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Let’s be frank, Yellow Springs is not the most popular tourist resort in the world. But it doesn’t have to be. Located very close to Dayton and an easy drive from both Columbus and Cincinnati, this village has been steadily supplying Ohioans with a promise of a stress-free escape to nature.
There are plenty of green areas including the preserves and scenic trails, Yellow Springs has a good selection of restaurants and bars, and then there are the springs that made this place famous as a healing water resort in the 19th century. The village is that destination you don’t expect much from yet you always keep coming back for effortlessness and comfort. Here are the top things to do in and near Yellow Springs that will keep you busy in The Buckeye State heartland.
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What Is It? Deep in the forest of Glen Helen Nature Preserve you’ll find a pretty little spring that has a distinct terracotta-colored look. You found it, the legendary Yellow Spring, a natural attraction that made the town famous. Two centuries ago, it was an obligatory stop for medical tourism, as it was believed that the water from here had miraculous healing capabilities.
Why Do It? While the spring itself may not have an immense “wow” factor, it’s still worth a charming hike through the picturesque Glen Helen Nature Preserve. You’ll pass through the forest, rock formations, and a river. Also, the trail is very accessible. It starts right from the village.
Good to Know: Be aware that Glen Helen Nature Preserve is a private reserve and works only from dawn to dusk, so plan your visit accordingly. It is best to go to the spring in the morning.
What Is It? One of the projects of Glen Helen Nature Preserve, Raptor Center is a rehabilitation and education facility that helps birds. Coming here not only gives you a chance to see various birds of prey up close but also lets you discover more about their role in the ecosystem and the rehabilitation work that is done to save them.
Why Do It? It’s a great place to visit for the whole family and a nice combination with the nature trails in Glen Helen Nature Preserve. You will meet such beautiful birds as a barn owl, barred owl, horned owl, hawk, vulture, and even a bald eagle.
Good to Know: The center is open year-round, but the closing times differ according to the season. The parking next to the facility is limited, so be sure to leave the car at the Glen Helen Nature Preserve main entrance to avoid the hassle.
What Is It? One of Ohio’s coolest and most ambitious outdoor projects, the Little Miami Scenic Trail is 78 miles long, passes through five counties, and takes you from Springfield to Anderson Township. Yellow Springs is one of the stops along this route that was developed on the old rail tracks that go through some of the most picturesque places in the state.
Why Do It? Taking the trail is a thrilling outdoor adventure. Little Miami Scenic Trail is accessible to hikers, bikers, and equestrians, so you’ve got plenty of options when it comes to its exploration. Whether you choose to see only a part of the track or do the whole course, you’re guaranteed a pleasant outdoor experience.
Good to Know: It’s called “scenic” for a reason. You will see pretty parks, old railway bridges, beautiful countryside, and atmospheric small towns along the way. The easiest destination from Yellow Springs using Little Miami Scenic Trail is Xenia.
What Is It? The woods are calling your name and this amazing cabin Airbnb allows you to make the most of your time in nature. This cabin is located 10 minutes from downtown Yellow Springs and ensures the privacy and remoteness every big city dweller will value. Surrounded by trees, set next to a river, and offering a high-quality stay, this cottage is perfect for an escape. And numerous positive reviews prove that it’s an awesome property that exceeds expectations.
Why Do It? You’ll have a fire pit outside for soulful conversations out in the open as well as two kayaks and a canoe for a relaxing river sail. This Airbnb is not near nature, it’s directly in the heart of it. The Little Miami River is literally in your backyard, so you can expect total relaxation.
Good to Know: The cabin can accommodate up to 4 guests and features a fully equipped kitchen. Also, one of the most popular local activities is fishing, you can ask hosts for the gear and try your luck in Little Miami River waters.
What Is It? While being a village, Yellow Springs is a surprisingly vibrant one. Its downtown is an exciting place with many cool spots to check out. The very heart of it lies between Dayton Street and Xenia Avenue, where you can find lots of restaurants and bars set in colorful houses that would be great for an Instagram photo session.
Why Do It? Easygoing vibes, tasty food, short distances…what’s not to like about downtown Yellow Springs? It is an ideal spot to get accustomed to the smalltown atmosphere and just have a great time.
Good to Know: You’ve got a variety of cuisines to choose from. Miguel’s Tacos is a cool Mexican place, The Greene Canteen is a pretty vegetarian spot, Ye Olde Trail Tavern serves American fare, and Emporium Wines & Underdog Café is for wine lovers.
What Is It? Have you ever tried canoeing? John Bryan State Park not only is one of the most beautiful Ohio natural areas, but also it offers fantastic paddling opportunities. The stretch of Little Miami River flowing here is an ultra-scenic affair and it’s a calm and easy waterway to explore on a kayak or a canoe.
Why Do It? Perfect for beginners and thrilling for the pros, canoeing in John Bryan State Park would be a fun activity for the whole family. And you can do the hiking and biking too, profiting from miles of pretty tracks.
Good to Know: Walk to the picturesque wooden South Gorge Bridge and have a picnic at one of the specially designated areas across the park.
What Is It? One of Yellow Springs’ icons, Young’s Jersey Dairy, is an operating farm that offers a 360-degree dairy experience. You can pet animals, such as goats and pigs, see the milking of the cows, learn more about daily life on a farm, and taste first-class ice cream and milkshakes. They also have a restaurant, two miniature golf courses, and a sort of mini dairy-themed amusement park with rides and slides.
Why Do It? A favorite place of generations of Yellow Springs inhabitants, it’s a must-visit stop on the outskirts of the village. Everyone will find something for themselves here. Children would have fun on the rides, the adults will get tasty fare at the restaurant, and everyone will enjoy the great quality ice cream.
Good to Know: The farm has an aptly named “Cowlendar” of Events so there’s always something fun going on. Also, the venue boasts a fantastic cheese selection sold in their shop, so don’t forget to check it out too.
What Is It? A short drive away from Yellow Springs, you’ll find the little village of Clifton. Although the settlement itself is quite unremarkable, there are several attractions that will keep you busy for a whole day. First of all, it’s the gorgeous historic Clifton Mill that stands on the Little Miami River and features an authentic American food restaurant inside. But the majority would come for Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, a superb area with the best views of the gorges and plenty of hiking trails to explore.
Why Do It? Clifton allows you to comfortably combine historic exploration with a natural escape, finishing with a show at a charming local volunteer-run Opera House. The venue regularly hosts fun folk performances that are sure to get you in a cheerful mood.
Good to Know: Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve is a place to watch the spring wildflowers and the historic mill is one of Ohio’s Christmas must-sees because of the annual festive light decorations.