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Category Archives: Cincinnati Parks

Afternoon with Nana and Nature

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Today, with Nana in tow, we headed out to check out the Cincinnati Nature Center at Rowe Woods.  I had been wanting to go here for a while and after spending a little over 3 hours there, I have to say, I highly recommend it to families and nature lovers alike.

It does cost to get in.  $8 per adult, $6 for seniors, and $4 for children over the age of 3.  There is also a membership option for those who plan to return often.

But, it is really pretty.  I have been wanting a go to place for hikes with the girls and this place definitely has that.

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The trails are well marked, well maintained and have levels ranging from easy to difficult.  We opted for the turtle trail this afternoon, which takes a 1/2 mile trip around a lake.  There was a lot of trees and shade, as well as other things of interest for the girls.  The bridges were a hit.

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We also checked out a very small portion of the Playscape, which is the park’s natural playground.  The girls found a sand pit and were quite happy.  But, eventually, I managed to drag them away from there to the stream and they had an absolute ball playing there.

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Even Nana got in on the water play action.

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There is a ton more here to explore.  I am really looking forward to going back with the girls for more Fall fun.

Megaland

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Today’s adventure was a trip to check out a park on the other side of town.  It was a bit of a drive for us, but we wanted to check out the old school wooden play structures that this park supposedly had.  And on that front, it didn’t disappoint.  It had a wonderful wooden play space with all kinds of things to climb and bridges to cross.

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The one disappointment was that things have kind of been neglected with time.  It is a great park and I imagine when it was first built, it was really amazing.  It is sad that some things are so obviously in need of repair.  My husband even joked that if we ever go there again, he is bringing a hammer with him.  To this end, they have recently started charging a $5 fee for parking to help go towards repairs and you can see where they have recently replaced some of the ropes and boards.  So, they are trying.

The flip side of some of the things being older is that they still have things like this slide.

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Which made me nostalgic for the parks of my childhood.  The girls loved it too.

I think the kid’s favorite part of the day was when we took a little walk and found the amphitheater.  The girls and their buddy Milo met two other kids and all 5 of them spent a good amount of time singing, dancing and just running around crazy.

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I don’t see us returning often simply because of the distance from our house, but I really hope they do manage to get the funds they need to keep the place such a fun destination for families in that area.  It is definitely a place worth a little effort.

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A New Day, A New Adventure

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Today we headed out to Sharon Woods.  We were planning to check out Adventure Station which is an indoor play area (admission $2.50 for kids over the age of two).

http://cincykidsapprove.com/reviews/index.php/parks/sharon-woods/

We don’t typically venture to this part of town as it’s not exactly a short drive for us, but it ended up being a really fun day and we enjoyed exploring other parts of the park as well.  Just me and the girls.

The indoor playground is a lot of fun.  Tunnels, slides, a “birds nest”, and a ball pit for kids ages 2-5.  The ball pit was Meredith’s favorite part of the day.

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There is also a nature center that the girls ran around in for a while checking out the turtles, snakes, and other small animals that live there.  We played outside for a while as well, where there is a typical playground and swings to play on.

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We then explored the grounds a little bit.  We didn’t take advantage of the trails, but did find a bridge and then Nora’s favorite part of the day… we discovered a waterfall.  You can tell by how excited she is that this was a treat for her.

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And honestly, sitting there by the water with my girls, I was pretty content too.

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Membership Insanity

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“Do you have a pass to everywhere?”  This question was posed to me by a good friend today while we sat poolside at the YMCA… where I recently signed our family up for a summer only membership.  And the answer to this question… is (somewhat embarrassingly), yes, I do.

But, I have a good explanation for this and it is more than an unhealthy compulsion to feel like I belong.  For most places, the price of the membership pass is equal to (or sometimes even less than) the cost of two general admissions.  So if you go more than once, it makes more economic sense to buy the membership.  And you often get other added benefits, such as free parking and discounts on food.  So, yes… a lot of wallet space is now taken up with family memberships, but really, is it my fault that Cincinnati is actually a city that has a lot to offer it’s families?

But, not all memberships are created equal, so here are my reviews:

YMCA – Not all of these facilities are the same, so I highly recommend getting a tour before signing on the dotted line.  But, the one I joined is a nice facility with a great baby pool area and I plan to use some time this summer to teach my kids swim lessons on my own.  So, $299 for a summer membership (which does include the exercise facilities as well) is worth it.

Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens – Almost everyone in Cincinnati has this membership.  The highest level of family membership is about $130 and includes the rides (train, carousel), parking, 6 free tickets to the 4D movie experience, 1 free guest per visit, 20% off of all purchases (food and stores) and you earn zoo bucks with all purchases as well which can be redeemed for money off down the road.  This is the best membership by far if you ask me and our zoo is amazing.  Zoo Blooms, Zoo Babies, Festival of Lights, Penguin Days, Zootini, Zoo Brews… amazing.  http://cincinnatizoo.org/

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The Cincinnati Museum Center – This one is also about $130 for the basic family membership and includes admission to all of the museums (otherwise each has it’s own admission fees), free parking and discounts on admission to the omnimax theatre.  It is also worth the expense if you ask me and is a great place to go on the rainier/colder days.  http://www.cincymuseum.org/

Kings Island – This one is pricey (about $90 per person), but still, if you plan to go more than once the pass makes sense.  We actually got ours last Fall, which let us in then and all of this year as well.  If you get the gold pass, it does also include parking.  I was a little leary of getting passes because my kids are so young and this is a full on amusement park, but we have been 3 times already this year and the girls LOVE it.  They have the regular park as well as the water park, which makes the price seem a little more worth it.  I think the girls actually like going to the pool at the YMCA better than Soak City, but they love the kid’s section at the park and there are a good amount of rides for them there.  I was surprised they were so into it already.  And since the grandparents typically give this as a Christmas present to their kids and grandkids, why not?  https://www.visitkingsisland.com/

The Newport Aquarium – This one is by far the biggest rip off as far as money goes.  There is no such thing as a family pass here, so you have to pay a pretty high price for each individual to have their own.  An adult pass is about $50 per person.  Again, if you go more than once, you are better off getting the pass, but next year when we have to pay for all 4 of us separately, I may have to think long and hard about this one.  It is nice for those rainier/colder days as well and it is always fun to run around Newport on the Levee, but you still have to pay separate for parking in the garage and even the 20% discount in the store and food court do not necessarily make up for that.  They do have Scuba Santa though.  http://www.newportaquarium.com/

Highfield Discovery Garden – This annual membership is $40 for the family.  This is one of the few Hamilton County parks that you have to pay additional (beyond the annual parking sticker) to get in to.  But, it is such a cute place and they have nice interactive educational classes in the morning and afternoon most days and the grounds are beautiful.  It’s just a different type of play area, which includes a giant tree house to climb in, a butterfly garden, a frog pond, a bridge and tiny little fairy village and more.  Plus, I feel good about giving my money to the park.  http://cincykidsapprove.com/reviews/index.php/parks/highfield-discovery-garden/

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So, there you have it – a little information on many different membership options.  I am sure there are others, but it’s probably best if I don’t know about them.

Urban Beauty

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Tonight’s family adventure was to the somewhat recently refurbished Washington Park in the Over the Rhine neighborhood of downtown Cincinnati.  The city has been putting some effort into revitalization of this historic, but gone to crap over the years, area of town and it is really starting to show.  The neighborhood itself is beautiful at it’s core… old architecture and history that includes underground beer brewing tunnels and a lot of interesting stories.  The people and the activity of this area have not been so beautiful in recent years, with a lot of crime and run down buildings.  But, the neighborhood has never been devoid of potential.  Anyway, long story short, there is now a thriving business and social undertaking that is making OTR a destination once again.  Washington Park is part of that.

http://washingtonpark.org/

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We parked on the street at a meter (a brick paved street at that – love those!), but there is garage underneath as well for $1 an hour if you feel safer parking there.  Washington Park really has it all.  It has a sectioned off dog park, open green space, organized events (tonight’s was a free yoga class and there had to be about 60 people there for it), a water fountain play space and a more traditional play space.  The girls loved the sand area, the castle with the slides and the musical instruments.

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My favorite part was watching the girls play in the fountains and on the waterfall steps.

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It is important to note that the neighborhood is still rough around the edges.  A friend and her son witnessed a fist fight one night while they were there and you can count on likely hearing some colorful language at some point.  However, I still feel strongly that this park is one that everyone in this area should visit at least once.  As a born and raised Cincinnatian, it is nice to see the promise of how amazing this city can be.  And the park is truly beautiful… and fun.  We will go back.

Innocence

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We had gorgeous weather the other day and decided to check out a local park that I had heard good things about, but had never been to.  (I will put a review of the park at the bottom of this post for those who are interested.)

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My kids are social.  They like most people and are quick to say hi and engage even strangers.  For the most part I love this about them.  I like that they are quick to befriend and accept all children and most adults.  I like that people enjoy being with my kids because of this trait.  I like that they don’t have a hard time when it comes to separating from me, saving all of us from the heartache those tears often cause.

While the girls were playing, before I realized what was happening, Nora walked over to another mother and asked her for one of her chips.  And a little later, she asked this older man to help her get a drink of water from the drinking fountain.  Both adults were very nice people, also enjoying the park with their families, so there was no huge cause for concern on this particular day.  But, sometimes I cringe at the extreme lack of fear and readiness to engage strangers that both of my kids have.

I have joked on a couple of occasions that it would not be hard for someone to kidnap my kids.  Which isn’t really funny.  And isn’t that far from the truth.  Which scares me.

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I struggle with these emotions.  My kids are 3 and 2 years old.  They don’t know that there are monsters in this world.  And I don’t want them to – ever, if I can help it.  Although, I know that is not realistic.

I don’t know exactly what the right course of action is as their mother.  I don’t want to scare them into no longer approaching strangers and while I do talk to them about what I see as the best behaviors for them to practice in these moments, I don’t want to lay it on too thick because I don’t want to stifle the wonderfully loving and accepting little people that they are.

I guess until they are older, I will just have to keep an eye out for the monsters on their behalf and pray to God that we don’t ever actually encounter any.

And now, on a light note, my review.

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http://www.cincinnatiparks.com/alms-park

Alms Park is located up the hill from Columbia Parkway, off of Tusculum Ave.  It’s not too far from Ault Park for those of you familiar with the Cincinnati area.  It is really beautiful.  On one end, it has an overlook of Lunken Airport and on the other an overlook of the river.  It has several little pagodas, beautiful flowers, and a castle-like house that holds decent enough bathrooms (which is important to those of you with potty-trained or recently potty trained kids).  Surrounded by magnificent old trees, I have heard it is amazing in the fall.

There are also the usual playground suspects… swings, slides, monkey bars and other things for the kids to climb.  The girls had a really good time exploring the grounds.  But, the signature feature of this park is the recently refurbished concrete slide.  The whole family had a good time playing on this slide.

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Bottom line: We had a nice, fun family afternoon and we will go again.