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Cincinnati Staycation: Saving on Summer Fun with the Kids 2012

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Summer for some means vacations out of town. For others it means staying in town for a staycation. Either way, if you will be in the Cincinnati area this Summer there are lots of things to do for fun and many things to enjoy for Free!

Check Bridgett’s Staycation Ideas for Summer Fun in Dayton too! This list of ideas is a work in progress. Check back often for additional ideas.

Downtown Cincinnati

Sawyer Point, Yeatman’s Cove and Smale Riverfront Park

My family loves to spend time down on the riverfront in Cincinnati. There is so much to do, it’s worth more than one trip to enjoy it all.  The kids love climbing on Serpentine Wall at Yeatman’s Cove and playing on the playgrounds at Sawyer Point. Feel free to bring your bikes or skates and ride the paved walkways along the river. Bring a ball, frisbee and a picnic basket. There are many open grassy areas to play at Yeatman’s Cove. Tote along a volleyball if you want to use one of the sand volleyball courts at Sawyer Point.

If you walk west from Yeatman’s Cove along the river and arrive between the Reds and Bengals stadiums you can enjoy the now open Smale Park in it’s Phase I stage. Walk east from Sawyer Point and enjoy a stroll across the Purple People Bridge, a pedestrian bridge connecting downtown Cincinnati to Newport, KY.

Parking at Sawyer Point is $4. All Parks and Attractions mentioned here are Free!

Carew Tower

Enjoy the view of Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky from the observation deck on top of Carew Tower. Admission is $2 per adult and $1 per child. The observation deck is open 7 days a week, Monday-Thursday, 9am-5:30pm; Friday, 9am-6pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10am – 7pm. I visited atop the Carew Tour as a kid and have loved sharing the experience with my own children. It is breathtaking on a clear day!

Paul Brown Stadium Tours

Take a tour of Paul Brown Stadium, the home of the Cincinnati Bengals. Tours are available Monday-Friday from 10am-2pm from through July 20. Cost is $6 for adults, $4 for children & seniors. Call 513-455-4800 option 7 for more information or to schedule a tour.

Big Attractions

Cincinnati Museum Center

With 3 museums in one place there is bound to be something for everyone. Visit the Duke Energy Children’s Museum, Cincinnati History Museum, Natural History Museum, Omnimax Theater or do it all. Admission rates vary based on what you choose to do while there.

A Cincinnati Museum Center Annual Membership is the best option if you plan to visit more than once. Check the Reciprocal Museum list if you will be traveling or have a membership to another museum. It just might mean Free admissions for you and your family! FYI: Booneshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton and COSI in Columbus are on the list.

Pssst: one of the best deals around town is FREE admission to the Cincinnati Museum Center on select Friday afternoons and evenings.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens

The Cincinnati Zoo is a great place to spend a family day! See animals in many outdoor and indoor settings. Don’t miss Bogart the baby camel! Daily admission prices are $14 for adults ages 13-61, $10 for children ages 2-12 and seniors 62 or older.

A Cincinnati Zoo Membership is the best value if you plan to visit several times year round. Like the Museum Center, the Zoo is also part of a reciprocal program. A Cincinnati Zoo membership allows members to enjoy free or discounted admission to over 100 other zoos.

Cincinnati Art Museum

The Cincinnati Art Museum is open and Free to the public Tues-Sun 11am-5pm. This summer through Sept 9th the artwork of Henry Ossawa Tanner will be on display in the exhibit Modern Spirit. In addition the museum boasts over 60,000 works spanning 6,000 years.

Be sure to check the calendar of events for various activities going on at the museum. Just a few of the regular Free events you will find are:

  • Attend a docent led tour on permanent exhibits and special exhibits. Tours are 1 hour on Tuesday & Saturday and 20 minutes on Thursday and Sunday.
  • Enjoy the fun of Artworld with your children of all ages offered each Saturday and Sunday 11am-5pm. The interactive hands-on experience of Artworld is Free; the current exhibition How Instrumental! goes thru August 19th.
  • Join in on a Family ARTventure for an hour on Saturdays and Sundays. A docent will lead you on an interactive, hands-on event for the whole family.
  • Be inspired and sketch in the presence of some of the museum’s permanent exhibits on Studio Sunday 1pm-4pm. Reservations are not required, event is Free and the museum will provide all the materials you need!

Parking at the museum is $4.

Coney Island & Sunlight Pool

Nothing says Summer fun like swimming in the largest flat surface pool in North America. Our family staycations always include a day at Coney Island and Sunlight Pool. The pool features over an acre of shallow water, 4 water slides and six diving boards. Take a break from the pool to enjoy the classic rides at Coney Island.

Tickets are available for Coney Island, Sunlight Pool or a combo ticket for both. Save by going after 4pm. Check your entertainment book for admission discounts. Coney Island & Sunlight Pool Season Passes are also available.

Check the deal I previously posted on a combo ticket to EnterTrainment Junction and Coney Island classic rides good thru June 24th.

Another way to save: thru June 30th, 2 adults will get Free Rides wristbands WYB a Rides ticket for a child up to 16yo after4pm. Offer valid Mon-Fri after 4pm thru 6/302012. Free adult wristbands must be used same day as paid child ticket.

Kings Island

Are you a coaster rider or do you like the rides that go in circles? Kings Island has many of both plus the Boomerang Bay Waterpark! Admission is one price for both parks. If you plan to visit the park more than twice, you are best off getting a season pass. This isn’t necessarily an inexpensive family outing but there are ways to save if you are planning a day at the park.

  • Pack snacks and a picnic for your meals.
  • Go on a weekday when crowds and lines may be smaller to get more rides for your buck.
  • Purchase tickets online before you go and save $17/per adult ticket off the gate price. Print the tickets to avoid the wait at will call.
  • Another option would be to pay full price at the gate and get a pass for a 2nd visit any day this season.

Parks & Recreation

Hamilton County Parks regularly offer weekday and weekend programs, hikes and events for Free. In addition, enjoy the many trails and playgrounds available all over town.

The City of Cincinnati also has 25 parks. There are plenty of opportunities to explore on your own or take guided hikes and tours with naturalists.  Be sure to check the events page to see what weekly events are going on at the various parks.

Krohn Conservatory

See plants from around the world at Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park. Visit the rain forest, desert and more all under one roof. Exhibits and programs change throughout the year. Admission to Krohn Conservatory is a requested donation except during special events. The Butterfly Show is going on through June 24th.

Wet Playgrounds, Hamilton County Parks

The wet playgrounds at 3 different Hamilton County parks are great places for kids (and adults) of all ages to take a break from Summer’s heat. Each park has it’s own theme but all have lots of water fun.

Admission is $2 per child ages 2-12 or pay $5 for every 3 children. If you’re planning to visit several times over the Summer, a $15 Season Pass wristband would be the best value. Wristbands are good at all three Wet Playgrounds:

Parky’s Farm

Take the kids for a day on the farm …. Parky’s Farm that is! Located at Winton Woods, Parky’s is a 100-acre demonstration farm. Kids can enjoy live animals such as goats, pigs, sheep, chickens and more. Help water the vegetables in the garden. Spend some time on the outdoor playground and/or inside the 2 story play barn. Pony rides are available too! Most of what Parky’s has to offer is free. Admission to the play barn is $2.50 per child ages 2-12. Pony rides are also $2.50 for children under 48″.

All Hamilton County Parks require a parking pass. Annual pass $10; Daily pass $3.

Free Concerts, Movies, Shows and More

Free Summer Concert Series

There are Free concerts all over the city all Summer long. Add a blanket and a picnic and you will have a great evening out for Free! All of the concerts we have been to have been kid friendly. To me they feel like a kid friendly adult night out :).

Free Family Movies

Just like the drive in but Free! Area parks offer Free movies under the stars. Pack a picnic dinner, a blanket & chairs for a fun Free family night out. There are a few theater options as well!

Free Cincinnati Shakespeare in the Park

Have you ever seen Shakespeare performed live? The Cincinnati Shakespeare company has a phenomenal cast and this is your chance to see them Free! This summer marks the 6th annual year for Shakespeare in the Park. This year features Macbeth and The Tempest.

Kids Bowl Free

Several locations in the greater Cincinnati area participate in the nationwide program by Registered children receive 2 Free games of bowling every day, all summer long! A family pass can be added for $24.95, which will give 4 adults 1 game of bowling a day.

Also Colerain Bowl offers Free Kids Bowling several days a week and a weekly Teen Nite.

Kids Skate Free

Fun Factory Skating in Cincinnati is participating in the national Kids Skate Free program! Join the program and you will be emailed certificates to skate Free each week during these days and times: Wednesdays 6pm-8:30pm, Thursdays 7:30-10pm, Saturdays 12pm-2:30pm. Once you sign up you will begin receiving your weekly Free skating passes on Sunday evenings after 9pm. Print them out and bring them along during designated Skate Free times.

Free MadCap Puppet Shows

MadCap Puppet Shows are always a hit with my children and with my husband and me alike! The puppeteers are very professional and come up with unique storylines to classic tales. You won’t want to miss their feature presentations of When You Wish Upon a Fish and Rumpelstilskin this year!

Free Library Summer Programs

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has quite a number of Free programs and activities going on this Summer. Programs include meeting reptiles with Cool Critters Outreach, experiencing live marionette shows from Frisch, the magic of Tom Bemmes and rocking science experiments just to name a few! Check the schedule and enjoy several of the programs!

Freebies for Good Grades

Did your child get A’s and B’s in school last quarter? If so he or she qualifies for several freebies around town! Check the list soon because some of the offers are only good through June 30th!

Family Friendly Cincinnati

Family Friendly Cincinnati is our family fun partner site. The site contributors visit family friendly locations and share their honest opinions with readers. It’s a fabulous resource for those in the Cincinnati area!

Do you have other Cincinnati Staycation ideas?

I know there are many more ideas to come. This list is going to keep growing so check back often!


  1. Beth on June 6, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Don’t forget to head East to the Cincinnati Nature Center. There are miles of trails, fantastic naturalists and programs and of course PLAYSCAPES!! My kids and I have vowed to hike every trail this summer. The website is

  2. Savings Lifestyle: Noelle on June 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Thanks, Beth!

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