Cancel your weekend plans, we’re going to Butler County, Ohio. Trust me, if you love food, cheese, or booze, you will not be disappointed. Bold statements, but I say them with confidence because Butler County is home to the original JUNGLE JIM’S INTERNATIONAL MARKET. Jungle Jim’s is a food mecca, a foodie paradise, a food-filled extravaganza. A theme park of food. Honestly, I’m not sure there are enough adjectives to fully depict how cool this place is.
A bit of background. Jungle Jim’s opened up in the 70’s by owner James O. Bonaminio, “Jungle” himself. From what I gather, Jungle is a pretty interesting guy and a collector of all things weird, particularly components of old theme parks, which he likes to showcase in his store. Case in point, Jungle Jim’s has an old monorail outside, which they are hoping to eventually get up and running for visitors to ride from the store to the event space.
Jungle Jim’s has everything you could possible want in a grocery store, including a huge selection of wine and beer. They host several Junglefests each year, including three with beer themes and an International Wine Festival in November.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the options, they’ve conveniently included a tasting bar smack dab in the booze section. HOW CONVENIENT!
Clearly, you need some cheese to go with all that wine. Jungle’s has an ENORMOUS selection of cheeses from around the world, plus some that they make in-house (smoked mozzarella!). And as for cheese-focused Junglefests, not only do they have a Cheese Festival, but also a BACON AND CHEESE Festival.
Prior to my visit, I noticed the Jungle Jim’s website recommended four hours for your first visit. It seemed absurd initially, but after spending 3.5 hours in the store, I found myself wishing I had more time!
I think I could spend a couple of hours in Jungle Jim’s international grocery section alone. Internationally sourced products are sectioned off by country, and the shelves runneth over with interesting products you won’t find in a typical American grocery store.
There’s also an enormous produce section featuring both domestic and foreign sourced fruit and veg. Most items have signage indicating the location from which the product was sourced.
Plus they have a huge gluten free section (largest in the Midwest, folks!).
We snagged some wonderful gluten-free pumpkin cookies from Chubby Bunny Bakery, a bakery local to the area. Definitely recommend!
Jungle Jim’s is a delightfully peculiar place, and totally worth the trek from Columbus. We’re currently brainstorming a weekend getaway centered on a group outing to Jungle’s followed by cooking a huge meal to share with friends. What could be better?
Looking for other fun things to do? Well, if you happen to find yourself with a free afternoon in Butler County, be sure to check out Jimco’s Riverside Pizza and Kayaks.
If the name strikes you as odd, it’s because Jimco’s is just that! One part kayak rentals, one part pizza shop, and one part outdoor bar, it’s a great place to spend a few hours.
Jimco’s rents kayaks daylight til dark (water levels permitting).
Before or after you hit the river, you can order a freshly made pizza and saddle up with a beverage at the outdoor bar.
Given this was my first time in Butler County, and my first time on the river, I was surprised and just how beautiful and peaceful the area is. It feels very remote, like you’ve been transplanted to a different place.
Last but not least, a trip to Butler County is not complete without a stop at the Niederman Family Farm. During our visit, it was peak Fall Festival season, and we spent a couple hours lost in the corn maze, which was more fun than it sounds when you say it out loud.
Speaking of places to stay, we enjoyed our stay at the Courtyard by Marriott in Hamilton. We were up, down, and all around the county, and this hotel was pretty centrally located. There’s also a brewery and a few restaurants located within walking distance.
The Courtyard hotel staff was notably friendly during our entire visit. While we didn’t dine at the hotel restaurant, we did snag coffee in the cafe each morning. We also went for a dip in the small hotel pool, because that’s what you do on Staycation!
Overall, we had a great time in Butler County! I am looking forward to a return visit, and hope to spend some time in Oxford!
A big thanks to the Butler County Visitors Bureau for inviting us to spend the weekend in Butler County. All thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.