Cincinnati isn’t a city on many people’s radars when it comes to major US travel destinations. The great Ohio city is located in Northern Kentucky and, bizarrely, named after the Roman soldier Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, who was denied reward after a great battle victory. The whole city is a bit of a mystery, and it confusingly sits straddling the Kentucky and Ohio borders, meaning it is technically in both states. Cincinnati was announced as a town in 1802 and was a fully-fledged and recognized city by 1819, and the rest is history.
Set along the Ohio River, it has stunning natural scenery yet also lots of fun inner-city culture, including local food trucks and an outdoor beer garden or two. So, with all this to consider, what are the best things to do in Cincinnati?
27 Best Things to Do in Cincinnati
In this guide, we’ll get you up to speed on the best things to do in Cincinnati. The city definitely needs to be more appreciated and is still relatively quiet on the tourist front. This leaves you in a great spot because there is so much to do and see in this Northern Kentucky and Ohio city. Here’s some serious inspiration for you.
Planning Your Trip To Cincinnati Right Now?
Below are some of the top tours in Cincinnati. Don’t forget to plan ahead when visiting Ohio!
Top Activities and Tours in Cincinnati:
1. Cincinnati Art Museum
Browse over 67,000 pieces of artwork in the beautiful Cincinnati Art Museum.
Get ready for one of the most popular Cincinnati attractions. The Cincinnati Art Museum is far from just a contemporary art museum, with collections spanning over 6,000 years of history – offering some real food for thought. So for art fanatics, this is easily one of the best things to do in Cincinnati. You can browse everything from permanent artworks like antique painting collections and sculptures or view the constant rotatory of temporary exhibits, like the 2023 ‘Picasso Landscapes’ exhibit. The best thing is that the whole experience is free, with free admission and parking.
Indoor things to do in Cincinnati are abundant. However, the Cincinnati Art Museum still tops most attractions in the city center. If you love art or even just open to loving art, it is the best place for you and a hotspot for your itinerary.
2. Cincinnati Museum Center
Walk through a whole complex of museums in a National Historic Landmark site.
Cincinnati Museum Center is one of the grandest buildings you’ll ever see. The museum complex sits in a National Historic Landmark site inside the converted Union Terminal, an art deco train station that served the city for decades. You rarely find a museum inside an old railway station.
And every detail makes the museum experience even more special – from the station clock outside to just having such a historical setting to embrace even more history inside. Cincinnati Museum Center attracts 1.4 million visitors annually, so it’s safe to say this attraction is here to stay.
Cincinnati Museum Center has many different museums inside. These include the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children’s Museum, the Museum of Natural History and Science, and the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater. Let’s say that it covers all bases. Cincinnati’s Museum Center is a wonderful place to visit and a full-day activity, with just so much to see and do.
3. Vent Haven Museum
A quirky ventriloquist museum in Cincinnati’s outer suburbs.
Visiting Vent Haven Museum is one of the most unusual things to do in Cincinnati. The quirky museum is entirely dedicated to ventriloquism, and if you have a good sense of humor and a curious mind, a rewarding enticement away from the city center.
Out in the suburb of Fort Mitchell, Vent Haven Museum has everything from creepy figurines to memorabilia like black and white photographs. It is the world’s only ventriloquism museum, and that makes it very special in our books.
Because Vent Haven Museum is so tiny and niche, it is only available to visit as part of a guided tour. And you’ll have to book online rather than on arrival. It is well worth jumping through these little loopholes if you can get organized.
4. World Peace Bell
Get ready for another quirky museum to tempt you out of Downtown Cincinnati. The World Peace Bell is a beautiful concept and is rung daily at noon to represent a wish for peace on a global scale. You can take tours of the museum and the site around the bell or just stop by with a coffee to see it ring. At 66,000 lb and 12ft high, the bell is quite a spectacle to admire. It is also housed inside a vast glass structure – a bizarre blend of modern and new.
Whether you venture inside the museum or just admire the bell from the outside, you can access information via huge placards and informative monuments. The World Peace Bell is worth crossing the Ohio River to see.
5. Cincinnati Music Hall
A live music hall with regular orchestra performances.
Cincinnati Music Hall is a beautiful place to visit for an upscale evening or matinee performance. The grand building has a humongous glass chandelier and red velvet seated auditorium. The Cincinnati Music Hall is the sort of venue you see in movies and a brilliant spot to embrace your inner diva.
You can catch regular performances from the Cincinnati Opera and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The acoustics are well-praised, and the whole experience is just luxurious in the best way. Everyone sometimes needs a music hall treat, and to have a fancy evening out in Cincinnati, Cincinnati Music Hall is the way forward.
Just keep an eye on performance schedules before you visit Cincinnati. And if you really love opera and orchestra shows, consider booking your Cincinnati trip around ticket availability and performance dates. For a different experience check out this Ghost Tour that takes you through the Music hall.
6. Skyline Chili
A much-loved chain restaurant famous for a secret Greek chili recipe.
Eating at Skyline Chili is the perfect guilty pleasure and food-orientated thing to do in Cincinnati. Skyline Chili is not fancy – so get all images of the Cincinnati Music Hall back out of your mind. Instead, it offers tasty, down-to-earth dining with a special spaghetti, chili, and cheese combo dish.
Regarding dining options, Skyline Chili is easily one of the most popular eateries in Cincinnati. Located on busy Vine Street, it is easily combined with a visit to the Contemporary Arts Center. Skyline Chili is on the outskirts of the skyscraper-filled Central Business District, and so a massively convenient dining spot for sightseers and local 9-5 workers alike.
7. Roebling Suspension Bridge
A 19th-century bridge crossing the Ohio River and linking Kentucky with Ohio.
Roebling Suspension Bridge is special. You may have seen some beautiful bridges in your lifetime already, including wonders like London Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge, and even Golden Gate Bridge. So what is so special about the Roebling Suspension Bridge? This humble baby blue-railed bridge crosses the River Ohio – the official state boundary between Kentucky and Ohio. This means you are traveling between the states by walking the Roebling Suspension Bridge pedestrian walkway. This is one of the most novel things to do in Cincinnati, and you can snap some great photos.
Walking this bridge is totally free. The whole walk should take around 15 minutes one way, and it is well combined with visits to the Smale Riverfront Park and Roebling Murals. On the Kentucky side of the bridge, you can also head to the B-Line to take a self-guided bourbon tour.
8. Queen City Club
Take a peek (or try to join) Cincinnati’s most exclusive club.
The Queen City Club is a prestigious club in the city center. Queen City Club rose from the ashes of the city’s founding in 1874 and has since gone from strength to strength. Former members include congressmen, US presidents, and community and business leaders. You may qualify, in which case you should try to angle your way into getting a membership, but otherwise, take a passing peek as you walk by. It is novel to see such an exclusive building.
And the Queen City Club has a great deal of mystery around it. Those who snag a membership get prestigious networking opportunities, fine dining, and top-tier business meeting rooms. You’ll have to enquire directly about memberships, though, either calling or emailing the club to see if you meet the mysterious, exclusive criteria.
9. Newport Aquarium
An inner-city aquarium with a rope bridge over a shark tank.
Newport Aquarium is an aquarium done differently. It still has the classic tank exhibits, with a mesmerizing jellyfish room and fish everywhere. However, it also has some rather exhilarating elements. The main one is a rope bridge across a shark tank, the first of its kind in the world. Of course, you also have beautiful tunnels through enclosures, so you can spot sharks swimming over your head when you aren’t spotting them under your feet.
Newport Aquarium is a peaceful place to spend half a day. The low-lighting and underwater scenes are almost therapeutic and a brilliant way to escape the midday heat in summer. You can spot penguins, rays, and crocodiles, besides sharks, colorful fish, and jellyfish. There is so much going on at Newport Aquarium, and for such a moderate entry price, you really can’t go wrong. You can also visit the Cincinnati Zoo if that is your thing. As you know we don’t really recommend Zoos.
10. Mt. Airy Forest
Greenspace popular amongst horseback riders, bikers, and hikers.
Mt. Airy Forest is a beautiful green space of over 1,459 acres. The wooded stretch of hiking and horseback riding trails is super scenic. Located in the residential suburbs, it is one of the best things to do in Cincinnati to escape the skyscrapers and enjoy some inner-city nature.
The giant treehouse is a fascinating part of Mt. Airy Forest for kids. The treehouse is reachable on the Cedar Trail and is the perfect family-friendly walk. Look for wild turkeys and other wildlife along the quiet, shady trails. It is well worth bringing picnic food and making a full day out of it.
11. Taft Museum of Art
A private art collection in a residential mansion founded by Anna Sinton Taft and Charles Phelps Taft.
Taft Museum of Art is one of the best art museums in Cincinnati. This spot is set inside a luxe mansion with a red carpet and antique wooden furniture. Founded by the couple Anna Sinton Taft and Charles Phelps Taft, it has a private, exclusive appeal, and it is perfect for anyone wanting a luxurious insight into the art world in Cincinnati. The house itself has National Historic Landmark status, and that’s before you even begin to appreciate the rare and valuable collection. Expect a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ because the Taft Museum of Art has that bold wow factor.
Despite being a relatively private art museum, Taft Museum of Art keeps a regular schedule of art exhibits, with exhibits like ‘Don’t Let This Sail By’ and ‘Gone in a Flash.’ Despite its antique appeal, These exhibits help keep Taft Museum feeling fresh and cutting edge.
12. Cincinnati Observatory
Spot stars in this inner-city observatory.
Staring at the stars is one of the most romantic things in any city – Cincinnati included. The observatory also has everything to justify a daytime visit, though, with exhibits on the history of stargazing and obscure details on space history. Cincinnati Observatory is niche but deliciously so. It is a fun attraction with a real sense of individualism. The observatory is unbeatable if you want something slightly off the standard tourist radar.
When visiting Cincinnati, check the observatory website to see if any special events are coming up. The observatory regularly offers evenings where the public can look inside telescopes, and these events are a huge hit, sometimes attracting around 200 people, many of whom bring their own telescopes. Cincinnati Observatory is quickly becoming a famous attraction and a popular activity, even for things like date nights.
13. Findlay Market
An indoor and outdoor market with flea market vendors and local cuisine.
Findlay Market is one of the best things to do in Cincinnati if you like to head to a market to get a sense of a new city. Adding a market to your itinerary is just one of those classic things, and with more than 50 full-time vendors, Findlay Market is a strong choice. The market is predominantly indoors, with a few street vendors spilling out from under cover. It has everything from flea market vendors selling souvenirs to ethnic food stalls and local artists. Findlay Market is lots of fun and an amazing opportunity to try Cincinnati food or do some light-hearted shopping.
We suggest heading to Findlay Market for breakfast. The market opens at 9 am most days, so it is perfect for grabbing a fresh bite to eat before heading off for a busy day of sightseeing. This Food Tour that takes you to the market is one of the most popular in Cincinnati.
14. Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum
A baseball museum dedicated to professional stars and legends.
Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum is pretty exciting for anyone who loves the ‘Reds’, with over 16,000 square feet of exhibits and sporting memorabilia. Whether you are familiar with the Cincinnati Reds or not, the over 90 players in the Hall of Fame are fascinating to learn about. It is easy to get overloaded with dense information at such niche museums. Still, Cincinnati Reds Museum keeps it engaging – with everything from trophies to pictures and videos.
For any sporting or baseball lover, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum is something to set time aside for. Combine it with watching a game. If you are a real baseball fan then this Baseball Focussed Tour is right up your alley.
15. National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
A museum retelling the story of brave escapes made by people in slavery prior to and after the Civil War.
Everyone loves social justice, and dark events and humanitarian crises are not something to shy away from, no matter how hard they are to face; the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is an interactive museum that opened in 2004. Far from being a century-established attraction in Cincinnati, this center has continually invested in restoring and maintaining a gap in Ohio’s cultural heritage. The Ohio River once separated the free states in the northern US from the slave states in the south of the US – acting as one of the largest natural barriers and a symbol of a huge ethical and political divide. It is poignant, therefore, that the museum sits on its banks.
One of the most impactful things about the Freedom Center is that it is reflective and forward-facing, with exhibits on current issues like motel trafficking cases and mass incarceration. It is a harrowing visit but a necessary one.
16. American Legacy Tours
A tour operator running different experiences around Cincinnati.
We rarely mention singular tour operator companies. Still, American Legacy Tours are so well-established that they are almost a standalone attraction. The tour company has been running since 2009 and has 14 tours throughout Cincinnati. These include everything from the Queen City Underground Tour to the Newport Gangster Tour. To experience Cincinnati from street level up, taking one of these tours is a fabulous idea. It really helps to immerse you in the city, embracing its culture and history while gazing at modern-day buildings and tucked away bits of history. You can check out haunted neighborhoods and hidden caverns or just head for Cincinnati dessert, whichever floats your boat.
You can book these tours easily online, and there are always high levels of availability just from the sheer number of tours running – American Legacy Tours stays busy. Booking tours like this provides a safety net and more security for solo travelers.
17. Krohn Conservatory
A scenic botanical garden with over 3,500 plant species and a waterfall.
Krohn Conservatory is heaven on Earth. The indoor botanical garden has more than 3,500 plant species, which creates a stunningly colorful scene of flowerbeds and rainforest-style surroundings. All situated in a greenhouse, it makes a fantastic indoor activity in Cincinnati. You’ll feel transported to some tropical corner of the world; there’s even an indoor waterfall and thousands of beautiful butterflies. On a rainy day, Krohn Conservatory is a solace from the elements, and it is a great wet day activity in Cincinnati. You spot many different plants, including bonsai trees and massive carnivorous plants. The whole place has an exciting atmosphere, full of natural beauty.
Krohn Conservatory is right on the banks of the Ohio River, just a short distance from the Cincinnati Art Museum and Eden Park. These three attractions are a fantastic combination.
18. Sawyer Point Park
A riverfront park with outdoor public recreation areas, including volleyball courts.
Sawyer Point Park is a beautiful public park on the banks of the Ohio River. The park stretches a mile in length and is an outdoor recreation hub. You’ll find walking paths, volleyball and tennis courts, and even public artwork. Sawyer Point Park is a picturesque urban green space with just enough character to convince you that you must still be near the quirky city center. When the park isn’t in hot use for events like concerts and festivals, it is busy being adored by residents and tourists alike.
Sawyer Point is where to visit Cincinnati if you love pretty views and pop-up events. Whatever the occasion, you’ll usually find a nod to it at Sawyer Point. And even without events, the recreational activities and facilities make the atmosphere electric. The Ohio River views and city skyline are also equally beautiful. We suggest combining it with a visit to the nearby Taft Museum of Art.
19. Cruise the River
Sunset cruise the Ohio River for beautiful views of Cincinnati.
Speaking of the Ohio River, a sunset cruise down the water is one of the most romantic activities in Cincinnati. You sit on a tiered riverboat, usually departing from Newport Dock. Most river cruise packages offer live entertainment onboard, like a live band or DJ. You sail along the river with Cincinnati’s skyline views as the sun sinks, and drinks and music keep you occupied. It really is a magical experience.
As you already know, the Ohio River was massively influential in history, especially as a barrier between free and slave states. Simply appreciating the river for its beauty is a way to unwind and relax. And the best way to experience any river is by sailing it, so get your ticket booked and start getting excited.
20. Coney Island Park
A family-friendly amusement park that switches themes seasonally.
Coney Island Park is a waterpark that meets fairground throughout the year, transforming into a winter wonderland each December. The park has 1/4 mile of waterslides and everything from diving boards to huge pools with water features. In summer especially, these water activities become gold dust. While in winter, you get Santa’s grotto-themed attractions and beautiful lights. All year round, Coney Island Park keeps things fresh and exciting, too, hosting regular events like the Balloon Glow and Summerfair. If you try, you can’t keep up with Coney Island Park, so we advise you to check the schedule beforehand and rock up accordingly.
Coney Island Park is an attraction that guarantees giggles and good memories. If you are visiting with kids – or just have a child’s personality still – then add it to your itinerary.
21. Cincinnati Ballet
A prestigious ballet school with regular performances.
Visiting the Cincinnati Ballet is one of the most exclusive things to do in Cincinnati. Ballet dancers are a picture of elegance, and attending a ballet is something everyone should do at least once. While the Cincinnati Ballet is an official school with hard-working ballet dancers training daily, it is also a performance venue. So if you keep an eye on the schedule, there is a performance you can attend while visiting Cincinnati.
The ballet school is just outside the city center, near Eden Park and Cincinnati Art Museum. You can easily combine performance with these two, creating an entire day in a small, walkable area.
22. American Sign Museum
A former factory now displaying bright neon signs as an unusual museum.
The American Sign Museum is set in an old former factory. Even more unusually, it is entirely dedicated to displaying neon signs. And impressively, it is the largest neon sign museum in the US – making it one of the things to do in Cincinnati. The museum has over 100 years of sign history and many neon photo opportunities. This is one of Cincinnati’s most aesthetic attractions, which ticks the novelty box.
You can visit the American Sign Museum as a self-guided audio tour or an entirely guided experience. Either works well; it just depends on your personality type.
23. Smale Riverfront Park
A park of rows of terraces and walking paths with riverside views.
Smale Riverfront Park is a 32-acre park designed to accommodate seasonal flooding with impressive yet functional terrace levels. The park has a splash pad and playground for young children and gardens and scenic walking paths for all ages. Smale Riverfront Park sits on the northern end of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, providing striking bridge and skyline views.
We suggest combining the Suspension Bridge and Smale Riverfront Park in one go, as the two are so close together. The park is ideal for grabbing a coffee and having a morning wander. While equally, for sunset, the park’s Moerlein Lager House is a beautiful spot for a beer and has stunning views from its wraparound patio.
24. Spring Grove Cemetery
A gothic 19th-century cemetery popular for horror and grave spotting tours.
A cemetery might not be where you thought you’d end up on your trip to Cincinnati, but here we are. Walking tours around Spring Grove Cemetery are extremely popular for horror and grave spotting purposes. The cemetery is a Gothic National Historic Landmark widely celebrated for its architecture and history. But you’ll also find famous names, including historical figures like Civil War generals like Cox, Lytle, McCook, and Hooker. A walking tour provides you with all the gruesome and historical details.
25. Washington Park
A civic park with regular cultural events.
Washington Park has the girl next door vibes. While it isn’t one of the flashiest, most ‘wow factor’ parks you can choose from in Cincinnati, it has a pleasant community feel. Families will love the splash pad and children’s playground. And when Washington Park runs a performance or cultural event, it quickly returns to the forefront of attention.
If you are traveling with children, Washington Park is the sort of place you head early doors when you just need to run energy off them. If you are traveling among adults, the park is somewhere where you randomly find a unique pop-up event that becomes one of the best experiences of your holiday.
26. Great American Ball Park
Baseball home field of the Cincinnati Reds.
We’ve snuck the Great American Ball Park onto a different Hall of Fame and Museum section. This section is where you’ll get all the action, as this is the home ground of the Cincinnati Reds. If you plan to attend a home game, this is where you’ll be heading. The whole stadium has an evident red theme, with red plastic seating and, when it is full, thousands of red shirts on fans. The US has an authentic baseball culture, especially in northern states like Ohio. Watching a live event is excellent for tasting the baseball culture.
Check the schedule to see if any games align with your visit, and if you really love your baseball, adjust your trip dates around the games.
27. Eden Park
A massive riverside park with numerous attractions and a 172-ft water tower.
Eden Park is a beautiful spot in Cincinnati. The whole park spreads 186 acres, although the Eden Park neighborhood covers even more distance and is simply the area surrounding the perimeter. The park is full of grassy tracks and green space, and it is basically the place to be on a sunny day when you can toss down a blanket and curl up to sunbathe with a book. Aside from walking paths and sunbathing spots, though, Eden Park has the Twin Lakes – a flooded quarry now a scenic water area and a popular place to launch boats.
Spending a day in Eden Park is such a pleasant way to unwind. This is one of the best places you can visit in Cincinnati to fill your nature quota.
How to get to Cincinnati
The easiest way to reach Cincinnati is to fly directly into Cincinnati International Airport. The airport is just 13 miles south of Downtown Cincinnati, making it convenient to fly in and travel to the city center. You can easily book your transfer here before you travel.
Alternatively, to snag cheaper flights, you can fly into Port Columbus International Airport or Louisville International Airport. From these two airports, you rent a car and drive approximately 2 hours to Cincinnati. Cleveland International Airport is another popular option if you don’t mind a 4-hour drive to reach Cincinnati after landing.
Cincinnati is connected to major cities by Amtrak and Greyhound. Amtrak is faster and comes with the option of private berths and onboard hotel room-style accommodation. For example, you can reach Cincinnati by Amtrak from Chicago and Washington, DC. Greyhound is a little cheaper but more rough-and-ready. Be prepared for long bus journeys with cramped seats and patchy WiFi. But if the trip is short or you travel overnight, Greyhound is an excellent budget-friendly way to reach Cincinnati.
Finally, you can also road trip to Cincinnati. The city center is in a brilliant location for road trips – close to Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and New York. If you have a few weeks, why choose a road trip route for extra adventure?
Getting Around Cincinnati
We don’t say this often, but Cincinnati is a car city. Most people get around the city by car. If you are anxious about big-city driving, Cincinnati might be the city that helps you get your teeth into it. Public transport exists but is hit and miss, and Cincinnati’s attractions need to be spread apart to access on foot. Even in Downtown Cincinnati, you’ll do a lot of walking to see the significant Cincinnati attractions. Check out rental car prices here.
If driving isn’t an option, the tourist line of the Metro bus is the next best thing. This bus takes you around the primary circuit of tourist attractions, so it is perfect for seeing the beaten track conveniently in a short time – no driving involved.
Best Time to Visit Cincinnati
We recommend seeing Cincinnati in warm weather. Why? Because so much of the city’s electric atmosphere relies on events and outdoor activities. For instance, to watch a game of FC Cincinnati or the Cincinnati Reds, you’ll only have a season window and enjoy it way more when you aren’t shivering. Similarly, the city has many parks and the beautiful Ohio River to admire. The whole city center is best set up for spring and summertime.
May to October is the general period to consider when planning a trip to Cincinnati. However, choose May or September if you really want the ultimate time to visit. These shoulder seasons have the best weather and fewest crowds – win, win.
FAQs About cincinnati
This Over The Rhine neighborhood is pretty dreamy regarding leisurely tourist activities. Even amongst residents, Cincinnati rates high for quality of life and frequently scores as one of the best places to live in the US. As a tourist, you get an exciting insight into this city. And all the freshness of unfamiliar attractions.
Exciting, right? But before starting your Cincinnati holiday, pay attention to these popular FAQs.
How do I spend a day in Cincinnati?
Grab breakfast at Findlay Market and try some of the city’s German-influenced cuisine. Next, head to the Underground Railroad Freedom Center to learn about the brave escapes of people escaping slavery before the Civil War. And finally, watch a sporting game in the evening, perhaps enjoying some of Cincinnati’s nightlife after.
What is Cincinnati famous for?
Cincinnati is famous for its German community and culinary influence, as well as serious sporting culture and beautiful green spaces along the Ohio River.
Is there a lot to do in Cincinnati?
Yes, there are enough attractions to fill at least three days in Cincinnati, so don’t underestimate how packed your itinerary will be. You can enjoy at least 15 established attractions and over 50 different activities. These top 27 things to do in Cincinnati are just the tip of the iceberg.
Visiting Cincinnati is exciting. The city center has everything from Art Deco architecture to art museums in Downtown Cincinnati and a ton of beautiful green spaces. There are so many things to do in Cincinnati, and we love the variety that the city offers the tourist scene. Hopefully, Cincinnati won’t remain under-loved for long. Last year Conde Nast Traveler named Cincinnati one of the best US places to see. At the start of 2023, new airline routes added Cincinnati to their connection portfolios. The world is catching on – luckily, you’ll just beat them.
If you want to experience these northern states in-depth, consider heading on one of the best US road trips in 2023. Cleveland in Ohio and Louisville in Kentucky are excellent add-ons if you have more time.