Adventures around Cincinnati
I've been going to Ohio to visit my mother-in-law for more than a decade, and although we've found some areas to explore, our daughter is getting tired of seeing the same things over and over again. Well, Laura Hoevener and Terri Weeks have come to the rescue for ANYONE visiting southern Ohio and neighboring states! They've written an extraordinary travel guide, Adventures Around Cincinnati: A Parent's Guide to Unique and Memorable Places to Explore with Your Kids. You've seen Terri on our site - she's our Cincinnati Expert and has already shared The Rootbeer Stand with our Wandering Educators (yum!).
The book is split into three sections. The first section, Creating Memories with your Family, is an excellent read for ANY traveling family. It's a manifesto for creating adventures (and memories) for your family while you travel. Both inspiring and instructive, this should be read by anyone with kids in their lives (whether you're headed to Ohio or not). The second section, Attraction Listings, is PACKED with detailed information on a plethora of attractions (both free and with a fee) in central Cincinnati and Newport, Kentucky, greater Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus, Lexington, Louisville, and Indianapolis. This is the meat of the book and it shows in the honest, informative listings. The third part, Planning Help, lists sample itineraries and an attraction table (showing which categories each attraction is in - VERY helpful if you have a kid into art, or fossils, or planes). Laura and Terri KNOW what they are talking about - their kids have experienced this all (lucky kids!). This book also teaches you that there is MUCH more in your own backyard than you can imagine.
We've put this book to use ourselves, and to be honest? It's the real thing. Packed with excellent tips on things to see and do, it will definitely become your how-to manual for Southern Ohio (and environs). In the Dayton section alone, we'd only visited 2 of the MANY activities listed! How can this be? We'll just have to schedule a few more trips south to Ohio, and explore and play. I know my mother-in-law will be happy to see more of us.
We caught up with Terri and Laura, and asked them about their book, inspiration, background, getting the most out of visiting these attractions, researching the book, and more. Here's what they had to say...
WE: Please tell us about your book, Adventures Around Cincinnati...
TW: Our book is a guide for families to discover the many family-friendly places to visit in and around Cincinnati. It contains over 80 kid-tested destinations within a 2-hour drive of Cincinnati. There are also two introductory chapters that discuss the benefits of adventures as well as some planning tips. A section in the back of the book contains planning tools.
LH: As moms, we wrote from our own experiences, sharing information parents need to know before visiting any location in the book. A category table in the back of the book will help parents find the perfect adventure to fit the interests of their family. Also, every location in the book can be found on the regional maps included. We wanted to make it very easy to use, and knowing where each adventure is found makes it easy to find new places to visit.
Many native Cincinnatians have told us that there are many adventures listed that they have never heard of. Other readers are happy to have all of this information in one place making it easy to compare different adventures and choose the right ones for your family.
WE: What inspires you to write this book?
TW: My friend, Laura Hoevener, and I started a weekly summer tradition in 2003. Every Tuesday, we visited a different destination that we hadn't been to before. We call it Adventure Tuesday. After a few years we started speaking to moms' groups in the area about different places they could visit with their own children. Our audiences loved our presentation and told us over and over again that we needed to write a book. Eventually, we listened, and wrote the book that we wish we'd had when we started.
LH: Neither of us ever had thoughts or dreams to write a book as many aspiring authors do. The book sort of found us! We had thought about writing a book several times, but we didn't think we had enough information for a book. We also thought we needed to wait until we had visited every fun place in Cincinnati to write our book. When we put together our list of adventures to include in the book, we realized that including over 80 destinations was more than enough for a book. If we had waited till we had done everything, the book would never have been written.
WE: You obviously know Cincinnati well - what is your background and experience there?
TW: Neither of us were raised in Cincinnati. I moved here after college and Laura moved here a few years later after spending several years in the Detroit area. It wasn't until we had children that we developed the drive for becoming hometown tourists. We've spent the last ten years intentionally discovering all that this area has to offer.
LH: We've made it our mission to find new places to visit. We talk to friends, watch for articles in the paper or magazines, and scour facebook for new ideas to add to our adventure list. As much as we've explored Cincinnati, there are always plenty of places waiting for us to discover them.
WE: How can families get the most out of visiting the places you've listed in your book?
TW: When we wrote the book we tried to include the kind of information that isn't typically found in guide books, but that we thought would be especially helpful for families. We've included information on the availability of restrooms, restaurants or other food available for purchase, and whether each attraction is stroller and wheelchair friendly. We also have an estimated length of visit and recommended ages. A table in the back of the book lists each attraction alphabetically and provides an easy way for parents to find adventures that match their kids' interests, with categories such as animals, art, and trains. We think that once parents are equipped with all of this information, they will be able to plan successful outings for their families. We also recommend making the most of the experience by supplementing adventures with books and movies that can enhance kids' learning and add to their experience.
LH: We've discovered that by making it a priority to plan weekly adventures with our kids, we've received some added benefits that other families can discover too. Adventures have become a tradition in our families. Our kids look forward to them and enjoy giving input into which adventures they would like to plan. Its a great way to be sure that you are making sweet memories with your kids as the years fly by.
We've also learned that when you plan weekly adventures, you have room to take a few risks. Sometimes there are adventures that you aren't sure your kids will enjoy. Knowing you have another adventure planned for the next week makes it easier to take these risks. Even if its not their favorite, they can have another adventure to look forward to the next week.
I like to encourage people to pick any adventure and try it out. Don't worry about finding the perfect adventure. Just getting out and visiting somewhere new will be an adventure in itself!
WE: How did you decide what to put in this book?
TW: We felt strongly that we would include only places that we had visited and kid-tested ourselves. We started writing the book after six years of summer adventures. The few places that we wouldn't recommend we chose to exclude rather than writing a negative review.
LH: We feel that every adventure in the book has value. I like to compare it to reading a book. You can learn something new from any book you read, whether it is fiction, non-fiction, a biography or even a cook book. Adventures are like these various kinds of books. They are all different, but there are new experiences and education in each one. There are some adventures your family will enjoy more than others, but we believe each adventure in the book is worthwhile, or we wouldn't have included it.
So many people ask us what our favorite adventure is. We can offer some ideas, but really, this is a difficult question. Some are really fun and exciting, others are unique and different, while many are scenic and relaxing. We figure that any adventure from the book can be enjoyed by everyone.
WE: Was it fun, researching this book? Are your kids tired of you going so many places, or do they love it?
TW: We did most of the research for this book without realizing that we were researching a book, so yes, it was very fun. During the writing process, I needed to revisit several of the places. There were also several places I hadn't been to yet that I wanted to include in the book. I remember spending a 3-day weekend trying to squeeze in as many places as I could. We still do Adventure Tuesday every summer and my kids love it. They have more opinions about the places we visit now than when they were younger, and they still look forward to it every week.
LH: My kids expect adventures to be a part of their summer. Its something they've always done. My youngest went on her first adventure when she was 3 weeks old! They have never mentioned that they were bored with adventures. They know that adventures mean spending time with their friends and having fun. And sometimes it even means going out for ice cream, too!
WE: What would surprise us about Cincinnati?
TW: Cincinnati has much to offer, but without some of the disadvantages of larger cities. Our location along the Ohio River provides us with riverboat sightseeing tours and Underground Railroad history including the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Cincinnati's close proximity to Dayton means easy access to historical sites about aviation and the Wright Brothers. We are also close to prehistoric Indian earthworks and amazing fossil hunting opportunities. Our book is destination oriented, not event oriented, so it doesn't cover these, but Cincinnati also offers wonderful performances from its own ballet, orchestra, opera, and several theaters. We've also got some great hidden gems that many people don't know about, including a medieval-style castle and a garden with a replica of Jesus' tomb.
LH: Cincinnati is a great city. Its a little slower paced than some of the big cities, but still has so much to offer. The museums are top notch, we have great sports teams, and there is lots of natural beauty too. Its easy to travel within the city by bus or by car and there are so many adventures accessible to everyone. We love some of the bigger attractions as much as anyone, but its the smaller unique destinations that make our city so unique.
WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
TW: We love to speak to groups and share what we've learned with others. We speak to about 50 groups each year and also have a monthly segment on our local FOX station's morning news show.
LH: This is such an amazing city, our hope is that every parent will have a chance to experience these adventures with their kids. We hate to hear about parents not knowing what to do to keep their kids busy during the summer. We have many free adventures in the book, so cost doesn't even have to be an obstacle. We love to hear stories from readers about how they have made such great memories visiting locations they didn't know about until they read our book. People are discovering new places to visit and their kids are being shaped by these experience and by spending quality time with their family. Its so rewarding to us to see our book making such a huge impact on people's lives!
Also, we did write the book with families in mind, but it can also be used for people without kids. There are only about 10 adventures in the entire book where only a small child will have fun. Most adventures listed are just as appropriate for an adult as they are for a family with kids. We've heard of empty-nesters using it to explore now that the kids are gone, singles/couples using it for date ideas and grandparents using it to plan special outings with grandkids. Adventures Around Cincinnati is for everyone who wants to spend time exploring this great city!
WE: Thanks so much, Laura and Terri! We love your book, and highly recommend it to our readers. If you've not yet visited Cincinnati and the area around it, you will soon after reading this book!
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All photos courtesy and copyright Laura Hoevener and Terri Weeks