Roaming and eating our way through Columbus and beyond.

Fun in Butler County, Ohio

We had such fun in Butler County!

We did a lot more than eat during our visit to Butler County. The good folks at the Visitor’s Bureau absolutely packed our weekend with fun events, appealing attractions, and some of the kindest people you could ever hope to meet.

After kicking off our Saturday morning with a filling adventure along the donut trail, we pulled into the expansive grounds of the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park. We made fast friends with the resident feline, picked up our golf carts and maps, and headed out into the park. That’s me behind the wheel!

driving golf carts at pyramid hill

Pyramid Hill is a massive, outdoor museum. There are over 60 sculptures spread across more than 300 acres, which was preserved as a non-profit by its original owner, Harry T. Wilks. The centerpiece of the land is the Wilk’s pyramid house, built into the center of a hill. The house is closed at the moment for renovation, but you can still see the tip of the glass pyramid peeking up out the hill.

pyramid house at pyramid hill
statue of harry wilks at pyramid hill

There are a jillion different areas in the park featuring art of a jillion different styles. I was particularly taken with the scattering of ancient looking stones, and the more modern pieces you could walk right inside. We spent some time wandering a hedge maze, and getting to know the figures within.

In news that will surprise no one, the boys gravitated toward the castle, and clambered over the stones to see which one would be king. I think they eventually agreed to forgo a battle and join forces.

We spent some time on the banks of a few small lakes, getting to know the locals.

My favorite part were the rolling grounds themselves, peppered as they were with art. We drove to the far end, climbed a steep hill in our golf carts, and were rewarded with a view we don’t often see in Ohio.

The boys were really taken with this piece that seemed almost hidden. It was like finding an Easter egg!

The park is home to a few different types of wildlife (outside of the resident cat), and we all had a screaming fit when we drove by a giant wild turkey on the move. On our way out, we pulled over to follow a trail, which led to a romantic structure hidden in a clearing.

The whole place was magnificent. We were amazed to know that such a unique place exists so close to home (and even closer if you’re based in Cincinnati!). Even from Columbus, it is truly worth the drive.

After lunch and a quick nap, we got back on the road and headed into Hamilton, Ohio, and specifically the historic Dayton Lane neighborhood. As we pulled in, giant, Victorian mansions rose up all around us, and I was pretty sure I was going to spy Judy Garland traipsing around the covered porch, singing about her trolley.

We parked near a corner featuring four of the most gorgeous homes I’ve ever seen, and were greeted by Jacob and Taylor, residents of Dayton Lane, who are active in the community and the preservation efforts. They ushered us into their beautiful home, popped a bottle and introduced us to their dogs. Clearly, we were happy!

We milled about their renovated kitchen, talking about the history of the neighborhood, and the kinds of events they offer. The May Promenade and Home Tour event happens in the spring, and takes you around the neighborhood into the gorgeous houses that line the streets. Similarly, the ghost tour is offered in the fall, complete with rhyming verse and period costumes! We got a taste of this one as we walked the neighborhood and made some new friends.

Check out the porch on this house!

It’s such a treat to get inside these mansions! And we were NOT disappointed. I was particularly fond of the preserved fireplaces in every room.

Later, we went to another neighbor’s house. He renovated the building to host his medical practice on the first floor, and lives with his family on the higher floors. Tom was FULL of excellent ghost stories, though he claims to be a skeptic! If you can make it to Dayton Lane for Halloween, I assure you that you’ll leave perfectly creeped out!

Afterward, we retired to the neighborhood “pub” that Tom keeps in his backyard. YES, A PUB! There was a wooden bar, booths, a flat screen, and more than enough bottles. The neighbors gathered together to welcome us, and even brought along cake! You will never meet nicer people anywhere, nor will you meet people who are so invested in the well-being of their community. It was truly a special afternoon.

Having arrived the day after a monsoon, our evening kayaking plans were scratched in favor of making a stop at the local school’s festival in downtown Hamilton. Jacob and Taylor once again acted as our escorts, and gave us a brief walking tour.

The community has a thriving art scene, and there are giant murals scattered across the city. There’s a bit of a delightful bird theme happening (including a mural designed by Taylor!), and we enjoyed spying the winged creatures as we wandered.

Next, it was on to dinner and then a good night’s sleep! After a pancake-filled brunch the next morning, we headed to Jungle Jim’s grocery store! Now, calling Jungle Jim’s a grocery store is a bit of an undersell. This MASSIVE building houses food from every obscure corner of the food pyramid. Nearly every country is represented in Jungle Jim’s collection of produce, meat, seafood, and packaged food. You could literally spend hours — nay, days! — trying to see it all. And as if the food weren’t enough of an attraction, the space is dotted with animatronic fantasy figures who perform for customers. The building hosts trains, giant animals, boats — I know this list sounds insane, but I swear it is all there!

We toured the store with Jared, who amazed us with his knowledge about both food and Jungle Jim’s trivia. They pride themselves on a massive selection of beer and wine, and we even got to peek into their fancy wine cellar room, with boxes of vino stacked several stories high.

Everybody had to hurry me right along in the charcuterie section. It was practically a religious experience.

We spent the most time in the international aisles. It is so interesting to see produce that is common in far-flung locations. We couldn’t go more than three feet with stopping and demanding to know what this spiked thing or that neon green thing was! I especially got a kick out of the exotic, um, meats.

We may have briefly gotten lost in the European section, where I found the magical world of Haribo and Alicia tried to bathe herself in British digestive biscuits. This place is just FUN. Even the toilets are a trip!

But the best part about Jungle Jim’s is that it’s a local company that employs local people. And because their operation is so huge, they secure great deals by buying in bulk, and they pass those savings right along to their customers. Yet another place that is well worth the drive to Butler County!

After packing up our prizes, we hit the road back to Columbus. I had no idea that Butler County was full of such wonderful people and places! If you’re looking for an escape close to home, we can’t recommend it enough!

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Alexis

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