The Federal in Youngstown - Photos by OHventures
Nothing brings people together more than the holiday season. Each year, we look forward to catching up with friends who have come from near and far back to their hometowns. Some of the best places to go to spread the warmth and cheer of the holidays is at your local watering holes.
While bars and pubs can be a dime a dozen in some areas, there are some that stand out above the rest with a certain charm and cool factor. Below are some of those bars that are worth a visit when you're meeting up with old friends and family.
In Akron, the Thirsty Dog Brewing Company has been concocting tasty beers since 1997. But only recently have they opened their very own Tasting Room, located right on site in the room next to where the stuff is brewed! Found near the University of Akron, this nondescript building lures you in with the aroma of freshly brewed hops. Try the canine-themed beers, such as Whippet Wheat, Irish Setter Red, and of course the 12 Dogs of Christmas!
If beer is not your style, consider heading to Jilly's Music Room on the North Side, where you can get cocktails in a modern and sleek setting while enjoying local live music!
My pal Jake always shows me some great places when I visit Athens in Southeast Ohio, and one that I will never forget is Tony's Tavern. This is a dive bar where everybody knows your name, and where the house specialty is a shot called the hot nut - made with hot coffee and hazelnut liquor. They are delicious, cheap, and a lot of fun!
Another go-to spot for OU alum and other folks who come back into town is The Pub. Here, they are known for their aquariums of beer and for having the best cheeseburgers in town (according to Jake)!
Buzzbin Art & Music Shop
If downtown Canton is where you are heading for the holidays, then Buzzbin Art & Music Shop is the destination for you. The atmosphere is eclectic and one-of-a-kind, with a counter made entirely of bottle caps, and an adjacent arcade full of vintage pinball machines. The crowd is great for people watching, and you never know what genre of music will be blaring from the stage that night.
Rhinegeist Brewery is a brewery situated in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Over The Rhine in Cincinnati. The wide open interior is available to reserve for private events, or you can come anytime to play cornhole, ping pong, foosball, or watch a ball game - all while relaxing with some locally brewed booze. Take a tour to learn about the history, or enjoy the awesome rooftop bar for a 360-degree view of Cincinnati.
We all know that Cleveland rocks, which you can experience for yourself by going to popular music bars such as Euclid Tavern, an old staple of University Circle, which was recently featured on an episode of "Drunk History."
For something new and different, try Punch Bowl Social, located in the Flats neighborhood. It's a bar that focuses on entertainment and games, including bowling, ping pong, karaoke, board games, foosball, video games, shuffleboard, and more! You can't go wrong competing with friends over drinks and games!
It was extremely difficult to choose just one, but my favorite bar in the Short North is Bodega, which is a "hipster" hangout perfect for a small group of close friends. Bodega has been recently renovated and is known for its endless array of draught beers, to-die-for grilled cheese, and a charming crowd of cool kids.
For something really different, you should head down the street from Bodega to Kingmaker's Board Game Parlour. offers over 500 unique board games paired alongside a nice selection of cocktails and beers on draft. Visitors are required to pay a $5 "library fee" that lasts the entire night, and allows them to play any and all of the board games of their choosing.
The Oregon District is the place to be for nightlife in Dayton. My personal pick is Blind Bob's, a great mom & pop spot for people in search of a few drinks, good ol' fashioned bar food, some rockin' karaoke, and even "Battle of the Bands" events. Not to mention, the fried pickles are the tastiest I have ever had!
Another fine choice, as told to me by my pal Dan, is The Century Bar, a bourbon and whiskey house. Even if you don't like bourbon, the folks at The Century claim that they can make anyone a bourbon drinker, even those with the most discriminating palate.
One of the newest additions to the downtown Toledo scene is also one of the must-visit places. M'Osteria & Bar is situated right between both stadiums, and is a perfect mix of old and new. There's a wraparound bar and open kitchen format downstairs, and a classy lounge area with live entertainment upstairs.
You can never go wrong with heading to the famous Tony Packo's to chow down on chili, and to check out the hot dog bun collection.
For those of you who watch the TV show "Bar Rescue," you might be familiar with The Federal. This recently transformed bar in downtown Youngstown was jam-packed with patrons when I went back home for Thanksgiving - and for good reason! The bar is complete with a dance floor, pool tables, and great drink specials - try the Youngstown Mule, and the Burger Bomb (if you dare).
Right down the block from The Federal is V2 Wine Bar Trattoria, which is definitely worth a visit!