Archive for the 'Family Fun' Category

Play Library

The Play Library has been open for half a year in their new spot in Over-the-Rhine, 1517 Elm Street. For a monthly fee, the Play Library lends out games and toys. What started as a popup shop near Findlay Market has proven to be popular enough to fill their own permanent location.

Pop The Pig

The space is also available for families to drop in and play with the toys for absolutely no fee at all. If you want to take some home, memberships are available starting at $15 per month.

Dolls

There are so many choices available and run the spectrum from babies all the way to adult oriented games. It seemed that there were hundreds of options available and there is definitely something for everyone.

So Many Choices

If there location were any closer to home I would consider giving the membership a try. With that said I’m sure my family will stop by to play in the store from time to time.

Kentucky Down Under

My family has made it to the point where more than eight or nine hours in the car while driving to or from a vacation is long enough. So we have started stopping for the night at various places along the way. On the way back from Gulf Shores this summer we stopped near Mammoth Cave to visit Kentucky Down Under. It was recommended to me from some family members and I was surprised to have never heard of it before.

Red Kangaroo

Red Kangaroo

The grounds of Kentucky Down Under not only contain the Mammoth Onyx Cave, but they over the years have expanded to include animals from around the world, with an emphasis being placed on Australian species. One of the owners is from Australia and since 1990 kangaroo, dingo, kookaburra, and emu. There are also plenty of more native farm animals, along with wolves, a large bird garden, and several reptiles.

Sulcata Tortoise

Sulcata Tortoise

The coolest part is easily walking through the kangaroo habitat where you are allowed to pet and feed them. My three-year-old could have followed them for hours. While my five-year-old was much more interested in the giant Sulcata Tortoise that was in the same enclosure.

Mammoth Onyx Cave

Mammoth Onyx Cave

Mammoth Onyx Cave is included with admission to Kentucky Down Under and all guests are assigned to a 30-minute tour time. I found this to be about the perfect length of time for our family, and I think most other families on our tour would agree. While the temperature is cool (especially on a hot day) the cave can be a little tight and dark in places. Our three-year-old found it the perfect spot to take a nap in the middle of the tour, while our five-year-old enjoyed keeping climbing on his own with a flashlight and looking for salamanders.

Kentucky is well worth a couple hour visit and be sure to check Groupon before you go as we found discount tickets were available, which made our visit even better!

Walt Disney World

We are back from our week-long vacation in Florida. We are still recovering from some long and hot days but we had an awesome time! First things we did was to visit Walt Disney World, specifically we spent our first day at the Animal Kingdom and followed it up with two days at the Magic Kingdom.

Pretzel Face

Pretzel Face

Tree Of Life

Tree Of Life

I figured that Animal Kingdom would be a somewhat relaxing start to the trip after traveling the evening before. We kicked it off with trips on TriceraTop Spin for Kim and our preschool aged kids, while I took my brother-in-law Nick (age 15) on Expedition Everest, Primeval Whirl, and DINOSAUR. The kids also spent some time in The Boneyard right at its opening at 10.

From there we had an early lunch before going to Finding Nemo – The Musical, which was probably my favorite show of the trip. The puppeteers were really good at both singing their parts and working the large puppets. After enjoying the show and the air conditioning, it was time to brave the heat. Fortunately I took the older two (Trey and Nick) on the Kali River Rapids ride while Paige and Kim met Mickey and Minnie. I had made FastPass+ reservations for both so we didn’t have to wait in either of the long lines.

Adventurers Outpost

Adventurers Outpost

After our separate events we rejoined to see some of the animal displays at the Maharajah Jungle Trek and Discovery Island Trails before watching the Flights of Wonder bird show. After the show it was time for our FastPass+ reservation on the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride through various animal enclosures. I thought the hippo display was the coolest as I have never seen that many hippos together at one time.

Hippos

Hippos

Giraffe

Giraffe

Rhinos

Rhinos

We were all very hot by this point of the day, fortunately we had just a few more indoor shows to catch. First was Festival of the Lion King, which the kids really seemed to enjoy. The acrobats dressed as monkeys were huge crowd pleasers and the sing along songs were great to hear. On our way out of the park we stopped by It’s Tough to be a Bug inside the Tree of Life for the short 4D movie featuring the characters from A Bug’s Life. It was a solid day and we managed to see nearly everything the park has to offer before leaving just past 5.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

If we thought that our first day was packed full of fun, that was nothing compared to the second day in the parks which brought our first day at the Magic Kingdom. Just as we did the day before, we split into two groups to kick off the day. I took Nick on Space Mountain while Kim took the kids on Astro Orbiter. Making a quick entry to some of the most popular rides rewards you with nearly zero wait time at the beginning of the day.

From there we saw no line for Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, so we went ahead and did that even though I had a FastPass+ reservation for this for the following day. No problem though as I was easily able to reschedule that for another attraction using the iPhone app. We then did a quick trip on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover while we were in the area before stopping at the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, which proved to be a hilarious live comedy show.

Mad Tea Party

Mad Tea Party

Tea Cups

Tea Cups

We then took not one but two spins on the Mad Tea Party, which was probably the most enjoyable ride we shared as one group of wide varying ages. As we did each day, we stopped for lunch just before 11 to avoid the crowds that packed the restaurants leading up to noon. We had a little extra time after lunch so we made a quick stop at Prince Charming Regal Carousel to find Cinderella’s Horse.

Cinderella's Horse

Cinderella’s Horse

Next we again split into two groups for arguably what was each of our kid’s favorite things we did. I took Trey and Nick on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train while Kim took Paige to meet Anna & Elsa. Both of these attractions are super popular and are some of the most sought after FastPass+ reservations. I stayed up until midnight 30 days before our trip to get these reservations and I am glad I did. At the time of our visits each one had a wait well over an hour!

Anna

Anna

Elsa

Elsa

From there we watched another 4D movie at Mickey’s PhilharMagic before cooling off at Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station. The fun didn’t stop there as I had another FastPass+ reservation for our group on Peter Pan’s Flight, which I honestly thought was overrated. At this time Paige went down for a nap, so I took the boys into the Country Bear Jamboree show before we watched the Festival of Fantasy Parade.

After the parade we made a quick run over to our last FastPass+ for Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid. Amazingly I was then able to secure another FastPass+ for it’s a small world just minutes later using my phone. The kids all left the park singing this song as they couldn’t have been any happier. But before we left we took one final ride on the Pirates of the Caribbean to end a jam-packed day.

Mickey Bush

Mickey Bush

Accomplishing so much on our first day in the Magic Kingdom allowed us to relax a bit on this second day. But before we did that we once again arrived before the rope drop and split into two groups. I took the boys on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Initially I wasn’t sure if Trey would like the roller coasters as much as he did, but once we did the Seven Dwarfs and he loved it I was pumped to take him on more big rides. The boys liked Big Thunder maybe even more, so we quickly rode it again without any wait! We then walked right onto Splash Mountain before meeting back up with Kim and Paige who had already ridden Aladdin’s Magic Carpets and were busy playing in some of the splashing water nearby.

We then went straight for the Jungle Cruise, and in hindsight maybe we should have skipped the second ride on Big Thunder Mountain, as we ended up waiting roughly 20 minutes for this one, by far the longest we waited for anything in either park we visited. The kids were a little spoiled by that point and nearly melted down in line but we pushed through and enjoyed the comical cruise before grabbing lunch.

Belle

Belle

After lunch we had a date with Belle at the Enchanted Tales With Belle on a FastPass+. I almost removed the boys from this one and did something else but I am glad we all went to this, though none of us truly loved it as much as Paige. The audience members get to act out part of the story with Belle and I tried to convince Nick to play the role of the Beast. Maybe next time!

From there we again split up for another round of FastPass+ selections. I couldn’t get any other ride for the boys and I to do, so we went ahead and did Splash Mountain again on the FastPass+ I had originally booked long ago. The girls got to Meet Ariel at her Grotto. Paige added another autograph to her signature book along with a photo. These meet and greets were her favorite thing she did.

Ariel

Ariel

I guess going under the sea really tired out Paige as when we all met up again she had already fallen asleep for a nap. I had yet another FastPass+ for the Barnstormer for all us, but instead I just took the boys on this smaller scale roller-coaster before we all decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel a bit earlier than the day before. We had debated going over to Tom Sawyer Island or taking a ride on the Liberty Belle Riverboat, but we didn’t wait to wait in line or wake Paige so we will have to save those attractions for another time.

For the most part we saw just about everything that we had wanted to see in a few long days. If the kids were a little older I probably would have tried to take them back to the park for the Main Street Electrical Parade along with the fireworks show, but they don’t often stay up past 8 or 9. Instead we spent the evening relaxing in the resorts outdoor pool and lazy river. The next day we woke up, swam some more, and then headed off to Cocoa Beach for a few more days of fun in the hot sun.

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

A great place to take the kids when on vacation around Gulf Shores is the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. This zoo distinguishes itself from others by offering various animal encounters. You can actually play with baby tigers, though at $50 per person it is a little more than most would likely spend.

Tiger Encounter

Tiger Encounter

The zoo itself is fairly inexpensive, $11 for adults and $8 for kids 3-12. And while it isn’t as large as other zoos I’ve been through, there is enough to easily spend a few hours exploring. There are plenty of big cats, bears, and lots of little critters too.

Baby Macaws

Baby Macaws

You can definitely get a little closer to many of the animals here at this zoo. We saw some animal shows taking place at various times, and keepers out talking with visitors often.

Caged Family

Caged Family

The lemur encounter was only $10 per person, plus it was free for our two-year-old daughter. My mom was happy to take her inside the cage to pet these primates and get some pictures. There enjoyed playing the lemurs for a good fifteen minutes before moving on to the next exhibit.

Lemur Encounters

Lemur Encounters

The zoo has been open since 1989 and is open year round and has survived many hurricanes, several of which have forced evacuations for most of the animals. During Hurricane Ivan a twelve-foot alligator was lost for a week before being found and relocated back to his caged in pond.

12 Foot Gator

12 Foot Gator

I’m told they are trying to build a new location farther inland and less likely to flood. This facility was announced in 2009 and was supposed to open in 2013 but it has yet to do so. They are now targeting the summer of 2017.

African Lion Safari

We made a few stops on our way up to Toronto a few weeks back. The first was a visit to the African Lion Safari outside of Hamilton, Ontario and just an hour or so outside of central Toronto. Last year my family and I went through northern Ohio’s African Safari Wildlife Park, and this one is similar to that but even wilder. In addition to the deer, bison, bongo, zebra, and giraffes, the African Lion Safari’s drive through game reserves also feature African lions, cheetahs, and baboons! There is nothing between your car and any of these animals.

Feeding of the animals is not allowed, though one of the cars in front of us was feeding the baboon bananas causing the group to climb all over our cars. This was definitely the highlight of the drive through safari. Though it was also really cool to see the African lions up close and without a cage blocking the view.

After exploring the game reserves we spent even more time taking in the elephant round-up show, looking at the bird aviaries, petting the goats in the petting zoo, and playing in both the jungle playground and Misumu Bay wet play area. The elephant show featured Asian elephants showing their strength, playing sports, and even making a painting that would later be for sale. As much fun as my kids had seeing the animals, they had as much fun in the play areas, even the wet play when the temperature couldn’t have been more than 65 degrees.

We came for the drive through safari but enjoyed the other aspects of the park just as much. In the end we stayed for hours longer than I initially thought we would. With so much to do it is easy to spend the entire day there.

Royal Hanneford Circus

Over the weekend my family and I headed down to the Cincinnati Gardens for the Royal Hanneford Circus. This traveling circus is often called the oldest in the world. Included in the two set performance were tigers, high wire acrobats, dancing camels, elephants, trapeze, and my personal favorite the performing bears.

Castle’s Bears

Castle’s Bears

The bears can walk on a large ball, ride bicycles, and even a motorcycle. It is the only act of its type in the show world today.

Bear Riding A Motorcycle

Bear Riding A Motorcycle

During intermission various animals were available for rides and photos, including elephants and camels. My almost two-year-old daughter loved her ride on a camel. The rides were not cheap though, $10 per person.

Camel Ride

Camel Ride

We were able to get excellent seats in the first five rows for just $17 a ticket. This is a steal compared to what seats you would get at Ringling Brothers, something in the upper sections for sure. Plus the acts were just as good as what you see at Ringling Brothers for at least half the price. The Royal Hanneford’s have already left town, but something to keep in mind for next year.

Blue Ash Summit Park

The latest mega playground to open in the Cincinnati area is inside Blue Ash’s Summit Park. My kids are big fans of this playground after my mom had taken them a few times, and I recently had the chance to check it out with them over the weekend.

Ropes Course

Ropes Course

On our way there our four-year-old made sure to grab an extra cardboard box to slide down the mound next to the slides. Once we arrived I realized that this is definitely the thing to do at the park. Even if you forget a cardboard box, there were plenty around and truthfully you can pretty easily slide down the hill without the help of cardboard. I may actually know from experience.

Play Mound

Play Mound

The other thing that my son enjoyed the most was the four person seesaw. You just don’t see these at playgrounds as much as you used to. This one is really awesome and is plenty big enough for adults to ride, provided you have enough weight on the other side to balance out.

Seesaw

Seesaw

Summit Park has recently earned awards and I can agree that the playground is really awesome. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for the former airport site.

Williamstown Party Cove

A few weeks ago some neighbors of ours across part of Williamstown Lake put in a giant slip ‘n slide. Since then they have added a sand volleyball court and tether-ball turning our little part of the lake into party cove.

Slip 'N Slide

Slip ‘N Slide

A few years back we created our own giant slip ‘n slide, but it was much rougher than this new and improved version. I took a few rides on it with my youngest brother-in-law and even shot some video with the GoPro.

FYI, the noisy one is my brother-in-law.

Rouster’s Apple House

Looking for a fun activity for your family on a nice Saturday afternoon? We recently went blueberry picking at Rouster’s Apple House in Milford.

Berry Barn

Berry Barn

Blueberry Field

Blueberry Field

I’ve never picked blueberries before, but it was really simple and kind of addicting. Many times the blueberries would just fall off the stem and into the provided buckets.

Fun For Three-Year-Olds

Fun For Three-Year-Olds

Ready For Picking

Ready For Picking

The blueberries cost $2.75 per pound. They also offer frozen apple cider in containers as well as in Popsicle form. Only cash and checks are accepted.

Getting Her Fill

Getting Her Fill

Full Bucket

Full Bucket

Due to large crowds picking is not offered everyday, though they will be picking this coming Saturday, August 9, from 8 AM until noon. Watch this page for other dates and times.

Ten Pounds Ready To Go

Ten Pounds Ready To Go

We had a great time, but now I’m trying to come up with ways to use ten pounds of blueberries.

African Safari Wildlife Park

After our stay in Maumee Bay State Park, we made the 45 minute drive east to the African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton, Ohio. My wife bought tickets for this attraction through Groupon after hearing some of her family talk about it for years after their last visit.

The big attraction here is the drive-thru safari where you get the chance to see and feed deer, bison, alpaca, bongo, zebra, and even giraffes! Some of the animals are behind fences, but others are able to walk right up to your car and beg for food. The bison are just a little intimidating when doing this!

There is also a walk-thru safari similar to other zoos, with gibbons, hogs, various antelope, birds, and even a white alligator. There are also pig races, camel rides, and education animal shows included in the price.

We had a great time and would definitely go back again, especially at a discounted price. I’ve never experienced anything quite like the drive-thru safari.