Of the many small Ohio towns perfect for day trips, one of my family’s favorites is Yellow Springs. It’s an easy drive from Columbus, Cincinnati or the Dayton area. Only a short drive off the highway and you’re into the parks, bike trails, shops, and restaurants of Yellow Springs.
A good starting point is the Chamber of Commerce building (101 Dayton St.), located in a replica train station. There’s parking nearby, restrooms, maps, and it’s right on the bike trail. We’ll often leave our car there and walk to the shops, or hop the trail for a bike ride.
Young’s Jersey Dairy
But first things first… Although located just a couple miles outside of the city proper, Young’s Jersey Dairy is an absolute must for any Yellow Springs visit. The working dairy and event center has been run by four generations of the Young family. There are farm animals to visit; games and playgrounds to explore; breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert to savor.
You could spend an hour or a full day at Young’s. Some of our favorites: Visit the barn where you can see goats and cows. Little feeders let you offer snacks to the eager goats, who gather at the fences to eat from your hand. Hours of fun at Udders and Putters, with mini-golf, batting cages, “train” rides behind a golf cart, a driving range and a playground for the littles. Don’t miss the restaurant. You can arrive early for breakfast, or enjoy burgers, grilled cheese, etc. for lunch or dinner. The two must-haves are cheese curds and ice cream. I’m partial to the Cow Patty: dark chocolate with chocolate cookie pieces, toffee, and chocolate chips.
Hiking & Biking
Any visit to Yellow Springs has to include time on the trails (maybe to work off the cheese curds). A trio of parks are conveniently located next to town: Glen Helen Nature Preserve, Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve and John Bryan State Park.
Glen Helen Nature Preserve is nonprofit and privately funded by the Glen Helen Ecology Institute at Antioch College. If you park at the main lot, bring $5 cash. They’ll give you a map with trails. Glen Helen is our favorite area to explore, as it’s a little rougher. The trails are well marked, but you may be climbing through more undergrowth or stepping from rock-to-rock across creeks. Highlights include the waterfalls, seeing the yellow spring (actually, it’s more orange) the town is named after, and visiting their Raptor Center to see owls, hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey there for education and/or injury rehabilitation.
Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve features trails that run along the Little Miami State & National Scenic River. The shaded routes take you alongside cliff walls, with rocks and foliage and climbing trails all over. If you take the trail to the east, eventually it will land you in the town of Clifton, with the beautiful Clifton Mill. The working 1802, water-powered grist mill includes a restaurant, shop and nearby covered bridge.
John Bryan State Park follows the river too, and offers fishing and canoeing. The 752-acre park features 10 different hiking trails of varying lengths, plus six mountain biking trails.
By far, our favorite activity is biking the Little Miami Scenic Trail. The trail stretches almost 80 miles across multiple counties. We’ll jump on it at Yellow Springs and ride however far we feel like going, then turn around and come back. It’s a smooth, relatively flat, and scenic ride.
Shopping & Art
You need to dedicate some time to visit the shops in Yellow Springs. The whole town has an artsy vibe. Even the benches, trashcans, and recycling bins are decorated with colorful tile work. It’s typical to see musicians busking on the sidewalks. The town includes a unique collection of bookstores, boutiques, galleries, and art spaces. Our favorite stops include the Yellow Springs Toy Company and Dark Star Books & Comics (great especially if you like old books and comics). I can’t resist stopping by Village Artisans Gallery, with rotating exhibitions of local artists. If we’re in the mood, we can see what’s playing at the Little Art Theatre.
Dining & Drinks
We get hungry and thirsty, so we schedule time for coffee, a bite to eat, and a beer. We’ll often grab a cappuccino or an iced chai from Dino’s Cappuccinos. The Sunrise Cafe is an eclectic spot that uses primarily local and organic ingredients; we love their breakfast. The Winds Cafe features an interesting menu, and has some lovely shaded seating on the patio. Ha Ha Pizza is a colorful spot, and an easy win for the whole family. We’ll also seek out fried pakora and samosas from the tiny Aahir India, and may stop by Corner Cone for a sweet treat.
Our one must-stop is Yellow Springs Brewery. The microbrewery sits in a renovated garage, right next to the bike trail, so we’ll end our bike ride there to enjoy some beers and board games on the patio. Yellow Springs Brewery brews a diverse range of beers, from pale ales to golden ales, IPAs to saisons and stouts to porters. They nail each style, and the brews are simply a delight to drink after biking several miles.
Our typical daily itinerary looks something like this:
- Drive in, do breakfast at the Golden Jersey Inn or the Sunrise Cafe
- Play games and feed the animals at Young’s
- Hike through Glen Helen or Clifton Gorge
- Grab lunch at Ha Ha Pizza, Aahir India, or Young’s
- Visit the shops, get coffee at Dino’s
- Start at the visitor center and bike south 4-5 miles, then turn back
- Park at the brewery for snacks, beers, maybe dinner from the visiting food truck
- Call it a day!
If you need more ideas, we’ve found the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce site to be a good starting point!
(Disclaimer: our visit to Young’s was invited. Photos and opinions are our own.)