Whether it is a rainy day or the heat has become unbearable, beat boredom by checking out one of these great Cincinnati indoor play areas. When the mere thought of the overcrowded Children’s Museum or stuffy play cafe makes you shiver, a few hidden gems exist that are bound to be less crowded. These free Cincinnati indoor play areas are a great way to burn off some energy without breaking the bank. Be warned though, a few of these places will be hard to leave empty-handed.
The Dungeon at King Arthurs Court Toys
Step into times of yore at the most amazing toy store in all of Cincinnati for a day full of play, adventure, and maybe a little shopping. Located in the heart of Oakley, King Arthurs has been selling unique gifts and toys for decades. They live true to their motto, “Where Play is King” by encouraging play and allowing imaginations to go wild. Their recent addition, The Dungeon is located in the basement of the store. Descend the medieval stairs to a magical play area where you can practice your archery, climb a rope bridge or simply relax in one of their hanging hugglepods. Big comfy couches are located in the dungeon and throughout the store for parents to enjoy. Not to mention complimentary popcorn and coffee. You heard me right, coffee and popcorn are free! Why would I ever pay to go to a play cafe again!
Once you emerge from the dungeon, the store is full of play tables and toys for your child to discover. From legos, train tables, kitchens to babies in strollers it is going to be difficult to get your little one to leave. On average we spend an hour and a half to two hours each visit. The store is packed with the wonderful toy selection so be warned that your child’s shopping cart will fill up fast. Another great fact is that right in the same block is an Aglamesis Ice Cream Parlor and Deeper Roots Coffee. Venture down the street even further to find the Blue Manatee Bookstore.
Cincinnati Children’s Discovery Center
Located inside Liberty Center near the food court you will find this flying pig-themed play area. Climb inside a giant flying pig, let the balls fly while creating a magnetic ball maze, or hunker down with a book from the library right next door. My daughter enjoyed the whack a pig game the best, in which you could race an opponent on who could hit the most lite up pigs.
The playground is aimed for children 2-12 however, I saw quite of few parents take advantage of a baby area where the littlest member of the family can stretch and kick. Mirrors and sensory boards are scattered throughout making this is a great spot to visit with multiple children in tow. We loved that a branch of the local library is located directly across from the play area. If your little ones get bored, head over there then wrap up with lunch at one of the great restaurants in Liberty Center. During hot summer days, there is a little splash pad right outside by the Graeters.
Graeters Play Area in Anderson
From Liberty Center, I am taking your clear across town to give you the scoop on one of the newest indoor play areas to hit the Cincinnati scene. Located inside the newly remodeled Graeter’s of Anderson is one sweet ice cream playground. Tedder-totter on a banana, serve up sundaes from the truck or slide down an ice cream cone. They even have a little section under the big structure designed just for tinier tots who might not quite be ready for the big slide.
Seating is located inside the play area, while a few parents opted to sit at the tables from outside to keep watch. Another great feature we loved is the water bottle refill station located right outside of the play area. Looking for a place to host a birthday party? Check out their darling party rooms right inside the play area. Now excuse me while I savor this black raspberry chip cone while my daughter plays her heart out.
The Contemporary Arts Center is home to one of my favorite places, the UnMuseum. This interactive museum is free to the public and always sparks the imagination. We often visit our BFF Shark Girl, stroll by the infinity mirrors and then stand in awe of Metrobot. On Thursdays, they offer an Art Play Class free for members, $5 for non-members. Designed for ages 2-5 this is the perfect opportunity for them to get hands-on an create their own art. Each class has a theme and ends in a kid-friendly yoga class. The museum is not huge, however, there are plenty of things to do to keep little ones entertained for about an hour.
Cincinnati Art Museum REC Center
Another great spot to take all members of the family is the Cincinnati Art Museum. The museum offers great programs like REC Reads, Baby Art Tours and more. The Rosenthal Education Center (REC) is full of family-friendly art projects, crafts, and toys. It is free to everyone and there is plenty to explore and create. Exhibits inside the REC Center change throughout the year, so you never know what will be in store when you walk in. The friendly staff members are always available to help you with any questions you may have. The art museum itself is full of great paintings, sculptures, and curiosities that are bound to get little ones talking so don’t be afraid to take them through the exhibits. Keep in mind the Art Museum is closed on Mondays.
Your Local Library
Not all libraries are the same in Cincinnati, so you may have to do a little digging to see which ones have great spots for kids near you. Help everyone out, by leaving which local libraries your kids like best in the comments below. There are some libraries that have a tiny children’s section and others that have a full out play area, complete with train tables, playhouses, and kitchens. The public library offers free programs for kids of all ages throughout the week. From a baby storytime class to teen clubs there is something for everyone. We are huge fans of the Mariemont and Maderia branches as they offer a lot for toddlers to keep busy.
Honorable Mentions: Free Cincinnati Indoor Play Areas
Eastgate Mall Play Area
Located inside the Eastgate mall is a tiny play area that is great to have little ones burn off some pent up energy. A big steamboat and plastic animal statues make up this indoor playground. Little ones tend to tire of it after 10-15 minutes and it has been better days. The mall is quite empty at the moment so it does allow plenty of space for those little legs to run!
Jungle Jim’s in itself is a feast for the eyes, but located inside each location is a darling toy store. Noodle around while little ones head over to the play table. The toy store has lots of unique and fun items. You just may end up leaving with a few things in your cart. After you have corralled everyone out of the toy store, the rest of Jungle Jims is a foodie paradise with tons of interactive displays. On average we spend two hours exploring and $75 bucks on novelty groceries. This trip could go from free to pricy real fast if you let it!
Bass Pro Shop
Another great store that kids love exploring is the Bass Pro Shop. This outdoor wonderful is full of things for your little naturalist to take in. During the holidays they put on a fabulous display, complete with pictures with Santa, arts and crafts and more.