Nature Trails Lead to Cocktail Trails in Dublin

by Rich Warren

Dublin, Ohio, has long celebrated its Irish heritage and Celtic connections, but hidden gems like its surprising natural beauty and astounding public art have also long made the city a worthy destination to explore. And now, with major new developments on the city’s riverfront alongside the scenic Scioto River, there’s all the more reason to make a visit. It’s now possible to park your car (for free!) once in downtown Dublin and enjoy a weekend’s worth of memorable experiences by foot, bicycle or even by kayak.

If you’ve never been to Dublin — or if you haven’t visited recently — it’s time to take a look at what’s new.

Dublin’s new riverfront

The most visible new development is the 760-foot-long Dublin Link, a dramatic pedestrian and bicycle bridge spanning the Scioto River, which makes a quick and easy connection between the city’s historic downtown on the river’s west side with the new Bridge Park development on the eastern riverbank, a sizable expansion of the downtown area that mixes retail shops and restaurants with hotels and multi-story residences. The bridge’s striking contemporary design features a sinuous S-curve that passes through a single concrete pylon, like a thread through the eye of a needle. High above the tree-lined river below, pedestrians may spot water birds like cranes or cormorants diving for fish or watch kayakers paddling along in the gentle current.

Family walking across the Dublin Link pedestrian bridge

Dublin Link, Robb McCormick Photography 

The bridge makes it simple and easy to first wander through the 19th-century stone and frame structures in Dublin’s historic core, enjoying a local craft lager or IPA at North High Brewing or a cocktail at Mezzo’s double-decker patios, or to sample Italian wine or cocktails paired with small plates at locally owned Coast Wine House or oysters on the half shell at The Pearl, whose patio overlooks the river and the new bridge. Then saunter across the bridge to sample the many new establishments in Bridge Park. Make a stop at Urban Meyer’s Pint House, sipping your libations alfresco or cheering your favorite team indoors where light displays behind towers of beer bottles create kaleidoscopic colors. Down the street, a giant red rooster hangs above the entrance to the North Market Bridge Park, whose many vendors sell wares as diverse as tamales, falafel, sushi and bubble tea.

Farther down the street, at the door of the side-by-side 16-Bit Bar+Arcade and Pins Mechanical Co., a sign informs visitors “You have our permission to act like a kid again,” so let yourself go, enjoying recreational options like pinball, video games, bocce, pingpong, and duckpin bowling. End your visit to Bridge Park with a stop at VASO Rooftop Lounge high atop the AC Dublin Hotel, sampling cocktails like Japanese high balls beside a fire pit or on comfy couches beneath a wall of jasmine, enjoying the sunset over the green river valley far below.

Two friends biking past the field of corn

The Field of Corn, by Megan Leigh Bernard

Follow Nature & Cocktail Trails

That river valley is just one sign of  how easy it is to access natural beauty in Dublin. When it’s completed, RIverside Crossing Park on either side of the new pedestrian bridge will accentuate the beauty of the steep riverbanks and give access to the river itself. Close by, walk through Dublin’s Grounds of Remembrance, honoring local veterans, to find a tree-lined trail and boardwalk alongside a deep gorge. A short walk leads to Indian Run Falls, a beautiful “bridal veil” type of falls preceded by a series of smaller cascades and rapids. You’d never know Dublin’s bustling downtown is just a short walk away.

Then head back to the pedestrian bridge, strolling south alongside the Scioto to downtown’s other natural gem, the almost hidden Kiwanis Riverway Park, where a boardwalk meanders through a wetland filled with tiger lilies, honeysuckle, and wild roses with dragonflies dancing above the water and hawks circling on high. Be on the lookout for bald eagles and other birds — more than 200 species can be found here. In little clearings just off the trail, look for two of Dublin’s vibrantly colored Riverboxes, artist-created vessels with containers holding artist-made stamps and journals for you to record your thoughts. They’re a mash-up of geocaching and public art found in secluded nooks throughout the city.

If all the walking has made you work up a thirst, head back to downtown, where many of the 18 stops on Dublin’s Celtic Cocktail Trail are located. Try the bright orange Irish Sunset at Fado Pub & Kitchen, a Belfast Hot-Blooded at Tucci’s or an Irish Sour at Z Cucina di Spirito. At the quaint Dublin Village Tavern, quaff a Skibberdeen, a blend of Irish whiskey and tea, while sampling Irish Egg Rolls or Irish sliders, all in a pub that looks transported from the Old World.

Family looking over the observation deck down to Indian Run waterfall

Indian Run Falls, by Megan Leigh Bernard 

Two teenage girls looking through the telescope at Glacier Ridge Wetlands

Glacier Ridge Wetlands, by Megan Leigh Bernard

Beyond Downtown

Save time to explore the many treasures out in Dublin’s neighborhoods, especially its distinctive public art installations. One of them, Field of Corn, is a local icon featuring more than a hundred six-foot tall ears of corn lined up as if in march formation. Just north of downtown in Scioto Park, look for Leatherlips, a 12-foot-high layered stone sculpture honoring a local Wyandot chief of yesteryear. Giant soccer ball sculptures are scattered throughout Avery Park and the Dancing Hares at Ballantrae Community Park frisk in a circle, high above a line of spray fountains where visitors can cavort themselves. More than 70 such installations are sprinkled across the city.

Dublin’s 135-mile recreation path system makes reaching points beyond downtown a simple matter, especially by bicycle. Download a Dublin Bike Map and Parks Guide to help with trip planning.

Need help? Stop by one of seven Bike Repair Stations for a tune-up, or flag down a Dublin Bicycle Ambassador, who can aid with everything from bike maintenance to directions.

And just like its Irish namesake, Dublin has plenty of “emerald space” — Its 60+ parks cover more than 1,500 acres. Among the highlights are Glacier Ridge Metro Park with a 25-foot-high observation tower where you can view wildlife in a scenic wetland area. Hayden Falls Park features a 35-foot-high cascade in a unique gorge habitat with towering rock walls on either side. Make sure to visit Coffman Park, the site of a Guinness Book of World Record-setting Irish Jig during Dublin’s famed Irish Festival, one of the largest in the world. Also, stop at the Coffman Homestead, one of the city’s oldest homes, where an apple tree was grown from sprigs taken from the last surviving tree in Ohio planted by Johnny Appleseed.

Two families looking out from the observation tower at Glacier Ridge Metro Park

Glacier Ridge Observation Deck, by Megan Leigh Bernard

On the hottest days, Zoombezi Bay is the place to be. The 22.7-acre waterpark boasts 17 water slides, a wave pool, and two lazy rivers (including one just for adults). Right next door is the world-famous Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, home to more than 600 species from every continent. Among the newest animal residents are the California sea lions and harbor seals of Adventure Cove, opened in 2020, and stingrays where guests can have the opportunity to feed and “pet” these birds of the sea. A new attraction in 2021 is Dinosaur Island, a boat ride that takes visitors past 30 animatronic dinosaurs that move and sound like the real thing.

A couple walking hand in hand by PINS Mechanical Company

Dog days 

Pup pals don’t need to miss out on the Dublin fun with their favorite humans. Let them off the leash at the 2.5-acre dog park at Glacier Ridge Metro Park — it includes an agility course and a full acre in the woods for your pooch to play in. NandoDog Park at Darree Fields Park (named in honor of Dublin’s first K9 patrol officer) features areas for large and small dogs and some pup-friendly playground equipment. Afterwards, treat your four-legged friend to a pup scoop at Johnsons Ice Cream or a Waggie Bone, a dog treat dipped in yogurt-based white chocolate, at Winans Chocolates.

Two girls walking a dog on the path at Indian Run Falls

Indian Run Falls, by Megan Leigh Bernard