Traveling around the Midwest can be so fun! Check out my recent trip to Butler County, Ohio. From donuts to beer, we had so much to see and do!
View from the Courtyard Marriott in Hamilton, Ohio.
Disclaimer: this trip was sponsored by Butler County. All opinions and shenanigans are my own. 🙂
Living in the Grand Rapids, there are so many great cities to see within a short road trip away. Yes, I am all about cranking my favorite Sirius XM stations and hitting the road. Since we’re a family of 6, road trips are the main way we travel. I love back roads (during the day) and long stretches of highway. I get the travel bug from my dad and our family road trips every year.
From Michigan, we like to take weekend trips to Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin or Ohio. I try to rotate family trips with friend trips…for my sanity. Mama needs a break sometimes, too!
This trip was a girls weekend in Butler County, Ohio with my friend Stefanie, from Sarcastic Cooking. We’ve both been so busy, it was nice to get away and celebrate her upcoming cookbook release. Yessss, a freaking COOKBOOK. Side note: if you’re looking for the best Instant Pot recipes, get her book now: Quick Prep Cooking with Your Instant Pot.
After an early morning departure from Grand Rapids, I drove the 5ish hours to Hamilton, Ohio. It was nice and sunny and a perfect day for a drive. I’ve been to Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo and other areas of Ohio, but never Butler County. There is so much to do and only 40 minutes from Cincinnati.
The first thing I noticed about Hamilton is the amazing murals everywhere. They were so colorful and unique…really gave some character to the city. While driving through the area, they seem to pop up everywhere!
Our first stop was Fitton Center for Creative Arts. Super close to the hotel, this was a great start to our trip. We had an amazing tour, lead by Ian. Be sure to ask for him when you visit, he is full of information. The center not only holds performances, but also they offer classes for people of all ages. Instead of a gift shop, they sell art created in the center by local artists, which a proceed goes back to the artist.
Upstairs, there is a gallery with artwork, including a great Andy Warhol Cincinnati Reds portrait. In the warmer months, many events are offered outside. You can also rent out space in the banquet area for rehearsal dinners and more. Aside from telling us all about the center, Ian gave us the inside scoop on the city. So much history and information.
Since we were both starving, we hit up the Liberty Center to stretch our legs and have a snack. We both decided smaller meals throughout the weekend would be great, that way we could check out as many places as possible. The Northstar Café has a great assortment of salads, sandwiches and pizzas. We caught up while munching on a nice white pizza with greens, fresh out of the hearth. The dough was perfection! Greens on top of a pizza make it healthy, right?
Liberty Center has a great assortment of stores with an open air concept. This would be a great spot to catch up with friends to shop and enjoy a meal or drinks. Parking was really easy to find, too!
The Courtyard Hamilton was a great centrally located spot for us to stay. The staff couldn’t be nicer or more accommodating, they were always quick to answer any questions we had. The minute we pulled into the parking lot after our afternoon snack, we noticed that Municipal Brew Works was right across the parking lot.
Two things you should know about us: we love beer and food. There is a theme for this trip and Butler County CVB created a fab itinerary for us.
Dinner was at Taqueria Guanajuato, right in Hamilton, was the type of restaurant you know is going to be fab. Limited seating, very local-ish feeling. We got the inside scoop that this used to be a popular food truck and the restaurant space is new. You’ll find a great assortment of tacos and other authentic Mexican favorites. Only negative: no margaritas.
We finished up our busy day at Municipal Brew Works with a tour from Jim. Stefanie quickly pointed out that it looked like the Ghostbusters building–totally right on the nose! In 2015, the old police and fire station area of the Municipal building was revamped to use for the brewery, plus the front area offers tours…and even a set for films such as Gotti. The decor has a great art deco feel.
Stefanie and I toured the whole brewery and hear all sorts of fun stories about the history of the building. After sampling a few of the varieties of beer, I decided that it was a close tie between the Mango Habanero and Orange Agave Blonde. Be sure to check out their patio on the warmer months. They have food trucks and a great large seating area.
Like true moms on vacation do, we crashed early and got a good night sleep to gear up for the Donut Trail and day 2.
Have you been on the Donut Trail? There are 12 locations around Butler County and they all have fun donut varieties available. Tips for the Donut Trail:
- Map out which locations you want to visit BEFORE you start driving. This makes it so much easier!
- Drink those liquids! Start with coffee (because, duh…it pairs perfectly with donuts) and then move to water. Your body will thank you after all of the samples!
- Have everyone try something new or unique at each location. Ask the bakers what is fun!
- Don’t forget to grab a passport for stamps. Take fun photos and tag #DonutTrail
We hit up 5 of the bakeries and were more than stuffed!
- Mimi’s Donuts & Bakery, 2267 Millville Ave., Hamilton, OH 45013
- Kelly’s Bakery, 1335 Main St., Hamilton, OH 45013
- Ross Bakery, 1051 Eaton Ave., Hamilton, OH 45013
- The Donut Spot, 5148 Pleasant Ave., Fairfield, OH 45014
- Jupiter Coffee & Donuts, 5353 Dixie Hwy., Fairfield, OH 45014
On a sugar high from the trail, we had plenty more places to visit. When I first heard about Jungle Jim’s grocery store, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Let me tell you, if I lived in the area, I would be there EVERY WEEK! The grocery selection is amazing, plus the huge beer and wine area was impressive.
We went into Jungle Jim’s expecting to have some foodie fun, but we walked out of there over 1.5 hours later with a cart-full of goodies. My new favorite beer for summer is Elvis Juice by BrewDog. Oh my yum! I am all for a citrus IPA for the warm weather.
Right down the street from Jungle Jim’s, we found a local place for lunch, Sawasdee Thai Cuisine. It’s right on Dixie High Way and I highly recommend stopping in. We shared an assortment of Pad Thai, spring rolls, chicken skewers and a great sushi roll. Nice and quiet atmosphere, plus great prices.
Next up, we finished our afternoon at Swine City Brewing, which is only 1 year old. We were able to relax and really sample everything they have to offer. I am kicking myself for not grabbing some of the Oatmeal Cookie beer we tried. Dan, the owner, really gave us a story behind each beer and he even knew some of the same people that Stefanie knows in the Chicago area.
Since she’s more knowledgable about the beer, I just sat there listening, munching on my new favorite snack: Grippo’s BBQ Nibs. Swine City has a great, open space and plenty of outdoor area, as well. Dan said they’re working on getting some in-house food, but honestly I would still eat those Grippo’s! 🙂 They pair so well with beer!
Next up on our list: Rivertown Brewery in Monroe, Ohio. Pulling into the packed parking lot, we knew this place was going to be good! Rivertown offers a huge variety of beer, plus some sparkling waters on tap, too! They have a menu of BBQ, sandwiches, nachos and more. I highly recommend getting a flight to sample all they have to offer.
Near the end of our meal, the crowd started to get a little lighter. If you’re looking for dinner, try around 7pm!
Our final stop for the day was Fig Leaf, a brewing company in Middletown, Ohio. They have a nice open taproom, plus pizzas served. Only open for 2 years now, they’ve just started canning and bottling. There is outdoor seating and plenty of room to host an event!
As you can tell, we had a jam packed weekend. It was nice to get away from the kiddos and have a foodie weekend with a friend. Be sure to check out Stefanie’s post to see what her favorite spots were.
Have you been to Butler County, Ohio? What spots did we miss? I’ll be back again soon!