Jake Cain is an entrepreneur and writer from Cincinnati, Ohio. He spends his free time driving around the country in his late 90’s conversion van, affectionately known as the “Monster Van” with his wife and 3 boys.
By: Jake Cain
I’ve always been fascinated by my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, and its vibrant mix of activities and attractions.
From its rich history and beautiful architecture to one-of-a-kind experiences, there is no shortage of things to do and see in this charming Midwestern city. Whether you’re a visitor or a local looking to explore more of what Cincinnati has to offer, you’re in for a treat.
One of my favorite spots is the famed Cincinnati Zoo, home to hundreds of animal species and our beloved Fiona the hippo. In addition to the zoo, the city boasts a thriving arts and music scene, unique eateries, and plenty of outdoor adventures. And remember to catch a game at the Great American Ball Park and explore the picturesque streets of Mainstrasse Village!
What I love most about this city is its ability to cater to everyone’s interests. Whether you’re looking for relaxation, adventure, or something completely unusual, there are many things to do in Cincinnati to suit you.
No matter what you choose, don’t be surprised if you find yourself falling in love with everything this captivating city offers.
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
The botanical garden is just as impressive, with beautiful plants and flowers to explore. I spent hours at the zoo enjoying the wildlife and the scenery.
Beyond the animals you’ll see, our zoo has some history. The Reptile House, in particular, was built in 1875 and is the oldest zoo building in the entire country.
Great American Ball Park
If you’re a baseball fan like me, you can’t miss catching a game at Great American Ball Park, home to the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. Sitting by the Ohio River, the stadium offers fantastic city and waterfront views.
Whether the team is playing well or not, the setting right on the water and all the fun amenities for kids inside the ballpark make it a must-do if you’re visiting during the Spring or Summer or planning to celebrate a birthday there.
The recently reimagined TriHealth Family Zone has a variety of activities for kids of all ages. Young kids will love the fantastic playground area with slides, a bridge, and even a clubhouse where they can hang out. If your kids want to test out their baseball skills, they can grab a bat and take some swings in the batting cage and see if they have what it takes to make it to the big leagues one day.
In fact, I’d argue that any vacation to the great state of Ohio wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the “GABP.”
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
The Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is a must-see for anyone visiting the area. This Art Deco masterpiece hosts several museums and attractions, including a history museum, a children’s museum, and an OMNIMAX theater.
The architecture and murals alone were worth the visit, but I also enjoyed learning about Cincinnati’s rich history and participating in interactive exhibits.
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
I found the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center a powerful and moving experience when I toured it as a chaperone for a group of high school kids.
This museum is located on the banks of the Ohio River and highlights the Underground Railroad’s history and modern-day struggles for freedom and equality. The exhibits were compelling and educational and provided meaningful insight into the history of slavery and the fight for freedom in the United States.
Plus, it’s a couple of blocks from the Great American Ballpark and all the bars and restaurants at The Banks, so you can tour the museum during the day and stay for the evening.
Historical and Cultural Sites
Cincinnati Art Museum
I recently visited the Cincinnati Art Museum on a field trip with my son, and it is a must-see destination for art lovers. With artworks spanning over 6,000 years, the art museum is housed in a breathtaking building that offers plenty to see and explore.
The exhibitions at the museum change frequently, so there’s always something fresh and exciting to discover. My favorite was Van Gogh’s Undergrowth with Two Figures, one of the most famed paintings in the permanent collection.
Cincinnati History Museum
Another personal favorite is the Cincinnati History Museum, located at Union Terminal. This interactive museum focuses on telling the story of Cincinnati and its people, showcasing artifacts, documents, and exhibits that help paint a picture of the city’s past.
In particular, it features an interactive model of Cincinnati from many years ago with model trains, lights, and even figurines that give you a unique peek into what things looked like in downtown Cincinnati many years ago.
Cincinnati Music Hall
If you’re a fan of architecture and performing arts like me, you should check out the Cincinnati Music Hall.
This National Historic Landmark is not only home to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Ballet, and Cincinnati Opera, but it’s also famous for its stunning Art Deco architecture.
I had the pleasure of attending a performance at the Music Hall several years ago with my wife and was genuinely amazed by the acoustics and grandeur of the space.
Plus, you’ll have plenty to do with the trendy bars and restaurants of the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood right around the corner.
Roebling Suspension Bridge
Any guide on things to do in Cincinnati wouldn’t be complete without the Roebling Suspension Bridge. When it opened in 1866, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world and still stands as an iconic city symbol.
My wife and I used to live a few blocks from the bridge in Covington, KY. We would love walking across and taking in the downtown sites while going to a Reds game or other activities.
If his name sounds familiar, Roebling also designed the Brooklyn Bridge, and our Suspension Bridge served as a prequel to a much larger version in New York.
Food and Drink Scene
One of my favorite spots in Cincinnati is Findlay Market, a vibrant public market that offers a wide variety of fresh produce, meats, and local artisan goods.
When I walk through the market, I can’t help but gravitate toward the delicious smells and lively atmosphere. It’s also a great place to grab a quick bite or sip on a refreshing local brew.
I’m a big fan of craft beer, so I love visiting Cincinnati’s local breweries. In the city, you’ll find microbreweries like 50 West Brewing, MadTree Brewing, and Rhinegeist Brewery, to name a few.
One spot I particularly enjoy is Moerlein Lager House, which not only offers fantastic brews but also boasts a stunning view of the Ohio River and the city’s skyline. Plus, it’s right across the street from Great American Ballpark, which means it’s the perfect spot for grabbing a bite before a Reds game.
To dive deeper into the local brewery scene, I suggest hopping on a Cincy Brew Bus tour to explore several breweries in one trip.
Tastes of Cincinnati
If there’s one thing I can say about Cincinnati, this city knows how to eat!
A wide array of eateries offer everything from classic Cincinnati-style chili to wood-fired pizzas.
The Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood is a testament to Cincinnati’s diverse food scene, featuring a mix of upscale restaurants, casual bistros, and funky bars.
One of my favorites is Taft’s Ale House, where you can indulge in mouthwatering food with their signature craft beers. The building is a renovated church sanctuary, so you can soak in the beautiful setting during your meal.
If you’re looking for other iconic names in Cincinnati food, check out local chains like Skyline Chili, Larosa’s Pizza, or Montgomery Inn for its barbecue.
Whichever you pick, you can’t go wrong by finishing with Graeter’s Ice Cream for dessert.
I absolutely love exploring the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, known for its stunning architecture and vibrant arts scene.
When walking through this area, it’s hard to miss Cincinnati’s underground treasures with mysterious tunnels and the remnants of an abandoned brewery. While here, I always make a point to visit the parks and scenic spots nearby.
One of our favorites is Washington Park, which is truly in the heart of the neighborhood. Not only is it home to concerts and special events throughout the year, but we also love going during the summer months to take advantage of the enormous splash pad and playground area.
Another excellent spot in Washington Park is “The Porch,” where mom and dad can enjoy a beverage while playing a family game like oversized Jenga or Connect Four in a stylish outdoor space that boasts beautiful views of the park and the surrounding neighborhood.
Whenever I’m in the mood for amazing views of downtown Cincinnati and the Ohio River, I head to Mount Adams. This picturesque neighborhood is not just about the scenic overlooks; it also boasts unique shops and restaurants to explore.
Don’t forget to visit Eden Park, a beautiful park near Mount Adams. The park offers stunning vistas, walking trails, and a serene atmosphere that I find truly captivating.
Dive into the Hyde Park neighborhood for a taste of affluent Cincinnati. This east-side gem is brimming with unique boutiques and delectable dining options.
The best way to kick off a day in this neighborhood is to cozy up at the Awakenings or Hyde Perk, two local coffee shops that have earned a place in my heart.
Covington and Northern Kentucky
Crossing the Ohio River, I often find myself in Covington and Northern Kentucky. In fact, our first apartment was in the historic district of Covington, not too far from the suspension bridge.
This wonderful region is a blend of historic charm and modern flair. Mainstrasse Village is an absolute must-visit, with its lovely architecture, local eateries, and unique shops. The Covington area also showcases several splendid parks, such as the renowned UNESCO-listed Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, both beautiful and rich in history.
Another fun spot newer to the neighborhood is Covington Yard, where you can choose from various local food vendors and enjoy your meal in a cozy outdoor space while watching a game on their big screen or just connecting with friends.
Exploring each of the unique neighborhoods Cincinnati offers, I always find myself discovering new exciting things to do and captivated by the diverse atmospheres.
Outdoor Things To Do In Cincinnati
Parks and Green Spaces
I love spending time outdoors in Cincinnati, and one of my favorite places is Eden Park. This beautiful park has everything from lush trees to picturesque lake views. I often find myself strolling through the botanical garden, taking in the vibrant colors of the flowers and plants.
Note that Eden Park is connected to the aforementioned Cincinnati Art Museum, so combining these two landmarks is a fun way to spend a day.
Another fantastic green space to check out is Smale Riverfront Park, located right on the riverfront. This park offers stunning views of the Ohio River and abundant opportunities to enjoy nature. There are many walking paths and trails to explore, and I adore the footbridges throughout the park that offer charming perspectives of the Queen City.
Scenic Walking Paths
Mount Lookout is another spot in Cincinnati where I can’t resist taking a leisurely walk. Various trails wind through the trees and alongside lush lakes and ponds, making it a perfect location for nature lovers like me.
The paths are well-maintained and suitable for all seasons, offering wonderful scenic opportunities for a peaceful stroll or vigorous hike.
Final Thoughts on the Best Things to Do in Cincinnati
There are so many wonderful things to do in Cincinnati. It is a fantastic city for outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, sports fans, and people like me who love to eat.
Hopefully, you’ll plan a vacation or a day trip to my hometown soon and find out why our residents are always proud to call Cincinnati home.
This article originally appeared on Savoteur.