Beating “The Blahs” – Cincy Style

As a family, one of our favorite places to visit is Cincinnati. It’s a quick trip for us and there are so many things to do for both family/kid and adult entertainment. We have been there so many times that I cannot possibly describe in detail all that we have done or recommend there, but I will give some highlights for anyone wanting to check it out!

But, first and foremost, I have to give a HUGE shout-out to my husband, Jeremy, for his stellar driving in the treacherous winter conditions we encountered. He handled our F-150 like a boss, and also managed to put up with my incessant paranoid backseat driving and squealing. Well done, Babe. Well done.  The kids were in the backseat with their iPads and awesome new headphones, therefore making them ideal travel buddies (translation: occupied and quiet!).

Last weekend, our itinerary included the Newport Aquarium and Great Wolf Lodge. It was my first time at Great Wolf Lodge, but I love that aquarium and was so excited to see they have added to it.

During the winter months, the Newport Aquarium runs a great ticket special where you get a free kid ticket with any adult ticket purchase. That was almost a $40 savings for us! (Which I promptly spent on a private penguin encounter for Jeremy and C.) Jeremy and C both love penguins (who doesn’t, though?), and C had just finished a study on these adorable creatures at school the previous week, so it was well-timed. C’s favorite fact:  Penguins poop every 10 minutes! Hence, we will never own a penguin as a pet.

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They have a coat check for winter time, and adjusted hours. I always recommend buying tickets in advance (coupons at the bottom of them!), but that’s because I’m a worrier and worry it will sell out on our day of arrival. Plus, I hate waiting in lines. At first glance, I think the ticket price can seem steep, but there are so many interactive and hands-on activities that I truly feel we all got an “experience” out of it. Our favorite part was Sting Ray Bay. I think these creatures are fascinating. Years ago (before kids), Jeremy and I went swimming with sting rays in Grand Cayman and it is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Jeremy even got a hickey from one of them; a fact that he will NEVER live down. LOL! (Sorry, Babe.) We spent the bulk of our time with the sting rays, partially because there is a very tropical vibe in that area – reggae music, sunlight, and a warmer temp than other areas. The only thing I was missing was a margarita.

There is a little cafe’ in the aquarium. Overpriced as hell, of course, but we were able to score a little snack there to keep the kids’ Hangry Instinct from taking over. I just love aquariums, and Newport is impressive. In fact, if I ever hit a MAJOR lottery, mark my words that Huntington, WV, will have its own aquarium. I HEART FISHES (and other aquatic creatures)! Last tip:  Take a dry shirt for the kiddos. Between the touch tank and the sting rays (yes you can touch them!!), my kids were soaked, and since it was 5 degrees outside, we ended up buying crappy clearance sweatshirts.

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Lodging:  If you are planning to do just the Aquarium/Newport area, there is a brand new Hampton Inn right across the street. It is very walkable, and the hotel has a little pool and clean, spacious rooms. Great property!

After a day at the aquarium and a night in at the Hampton Inn, we ventured up to Mason, OH, to Great Wolf Lodge. (It is literally right next to King’s Island.) All I can say is WOW! I wish we would have had more days there, because I honestly don’t even feel like I can give very good info about it after just one night. I’m sure there are other experts on that place, but I can tell you it is overwhelmingly fun. We sprung for the room upgrade so the kids could stay in a little tent with bunk beds, which I think added to the experience and it also gave a little separation. The water park is clean (thank God), and the lifeguards there mean business. As a perpetual worrier who really goes psycho around water, I appreciated their diligence and commitment to water safety. Oh, and I was able to use my (Super Hip & Cool Mom) Sunny Tag waterproof pouch!

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Life jackets and (crappy) towels are provided, and there dozens of ways to spend hundreds of your hard-earned dollars at the various games in the arcade, mini golf, shops, etc. They have restaurants on-property too, but we only had pizza during a swim break. Parents:  There is a well-stocked bar! Hallelujah.  And they carried one of my favorite beers, Kona. Due to my recent surgery, I really couldn’t do much, so I spent a lot of time in the “little kid” area with L. I loved this area because he could splash and climb the stairs to the mini-slides while I kept an eye on him. It was nice not feeling like I had to hover. I’m excited to go back another time when I can be more active with the kids because I love water parks and water slides, but just could not do that stuff this time. Check Groupon for specials, and also check with your workplace to see if any discounts are offered. Most important:  The kids had a blast! And the smiles on their faces are all I wanted. (Oh, and have I mentioned that penguins poop every 10 minutes?)

There is SO much to do in the Cincinnati area. We go several times a year and do something different every time. I am trying not to be too lengthy, but I want to highlight some fun stuff we have done in the past in the Queen City, therefore I will fail at that attempt. Bear with me.

Duke Energy Children’s Museum:  Wow! Worth the small entry fee and definitely a great way for kids to run off steam. It’s clean, and things work. There are several different play areas, and a special gated area for little kids with stroller parking. It is well-staffed, and a quick little drive from downtown. Last time we were there, the kids’ claimed their favorite part was riding in the golf cart (shuttle) from the back of the parking lot to the entrance, but I know they also enjoyed the water tables, tree-house, and little village. NOTE: Right now their website has notice that they are closed through Spring 2018 due to construction, so check before you go! I’m excited to see what this new construction brings, because it was pretty awesome to begin with.

EnterTRAINment Junction:  Now this place is just a little gem of an experience! Located north of the city, it is the WORLD’S Largest Indoor Train display. Basically, it is a huge model train that is laid out chronologically by period and historically accurate. One nice little touch they offer:  Small step stools as you enter so our little shorties can see the display and carry with them throughout. There is also a little indoor play area and a funhouse. They do have a little concession area and a gift shop. When the weather is nice, they also offer some outdoor train rides/activities, but we have not been there when those were available. L absolutely flips out over trains, so we were bummed to miss out on that, but both kids just absolutely loved this place. Tickets are very reasonable, and kids 2 and under are free. If you’re looking for something to fill a few hours in the Cincy area, check this place out!! You’ll be impressed, I promise. Like I said, it’s a little gem!

Cincinnati Reds Game:  Just like Great Wolf Lodge, I’m hardly an expert on this place, but what I love about this experience is Great American Ballpark itself. First of all, I love baseball:  Any sport that allows day drinking in broad daylight without judgement is A-OK in my book. Plus, the whole atmosphere of a baseball game just feels so American and hearkens back to a simpler time. This stadium though: Breastfeeding suite; clean bathrooms; lots of activities for the kids including an awesome roped off playgound…. Yes! Plus, it is very walkable from the downtown hotels and across the street from a brewery (Yay!). You can get tickets for a reasonable price, and if it is your little one’s first time, the customer service desk will make you a little certificate to commemorate the event. It is definitely a very family-friendly environment and a great spring/summer activity in Cincy.

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Cincinnati Zoo: I admit, I was on Fiona-Watch because nothing can be cuter than this baby hippo! While I didn’t get to see her, I did see her parents Bibi and Henry (RIP!), and this zoo was just awesome. Easy to navigate and lots of great exhibits. It was hot when we were there last summer, but the animals were still out and about. We paid the extra few bucks to feed the giraffes and it was absolutely worth the money (and waiting in a little line). The kids just squealed and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Fun fact: Giraffes have black tongues! We rode the train and watched a great bird show (a parrot flew right over our heads!), and we were able to beat the heat in a couple indoor exhibits along the way. We rented a 2-kiddo stroller, which I think was a smart move because it kept me from having to pack ours and drag it around.

OMG this is getting way too long and I’m sorry, but one other thing I want to mention is Rhinegeist Brewery. Again, I’m not an expert on this place, but I know someone who is (my bestie!) and I want to encourage you to check our her blog, Wild and Wonderful Me, to learn more about this cool beer-drinkers destination. While you’re at her blog, check out the other awesome stuff she gets into. She’s one cool cat! (Love you, Michele!)

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