Great Outdoor Weekend celebrates nature with free family fun

Whether you’re a card-carrying Sierra Club member, an ambitious trail hiker or a casual weekend picnicker, there’s a nature lover inside each of us.
On Sept. 26-27, the Green Umbrella Regional Sustainability Alliance entices your inner environmentalist with its Great Outdoor Weekend (GOW), a chance for area residents and visitors of all ages to experience the wonder of outdoor life through more than 120 free, interactive events, workshops and demonstrations.
A jam-packed schedule of events will feature mineral exhibits, pond exploration, show-and-tell sessions, organized hikes, reptile handling, farm tours and much more. Events take place at dozens of Tristate parks, arboretums, camps and other outdoor venues.
Visit to browse the full list of events, and check out Northern Kentucky’s offerings below; families are encouraged to drop by at any point within the indicated timeframes.
Saturday, Sept. 26
Interact with butterflies at Boone County Arboretum 
Butterfly Garden Bonanza 12-3 p.m.
Professional horticulturalists will instruct attendees on creating a butterfly-friendly garden. Children can create their very own butterfly to take home. Boone County Arboretum, 9190 Camp Ernst Road, Union, 859-384-4999
Be Part of Something Mammoth 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; guided tours every 45 minutes
Let archaeologists and historians guide you through the trails at Big Bone Lick State Historic Site, the birthplace of American vertebrate paleontology! Big Bone Lick State Historic Site, 3380 Beaver Road, Union, 859-384-3522
Beginners Hike at Wolsing Trails 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Enjoy an easy-paced trail walk along Banklick Creek. You may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Monarch butterflies flocking to the intentional milkweed sanctuary. Wolsing Trails Nature Preserve, 325 Webster Road, Independence, 859-331-8980
Sunday, Sept. 27
Say Hello to Fun! 1-3 p.m.
Sail through the trees on a forest zip line; tour the new horse stables and ride the giant swing at NKY’s beloved Camp Ernst. Visitors can also enjoy hiking, swimming, a 100-ft. water slide, archery, banana boating and more. Camp Ernst, 7615 Camp Ernst Road, Burlington, 859-586-6181

Rescheduled to Oct. 10

Great Ohio River Swim, 8:15 a.m.
The eighth annual swimming event is expecting record-breaking crowds for the timed 900-meter venture beginning at the Serpentine Wall in Cincinnati, crossing the river to Newport on the Levee and then finishing at the Public Landing back in Cincinnati. Due to the presence of algae blooms in the Ohio River, the event has been pushed back from Sept. 27 to Oct. 10. Pre-register here or register on-site that morning.

Interested in getting outdoorsy but can’t make the Great Outdoor Weekend? No worries! Many of Green Umbrella’s members offer year-round classes and ongoing groups and activities for all ages.
Green Umbrella partners with Skyward (formerly Vision 2015) in Northern Kentucky and Agenda 360 in Southwest Ohio and was formed in 1998 to support conservation efforts. Its mission expanded in 2005 to include a focus on promoting outdoor recreation and nature awareness for families.
Now made up of more than 200 area nonprofits, businesses, educational institutions and government entities, Green Umbrella and its partners share a mission, according to the group’s website, “to meet the social, environmental and economic needs of today while preserving the ability of future generations to do the same.”
The success of the group’s mission centers on overarching goals that include:

• Attracting new and diverse groups to Greater Cincinnati by increasing the number of quality places to live, work and play;

• Setting a nationwide standard for sustainability efforts in the areas of cooperation, effectiveness, availability of low-cost public services and public engagement;

• Providing easy access to green spaces and outdoor recreation opportunities;

• Growing and producing healthy products for regional export;

• Facilitating ease and affordability of travel throughout the region while limiting emissions and congestion;

• Constructing new sites using local components powered by locally generated, reliable, cost effective, renewable and alternative sources of energy; and

• Hosting events and initiatives that raise awareness and appreciation for biodiversity, sustainability and the protection and restoration of natural assets.
Green Umbrella recently released its own plan for 2020 that targets achieving measurable energy consumption reduction, improved land use, increased participation in outdoor activities, water purification and waste reduction.
Read more about the organization’s structure, planned activities and mission at
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