Family Activities in Cincinnati

Come to town for the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event, March 30-31, and bring the family! There’s plenty for your spouse, significant other (or insignificant other) and kids to do while you’re at the show.

The Kenwood Towne Centre (which I think is the city’s best mall) is about two miles from our office & shop, and there’s a good outlet mall, Cincinnati Premium Outlets (Cole Haan, J. Crew, Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, Banana Republic, a store that sells refurbished and discontinued tools, and much more) about 15 miles away. And about an hour north is Prime Outlets Jeffersonville, where I spend far too much money on a regular basis at the Pottery Barn outlet (there’s a tool store at this one, too). But there’s far more than shopping. Listed below are just a few of the many family-friendly attractions in the immediate area:

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
This second-oldest zoo in the United States opened in 1875 with a modest collection of animals. Today, it’s a national historic landmark that’s recognized as one of the best zoos in the nation, both by parents and by other zoological parks, and it’s an international leader in the protection and breeding of endangered animal and plants. Now, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden boasts more than 500 animal and 3,000 plant species, which makes it one of the largest in the country. So that’s all impressive, but what it doesn’t tell you is how much fun it is to visit. The vast majority of the habitats are in a natural setting, so it’s not just looking at animals in cages (heck – you can even pet giraffes). There’s a petting zoo, a cat house, a reptile house, an insect house (blech), lots of different species of bears, the nocturnal house (my favorite grouping; I love the fennec foxes), elephants, exotic birds, lots of bears, lions and tigers…and many more.

Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
Even if there were no museums housed under its roof, Union Terminal alone is worth the visit. This 1933 Art Deco masterpiece (and National Historic Landmark) has a 10-story, arched limestone and glass facade with curving wings on either side, and a beautiful illuminated waterfall fountain leading down from the front entrance. And it’s still the local train terminal , though there are far fewer trains these days than in my grandparents’ day.

In addition to the Amtrak station, the center houses three museums and an awesome Omnimax theater (“Hubble” will be playing during the conference). The Cincinnati History Museum displays materials about the Queen City and surrounding region (did you know the city used to be named “Losantiville?” And “Porkopolis?”). Among the history museum’s permanent exhibits is a re-creation of the late 1850s Public Landing, complete with a 94′-long steamboat that you can step aboard, models of the city from the 1900s to the 1940s (with working trains and inclines , there are a lot of hills around here) and a 1940s streetcar. The Duke Energy Children’s Museum is a great space for kids to climb, crawl learn and explore. There are eight hands-on exhibit areas (including two for pre-school-age kids and younger). The Museum of Natural History & Science has, among thousands of other exhibits and displays, a re-created limestone cave complete with waterfalls, fossils and a live bat colony (I could do without the live bats), and an ice cave.

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
A gross generalization here, but the Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and houses used in the 19th century for slaves to escape to free states and Canada. The Ohio River was the demarcation between the North and the South, so once across it, a slave was in a free state , but this did not guarantee safety, as bounty hunters were legally empowered to capture escaped slaves in the North and return them to the South; to be truly free, an escaped slave had to cross into Canada. The Ohio River, however, was a symbol of freedom, if not safety. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center works in cooperation with the National Park Service to make the history and stories of the Underground Railroad available to a wide audience with general information, lists of documented Railroad sites, case studies of people who escaped to freedom and much more. A visit to the center is a truly moving (and educational) experience.

The Newport Aquarium
Containing of more than a million gallons of water (and lots of glass/Plexiglas/acrylic), the Newport Aquarium houses thousands of animals from around the world in 70 exhibits and 14 galleries. I’m particularly enamored of the more than 200 feet of acrylic tunnels that allow you to “walk through” the water surrounded by aquatic life. It’s also pretty cool to pet the sharks, and the jellyfish display is simply gorgeous.

Krohn Conservatory
This Art Deco glass and aluminum structure situated in Eden Park is beautiful to look at, but go inside and you’ll be astounded by the 3,500 plant species from around the world.

There’s also the Cincinnati Fire Museum, the Cincinnati Art Museum (it’s free!), King’s Island, the Contemporary Arts Center, and much more. And you’ll find many more Cincinnati-area goings-on in the events calendar at cincyusa.com.

- Megan Fitzpatrick

*Photo by Farshid Assassi/Assassi Productions, Courtesy of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

 

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