Cincinnati with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day
If you made it all the way to Cincinnati, you can't leave without spending some time near the Ohio River. For tweens who've been land-bound most of their lives, the river is a grand sight to see. There are riverboats and restaurants, many on the Kentucky side, but a few on the Ohio side as well.
Southeast of Downtown you'll pass the Great American Ballpark (home of the Cincinnati Reds). Take the street that curves behind the back of the U.S. Bank Arena (100 Broadway, Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-421-4111), where you can pull onto the public landing for free parking. The surface is brick-paved and angles slightly toward the river, which might scare you a bit, but your kids will get a kick out of it. The Showboat Majestic, which is on the Historic Register, is usually docked right there.
Walk about 50 yards east to the Serpentine Wall, a snaky concrete staircase your kids will love. They can walk or sit and watch river traffic. The steps take you to the river's edge so keep an eye on your little ones.
After climbing to the top of the Serpentine Wall, walk another 100 yards or so east where you will find the Cincinnatus Statue. For no other reason than the fact that it's really big and tall, kids love climbing atop the granite base and imitating Cincinnatus while their parents snap pictures. This may or may not be permissible but families do it all the time and no one seems to care.
You'll have plenty of time for a quick tour of the Cincinnati Reds Museum and Hall of Fame (100 Joe Nuxhall Way, Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-765-7000). It's within walking distance but you'd have to double back, so instead drive west, behind the Great American Ballpark, turn right on Main Street and left into the garage. The Reds Hall of Fame is across the street. The museum is open Sunday to Saturday from 10AM to 5PM, with hours varying on game days (and closed on Bengals game days). Admission is $15/person.
Now walk one block west to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-333-7500) for a look at something special: the Berlin Wall Monument. A gift from the city of Berlin, the monument is such a recent Cincinnati addition that you won't find it in travel directories. It stands outside the main entrance facing the Ohio River.
Take a look at the Berlin Wall Monument, read the plaque, examine the paving stones and explain to your children the historic significance of the Berlin Wall. You and your tweens may even have your pictures taken next to the historic symbol of freedom for no charge; but if you have time to spare, you should enter the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for a brief tour (tickets are $12/adults, $8/children and include an audio tour). Inside you and your tweens can spend a solemn moment inside a slave pen, a 177-year-old log structure that was actually used in a nearby Kentucky farm to house slaves before they were sold. As a family you can walk away with information you might never have gained elsewhere. If you don't have time to visit the museum, still make sure to see the Berlin Wall Monument and take the virtual Freedom Center tour on their website.
Ten years ago Cincinnati artists decorated pigs for the Big Pig Gig. Most were auctioned off for charity and shipped away, but a few remain in the city. You must see at least one... or five. To accomplish this, leave the parking garage and drive north on Main Street through Downtown. Make a left onto Central Parkway and, as the road curves to the right, look out for Swine Lake, five pigs in front of the Cincinnati Ballet (1555 Central Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45214; 513-621-5282). Hop out and get a quick picture of your kids with the pigs in tutus. Your tweens may feel humiliated, but you'll have a special photo to share when friends ask you what in the heck were you doing in Cincinnati.
Backtrack on Central Parkway and, as you pass the courthouse on your right, curve onto Reading Road. Follow the I-71 North signs to Kings Island. Your tweens will know all about the Kings Island Amusement Park (Kings Island Drive, Mason, OH 45040; 513-754-5700) even if you don't. If you come all the way to Cincinnati with tweens and don't go the additional 20 miles north, you'll never hear the end of it. Kings Island has roller coasters with 360-degree loops and rides with sudden stomach tightening drops.
Of course, the park has more than wild roller coasters and dropping towers. There are shows, a picnic grove, restaurants and Boomerang Bay, a complete water park with no additional admission charge.
Visit the Kings Island site, to order and print tickets online, and you can get a two-day pass for $49.99 or a one-day pass for $33.99. Or purchase tickets for an after 5PM admission and pay only $19.99. The park is open from 10AM to 10PM in the summer, so if you spend the afternoon and evening there, that's still five hours of thrill rides, junk food, water slides and fun -- about as much as a parent should have to take in one day.