In our family, it seems that every weekend is packed full of outdoor fun and action.My husband I believe our kids need to experience all that our world has to offer. Lucky for us, we live in Greater Cincinnati with one of the best park systems around.The Hamilton County Park system is extensive and well run and we take full advantage of it, do you?
We don’t feel it’s necessary to spend tons of money to have a great time with your kids.Hamilton County Parks seems to agree. The yearly pass for your car cost $5.If money is tight and you have more than one car, buy one pass and move it from car to car (just don’t peel the back off or this won’t work).We used to do this, but then one time we forgot to get the pass out of one car and into another so we had to buy another.This ended up to not be a bad thing for us.Let me explain why.When you buy the yearly pass, you can send in for $5 worth of gift certificates.You can use these at any of the Parks Gift Stores, refreshment stands or for the Holiday in Lights show. Because we buy two passes every year, we get $10 worth of gift certificates.I carefully file these away and pull them out in December to use for our yearly trip to see the Holiday in Lights at Sharon Woods. Last year the fee to see the light show was $12.50 per vehicle – we used our $10 in gift certificates and a $2.50 coupon from Reach magazine and voila! Our evening out was free.
We have created such wonderful memories with our children with the help of the various parks we frequent.Here’s some things we’ve done:
1.A few weekends ago, we went to the Black Walnut Festival at Farback-Werner Nature Preserve.This is our third year to attend this festival and it was super fun as always.You can either bring your own cotton clothing (shirt, socks, pants, etc) to tie dye in black walnut dye or you can purchase items at the festival (this year a shirt was $2 and socks were $1).Rubber bands are provided and the volunteers are always helpful and friendly.We sampled home made black walnut ice cream (YUM!) and for a donation of $1 (for our entire family of four!), we sampled black walnut rice pilaf, walnut and bacon spread on crackers, black walnut cookies, black walnut banana bread and other tasty treats.Games outside were free and fun while inside there were some free crafts and one craft with a 50 cent fee.
2.We attend a similar festival in the spring that’s all about Maple Syrup. Who couldn’t love that?
3. We took a boat ride on Winton Woods Lake and learned all about turtles. It was so much fun and we learned a great deal about the kinds of turtles that live in our area.
4.We put on our Wellies and went into the back waters of Winton Lake and went looking for Tadpoles. Our Park Naturalist provided us with nets and buckets and an absolute wealth of information. We were sorry to have that morning end as it was super fun for all of us.
5.We’ve been on a luminary walk around the Glenwood Gardens area.We learned all about the trees that grow in our area. Roasted marshmallows and popcorn were big hits that night.
6.We’ve gone to countless sessions on snakes, bats, spiders, frogs, owls and the list goes on and on.
7.We’ve splashed in the water areas of numerous parks on hot muggy days.
8.We’ve been to outdoor concerts where we have danced, clapped and laughed with delight.
9.If you’re feeling flush, go the Glenwood Gardens Highfield Discovery Garden ($4 adult/$2 children) learn about gardening and enjoy the tree house.
10.Spend an afternoon at Parky’s Farm.Look for Eric and ask him if you can go fishing. He’ll set you up with poles and bait. Visit the garden at Parky’s Farm and sample some fresh peas or strawberries.
This list could go on and on. I haven’t even really scratched the surface – there’s Halloween Nights (amazing magic and puppet shows!), hay rides, reasonable camping, tons of nature trails and hikes (we made up our own scavenger hunt this past summer and took our list to Sharon Woods), sled riding (we had a BLAST last winter) and much much more.
The best way that we’ve found to utilize the parks is to set up a regular time to look over the events calendar. I like to go in once a month and look over what’s happening in the upcoming weeks. If something looks interesting, I put an entry into my on-line calendar with a reminder a few days before. Some things do require pre-registration which you can normally do on-line, so be sure to check to see if the event you want to attend requires this. You can also sign up to get their newsletter or follow them on Face Book or Twitter.
What’s your family’s favorite Hamilton County Park? What events are a must do for your family? Like I said, I know I’ve just scratched the surface and I’d love to know how you and your family take advantage of all these parks have to offer.