A few weeks ago, my family and I took a road trip through Ohio, an area we haven’t had the chance to explore fully. Our goal? To uncover the many hidden (and not so hidden gems) just outside Ohio’s larger cities. Our family of five had a blast road tripping through Ohio finding all the family-friendly things to do and places to eat.
Butler County, Ohio
We made our way through Ohio with our first stop in Butler County. Located close to Cincinnati, we found tons of family fun including the sweet Butler County Donut Trail, viewing art on a golf cart, train fun and more.
What to do:
- Come face-to-face with over 60 larger than life sculptures at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum. At more than 300 acres with rolling hills, the best way to see the park is by renting an Art Cart (aka a golf cart). Trust me, your legs will thank you. Make time to visit the amazing pieces dating back to 1550 B.C. at the Ancient Sculpture Museum within the park.
- Love trains? A stop at EnterTRAINment Junction is a must stop for train lovers. At over 25,000 square feet with more than 2 miles of track, this is the world’s largest indoor model train display. You’ll also find the American Railroad Museum on-site as well as a train-inspired play area. In the warmer months, you can even chug around on an outdoor train. Make time to explore the other half of EnterTRAINment, the A-Maze-N Funhouse. Step into different rooms such as a mirror maze, clown room with a room tilted at a 25 percent angle, a curtain maze and more.
- Peruse the coolest grocery store ever at the kid-approved Jungle Jim’s International Market. Part grocery store, part funhouse, the 200,000 sq. ft. grocery store has plenty of things to marvel at including a Cereal Band, Campbell’s Soup Can on a swing, the “big cheese,” all the Pez you could want, and SO much more. Their beer and wine section is huge. Heck, they even have a kombucha bar with different flavors on tap.
- Put on your walking shoes and take a stroll through the revitalized downtown Hamilton. Find the perfect decorative piece for your home at Fleurish Home. On the other side of the river, stop by Sara’s House, which specializes in unique finds including repurposed furniture or Made to Love, a store that sells Haitian-made items that in turn support Haitian children’s education.
- Got a sweet tooth? A stop at Henry’s Candy Co. is a must! You’ll find gummy bears in all the colors of the rainbow, chocolates, and nostalgic candy.
- As you explore, you’ll find street murals including one dedicated to the town’s namesake, Alexander Hamilton.
- For a unique activity that also doubles as an awesome souvenir, head to Petals and Wicks to make your own candle with the perfect scent combo that is uniquely you. After a couple of hours (the times it takes to set), you’re left with a one-of-a-kind scent and souvenir. It was definitely love at first pour.
- Arcade games are just the tip of the iceberg at The Web Extreme Entertainment. Challenge each other to a round of cosmic golf at Jurassic Par. Older kids can channel their inner speed demon at the go-karts. Other fun things to do include mini bowling, laser tag, a VR experience, a climbing wall, and an escape room.
Where to eat:
- The ever-popular Butler County Donut Trail features 12 mom and pop shops located throughout the county. Whether you prefer a simple regular glazed donut or a magically delicious Lucky Charms donut, you’ll find a donut (or a dozen) that will satisfy your taste buds.
- Jolly’s Drive-In has been a Hamilton staple for over 80 years. You’ll find all the classics like burgers, hot dogs, and, of course, root beer all for under $5.
- For delicious Lebanese-American cuisine, Aladdin’s Eatery hit the spot. Find family favorites like hummus, falafel and shish kabobs. With so many choices, it’s hard to choose. You can’t go wrong with a combo plate. For a little refresher, don’t miss their raw juices and smoothie.
- Located at the outdoor mall, Liberty Center, Pies and Pints has plenty of specialty pizzas (we tried half Thai and Pine and Swine) and of course a variety of craft beer.
- A variety of Asian dishes can be found at Dai Trang Bistro but their Filipino ones are not to be missed. With so many options, everyone should find something they like. We tried a bit of everything — Vietnamese and Filipino including their bahn mis with tosino. Their halo halo (a Filipino treat similar to shaved ice but better) with all the fixins’ including none other than Fruity Pebbles was amazing. (A small was large enough to feed our family of 5.)
- Sushi burritos? Yes, please! At Roll On In Sushi Burritos & Bowls, the downtown Hamilton hot spot lets you customize your sushi burrito any way you please. Not feeling a burrito? Opt for a bowl instead.
- Who knew that a craft brewery may have been the most family-friendly restaurant we visited? At Rivertown Brewery & Barrell House in Monroe, they serve a variety of beer including a great selection of fruity and tart beer. But the only thing the kids cared about were the free old school arcade games. Tip: Visit on a Monday for “Family Night” when kids eat free and a balloon artist is around, one of the best I’ve seen.
Delaware County, Ohio
We traveled a couple hours northeast to our next destination: Delaware County, Ohio. Located just outside Columbus, we found the area full of charm with plenty of things to do with the family.
What to do:
- Be one with nature at The Stratford Ecological Center. Feed chickens, try organic leafy greens straight from the greenhouse, see baby farm animals or go salamander hunting in their nature preserve.
- Craving a little quiet time with nature? Enjoy a relaxing walk on the Hoover Mudflats Boardwalk in Galena. Spy wildlife and listen to the sound of birds singing as you walk along the boardwalk.
- Spend a day seeing any of the 7,000 animals that call Columbus Zoo and Aquarium their home. If the weather is in your favor head to the waterpark Zoombezi Bay, located next door. Tip: If you buy tickets to the waterpark, zoo admission is included.
- Catch a first run show at the historic The Strand Theatre in downtown Delaware. Dating back to 1906, the historic site is one of the ten oldest theaters still around.
- The Arts Castle is not only a work of art but also now serves as a cultural center offering art classes, dance, music, yoga and so much more. Peruse the Arts Castle and check out their current art exhibitions. Afterward, sit outside on the benches found in the front yard and admire the castle as well as the other works of art in the yard.
- Bookworms will want to flock to the independent children’s book store Fundamentals Books and More.
- Learn about the history of the Sunbury. Once a stagecoach town, the charming town has a rich history and eager to share their history at Myers Inn Museum, a former inn turned museum.
What to eat:
- Get your coffee fix. The Coffee Vault in Galena gets the award for coolest coffee location. As a bank in its past life, the charming coffee shop in Galena lets you enjoy your cup of coffee in their vault room. In downtown Delaware, Coffeeology combines two of my favorite things—coffee and boutique shopping—as well as an amazing lavender latte.
- Local Roots in downtown Powell offers locally grown and locally sourced food. Kids are kept busy with a tin lunch box full of toys. What a genius idea!
- At Surve in Sunbury, everything is made fresh (they don’t have freezers) in their scratch kitchen.
- If you’re craving a good burger (and exceptionally delicious fried chicken tenders), The Hamburger Inn Diner is the spot to go. Don’t leave without trying their brown sugar frosted cinnamon rolls. Amazing!
- Save room for dessert at Sweet Tooth Cottage. Their buckeyes are definitely yummy. (It’s also part of the Ohio Buckeye Trail.)
We found a little bit of Ireland in Dublin where the Irish culture is celebrated year-round. From a magical fairy door trail to waterfalls and amazing sculptures, the area offers plenty of magic for the family.
What to do:
- The most magical trail can be found in Dublin. On the Irish Fairy Door Trail, trail-goers are on a mission to find the tiny fairy doors located at 10 shops throughout downtown Dublin. Once you have all the names, stop by the Dublin Convention & Visitors Bureau for an adorable Fairy Finder shirt.
Warning: Many of the stops include ice cream, cupcakes, a toy store and more. It may be hard to leave the store. Just sayin’ from experience.
- Get ready to snap a few selfies at any of the unique sculptures found throughout Dublin. Notable sculptures include a concrete Field of Corn, the large Dancing Hares located on top of the hills, and Leatherlips, a Wyandot Native American Chief.
- Dublin is home to a few waterfalls and the best part is that many of them are easily accessed by kids. On our visit, we had a chance to visit two of the waterfalls — Indian Run Falls as well as Hayden Falls.
- Just outside Dublin, the one hour tour at Phoenix Bats gives visitors an inside look into how the baseball bats are made. Plus, you get to walk out with the coolest souvenir – an engraved mini baseball bat.
Where to eat:
- Head to Condado Tacos, the cool new taco hot spot in Dublin, where you can build your own tacos while surrounded by street art. Hangry? Order chips and guac and you’ll get it lightning fast.
- At Dublin’s very first brewery, The RAM Restaurant and Brewery, you’ll find great food (don’t miss their ahi poke nachos) and brews. Try the Dublin OH-Riginal Stout, a drink featured on the Celtic Cocktail Trail.
- Try diner food with an upscale twist at Cap City Fine Diner, but save room for their out of this world milkshakes.
- Could anything be better than coffee and chocolates? Winans of Dublin offers both, plus it happens to be a stop on the Irish Fairy Door Trail.
- Grab a sweet cool treat at any of the fine ice cream places including Graeter’s Ice Cream, Kilwins, Johnsons Real Ice Cream or Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream.
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