We’ve enjoyed our trips to Butler County over the past few years, checking out local restaurants and breweries, working our way through the ever-expanding Butler County Donut Trail, hiking through different parks and exploring museums. I’ve compiled all of our past adventures on the Butler County travel page.
The folks from BC invited us back in November to Hamilton, the Butler County seat, to see how they’re doing safe and socially distanced holiday shopping through a program called Holly Jolly Hamilton. I wrote about the highlights for Ohio.org’s blog, but wanted to share more details here!
Like many small downtowns, Hamilton has worked hard to adapt to life in a pandemic while still supporting its local businesses. In addition to Christmas lights draped over trees, they’ve set up picnic tables for more social distancing room along High Street.
If you’re not familiar with the city, yes, Hamilton IS named after our country’s first treasury secretary. It was established first as Fort Hamilton in 1791, and today features a statue of him WEARING AN AMERICAN FLAG AS A CAPE in the center of High Street. The sidewalks around it are embedded with famous quotes from him.
We stayed in the Courtyard Marriott Hamilton, a newer hotel just a block off High Street and close to the Great Miami River, within walking distance of parks, public art, a pavilion, a brewery, dozens of restaurants and shops.
We called in an order of calzones, subs, salad, and nachos from All8Up downtown.
Then walked our dinner over to Rotary Park nearby to eat at one of the picnic tables there. Rotary Park, like many parts of Hamilton, is full of public art. I really commend the city on its public art program. Dozens of murals, sculptures, and installations dot the city.
The theme of that night’s Holly Jolly Hamilton was Music on Main, so there were DJs, singer-songwriters, and small brass bands spread throughout the neighborhood.
After dinner we stopped by Municipal Brew Works, housed in the old municipal building on High Street next to the river. It’s a beautiful Art Deco structure that once served as fire station, police station, city council chambers, jail. I got a tour from one of the owners, Jim Goodman, back in 2017.
Municipal has a giant patio and invites local food trucks to park outside. We snagged a couple beers and kept strolling. Downtown Hamilton is a DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area), which means you can take adult drinks to go and walk the neighborhood.
We visited a few shops east of the river first, including InsideOut Studio, a studio and gallery dedicated to adults with development disabilities.
We then followed the bridge over the river to Main Street, another concentrated stretch of local businesses. They installed barriers to widen the sidewalk and offer more social distancing.
Our first stop was Fleurish Home to see holiday decor, artwork, supplies, clothing, and more.
Then it was Future Great Comics, where I chatted for a bit with owner Brian LeVick. We picked up a few Star Wars and Spider-Man comics.
We made a brief “refueling” stop at Village Parlor for ice cream.
There was a lot going on in the district, and it all felt safe. We spied puppies in the window at a pet store, lots of holiday decorations, Santa and Mrs. Claus waving to passing cars, live musicians filling the air with music.
Last stop of the night was Unsung Salvage Design Co., which sells T-shirts, funny knick-knacks, and many other creative gifts.
We finished the night with a visit to one of our favorite stops in Hamilton: Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park. When we were first introduced to it back in 2017, we were completely stunned to find this beautiful property with 60+ sculptures nestled in the rolling hills PLUS a museum in the center with ancient artwork.
From now through January 3, 2021, they’re running a drive-through light show called Journey Borealis, set to music performed by the Cincinnati Boys Choir and Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.
Hit ‘play’ here to catch a snippet.
The next morning we packed up and strolled around downtown to see some more of the public artwork, including a whole series of murals along Market Street.
[Update: sadly, Almond Sisters closed in 2021.]
Then it was off to a delightful first breakfast and coffee at The Almond Sisters Bakery. We were impressed with their lattes, almond twists, croissants, cookies – all of it. I’d consider it a must-visit. (Stay tuned for more about them.)
We strolled a bit through Marcum Park nearby to admire more of the sculptures.
Never ones to shy away from just one breakfast, we picked up breakfast sandwiches at True West Coffee. Their High Street location is currently closed, but their Main Street location sports a very narrow but helpful drive-through. If you’re waiting in line, you can spot the signature Hamilton mural.
But what about third breakfast? We couldn’t leave town without checking out the latest addition to the Donut Trail, The Donut Dude. Owners Laurie and Glen Huey shared a dozen of their creations, all creative and crave-able. The perfect end to another lovely trip!