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Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky

All photos courtesy Cincinnati USA CVB

Youth groups live for fun experiences on the road, but that doesn’t mean student trips can’t involve their share of learning opportunities and serious subject matter. In the greater Cincinnati area, which includes northern Kentucky and southern Ohio, education, entertainment and powerful exhibits come together to create a great youth group destination.

Several museums in the area explore important and weighty subjects such as human origins, slavery and freedom. An aquarium and a science center give young visitors plenty of opportunities for wonder and interaction, and Kings Island theme park provides a dose of adrenaline-fueled recreation.

Gallons of fun
Located in the heart of a bustling riverfront entertainment district in Newport, Kentucky, the Newport Aquarium thrills young visitors with nine galleries and more than 1 million gallons of water.

The star of the galleries is the “Surrounded by Sharks” tank, where visitors walk through a series of tunnels and can see up to nine species of sharks and rays swimming above and beside them. The museum’s jellyfish gallery has the largest collection of those creatures in the Midwest, and the “Bizarre and Beautiful” exhibit showcases pacific octopus, Japanese spider crabs, sea horses and clown fish.

In 2011, the aquarium opened “Kingdom of the Penguins,” a penguin habitat outfitted with a rocky shore and an 8,000-gallon tank. Groups can arrange to have special penguin encounters, where travelers can feed and touch the birds.

Thrills ahead
Few places thrill youth groups like amusement parks, and Kings Island in Mason, Ohio, has been a favorite of Cincinnati-area adrenaline junkies for years. The park has 14 roller coasters, including the Beast, a colossal classic that has held the title of the world’s longest wooden coaster since it opened in 1979. Son of Beast, another coaster at the park, now holds the mark for the tallest and fastest wooden coaster.

In addition to the thrill rides, the park has Planet Snoopy, a cartoon-themed area for children, and Boomerang Bay, a 15-acre water park that is included with regular admission tickets. Other tame but entertaining experiences include a steam-powered train and “Dinosaurs Alive,” an experience that features more than 50 life-size animatronic dinosaur models.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.