Best Ballet Showcase

Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival

Despite rumors to the contrary, ballet in these parts means more than just an obligatory round of Nutcracker run-throughs come Christmastime. Every year, the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival adds a dash of (free!) culture to the family fun curriculum. Staged at Akron parks from Fairlawn to Firestone, the festival welcomes world-class troupes like Cleveland's Verb Ballets, San Francisco's Company C, and Mansfield's Neos Dance Theatre. Named for Ohio Ballet's founding artistic director, the series draws a crowd from infants to retirees and everyone in between. Before each program, kids get a chance to step onstage and learn some basics, before settling back into the crowd for the evening's featured act — anything from traditional classical styles one week to abstract modern dance the next.