Staycation 2014: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

 Staycation 2014: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

For those in or around:

Northern Kentucky


Vacation time is upon us for 2014 and while  budget restraints may require staying closer to home; you can still plan an activity packed vacation while helping the home budget in tact. Yes, it is true that you don’t have to travel great distances to have a wonderful vacation so don’t fret…

This list includes some of my favorite local activities that are either free or reasonably priced in the area. If you are looking for additional or different activities, check out MeetNKY or the NKY Tourism sites as they are updated each week by county. Another source specifically geared toward children is the HulaFrog site.

If you somehow manage to see everything within the Northern Kentucky area; you are only minutes from Cincinnati, Ohio.  Looking to venture just a little farther? Places like Dayton OH, Lexington KY, Louisville KY, or Indianapolis IN are all within an hour of Northern Kentucky.

The Tri-State area (Indiana-Kentucky-Ohio) has a rich history dating back to the early 1800’s. If you are an architect buff, you would be able to spend days wandering the older areas and taking tours in the churches and libraries.

But, if you are more of a thrill seeker..there are two amusement parks within thirty minutes of the river. You do not have to in Northern Kentucky long before you will hear people talking about “River”.  The local joke is that neither side likes to cross over and will go out of their way to avoid it.

Let’s get started….

Places to eat – While some of restaurants may be included on more than one list, each list is unique in the approach or criteria used to create their top places to eat in Northern Kentucky.

Northern Kentucky Magazine – Top 20 Best Restaurants

Urbanspoon – sorted by popular votes of visitors

Cincinnati USA – listed as the best places to dine in Northern Kentucky the South Side of Cincinnati

Places to go… NKY is packed with so much history…mixed in with a little crazy fun!

Family Outings:

Newport on the Levee  ~ Newport, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Newport on the Levee

Activities include Dining, IMAX movies, Bowling, Shopping (they offer Visitor Incentive Coupons)

Newport Aquarium ~ Newport, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Voted the #1 Aquarium in the Country! Local hotels and Grocery stores offer discount coupons for admission. You can also arrange for group/school/scouting rates…contact them before visiting. For a super visit, schedule an overnight inside the aquarium.

Activities include Dining, Play area, Shopping, Penguin Encounter, and Ride the Ducks

World Peace Bell and Exhibit Center  ~ Newport, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: World Peace Bell

The World Peace Bell is the world’s largest free swinging bell. It weighs 66,000 lbs., is 12 feet in diameter and 12 feet high. Its clapper alone weighs an amazing 6,878 pounds. The yoke in which it swings weighs an additional 16,512 pounds. This magnificent bell rings with a powerful, awe-inspiring, deep resonant tone that is truly a majestic symbol of freedom and peace. Bell swings and rings each day at noon. Guided tours are $1.00 per quest.

Anderson Ferry ~ Hebron, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Anderson Ferry


Anderson Ferry has been in business since 1817 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Totter’s Otterville ~ Latonia, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Totter’s Otterville

Otterville is an educational entertainment center geared towards children through age 10. Otterville is a secure environment with fascinating play to learn activities that will provide hours of fun for the entire family.

Lazer Kraze ~ Erlanger, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Lazer Kraze

Activities include: Laser Tag, Trampoline arena, and Galactic Gaming

Florence Freedom Baseball ~ Florence, KY

Activities Include: Minor league baseball at its best including family theme nights, events, budget friendly concessions and more.

Jane’s Saddlebag ~ Union, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Jane’s Saddlebag

Activities include: A natural amphitheater with a 1700 replica flatboat for guests to go through, a kids village with themed buildings, corn hole area and a petting zoo with tons of fury animals including new babies every year just waiting to greet you.

Jane’s Saddlebag has something for everyone in the family to enjoy; a visit to Jane’s will be a memorable one for your family for years to come.

City of Newport ~ Newport, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: City of Newport

Founded in 1795, Newport provides an excellent mix of historic amenities and Contemporary development. The community’s riverfront area provides a striking view of the Cincinnati skyline and is host to premier attractions including the Newport Aquarium, Newport on the Levee, and the nearby World Peace Bell.

Newport is also home to the East Row Historic District and a revitalized, historic downtown filled with eclectic businesses

Benton Family Farms Walton, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Benton Farms

Activities include: Milking the cows, Tending to the chicks, Shearing sheep and goats, Hayrides & working in the dirt, Working in the garden, Scavenger hunts & outdoor games, and Learning to fish & collecting plenty of worms


Florence Fundome ~ Florence, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Florence Fun Dome

Activities include: Roller Skating and arcade

Ollie’s Skate Park –  Florence, KY

Activities include: Boarding – open to public. Hosts camps and competitions


Museums  and Cathedrals

Vent Haven Museum ~ Fort Mitchell, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Vent Haven Museum

The world’s only museum dedicated to the art of ventriloquism

Behringer Crawford Museum ~ Covington, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Behringer Crawford Museum

The Behringer-Crawford Museum is a center for the collection, presentation, study and enjoyment of our natural, cultural, and visual and performing arts heritage of the Northern Kentucky Area.


Cathedral  St Mary’s Bascilla    ~ Covington, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: St Mary’s

Building the Cathedral  began in 1894 and is largely unfinished even today, the Cathedral is a monument which speaks of the faith and determination of the Bishop and the community. It is an art and architectural monument to be treasured for centuries by people everywhere.

Dinsmore Homestead  ~ Burlington, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Dinsmore Homestead

The Dinsmore Homestead is a unique historic site where visitors can learn what rural life was like in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Nature enthusiasts enjoy the hiking trails developed in cooperation with the Kentucky Nature Conservancy and the Boone County Parks Department. It is a resource for students and scholars and an area where artists can sketch and paint. Those who enjoy antiques and historic interiors delight in touring the house that contains the original accumulated belongings of five generations of the Dinsmore family.

Battery Hooper Park and Civil War Museum ~ Ft. Wright, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Battery Hooper Park

Accessible to most of the community, though small, the beautiful and shady, Battery Hooper Park has a variety of play things along with open spaces great for kids of all ages to run, climb and play, swings, sand box, picnic tables and benches, even a museum. Twice a year they hold civil war reenactments with a real camp set up all weekend and several kids activities. 1402 Highland Avenue, Ft. Wright, 41011


Big Bone Salt Lick Park ~ Union, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Big Bone

Activities include: Basketball, Birding, Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Horseshoes, Miniature Golf, Picnicking, Playgrounds, Swimming, and Tennis

Devou Park  ~ Covington, KY


Located in the hills overlooking Covington, Kentucky, Devou Park offers a range of entertainment and recreational activities including theater, symphony, nature trails, golf, tennis, picnic facilities, fishing, Behringer-Crawford Museum and the newly constructed Drees Pavilion.

Central Park ~ Union, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Central Park

Central park is a 121 acre park that opened in the spring of 1994.  It offers 2.35 miles of paved trails through wooded and open areas.  It has a children’s garden, wetlands and is home to the Arboretum at Central Park.

England-Idlewilde Park ~ Burlington, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: England-Idlewilde Park

This 290 acre park offers three fishing ponds that are regularly stocked with bluegill and catfish. There’s an awesome playground, wooded areas and open fields, 3 large shelters, picnic tables, unpaved mountain bike trails (6+ miles) bike trails, walking/hiking trails with fitness stations, soccer fields, basketball courts, baseball fields and a 24–Hole Championship Disc Golf Course. you name it!

Tower Park ~ Ft. Thomas, KY

No one would expect this small town park off S. Ft. Thomas Avenue to include 86.6 acres and one of the best walking/ mountain biking trails in the Midwest. With one of the best playgrounds in Northern Kentucky, Tower Park also boasts a brand-new outdoor amphitheater, another playground, covered pavilion with picnic tables and real bathrooms, three sheltered picnic areas, a large open lawn, baseball field, 6 tennis courts with lights, an armory gymnasium/rec center, sand volleyball court, 2 basketball courts and a large paved area that’s perfect to take the kiddos who need more space to ride bikes and toys.

Boone Woods ~ Burlington, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Boone Woods

Activities include: Basketball, Bocca Ball, Creekside Stage, Horseshoe Pits, Playgrounds, Tennis, Volleyball, and an old Fort to investigate

Erlanger Train Depot Park ~ Erlanger, KY

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

With a playground including a mini wood train for the kiddos to climb on and live trains with conductors who wave at them and more places to play, the Erlanger Train Depot Park is a must! This awesome park offers plenty to see and do with lots of room to run around and a covered picnic area. Crescent Avenue, Erlanger, 41018.

Pride Park ~ Taylor Mil, KY


Located in the heart of Taylor Mill, this beautiful 72-acre park is know for its spectactular views of rolling hillside and plenty of trees. There are 3 playgrounds – 2 very close to one another –all containing colored items for the kiddos to climb, slide, swing and explore. There is a basketball court, 3 rental shelters, an ampitheater, community center, an 18-hole Frisbee golf course, walking trails that form a 1.5 mile loop and bathrooms.

Outside the immediate area:

Creation Museum  ~ Petersburg, KY


The  museum brings the pages of the Bible to life, casting its characters and animals in dynamic form and placing them in familiar settings. Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. Children play and dinosaurs roam near Eden’s Rivers. The serpent coils cunningly in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Majestic murals, great masterpieces brimming with pulsating colors and details, provide a backdrop for many of the settings.

Note: Entrance to this is on the expensive side but so worth it I could not leave it out. They have a wonderful store and beautiful grounds that you can visit for free. Contact them through your church or homeschool club before visiting for discounts and package deals. Plan on spending the entire day, if not two to fully take in everything.


Toyota Factory  – Georgetown, KY (30 minutes)

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Toyota Factory

TMMK boasts over 11,500 square foot state-of-the art Visitor Center, offering both visual and hands-on experiences. Visitors can see firsthand the beginnings of a global automaker, experience archival footage and see the first American Toyota Camry that rolled off the assembly line in 1988. Special exhibits also include detail principles of the Toyota Production System and the mechanics behind Toyota’s groundbreaking environmental initiatives. Don’t hesitate to climb inside one of TMMK’s vehicles on display to experience one of Toyota’s finest crafted automobile.

Kentucky Speedway   ~ Sparta, KY (30 minutes)

Staycation: Enjoying Northern Kentucky on a Budget

Photo: Kentucky Speedway

Activities include: Nascar racing, tours, and camping

Here is an awesome list of over 50 Things to do in NKY!

Sites to visit for more information on the above locations:

Family Friendly Cincinnati


Cincinnati USA

NKY Tourism – to request tourist pack with discounts and other offers


If you don’t live in the Northern Kentucky Area, stop back here tomorrow for a MASSIVE listing of staycation ideas from more than 70 cities! 



Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this post. Photo credit to each site posted.


  1. says

    GREAT ideas! I really prefer a staycation. Sometimes it feels more like a vacation than actually leaving town. So many things to do, but most of all, you can relax!

  2. says

    We have wanted to visit the Creation Museum for years but never seem to get a trip planned to go. Maybe next year will finally be THE year. Until then we’re working on a project called R is for Rhode Island. Basically it’s our own alphabet book filled with quintessential RI activities and places. It’s a lot of fun being a tourist in your hometown!

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