Downtown Cincinnati: What to See & Do + Where to Eat, Drink & Stay

Planning a trip to Cincy and looking for a thriving arts & culture scene? Make your way to the vibrant and eclectic Downtown Cincinnati. Nestled along the scenic banks of the Ohio River, this dynamic neighborhood offers a captivating blend of history, culture, and modern charm.att

Downtown Cincinnati offers everything from beautiful urban parks and modern sports stadiums to cultural & historical landmarks and a picturesque riverfront area. Explore the city’s history at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and catch the Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ball Park.

As the sun sets, Cincinnati’s city center comes alive with a vibrant nightlife. A thriving culinary scene has diverse restaurants, from cozy diners to upscale eateries. Trendy bars and clubs buzz with dancing, live music, and socializing for night owls.

Eager to start exploring Queen City’s artsiest neighborhood? Check out this top-notch guide for what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay in Downtown Cincinnati, Ohio!

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What to see & do

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Step back in time with a visit to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and learn the compelling story of the Underground Railroad and the fight for freedom. This center serves as a powerful symbol of hope, education, and remembrance, dedicated to the heroic individuals who fought for freedom during the era of slavery.

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

As you explore the exhibits at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, you’re transported back in time, tracing the harrowing journey of enslaved individuals seeking liberation. The interactive displays, artifacts, and multimedia presentations vividly depict the struggles, triumphs, and sacrifices of those who sought freedom and those who risked their lives to assist them.

Listen to the stories of individuals who escaped slavery, witness the bravery and resilience that fueled their determination, and explore the ongoing struggle for freedom and justice. Before leaving, take a moment to appreciate the breathtaking view of the Ohio River from the center’s terrace.

Taft Museum of Art

Fondly known as the ‘home of Cincinnati art,’ the Taft Museum of Art is one of Cincinnati’s must-visit attractions if you love great art. Housed within a beautifully preserved historic mansion, this museum offers a captivating journey through centuries of artistic masterpieces and cultural heritage.

The elegant Neoclassical design of the Taft Museum of Art, with its grand columns and ornate details, sets the stage for the artistic treasures that await inside. An impressive collection of European and American art from the 15th to the 20th century is displayed in airy galleries.

Taft Museum of Art

Admire works by renowned artists such as Rembrandt, Goya, Turner, and Whistler in various artistic styles, from Baroque and Rococo to Impressionism. Watch for special exhibitions showcasing multiple artistic movements, themes, or contemporary works.

Reflect on the art in the tranquil garden courtyard with its lush greenery, blooming flowers, and serene atmosphere. Pop into the museum’s gift shop before you leave for unique art-inspired gifts, books, and souvenirs to commemorate your visit.

Paycor Stadium

Catch the Cincinnati Bengals, the city’s beloved NFL team, in action at their home ground of the Paycor Stadium. Formally known as Paul Brown Stadium, this state-of-the-art venue blends seamlessly with the city from its downtown riverfront locale.

Paycor Stadium offers top-notch amenities and facilities, and the sprawling seating bowl promises an incredible view of the action from every seat. Colossal high-definition video boards are strategically placed throughout the stadium, bringing the game to life.

If you aren’t lucky enough to see the Bengals play, grab tickets to other events at the stadium, like college football matchups and music concerts. Surrounded by Downtown Cincinnati’s vibrant dining, entertainment, and cultural scenes, the Paycor Stadium is ideally located for pre-game drinks or a post-event dinner.

Great American Ball Park

If you prefer baseball to football, head to the Great American Ball Park to watch the Cincinnati Reds take to the diamond on home ground. This beloved landmark stadium boasts breathtaking views of the Ohio River, modern amenities, and a vibrant atmosphere.

Situated on the banks of the Ohio River, the stadium is designed to capture the spirit of Cincinnati and pay homage to the city’s rich baseball heritage. The panoramic views from the ballpark are one of its defining features, creating a picturesque setting for baseball games.

Great American Ball Park

Expect a first-class experience inside! The Great American Ball Park boasts comfortable seating, state-of-the-art facilities, and a range of amenities to enhance the enjoyment of the game. You’ll also find various entertainment areas and attractions.

The Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, located within the ballpark, celebrates the team’s rich history with exhibits, memorabilia, and interactive displays that engage and educate visitors. The Power Stacks, a unique feature in center field, emit flames and fireworks to celebrate home runs, adding an exciting visual spectacle to the game.

Contemporary Arts Center

Spend a few hours taking in some cutting-edge contemporary art at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). One of the must-see museums in Cincinnati, this vibrant cultural institution is dedicated to contemporary art and is home to an exceptional collection of visual art, performance art, and multimedia installations.

If you love beautiful buildings, the architecture of the CAC building itself is a work of art. Designed by the renowned architect Zaha Hadid, the center’s sleek, angular exterior is a striking testament to modern design.

Wander through airy gallery spaces that house a rich tapestry of contemporary artistic expressions by established and emerging artists from around the world. Don’t miss the dynamic performance theater where interdisciplinary art forms like live dance, theater, and music performances are hosted.

Deepen your understanding of contemporary art at the CAC through engaging programs, artist talks, panel discussions, and interactive workshops. After your visit, grab a coffee and light bites at the casual coffee shop in the center.

The Andrew J. Brady Music Center

Love live music concerts? Catch a show at the Andrew J. Brady Music Center. Located along the Ohio River in the Banks development, this state-of-the-art music venue hosts a diverse range of emerging talents and beloved artists throughout the year.

The Andrew J. Brady Music Center has a general admission main floor and two balconies accommodating up to 4,500 people. In the summer, you can enjoy concerts and festivals held in the adjacent park on the outdoor stage.

Located near The Banks’ restaurants, retail outlets, and hotels, attending a concert here is a hassle-free, park-once affair. Worried about finding parking? The building was constructed on top of a new 60,000-square-foot garage.

Smale Riverfront Park

Slip out of the city and into the urban oasis of Smale Riverfront Park for some fresh air and exercise. Stretching along the banks of the Ohio River, the 45-acre park boasts beautiful landscapes, a variety of recreational activities, and tranquil river views.

Named after the Smale family, the park has a spectacular riverfront promenade with panoramic views of the Ohio River and the Kentucky shoreline. The scenic walkway is popular for strolling, jogging, and cycling while soaking up the views.

Smale Riverfront Park

Smale Riverfront Park’s expansive lawn areas are perfect for picnicking, tossing a frisbee, or relaxing in the sun. Kids will love the interactive fountains and water play areas during the warmer months. Volleyball, basketball, and bocce ball courts are also available.

Wander through the park’s beautifully landscaped gardens with sculptures and art installations. Don’t miss several iconic features like Carol Ann’s Carousel is a whimsical, hand-carved carousel featuring a variety of meticulously crafted animals.

Grab a table at the John G. and Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park Moerlein Lager House, a restaurant and brewery along the riverfront. Panoramic views and delicious food and drinks make it the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Ohio River Trail

Embark on a captivating journey along the scenic banks of the Ohio River along the Ohio River Trail. Winding through the heart of the city, the well-maintained pathway is a lovely, picturesque route for walking, jogging, and cycling.

Ohio River

As you venture along the trail, take in spectacular vistas of the Ohio River, and soak in the peaceful ambiance created by the river’s flowing waters. You’ll find plenty of convenient amenities and access points en route. Rest areas with benches and picnic tables are scattered along the path, providing an ideal setting to rest, rejuvenate, and appreciate the surrounding beauty.

The Ohio River Trail seamlessly connects to various neighborhoods and attractions in Downtown Cincinnati, offering the chance to explore iconic landmarks such as Smale Riverfront Park, Paul Brown Stadium, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The trail is also a gateway to many cultural, recreational, and entertainment offerings within the city.

Where to eat & drink

Downtown Cincinnati is where it’s at when it comes to grub and drinks. This foodie paradise has many restaurants and bars serving everything from burgers and bourbon to tapas and tequila.

Maplewood Kitchen and Bar is the downtown hotspot for breakfast and brunch. Exuding a cozy atmosphere, this popular restaurant is the perfect place to tuck into healthy dishes like avocado toast, grain bowls, smoothie bowls, and specialty coffee. Maplewood is known for its long wait times during peak hours, so get there early or make a reservation.

Set on Walnut Street, Nada is your go-to for Mexican grub with a modern twist. Vibrant décor and a lively atmosphere create an inviting space for dining. Expect mouthwatering classics like tacos, enchiladas, ceviche, and guacamole, and don’t miss the killer margaritas and cocktails. Order the Nada Fries; these crispy fries with jalapenos, queso, and crema are to die for!

Ciao! If you’re looking for a fancy Italian feast, Sotto won’t disappoint! Tucked away beneath street level, this elegant restaurant has a cozy, romantic vibe, soft lighting, and Old-World charm. You’ll find classics like handmade pasta dishes, wood-fired pizzas, and drool-worthy seasonal dishes. Reserve your spot well in advance because everyone wants a piece of this place.

For sophisticated fine dining, head to Boca on E 6th Street. Renowned for its elegant ambiance and impeccable service, you’re in for a treat! An ever-changing menu highlighting seasonal ingredients features seared scallops, braised short ribs, and exquisite desserts. Go for the tasting menu to get a little bit of everything and let the chefs work their magic.

Need a late-night spot for a drink? Igby’s it is! The lively bar is known for its next-level craft cocktails. Try their signature ‘Igby’s Mule.’ Hit Igby’s on the weekend for DJ nights and live music events that rock the house.

Looking for a traditional English watering hole? Nicholson’s Fine Food & Whiskey is your jam. It’s like stepping into an old-school British pub with warm décor and a welcoming vibe. Enjoy classic British dishes such as fish and chips, bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, and a wide selection of whiskey from around the world. Visit during happy hour for discounted drinks and appetizers, and don’t miss their whiskey tastings.

The Lackman is a cozy neighborhood hangout with an epic selection of craft beers, cocktails, and spirits. They don’t serve food, but you can bring your own or order in. Keep an eye on their socials for tap takeovers and live music gigs.

Another swanky spot for a special occasion is the Hearth Room on Race Street. Classy with a cozy feel, this upscale restaurant and cocktail lounge serves refined American cuisine with a creative twist. Prime steaks and fresh seafood are the orders of the day. Save space for their delectable desserts, such as the bourbon chocolate mousse or the salted caramel apple pie.

Where to stay

As it’s the heart of the city, Downtown is one of the most popular neighborhoods to stay in Cincinnati. In this central district, you’ll find an array of accommodation options, including many of the city’s top hotels.

AC Hotel by Marriott Cincinnati at The Banks

AC Hotel by Marriott Cincinnati at The Banks

Ideally located opposite the Great American Ball Park baseball stadium, the AC Hotel by Marriott Cincinnati at The Banks offers a laid-back spot to stay in Downtown Cincinnati. Relax in comfortable rooms with modern amenities and balconies with river views. Kick back at the rooftop bar and stay fit in the modern gym. Free Wi-fi is available around the hotel.

Residence Inn by Marriott Cincinnati Downtown/The Phelps

Residence Inn by Marriott Cincinnati Downtown/The Phelps

Just off Interstate-71, Residence Inn by Marriott Cincinnati Downtown/The Phelps is a good choice for a family-friendly, self-catering stay. Comfy rooms have fully equipped kitchenettes, and an outdoor space boasts BBQs. Enjoy a complimentary hot breakfast daily, a grocery delivery service, and guest laundry facilities.

Kinley Cincinnati Downtown, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel

Kinley Cincinnati Downtown, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel

Nestled in the heart of the city, Kinley Cincinnati Downtown, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, is a sophisticated spot with spacious rooms. Sip cocktails in the lobby bar and dine at the hotel’s elegant restaurant. A short walk will get you to Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and the Paul Brown Stadium.

Renaissance Downtown Hotel

Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown Hotel

Located within a short walk from the Great American Ball Park, Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown Hotel has contemporary rooms with coffeemakers, minifridges, and satellite television. Upgrade to a suite for extra space and private cocktail lounge access. Relax in a stylish lounge and bar in the evenings.

The Lytle Park Hotel, Autograph Collection

The Lytle Park Hotel, Autograph Collection

Enjoy top-notch amenities at the Lytle Park Hotel, Autograph Collection, including a beautiful glass-enclosed rooftop bar with a terrace overlooking the city. Unwind in plush rooms with spacious sitting areas and stay fit in a state-of-the-art gym. The Taft Museum of Art and Sawyer Point Park are a short stroll away.


Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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