The question is not really "where to play?" It's more like where to start and will inevitably end with the plaintive "Do we have to stop?"

Pet a shark, ride a pony, execute the perfect kick turn or explore a glacier in the Tristate's parks, museums and public attractions. There's a castle in Loveland and Indian Serpent Mound in Adams County.

Every museum offers child-friendly exhibits and experiences. The parks are rich with options from wet playgrounds, hiking trails, paddleboats and programs to explore nature.

Whether the goal is adventure or learning, there is an endless number of great places to take the kids and be a kid.

This is just a sampling.

Oh, so Cincy

Fountain Square is a photo op in any season. From ice skating on frigid winter days to hot salsa dancing on steamy summer evenings, if you are raising a child in Cincinnati, it's imperative to bring them early and often to the city's living room.

Dominated by the 9-foot-tall Genius of Water, which begins streaming from her outstretched hands the weekend before Reds Opening Day, the square is home to festivals, concerts and parties.

Oh, yes, and Freaky Friday Fish Tosses, racing weiner dogs and trivia nights. Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown.
www.myfountainsquarecom.

Bicentennial Commons at Sawyer Point is the perfect testament to our love affair with the mighty Ohio River. Play tennis or sand volleyball, enjoy the concerts at the P&G Pavilion or Labor Day fireworks with 500,000 of your closest friends or just savor the fabulous views of the river, Northern Kentucky and passing boats and barges. www.cincinnatiusa.com.

Eden Park: Make a day of it. Enjoy the the fantastic riverviews from the overlook and spend time on the playground.

Stroll over to take a photograph at the gazebo and walk around Mirror Lake before climbing on the Seasongood Pavilion bandstand to sing your heart out.

You haven't even explored the Krohn Conservatory, Cincinnati Art Museum or Playhouse in the Park, so plan to return. www.cincinnatiparks.com, www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org or www.cincyplay.com.

 
 
 
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden: A new manatee named Woodstock has arrived and an endangered Brazilian ocelot kitten is resting quietly with her mother, Sala, after her New Year's Eve birth. It's hard to stay up-to-date at what's been called the World's Sexiest Zoo because of the success of breeding programs in dozens of species. Perfect for a day of looking at the animals, enjoying a train ride or marveling at the magnificent gardens. Best deal? Get a membership, then go and go again. 3400 Vine St., Avondale. (513) 281-4700 or www.cincinnatizoo.org.

Kids like to be first so be certain to tell them Cincinnati has the country's first paid, professional fire department. Then let them climb all over fire engines, set off the siren, blow the horn and slide down the fire pole at the Fire Museum of Greater Cincinnati. 315 Court St., Downtown. (513) 621-5553 or www.cincyfiremuseum.com.

Adams County
 
Winding 1,330 feet through trees on a cliff in Adams County is the Great Serpent Mound built by native Americans of the Hopewell Culture (100 B.C.-500 A.D.) The more you know, the more you'll want to know. Bring a picnic and spend the day. www.ohiohistory.org.

Butler County

MetroParks has 10 parks open daily to explore for fossils, native trees and wildflowers. Camp, hike, jog, fish or go boating. Slimy secrets of salamanders and other delights are on the agenda for Discovery Kids programming. Office, 2051 Timberman Road, Hamilton. (513) 867-5835 or butlercountymetroparks.org.

Clermont County
 
Always open for visitors no matter the season, Clermont County Parks offer nature preserves, a bike trail and greenspace. Cold weather is just right for maple syruping or stargazing. Once it's warm, there are playgrounds, lakes, lodges and arresting views of the scenic Little Miami River. www.parks.clermontcountyohio.gov.

Hamilton County

Ballfields, pools, playgrounds and camps "” the city of Cincinnati Recreation Commission with 24 locations from Bond Hill to Winton Hills is one resource for family fun. Golf and boating, baseball leagues and martial arts programs, day camps and parks with play areas for small children are all part of the mix. For $2 a year per child, all centers are accessible to members interested in creative and active programming. (513) 352-4000 or www.cincinnati-oh.gov/crc.

Coney Island opens May 25 with the country's largest flat-surface pool as well as an amusement park filled with classic rides and new excitement. Take the helm on the new Cosmo Cruiser motorboat ride or paddle your own canoe on Lake Como. A ferris wheel, picnic and a live shows "” that's a day made for memories. 6201 Kellogg Ave., Anderson. (513) 232-8230 or www.coneyislandpark.com.

Parky's Playbarn in Winton Woods is just one of the offerings from the Hamilton County Park District. The farm-theme carries through on the playground, pony and wagon rides. Golf, fish, horseback ride, hike, camp, picnic or hit the bike trails. In the heat of the summer, rent a paddleboat at Sharon Woods or spend time at one of the wet playgrounds at Miami Whitewater Forest, Winton Woods or Woodland Mound, where kids enjoy animal figures spraying water and water slides. (513) 521-7275 or www.greatparks.org.

Warren County

New owners and more than $5 million in renovations at the Beach Waterpark. Palm trees, white ocean sands and waterfalls make this a perfect day. Rent a cabana and let the kids splash on. 2590 Waterpark Drive, Mason. (513) 398-7946 or www.thebeachwaterpark.com.

 
 
On April 27, Kings Island opens for the season with the waterpark, rides and live entertainment. The Adventure Express and Zephyr are for the very brave over 48 inches high, but Planet Snoopy, voted "Best Kids Area" for a dozen consecutive years by Amusement Today magazine, keeps little ones busy with kiddie roller coasters, live stage shows and "” hey, was that Lucy who just walked by? Or was it Peppermint Patty? 6300 Kings Island Drive, Kings. (513) 754-5700 or visitkingsisland.com.

More than 1,600 acres of parks and natural areas are free to explore in the Warren County Park District. Hike, bike, fish, golf, play a little tennis or a lot of basketball. Office, 320 E. Silver St., Lebanon. (513) 695-1109 or www.co.warren.oh.us/parks.

Northern Kentucky

Boone County Parks and Recreation system is serious about nature and serious about play. From old-growth forest to paved trails, from education to camping, it's all here. Fish on Camp Ernst Lake or bring the dog along to England Idlewild Park. Playgrounds, picnic shelters, horse trails and baseball fields, you get the idea.

Office, 5958 Garrard, Burlington. (859) 334-2127 or www.boonecountyky.org/parks.

Water surrounds three sides of the parks' greenspace, making Campbell County Parks a destination for nature-enthusiasts. A.J. Jolly has a campground with stables for those who want to explore the 20 miles of trails at the gateway to the commonwealth's bluegrass country. Office, 1098 Monmouth St., Newport. (859) 547-3680 or www.campbellcountyky.org.

Kenton County Parks and Recreation offers seven park areas with activities from kids' fishing derbies to disc golf championships. Build a bird feeder at one of the workshops or learn the science and art of making maple syrup. Celebrate earth day or enjoy a "Wings of Wonder" bird show. Office, 3902 Richardson Road, Independence. (859) 525-7529 or www.kentoncounty.org.