Staycations are amazing for several reasons. Sometimes you just can’t afford the big fancy vacation. Sometimes you just don’t want that added stress. And sometimes, it is just downright more relaxing to take some time off without leaving home. And lucky for us, Cincinnati is an incredible city for staycation planning. In this series, the Cincinnati Moms Blog team is giving you some excellent suggestions to help you plan your staycation. Feel free to follow the themes or mix and match between them! And as always, feel free to share your own suggestions and ideas in the comments.
A Staycation for the Foodie Family:
If yours is a family full of foodies, you probably already know what a rich food culture we have in Cincinnati. A Cincy staycation can provide plenty of tasty fun whether your family is a family of foodies or aspires to be one. This one is designed with a long weekend in mind (Friday to Monday), as a few activities included only happen on certain days of the week.
Day 1:: Local Flavor (Friday)
- Flavors of the Queen City Tour. Take a walking, tasting tour through downtown Cincinnati with this culinary adventure. Starting at Fountain Square on a Friday or Saturday afternoon, you will visit some of the city’s best and most famous restaurants to try sample size portions of their signature dishes. The tour varies by season but typically takes 3-3 ½ hours. Currently included in the tour are Hathaway’s, Graeter’s, Servatii’s, Tom + Chee, Via Vite, Skyline, It’s Just Crepes, and Venice on Vine.
- Smale Park. While you’re downtown, visit Smale Park to work up an appetite for your next stop. You can rent bikes for the trail, swing on the family-sized porch swings while enjoying a view of the river, ride the carousel, play in the playground, get wet at the splash pad, or have some quiet time in the labyrinth.
- Over the Rhine. If you want to plan ahead a little, check out the Cincinnati One Street Wonders episode of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives before starting your foodie staycation. After watching this show, the only problem you will have is trying to decide on just one restaurant to visit for dinner. While hot dogs may be a kids’ favorite, Senate will make them everyone’s favorite. Or try Bakersfield and make it an extra special taco night There are tons of choices, and it’s hard to go wrong with any of them in OTR.
Day 2:: Explore the World (Saturday)
- Dim Sum at Grand Oriental. This is a meal comprised of many small bites. Experience a traditional Chinese meal here, where they know how to do it right. While you can order dim sum off the menu any day, go on a weekend to get the authentic experience with the servers pushing carts of steaming delights around the room for you to choose from. Not so sure about the chicken feet or squid you might be offered from the first cart? Don’t worry. Another will be around in a minute with steamed buns, shrimp dumplings, pork pot stickers, chicken on a stick, egg tarts, or sticky rice in banana leaves. And they will keep coming until you can’t possibly eat one more delicious bite.
- Jungle Jim’s International Market. Plan to cook a global dinner tonight, and get prepared with a trip to Jungle Jim’s International Market. Whether you choose Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Mediterranean, Korean, or German cuisine, you are sure to find whatever you need here. Spend a couple hours exploring the aisles of ingredients from all over the world, tasting the samples throughout the store, and drooling over the baked goods and imported chocolate. There’s also a huge selection of wine, beer and spirits. You can even try one of the sixteen beers on tap at the tasting bar and take home a growler filled with your favorite one. One important thing to pick up while you are there—Lars Belgian Pearl Sugar, found way in the back in the Belgian/German section of the store. It will be an important part of tomorrow’s breakfast.
- Dinner and a Movie Theme Night. Pick a movie and cook dinner to match. Here are some of my favorite ideas:
- Lady and the Tramp or Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs—spaghetti and meatballs
- Ratatouille—ratatouille, of course! Or fettuccine alfredo with crepes for dessert.
- Hercules—gyros with tzatziki sauce
- Robin Hood—bangers and mash
- Mulan—spring rolls and wonton soup
- Pirates of the Caribbean or Little Mermaid—clam bake, lobster boil, or if your kids are really adventurous, sushi
- Sound of Music—weiner schnitzel and red cabbage slaw
- Cool Runnings—jerk chicken with red beans with rice
Day 3:: Picnic in the Park (Sunday)
- Authentic Belgian Waffles for Breakfast. One of my favorite places to eat in Cincinnati is Taste of Belgium. While I highly recommend that you check it out if you haven’t been yet, my schedule, my budget, and my waistband do not allow me to go there as often as I’d like. I have discovered that I can make thick, rich, dense waffles at home, and they are almost as good as the real thing. Use this recipe to make some for your family to enjoy while you linger over an extra cup of coffee. Top with strawberries and whip cream or for a s’more version—marshmallow fluff and Nutella. It is vacation, after all.
Findlay Market. Bring a cooler with you to this Cincinnati landmark so that you can fill it with plenty of picnic fixings for later. You can take one of several tours offered at the market to see the highlights, taste samples, and hear more about its history as the oldest public market in Ohio. Or simply wander and explore, enjoying the street performers while picking up some fresh produce, local honey, and handcrafted jams, jellies, and baked goods. You will also find locally sourced meats and cheeses, fresh seafood, specialty condiments, and exotic spices. Fill your picnic basket with prepared salads, cheese and bread, fresh fruit, and a fresh-baked dessert.
- Washington Park. Take your cooler or basket of Findlay Market finds and head to Washington Park, where there’s sure to be something happening. Free art, music, and theater performances happen throughout the week at Washington Park. There are also kid and family events, a dog park, a playground, an interactive water park, and full bar service, including local craft beers. What a lovely way to spend a summer evening.
Day 4:: Farm to Table Day – Your Table, That Is! (Monday)
- U Pick Raspberries at TCC Farm. Round up the family, don your floppy hat, and bring a basket to Milford to pick red raspberries from now until fall. Our area has plenty of other options for picking as the seasons change as well. Iron’s Fruit Farm will have blackberries, blueberries, apples and peaches available. Hidden Valley Fruit Farm offers strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, apples and peaches. Find them all at PickYourOwn.org.
Make Cobbler. With plump, ripe raspberries in hand, you’ll be ready to make some delights to enjoy now and later. Raspberries make a great cobbler using my Granny’s recipe. Peaches, blackberries, or a combination of strawberries and rhubarb work great as well. It’s easy and the very best way to enjoy a basket of freshly picked summer produce. Avert a crisis—be sure to have vanilla ice cream on hand to top your cobbler.
- Fill your Freezer with Jam. This way, you can enjoy those summer berries all year long. We are a little opinionated about jam, preferring freezer jam because it requires less cooking, and leaves it tasting like fresh-picked fruit. If you agree, use this easy recipe from Food.com to make some of those raspberries into a simple freezer jam. If you’d prefer a cooked jam recipe, there’s one of those as well. When you open a jar one cold, snowy morning in February, you’ll be glad you went to the effort.
- Share the Love. Invite some friends over for cobbler, share a beer from Jungle Jim’s, and enjoy a relaxing night with your loved ones to finish out your fun-filled, delicious Cincinnati staycation.