cincinnati skyline and reds ballpark

The Best Things to Do in Cincinnati

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The best things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio, include exploring fun museums, a world-class zoo, eating tasty food, and indulging in the arts.

The fun-filled city of Cincinnati sits on the banks of the Ohio River. Often referred to as Cincy, it is home to loads of street art, two professional sports teams, great restaurants, a beloved theme park, and unique neighborhoods.

On a road trip, my daughter, Taylor, and I visited Cincinnati, Ohio, and had a spectacular time. The city is filled with so many great options, but these are the best things to do in Cincinnati based on our travels.

best things in cincy

Where to Eat in Cincinnati

Chef-inspired Mexican eats and a picturesque setting, both indoors and out, can be found at Nada, a highly raved about “taco and cocktail joint” in downtown Cincy. Try the trio of salsas, or go for broke with a sampling of all 5, served with fresh tortilla and plantain chips. Pair your appetizer with a hand-crafted margarita or sangria. Habanero “kreeper” salsa was my favorite. 

cincinnati skyline and reds ballpark

Satisfy your after-dinner craving with a scoop of locally made ice cream. Graeter’s is a regional ice cream chain that originated in Cincy. They have been handcrafting French-pot ice cream for 145 years. Black Raspberry, with shards of chocolate, is my favorite.

mexican food and graeters ice cream in cincinnati

Sink your teeth into authentic Belgian eats at Taste of Belgium, a sophisticated eatery where the waffles are the star of the show. I swear by the OG (Original Galette) with ham, gruyère, and a runny egg yolk. Or, if you prefer sweet rather than savory, try the S’More Waffle.

taste-of-belgium-brunch

Grab your morning cup of joe from Coffee Emporium in either the Over-the-Rhine or East Hyde Park location. The pastry selection at this oldest coffee house in Cincinnati is mouthwatering and the selection of teas is one of the best.

Cute place to grab a coffee in downtown Cincinnati.

Morelein Lager House is a world-class working beer bar in the heart of Cincinnati. You can choose from a huge selection of smoked rotisserie meats, hand-carved sandwiches, and yummy appetizers, and lots more. Order a meat and cheese board to share with the table.

Dining at Moerlein Lager House is a must even if you only have 24 hours in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Cincinnati Chili

It would be a shame to visit Cincinnati and not try Cincinnati chili, a sweet-style of beanless chili that is unlike others. While rival chains Skyline and Gold Star battle it out over whose is best, another contender, Camp Washington Chili give a third tasty option. Try the 3-way (chili, spaghetti, cheese), 4-way (add beans), or 5-way (add onions), and see which you prefer. I’m more of the cheese coney kinda gal. Cincinnati chili has been pleasing palates since the 1940s. 

cheese coneys Cincinnati

Visit the Top Attractions

Visit the most popular hippo in the world, Fiona (born 1/24//17 six weeks early), at the Cincinnati Zoo. She has quite a fan club and devoted crowd that comes to see her frequently. She literally stole the hearts of animal lovers since her birth. Other noteworthy things to see are the painted dogs, elephants, meerkats, and the World of Insects exhibit. The beautiful Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is the second oldest in the country.

adorable penguin at cincinnati zoo
fiona hippo and train at cincinnati zoo

The American Sign Museum is a neon-filled wonderland guaranteed to make you reminisce and snap dozens of pictures. It can be enjoyed by all ages and is a great conversation starter. The signs I liked best were the fiberglass Big Boy, Speedee McDonalds, and Sputnik sign. 

big-boy-24-hours-cincinnati-sign-museum
american-sign-museum-cincinnati-sputnik

The Findlay Market is a long-time farmer’s market selling meat, produce, seasonal items, and distinctive gifts. It is also Ohio’s oldest. The market is in the popular Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, which has a Biergarten and is surrounded by lovely 19th-century architecture.

cincinnati public market

Explore President William Howard Taft’s birthplace and childhood home, a National Historic Site, a mile north of downtown Cincinnati. Several interesting pieces of furniture and artifacts of the 27th President are on display.

Touring President Taft's birthplace and home is a must even if you only have 24 hours in Cincinnati., Ohio

Take a river cruise on the beautiful Belle of Cincinnati riverboat. The pristine red and white boat offers a hint of romance, yesteryear, and a wonderful place to make memories on your special day or event. The afternoon tour includes a lunch buffet (chicken, beef tips, mashed potatoes, veggies, cheesecake, salad, rolls, and soda or tea) and narrated tour along the banks of Ohio, Kentucky, and Ohio River.

The photo-ops are incredible, and there are several different cruises you can take. I might add that the food on the Belle of Cincinnati is pretty darned tasty. 

lunch and scenic cruising belle of cincinnati
belle of cincinnati riverboat

Catch a Game

Cincinnati is home to the Cincinnati Reds pro baseball and Cincinnati Bengals pro football teams. Take in America’s favorite past time by seeing the first baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds (5 time World Series champs), at the Great American Ball Park. The Bengals play at the Paul Brown Stadium. Football season runs August through December, while baseball games are played between March and September.

cincinnati reds statue at findlay market

Cool Cincinnati Murals

Cincinnati has an impressive street art scene and some of the best I’ve seen in the country. Visit Art Works Cincinnati to see a list of current murals and where to see them. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • The Vision of Samuel Hannaford
  • The Cincinnati Strong Man: Henry Holtgrewe
  • The Migration of Tradition
  • Energy and Grace
  • Faces of Homelessness
  • The Village We Call Home
  • Ice Cream Daydream
  • Armstrong
  • Ezzard Charles: The Cincinnati Cobra
  • Little Sure Shot (Annie Oakley)
  • Rise
murals and bridges of cincinnati
ezzard charles boxer mural cincinnati

Free Art in Cincinnati

Cincinnati Art Museum, a stunning collection of paintings, sculptures, glass, and more, offers totally free admission. It isn’t often you come across a treasure like this that is yours for the taking. The museum sits on a stately hill that is fun to drive to and offers nice photo-ops.

Pinocchio greets you as you enter the museum, and a deep blue Dale Chihuly glass piece hangs inside the door. Some of my favorite pieces include the glass dresses by LaMonte, Rookwood pottery, The Puritan bronze statue by Saint-Gaudens, and Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Botticelli, circa 1469.

dale chihuly at museum of art cincy
botticelli piece at cincinnati art museum

Explore downtown Cincinnati on foot and see the incredible buildings and murals around the Over the Rhine neighborhood. The Tyler Davidson Fountain (Genius of Water) has been a focal point in downtown for nearly 150 years now. It is thought of as Cincinnati’s symbol. People come here nightly to enjoy good brews, trivia, and lots more. 

Awe over Cincinnati’s impressive bridges, namely the Covington and Cincinnati bridge designed by John Roebling. It was the prototype for the Empire State Building.

architecture and fountain in downtown cincy

Hidden Free Art in Cincy

The art gallery in 21c Museum MGallery Hotel Cincinnati is free to the public. Explore two floors of 21st century art as you’ve never seen it, displayed in an awesome manner that makes the art come to life in a vibrant setting. There are excellent pieces from artists Ebony Patterson (tapestry/mixed media) and Kehinde Wiley (paintings), and even the hallway has an art display in light form. If you haven’t experienced Kehinde Wiley’s work, you are in for a real treat. His artwork is sensational!

best things in cincinnati oh

I found the latch-hook rug pieces most interesting and the “tho you be tiny you be fierce” Pam Kravetz display on my hotel floor, fun. You’ll see other pieces by this artist scattered throughout the hotel in the Elevate-Cincinnati exhibit.

yellow penguin and art in 21c cincinnati hotel lobby
art in lobby at 21c hotel cincinnati

Nearby Attractions

Across the bridge into Kentucky sits the fabulous Newport on the Levee, a premier outdoor entertaining, dining, and shopping complex. The Newport Aquarium is a world-class venue with hands-on touch tanks, dart frogs, puffer fish, eels, sharks, and seahorses. It is an attraction that is fun for the entire family. It will take you all of 10 minutes to get there from downtown Cincy, so why not cram more excitement into your visit? I’m still amazed by the cool-looking upside down jellyfish and Gentoo penguins.

fish and eels at newport aquarium kentucky

Where to Stay in Cincinnati 

There are many great hotels around Cincinnati, but two top our list. First, the trendy and stylish award-winning 21c Museum MGallery Hotel Cincinnati is fantastic in downtown amid the hustle and bustle. Guests and visitors can browse 21C’s art galleries with beautiful pieces spread over two floors of the hotel.

art gallery at 21c cincinnati hotel

My 699 sq. ft. corner suite had an enormous living/dining room area with a sectional and hard contemporary chair that was actually quite comfortable. A four-seat table and chairs afforded great city views and made for an awesome work and dining spot. The modest king bedroom had premium white bed linens, warm lighting, and artsy wall sconces.

21c hotel room cincinnati ohio

The 21c Museum MGallery Hotel Cincinnati’s marble custom Rookwood Pottery Company tile and wrought iron bathroom held a double sink, fantastic shower and European bath combo (a wet room: something 21C Hotels are famous for), comfy robe, and separate lavatory. For dedicated 21C fans, this location’s penguins are gold. 

furnished suite and bath at 21c cincinnati hotel ohio
21c cincinnati hotel gift shop and room

A second choice is the iconic Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza. The 40,000 square-foot French Art Deco hotel boasts 561 rooms, an indoor pool, a shopping arcade, and state-of-the-art gym. Netherland Plaza is in a fantastic location for seeing the downtown area on foot.

The Orchid at Palm Court (the Netherland’s onsite restaurant) is Ohio’s highest-rated restaurant. Luxury accommodations (queen bed junior suite) offered Serenity beds, a separate parlor room for watching TV, and two full bathrooms.

Both hotels are members of the Historic Hotels of America group. 

The Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza is an amazing place to stay even if you only have 24 hours in Cincinnati, Ohio.

To learn more about Cincinnati, visit the Cincinnati USA Official Travel website. 

Thanks to the Cincinnati CVB for hosting my stay. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.

Touring the American Sign Museums cool neon treasures is a must even if you only have 24 hours in Cincinnati., Ohio
admission free cincinnati museum of art glass and paintings
tall building murals in cincinnati
findlay market shops and cafe

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awesome things to do in cincy

Check out more of our posts: 

Weekend Guide to Charleston, WV

Things You’ll Love About Pittsburgh

4 Reasons You Should Visit Dayton

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