The Seven Wonders of the World are tragically lost except for the Great Pyramid at Giza. But as my family passes the animal pond at Jungle Jim’s, pausing with throngs of culinary pilgrims to grab a shopping cart, a childish wonderment sweeps over me. Surely, the Eighth Wonder of the World is in Fairfield, Ohio.
Jungle Jim’s International Market is your golden ticket to grocery shopping fun. Your kids will feel like Charlie inside the chocolate factory — and owner Jim Bonaminio is Willy Wonka. The whopping 300,000 square foot grocery is packed with nostalgia and larger-than-life attractions. (The newer Cincinnati location in Eastgate is even larger!) It’s easy to get overwhelmed shopping with your kids. So my advice is, don’t take your first trip too seriously, treat it like the circus or the World’s Fair!
Think Outside the Shopping List
Jungle Jim’s carries 180,000 products. So while you’re checking hard to find ingredients off your shopping list, splurge on some impulse buys like rambutan from Thailand or a tiny pineapple from South America. You’ll find alligator, the “other” white meat, along with kangaroo and cow’s tongue. More than 75 countries are represented in the vast international department; I dare you to walk every aisle! There’s enough tea in Sherwood Forest to start a revolution and enough sacks of rice in the Indian section to build your bunker.
Go Hog Wild
As a lover of odd ice cream, I literally scream for the freezer cases of matcha, red bean and jackfruit flavors. I scream again when I see the varieties of Scandinavian licorice. Then I stumble on curry coated peanuts and flaky almond pistachio desserts — and I can’t stop eating. Leave your good parental intentions at the door because it’s impossible to set the right example when you eat an entire box cardamom cookies in one sitting. And you will.
Make it Festive
You know that feeling of claustrophobia you get in the grocery when you try to grab a turkey on Thanksgiving Eve? Multiply that by a thousand during holidays at Jungle Jim’s. Weekdays are a good time to avoid the crowds. If you don’t mind crowds, bring your kids during a Junglefest. There’s a Bacon and Cheese festival and a Weekend of Fire with a hot sauce eating contest. (Jungle Jim’s carries 1,500 different hot sauces!)
Embrace Your Inner Tourist
Jungle Jim’s is a full on spectacle. An animatronic Elvis serenades the candy aisle where you can stock up on five pound gummy bears. A talking Campbell’s soupcan guides lost Americans back to familiar aisles. If you encounter some curiously thorny fruit or you’re not sure how to shuck an oyster, don’t be shy about asking the “locals”. Jungle Jim’s staff is friendly and knowledgable. Don’t be shy about taking pictures, either. Don your tackiest Hawaiian shirt and Panama hat and let your kids ham it up for the camera. You’ll come home with great photos and wild souvenirs.
Selena Reder is a mother, writer and part-time video producer living in Cincinnati, Ohio with her son Dorian and husband Tim. Dorian loves chasing Selena and Tim’s tailless cat, making messes for dad to clean up, squealing loud enough for the neighbors to hear and staring at strangers until it’s uncomfortable. Tim loves Dungeons and Dragons, Margaret Atwood and writing meticulous grocery lists.
Selena loves washing cloth diapers, binging on British TV (Top Gear, Only Fools and Horses, Doc Martin, etc) painting and knitting super fancy baby sweaters. She also loves working part-time with her video editor husband (special shout out to her parents and in-laws for being great babysitters!).
If Selena were stranded on a desert island with only one thing to do for the rest of her life, she would nurse her son in their favorite chair. It’s the best thing in the world right now.