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Family Staycation 2009

(Donald Duck ring not included). Photo by Mary Reed.

Sure, the recession is on, but you haven’t pawned your tent yet. A family camping trip is the most affordable summer vacation out there. Here are five outdoor family destinations in the Ohio River region that offer activities mild to wild, DIY to prepackaged. Most are within a one-tank drive from a major metro area.

OHIOPYLE STATE PARK, PA
Ohiopyle is the setting for a classic summer camping vacation. You can entertain the family for a week with outdoor adventure activities alone, but you can also sneak in some education with visits to Frank Lloyd Wright sites ($12-$18/person, laurelhighlands.org or 800-333-5661).

Fun factor: A full calendar of park activities includes a Kids Fly Fishing program July 11. Kids ages 10 to 15 can learn to use a fly rod for free, courtesy of a grant from Trout Unlimited (www.dcnr.state.pa.us or 724-329-0986).
For the little kids: Grab your bike trailer or third wheel and pedal with the kids on a section of the 150-mile (Great Allegheny Passage), which goes right through the park.
For the whole family: Take a whitewater rafting trip on the Youghiogheny River, a.k.a. The Yough (“Yock”), which can accommodate kids as young as five ($23-$150/person, www.wilderness-voyageurs.com or 800-272-4141), hit the natural water slide along Meadow Run) and hike a section of the 60-mile Laurel Highlands Trail.
Plan it: Ohiopyle State Park, www.dcnr.state.pa.us or (724) 329-8591

LITTLE MIAMI RIVER AND BIKE PATH, OH
In Warren County, OH, the Little Miami River and its namesake 70-plus mile bike path meet Fort Ancient (the home of a prehistoric Native American earthwork) and a new zipline tour to create a vortex of fun.

Fun factor: Ozone Zipline Adventures is slated to open by the first week of June and features a two-mile canopy tour as high as 170 feet above the Little Miami River Valley, including a 2,500-foot zipline ($75/person, www.ozonezips.org or 513-932-3756).
For the little kids: Fort Ancient State Memorial ($4-$8/person, ohsweb.ohiohistory.org or 1-800-283-8904) is a pretty spot high above the river valley that features 2,000-year-old earthworks and several miles of hiking trails. The museum is a hands-on, kid-friendly way to learn about the prehistoric American Indians who built the fort.
For the whole family: Bring your own bikes or rent some at the Corwin Peddler ($8/hour and up, www.thecorwinpeddler.com or 513-897-3536) and ride the Little Miami Scenic Bike Path (www.miamivalleytrails.org) or rent a canoe from Morgan’s Canoe Livery ($25 and up/canoe, www.morganscanoe.com or 1-800-WECANOE) where you can also camp riverside.
Plan it: Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau, www.ohioslargestplayground.com or 800-791-4FUN

BIG BEAR LAKE, WV
Home to the famous 24 Hours of Big Bear, Big Bear Lake is also home to its namesake 35-acre fishing and boating lake, camping, cabins and kid-friendly camp activities, including horseshoe pits and miniature golf.

Fun factor: As part of 24 Hours of Big Bear mountain bike race June 13 and 14, there’s the kid version: 24 Minutes of Big Bear. As always, the competition starts with a footrace to the bikes (grannygear.com).
For the big kids: Big Bear Lake features 27 miles of mountain biking trails ($5/day/rider).
For the whole family: You can fish on the lake without a license and hike the trails. Saturday nights feature live music at the community building (cover charge for bands).
Plan it: Big Bear Lake, www.bigbearwv.com or (304) 379-4382

CARTER CAVES STATE RESORT PARK, KY
Kentucky is known for its caves and Carter Caves State Resort Park is known for its family-friendly caving activities and other above-ground offerings, including hiking, mountain biking and boating. Two caves remain open to the public as wildlife officials try to figure out how to deal with white-nose syndrome, which is killing cave-dwelling bats.

Fun factor: Carter Caves hosts monthly cave-in movies – movies shown in the large room just inside the entrance of Cascade Cave ($4/person).
For the big kids: The park offers a variety of caving tours, including lantern tours – ones that are not lit by electric lights inside the caves ($4-$9/person).
For the whole family: Above-ground activities include canoeing and bass fishing on the 45-acre Smoky Lake, as well as hiking or mountain biking on the 26 miles of multi-use trails in the park. You’ll pass by cave entrances and natural bridges. There’s a backcountry campsite along the Carter Caves Cross Country (4-C’S) Trail.
Plan it: Carter Caves State Resort Park, www.parks.ky.gov or 800-325-0059

INDIANAPOLIS, IN
There are better things to do in Indy than race around and around on a track – unless, of course, we’re talking about the Major Taylor Velodrome ($5/session, visitindy.com or 317-327-8356) or one of several rail trails for more two-wheeled adventures. Throw in events-packed parks and the world’s largest children’s museum, complete with an indoor climbing wall ($9.50/kids, $14.50/adults, www.childrensmuseum.org or 317-334-3322), and there’s plenty to keep an active family busy this summer.

Fun factor: Garfield Park has contracted with The Sand Sculpture Company to haul in 200 tons of sand to create pirate-themed sculptures that will be in the park from July 18 to August 16 (visitindy.com or 317-327-PARK). The Family Sand Zone will let you dig in and learn a thing or two about sand sculpture.
For the big kids: Hoosiers don’t let the flat landscape get them down; case in point is Climb Time Indy, a climbing gym with 8,500 square feet of climbing surface and 30 ropes. Kids Club is every Wednesday ($12/session, www.climbtimeindy.com or 317-596-3330).
For the whole family: The popular 10.5-mile Monon Trail (www.indygreenways.org), which starts at 10th Street, connects with another rail trail, the Monon Greenway of Carmel (www.indianatrails.org) for a total of 15.5 miles. Rent bikes from Wheel Fun Rentals near White River State Park in Indy ($8 and up/hour, www.wheelfunrentals.com/listlocations/44" target="_blank">www.wheelfunrentals.com or 317-767-5072).
Plan it: Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, visitindy.com or 800-323-INDY