A Weekend in Springfield

October 15, 2020

Greetings from Springfield, indeed! We’ve never properly explored Springfield despite all our time in Ohio, so the folks from Greater Springfield kindly hosted us over a beautiful fall weekend.

Our arrival brought us first downtown, where we spied out a few pieces of public art and renovated historic buildings.

We were put up at the Simon Kenton Inn, just a few miles north of downtown Springfield.

The Inn sits on the land initially settled by Simon Kenton, making it the first white settlement in Ohio. Simon Kenton was buddies with Daniel Boone, and ranged the Ohio and Kentucky frontier with Boone and the Shawnee and Tecumseh tribes.

Today the original Federal-style house, dating to the 1820s, still remains. The grounds have been expanded to include a full restaurant, event space, and now a series of three treehouse cabins in an adjoining field.

We stayed in one of the treehouses, a wood-appointed, one-room lodge with a queen bed, full bathroom, kitchenette, and porch for watching sunsets. They had a couple pull-out couches so our whole family could stay in one cabin.

When we first headed downtown, we stopped by Champion City Guide + Supply, a welcoming little shop selling local goods like clothing, candles, snacks, and more.

For dinner, we had a reservation on the patio at Stella Bleu, located in the historic Bushnell Building:

Stella Bleu benefits from having a spacious back patio, recently expanded into the alleyways, surrounded by brick walls and strung with lights. The upscale but approachable menu ranges from loaded fries and meatball sliders to ribeye and linguine with smoked shrimp. The adults at the table sampled a couple drinks, from their thoughtful bourbon selection to the eye-catching Stella’s Bleu Cosmo. All in all, a lovely way to spend an evening downtown.

The next morning we enjoyed some quiet time on the porch of the treehouse, then drove back downtown for breakfast at COhatch’s The Market, a newly opened location that sits adjacent to the Springfield Farmers Market.

We’re very familiar with COhatch and their well-appointed co-working spaces, particularly the two original Worthington sites. The Market is a little different in that it houses a food court, with multiple vendors and a small North High Brewing taproom.

It’s a perfect pairing: you can stop in The Market to get a prepared breakfast, coffee, fresh bread before you hit up the farmers market! The two primary breakfast purveyors are The Painted Pepper and Ironworks Waffle Cafe. We savored Painted Pepper’s breakfast burrito, and Ironworks’ Davey Moore (a cheddar waffle with chorizo egg scramble, candied jalapeño, sriracha crema) and The Bushnell (bacon, cheddar, fried chicken, maple horseradish mayo). All stellar!

We followed breakfast with a visit to the Springfield Farmers Market, laid out along the brick streets in the shadow of the stunning, blocks-long Heritage Center. We bought cheese curds and fresh produce, learned about maple syrup.

And then it was time to work off those calories! We visited the Cyclotherapy bicycle shop near the market, where the owner gave us a map to the region’s trails and suggested a few sections to bike.

Did you know: the Miami Valley Bike Trails are the largest collection of paved bike trails in the country? More than 340 miles total! The trails that snake through Springfield connect to larger sections that continue on to the statewide Buckeye Trail.

We were directed to a section of the Buck Creek Trail, starting around the C.J. Brown Reservoir. It follows Buck Creek, so you enjoy views of the water. This trail actually starts out of downtown Springfield, so you can hop on near the market and scoot out of town.

We then connected to the Simon Kenton Trail, which runs north through Urbana all the way to Bellefontaine. You can take it south to the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

The trails are nicely paved, clearly marked, and include plenty of interesting sites and structures.

After a good hour’s ride, we loaded up the bikes and drove back to Springfield for a scheduled tour of the Westcott House. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1908, the house was home to the Westcott family, prominent Springfield citizens and owners of agricultural equipment and early automobile manufacturing companies.

I had never actually toured a Frank Lloyd Wright home before, so it was exciting to see. Our tour guide was an architect himself, so he was full of stories about the house, Wright, the Westcotts.

The tour does run close to two hours, which was a challenge for our boys. So you’ll have to judge your kids’ interest level before taking them. We had the idea early on to challenge the boys to recreate the house in Minecraft, so they spent the whole tour off on their own, discussing which blocks they’d use. Parenting win!

Breakfast had worn off after the bike ride and home tour, so we refueled at Speakeasy Ramen nearby. The name is apt: the building is an unassuming neighborhood dive bar with a gravel patio, but the food they’re creating feels like a secret discovery. Everything we tried was thoughtfully composed, beautifully presented, and wonderfully seasoned: tonkotsu ramen, Japanese fried chicken tacos, rangoon with tiger shrimp, Philly rolls and Cali rolls. Highly recommended.

For my day job I work at the Greater Columbus Arts Council, and I help monitor and promote the arts across the entire state. So I’ve been following the Springfield Museum of Art for some time, but haven’t visited until this trip.

The museum is Ohio’s only Smithsonian-affiliate art museum; it’s accessible and easy to navigate. Admission is only $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors, free for kids 17 and under. Depending on your pace, you could tour the entire museum in an hour.

We worked our way through several rooms, including an exhibition titled Beneath the Smokestacks, featuring David Knapp’s colorful paintings depicting foundries and factories (on display through Nov. 29, 2020).

We also caught the tail end of the museum’s annual juried exhibition, featuring artists from all over the state. We spotted many familiar Columbus faces, from Lisa McLymont and Cat Sheridan to Adam Brouillette and Kate Morgan.

After the museum, we wanted to get in on a little fall fun, so we did a quick Google search and found Pendleton’s Produce within a few miles. We strolled around, celebrating autumn’s bounty and picking out a few pumpkins and “weird things.”

Then it was back to the Inn to relax for a couple hours, before venturing out later to Mother Stewart’s Brewing.

Tucked into an old factory downtown, Mother Stewart’s features a spacious taproom and large courtyard, perfect for socially distanced beers. On the way in, we stopped by Station 1 to pick up a couple pizzas, including a pepperoni and the Skyline Chili: chili, brown mustard, cheese, onion, cut-up hotdogs. It tasted exactly like you’d expect. And it paired well with an IPA and a Whiskey River amber ale aged in Buffalo Trace barrels.

The next morning we checked out of the Simon Kenton Inn and drove back into downtown, starting first with cappuccinos and mochas at Winans Chocolates + Coffees. Winans has multiple locations across the state, and this cute little shop in downtown Springfield is one of their newer spots.

And then it was time for “breakfast” at a Springfield institution: Schuler’s Bakery. We hit up their original location on Main Street downtown. You can more about it here.

But there was still time for one more curiosity on the way out of town: the Hartman Rock Garden. It’s one of those unusual finds, a hidden gem for travelers.

What is it? It’s a home, tucked inconspicuously into a Springfield neighborhood, with a backyard chock full of rock creations. The original owner Ben Hartman created it all between 1932 and 1944 using found materials. It’s now run by a non-profit, and is free to visit.

I mean, you just have to see it to understand it. Almost every square inch of the yard is filled with rock structures: houses, fountains, castles, statues, figures. If I’m being honest, it feels a little creepy, especially while visiting what feels like someone’s backyard.

But it certainly made a fascinating and fun finish to an adventurous weekend. Thanks to Greater Springfield for hosting us! We can’t wait to come back.

Disclaimer: this trip was hosted by Greater Springfield. Accommodations, food (except alcohol), and admission were complimentary. Photos and opinions are our own.

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FOOD + TRAVEL WRITER

I go by Dr. Breakfast, but in addition to restaurants and recipes, I write about family travel, breweries and distilleries, the arts, outdoor fun, and so much more.

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