If Cincinnati isn’t on top of your list of places to visit, reconsider! This is a vibrant, bustling city along the banks of the Ohio River with an abundance of attractions to enjoy. There are festivals, parks, museums, and historical sites to explore. Plus, you will definitely eat and drink well (Cincy is also well known for its eighty-plus breweries).
Whether you have just a weekend or a longer stay in mind, the city will have plenty to keep you busy. Here, you’ll learn the details on 10 cool things to do in Cincinnati, as well as tips to make planning and paying for your trip that much easier.
Ready to explore the best things to do in Cincinnati? Read on.
Best Times to Go to Cincinnati
Cincinnati has warm summers that typically don’t get scorchingly hot, as well as reasonably temperate spring and fall seasons. Those can be the prime seasons to visit.
Located in the southwest corner of Ohio, winters can be warmer than Ohio towns and cities further north, but they can get quite cold, snowy, and icy. In general, April through October is the best time, weather-wise, to plan a trip.
If you enjoy attending festivals, Cincinnati has plenty in the summer and early fall. So, choose ones of interest and plan accordingly. Some of the more popular festivals include:
• Oktoberfest oktoberfestzinzinnati.com/
• Cincinnati Music Festival www.cincymusicfestival.com/
• Bunbury Music Festival bunburyfestival.com/
• BLINK, a light and art festival in October blinkcincinnati.com/
If sports games are more your thing, check the schedules of the Cincinnati Reds MLB team and the Bengals NFL teams — or one of the many played by students at the University of Cincinnati.
If these fun things to do in Cincinnati have captured your attention, you may want to decide where to keep a travel fund and start saving.
Bad Times to Go to Cincinnati
You’ve already read that winters can be, well, wintery and perhaps not the best time to visit. If you’d like to walk around and enjoy the sights, you may be put off by the low temperatures and how roads can be snow clogged and slippery during that season.
Also, Cincinnati can experience traffic congestion, especially downtown. Hectic times can include opening days for the sports teams or when a big game is about to be played — or during an in-demand festival. So if you’re not planning to attend any of these events, consider avoiding those dates when downtown is likely to be especially crowded.
Also investigate the status of the bridge over the Ohio River that connects Cincinnati, Ohio to Kentucky. When there is bridge construction or people are traveling to Kentucky in higher numbers, traffic can get backed up into downtown Cincinnati.
Average Cost on a Cincinnati Vacation
On average, a trip to Cincinnati costs a solo traveler $146 a day or $1,025 weekly. Plenty of factors impact the price, however. If driving, gas prices play a role. If flying, knowing how to get cheap flights can reduce your costs.
Hotels range from budget inns to luxurious lodging with in-demand amenities and luxury add-ons, and restaurants can be quick bites at a fast food establishment or an indulgent meal at a steakhouse.
What you choose will of course affect the prices. To help with financial planning, consider your credit card rewards and how you can leverage them to splurge.
If some of things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio for couples catch your eye, know that an average Cincy hotel price for two is $163. Knowing how to save money on hotels can help to cut back the average weekly cost of $2,050 for two.
10 Fun and Affordable Must-Dos in Cincinnati
Cincinnati is an intriguing city with highly enthusiastic sports fans alongside those who have a passion for art and culture (and those who love both!). Not surprisingly, then, the things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio are quite diverse: art, nature, and history venues as well as dining, shopping — and even world-class amusement park experiences.
Here, you’ll find a list of 10 fun things to do in Cincinnati, gathered from top-ranking online reviews as well as city-smart travelers.
1. Visit the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Founded in 1873, this highly rated zoo is the second-oldest one in the United States. Although the initial collection of animals was quite small (including a talking crow), today’s zoo will introduce you to gibbons, gorillas, lemurs, manatees, hippos, and more. An international leader in wildlife conservation, this zoo is now one of the country’s largest and can be a terrific place to spend some time while in Cincinnati. cincinnatizoo.org/
2. Tour a Massive Museum
The Cincinnati Art Museum is one of the oldest in the country — and quite large with more than 67,000 pieces of art that span 6,000 years of creativity. The collection ranges from African and East Asian art to contemporary American works, European sculptures, musical instruments, and so much more. cincinnatiartmuseum.org/
3. Take a Walk in the Park
After touring the art museum, step outside! You’ll find yourself in Eden Park with the Hinkle Magnolia Garden, Mirror Lake, walking paths, eye-catching sculptures, playgrounds, and more. The grounds are also home to the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Krohn Conservatory, outdoor concerts — and an incredible view of the Ohio River with Kentucky located just on the other side. This can be a great place to spend a couple of hours if you’re traveling with a pet, plus it’s a free thing to do in Cincinnati. cincinnati-oh.gov/cincyparks/visit-a-park/find-a-parkfacility/eden-park/
4. Appreciate More Art
The Taft Art Museum is a terrific journey back in time. Housed in an 1820 National Historic Landmark that’s a treat to visit, the art collection includes French Renaissance enamels, Chinese porcelain, European and American paintings, and more. You’ll view works by Rembrandt, Goya, Whistler, and other prominent artists. taftmuseum.org/
5. Go for a Ride
When looking for fun things to do in Cincinnati, put Kings Island on the list! There are big-time roller-coaster adventures plus three dozen water slides. If you’re traveling with children, there are thrills for the smaller set, such as the Planet Snoopy kiddie rides. Plus, you’ll find plenty of mouthwatering in-park dining options along with quality live entertainment to applaud.
Look for coupons online or check with your hotel’s concierge; discounts can be a way for families to afford to travel. visitkingsisland.com/
6. Immerse Yourself in History
Located near the banks of the Ohio River — a geographic feature that once divided states where slavery was legal from those where it wasn’t — the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center contains permanent and traveling exhibits. Visitors will learn about this challenging time in history and the heroes of the Underground Railroad. freedomcenter.org
Across the street, there’s a sign spelling “Cincinnati” in script with plenty of people taking selfies there before they go.
7. Watch a Baseball Game
Also located by the Ohio River, this is the stadium for America’s first professional baseball franchise, the Cincinnati Reds. So, if in town on a game day, buy tickets! You’ll walk by a statue of the Hall of Fame baseball catcher, Johnny Bench, and can visit the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum to celebrate the glory days of the Big Red Machine and more. Plenty of exhibits exist, including interactive ones, and players sometimes schedule personal appearances. mlb.com/reds/ballpark
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8. Stroll Around an Arboretum
Although cemeteries aren’t typically on a vacation list, Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum is one of only two historic cemeteries to achieve Level III arboretum standards. Its stunning gardens focus on Midwest natives along with non-indigenous species with a focus on demonstrating the “vital relationship that exists between plants and people.” springgrove.org/arboretum/
9. Get Acquainted with an Aquarium
From white alligators to stingrays to penguins, the award-winning Newport Aquarium offers unique views of thousands of types of exotic aquatic life, along with amazing interactive adventures. Cross the world’s first rope bridge above a tank full of sharks, explore a sunken ship at “Shipwreck: Realm of the Eels,” and much more. newportaquarium.com/
10. Eat Well (Really Well)
If you are looking for delicious things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio, for couples or a family, stop by the Findlay Market. This is the state’s oldest surviving municipal market house. A huge range of good eats are available; if one of you is vegan and the other isn’t, no problem! There is something for everyone here: pho, arepas, BBQ, and more. Maybe take one of the market’s walking tours so you don’t miss anything. findlaymarket.org/
A Note About Getting Around
Although it’s not totally true that all of Cincinnati attractions are located downtown, many of them are. So, keep that in mind while engineering your itinerary for each day and when seeking convenient lodging.
• If you want to avoid highly trafficked places to stay, spread out from the downtown area when looking for options, perhaps into Kentucky.
• Although most attractions are open year round, check to ensure the ones you want stay open through the winter.
• Consider the streetcar with its eighteen downtown stops if you’d like to see key places without having to drive.
• If the attractions you want to see are quite far apart, you might look into renting a car to make sure you hit all the highlights.
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Fun things to do in Cincinnati take place throughout the year, depending upon your interests. Plenty of options exist for people who love art, nature, sports, music, food, and much more. Most festivals take place in summer and early fall, while football fun extends the fun of visiting further into the year. Whether you are traveling solo, with friends, or with family, you are likely to have more top things to do in Cincinnati than you can pack into a single trip.
Whether you want to travel more or get a better ROI for your travel dollar, SoFi can help. SoFi Travel is a new service exclusively for SoFi members that lets you budget, plan, and book your next trip in a convenient one-stop shop. SoFi takes the guessing game out of how much you can afford for that honeymoon, family vacation, or quick getaway — and we help you save too.
What foods is Cincinnati famous for?
Chili! A Greek family brought its special recipes to the United States in 1949, and its been loved by Cincinnati residents and visitors ever since. This is also the city for beer lovers with its eighty-plus breweries and nightlife spots. Need a third one? Ice cream!
Is Cincinnati in two states?
Although you may hear portions of Kentucky and Indiana referred to as part of the greater Cincinnati metro area, the actual city lies within the geographical boundaries of just one state: Ohio.
Can you walk in downtown Cincinnati?
Yes! Cincy is a walkable city, and it isn’t unusual to see significant numbers of people strolling by on the sidewalks as well as in parks and other venues.
Photo credit: iStock/pawel.gaul
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