Fun & Games

Best of the City 2011
Fun & Games

Photograph by Chris Smith

Bocce Ball Court: Pompilios

Bocce ball is serious business at Pompilios. League play began here in 1991, and Monday through Thursday from May to October, the two courts behind this Newport institution are packed all night long. Dabblers get their turn on the weekends, and the setting can make you feel like a pro. It won’t be long before you’re angling for a league spot and vying for the championship yourself. Newport, (859) 581-3065

Bingo: Aid for the Uninsured Bingo

There’s something naturally hilarious about church-sanctioned gambling, but if you’re looking for real retro kitsch, a dedicated all-bingo-all-the-time bingo hall is the way to go. Aid for the Uninsured Bingo, which shares a parking lot with Rink’s Bingo and Mercado de Pulgas (Flea Market), packs in as many as 250 people for the Thursday and Sunday evening sessions or the Sunday afternoon game. And as promised, your ten bucks goes for a great cause: supporting individuals who live without medical insurance. Mt. Healthy, (513) 522-7111

Permanent Museum Exhibit: Cincinnati Art Museum Damascus Room

Some people bring home souvenirs; others relocate an entire room from an early 18th-century Syrian home. Art patron Andrew N. Jergens purchased the deconstructed room during a 1932 trip to the Middle East and installed it in his own Northside home. There it stayed until he gave its contents to the Cincinnati Art Museum in 1966. The Damascus Room features Arabic calligraphy, a mihrab (prayer niche), and just might be the most serene spot in Eden Park. Eden Park,

Drive-Through Light Display: Sharon Woods Holiday in Lights

It’s not just the thousands of lights at Sharon Woods’s Holiday in Lights that make this mile-long, 20-year Sharonville tradition the best in its class. We love the fun extras—namely Santaland in the Sharon Centre. The normally nature-focused building gets a heavy dose of holiday cheer thanks to the strolling Dickens Carolers, a train display, and a holiday bake sale. And forget the mall—what kid would pass up a chance at hot cocoa with the Man in Red himself?

Foot Race: Cincinnati Triple Crown

If you really want to see Cincinnati, forget the car keys and lace up a pair of running shoes. Three of the city’s 5k races (Go OTR 5k, Hyde Park Blast, and Downtown Dash) have banded together to form the Cincinnati Triple Crown. All three welcome both avid runners and novices, and each one concludes with live music, local food vendors, and beer. Get some exercise while navigating neighborhoods in a way many never have: on foot.

Horseback Riding Farm: Misty Ridge

It’s only natural that Cincinnati’s top riding farm is actually in the Bluegrass State. Owner Anna Zinkhon founded Misty Ridge, the 40-acre, “family friendly” farm 21 years ago with her husband, Greg. Since then, novice and expert equestrians alike have visited Misty Ridge for everything from English and Western riding lessons to trail rides and even competitive events like dressage, endurance racing, and reining. Camp Springs,

Cyclocross Race: Ohio Valley Cyclocross Kings CX

What’s more fun than racing a bike through slushy mud in Kingswood Park on a 20-degree day in December (3 and 4 this year), hefting the frame up onto your shoulder when it’s too steep to ride? Watching it. The Ohio Valley Cyclocross Kings CX is the last and biggest cyclocross race of the season. In cyclocross, riders do laps on a track of dirt, grass, pavement, sand—whatever hazards the organizers can throw at them. Watch once and you’ll soon be retrofitting your road bike, buying spandex in bulk, and joining the beginners’ category.

Kayaking Spot: Whitewater River

The Little Miami is crowded. The Licking is trashed. But the Whitewater River is perfect. If you’re not packing your own, rent a kayak at Green Acres Canoe and Kayak Rental, and make sure your camera’s warmed up to catch frequent kingfisher, green heron, and great blue heron sightings. There’s a nice lunch spot after the halfway point, on the left side of the bank across from the island with golf cart tracks on it. Beware: a cottonmouth was spotted on our last outing there, so keep all limbs inside the kayak.

Cross Country Ski Trail: Shaker Trace Trail at Miami Whitewater Forest

As La Niña prepares to dump yet another round of record-threatening snowfall on the area, there’s only one logical response: Dust off those 1970s-era cross country skis and go for a hearty jaunt. The eight-mile Shaker Trace trail at Miami Whitewater Forest is exposed enough to allow proper snow accumulation. Even better, it’s the perfect winter mix of forest, field, and wetland. Hint: stay to the side of the trail, just off the pavement, for the skis to work best. Harrison,

Campsite: Stonelick State Park, sites 24 and 29

Campsites in the Ohio River Valley run the gamut from suburban tracts of RVs to backcountry, bury-your-own waste clearings. When we camp, we want a place to shower and a working toilet without sacrificing that most important aspect of camping—solitude. Stonelick State Park’s sites 24 and 29 are among the widest at the park (peace) and face Stonelick Lake, which bans gas motors (quiet). Position the tent just right, and you can’t even see the neighbors. Pleasant Plain,

Home Tour: Cincinnati Preservation Association’s Spring Tour

Just about every neighborhood has its own house tour these days, but hardcore fans of local architectural history never miss the Cincinnati Preservation Association’s Spring Tour. Featured neighborhoods have included Prospect Hill, North Avondale, East Walnut Hills, and—last year—Pleasant Ridge. Regulars come away with a deeper knowledge of the area’s history, plus they get plenty of innovative ideas for rehabbing old homes, too.

Way to See the City: Stratus Helicopters

Stratus Helicopters’s aerial tours offer locals a whole new view of the city. You can look down onto the field at Great American Ball Park, see eye-to-crown with Great American Tower, and gaze out across the topography of the seven hills. The cheapest tours go by quickly, so spring for a longer one. And go at night—when the skyline lights up like a Christmas tree—to marvel at the Queen City in all her majesty. Newport, (513) 533-4354

Dance Lessons: Living History Dance School

Work on your moves with a professional instructor at the Living History Dance School. Learn slow, sultry Soul Dancing; the flailing, gravity-defying Lindy Hop (tennis shoes please!); the cutesy, close-embrace Balboa; and other vintage-type dances that you can bust out at your next wedding reception. Come alone or with a buddy to learn from instructors Dan Rosenthal and Mike (“the girl”) Legett. Over-the-Rhine,

Public Golf Course: Stonlick Hills

Among many excellent public courses on both sides of the river, Stonelick Hills stands out as the best overall golfing experience for the duffer to the scratch player. Owner/designer Jeff Osterfeld transformed an old homestead into a challenging yet fun 18-hole parkland course that requires precision play over 7,145 yards from the back tees. The standout feature is Stonelick’s signature hole: No. 9, a gorgeous par five with an island green in front of the clubhouse, where many a ball (and a bet or two) have been lost to the water. Batavia,

Old Place Made New: Japp’s

Japp’s, which has been everything from a department store to a wigmaker, has found new life (again!) as a bar specializing in craft cocktails from a bygone era. Drinks like the Bees Knees, Van Gogh, and Algonquin feature mixologist Molly Wellman’s homemade simple syrups and tonic. With an atmosphere that’s as warm as it is cool, it’s the kind of place you can take a date, coworkers, or even that hipster friend visiting from NYC. Over-the-Rhine,

Skydiving: Start Skydiving

To say that everyone in town jumps out of planes at may be an exaggeration. Then again, it is the largest skydiving center in the Midwest and has hosted such diverse divers as the University of Cincinnati Bearcat and Big Kenny from Big & Rich. Start Skydiving boasts a 600-acre drop zone, state-of-the-art facilities, and a staff of expert jumpers. Whether you’re a first-timer on a tandem dive or training to go solo, this is the place to face your fears. Middletown,

Sporting Clays Shooting Course: Dave Kelly Elk Creek Hunt Club

Venture just one hour south of downtown to discover what globetrotting sportsmen (and sportswomen) already know: Owenton is home to the Dom Pérignon of sporting clay ranges, Dave Kelly Elk Creek Hunt Club. Throwing 2 million sporting clays per year (note to novice shooters: that’s a lot!), Elk Creek’s 45 paved stations work a bit like miniature golf, with unique challenges at each one: Clays darting from a 65-foot tower? From the banks of a stream? Beneath natural foliage? Just par for the course. Owenton, Kentucky,

Sand Volleyball: Hahana Beach

The key to an ideal sand volleyball court is its depth. Too deep, you can’t jump. Too shallow, you cut your knees on rocks. Hahana Beach’s courts strike the perfect balance—which makes for hard spikes and soft landings. Hahana scores bonus points for hosting pro tour events and for its cordon blue fingers—chicken strips wrapped in ham and Swiss, then deep-fried. Don’t worry, you’ll burn off the calories. Mariemont,

Movie Theater Snacks: Kenwood Theater

Love a movie on the big screen, but hate the watery drinks, the over-salted popcorn, and the overpriced Raisinettes? Yep, that’s why we carry the oversized purse. We’ve snuck in sandwiches, wine, cocktails…even Pad Thai. But at Kenwood Theater we can travel light. Sushi from nearby Embers Restaurant, fresh baked goods from Frieda’s Desserts, espresso drinks, smoothies, boutique beers, and cocktails are all part of Kenwood’s dinner at the movies. Best deal: Thursday night wine tastings from 6 to 7:30 include generous pours of four decent wines for $5. Kenwood,


Build-a-Best: Game Night

Family Fun: Ted’s Toy Store

Ted’s Toy Store had us at Mystery Date, “1965 Classic Edition.” Ted’s carries games for all ages, including Mexican Train dominos, Gamewright party games, and our favorite new matching game: Spot it!

The Classics: King Arthur’s

King Arthur’s is a local toy institution, but the shop also carries card games, dice games, all of your favorite board games (Mouse Trap!), and Cincinnatiopoly.

Arts & Crafts: Plaza Artist Materials

Sometimes the simplest games are the most fun. Pick up marker pads, colored markers, and an easel at Plaza Artist Materials for a proper game of low-tech Pictionary. (513) 621-0726

Arcade Games: Walton’s

If you’re very serious about your game night, you may want to upgrade from Scrabble. For 59 years, Walton’s has sold and rented pinball games, video games, pool tables, air hockey tables, and even full skeeball sets.

Snacks: Naked Pizza

You could order your standard takeout pizza, or you could try something new to spice up your game night. Naked Pizza  has, ahem, dressed-down the average approach to pizza, starting with cutting out all “freaky chemicals.”

Please note that the information listed in this section was accurate at the time the issue went to print in 2011 and that addresses, menu items, company status, etc., may have changed. Please contact the companies to confirm details.

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