Ask anyone in the Tri-State where they would love to vacation this summer, and they’ll come up with a bucket list of distant places, from Key West and San Diego in the mainland U.S., to Hawaii, Cabo, Cancun, even Ireland and continental Europe.
But the reality for many families is that a vacation costing $5,000 or more isn’t in the cards right now. Plus, even if you are planning a big summer trip, who wouldn’t want an additional weekend getaway?
Tops for Staycations
The Cincinnati area has so many activities, it’s no wonder that it consistently makes WalletHub’s list of the Top 10 “staycation” destinations in the US.
When many of us think of summer activities, we think of the Big 3:
- The Cincinnati Reds
- Cincinnati Zoo
- Kings Island
But Cincy Cindy says that’s just the start.
For instance, who needs to travel to Michigan for canoeing when Morgan’s Liveryoffers affordable one-day canoe adventures in Brookville, Indiana, and Morrow, Ohio?
The Morrow area also brings zip-lining high above the Little Miami River atOzone Zipline Adventuresat Camp Kern, for $55 a session.
If you would rather hike, Caesar Creek a few miles north offers miles of hiking trails at no charge.
And if you are even more adventurous, Ohio Caverns offers cavern exploration a half-hour west of Columbus near Bellfountaine ($17 per adult) .
Want to get even dirtier? Check out Perfect North Slope’sMud Stash on June 4 and Sept. 10 in Lawrenceburg.
If you are willing to drive 2½ - 3 hours south into Kentucky (still doable as a day trip), you can visit Mammoth Cave National Park, the largest indoor caverns open to the public in the U.S.
Closer to Home
Just looking for an afternoon or evening getaway this summer? The immediate Cincinnati area offers hundreds of family activities, many of them free.
Ault Park offers a summer music festival, various evenings.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival hasfree Shakespeare in the Park productions at parks all around Cincinnati, various dates and times. This summer, they are performing "A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream" and "Macbeth."
Thursday nights are great for enjoying free, outdoor music.
- Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine has Bluegrass Thursdays.
- Fountain Square brings Salsa on the Square Thursday evenings.
- Newport on the Levee has an outdoor concert series on Thursdays.
- Devou Park in Covington has several performances by the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra.
For kids, Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine and Smale Riverfront Park in downtown Cincinnati both offer free dancing fountains where children can put on swimsuits and play.
Smale Park also has its giant indoor carousel, with $2 rides.
Theme Park Deals
Of course, summer in Cincinnati would not be complete without a theme park visit.
The good news is that our theme parks never got the memo that a day pass should now cost $150 (I’m looking at you, Universal Studios.)
If you are traveling to Kings Island, avoid the higher gate price, though, by buying your Kings Island tickets at Kroger stores or at Kings Island’s website, Visitkingsisland. com.
Tickets are just $45 at Kroger, $42 midweek if you buy them online.
Coney Island tickets are $25 at the gate,and $21 online if you print at home. An even better value is the after-4 p.m. ticket, just $16 for all rides.
The Beach Waterpark is $28 a day adults, but as with Kings and Coney Island, you save $5 purchasing online, where an adult pass is $23.
The Newport Aquarium is not exactly a theme park, but it’s great fun for kids, and very close to home. Purchase tickets online and save $2 over the standard $23 adult admission. And this summer, check out their $5 Kid Saver Special, where two kids under 13 get for for $5 each with every adult, Sunday through Friday after 4pm.
Cincinnati’s Museum Center is under reconstruction right now, but the Children’s Museum remains open, and they will offer special lower pricing this summer. Also look forFree Fridays, when everyone gets in free. The next one is Friday June 3rd,
TheCincinnati Art Museum is always free (but don’t get huffy about the parking fee, it’s still an amazing deal).
So sure, you can travel to Orlando and drop a few thousand dollars. But the kids can have an equally good time right here in the Cincinnati area.
Your wallet will thank you, and that way you don’t waste your money.
CHECK OUT CINCY CINDY'S TOP 10 SUMMER BUCKET LIST BELOW
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CINCY CINDY'S 2016 SUMMER BUCKET LIST
1.Starlite Drivein Yelp Tip: Only $8.75 for TWO movies! Children 411 $5.75. Ages 3 and younger are FREE!
2. Visit the Oldest Estate Winery in America in Augusta, Kentucky / Do the Backroads Kentucky Wine Trail. Yelp Tip: Free tour at each of the 6 Wineries. Tastings around $5 at each.
3. Visit the Cincinnati Observatory and look through the oldest public telescope in the country! Yelp Tip: Check out their list of upcoming events ranging from $5$15 or purchase a family membership for only $60.
4. Canoeing at Morgan’s Canoe in Brookville Indiana Yelp Tip Find discounts on: Groupon, and 50% off in Entertainment Books
5. Eat at a Smithsonian Inducted Restaurant Camp Washington Chili
6.Visit the Observation Deck at Carew Tower* Yelp Tip: Cash only. $4 ages 12 and up. $2 ages 61. Free for ages 5 and under
7. Take a Cincinnati Food Tour * Yelp Tip: The Historic Findlay Market Tour is only $20!
9. Swim in the Largest Flat Surface Pool in North America at Coney Island!
10. Ride the World's Longest and Fastest Complete Circuit Roller Coaster Yelp Tip: Buy ahead online and save! May 30th the Gold Pass goes away. It pays for itself in 2 visits and you can now do payments. 6 payments of $17 for Gold Pass status
You can save an average of $275.00* on local dining, travel and attractions with WCPO Insider Rewards. Search, sort and filter through 300,000+ deals, everyday just for being an Insider.