Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Downtown Cincinnati, OH

  • Published 2023/03/01

Did you know that 24 out of 25 of Cincinnati’s skyscrapers are in Downtown Cincinnati?

The city is the central business district of Cincinnati, Ohio.

However, Downtown Cincinnati isn’t your typical concrete jungle.

You’ll find a rich collection of historical architecture, arts, culture, and cozy local cuisine at its heart.

This dynamic neighborhood is divided into six major districts: Over-the-Rhine, Central Business District, The Banks, The West End, Findlay Market, and Pendleton.

Are you wondering what each district can offer you?

Here are the best things to do in Downtown Cincinnati:

Celebrate Freedom at National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Exterior of National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Rosamar /

In the 1800s, the Underground Railroad system established a network of routes, safe houses, and contacts that helped escaped slaves reach the free Northern states.

Today, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center allows visitors to work with organizations fighting against modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

Established in 2004, the center is just a few steps from the Ohio River.

The eternal flame at National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Rosamar /

You can learn more about the history of the anti-slavery movement through their permanent and traveling exhibits and unique “environmental theater.”

Likewise, you can visit the Harriet Tubman Theater, lit by a beautiful star-field ceiling.

The infamous John W. Anderson slave pen of the 1830s is now the biggest artifact displayed at the center.

Anderson used this pen as a holding facility for his “purchased” slaves, which he marketed in different states.

Log slave pen in National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Rosamar /

Enjoy Family Day at Ziegler Park

Ziegler Park is a 4.5-acre green space in the Over-the-Rhine district.

It features east and west sections, separated by Sycamore Street.

The park’s name comes from Cincinnati’s first mayor, David Ziegler.

The City of Cincinnati worked with its recreation commission, park board, and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) to expand the 1.2-acre park in 2017.

It is packed with facilities your family will enjoy, such as a 35×75 lap pool, basketball courts, a children’s playground, and a covered pavilion.

Ziegler Park also advocates for inclusivity.

Through their “Everybody In” program, the Ziegler Park makes pool access, swim lessons and even summer camps more affordable to everyone.

Do you want to make the family day more meaningful? Donate to the park fund.

You and your family can provide gear to a child who wants to join the swim team for as low as fifty dollars.

Welcome to the Jungle—the Paul Brown Stadium

Aerial view of Paul Brown Stadium

Stephanie A Sellers /

“Who Dey!”

It’s time to honor the home of the professional American football team, the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Paul Brown Stadium, which opened in 2000, occupies nearly 22 acres with a seating capacity of 65,515 on six different levels.

It gets its name from the Bengals’ founder and first head coach, Paul Brown.

The stadium boasts sleek architecture and several amenities.

The field of Paul Brown Stadium

Rosamar /

These include over a hundred luxury suites, 7,000 club sets, two club restaurants and a Bengals store.

While watching a game at Paul Brown Stadium, the spectacular views of the Ohio River and Cincinnati skyline will surely take your breath away.

This landmark facility also caters to other special events.

They specialize in awards banquets, galas & fundraisers, corporate holiday parties, wedding receptions and many more.

The seats in Paul Brown Stadium

Rosamar /

Celebrate the Queen City at the Sing the Queen City Sign

Close view of the Sing the Queen City sign

aceshot1 /

The “Sing the Queen City” sign is a three-dimensional aluminum sculpture that welcomes visitors entering Cincinnati through the Roebling Bridge.

This red and white landmark was built in 2015 at Freedom Park.

Tommy Sheehan sculpted the sign, featuring a stanza from the poem, “Seven Hills and a Queen to Name Them.”

Far view of Sing the Queen City sign

Harold Stiver /

Over 1,000 participants helped write the poem as part of the ArtWorks CincyInk, an interactive project centered on expressing love for Cincinnati through art.

This urban art installation is among those 54 larger-than-life figures installed across the city.

Meanwhile, you can trace the term “Queen City” to the early 1800s, when newspapers described the city’s spirit and liberality.

Sing Your Heart Out at the Andrew J Brady Music Center

The Andrew J Brady Music Center is a concert venue in the Banks District.

The Banks is an entertainment district separated from Downtown Cincinnati’s Central Business District by Fort Washington Way.

It’s named after Andrew J Brady, a multi-talented musician and teacher.

For more than three decades, Brady was the orchestra and band director at Western Hills High School.

This music venue opened its doors in 2021 as a state-of-the-art concert hall.

It offers two performance areas for concerts and festivals, with an 8,000 and 4,5000 outdoor and indoor capacity, respectively.

Viewers can also upgrade their music experience with access to the private CityView Lounge and outdoor patio.

You and your friends can enjoy a full-service bar at a happy hour price.

However, the CityView Lounge only allows upgrades for a limited number of tickets.

The Andrew J Brady Music Center box office is open on weekday show days.

On weekend show days, they open an hour before door time.

Revisit History at Cincinnati Union Terminal

Exterior of Cincinnati Union Terminal

Alexey Stiop /

Did you know that Cincinnati’s Union Terminal inspired the Hall of Justice, the headquarters for the Justice League?

Dubbed the “Gateway to the West,” the Cincinnati Union Terminal is one of America’s grandest transportation hubs.

Construction began in the late 1920s and finished in 1933.

In 1972, the National Register of Historic Places listed the terminal on its record.

Meanwhile, its two-year major restorations finished in 2018.

Besides being home to the largest half-dome in the Western Hemisphere, the terminal is known for its distinctive art-deco style.

The grand interior of Cincinnati Union Terminal

Alexey Stiop /

It became a National Historic Landmark in 1977.

Its walls are filled with intricate, bas-relief figures representing the Commerce and Transportation.

You can also find colorful murals illustrating the United States’ transportation history and that of Cincinnati.

Eventually, the terminal became home to three museums, including the Cincinnati Museum Center, an OMNIMAX theater, and the Cincinnati History Library and Archives.

Witness the wonder and significant history behind this art deco masterpiece!

Don’t miss their free 50-minute tour of the Rotunda.

Sunset reflecting on Cincinnati Union Terminal's glass windows

Doug Lemke /

Solve Mysteries with Family & Friends at the Escape Game

Escape Game is a premier escape room where players only have an hour to search for clues, solve puzzles, complete the mission, and escape.

You can choose one out of their five immersive themes.

These themes include a daring “Prison Break,” “The Heist,” “Playground,” “Special Ops: Mysterious Market, and “Gold Rush.”

Are you wondering what separates this escape room from the rest?

Their prop experts craft game designs from scratch, allowing you and your squad to fully immerse yourself in each game.

The adventures are also formulated beyond your expectations.

You can choose from either a private or shared game experience.

Book an adventure today!

Shop Local at Findlay Market

Daytime view of Findlay Market

aceshot1 /

Established in the late 1850s, Findlay Market is Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market.

It gets its name from James Findlay, an early Cincinnati settler and mayor.

This historical market is just blocks away from the Over-the-Rhine district.

Fresh produce at Findlay Market

Martin Castrogiovanni /

The surrounding neighborhood also gets its name from the market.

Findlay Market is home to fifty merchants selling high-quality, farm-fresh produce and other items.

These businesses include seafood, dairy, meat & poultry, plants & flowers and specialty foods.

Findlay also offers unique programs for low-income shoppers.

People shopping along Findlay Market


Enter a Living Landscape at Taft Museum of Art

Exterior of Taft Museum of Art

Greg Hume (User:Greg5030), CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Taft Museum of Art is a National Historic Landmark known for its fine art collection.

Built in 1820, the museum is home to a remarkable collection that spans the Middle Ages through the 19th century.

You can find collections of European and American paintings and sculptures, Chinese porcelains and French Renaissance enamels.

The museum 0ccupies the 200-year-old private home of Cincinnati’s prominent figures.

These figures include American businessman and politician Martin Baum and notable winemaker Nicolas Longworth.

The museum received its stamp of approval as a historic landmark for its Duncanson Murals.

Longworth commissioned Robert Duncanson to paint these murals directly on the house’s entry hall walls.

These murals include the Hudson River School oil on canvas paintings Duncanson worked on from 1850 to 1852.

Following this project, Duncanson became the first African-American landscape artist to achieve global renown.

Honor the Cincinnati Reds at the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum

Announcer booth in Reds Hall of Fame and Museum

Fritzmann2002, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Show your team spirit when visiting the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.

This massive 16,000-square-foot facility houses memorabilia of the legendary Major League Baseball squad, the Cincinnati Reds.

Check out an extensive collection of the team’s glorious past through their exhibit galleries.

The collections feature players, managers, and executives who started the Reds’ legacy in 1869.

Besides museum tours, you can also get an insider’s look at the Great American Ball Park.

This tour offers multiple stops for groups of not less than fifteen persons.

Express Yourself at Pendleton Art Center (PAC)

Pendleton Art Center boasts the world’s most extensive collection of artists under one roof.

To date, the works of over 200 artists have found a home at the center.

PAC’s eight-story exhibit space is in Downtown Cincinnati’s artsiest district, Pendleton.

Meanwhile, it also has two other studios in Middletown, Ohio and Rising Sun, Indiana.

Bask in the wonder of over 150,000 square feet of original art, which features ceramics, mosaics, sculpture, photography and even themed accessories.

Their painting collection ranges from abstract, oil, streetscape, watercolor and many more!

You can connect directly with the artists and purchase open studio walks.

Watch a Concert at Taft Theatre

Exterior of Taft Theatre

Warren LeMay from Cincinnati, OH, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Taft Theatre is both a historical landmark and a cultural hub in Downtown Cincinnati, found along East 5th Street. .

It’s a place where you can watch various musical concerts, mostly eclectic ones that give a lot of personality to the theater.

If you choose to not watch any concerts, you can also admire Taft Theatre from its facade—as you can easily tell it’s a historic landmark with its vintage exterior.

Inside, you’ll even see more of its early 1900s architecture, especially when you experience watching a concert in its auditorium.

Taft Theater is a great addition to your itinerary, whether you’re a lover of music, history, or architecture.

Front view of Taft Theatre

Warren LeMay from Cincinnati, OH, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy the Ohio River at Smale Riverfront Park

Daytime view of Smale Riverfront Park

Rosamar /

Seeing the Ohio River is a must during your visit to Cincinnati, especially if you’re already in the downtown area.

Located along West Mehring Way, Smale Riverfront Park is easily accessible after getting your fill of urban exploration in the downtown area.

It’s one of the most picturesque places in Cincinnati, known for its panoramic views of the river along with sprawling gardens brimming with flowers.

Labyrinth at Smale Riverfront Park

Chris LaBasco /

Beyond that, Smale Riverfront Park also has a large splash pad for kids during the hot summer months.

There’s a lot more to see here, as the park is adorned with all sorts of fixtures that integrate its natural beauty with the waters of the river.

A must-see during your trip, don’t miss out on Smale Riverfront Park.

Aerial view of Smale Riverfront Park

Rosamar /

Visit Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati

Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati is another amazing urban attraction in the city, famous for its huge casino with various amenities that complement it.

While its casino is the star of the show, it also has a famous buffet that’s always fully booked during peak hours—try checking it out during your visit.

Hard Rock Casino Cincinnati also has beautiful architecture, especially its interiors that are adorned with huge chandeliers and several exhibits that make it uniquely Hard Rock’s.

Even its facade is worthy of a photo, especially if you’ve yet to step in a Hard Rock Casino.

Found at 1000 Broadway, this is a great all-rounder as an attraction in Downtown Cincinnati.

Experience the Nightlife of Cincinnati at The Banks

The Banks is a famous riverfront area where you can do all sorts of activities—it’s not a stretch to call this one of the liveliest and most festive areas in Cincinnati.

During the day time, this is a great recreational spot for families, as there are tons of walking and biking paths complemented by amazing riverfront views.

Going on a food adventure is also a great activity during the day time, as tons of food stalls are here.

However, it’s at night that The Banks truly shine, where tons of live music and entertainment are held here.

Bars around the area also come alive, making this one of the best hang out places at night.

Find it along East Freedom Way.

Watch a Play at Aronoff Center for the Arts

Exterior of Aronoff Center for the Arts

Cory Woodruff /

Aronoff Center for the Arts is a performing arts center in the heart of Downtown Cincinnati, located along Walnut Street.

It’s a must-experience if you’re a passionate enthusiast for plays, as Aronoff Center for the Arts has a ton of famous performances year-round.

One of their most famous plays is The Lion King, followed by Hamilton—all classics that are a great bonus to see during your trip.

Beyond their amazing performers, Aronoff Center for the Arts has a picturesque auditorium and stage, brightly lit that’ll make you want to take several photos from different angles.

While you can experience the performance up close in the lower area, it’s a surreal experience to watch it in their private balcony as well.

Crowd in Aronoff Center for the Arts

Hayden Schiff from Cincinnati, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Other Things to Do Nearby

Dive into an Underwater World at Newport Aquarium

Exterior of Newport Aquarium

Rosamar /

Are you trying to find Nemo?

Newport Aquarium is in Newport, Kentucky, across the river from Downtown Cincinnati.

You’ll find thousands of exotic aquatic creatures, such as rare white alligators, large stingrays, and even their newest sandbar sharks that grow up to eight feet long.

Both children and the young at heart will also enjoy their new Shipwreck exhibit, which features an old sunken ship and all the beautiful sea creatures who seek shelter in it.

People observing the marine animals in Newport Aquarium

Jeff Kubina from the milky way galaxy, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Craving for a thrill?

Cross the first-ever Shark Bridge—a 75-feet long suspension bridge where visitors can walk inches above a tank of two dozen sharks.

These are no ordinary sharks, for their collections include the rare shark rays and sleek blacktip reef sharks.

You can also watch playful penguins walk adorably at their Penguin Palooza if you want to relax.

The facility follows a timed entry policy for a better overall experience.

A shark in Newport Aquarium

Jeff Kubina from Columbia, Maryland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

Downtown Cincinnati indeed is a perfect stop for a fun-filled weekend adventure!

This vibrant city is packed with exciting places that are perfect for all ages.

Whether you’re into arts, sports or history, there’s something for you at Downtown Cincinnati.

Start planning your trip today!

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