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. Here is my guide for what to do in Cincinnati, Ohio; a place you won’t possibly get bored in.
Eat the Best Dishes
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 runny egg yolk. Or, if you prefer sweet rather than savory, try the S’More Waffle.
Chef-inspired Mexican eats and a picturesque setting, both indoors and out, can be found at Nada, a highly raved “taco and cocktail joint” downtown Cincy. Try the trio of salsas, or go for broke with a sampling of all 5, served with fresh tortilla and plantain chips.
Then, pair your appetizer with a hand-crafted margarita or sangria. Habanero “kreeper” salsa was my favorite.
Graeter’s Ice Cream: An Ohio Tradition
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. This is a do-not miss Cincinnati stop.
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 choice of teas is one of the best.
Skyline Chili Hot Dogs
You can’t ever go wrong with a Skyline Chili hot dog. I’m a big fan of the beloved iconic coney dogs, but then again, the 3- way (chili, spaghetti, cheese), 4-way (add beans), and 5-way (add onions) meals are incredibly popular, too. Cincinnati chili has been pleasing palates since the 1940s.
Morelein Lager House
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.
Go to the Cincinnati Zoo
Visit the most popular hippo in the world, Fiona, born six weeks early at the Cincinnati Zoo. Fiona literally stole the hearts of animal lovers since her birth in December 2017. She has quite a fan club and devoted crowd that comes to see her frequently. Fiona just turned 5 years old, hit the 2000 pound mark, and has become a big sister to Fritz, who is a little wild man. I could watch the hippos frolic in the bloat all day long. They are so entertaining.
The Cincinnati Zoo, possibly the top attraction in the city, has done an amazing job of sharing stories of the animals at the zoo on their social pages that have resulted in the world falling in love with them.
Other noteworthy things to see are the zoo are the painted dogs, elephants, meerkats, and the World of Insects exhibit. The beautiful Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden are the second oldest in the country. Don’t miss the Reptile House, a National Historic Landmark built in 1875 in Turkish style.
Tour the American Sign Museum
Cincinnati’s American Sign Museum is a neon-filled wonderland guaranteed to make you reminisce and snap dozens of pictures. It is perfect for all ages and is a great conversation starter. The signs I liked best were the fiberglass Big Boy, Speedee McDonalds, and Sputnik signs. Expect to find signs dating back 100 years in this treasure trove. The American Sign Museum is one of the most unique things to do in Cincinnati.
Explore the Iconic Findlay Market
Findlay Market is a long-time farmer’s in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, with a popular Biergarten and lovely 19th-century architecture. You’ll find a wide array of meat, produce, seasonal items, and distinctive gifts here in Ohio’s oldest market. I love that it has as many seasonal farmers’ market vendors on the outside as it does on the inside. Findlay Market is one of the highest rated things to see and do in Cincinnati, OH.
There are a dozen or so places to grab a hot meal item from at the market and dozens of spaces to sit down and enjoy it. Choices range from BBQ and fish sandwiches to arepas and pierogies. Gourmet food shops are plentiful, with Grayson’s, Makers Bakers Co, and Dean’s Mediterranean Imports being the ones I can’t say no to.
Stop by the Taft Presidential Site
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.
Ride the Beautiful Belle of Cincinnati
Take a river cruise on the beautiful Belle of Cincinnati riverboat, complete with Victorian decor and plush accommodations. The pristine red and white BB Riverboats 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.
An open-air top deck allows for sensational views of the Cincinnati landscape and sights. There are several different cruises you can take, including dining, sightseeing, kids, holiday (brunch, lunch, and dinner), and specialty. I might add that the food on the Belle of Cincinnati is pretty darned tasty.
Tickets for the riverboat run $46-$69 depending on the option you choose. There is free parking where you board the boat on Riverboat Row. Cruises take place, rain or shine. Boarding ramps and main decks of each vessel are wheelchair accessible, while the Belle of Cincinnati has a passenger elevator for reaching the first, second, and third decks..
Catch a Professional Sporting Event
Cincinnati is home to the Cincinnati Reds pro baseball and Cincinnati Bengals pro football teams. Take in America’s favorite pastime 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 from August through December, while baseball games are played between March and September.
See Cincinnati’s Impressive 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
- Ezzard Charles: The Cincinnati Cobra
- Little Sure Shot (Annie Oakley)
Walk the John Roebling Bridge
Cincinnati is lucky to have one of the most beautiful, iconic, and stately bridges in the nation. Designed by civil engineer John Roebling, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge has brightened the city photos of this Midwestern city gem for over 150 years.
The bridge spans the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky, and was the prototype for the Empire State Building.
Wander the Impressive Cincinnati Art Museum
Cincinnati Art Museum, a stunning collection of paintings, sculptures, glass, and more, offers 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 excellent 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.
Seeing the incredible murals, walking the Roebling Bridge, and visiting the Art Museum are all free things to do in Cincinnati.
Learn about the 21c Museum Galleries
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 a remarkable 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!
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 works by this artist scattered throughout the hotel in the Elevate-Cincinnati exhibit.
Admire the Treasures at Taft Museum of Art
A somewhat hidden attraction in Cincinnati takes you to the Taft Museum of Art, one of the country’s most incredible small fine art museums. Its stunning galleries are in the historic Baum-Longworth-Sinton-Taft historic house, built in 1820. Works feature Rembrandt, 1600s pocket watches, Japanese collectibles, and Duncanson landscape murals, who became the first African American artist to earn international prestige.
These murals are now said to be the most important pre-Civil War domestic murals in the United States. Reserve a table for lunch in the onsite Lindner Family Cafe, open Wednesday through Sunday, for a great sandwich, soup, or quiche.
Cross Over to Newport, KY
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, pufferfish, 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.
What to Do in Cincinnati and Where to Stay
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 the busy downtown area. Guests and visitors can browse 21C’s art galleries with beautiful pieces spread over two floors of the hotel.
My 699 sq. ft. corner suite had an enormous living/dining room area with a sectional and hard contemporary chair that was actually very 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.
The hotel’s custom Rookwood Pottery Company tile and wrought iron bathroom held a double sink, refreshing 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.
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 a 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 prestigious Historic Hotels of America group.
To learn more about Cincinnati, visit the Cincinnati USA Official Travel website.
Thanks to the Cincinnati CVB for a portion of my visits. I also received complimentary tickets and reservations for a few of the museums, zoo, and attractions. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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