Monday, August 18, 2008

A family staycation, part one

It seems the trendy thing to do this summer, with gas prices higher than they've ever been, is to skip the vacation and settle instead for a staycation. Stay close to home, spend less on getting to your destination, so you have more to spend at your destination.

This week we're staycationing. Not so much in an effort to conserve gasoline or money spent on this premium juice, but because who in their right minds would actually vacation with our group?

A short two-hour trip requires packing and planning. Enough diapers. A change (or two) of clothes for everyone in case of an accident. Booster seats. Snacks. Stroller(s) and/or wagon. Activities. Snacks. There's simply no way an official vacation is doable, and anyway, we'd need an entire plane to ourselves just for our gear.

So with Jason free from work this week, we're making the most of it with our own August staycation. Venturing just far enough to find and do new things, but not so far that we've got to pull out the suitcases.


Hoping to Ride the Ducks, we headed to Newport, Kentucky, only to find that the attraction was closed. A bit discouraged, we decided we'd take in the Newport Aquarium's Frog Bog exhibit.

Approaching the aquarium's entrance, however, we eyed a sign stating strollers are welcome only during family hours. Apparently family hours are after 4:30 p.m. That would be the time of day when most family members in need of strollers are winding down and looking toward dinner and bedtime. Our four without strollers in a busy aquarium. Yeah, just not happening.

Deciding against a scary aquarium visit, we opted to walk around Newport on the Levee, take in the sights (a balloon animal maker on stilts was entertaining). We also watched boats on the river and walked a bit on the purple people bridge.

After leaving downtown, we headed to the Cincinnati Zoo to check out the new Giraffe Ridge exhibit that Alivia had been promised a visit to since before it opened in June. She was amazed at the five giraffes housed in the new exhibit and we stayed a couple hours longer to ride the carousel and check out a few of our other favorites.


With tickets we had purchased on Sunday in hand, we again visited Newport for our Ride the Ducks adventure. The kids loved it. Loved it. Loved it. After getting off the bus/boat, we hadn't walked twenty feet and Alena was asking if we could ride again.

During the tour via land and water, all riders are given duck whistles which was the biggest draw for Alivia. Free to "quack" at will with her little yellow, duck-billed looking whistle, she took advantage of the opportunity to make noise. She also spotted many real life ducks while on the river.

Captain Jeff also allowed any children who wished to, to come up and drive during our ride on the river. Alena and Alivia jumped at the chance to sit behind the wheel and managed not to sink us!

Before entering the water, our captain encouraged everyone to blow their whistles, yell and cheer during our splash in. "It's the only chance you'll have to blow duck whistles, get wet and cheer all at the same time, unless you take the whistle into the shower with you tonight, which you're welcome to do," he said in preparing everyone aboard.

While I'm not sure how much else of the tour information the girls retained, they did manage to hear and remember this part, so duck whistles went into the shower with them tonight. Lots of soap and quacking.

We all enjoyed the unique Ride the Ducks experience ... a must-do for kids in Cincy.

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