Growing up in Northern Kentucky- basically living in Cincinnati- I consider myself a “native” by default. I can be downtown in 15 minutes. I’ve spent years enjoying the city, so here’s my ultimate list of fun things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio!
These tips give a good overview of the Queen City- a “big city” with a small town vibe. You can use this to plan a Cincinnati weekend trip- it has great info for first time visitors- but also useful for locals too!
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Fountain Square: This is the “epi-center” of the city, and is known for its iconic (you guessed it) fountain. In the heart of the business district, there is usually something fun going on at Fountain Square.
In the winter, it’s home to an ice-skating rink. The rest of the year there is typically some sort of craft show, music festival, or live entertainment.
You can also always stop at the Graeter’s ice-cream (a Cincinnati staple) parlor in the square and get a cone of black raspberry chip!
Carew Tower Observation Deck: Nearby to fountain square, hop onto an elevator and go to the top of the second-highest building in Cincinnati. This has great views of the Ohio River and surrounding areas. |UPDATE: As of Feb. 2024, it is currently closed to visitors|
Great American Ballpark: If you’re a baseball lover, catching a game in the home of the Cincinnati Reds is the perfect activity!
If you happen to visit and no game is going on, there are also guided tours of the ballpark, or you can visit the Reds Hall of Fame Museum and nearby Freedom Center.
The Banks: This walkable area along the riverbank is home to the annual Zinzinnati Oktoberfest . The rest of the year, you can pass the time enjoying one of many great restaurants (I recommend Moerlein Lager House as it’s a great representation of Cincinnati’s German brewery heritage!).
There are a few more high end places, and also some casual spots like Tin Roof or Condado Tacos. If you have kids, the park and fountains at Smale Park are always a good time too!
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens:One of the best zoos in the nation, this will not disappoint! Not only will you get to come face to face with the famous hippo Fiona, but you can enjoy a beautiful day of seeing well cared for animals and extensive gardens.
While I admittedly am not sure how I feel about zoos, if there is going to be a zoo- this is how it should be done. If you come in the winter, go to their “Festival of Lights”, which is ideal for young families. Don’t miss the zoo train and carousel!
Music Hall & Washington Park: My husband and I had our wedding at this iconic Cincinnati building, so I might be a little biased, but this place is beautiful!
Built in 1878, Music Hall is not only an architectural wonder, but host to loads of wonderful shows. You can also take guided tours. In the fall, you can do a ghost tour (it’s one of the most haunted places in the mid-west, and has been on TV shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures)!
The park facing the grand building, Washington Park, has a splash pad, dog park, and hosts craft shows, music festivals, and more! You can come relax for a picnic, then easily walk to the restaurants and shops of “Over the Rhine”.
OTR Neighborhood: As a kid in the ‘90’s, nobody would have ever recommended you visit here. Thanks to several ongoing cleanup efforts and some serious investment though, this once dangerous area of the city is now one of the best!
Filled with restored buildings from the late 1800’s, this is now easily the trendiest (and yes, most hipster) part of town!
The initials OTR stand for “Over the Rhine”, a reference to the canal that once ran through the city. Fondly called “The Rhine”, this pays homage to the huge amount of German immigrants who built up the city in the mid 1800’s (yes, including almost all of my great-grandparents!).
You can learn about this German heritage and underground brewery tunnel system on a tour with Queen City Underground (it’s honestly really cool!). After the tour, walk around and eat food, or play arcade games at Level One.
Findlay Market– In the heart of OTR, this farmer’s market is one of the largest outdoor markets in the mid west. Especially fun in summer, you can spend a few hours exploring the various stalls, vendors, and food options.
If you want to try a few locally famous places on your own, I’d recommend the trifecta of chili (Skyline and Goldstar are my faves), goetta (Glier’s goetta is in most grocery stores, or Eckerlin Meats at Findlay Market), and ice cream (try Greaters or Aglamesis Bros!).
Flying Pig Statues: As you explore the city, you will undoubtedly see several flying pig statues. Since Cincinnati was known as “porkopolis” back in the day, or “a place where pigs fly”, this urban art initiative pays homage to that great time.
Union Terminal & The Museum Center: If you have kids, the museum center is always hosting new exhibits and is a great place to spend the day. You can also just hop in to admire its art-deco architecture, see the massive tile mosaics, or catch a show at the Omnimax.
Spring Grove Cemetery: A little outside of the city, this grand Cincinnati cemetery has truly beautiful grounds (especially in the fall) and is a photographer’s dream!
Newport Aquarium: While technically across the river in Kentucky, the Newport aquarium is one of the best in the country. The shopping complex it is in, Newport on the Levee, is also a fun place to spend the afternoon.