Located in Butler County in southwest Ohio, Hamilton is 20 miles north of Cincinnati. Known as the City of Sculpture, it features more than 40 throughout the city. If you crave even more than you find around the city, take in Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum.
Note: Thank you to Butler County for hosting my visit. The opinions offered are mine.
Things To Do In Hamilton
In addition to all the art and sculpture in Hamilton, you can get creative yourself and mix your own scent that you can use to design a candle or bath product. If you want to relive some retro experiences, you’ll find a pinball arcade with a bar, a drive-in theater, and even a drive-in where you can enjoy a footlong hot dog with locally made root beer.
1. Tour Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum
Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum features a permanent collection of more than 80 outdoor sculptures surrounded by nature on more than 300 acres. The landscape offers lakes with fountains, hiking trails, meadows, and rolling hills with stunning views.
Pyramid Hill can be a challenge for the most physically fit. But don’t count it out! You can tour the sculpture park with an Art Cart, a golf cart-style vehicle that allows you to drive up to the sculptures and enjoy them while seated.
The park is the perfect venue to bring a picnic lunch. I recommend picking up a to-go meal at one of the local restaurants and enjoying it at the Overlook Patio. The park is full of stunning views that would make a great place to have a meal.
In addition to the outdoor sculpture park, the attraction features the Ancient Sculpture Museum, showcasing authentic Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Etruscan, and Syrian antiquities dating back to 1550 B.C.E. You’ll enter the building through a picturesque flower garden trimmed with arches. One of my favorite pieces in its collection is a polychrome wood anthropoid coffin, inscribed for Ankh-Takealot from 944 to 732 B.C. The effigy bears a painted dark blue head covering with yellow stripes.
Pro Tip: They rent Art Carts on a first-come, first-served basis and do not take reservations.
2. Create A Custom Fragrance At Petals & Wicks
Continuing the artistic experience in Hamilton, you can bring out your inner artist and build a candle or body product with a custom scent at Petals & Wicks. Staff will walk you through making a scented candle. After a trip to the wall of scents, I created a blend of honey crisp apple, bourbon, and clove and turned it into a candle that would enhance my autumn experience. Achieving the right balance was fun, adding just a bit more of this or that. Finally, you choose the perfect container and mix the scent and wax, and your custom scented candle is complete.
While each season has its own most popular scent, honey crisp apple is a year-round favorite.
Pro Tip: The perfect time to create your candle is before lunch or dinner. After completing your candle, it takes a minimum of two hours to solidify. Larger containers take longer. So have your meal and then return to pick it up. It also offers shipping.
3. Play Pinball At The Pinball Garage
Pinball Garage offers the most extensive assortment of pinball machines in one location in the Cincinnati area. It has 32 devices on the floor at one time and frequently swap out machines offering something new and exciting. In addition, it has at least 20 games on the floor made within the last 3 years. You won’t be disappointed if you prefer retro games like Galaga, Super Mario, and Frogger.
While you’re playing, you’re sure to get thirsty. Pinball Garage has over 25 draft beers on tap and the most extensive assortment of bourbons in Hamilton to quench that thirst, with 40 available. Those who prefer non-alcoholic drinks have two craft sodas on tap: craft cherry vanilla soda and draft root beer.
Pro Tip: It offers a family package of tokens where you realize savings off buying singles.
4. Take In A Double Feature At Holiday Auto Theatre
Remember the days of the drive-in theaters? You could load the pajama-clad kiddos into the car, and the whole family could watch a movie. You didn’t need to worry about the baby crying and disturbing other moviegoers. Making an occasional comment at the drive-in is less likely to elicit a silencing, “Shhh!” You still have those advantages and many others today at Holiday Auto Theatre, where you can enjoy a new release from the privacy of your car. From spring through fall, it shows the latest movies, along with some unique features. Check its online schedule for days and show-times.
Do you also enjoy the old-fashioned drive-in stands with burgers and root beer? While you’re in Hamilton, stop by Jolly’s Drive-In, where the carhops will bring you a fun retro meal of foot-long hot dogs, burgers, fries, or even a chocolate shake.
Pro Tip: Everyone in your party should arrive together because reserving spaces isn’t allowed.
5. Tour The Salty Dog Museum
If you want to continue your retro experience, check out the Salty Dog Museum, a car museum dedicated to classic antique cars. Every car in the museum has a story.
Located only about 13 minutes down SR 129 from Hamilton to Shandon, it features an evolution of transportation, emphasizing Model Ts and Model As. It also features a collection of firetrucks.
What’s different about this museum is that ropes and rails don’t restrict you. If you want to sit in one of the cars or touch it, that’s fine. Feel free to try out the sirens and bells on the fire trucks. The owners encourage hands-on interaction with the vehicles.
Pro Tip: The museum is open for visits and tours by appointment only. Schedule some time in advance on its Contact Us page.
6. Grab A Beer At Municipal Brew Works
Municipal Brew Works, located in Hamilton’s original municipal building, the historic Fredrick Mueller building, occupies the area that was once the firehouse. If you prefer light domestic beer, Municipal Brew Works is a nice segue into craft beer. A couple of these beers include the Approachable Blond and the Orange Agave Blond. While the Approachable Blond is smooth, no-frills, straight up, the Orange Agave Blond builds on it, adding blues agave nectar and orange zest. If you prefer something more robust, you might like the American Porter Midnight Cut. First, you’ll taste roasted coffee, then a bite of dark chocolate, and a bit of smokiness.
The brewery is open every day and features a large patio, perfect for enjoying the outdoors. It’s family-friendly, and that includes Rover.
Pro Tip: While Municipal Brew Works doesn’t serve food, you’ll find a rotation of food trucks parked outside, so you can always grab something to eat to go with that craft beer.
7. Sample Some Donuts
Butler County features a Donut Trail, and if you are visiting Hamilton, you can sample at least three of them without leaving the city. First, I suggest the strawberry cheesecake donut at Ross Bakery. Then, at Kelly’s Bakery, try the Buckeye Donut, a yeast donut with a peanut butter filling and chocolate icing. Finally, the blueberry cake donut with lemon icing is the one to sample at Mimi’s Donuts & Bakery.
Best Restaurants In Hamilton
Hamilton’s restaurant experiences range from a quick coffee house or drive-in with burgers and hot dogs to upscale casual dining. Here are a few favorites.
Located in downtown Hamilton, Fretboard Brewing & Public House offers three levels of dining. First, be sure to check out its rooftop deck, with a view of the city. In addition to the environment, the food is terrific. We shared the starter pork carnitas tostadas featuring slow-roasted pork, roasted corn pico, and a chipotle and avocado aioli. The tostadas also could be an entrée for one person. I’d also recommend the blackened salmon with a citrus beurre blanc, which made the dish. It comes with sautéed green beans and roasted corn pico.
Tano Bistro sources its ingredients from local farmers to provide fresh, quality dishes in a casual, friendly environment. I particularly enjoyed the Chilaquiles that were a deconstructed version of the traditional Mexican favorite. It had fried steak, corn salpicon, salsa ranchero with cilantro, Feta, and some crispy corn tortillas. In addition, it had a bit of heat, adding interest to the flavor.
Located away from downtown on Eaton Avenue, Flub’s Dari-Ette is open seasonally until October 1. It has both a drive-through service and a walk-up window. Don’t let long lines discourage you. It moves quickly. And it’s worth the wait. Its soft-serve ice cream is tasty, but its homemade soft-serve sherbet is remarkable.
After tackling some of Hamilton’s donut shops, I decided I needed a cup of Joe to go along with some of my donut selections. So, I made a stop at True West Coffee and grabbed a cup of its Guatemalan roast, which had a mild coffee flavor with some chocolate notes. It also offers breakfast sandwiches and gourmet sandwiches, and salads for lunch.
Pro Tip: If you need weekend accommodations, try the Courtyard Hamilton at One Riverfront Plaza. Several eateries are within walking distance, and nearby Marcum Park is an excellent place to hang out and enjoy weekend concerts.
While you’re in Ohio, you might want to take a side trip to one of these other Ohio small towns and destinations: