Southwest Ohio county caters to kids
We recently toured the Butler County Donut Trail, a collection of a dozen doughnut shops in southwest Ohio. The opportunity to gulp down well-crafted, sugared balls of dough at stop after stop is exciting enough.
But if you’re considering a visit to the trail, we recommend also spending some time at a few other attractions that Butler County has to offer.
9568 Water Front Dr., West Chester Township, OH 45069
This indoor/outdoor entertainment venue lies somewhere between a golf driving range, a sports bar and a family restaurant. The main game involves hitting golf balls containing computer chips into targets at varying distances. Unlike the real game of golf, the more points you score, the better you do.
Our family found the experience really fun. We opted to use Topgolf’s clubs as we aimed for targets ranging from 25 to 215 yards away. The more accurate you are, and the farther you hit the ball, the more points you can score.
The balls didn’t seem to fly as far as I could hit a regulation ball with my own clubs, but it was pretty realistic. Sometimes you depended on the ball getting a kind bounce on the artificial surface. Yes, that happens sometimes in the real game, too.
Our waiter brought us food and drinks. I’d term the menu as upscale appetizers, less than you’d expect from a fine restaurant but way better than you might expect at a family sports venue. We had waffle and chicken sliders and injectable donut holes, round balls we infused with chocolate cream and raspberry jelly.
Topgolf also has billiards tables, an area for live music and a sports bar where you can socialize without golf. They also give golf lessons and are set up for parties for kids and adults. It seemed people came for all that Topgolf had to offer. By early evening on a Saturday, the place was packed.
The great thing is that you now don’t have to leave central Ohio to play. Topgolf recently added a location at Polaris Centers of Commerce, near the IKEA store, one of about three dozen sites worldwide.
7379 Squire Ct., West Chester Township, OH 45069
What started out as a collection of model trains by Cincinnati businessman Don Oeters has morphed into what Oeters bills as the world’s largest model train display. Built by the Greater Cincinnati Garden Railway Society, Entertrainment Junction covers more than 2 miles of track, about half of which is visible to patrons.
It took 230,000 hours to build over 10 years, and Oeters says that if they were billable hours, it would have cost “16-to-22 million dollars.”
The track displays continually rotate 15 minutes of daylight and 5 minutes of night viewing. You’ll see Coney Island in Cincinnati circa 1965, the Space Needle, subway trains in New York and Washington, D.C. The seek and find game contains 250 items to look for amid the dozens of tiny displays.
There are more than trains inside the 25,000-square-foot building. The biggest draw is a funhouse with five attractions including a mirror maze and an optical illusion tilted room “all kinds of old-fashioned fun,” Oeters says. We found the funhouse truly enjoyable.
There’s also a café, hobby shop and party rooms, as well as a gift shop.
“I retired 10 years ago, and I needed something to do,” Oeters says. “We’ve been open for eight years, and it keeps growing, and we keep adding to it.”
Jungle Jim’s International Market
5440 Dixie Hwy., Fairfield, OH 45014
If you like to go grocery shopping, you’ll love this gigantic, quirky, surprising supermarket located in Fairfield. It claims to have 180,000 items for sale, and after taking a guided tour of the place, I’m surprised it’s not more.
Jungle Jim’s is the brainchild of James Bonaminio, of suburban Cleveland, who began selling produce out of a truck in the Cincinnati area in the early ’70s. By the middle of the decade, he settled on the current location for a permanent structure to sell produce, and he’s added on ever since.
Today, Jungle Jim’s covers 200,000 square feet, and there are foods and other goods of every kind imaginable in seven wide-ranging departments:
- Fresh foods: Produce, meat, cheese, seafood, bakery, deli and the “olive pit,” which includes house-made mozzarella.
- International: Aisle after aisle teeming with more than 70,000 items from around the world.
- Specialty: This department includes unique foods such as hot sauces, honey and unique sodas, as well as cooking supplies and a cooking school.
- Beer and wine: Select from more than 17,000 wines and 4,000 beers from around the world.
- Cigars and liquors: Fine cigars line the walls of the extensive walk-in humidor. Jungle Jim’s holds weekly cigar tastings if you need to try first.
- Natural foods and supplements: This department offers vegan, gluten-free and natural foods and beverages as well as vitamins, essential oils and related items.
- American grocery: Oh yeah, Jungle Jim’s is a grocery store too, with tens of thousands of products, including many private-label goods.
What’s really cool about Jungle Jim’s is its quirkiness. There are several animatronic displays, including a funky “Elvis” lion, restroom entrances disguised as portable toilets, and safari animal statues in an outdoor garden.
There’s a second Jungle Jim’s location in suburban Cincinnati, but for the full show, head to the original location in Butler County.