Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program


Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing programSometimes family adventures can be found in your own front yard. Or, thanks to the Little Free Library, they can be found in the front yards of your neighbors, here and all over the world.

You may have seen a Little Free Library in your neck of the woods. They come in all shapes and sizes, but most look like a tiny house on a stick, perched in someone’s front yard. Open a front door to the box, and you’re treated to free books.

Founded in 2009 by Todd Bol in Hudson, Wisc., the Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that promotes literacy and encourages community participation through sharing books. Its motto: “Take a book, return a book.”

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing programToday there are more than 65,000 registered Little Free Library book-sharing boxes in all 50 states and more than 80 countries worldwide.

We made an adventure out of little libraries in our neighborhood in the hopes that we could trade out some old, favorite books for new ones that were more age-appropriate for our kids.

We selected seven books and visited seven libraries that we found on the Little Free Library world map.

You can do this, too, no matter where you live. Use the search bar above the map to find book-exchange boxes near you.

The best part about this literary adventure is that it doesn’t require a library card, and you won’t incur late fees!

Learn more: littlefreelibrary.org.


Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program


Butler County: Southwestern Ohio county caters to kids

Southwest Ohio county caters to kids


Butler County Donut TrailWe recently toured the Butler County Donut Trail, a collection of a dozen doughnut shops in southwest Ohio. The opportunity to gulp down well-crafted, sugared balls of dough at stop after stop is exciting enough.

But if you’re considering a visit to the trail, we recommend also spending some time at a few other attractions that Butler County has to offer.


Topgolf
9568 Water Front Dr., West Chester Township, OH 45069

This indoor/outdoor entertainment venue lies somewhere between a golf driving range, a sports bar and a family restaurant. The main game involves hitting golf balls containing computer chips into targets at varying distances. Unlike the real game of golf, the more points you score, the better you do.

Our family found the experience really fun. We opted to use Topgolf’s clubs as we aimed for targets ranging from 25 to 215 yards away. The more accurate you are, and the farther you hit the ball, the more points you can score.

The balls didn’t seem to fly as far as I could hit a regulation ball with my own clubs, but it was pretty realistic. Sometimes you depended on the ball getting a kind bounce on the artificial surface. Yes, that happens sometimes in the real game, too.

Our waiter brought us food and drinks. I’d term the menu as upscale appetizers, less than you’d expect from a fine restaurant but way better than you might expect at a family sports venue. We had waffle and chicken sliders and injectable donut holes, round balls we infused with chocolate cream and raspberry jelly.

Topgolf also has billiards tables, an area for live music and a sports bar where you can socialize without golf. They also give golf lessons and are set up for parties for kids and adults. It seemed people came for all that Topgolf had to offer. By early evening on a Saturday, the place was packed.

The great thing is that you won’t have to leave central Ohio in the future to play. Topgolf is building a location at Polaris Centers of Commerce, near the IKEA store. It will be one of about three dozen sites worldwide and is expected to open this summer.


Entertrainment Junction
7379 Squire Ct., West Chester Township, OH 45069

What started out as a collection of model trains by Cincinnati businessman Don Oeters has morphed into what Oeters bills as the world’s largest model train display. Built by the Greater Cincinnati Garden Railway Society, Entertrainment Junction covers more than 2 miles of track, about half of which is visible to patrons.

It took 230,000 hours to build over 10 years, and Oeters says that if they were billable hours, it would have cost “16-to-22 million dollars.”

The track displays continually rotate 15 minutes of daylight and 5 minutes of night viewing. You’ll see Coney Island in Cincinnati circa 1965, the Space Needle, subway trains in New York and Washington, D.C. The seek and find game contains 250 items to look for amid the dozens of tiny displays.

There are more than trains inside the 25,000-square-foot building. The biggest draw is a funhouse with five attractions including a mirror maze and an optical illusion tilted room “all kinds of old-fashioned fun,” Oeters says. We found the funhouse truly enjoyable.

There’s also a café, hobby shop and party rooms, as well as a gift shop.

“I retired 10 years ago, and I needed something to do,” Oeters says. “We’ve been open for eight years, and it keeps growing, and we keep adding to it.”


Jungle Jim’s International Market
5440 Dixie Hwy., Fairfield, OH 45014

If you like to go grocery shopping, you’ll love this gigantic, quirky, surprising supermarket located in Fairfield. It claims to have 180,000 items for sale, and after taking a guided tour of the place, I’m surprised it’s not more.

Jungle Jim’s is the brainchild of James Bonaminio, of suburban Cleveland, who began selling produce out of a truck in the Cincinnati area in the early ’70s. By the middle of the decade, he settled on the current location for a permanent structure to sell produce, and he’s added on ever since.

Today, Jungle Jim’s covers 200,000 square feet, and there are foods and other goods of every kind imaginable in seven wide-ranging departments:

  • Fresh foods: Produce, meat, cheese, seafood, bakery, deli and the “olive pit,” which includes house-made mozzarella.
  • International: Aisle after aisle teeming with more than 70,000 items from around the world.
  • Specialty: This department includes unique foods such as hot sauces, honey and unique sodas, as well as cooking supplies and a cooking school.
  • Beer and wine: Select from more than 17,000 wines and 4,000 beers from around the world.
  • Cigars and liquors: Fine cigars line the walls of the extensive walk-in humidor. Jungle Jim’s holds weekly cigar tastings if you need to try first.
  • Natural foods and supplements: This department offers vegan, gluten-free and natural foods and beverages as well as vitamins, essential oils and related items.
  • American grocery: Oh yeah, Jungle Jim’s is a grocery store too, with tens of thousands of products, including many private-label goods.

What’s really cool about Jungle Jim’s is its quirkiness. There are several animatronic displays, including a funky “Elvis” lion, restroom entrances disguised as portable toilets, and safari animal statues in an outdoor garden.

There’s a second Jungle Jim’s location in suburban Cincinnati, but for the full show, head to the original location in Butler County.


Learn more about Butler County, including Pyramid Hill, a 300-acre sculpture park.

Ten Pin Alley: Hilliard entertainment center offers bowling, laser tag, arcade, bocce ball

Hilliard entertainment center offers bowling, laser tag, arcade, bocce ball


Rosie and Max tightly grip their blue laser-tag blasters as they zip through a two-story labyrinth that’s decked out like Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” complete with a giant octopus strung from the ceiling.

Black lights illuminate our kids’ way as they pursue their temporary enemy: The red team. The battle elicits laughter and high-fives, and the ultimate, “Let’s do it again!”

  • Ten Pin Alley
  • Hilliard entertainment center offers bowling, laser tag, arcade, bocce ball
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The game, dubbed Steampunk H20, is just one option for fun at Ten Pin Alley in Hilliard. The bowling alley and entertainment center spans 37,000 square feet, the result of a recent $5 million renovation and expansion. Other options include dozens of arcade games and bocce ball.

“Most people bowl less than five miles from where they live,” said Andy Beougher, director of sales and marketing of the independently owned Ten Pin Alley. “We wanted to be a destination.”

Food options include appetizers, hand-tossed pizzas and burgers, which can be enjoyed at your table as you bowl or eaten in the large dining area with a big bar. Garage doors open to an expansive outdoor patio.

Spare touches include original artwork and oddities, such as chandeliers and a decades-old neon sign that reads Ten Pin Bowl in a secluded eight-lane alley that can be reserved for private parties.

Another striking element is that Ten Pin donates 2 percent of its sales to several local charities through its Heart & Bowl philanthropic program.

Ten Pin Alley is located at 5499 Ten Pin Alley. Learn more at www.tenpinalley.com.