“Count to 100. No, 200,” the kids urged, before running to hide for a game of Hide and Seek. They hid under slides, inside slide tubes and beneath canopies. At “100,” a shout of “Ready or not, here I come” was followed by delighted squeals and running, while moms and grandparents watched the happy chaos from surrounding benches.
The impromptu game of Hide and Seek happened in the playground area of Fernbank Park. Located at 50 Thornton Avenue, on Cincinnati’s west side, the park is just minutes from downtown, almost directly off Route 50. (Strangely, Siri took us to a blocked entrance, so follow the signs before turning in!) Cross over the railroad tracks and turn left into the 58-acre park.
We passed the first lot, and parked in the one closer to the playground, bike rack, restrooms and water fountain. In addition to being a great place for Hide and Seek, the playground might also be a training ground for future American Ninja Warriors, with its many slides, rings, and monkey bars, along with a hand trolley zipline, kid-sized rock wall, balance beam and more. Additionally, there’s a smaller-scale play area designed for the 2- to 5-year-old set.
The Lovely River
Fernbank’s greatest attraction is its spectacular view. Located on the banks of the Ohio River, the park offers a paved trail along its shoreline. Leashed dogs and owners joined walkers and runners the evening we visited; bicyclists seemed to especially enjoy the gentle slopes. Kids on scooters were cautioned by parents to “wait at the next tree” while they strolled behind. At 1.2 miles long, the trail takes visitors beneath shady trees, over a footbridge, and most importantly, beside the lovely river.
We visited following a day of rain, so the park’s other path, the Sycamore Trail, proved too slippery to explore. It runs through the woods for a mile with peeks of the river through the trees. It’s rated “easy” and takes about a half hour to walk.
Care to Drop a Line?
In addition to the trails, another attraction at Fernbank is its bank fishing. Anglers are most likely to catch catfish, though bass and walleye also live in the water. Kids 15 and younger are welcome to bank fish without cost, but anyone older than 16 needs an Ohio Fishing
License, which can be purchased for one day, three day or annual usage.
We didn’t do any fishing, but we did the next best thing — we sat on a bench, watched the river and relaxed. While watching the boats, barges and currents, I enjoyed bird watching, too. While I could only identify a cardinal with any certainty, nearby signage indicated that the bird I saw with a hint of blue might have been an indigo bunting. Additionally, the area provides homes for hawks, ospreys and even eagles, owls and more.
Hungry visitors at or near Fernbank Park have a couple of options. There are plenty of picnic tables scattered throughout the park, along with a roomy shelter with grills. You’ll find fast food nearby, but turn right at the exit and enjoy more river views at Cabana on the River. It’s an outdoor bar and restaurant featuring pub food, live music and a fun atmosphere.
IF YOU GO:
50 Thornton Ave.
Open daily from dawn until dusk; a valid Great Parks of Hamilton County motor vehicle permit ($3 daily, $10 annual) is required to enter the park.