Yellow Springs is a charming small town in rural Ohio. It feels almost like a different world from the rest of the area and state, as there’s a pretty strong hippie/progressive/liberal vibe. This makes a lot of sense if you take a peek into the town’s history: it was founded in 1825 by 100 families who wanted to create a socialist utopian society.
The utopian society didn’t pan out unfortunately, but today, Yellow Springs is a colorful town full of cute shops, nearby nature preserves, and delicious food.
Despite growing up in Ohio, I’d never visited Yellow Springs until last fall, and I definitely was missing out. Here’s a travel guide to this small town (for when it’s safe again), which can be easily visited in a day.
I definitely don’t want to encourage travel at this time, especially with the holiday spike of cases; please stay home if you can, and wear a mask if you do need to go out.
Quick Facts About Yellow Springs
- Population: 3,872 (it’s basically a village lol)
- Location: 30 minutes from Dayton; 1 hour from Columbus and Cincinnati
- Prominent people: standup comedian Dave Chappelle (he sometimes has pop-up shows in the area) and actor Dave Lithgow
Things to Do in Yellow Springs
1. See the actual yellow spring
Yellow Springs is named after an actual yellow spring (well, it’s more orange-y to me). The Glen Helen Nature Preserve is about half a mile outside the town, and you can easily walk there along the bike path. You can also drive and park there, but know that parking costs $5 for the day, and that the lot gets super busy on the weekends.
At Glen Helen, there are many interconnected trails that take you through the woods and along streams. The park itself is rather small, and if you walked along every trail, it would probably still be only a couple miles. The trails are relatively even, but you should wear good tennis shoes.
The yellow spring itself is quite small, but it’s fun to see the namesake of the town. The high iron content of the water is what causes that yellow/orange color.
If you’re looking for more outdoor adventures, Clifton Gorge is another popular park, but it’s a little further beyond the town.
2. Eat at a local restaurant or food truck
Yellow Springs is full of restaurants offering a variety of cuisines. You’ll find American, Indian, Chinese, Mexican and many others. My family got takeout from Greene Canteen, a vegan restaurant, and while I’d love to recommend it, the food really wasn’t great. Portions were quite small, and the food itself was salty and not very flavorful.
Otherwise, some popular spots are Sunrise Cafe, Winds Cafe, and Ye Olde Trail Tavern. There was also a food truck that had fresh cut fries and other comfort food, and the fries were delicious.
3. Browse the cute shops
I fell in love with this vintage and consignment store called Rose & Sal. The shop is so aesthetic and features furniture, a small selection of clothing, and other housewares. It’s definitely worth a visit just to drool over the cute items. I don’t remember pricing, but vintage does tend to be pricier.
I also really liked browsing Urban Handmade, where you can find handmade items from local artists. There are really unique and funny t-shirts, personal care items, license plate art, and much more.
4. Visit the Clifton Mill
This historic 19th-century mill is another popular spot. We didn’t get the chance to stop here, but it’s on my list for next time. You can see how a water-powered grist mill works, have a meal in the on-site restaurant (during non-Covid times), or buy freshly-ground flour. There’s also a classic red covered bridge, which is perfect for photos.
In the winter, there’s also a Christmas light display that attracts many tourists. People rave about the riverbank light show, the festive miniature village, and the room full of vintage Santas. Tickets cost $10 per person and are said to be well worth the price.
5. Pick apples or buy produce at a local farm
Since Yellow Springs is in the center of farmland, it only makes sense to stop by a farm if you have the time. In the fall, you can pick apples at Peifer Orchards, and from June through December, you can buy locally-grown produce at their market.
This is just a random photo, but I loved seeing this community table of free food for those who need it!
Places to Stay in Yellow Springs
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If you want to extend your day trip, there are a lot of cute Airbnbs in the area.
This bungalow is right across from the Glen Helen nature preserve and has a homey vintage feel. There’s a full kitchen, washer and dryer, and games and books.
You’ll get country home vibes from this private room with its own entrance and bathroom. The porch has cute wicker chairs, where you can relax after a day of exploring.
This loft is part of a former 19th-century jailhouse. The space features a unique angular ceiling, a private entrance, and a mini kitchen. If you stay here, you can tell your friends about that crazy time you “spent the night in jail.”
Despite growing up in Ohio, this is my first time writing about it haha. I’ll update this section with related posts when I have them, but in the meantime, here are some other posts to feed your wanderlust during this period of no travel.