Top 10 Things to Do with Kids in Cincinnati | Midwest Living
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Top 10 Things to Do with Kids in Cincinnati

Grown-ups don’t need any excuse to visit Kings Island, the Reds Hall of Fame or the Newport Aquarium on their own, but bringing the kids makes sense on this Midwest weekend getaway in Cincinnati. Here’s what belongs on your Queen City to-do list.
Cincinnati Museum center. Photo by Amy Lynch.
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Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. Photo by Amy Lynch.
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Newport Aquarium. Photo by Amy Lynch.
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Entertrainmnent Junction. Photo courtesy of Entertrainment Junction.
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Graeter's. Photo by Amy Lynch.
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1) Kings Island The granddaddy of Midwest amusement parks, Kings Island is heaven for adrenaline junkies who never get tired of waiting in line for thrill rides. It may not be the newest or the flashiest, but the Beast is still a guaranteed nerve-rattler, and it’s the longest wooden roller coaster in the world. Littler visitors are more likely to appreciate the Planet Snoopy area and the animatronic dinosaur park. During the summer, admission includes entrance to Soak City Waterpark. (513) 754-5700; visitkingsisland.com

2) Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal The first thing you’ll notice about this three-for-one museum destination is its stunning Art Deco architecture; Union Terminal was one of the most notable passenger rail stations in the Midwest when it opened in the 1930s. These days, this former “temple to transportation” houses the Duke Energy Children’s Museum, the Cincinnati History Museum, and the Museum of Natural History and Science (along with an Imax theater and a library) all under one expansive roof. Block off a whole day to explore this landmark. (513) 287-7000; cincymuseum.org

3) Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden The second oldest zoo in the country often appears near the top in rankings of best U.S. zoos. It’s no wonder, with 75 acres to wander including a recently expanded Cat Canyon filled with cougars, snow leopards and tigers; jungle trails that wind through orangutan habitats; and newly restored gardens around the domed Reptile House. The must-see Africa exhibit lets you get up close to lions, race a cheetah and feed giraffes. (800) 406-3474; cincinnatizoo.org

4) Newport Aquarium Zip across the river to Kentucky’s Newport on the Levee entertainment complex, where you’ll find thousands of colorful fish, water mammals and amphibians. This massive aquarium holds 1 million gallons of water, a shark-petting tank, penguins and an otherwordly jellyfish gallery. Wave to Mighty Mike, a live 14-footer from Florida, as you pass through Gator Alley, and stop in during the holidays to glimpse a scuba-diving Santa. (859) 491-3467; newportaquarium.com

5) EnterTrainment Junction If your gang’s fascinated by trains—and who isn’t, really?—head to this gigantic railroad-theme entertainment center. The world’s largest indoor train display here is as big as a half a football field and features 90 trains and more than 2 miles of tracks. If the kids get antsy, they can burn off energy in the Imagination Junction play area or by running a few laps through a new circus funhouse area that includes a mirror maze. (513) 898-8000, entertrainmentjunction.com

6) Zip’s Cafe Keep the train theme going with lunch or dinner at this casual Mount Lookout burger joint, where a model train chugs around the top of the room and nobody cares if your kids make a lot of noise. A basic Zips Burger is always a good choice; the Train Wreck ups the ante with shaved ham, grilled mettwurst and three kinds of cheese. The chili and onion rings are good, too. (513) 871-9876; zipscafe.com

7) Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum Did you know the Cincinnati Reds were the first professional baseball team in the country? This 10-year-old museum pays a fine tribute to America’s pastime with trivia, interactive exhibits and baseball artifacts. Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Sparky Anderson … the gang’s all here. (Well, except for Pete Rose. He’s ineligible.) If baseball’s in season, time your visit to coincide with a game at the beautiful Great American Ballpark overlooking the mighty Ohio River. (513) 765-7923; cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/cin/hof/

8) Great Wolf Lodge Sure, kids love the water slides, wave pool and lazy river, but it’s not all wet and wild. There’s also a massive arcade, a kid-size bowling alley, in-room game systems and nightly story time (dress code: pajamas). Scoops Kid Spa pampers girly guests with ice cream theme manis and pedis, and the MagiQuest enchanted kingdom promises pretend dragon encounters. With discounted rates and tickets to other Cincinnati attractions, the package deals are the way to go. Bonus: Great Wolf is located in Mason close to Kings Island. (513) 459-8885, greatwolf.com

9) Creation Museum This 70,000-square-foot facility gets a little preachy in spots, but it does bring Bible stories to life in an educational way through murals, gorgeous gardens and computer-generated effects. The knee-high displays are just the right height for the preschool crowd, who’ll also get a kick out of the petting zoo, animatronic dinosaurs, a dig site and the creepy Dr. Crawley’s Insectorium. There’s even a zip-line and canopy adventure tour for an additional charge. Admission’s a little steep, but tickets are good for two consecutive days. (888) 582-4253, creationmuseum.org

10) Graeter’s Ice Cream This is the only ice cream company in the world that uses fancy French-pot freezers, and Graeter’s churns out batches just two gallons at a time for ultimate quality control. The first franchise store opened in 1984—now, they’re all over town—but the business actually dates to the mid-1800s. Vanilla, chocolate, butter pecan and other classic flavors are delish, but the signature black raspberry chocolate chip will blow your tastebuds away. Various locations; graeters.com

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