10 Under $10: Summer Activities for Kids

From giant swings to kaleidoscopes to a ”toy library,” the city has plenty of cheap fun on offer this summer.
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At the Play Library, kids and families can rent toys and games for a small fee or choose to play on site for free.

Photograph courtesy Julia Fischer

1. Smale Riverfront Park
Just get yourself down to this sprawling park and your kids will find plenty to do: There’s a cool riverfront playground right underneath the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, plus interactive games and water features, giant swings, and Carol Ann’s Carousel. Cincinnati’s downtown riverfront, mysmaleriverfrontpark.org, Carousel open 11 a.m.–7 p.m., closed Mondays, $2 per ride or $10 for 6 rides,

2. Washington Park’s Camp OTR
This hour-long weekday “camp” event is designed to encourage creative fun for kids. Activities vary day to day from kids’ yoga with The Yoga Bar to singing, dancing, and other artsy play with CCM Preparatory instructors. The best part? It’s all totally free. 1230 Elm St., washingtonpark.org, through August 5, Monday–Friday, 10–11 a.m.

3. Lake Isabella Grill Outs
Instead of cooking dinner Friday night, bring your family to Lake Isabella for an evening at the lake, complete with grilled food, live music, and an open playground and boathouse for kids’ activities. The grill outs are every Friday for the rest of the summer, with a schedule of different live performances available online. 10174 Loveland-Madeira Rd., Symmes Township, greatparks.org, through September 2, Fridays 5–8 p.m., adult dinner $8.89/person, child dinner $4.49/person, additional pricing for beverages, sides, desserts, and specialty dinner.

4. Happen Inc. Art Sessions and Toy Lab
With free open studios nearly every afternoon, Happen Inc. supplies materials for parents and kids to come together and work on different types of art projects, which vary day-to-day. Beading and necklace-making, animation, and clay play are just a few of the options available in July. Hop next door to Happen’s Toy Lab, where kids can create their own unique toy out of pieces and parts from donated old and broken toys. 4201 Hamilton Ave., happeninc.com, Happen Inc. open Tuesday–Thursday 3:30–7:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., free, Toy Lab open Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.–5 p.m., toy building starts at $10.

5. Thrilling Thursdays at the Cincinnati Library’s Main Branch
There are all kinds of programs for kids to choose from through the Cincinnati Library. At downtown’s main branch, “Thrilling Thursdays” (for kids ages 6–12) provides free morning activities that typically have a focus on science. In July, archeology and kaleidoscopes are two topics that will be covered with professional guests to lead the sessions. 800 Vine St., cincinnatilibrary.org, Thursdays 10:30–11 a.m.

6. Rosenthal Education Center at the Cincinnati Art Museum
After spending time browsing the exhibits at the Cincinnati Art Museum, head to the first floor to see the new interactive space for families called the Rosenthal Education Center.

Cincinnati Art Museum's Rosenthal Education Center
Cincinnati Art Museum’s Rosenthal Education Center

Photograph courtesy Cincinnati Art Museum


In this room, kids can get a hands-on experience and learn about the art in the museum in a more engaging way. Plus, the space will change three times a year, meaning you can come back again and again. 953 Eden Park Dr., cincinnatiartmuseum.org, Tuesday–Sunday 11 a.m.– 5 p.m., museum entry free, parking $4.

7. Great Parks Days
The Great Parks of Hamilton County have endless fun activities all summer long, but to save money, check out the Great Parks Days on July 2 at Miami Whitewater Forest and August 6 at Winton Woods and Glenwood Gardens. Make the most of the free park days by trying the pricier harbor activities like canoeing, pedal boating, and stand–up paddleboarding. greatparks.org, July 2 at Miami Whitewater Forest, 90001 Mt. Hope Rd., Harrison, August 6 at Winton Woods, 10245 Winton Rd. and Glenwood Gardens, 10397 Springfield Pike.

8. Blueberry Picking
Instead of making another trip to Kroger, pick your own fresh berries with the kids at a U-Pick farm, like Blooms & Berries Farm Market in Loveland. Call ahead because picking times often change daily. 9669 S. St. Rt. 48, Loveland,  bloomsandberries.com, days and times vary.

9. Newport on the Levee
Cross the bridge for a day of fun at the Levee with activities like bowling and hamster balls. Check out Axis Alley for $2 Tuesdays ($2 games of bowling and $2 shoe rental), or try a walk–on–water experience with Newport’s Hamster Water Balls.

Axis Alley features $2 Tuesdays: $2 games of bowling and $2 shoe rental.
Axis Alley features $2 Tuesdays: $2 games of bowling and $2 shoe rental.

Photograph courtesy Axis Alley


Both located at 1 Levee Way, Newport, axisalleylevee.com, Axis Alley Sunday–Thursday 11 a.m.–midnight, Friday–Saturday 11 a.m.– 2 a.m.,  Hamster Water Balls, $8, Monday–Thursday 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Friday–Saturday 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Sunday 12–6 p.m.

10. Play Library
There’s something for everyone at the Play Library (set to open June 24), where kids and families can play on site for free or rent toys and games for a small fee. Play Library is also hosting free themed game nights every Wednesday for the whole family. And if you need a break from the little ones? Adults-only themed game nights are every other Thursday with everything from Cards Against Humanity to Scrabble. 1805 Elm St., playlibrary.org. Library open Wednesday–Thursday 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Friday 11 a.m.–6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m.–5 p.m., family game nights Wednesdays June 29–August 24, 5–9 p.m., adult game nights every other Thursday July 7–August 18, 6 – 10 p.m.

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OTR’s Play Library

Photograph courtesy Julia Fischer

Play Library_3

Photograph courtesy Julia Fischer

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