15 Best Things to Do in Cincinnati, OH
Inarguably one of the more famous U.S. cities, Cincinnati in Hamilton County comes as a top-of-mind destination when visiting southwestern Ohio.
This city is a river town that flourished along the northern stretch of the confluence of the Ohio and Licking rivers.
Europeans first settled here in 1788, with German immigrants dominating the Cincinnati pioneers.
The beer-loving Germans earned Cincinnati the title “Beer Capital of the World.”
Cincinnati remains a beer city, with about 80 breweries, taprooms, and brewpubs in its fold and adjacent areas.
Incorporated as a town in 1802 and as a city in 1819, Cincinnati came to be known in those times as the “Paris of America” and “Little Paris.”
These nicknames arose from the city’s construction of many buildings with elegant architecture.
Many of these historic buildings remain standing today and are among the points of interest in Cincinnati.
Check out the list of the best things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio!
Tour the OTR District
Capture much of the essence of Cincinnati at once with a visit to its Over-the-Rhine district.
Called “OTR” for short, this district is on the north edge of the city’s downtown.
Its area, tucked on the northeast quadrant of Central Parkway and West Central Parkway, is one of the largest districts listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
OTR was included on this list because of its numerous 19th-century buildings featuring well-preserved vintage architectural designs.
The OTR District, originally a working-class German neighborhood, is now hosting craft breweries, trendy bars, hip gastropubs, restaurants, coffee shops, and vibrant event venues.
Visit the Cincinnati Art Museum
Located on Eden Park Drive, the Cincinnati Art Museum holds a collection of more than 67,000 art pieces.
The museum was established in 1881, and the timeline of the collected artworks spans over 6,000 years.
Traveling exhibits and permanent displays draw thousands of visitors annually to the museum’s 18,000-square-foot space.
The displays include works of masters like Pablo Picasso, Sandro Botticelli, Pierre-August Renoir, Bernardo Strozzi, and Claude Monet.
Besides featuring European art pieces, the museum also displays masterpieces of U.S., Native American, African, East Asian, and South Asian artists.
Prints, photography, musical instruments, decorative arts, design, antiquities, and Islamic art are also represented in the museum’s displays.
The Cincinnati Art Museum also has an outdoor extension in its Art Climb at the corner of Eden Park Drive and Gilbert Avenue, mainly featuring sculptures.
Check Out the William Howard Taft National Historic Site
The National Park Service has preserved the boyhood home of the 27th U.S. President, William Howard Taft, in the Mount Auburn District of Cincinnati.
The William Howard Taft National Historic Site is one exciting place to visit for insights into what helped shape Taft’s philosophy and character.
The historic site is on Auburn Avenue and offers ranger-guided tours of the Victoria-style residence where Taft spent his childhood.
The site provides a Taft Education Center as the first stop for house visitors.
Likewise, the center screens a 15-minute orientation film, William Howard Taft, Public Servant.
It also offers souvenirs in a small gift shop which likewise features presidential books and rotating exhibits.
During summer, the historic site’s grounds serve as a venue for special events like the annual Ice Cream Festival.
Exploring the Mount Auburn neighborhood, known as Cincinnati’s “Fifth Avenue” during the 19th century, would also be interesting.
The neighborhood flaunts vintage houses notable for Greek Revival, Federal, Romanesque Revival, Italian Villa, and Georgian Revival styles.
Spend the day at the William Howard Taft National Historic Site.
Catch an Event at Washington Park
This park on Elm Street is an epicenter of Cincinnati’s outdoor recreational activities.
Established in the 1860s, Washington Park hosts more than 500 events annually.
Many of these activities, such as the park’s exercise classes, are family-friendly and occur weekly.
Other park events include kickball league meets, live musical performances, and kids’ activities.
Visitors can also enjoy several facilities, such as a children’s playground, an interactive splash pad, and a dog park.
Shop at the Quaint Findlay Market
This commercial hub, located on Racer Street, is a cherished institution in Cincinnati.
The Findlay Market has been a retail venue gathering direct sellers, farmers, and producers since the 1850s.
More than one million shoppers visit yearly to browse and buy farm produce of fruits, vegetables, poultry, and meat.
The market’s full-time merchants also sell local food items, deli, cheese, plants, and flowers.
The Findlay Market is open year-round from Tuesday to Sunday and hosts a weekend farmers’ market.
The artisanal and specialty foods in the market are available for dine-in or carry-out.
Explore the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, located on Vine Street, stands out among Ohio destinations not only because of its numerous animal and plant collections.
This pride of Cincinnati is also the second largest U.S. zoo and is a National Historic Landmark.
Founded in 1875, this 75-acre zoo was declared a national landmark because of the architectural significance of its Reptile House, Passenger Pigeon Memorial, and Elephant House.
The zoo’s Reptile House is notably the oldest zoo facility in the U.S., dating back to 1875.
The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden boast more than 500 animals, with Fiona the hippo as the most popular among them.
Known for its various animal breeding programs, the zoo was the first to breed California sea lions successfully.
More than 3,000 plant species are in this zoo’s botanical gardens, with amusement rides and a 4-D theater.
Have Fun at Smale Riverfront Park
Spanning over 45 acres, the Smale Riverfront Park is accessible via West Mehring.
You can find it along the Ohio River.
The park is wedged on a scenic site on the northern approach to the circa 1856 Roebling Suspension Bridge.
Visitors of the park can pick from several recreational facilities to enjoy in its upper and lower levels.
The park’s upper level offers a carousel, two splash pads, and the Schmidlapp Event Lawn, home of the annual music extravaganza Cincy Blues Fest.
The park’s lower level is larger and provides several play areas along the picturesque Ohio River.
These attractions include water features, giant swings, an oversized chessboard, and a foot piano.
This area also provides a playground with twin racing slides, rock climbing walls, a rope bridge, and log climbers.
Swing to the Beat at the Andrew J Brody ICON Music Center
Visits to Downtown Cincinnati became even more exciting with the 2021 opening of the Andrew J Brady ICON Music Center.
This concert venue is in the Banks Riverfront Entertainment District along Second Street East.
As a new mixed-use development, the Banks also features premier dining, entertainment, and shopping establishments.
Located on Race Street, the music center offers an indoor venue with up to 4,500 capacity.
The Andrew J Brady ICON Music Center also has an outdoor stage that can accommodate an audience of up to 8,000.
Enjoy a Visual Feast at the American Sign Museum
This unique museum, located on Monmouth Avenue, opened in 2012 and emerged as the largest of its kind in the U.S.
The American Sign Museum provides 20,000 square feet of space for its various collections of American signage.
Its collection includes American signage created starting from 1870 to 1970.
The museum’s collection during those 100 years includes hand-carved wooden signage and those crafted using electric light bulbs, neon, and gold leaf.
One of the museum’s highlights comes from the iconic 1960s neon-illuminated Howard Johnson sign originally installed in Utica, NY.
Allow one to two hours for a tour of this museum to fully appreciate its extensive collection.
The American Sign Museum also features a neon shop, complementing its exhibits and displays.
Remember Legends at the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum
The Cincinnati Reds, the first franchise in professional baseball, celebrates the sport’s origins and outstanding players at the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum.
This museum is on Joe Nuxhall Way, within the sports complex of the Great American Ballpark on the northern banks of the Ohio River.
The museum features changing displays and interactive exhibits around the Cincinnati stars and heroes on the baseball field.
One exhibit, “Chronology,” documents the personalities behind the formation of the Cincinnati Reds.
Another display, “First Nine,” presents artifacts of the pioneer Red Stockings formed in 1869.
The Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum further expands baseball lore in the “Los Rojos!” exhibit about the sport’s history in Latin America and its impact on Latinos.
Cheer the Reds at the Great American Ball Park
Baseball fans visiting Cincinnati should put this stadium on Joe Nuxhall Way on top of their itinerary.
The multi-titled Cincinnati Reds, in one season, play about 80 home games here in the Great American Ball Park.
Each year, about 1.4 million spectators watch the Reds’ Major League Baseball home games in this home-run-friendly stadium.
The stadium hosts major musical concerts, including Beyoncé, Paul McCartney, and Billy Joel gigs.
The Great American Ball Park has become more family-friendly with the 2021 opening of its TriHealth Family Zone.
Situated at the right field corner of the stadium’s View Level, this family space provides activities for kids and a lounge area with panoramic views of the Ohio River.
Watch the Cincinnati Football Champs at the Paycor Stadium
Cincinnati’s Visitors can catch National Football League action at the Paycor Stadium on West Pete Rose Way.
This sports arena is the home turf of the Cincinnati Bengals, titleholder of the American Football Conference (AFC) championships in 1981, 1988, and 2021.
Hailed for its remarkable architectural design, this open-air stadium seats more than 65,000 spectators.
Football fans can pick from the stadium’s 144 luxury suites and over 7,000 club seats.
They also have dining options in the stadium’s two club restaurants, plus some souvenir choices in the Bengals Pro Shop.
Beautiful views of the Ohio River and the Cincinnati skyline Fans are a bonus when watching the games at Paycor Stadium.
Tackle the Ohio River Trail
Just traversing the Ohio River Trail can be a highlight of a visit to Cincinnati.
This trail on the north banks of the Ohio River is accessible via West Mehring Way near the amenity-rich Smale Riverfront Park.
Open to hikers, runners, and bikers, this trail stretches for more than 10 miles.
This trail links to other courses in Cincinnati, thus unlocking other points of interest in the city.
The points of interest along the Ohio River Trail include Sawyer Point Park, with concessions, a pavilion, volleyball and tennis courts, a playground, and boat docks.
Explore Classical Music at the Cincinnati Music Hall
Cincinnati flaunts its love for classical music in the elegant Cincinnati’s Music Hall, built in 1878 on Elm Street.
This venue for classical performances is home to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Cincinnati Ballet, and the May Choral Festival.
As a designated National Historic Landmark, the Cincinnati Music Hall is open for tours outside of performance dates.
Its Victorian-Gothic architecture immediately draws attention from the outside, but the hall’s interior is impressive.
The extensive 2016-2017 renovations of the historic building brought modern performance standards to the venue, including upgraded seating and ADA compliance.
Learn about Fire Safety at the Cincinnati Fire Museum
The Cincinnati Fire Museum on West Court Street is another exciting stop during a Cincinnati visit.
The Cincinnati Fire Department has put together a kid-friendly guided tour of this museum.
The 60-minute tour includes education on fire prevention and safety, and firefighting.
The museum is listed on the National Historic Registry and features artifacts highlighting the track record of the Cincinnati Fire Department.
Established in 1853, the department is the first paid professional firefighting unit in the U.S.
Prioritizing Cincinnati during an Ohio visit makes perfect sense, as this city offers a wide variety of destinations for the entire family.
What are you waiting for? Plan your trip today!
Savor the best things to do in Cincinnati.