finney Chapel is one of Oberlin’s 32 organs, one of the largest collections in the world. Once COVID-19 restrictions on campus start to ease, be sure to check out an organ performance.

Location: Finney Chapel (90 North Professor Street)


Work a shift at the Bike Co-op or go to get your bike fixed

The Bike Co-op is a student-run bike shop that offers low-cost or free bike service repairs to students. You can also volunteer for shifts, learn how to fix bikes, and even build your own!

In past years, the Bike Co-op was open for several hours on weeknights and weekend afternoons, with Tuesday Women and Trans Nights and Thursday as POC nights. The co-op has struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic, but they are opening soon. Hours: TBD

Location: On the opposite end of parking lot of Stevenson Dining Hall, in the basement of Keep Cottage 


Curl up in a “womb chair” in Mudd Library

Take a womb chair for a spin (literally). Eero Aarnio Ball Chairs—or “womb chairs,” as affectionately named by Oberlin students—are large, spherical chairs that envelop the sitter. They are a popular study (and nap) spot on campus. 

Location: There are four womb chairs on the second floor of Mudd Center, and others are scattered throughout other floors in the building.



Spot an albino squirrel in Tappan Square

Take a stroll through Oberlin’s beautiful Tappan Square. Admire the leaves changing color in the fall and the snow in the winter. Try to find one of the cute, elusive albino squirrels. The albino squirrel became Oberlin College’s official mascot in 2019.

Location: Tappan Square (67 North Main Street)


Eat tater tots at The Feve

Try the iconic and crispy Feve tots. A staple restaurant in downtown Oberlin, The Feve serves a variety of dishes and boasts an Oberlin staple: their Long Island ice teas. Students love to go there to take an occasional break from campus dining. A classic must-have meal for first-timers is a burger and their famous tater tots. 

Location: The Feve (30 South Main Street) 





If you’re up for a challenge, try to do all of these in your first semester. Or, slowly check them off as you continue on your Oberlin journey. This list can get you started by venturing out and appreciating the beauty and personality of Oberlin.