The Space Shuttle exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton.
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With an estimated 188 million visitors to the state of Ohio in 2012 with a net impact of $36 billion, tourism is — and has been — a booming business. Southwestern Ohio “provides first-class experiences at an affordable price, and the diversity of those experiences is tremendous,” said Tamara Brown, TourismOhio public relations manager. “There are plenty of new travel experiences this year in Ohio.”
Planning to visit the area this summer? Here are attractions you won’t want to miss:
● Kings Island, 6300 Kings Island Dr., Mason (Warren County)
With more than 80 rides, shows, and attractions — plus Soak City, a 33-acre water park — Kings Island theme park has something for the whole family, and especially for thrill seekers. Banshee, the park’s 15th roller coaster, sends riders screaming through more than 4,000 feet of track and seven inversions at speeds up to 68 mph.
An all-new live acrobatic show, “Cirque Imagine,” opens May 24 in the Kings Island Theater. 513-754-5700, www.visitkingsisland.com.
● The Beach — An Adventure Landing Park, 2590 Water Park Dr., Mason (Warren County)
Visitors seeking relief from summer’s heat can enjoy two new experiences at the Beach: a two-person zip line over the wave pool, and a more than 400-foot-long, four-lane mat racer ride.
The 35-acre park also features a heated wave pool with a special area for young children, the Midwest’s only water coaster, an enclosed water slide that offers a five-story drop, a lazy river, cabana rentals, and play areas for children. 513-398-7946, www.thebeachwaterpark.com.
● Cincinnati Museum Center, 1301 Western Ave., Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
This summer will be the last opportunity to see the “Diana, A Celebration” exhibit which will continue through Aug. 17. Marking its final U.S. stop, nine galleries feature 150 items, including Diana’s wedding gown, designer dresses, home movies, and Spencer family keepsakes. 513-287-7000, www.cincymuseum.org.
● National Museum of the United States Air Force, 1100 Spaatz St., Dayton (Greene and Montgomery counties)
The world’s oldest and largest military aviation museum recently opened a one-of-a-kind Space Shuttle exhibit. The NASA Space Shuttle Crew Compartment Trainer allows visitors to learn how astronauts train for missions. In September, the Dawn Patrol Rendezvous will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I with original and reproduction aircraft, radio-controlled models, period re-enactors and more at the free museum. On June 28-29, the annual Vectren Dayton Air Show (www.daytonairshow.com) is set to take place nearby at the Dayton International Airport. 937-255-3286, www.nationalmuseum.af.mil.
● Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
This summer the zoo will open the next phase of its Africa exhibit featuring African wild dogs, meerkats, and an open vista for several antelope species including gazelles, lesser kudu, and large African birds. Visitors will be able to duck into a meerkat tunnel to get an up-close, grounds-eye view of the lively creatures. 513-281-4700, www.cincinnatizoo.org.
● Jungle Jim’s International Market, 4450 Eastgate Square Dr., Fairfield (Butler County)
This is so much more than just a grocery store — it’s a food adventure with more than 200,000 square feet of kitschy shopping space and 150,000-plus products from around the globe. Mark your calendars for the International Beer Fest June 13-14, featuring 350 beers from 100 breweries. 513-674-6000, www.junglejims.com
● Frank Lloyd Wright’s Westcott House, 1340 E. High St., Springfield (Clark County)
Prepare for your design and architectural inspiration to go into overdrive at the meticulously preserved Westcott House — one of only 11 Frank Lloyd Wright homes in Ohio and about 260 in the world. Reservations are strongly recommended. The admission fee ($15, or $12 for senior citizens, students, and groups of eight or more) includes a 45-minute house tour and an eight-minute video on the house restoration process.
While in the area, visit the Hartman Rock Garden (www.hartmanrockgarden.org), which features meticulously crafted replicas of the White House, Independence Hall, and other well-known landmarks crafted out of small stones by H.G. “Ben” Hartman during the Great Depression. Admission is free. 937-327-9291, www.westcotthouse.org
● The Great American Ball Park, 100 Joe Nuxhall Way, Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
On the banks of the Ohio River is the home of the Cincinnati Reds — baseball’s first professional franchise. There’s nothing that says summer like a baseball game. Plus, celebrity super couple Beyonce and Jay Z will perform in concert at the ball park — the only Ohio stop on their On the Run tour — on June 28 (be warned, tickets are going fast). 513-381-7337 or http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/cin/ballpark
● Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park, 1763 Hamilton Cleves Rd., Hamilton (Butler County)
The 265-acre sculpture park and outdoor museum focuses on monumental pieces of sculpture in an environment of meadows, forests, and various gardens. There’s also a 10,000-square-foot Ancient Sculpture Museum displaying Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Etruscan sculpture if you want to head inside for a bit. Admission is $8, or $3 for children 6 to 12, free for children 5 and younger. 513-868-8336 or www.pyramidhill.org
● Music festivals
Downtown Cincinnati will host two exciting music festivals in July. The Bunbury Music Festival (July 11-13), featuring the Flaming Lips, Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Empire of the Sun, and more than 75 other bands will take place within Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove parks on the banks of the Ohio River. Ticket prices range from $65 to $520.
The Macy’s Music Festival, featuring Charlie Wilson, Robin Thicke, Chaka Khan, K. Michelle, and After 7 on July 25; and New Edition, Ne-Yo, Keyshia Cole, Mint Condition, and Chrisette Michele on July 26. Ticket prices range from $48 to $88. Bunbury Music Festival, www.bunburyfestival.com; Macy’s Music Festival, www.macysmusicfestival.com