Newport Aquarium: One of the nation’s finest fishy exhibits

One of the nation’s finest fishy exhibits


Newport Aquarium: One of the nation’s finest fishy exhibits

During our recent visit to Cincinnati, we made sure we crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky and scheduled a visit to the Newport Aquarium, billed as one of the top aquariums in the country.

We were glad we did. After spending a few hours making our way through the winding subterranean seascape, we felt it was perhaps the best aquarium we’ve ever visited.

As its name suggests, the aquarium is located in Newport, just across the Newport Southbank Bridge from Cincinnati. This is the “Purple People Bridge,” so named because it’s pedestrian-only and (you guessed it) is lighted purple at night. Of course, there are plenty of other bridges to drive across from Cincinnati to Kentucky if you prefer, the closest being highway I-471, known as the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge.

Parking was readily available (and affordable) outside the aquarium. The attraction is part of Newport on the Levee, a shopping and dining attraction that has lots of restaurants and stores, a movie theater, a bowling alley and even a “fish spa” called Garra.

Newport Aquarium: One of the nation’s finest fishy exhibits

Why did we like Newport Aquarium so much? Let’s start out with what you can see – more than 65 exhibits containing hundreds of aquatic species in 1 million gallons of salt and fresh water. The aquarium felt almost like a museum, albeit a crowded one.

We liked the clever reuse of the shark tank, allowing visitors to first go through it via a long tunnel, then ending the aquarium’s circuitous trek by walking over the open tank on a daredevilish bridge (that was fully netted).

Maybe it was the opportunity to see things we hadn’t seen before – like a white alligator that apparently gets along with turtles, and a giant Pacific octopus, which has the ability to camouflage itself and change its shape.

Newport Aquarium: One of the nation’s finest fishy exhibits

We also enjoyed the huge arapaima, one of the world’s largest freshwater fishes, which trolls the Amazon River. Visitors also can view seahorses in a large tank and go eye-to-eye with a penguin swimming under water.

Rosie and Max got a thrill by interacting with some of the sea life. They were able to touch a sea anemone, a horseshoe crab and a baby shark, then pop their heads through a porthole to see stingrays swimming around them.

It was these collective experiences that made Newport Aquarium memorable.

We did find that the passageways were sometimes a bit narrow for all the people there. This is one popular attraction, so if you can, try to visit during the week. There’s plenty of opportunity – Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year. We’re already looking forward to our next visit.

The Newport Aquarium is located at One Aquarium Way, Newport, Ky. Learn more at www.newportaquarium.com.


Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Wallow in 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired fun at Easton Town Center


Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town CenterThis weekend we assembled a portable grill, one of those projects that looks easy but quickly can go down the wrong path with one incorrectly attached part.

We had to put together the frame, attach the grills, assemble and affix the hood, then tack on wheels and a fire extinguisher. Some of the parts looked like they weren’t engineered for any kind of commercial use, let alone a barbecue on wheels.

Fortunately, Lego master builder Maxx Davidson guided our every move as we snapped the pieces together. This was no ordinary grill, after all. Just a few square inches in size, the grill was the project of the day at the brand-new Legoland Discovery Center at Easton Town Center, a $10 million destination attraction that’s sure to interlock its place as an Easton favorite.

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town CenterA first for Ohio and the second largest in the nation, the Discovery Center is billed as the ultimate indoor Lego playground. There are 10 themed rooms, including the Creative Workshop where Davidson presides; two amusement park-like rides; a 4-D cinema with wind, rain and snow effects; a space to build and test your own Lego creations; and the mega-impressive Miniland, which features recreations of Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati landmarks.

And there’s plenty of room to roam. The Discovery Center is housed in the former All-Star Cafe, which covers 36,000 square feet on two stories inside Easton Station.

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center“This place is not just fun for kids – it’s fun for families,” says Davidson, an Ashland, Ohio, native who earlier this year ousted 2,000 other applicants to earn the title of Master Builder. “Parents can play with kids no matter what generation they are. You kind of bond over this fun toy.”

That’s exactly what we did for two hours in the newfangled, colorful space. In the end, the intrigue of the rides won our kids’ attention over digging their hands into tubs of plastic bricks. They rode in a self-propelled chariot and used laser guns to battle trolls and skeletons in order to save a princess while on Kingdom Quest. They gleefully pedaled their feet to raise and lower a car on the slow, spinning Merlin’s Apprentice.

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town CenterWe adults were more awed by the detail that went into the exhibits, especially in Miniland. Be sure to check out recreations of Columbus’ North Market, Cincinnati’s Union Terminal and Cleveland’s A Christmas Story House, complete with little Ralphie in a bunny suit on the front porch.

Legoland Discovery Center officially opens Sept. 28. Admission rates range from $20 for a day pass to $60 for an annual pass. Adults must be accompanied by a child age 17 or younger to visit.

The space includes a snack shop, where meals can be assembled in Lego boxes, and rentable party rooms. Learn more.


Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Kids welcome on ‘Bring Your Shorty’ days


16-Bit Bar+Arcade: Kids welcome summer SundaysNow here’s something we hope you’ll really like. Every Sunday, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, is a “Shorty Summer Vacation” at 16-Bit Bar+Arcade in downtown Columbus.

That means kids are allowed at what our daughter calls the “barcade,” which is normally reserved for the 21-and-older crowd. The bar and arcade offers craft beers, old-school cocktails and free play on more than 40 classic video games, including Donkey Kong, Frogger, Asteroids, Pac-Man and Dig Dug. There are a couple of pinball machines, which cost 50 cents per play.

16-Bit was designed for adult customers wanting to relive games of their youth while having a couple of brews. But during regularly scheduled “Bring Your Shorty Days,” kids are welcome from noon-5 p.m. In addition to games, youngsters can sip a cherry, grape or lime Slush Puppie.

16-Bit Bar+Arcade: Kids welcome summer SundaysWe had a good time on a recent Shorty Day. Mike sampled a couple of local craft beers, while I tried some hard cider. It was fun trying to remember how to play the classic games. Mike was a bit rusty at Asteroids, a game he used to master. I was similarly flailing around on Dig Dug. I think with a few repeat visits, we could raise our mastery of the games to 1980s levels. Our kids had a blast playing a Terminator-themed shooting game.

No food items are sold at 16-Bit, but you’re welcome to bring your own or order a pizza from nearby Mikey’s Late Night Slice.

There also are 16-Bit locations in Cleveland and Cincinnati. To learn more about all the locations, visit www.16-bitbar.com.


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16-Bit Bar+Arcade: Kids welcome summer Sundays

Search for pixie portals while discovering downtown Dublin’s quaint shops


Be it beer, wine, doughnuts or chocolate, we’re suckers for organized trails. So when I recently learned of a fairy trail in downtown Dublin, my daughter, Rosie, and I made plans to check it out.

The Irish Fairy Door Trail was created in 2016 by the Dublin Convention & Visitors Bureau as a fun way to highlight the independent businesses in downtown Dublin. Trail guides are available online or can be picked up in person at the Dublin Visitor & Information Center at 9 S. High St. The center is open daily from 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

Eight small, glitter-encrusted doors have been hidden inside an equal number of businesses in the historic downtown area. It’s up to participants to find them and take note of the fairy’s name that’s been attached to each. Jot down the names of the fairies found at six of the eight participating stores on your passport to earn an Irish Fairy Door Trail T-shirt. Completed passports can be slipped into a box inside the visitor’s center.

The real prize, Rosie and I discovered, was spending time together exploring the unique stores. I drank coconut-flavored coffee and devoured sea-salt caramels at Winans of Dublin. Rosie found a shamrock-spotted rubber duck at Ha’Penny Bridge Imports of Ireland and a comfortable seat in a giant Teddy bear at the Dublin Toy Emporium.

Here is the full list of participating stores at the time of our adventure:

Learn more about Dublin’s Irish Fairy Door Trail.

Also check out Dublin’s new Celtic Cocktail Trail, and Dublin’s Art in Public Places Tour.



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.

Marcy’s Clayground: Make memorable works of art at paint-your-own-pottery studio

Make memorable works of art at paint-your-own-pottery studio


One of my favorite memories of attending Garfield Elementary School in Medina, Ohio, was when Mrs. Werger brought out big slabs of gray clay for us to fashion into works of art.

In first grade I made a basket that I painted “robin’s egg blue” – that’s what the bottle labeled it. Although my basket lacked luster when I handed it over to my art teacher, it came out of the kiln as a vibrant, colorful object d’art.

Our children recently had a similar experience at Marcy’s Clayground, at 6685 Dublin Center Dr. in Dublin. Marcy’s allows you to select a piece of unpainted pottery off a shelf, paint it and pick it up one week later after it’s been fired.

  • Marcy’s Clayground
  • Make memorable works of art at paint-your-own-pottery studio
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There’s no charge to use the space, so you potentially could work on something for weeks, using the space as your studio. We stayed for several relaxing hours. Our daughter selected a piece that portrayed a dragon atop a castle. Our son chose to paint a piggy bank because he loves pigs.

The kids weren’t crazy about the dullness of the paint on their artwork. The real thrill was returning a week later to retrieve the creations. The rich colors and shiny glaze brought them to life, just as I remember with my robin’s egg blue basket.

Our kids proudly display them today on their dressers.

Marcy’s website touts having more than 150 ceramic items and more than 80 shades of paint. Prices range from $3-$50. You’re charged half the cost of the figure to decorate it. So if an item costs $10, it’ll be $15 after you paint it.

For more information, visit marcysclayground.com.

Glass Axis: Have a ball playing with fire at Franklinton art center

Have a ball playing with fire at Franklinton art center


Glass Axis: Have a ball playing with fire at Franklinton art centerIntroduce youngsters to the art of glassmaking at Glass Axis, which offers hands-on workshops to adults and kids as young as 8 years old.

Glass Axis is a workshop and gallery located inside a warehouse in the neighborhood of Franklinton, just west of downtown Columbus. It’s been in Columbus in various locations for 30 years, but the budding arts district feels like home.

I took a beginners’ workshop called a “first-experience” class through my employer. My coworkers and I created spherical glass ornaments. I enjoyed getting a feel for the process without having the fear of getting burned. My experience seemed suitable for children.

One by one, our instructor, Jacci Delaney, guided us through the steps of making an ornament while those not participating watched from the bleachers. My personal lesson lasted about 15 minutes and included twirling a glob of molten glass at the end of a metal rod in a fire pit, dipping the hot glob into two bowls of colored glass bits, and blowing into a tube with a reed-like tip to form my glass bubble.

Delaney performed the more difficult steps, such as gathering the initial glob of molten glass on the rod, shaping the ball of glass and removing the ball by gently tapping a mallet on the rod. She also formed a glass hook so I can hang my ornament.

Glass Axis: Have a ball playing with fire at Franklinton art centerThe experience was just enough for me to appreciate the complexities and fragility of the art form, as well as taste the sensation of blowing my own glass object. I’m excited to display my ornament at home and proclaim, “Yeah, I made that!”

Other workshops include blowing a glass pumpkin, sculpting a paperweight and making a Pandora-style bracelet. Costs range from $39 for the first-experience workshops to $85 for a glass on making a stained-glass heart.

Not ready to play with fire? Observe other glass blowers by attending a free demonstration from the bleachers. While there, check out the gallery, which holds an annual spring sale in mid-May.

  • Glass Axis
  • Have a ball playing with fire at Franklinton art center
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Glass Axis is located at 610 W. Town St., Columbus. For more information, Call 614-291-4250 or visit glassaxis.org.

Castaway Bay: Cedar Point’s indoor waterpark offers 82-degree escape to Caribbean

Cedar Point’s indoor waterpark in Sandusky offers 82-degree escape to Caribbean


Castaway Bay: Cedar Point’s waterpark resort offers 82-degree indoor escape to CaribbeanWhile driving along U.S. Rt. 250 near Sandusky, we pass several indoor waterparks on our way to Cedar Point’s Castaway Bay. This must be the Vegas Strip of indoor waterparks, I think as I observe colorful tubes snaking out the sides of one hotel after another.

Castaway Bay isn’t the largest, showiest one on the block. With a 38,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, it’s smaller than the nearby 173,000 square-foot Kalahari Resort and bigger than the 33,000-square-foot Great Wolf Lodge.

For us, it was just right. Castaway Bay is perfect for anyone looking for an excuse to don a bathing suit in an 82-degree-controlled environment when Ohio’s outside temps aren’t cooperating. The contrived, Caribbean theme – with painted blue skies, synthetic palm trees and animatronic parrots that squawk and talk – also is convincing enough when you just can’t get to the real thing.

  • Castaway Bay
  • Cedar Point’s waterpark resort offers 82-degree indoor escape to Caribbean
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We ventured two hours north from Columbus to Sandusky on a cold, winter weekend, eager for an excuse to pretend it was summer. If you stay the night, you have access to the waterpark for two days. Check in is 4 p.m., and check out is 11 a.m.

The resort offers 237 hotel rooms and suites and several onsite restaurants. Prices for a room-and-waterpark combo start at $149 when I checked the resort’s site in March. Day passes to the waterpark are $29 each.

We stayed in a Starfish Room with two double beds, sleeper chair, private screened balcony, small refrigerator, microwave and coffeemaker. The room accommodates up to five guests and comes with four waterpark passes.

We started our adventure by picking up an “Island Times” at the front desk. The one-sheeter states the times and locations of daily activities, such as decorating T-shirts and bags with fabric paint, and visits with Snoopy and other Peanuts characters.

We made our way to the 6,000-square-foot arcade to play unique crane games. One had us vying for large bouncy balls at $2 a pop. We didn’t win anything.

We spent the majority of our time in the waterpark – nearly seven hours playing and splashing. We bypassed the Toddlers Tide Pool in favor of the following:

Castaway Bay Wave Pool
This 100,000-gallon wave pool periodically produces 3-foot waves. A buzzer signals the arrival of waves that continue for roughly 10 minutes.

Lookout Lagoon Family Funhouse
It’s a multistory, interactive play area with a 1,000-gallon tipping bucket and twisty slides.

Tropical Tube Slides
There are three enclosed, tubular body slides that protrude from the side of the building. One affords a speedy slide through complete darkness.

Rendezvous Run
This 35-foot-high, 520-foot-long water rollercoaster propels riders uphill using water jets. It winds near the ceiling and partially goes outside, and you must be 42 inches tall to ride.

For more information, visit www.castawaybay.com.