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Travel | With Kids

Kids Adventures: Bugs, Blooms & Water

Check out the Pollinator Palooza at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus, grab a paddle at Mohican Adventures in Loudonville and more. 

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Pollinator Palooza
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens invites kids to become defenders of our planet’s pollinators on June 24.

They fly, buzz and crawl. Most importantly, they pollinate. Butterflies, bees and hummingbirds are the main attractions at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden’s celebration of creatures critical to our planet’s food supply.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 24, the Columbus conservatory invites kids to its pollinator garden and apiary to take part in interactive games and crafts, as well as meet Mark Berman — aka The Bugman — who shares his excitement about insects. Last year, kids created their own pair of antennae and played a lawn game to learn how bees pollinate plants. Twenty booths provide fun and educational activities. 

Honeybees are always a popular topic when it comes to pollinators, and the American Honey Queen from the American Beekeeping Federation — the Miss America of the beekeeping world — will once again be part of this year’s event. Last year, the queen led kids in a dance at the festival.  

“One way bees communicate is with a little waggle dance to say, ‘hey, there’s a flower over here, it has some nectar,’ ” says Jenny Pope, director of community outreach and education at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Pollinator Palooza takes place during Pollinator Week (June 19 through 25), as organizations across the United States raise awareness of the importance of pollinating creatures and the plight of their shrinking habitats.

“One in three bites of food that we eat are due to pollinators,” explains Pope, “so if we did not have pollinators, we wouldn’t be able to feed ourselves. Even our cows, the grains they eat depend on pollinators.”

Two different types of observation beehives placed in the apiary allow festivalgoers to see what it looks like inside a bee colony. Food demonstrations get creative with honey, as visitors try samples and take home recipes. Four food trucks will be on-site, and Freedom N’ Folk Revival will provide the day’s music. 

Although many of the activities are geared to ages 12 and younger, Pollinator Palooza appeals to visitors of all ages. Adults can chat with beekeepers, learn how to create pollinator habitats in their own yard and tour the pollinator garden with Denise Ellsworth, The Ohio State University’s specialist for native bees.

“The kids last year just had a blast,” says Pope. “And so did the parents, actually.” Free; 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus 43203, 614/715-8000, fpconservatory.org

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Bugfest • Aug. 19
The Metroparks of the Toledo Area’s BugFest kicks off with Dr. Insecta’s Incredible, Unforgettable Bug Lab Experience, featuring hissing cockroaches and furry tarantulas. But that’s just the start of the bug-focused activities at this 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. event, which offers hands-on activities and crafts that kids can make to take home. Families can also browse works by a local arts guild, check out the National Center for Nature Photography’s gallery of dragonfly-inspired works and fuel up on food truck fare. “Many kids will show up wearing their pajama tops that have bugs on them and some come wearing bug antennae,” says Toledo Metroparks special events manager Ruth Griffin. “Kids really do enjoy learning about bugs.” Free; 10001 W. Central Ave., Berkey 43504, 419/407-9700, metroparkstoledo.com

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Little Buckeye Imagination Sessions • June 14–Aug. 9
Delve into the natural world, from trees to wildlife to weather, with songs, activities, games, crafts and animal visitors, including The Dawes Arboretum’s resident turtles and snake. These free, drop-in sessions geared to kids ages 3 through 8 kick off June 14 and feature a new theme each Wednesday at 2 p.m. through Aug. 9. “This is a really nice way to bring families into an environment that’s comfortable, where they have the assistance of an educator to help interpret what they’re seeing,” says Sarah Mill, director of education at The Dawes Arboretum. After the session, take a stroll along the annual story trail, which features large-scale storybook pages. Free; 7770 Jacksontown Rd. SE, Newark 43056, 800/443-2937, dawesarb.org

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Hershey Children’s Garden

Nature meets play at this Cleveland Botanical Garden outdoor space where your little ones can get their hands dirty at the potting bench, observe honeybees in a hive, look for fish in the pond and explore a treehouse. This summer, they’ll also learn about the vegetables and herbs growing in the garden and how they fit into cuisines from around the world. Weekly programs are geared to children ages 2 to 10 and take place Tuesday through Sunday, offering activities, crafts, games or a scavenger hunt. “Everything is scaled to the kids,” says Kathryn Clusman, the garden’s manager of community engagement. “When they enter the garden, they take ownership of it.” Visit website for admission and hours;11030 East Blvd., Cleveland 44106, 216/721-1600, cbgarden.org 

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Majestic Monarch
Cincinnati’s Krohn Conservatory celebrates the beautiful migrating butterfly through June 18.

Enter an oasis filled with vibrant flowers, towering trees and fluttering butterflies as you explore the life cycle of one of nature’s most delicate wonders. 

This year’s butterfly event at Cincinnati’s Krohn Conservatory gives extra attention to the monarch — a species common to Ohio gardens and easily recognizable for its bright orange, black and white wings — with signs that educate about monarch migration and feeding habits. But butterflies from around the world flash their colors, with more than 50 varieties featured during the 12-week event, which runs through June 18.  

“We like to call butterflies a gateway insect,” says Andrea Schepmann, director of Krohn Conservatory. “A lot of kids who are afraid of bugs, maybe they aren’t afraid of butterflies.”

Kids can dive deeper into the topic during scheduled events, which encourage observation and collecting data through fun activities during Science Geek Week, June 5 through 8. Or, the little ones can dress in bedtime gear for the Butterfly Pajama Party on June 14. A family yoga session will help kids wind down in time for the blue morphos and owl butterflies to take flight just before sunset — a feature guests usually miss during regular conservatory hours.

“We really love the big blue morphos,” says Schepmann. “When they fly, that blue color flashes. It’s one of the largest butterflies in the display, and it’s probably one of the showiest.” 

Although most of the activities appeal to young visitors, Schepmann says adults find wonderment in the display, too. “It becomes multigenerational,” she says. “Families have made it a tradition to come every year.” 

And if you dress in that same vibrant blue as the morphos or wear a fruity scent, you just might be lucky enough to attract a curious butterfly to land on you. Visit website for admission and hours; 1501 Eden Park Dr., Cincinnati 45202, 513/421-5707, butterflyshow.com

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Splash Zones
Sweltering summer days make adventures on and near the water a necessity this time of year.

Mohican Adventures 
Opened in 1961, Mohican Adventures’ canoe livery is the oldest in the state. Here, families with younger children can opt for a 7-mile route on the slow-moving Mohican River, which is just 3 feet deep in most places. “It’s the perfect little river to start out on,” says co-owner Patty Shannon. The trip takes about two hours and children ages 10 and under must have an adult in their canoe. After your river excursion, head back to Mohican Adventures’ Fun Center to swing, climb and crawl through a raised obstacle course that features six difficulty levels, including options for kids as young as 5. There are also two go-kart tracks and three 18-hole miniature golf courses. 3045 St. Rte. 3 S., Loudonville 44842, 419/994-4097, mohicanadventures.com

Fishing Derby at Oak Openings • July 8
Hit the shore of Oak Openings Metropark’s Mallard Lake to hook a prize during Metroparks of the Toledo Area’s fishing derby. Park rangers lead the 8 a.m. event for kids 5 to 15, although adults can assist even if they don’t have a fishing license. “Our rangers are just so friendly, and the kids really want to interact with them,” says Ruth Griffin, the park system’s special events manager. The lake is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish, and kids compete for outdoor-themed prizes in categories such as biggest fish, smallest fish and more. Prize drawings are held throughout the day, which is capped off with a hot dog and snacks. Free; 5402 Wilkins Rd., Whitehouse 43571, 419/407-9700, metroparkstoledo.com

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