Best of the City 2010

Photograph by Jonathan Willis

Fantastical Playground: Highfield Discovery Garden

Tucked into Glenwood Gardens’s 335 acres is the Highfield Discovery Garden, a storybook playground where children can absorb the lessons of nature. Best friends Frog and Toad (from the beloved Arnold Lobel books) stand sentry over a shallow pond filled with their live brethren as well as goldfish. Kids love scrambling in, on, and around the giant climbing tree. In late spring, look carefully and you might spot a mama phoebe on her nest underneath the tree. Next year the park opens an additional 10 acres and debuts David Rogers’s Big Bugs—a series of larger than life bug sculptures by the New York-based artist, which will be on display April 30–August 21. (513) 771-8733

Party Favors: Cappel’s

Kids love shopping for party favors at Cappel’s because it’s packed to the rafters. From dinosaurs, super balls, balloons, and erasers to kiddie bling like Mardi Gras beads, star-shaped sunglasses, and princess crowns, shopping for party favors with your kids at Cappel’s is often more fun than the party itself. As you might expect, Halloween is Cappel’s busiest holiday, followed closely by Christmas. Popular goody bag loot includes spider rings, bats, roaches—“all the icky stuff” says Linda Reber, design supervisor, adding “What haven’t you bought here?”

Indoor Play Date: Newport Aquarium Frog Bog Exhibit

If only the Newport Aquarium could harness the energy expelled inside its Frog Bog exhibit—they could power their facility for free. The Frog Bog features more than 20 varieties of exotic frogs, some of which are tucked away in the dark corners of the enclosed climbing structure that is the real attraction here. Parents take note: The bedlam factor can be high, especially during a holiday week. (859) 261-7444

Summer Camp Deal: Nature Camps in the Parks

City kids between the ages of 3-and-a-half and 12 can get their green on every summer at dozens of Nature Camps offered by Cincinnati Parks. Fees for the week-long day camps range from $30 to $50 for city residents. Camps are held entirely outside in some of the city’s most well-loved parks—California Nature Center, Burnet Woods, and Fernbank, Ault, Eden, and Stanbery parks. Hikes, crafts, and games are all part of the fun. But act fast. Spots go quickly. (513) 321-6070

Pumpkin Patch: Garver Family Farm

It is possible to go overboard in attempting to create the perfect pumpkin patch experience. The tipping point might be adding paintball (we do not exaggerate) to an already jam-packed autumnal extravaganza of train rides and corn mazes. At Garver Family Farm you’ll find no such flourishes. This working farm opens a modest market and pumpkin patch from April through Halloween, selling baked goods, sweet corn, and jam. Garver also hosts a low-profile harvest festival each season with hayrides and homemade apple butter. (513) 539-6366

Place to Be a Kid Again: The Lego Store

The Lego Store at Kenwood Towne Centre is one of just 53 worldwide and offers way more than colorful plastic bricks (although there are plenty of those). Kids can build their own mini figure or choose from more than 100 different pieces on the Pick-a-Brick wall, or reserve a spot for Saturday club meetings, where they work together to build a giant in-store project. Lego releases a big new kit about once a month—like November’s Obi-Wan’s Jedi Starfighter. Peek in the display portholes and check out the butterflies, sushi, sandaled feet, and other displays all designed by “Master Builders” from around the country. (513) 791-4241

Kids’ Musician: Zak Morgan

He’s got Shel Silverstein’s wit, Cat Stevens’s sound, Jimmy Buffett’s crowd appeal—and while those crowds are mostly too young for margaritas, Cincinnati native Zak Morgan’s tuneful tales appeal to grown-ups as well. His 1999 debut Bloom still sounds fresh, When Bullfrogs Croak landed a Grammy nomination in 2004, and his latest, a concept CD called The Candy Machine, suggests the next logical stage of this perpetual kid’s career: Zak Morgan: The Musical!

Storyteller: Omope Carter Daboiku

Anybody can do this, insists Omope Carter Daboiku: “Our dogs tell us a story every time we come home.” But Daboiku spins rare tales that speak, as she says, “on a soul level.” Ever wonder why there are so many pigeons in New York City, or how two feuding friends might both be right? Hear Daboiku’s answers at the Museum Center’s African Culture Fest (January) and the Appalachian Festival at Coney Island (May), among other local appearances. Find her on Facebook.

Small Change for Small Fry

Can your kids have fun for less than a Buck? Strange but true—We found five ways!

Pony Rides for a Penny

What can you get for a penny these days? Probably nothing. Except an unhurried ride on the colorful mechanical ponies at Meijer.

Feed the Animals for a Dime

At Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs, kids can get up close and personal with the farm’s animals at the year-round petting zoo: A handful of feed is just 10 cents. Don’t forget the hand sanitizer. (937) 325-0629

Take a Penny for a Spin

Who could forget the joy of watching your penny spin slowly down the chute of the spiral coin funnel during that family trip to the Union Terminal’s rotunda? Watch for little brothers with sabotage on their minds, though—the magic is easily spoiled by poky little fingers.

Sweet Treats for Pocket Change

Although usually more than a penny, the by-the-scoop penny candies at downtown’s Murray Bros. Old Time Store hark back to a time when the change in your pocket could actually buy you something. (513) 621-7272

Toys and Treats for a Quarter

In a corner of Newport on the Levee’s second floor sits gumball heaven, an impressive collection of 28 gumball machines, offering $.25 candies, plastic toy-filled domes, and yes, a notable assortment of gumballs.

* Please note that the information listed in this section was accurate at the time the issue went to print in 2010 and that addresses, menu items, company status, etc., may have changed. Please contact the companies to confirm details.

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