Kids playing pinball at the Pinball Garage in Hamilton (photo courtesy of Travel Butler County)

5 Retro Road Trips in Butler County, Ohio

From vintage pinball games and old-school eats to drive-in movies and antique cars, there is plenty of throwback fun to be found here.

Pinball Garage: For a retro, family-friendly night out, hit up Pinball Garage in downtown Hamilton. In 2020, with the city’s help, owner Brad Baker expanded beyond his digital-pinball-machine-manufacturing business to convert Hamilton’s former Goodyear tire store along North Third Street into a modern-day pinball parlor. “We’re pinball nuts,” says Baker, who has 40 to 50 pinball machines on the floor at any given time, although he rotates through a collection of 70 different games. Pinball Garage also has classic and modern arcade consoles as well as prize games like claw machines. “We’re family friendly all the time, which makes us unique,” Baker says. “We do tons of birthday parties here.” For the 21-and-older crowd, Pinball Garage has a lineup of 30 drafts featuring mostly Ohio beers and a couple sodas on tap. “We have one of the best beer lists in the city,” Baker adds. On the weekends, Pinball Garage serves food from Brisketology, Baker’s food truck, which features smoked brisket, pulled pork and wings. Baker also purchased All8Up Pizza & Hoagies, a favorite Hamilton restaurant located just down the street. 113 N. Third St., Hamilton 45011, 513/895-7367,

Rows of vintage vehicles at the Salty Dog Museum in Shandon (photo courtesy of Travel Butler County)
Salty Dog Museum: Visitors are often surprised at the size and scope of the Salty Dog Museum in Shandon. “People say, ‘I didn’t realize it was this big!’” says Casey Miller, who co-owns the museum with her husband, BJ. “It is, and it’s amazing. There are probably over 70 vehicles.” The Salty Dog features a stunning collection of vintage cars and historic firetrucks. Mark Radtke and Ron Miller (Casey’s father-in-law), whose interest in antique cars goes back to their teenage years, founded the museum in 2008. The duo was building a car to race at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah when they purchased a building next to Ron’s machine shop, eventually filling the space with their collection of antique vehicles. “We get large and small groups in,” Miller says. “From kids and schools, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, nursing home field trips.” The by-appointment-only museum’s biggest event ties into the annual Shandon Strawberry Festival, which happens the second Saturday in June. “We have an open house, a car show, firetruck rides from here to town,” Miller says. The best part is all the vehicles work. “They all run. We all drive them. That’s our legacy, to keep them running.” 4995 Cincinnati Brookville Rd., Shandon 45063, 513/738-7353,

Three Feather Records: In early 2022, it was reported that vinyl records outsold compact discs for the first time since 1987. That’s good news for Eric DePrato and his sons, Jack and Mitch, who opened Three Feather Records in Fairfield in November 2021. “The whole idea formed because the three of us are freaks about music and have been as long as we can remember,” Jack says. The trio, natives of the area, are all musicians who play in local bands. “For a long time, vinyl was out of the picture,” Jack adds. “Once it started coming back around 2014, I started personally getting into records, and it kind of snowballed. We thought maybe we could put our own spin on it.” Three Feathers features thousands of new and used records, CDs, music books, guitars and more. The shop also promotes local bands. “We try to have a concert every weekend, usually Saturday, sometimes two to four bands,” says Jack. The shop seems to have struck a chord with multiple generations. “I expected when we opened that it’d be mostly older people,” Jack says. “And it’s been an even split, sometimes even more young people.” 1105 Magie Ave., Fairfield 45014, 513/816-7361,

Kids sitting on car watching movie at Holiday Auto Theatre in Hamilton (photo courtesy of Travel Butler County)
Holiday Auto Theatre: It doesn’t get much more old school than a drive-in movie, and the Holiday Auto Theatre in Hamilton has been delighting moviegoers for decades. Celebrating 75 years in 2023, the theater first opened in 1948 as the Hamilton Outdoor Theater. Over the years, a lot has changed, but many things have stayed the same. Families and friends still drive into the theater by the carload, paying admission at the gate and pulling into their spot, then tuning the radio to listen in to the latest double feature. Owners Todd Chancey and Mark Althoetmar bought the theater in 2007, injecting new life into it while maintaining local traditions. “We probably have 30 years of Disney experience between us,” Chancey says, “and we took everything we learned from them and applied it to the theater.” The Holiday is open seasonally, starting in the spring, and shows movies into the fall. No visit is complete without a stop at the snack bar. The small building in the center of the 9-acre field serves hot dogs, pizzas, steakburgers, nachos, giant pretzels, caramel apple towers and lots of candy — making a great night at the movies all the sweeter. 1816 Old Oxford Rd., Hamilton 45013, 513/929-2999,

Burger, waffle fries and root beer float from The Jug in Middletown (photo courtesy of Travel Butler County)
The Jug: Burgers, fries and frosty root beer never go out of style. The Jug in Middletown has been a favorite for generations of families since it opened in 1932. It would be easy to just drive by the squat, round building on Central Avenue, but one smell of the juicy burgers on the grill will have you pulling in for a bite. Owner Donnie Osbourne, who bought the restaurant in 2018, grew up visiting The Jug as a kid. He keeps up the old-school experience, complete with carhops dashing out to your vehicle to take your order. Customers simply pull into a numbered parking spot and wait for service. Don’t want to eat in your car? You can also grab a seat at one of the picnic tables near the building. Everyone has their go-to order, but first-timers should try a few of the classics, from cheeseburgers and chili dogs to waffle fries and chicken nuggets, plus a float and a half-gallon of root beer. Don’t miss out on The Jug’s signature eats, like the Jug Boy with a middle bun, cheese, lettuce, pickle and tartar sauce; or the Middle Burger with pickles, bacon, peanut butter and honey. 3610 Central Ave., Middletown 45044, 513/424-1677,