Heading to Ohio on your next Midwest holiday? Sprinkle your itinerary with the best things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Queen City is a paradise for roller coaster and water park enthusiasts, Art Deco architecture fans, history buffs, and anyone seeking some time in the Great Outdoors of Ohio.
Among the top tourist attractions in Cincinnati, art aficionados can beeline for the Cincinnati Art Museum while families and history lovers head for The Cincinnati Museum Center. Thrill-seekers will have a field day at King’s Island and Soak City. Craft beer connoisseurs can spend all day appreciating the fine beverages at Rhinegeist Brewery. And everyone, young or old, will enjoy the stunning views of the Ohio River from Carew Tower.
Deciding where to go and what to see while in Cincinnati? This guide will take the guesswork out of discovering all the best places to visit in Cincinnati, OH.
Best places to visit in Cincinnati, OH
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Start your Cincinnati holiday off on the wild side of the city. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden will keep you and your family entertained for hours.
Founded in 1873, the Cincinnati Zoo is the second oldest in the US. It’s home to over 21 animal exhibits with a variety of exotic, local, and endangered species, and plenty of diverse gardens to discover.
Take a stroll through African Penguin Point to watch the little black and white birds dart through the water at impressive speeds. Meet Hudo the Komodo Dragon as he scours the enclosure for his next tasty feast, and get to know the playful manatees rescued and rehabilitated at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Butterflies gracefully flit about as you roam through the lovely flower-lined paths of Pollinator Garden. Get lost among the vibrant oranges, yellows, reds, and violets of the tulips and learn about the infiltration systems of the Rain Gardens.
You might even forget that you’re right outside of Downtown Cincinnati while you explore this fairytale world!
Cincinnati Art Museum
Art connoisseurs are in for a treat at the Cincinnati Art Museum. One of the coolest places to see in Cincinnati, this museum has provided Cincinnati and visitors from around the globe with world-class art since 1886.
Today, the Cincinnati Art Museum houses over 67,000 masterpieces. The permanent collections include art from almost every continent as well as contemporary works, sculptures, and much more.
Your experience begins on the way from the parking lot as you ascend the Art Climb zig-zagging staircase. You’ll emerge at the top of the stairs facing the magnificent museum.
Inside the Cincinnati Art Museum, explore the curations of European, American, and Asian paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Admire African artifacts like ornately carved masks. Learn more about Native American culture from the ceremonial dance belts, hand-painted jars, and watercolor Buffalo Dancer paintings.
If you need a mid-art walk pick-me-up, stop by the Terrace Cafe on-site for a cinnamon-dusted cappuccino and a fresh croissant.
For a taste of local culture and cuisine, spend a few hours at Findlay Market. As Cincinnati’s oldest municipal marketplace still in operation, this public market is a historic landmark from the 19th century and one of the coolest places to go in Cincinnati for food lovers and shoppers alike.
Today, Findlay Market aims to make fresh produce, baked goods, meats, and cheeses accessible to the Cincinnati public. Check the market out for a blast into the past and some local treats.
Browing the outdoor food stalls, get a whiff of fresh-baked gourmet cookies from Sweet Mae’s Cookie Co., and classic American dishes like burgers and apple pie made fresh at The Grill restaurant. If you’ve got an appetite, Findlay Market has the cure.
If you’re looking for unique souvenirs, Findlay Market has about 28 boutique shops to explore. Pop into Libby Jewelry for some finely crafted rings and bracelets, or Linda’s Luxuries for handmade soap with scents like mint or rosemary. Stop into Deerhaus Decor for locally and sustainably made items to bring some Cincinnati-style home with you.
Smale Riverfront Park
When the weather calls for time in the Cincinnati sun, Smale Riverfront Park is rife with opportunities for laid-back outdoor activities. Perfect for strolling the scenic banks of the Ohio River, picnicking on the lush grass, or biking down the paths of the park, Smale Park is a relaxing downtown gem.
Scattered about Smale Riverfront Park are artistic playground installments that look like modern metal sculptures, with rope ladders and climbing components for kids. They’ll have a blast tackling these! Once they’ve worked up a sweat, let your kiddies frolic around on the splash pad to cool down.
Stroll down the Riverwalk to enjoy the scene of boats cruising along and the panoramic views of the waterfront gardens.
Snap a picture of the John A. Roebling Bridge, a landmark in this area, connecting two sides of the Ohio River. Have a rest on one of the river-facing swings. Sway the afternoon away basking in the park’s lovely atmosphere!
As a hub of Downtown Cincinnati, Washington Park is the perfect place to visit for a taste of Queen City’s community. This public park is more than just a lovely green space; it offers live performances, group yoga classes, a dog park, a splash pad for children, rotating events, and more.
Let your pup stretch its legs and socialize at the dog park while your children do the same at the playground area or the splash pad.
If you start to feel thirsty on your Washington Park visit, head for The Porch, a series of pop-up venues offering local beer, wine, and hard seltzer. Grab your drink of choice, sit back, and relax in the peaceful park.
After your day of sippin’ and pooch-watchin’, it’s time to get your hands on Cincinnati’s tastiest donuts at Holtman’s Donuts. This family-run shop offers homemade donuts sprinkled, filled, or frosted to perfection. Try one of their unique creations like Lucky Charms or Yeast-Risen Maple Bacon.
Cincinnati Museum Center
Museum fans, rejoice! You’ll want to dedicate an entire day to the Cincinnati Museum Center. This history & science wonderland houses three popular Cincinnati museums: the Museum of Natural History & Science, The Children’s Museum, and the Cincinnati History Museum.
Choose your favorite or stop by all three for a day immersed in Cincinnati and world culture. You’ll find an incredible 1.8 million pieces throughout all of the museums and exhibits.
The building itself is an Art Deco relic of the past, Cincinnati’s old Union Terminal, now converted into a museum space. It’s the ideal atmosphere to learn about Cincinnati history firsthand in the Cincinnati History Museum. Meet costumed actors portraying daily life at the recreation of the Public Landing market.
Let your kiddo explore The Children’s Museum, where they’ll adventure through an array of themed interactive exhibits. They’ll trudge through The Woods for physical activity, KidSpace for creativity-based play stations, and the Energy Zone to learn about the wonders of electricity.
Mount Airy Forest
Itching to get out into nature? About a 10-minute drive from Downtown Cincinnati awaits the Mount Airy Forest. Bring your family to explore the largest park in Cincinnati at over 1,459 acres of wooded trails, meadows, and outdoor fun for everyone.
Spend a day moseying along the forest hiking trails. Wind your way to the Mount Airy Arboretum and botanical gardens, where you can appreciate local plants and flowers. Skip through the sun-kissed meadows, then seek shelter in the shade of the evergreen forest.
Follow the wood ramp through the trees to Everybody’s Treehouse, bringing back the nostalgia of being a kid in a treehouse again. Here, you could have a picnic or come prepared for a barbecue lunch at one of the picnic areas with grills.
You can plan to stay overnight in the Mount Airy Forest woodland bliss at Maple Ridge Lodge or Oak Ridge Lodge. Both are conveniently located in the park.
Ready to get out of the downtown area? Exploring Eden Park in the Mount Adams neighborhood is a great place to start. Stop by this flourishing oasis in the Queen City, known for its scenic city overlook, 190 acres of sprawling green spaces, and live events.
Meander around Mirror Lake, where you’ll spy swans, ducks, and a serene fountain in the center. Follow the paths until you arrive at Spencer Overlook. From your perch on the hilltop, watch the daily life of Cincinnati carry on below.
Don’t forget to also check out the roster for Eden Park’s Seasongood Pavillion, where live bands and singers regularly put on shows for the public.
If you’re in the area in the evening, head into Mount Adams to dabble in its artsy bars. At the World Glass Bar, sample beer, wine, and spirits curated from around the globe. Swing by The Blind Lemon and enjoy artisanal cocktails in this hidden gem of a speakeasy-style bar.
Great American Ball Park
Baseball fans will be happy to stop by the Great American Ball Park, and Cincinnati Reds fans will be absolutely elated. Situated by the Ohio River in Downtown Cincinnati, this stadium combines the nostalgia and architecture of 20th-century ballparks with comfortable modern facilities.
Take a tour of the stadium for insider tips about baseball history and the USA’s oldest baseball team, the Reds. Get up close and personal with the press box, the home and away dugouts, and Crosley Terrace.
If you’re visiting Great American Ball Park for a baseball game, arm yourself with a beer, nachos served in a plastic Reds cap, or a loaded chili cheese dog. Whether you’re rooting for the Reds or you’re just a Major League Baseball fan, you’re sure to have a blast here!
Coney Island Park
On the hunt for water park fun? Look no further than Coney Island Park. This amusement park has been a beloved Cincinnati attraction since 1886.
On your visit to Coney Island Park, take a dip in Sunlite Pool, the biggest recirculating pool in North America, rocket down waterslides, or enjoy a boat ride.
If you’re looking for an aquatic adrenaline rush, slide through over 70 feet of twists and turns in the Cyclone. Shoot down the Silver Bullet, and then spring from the nine-foot-tall diving board into Cannonball Cove.
Meanwhile, little ones will be happy splashing and wading in the shallow waters of the Sunlite Pool. Families can hop into a swan boat at the Story Book Paddle Boats dock and pedal their way around tranquil Lake Como.
Want to dry off but keep the fun going? Try inflatable ax throwing, basketball, or arts and crafts in Action Alley.
Now is the perfect time for theme park lovers to visit Kings Island for the 50th-anniversary celebration. In operation since 1972, Kings Island is one of the most popular points of interest in Cincinnati.
Soar above the park in heart-pumping roller coasters or take it easy on the carousel. You’ll be shrieking with joy (or terror!) as you whiz around the tracks of the Banshee and Invertigo coasters. Feel your heart drop into your stomach as you unexpectedly jolt up above the park and then plummet back down on the Drop Tower.
If you have young children or prefer cute themed rides over intense coasters, there are plenty of amusements to suit a slower speed.
Head away from the screams and follow the sounds of classic carnival music and cartoon theme songs. You’ll find the Grand Carousel, Antique Autos car driving, the Snoopy-themed train ride, and many more mellow rides.
The water park extension of Kings Island, Soak City, is the perfect stop for a sunny Cincinnati day. Visiting Soak City and Kings Island together is one of the most popular things to do in Cincinnati for travelers who want the best of both worlds: an amusement park and a water park in one day!
Plummet down the Aruba Tuba in your inner tube built for two, or get a running start and zip down the Rendevous Run. Try to catch a wave at the Pipeline Paradise surfing zone. Take your kiddie by the hand and enjoy the water guns and fountains at Splash Landing, or enjoy the shallow open spaces of Lookout Lagoon.
Water parks are fantastic, but sometimes it’s a challenge to stake out your place on the limited lounge chairs. If you’d like a more VIP waterpark experience, choose a cabana by the Tidal Wave Bay for some extra privacy, shade, snacks, and other benefits.
Curious about Cincinnati’s views from 49 stories up? Make a trek to Carew Tower, the second-tallest building in Cincinnati and one of the city’s top tourist attractions.
The observation deck on top of Carew Tower offers the finest panoramic views of Queen City. Carew Tower was designed in the classic style of the 1930s; today, its Art Deco architecture and atmosphere are well-preserved.
Situated in the heart of downtown, Carew Tower’s views are unparalleled. Gaze north at the picturesque Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Look southeast and you may be able to peek into the Great American Baseball Park. Past that to the south, you can watch boats float along the Ohio River. On a clear day, you can even see parts of Kentucky in the distance!
After you’ve taken in the Cincinnati views, make your way to Sotto for mouthwatering Italian food or Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse for tender, juicy steaks, crab legs, lobster, and more.
Okay, okay: Technically, Devou Park is in Northern Kentucky. But, since it’s just minutes away from Downtown Cincinnati, it’s worth a visit. The 700 sprawling acres of trails and golf courses offer views of the Queen City that you can’t quite get while you’re in Ohio.
Start your Devou Park excursion across the border by hiking through wooded trails all the way up to the Memorial Overlook. Here you’ll have spectacular views of the Ohio River lining the Cincinnati landscape. Don’t forget to take a picture; this view is hard to come by.
After your hike, take it easy on the level, paved paths, and nature trails. Rent a bike, or a bike for two, and explore on your new wheels.
If you’re an avid golfer or a newbie looking to get some practice in, there’s no better place than the gorgeous manicured lawns of the Devou Golf Course before heading back into Ohio.
American Sign Museum
Signs: You read them every day when you drive, enter and exit buildings, or need directions. But did you ever stop to think about the history of signage in the USA? The American Sign Museum will answer all of your wildest sign questions (that you’ve surely been losing sleep over).
As you wander the “Main Street USA” aesthetic museum, you’ll learn about the development of and hard work that went into creating signs from the 1870s to the 1970s. With fluorescent neon, bright light bulbs, and even carved wooden or gold leaf-laden signs, this museum has examples of any signage you can imagine, all immaculately restored.
You can take a self-guided audio tour from your phone as well for a more thorough understanding of American sign history.
With over 100 years of sign history among the 20,000 square feet of the museum, you will leave with a whole new perspective on the art of sign-making.
Got thirsty on your Cincinnati itinerary? Taste some of the finest beer Cincinnati has to offer at Rhinegeist Brewery. This craft brewery is housed in a massive historic building in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. From stouts to IPAs, sours, or ales, Rhinegeist has an impressive selection of seasonal and year-round beers on tap.
Rhinegeist Brewery takes brewing seriously and is passionate about the beer it creates. Take a tour of the facilities to learn more about their brewing process.
Looking for something a bit stronger? Then, you’ll love the whiskey and bourbon barrel-aged beers. Prefer something fruity or sour? Test out the Blackberry Quadruppel Ale or the Sour Ale with Peaches. For a tried and true IPA classic, the Truth IPA is a classic choice offered year-round.
After you’re equipped with your beer, have fun playing cornhole, shuffleboard, and ping pong. Grab a seat on the rooftop deck and sip your beer as you look out at the neighborhood, appreciating the lovely Cincinnati views.
Cincinnati Music Hall
Cincinnati’s strong art and music scene is possibly most notable at the Cincinnati Music Hall. This historic landmark is known nationwide for being the home of the Cincinnati Ballet, the Cincinnati Opera, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Built in 1878, the impressive red brick Victorian-Gothic architecture is unmistakable in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.
Catch the Cincinnati Opera’s rendition of The Pirates of Penzance, Aida, or Morris and Friends. If you’re in town during the holiday season, see the Cincinnati Ballet perform the Nutcracker.
During the remainder of the year, there are regular Broadway-style productions put on by visiting groups like Jersey Productions and their showing of Annie.
If orchestra music is more your style, grab tickets to see the iconic Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Regardless of which show you see, you’ll be humming the tunes the whole way home.
(By the way, if you feel a tap on your shoulder while you’re watching the show, it may just be one of the resident ghosts allegedly roaming the Cincinnati Music Hall!)
Where to stay in Cincinnati for sightseeing
For most travelers, the top choices for where to stay in Cincinnati lie within the downtown area. If you’re looking for some quieter digs at lower prices, Over-the-Rhine, Mount Adams, and Corryville are great neighborhoods to consider, too.
One of downtown’s most affordable options, TownePlace Suites offers comfortable accommodations close to the city’s top points of interest. Relax in the spacious suites, decked out with colorful wall art, for the perfect bookend to your day.
If you’re an art lover, you can’t pass up the chance to stay at the 21c Museum Hotel. As soon as you enter the lobby, you’ll be able to start immersing yourself in the hotel’s contemporary art galleries. The art themes flow into the rooms, adorned with eye-popping colors, decor, and art history books. End your evening with a meal at the on-site French restaurant or watch the lights of Cincinnati twinkle as you sip cocktails on the rooftop terrace.
If luxury boutique hotels are your jam, book yourself for a night at The Kinley. The artistic designs start in the lobby, where you’ll find touches of Art Deco style and a cafe that morphs into a chic cocktail lounge at night. For the ultimate in Cincinnati luxury, upgrade to a corner Executive Suite and enjoy a 180-degree view over the sparkling skyline.