Best Things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio

The 15 Best Things to Do in Cincinnati, Ohio

Located in the southwestern part of Ohio, Cincy or the Queen City, as locals like to call it, has plenty to offer. With everything from the nation’s first pro baseball team (the Red Stockings) to its signature chili and its historic Findlay Market, this Midwestern town packs a punch when it comes to fun things to do!

Known for its vibrant art murals, buzzing craft breweries and gastropubs, and trendy upcoming neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine, you will revel in the delights of this mid-sized city. It’s home to well over 50 breweries that can either be visited on a self-guided tour or a guided tour where locals can point out the best taprooms. 

Once you are buzzed, head to the Great American Ball Park to watch the Reds play ball. To learn all about the history of the team, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum is also worth a stop. For something slower-paced, head to Findlay Market. Here you can shop till you drop at the city’s oldest shopping market, which has run continually in the same spot since 1855. 

With so many things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Cincinnati for you. Stick to these fun and unique Cincinnati bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this Midwestern gem!

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1. Enjoy Fine Art at the Cincinnati Art Museum

Best Things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio: Art Museum

The stunning Romanesque-style Cincinnati Art Museum is home to over 60,000 works of art spread across 18,000 square feet. The art museum is so determined to allow everyone to enjoy the wonders of art that they have made admission free for everyone.

The adventure begins as soon as you approach the building, as you’ll be greeted by a 12-foot-tall bronze Pinocchio sculpture created by Cincinnati native Jim Dine. Step inside to see works by big-name artists such as Claude Monet, Renoir, Edward Hopper, and Sandro Botticelli.

Plus, on the last Friday of every month, the museum holds Art After Dark, an event adored by locals that’s easily one of the most fun things to do in Cincinnati for art enthusiasts. You can experience full access to the galleries after hours, live music in the main hall, and guided tours. Enjoy a glass of wine while admiring the artwork, or grab a bite to eat outside at one of the food trucks. 

2. Explore Eden Park and the Krohn Conservatory

Cool Things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio: Eden Park and the Krohn Conservatory

Eden Park is a haven for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a short while. Overlooking the Ohio River, this park is home to a pond full of ducks, stunning gazebos and pavilions, two theaters, a children’s playground, and scenic views that make it the perfect place to stop and have a picnic.

On the grounds, there are also several statues, many gifted by foreign governments, including a replica statue of Romulus and Remus that was supposedly gifted by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

While you’re in the area, don’t miss one of the top Cincinnati attractions, the Krohn Conservatory. It hosts five seasonal floral shows, ranging from a fabulous Italian-style display in the summer to the crowd-favorite butterfly show in the spring, where you can admire and interact with thousands of colorful butterflies. There’s also a miniature city, with trains and various buildings, hidden amid the greenery.

If you’re in town for the holidays, check out their Winter Wonderland display. The whole venue is beautifully decorated with poinsettias and coleuses, complete with a mesmerizing train that runs right above your head.

Year-round, you can stroll through this tropical paradise to see the serene koi pond, hear the soothing sounds of the rainforest waterfall, and be amazed by the stunning collection of rare orchids.

3. Skip through the Fairytale Forests of the Mt. Airy Forest

Mt. Airy Forest was established back in 1911, making it one of the first urban reforestation projects in the country. This place is as large as most state parks, with nearly 1,500 acres for you to stroll, hike, bike, or even horseback ride your way through.

Make use of their charcoal grills on a sunny day by having a barbecue while the kids entertain themselves by either playing disc golf or enjoying the playground. Afterward, you can all explore “Everybody’s Treehouse,” which was designed to be inclusive for all and is easy to access with strollers, wheelchairs, and mobility scooters. 

It’s also the perfect spot for bird-watching. For those seeking some serious hikes, don’t worry – there are plenty of trails for you to choose from. This is a really great spot for photography, too.

Mt. Airy Forest hosts tons of shoots for both weddings and engagements. With its gazebos, specialty gardens, lovely meadows, and picturesque lake, it’s not hard to see why so many people choose this place to celebrate their special day.

4. Rollick in the Neon Glow of the American Sign Museum

Cool Things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio: American Sign Museum
Images courtesy of Visit Cincy

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Cincinnati, you’ll definitely want to pay a visit to the American Sign Museum. Bask in the vibrant glow of neon, and be sure to wear your favorite outfit because this is the perfect place for a quirky photoshoot. With signs made of metal, wood, porcelain enamel, opal glass, and plastic, this place has a real retro vibe. 

Stroll through over 100 years of American sign history in the largest public museum dedicated to signs in the United States. Don’t forget to bring your headphones because the detailed audio tour is completed through your phone. This museum is a must-see for lovers of all things Americana and anyone who enjoys quirky museums.

Best Things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio: American Sign Museum

Explore the dying art of tube-bending! Don’t miss Neonworks of Cincinnati, the full-time neon workshop that’s conveniently located inside the American Sign Museum. Here you can watch the fascinating glass-benders in action, with artists creating and repairing neon signs.

It’s recommended that you watch the movie first, not last, in order to fully appreciate this museum, as it highlights some of the museum’s key pieces.

5. Take Yourself Out to a Ball Game

Must do things in Cincinnati, Ohio: Cincinnati Reds

The Cincinnati Reds are famous for being the first professional baseball club, forming as the Cincinnati Red Socks back in 1869. Known simply as the Reds since 1881, they have won five World Series championships and counting!

You’ll have a blast at the aptly named “Great American Ball Park” stadium as you anticipate the famous phrase “play ball.” Enjoy the game with the perfect snacks like pretzel bites or a chili cheese dog, and be sure to wash it all down with a refreshing Hudy Delight, Cincinnati’s very own light beer. If you are on a budget, you can always pack a cooler and bring in your own food and non-alcoholic drinks.

Cincinnati, Ohio Bucket List: Cincinnati Reds

Couldn’t get tickets? Don’t worry – you can still visit the Hall of Fame and Museum. The museum is really well designed and super informative, making it great for families and even people who don’t know much about this classic American pastime. It features artifacts, uniforms, interactive exhibits, and even a funny video of baseball bloopers.

6. Eat Your Way around the Historic Findlay Market

What to do in Cincinnati, Ohio: Findlay Market

Findlay Market sits in downtown Cincinnati and is one of the oldest public markets in Ohio. One of the top Cincinnati attractions, this bustling market is nestled among the ornate brick buildings in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, one of the city’s most trendy and upcoming destinations. 

Here, you can haggle with flea market vendors and peruse handicrafts like jewelry, paintings, and even cookware made by local stonemasons. When the sun is shining, be sure to hit up one of the German-style beer gardens, where you can sit with a cold one and watch the street performers do their thing.

The main attraction is definitely the food, with over 50 full-time merchants selling their specialties. You can find tons of fresh produce like local cheese, meats, seafood, and wine. You can explore dozens of ethnic food stalls, too, where you can taste everything from delicious Belgian waffles to zingy Greek tzatziki.

Findlay Market hosts more than a dozen events each year – from kitchen tasting sessions, spoken word poetry, art demos, and seasonal events like the Howl-O-Ween Doggie Costume Contest, complete with doggie prizes!

7. Take a Stroll along the Smale Riverfront Park

Best Things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio: Smale Riverfront Park

With stunning 360-degree views of the city, the ballpark, and the Roebling suspension bridge, this is a truly relaxing way to spend an evening while soaking up the city. When you start feeling peckish, there are plenty of amazing eateries waiting for you along the riverbank as well.

There are so many activities for kids: they can play with the massive chessboard, scale the climbing walls, get lost in the labyrinth, or simply splash around in the fountain. For adults, there is also a lovely family-sized swing set that overlooks the Ohio River and a giant playable keyboard that you can dance on. 

Located in the heart of the city and close to everything you could possibly need, Smale Riverfront Park is worth a spot on your Cincinnati bucket list. Pro tip: You’ll find plenty of free parking at Pete Rose Way.

8. Gaze Up at the Stars at the Cincinnati Observatory

A trip to the Cincinnati Observatory is one of the coolest things to do in Cincinnati if you’re fascinated by astronomy. They still use their original telescope from 1845, the oldest telescope in the whole country.

If you’re new to this science, astronomy evenings at the Cincinnati Observatory are the perfect way to learn all about the stars that twinkle in the night sky. If you really want to nerd out, you can book a beginner’s astronomy class that is taught by their resident astronomer. They also hold regular nightly events like romantic Date Nights and history tours about the area. 

After you’re done, take a short walk to the nearby coffee emporium for a pick-me-up and a view of the magical mushroom house. It was built by architect Terry Brown and took over a decade to finish. When you see the amount of detail that went into this functional artwork, you’ll understand why!

9. Catch a Live Show at the Cincinnati Music Hall

Fun Things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio: Cincinnati Music Hall

This National Historic Landmark was built in 1878, and with its Victorian Gothic architecture, the Cincinnati Music Hall is easily one of the most recognizable Cincinnati attractions. It gets even better once you step inside, as the building is adorned with glistening chandeliers, marble floors, and painted ceilings that are reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel. The whole place just oozes old-world charm!

Originally serving as the city’s first convention center, it has seen major renovations and changes since then and is now home to the Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Ballet, and the May Festival. Performances aren’t just limited to classical music. The Cincinnati Music Hall is also a premier venue for events and concerts, hosting big-name acts like Pink Floyd, Elton John, and B.B. King. 

The Cincinnati Music Hall is a great spot for those that have an interest in the supernatural, as it is rumored to be haunted and was even featured on an episode of Ghost Hunters. For those that prefer parks to poltergeists, Washington Park is located directly across the street and provides a much-needed relaxing outdoor space for visitors.

10. Find Luck and Prosperity at the Lucky Cat Museum

Cincinnati, Ohio Bucket List: Lucky Cat Museum

This unique little gem of a museum is full to the brim with over 2,000 lucky cats. A trip here is always a good idea if you’re looking for unique things to do in Cincinnati!

This is such a great stop for lovers of cats, quirky museums, and all things kitsch. Despite popular belief, lucky cats or “Maneki-Neko” are actually Japanese, not Chinese, and traditionally depicted as a calico Japanese bobtail. 

The owner even brings her real-life kitty companion to work with her on Wednesdays for a meet and greet. Schedule a tour on the Lucky Cat Museum’s website. The tours last about 45 minutes, and you’ll learn all about the history of these good luck charms. 

Bring some luck home with you by picking up your own little lucky cat to brighten up your home or workspace. They even have a gumball machine that releases a golden egg full of lucky cat memorabilia!

11. Get Lost in the Beautiful Glenwood Gardens

One of the top sights in Cincinnati, this beautifully landscaped park features over 300 acres of colorful formal gardens and forested nature trails that lead to wetland habitats and peaceful prairies. Glenwood Gardens is the perfect place to appreciate the great outdoors, with opportunities to hike, bike, picnic, and nature-watch. 

The Highfield Discovery Garden is guaranteed to be a hit for people of all ages. It was designed to encourage visitors to explore the natural world in a fun way. Your nose will be in absolute heaven with the delightful smells emanating from the plants in Grandma’s Scent Garden. In the Wizard’s Garden, you’ll have to tip-toe through, being careful not to wake the sleeping dragon, then head over the bouncy bridge at the Fairy Garden.

There are educational opportunities here as well, with daily nature programs conducted in the garden workshop. Venture to the Cotswolds Visitors Center, named because of its resemblance to the rolling green landscape of the Cotswold in England. Though it once served as a residence, it now offers visitors a place to stop and shop for unique nature-themed gifts.

12. Experience One of the First Contemporary Arts Centers in the US

Cincinnati, Ohio Bucket List: Contemporary Arts Center

The Contemporary Arts Center is a mesmerizing gallery located in Cincinnati and one of the first modern art museums in the nation. They have displayed work by many now-famous artists early on in their careers, including Andy Warhol. Designed by award-winning Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, the building itself is an architectural marvel and one of the top things to see in Cincinnati.

You can marvel at paintings, sculptures, photography, and performance art, and, best of all, admission is free! You’ll love the permanent “The Unmuseum” exhibition on the 6th floor.

This area is an absolute crowd-pleaser, with interactive exhibits that encourage you to touch the artwork! While you’re there, be sure to take an awesome selfie with artwork like the Shark Girl.

The museum really focuses on exhibitions that reflect “the art of the last five minutes.” This is shown through the modern artwork that focuses on socially relevant issues of today, like climate change. The exhibitions always manage to be both whimsical and thought-provoking. They change their exhibitions regularly, so no two visits will be the same.

13. Discover the City’s Past at the Cincinnati Museum Center 

Cincinnati, Ohio Things to do: Cincinnati Museum Center

Housed in one of the country’s most incredible train stations, the Cincinnati Museum Center boasts three museums in one, as well as an Omnimax theater and a special hall for traveling exhibitions. Built in 1933, and having completed a total transformation and renovation in 2018, you’ll want to book an entire day to explore this Cincinnati icon. 

The Art-Deco train station is one of the coolest things to see in Cincinnati and a family favorite since it has multiple museums under one roof.  Admission tickets include a visit to the Cincinnati History Museum, the Museum of Natural History and Science, and the Children’s Museum. Plus, the train station is still used today for Amtrak trains, so you might see one come and go!

Scope out the Museum of Natural History to see a cave with real bats inside, or step back in time to visit the Ice Age exhibit. Kids will also enjoy the award-winning Children’s Museum, where they are encouraged to play on the eight hands-on exhibits. 

Learn about the city’s heritage and contributions at the History Museum, where you’ll learn about early life in Ohio. Plus, there are other add-ons you can add to your ticket, like catching a show on the five-story domed screen at the Omnimax Theater. 

To wrap up your visit, stop by the old-school ice cream parlor decked out in locally-made tiles and enjoy your treat outside next to the fountain for some sweet views of the downtown area. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Cincinnati for the whole family, you really can’t go wrong with the Cincinnati Museum Center.

14. Learn about History at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center 

Must do things in Cincinnati, Ohio: National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Located in downtown Cincinnati, just a few steps from the Ohio River, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is a great resource that chronicles the poignant history of the United States. 

The center is rooted in an important part of the city and nation’s history. It’s located in the heart of what was once one of Cincinnati’s first African American communities, and many enslaved people took the Kentucky to Ohio route to cross the river into freedom. 

One of the most interesting Cincinnati activities, you should plan to spend an entire afternoon exploring the center’s three buildings. Within its walls, you will find several theaters, permanent and temporary interactive exhibits, a research center, and a cafe.

Through the interactive, thought-provoking exhibits, you’ll hear stories about the slave experience. You’ll also learn about prominent abolitionists like Harriet Tubman, as well as other lesser-known heroes of that period, many of whom lived in the region. 

One of the most important exhibits features the clever ways in which the brave slaves escaped to the North to freedom. The center covers three centuries of history, with a focus on the Civil War era, but it also holds a place for current issues facing the world today, like human trafficking. The center also hosts special events, like rotating art exhibits, film screenings, and discussions, throughout the year. 

15. Take a Tour in the Over-the-Rhine District

Cincinnati, Ohio Bucket List: Over the Rhine District

If you’re looking for cool things to do in Cincinnati, you’ll find them in spades in the Over-the-Rhine district. Head to this hip part of town to learn about the city’s history via a self-guided walking tour while you sip on craft brews. Located in the hood that was once a working-class German neighborhood, this part of town now boasts trendy breweries, raved-about gastropubs, and hip bars. 

Cincinnati is home to over 50 breweries, so if you don’t know where to start, head here for a DIY tour. Just look down and follow the bronze markers on the sidewalks through the historic district and past lots of breweries and attractions.

The area is easy to tackle on foot. However, there are other options as well. You can rent a Red Bike or an electric scooter or hop on the Cincinnati Streetcar, which is free to ride.

Free maps are available at many local businesses, or grab one at the Brewing Heritage Trail Tour Center or at the Cincinnati USA Visitors Center at Fountain Square. For a guided tour with a knowledgeable guide, book a tour or hop on one that’s already started at Findlay Market or at Grant Park. Not only will you hear about the history of the city from an insider, but it’s a unique way to do some Cincinnati sightseeing. 

Go underground on the 2-hour-long Brewers and Barons Trail Tour, where you’ll visit historic breweries, including the subterranean tunnels and cellars where they once stored beers.

On this tour, you’ll learn about the city’s pre-Prohibition history with beer, including famous brewing barons and their establishments. At the end, you’ll be rewarded with a pint of local beer in one of the taprooms while learning about other breweries to visit on your Cincinnati trip. 

There you have it—the 15 best things to do in Cincinnati. What’s your favorite thing to do in Cincinnati? Drop us a note and let us know!

About the Author

  • Carrie Back

    Carrie Ann Back is part-time travel writer and full-time globetrotter based in Southeast Asia. Recent bylines include Travel + Leisure, Parents Magazine, Postcards Magazine, Culture Trip, Matador Network, & more!

    Leaving her home in 2015, she has embarked on an around-the-world journey and has been traveling continuously ever since. Her most recent adventures include working in the Bolivian Amazon jungle, surfing in Sri Lanka, and exploring Laos via a slow boat up the Mekong River.

    She’s a proud member of the Cherokee Nation and is passionate about sustainable travel. She now lives in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with her cat Lil’ Mama. Most nights, you can find her munching down at the street food vendors.

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