Spring break season can pose some challenges whether your kids are in school or you’re still toting babies and toddlers. Museums, aquariums and other standbys are typically crowded, and the thought of too much TV or another failed Pinterest craft is enough to make gray hairs sprout. Luckily, you can plan a quick, inexpensive getaway that is fun for all ages–and educational to boot!
Please check the sites for hours as they vary greatly, especially in the transition from winter to spring. Driving estimates are from the city center.
Located just over a half hour south from Cincinnati, Big Bone Lick (named for the fossils and salt licks found there) is a site important to our region’s history. With topics spanning from prehistoric beasts to pioneer ingenuity, this park’s interpretive exhibits and trails are a great learning opportunity for all ages.
Families enjoy the Discovery Trail, located behind the museum and visitor’s center. Large models of mastodons, ground sloths and other Ice Age creatures are a hit with the younger crowd. Older kids will love the short hike that takes visitors to view the resident bison herd. The newly-renovated museum and gift shop are great resources for taking a deeper dive into these topics via displays and educational materials for sale.
Side note: Twice in my life I’ve discovered connections to this park when far from home: Once at Monticello, where a guide pointed out a large fossil which was sent to Jefferson from General William Clark and the other time at Custer State Park in South Dakota–their bison herd is supplemented with stock from Big Bone Lick!
3380 Beaver Road Union, KY 41091
$8 per vehicle
When my husband and I visited the British Museum years ago, we stumbled on a small artifact from Serpent Mound. In the vast galleries containing a piece of the Sphinx, the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles–there we were, staring at a piece of history plucked from a site just an hour away from our house. That’s how important Serpent Mound is. If you really want to get the kids excited, just tell them you’re going to see a snake that’s over 1300 feet long!
Take a pretty hour and a half drive to the country to this State Historic Site, overlooking a valley created by a crater impact around 320 million years ago. There is some dispute over the exact age of the ceremonial effigy mound itself and therefore it has been attributed to both the Fort Ancient and Adena cultures. A small museum operates seasonally and there are several burial mounds and interpretive displays on the grounds.
There is a fairly level and stroller-friendly path around the perimeter of the mound as well as an observation tower for the brave. Whether by path or tower, kids will love observing the snake shape!
This site has been submitted to be considered as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, which would put it in the ranks of the Great Wall of China, Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Egypt. What a great honor for a site so close to home!
3850 State Route 73 Peebles, OH 45660
Adults $5/Students $4 and Under 5 FREE
If you’re looking for a change of pace, Cedar Bog Nature Preserve is a great bet! Located near Urbana, it’s about an hour and forty minutes north of Cincinnati. The interesting landscape supports a whopping 40% of Ohio’s rare species. A mile-long boardwalk allows visitors to enjoy the flora and fauna. You might even see one of nearly a dozen endangered species which call this preserve home.
The Cedar Bog Association offers a borrowing library of scientific instruments and other materials to help children learn about the natural world. Materials are available to teachers and other groups by request.
980 Woodburn Road Urbana, OH 43078
Whether you’re trying to avoid crowds or simply want a change of pace, these three day trips offer great experiences for kids and adults alike. So even if you can’t make it to the beach this spring break, you can learn more about our region, get some fresh air and still be home in time for dinner. What’s not to love about that?