17 Free Things to Do in Cincinnati, OH

Cincinnati

Cincinnati, often referred to as the Queen City, is where the skyline meets the Ohio River and the echoes of history resonate through the streets.

This city possesses a unique charm that captivates and enchants, irrespective of one's origin.

Here, the grand architecture of bygone eras seamlessly blends with the innovative energy of the present, creating a captivating mix of old and new.

The treasures that Cincinnati has to offer, particularly its array of free activities, are truly impressive.

Indeed, the city is rich in offerings that require no expenditure, providing a wealth of opportunities to explore.

Now, let's explore the multitude of free things to do in Cincinnati, Ohio, nestled in the heartland of America.

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We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Remedios Oyola, Maria Babineau, Charles Bird, Abraham Beekman, Hadassah Wiley, Lenore McKinney and Marlene Dunlap.

Take Snaps with the Tyler Davidson Fountain

Night view of the Tyler Davidson Fountain
James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

One of the perks of living in Cincinnati is that I get to pass by the Tyler Davidson Fountain almost every day.

It's not just a fountain; it's a landmark that has become synonymous with the city's identity.

Tyler Davidson Fountain is a sight to behold, especially when the sun hits just right and the water sparkles in a spectacular display.

So much so that you might catch yourself humming, “WKRP in Cincinnati” on your way past.

Aerial view of Tyler Davidson Fountain
Bryan Busovicki / Shutterstock.com

Rumors of it being moved had circulated, but to my relief, it stands proudly as ever in its usual spot.

The Italian sausage from the food trucks parked nearby adds to the charm of the place.

Taste that, and you're tasting a bit of Cincinnati itself.

Closeup of the statues at Tyler Davidson Fountain
Rosamar / Shutterstock.com

Learn about Hippos at Hippo Cove

Every now and then, I find myself drawn to the splendor of Hippo Cove right here in Cincinnati Zoo.

The experience of seeing the magnificent Fiona, Fritz, Tucker, and Bibi up close and personal is second to none.

Especially today, since it's a special day - Tucker's 20th birthday!

Despite being a weekday, the turnout was surprisingly large, but that didn't dampen the fun at all.

On the contrary, the crowd seemed to add to the harmony of the day, everyone eager to cherish the delightful spectacle of these magnificent creatures demonstrating their natural behavior.

One of the best parts about visiting Hippo Cove is the informative presentations they put on.

Learning about the life and habits of hippos while watching them swim around in their habitat is a genuinely unique and educational experience.

It's always a joy to see the love and care the zookeepers have for these animals.

However, I did notice that their tank seemed a bit murky and could use a good cleaning.

That's something I hope to see improved on my next visit.

But overall, the show they put on, along with the sincere care demonstrated by the Zoo keeper, made it an unforgettable day.

Walk through Smale Riverfront Park

Ferris wheel at Smale Riverfront Park
Rosamar / Shutterstock.com

Stepping foot into Smale Riverfront Park feels like entering a haven amidst the city hustle.

Nestled by the Ohio River, this park is our haven for family gatherings, quiet walks, and rejuvenation.

The panoramic walking paths offer breathtaking views that can rival any postcard picture.

Just a stone's throw away from downtown Cincinnati, the park offers an escape without having to go far.

Its proximity to the city center and yet its serene environment is a harmonious combination that leaves visitors enchanted.

I still remember the first time I took my kids to the playground and the splash pad.

Their laughter and joy echoing through the park is a memory I cherish.

Garden at Smale Riverfront Park
Rosamar / Shutterstock.com

One of my personal favorite spots is the garden area.

Its array of vibrant flowers and lush greenery are a sight to behold.

Perfect for a lazy afternoon picnic or a leisurely stroll, it's a place where time seems to stand still.

The most breathtaking view, however, is from the John Roebling Suspension Bridge.

The sight of the setting sun casting its golden hue on the Ohio River is a spectacle I can never get enough of.

Plus, the park's cleverly designed water features, which include fountains and waterfalls, add a touch of creativity and charm.

Smale Riverfront Park doesn't just have scenic beauty to offer.

It also hosts various events that are a community favorite.

Whether it's a music concert or a food festival, there's always something happening here that brings together locals and tourists alike.

View of the Smale Riverfront Park
Rosamar / Shutterstock.com

Soak in the Tranquility of Parker Woods Nature Preserve

There's nothing quite like the serenity and beauty the Parker Woods Nature Preserve brings.

Nestled right in my backyard, it has become my sanctuary, a place to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Cincinnati.

It's a magical forest that's been a part of my life since childhood, a place that Cincinnati did an excellent job preserving for future generations.

Parker Woods Nature Preserve offers a variety of paths for the adventurous hiker.

My personal favorite is the sidewalk that winds its way up and down the hill, cutting through the heart of the woods.

It's a simple trail that connects one street to the next, the perfect place to find some quiet introspection or simply enjoy a leisurely stroll.

For those seeking a more challenging terrain, there's a trail marked with a "B."

This trail connects to the Buttercup Valley series of trails and promises a serious climb through the various ridges.

Much like the beloved Caldwell Nature Preserve, it offers an exhilarating physical challenge amidst breathtaking natural beauty.

Unfortunately, I've noticed that not everyone respects this natural beauty as much as they should.

Recently, I've come across signs of 4-wheeling inside the preserve, causing damage to the environment.

Despite this, Parker Woods continues to be an oasis of tranquility, a place to find peace of mind amidst nature's splendor.

Every time I explore its trails, I remember playing here as a child, and I feel incredibly grateful that I can still experience its old-growth forest 60 years later.

I hope that future generations will get to enjoy it as much as I do.

Pose with the Serpentine Wall

Close up of the Serpentine Wall
Rosamar / Shutterstock.com

Every city has its hidden gems, corners, and gathering places that only those who really know the city understand.

In Cincinnati, one of those spots for me has always been the Serpentine Wall.

There's something unique about this riverside treasure that brings a sense of tranquility amidst the hustle of urban life.

On a typical day, I find myself lounging by the wall, especially during the warmer months.

The brickwork, following a winding, serpentine pattern, heats up in the afternoon sun, making it a cozy spot to sit and unwind.

The sight of the Ohio River in front of me, the hum of city life behind me, I feel like I'm in my own little world.

View of the Serpentine Wall
Keith Mecklem / Shutterstock.com

On some days, I see others have found the same comfort.

Families, couples, and even solo travelers stop by to rest.

Pet owners often bring their dogs along, adding to the lively atmosphere.

Serpentine Wall is indeed an excellent place for a small break.

It's like a local meeting spot where you can simply sit down, relax, and soak in the beauty of the city and the river.

One of the added benefits of this spot is its view, making it a beautiful backdrop for photos.

Whether it's a group selfie or a landscape shot of the river, the Serpentine Wall always adds an extra charm to the pictures.

And if you're lucky, you might even get to enjoy a concert on the nearby Purple People Bridge.

Top view of the Serpentine Wall
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Exploring T.M. Berry International Friendship Park - A Peaceful Escape

If you ever find yourself needing a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, the T. M. Berry International Friendship Park is the perfect refuge for you.

Nestled by the Ohio River, it's a beautiful green space that I frequently visit to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate.

Lush greenery, beautiful flowers, and a stunning view of the Ohio River and downtown.

What else could you ask for?

The park is named after Cincinnati’s first African-American mayor, Theodore M.

Berry - a man of great history and purpose.

I often find myself feeling inspired, just thinking about his incredible journey and the impact he had on our wonderful city.

The park is dog and kid-friendly, so it's usually brimming with joyful laughter and playful barks - a heartwarming scene that never fails to put a smile on my face!

The park also has a paved walking and biking path that meanders through the landscape, perfect for those who, like me, enjoy a good stroll or a leisurely bike ride.

Clean restrooms and numerous benches scattered throughout the park provide the necessary facilities for a day out in the park.

Plus, there's a bike rental station located right in the parking lot, which is free for the first two hours - a bonus for those days when I decide to leave my bike at home.

The park's serene ambiance makes it a popular spot among locals for picnics and urban adventures.

I often enjoy packing a picnic and spending the day here, soaking in the peaceful atmosphere and the beautiful views.

It's not just a park, it's a peaceful escape, a haven in the heart of the city.

Take in the Views at Eden Park

Scenic view of the Eden Park
Ami Parikh / Shutterstock.com

One of my favorite things to do on a sunny day is grab a book, pack a small picnic, and head out to Eden Park.

This park, nestled in the heart of Cincinnati, is an absolute gem.

It's as if the city gives way to this tranquil green oasis, a perfect retreat from the buzzing city life.

I love meandering along the various walking paths, each leading to a new scenic spot.

The overlooks in the park are simply breathtaking, providing a stunning panorama of the river.

Benches at the Eden Park during fall
Anne Kitzman / Shutterstock.com

Driving through the park, you come across different scenic drives, and every turn offers a new delightful view.

There's something calming about the way the water shimmers in the sunlight and the way the trees sway in the wind.

And did I mention the gardens?

They're beautifully maintained and bloom with various flowers, adding splashes of color against the green backdrop.

I often find myself losing track of time, just sitting on the park bench, taking in the peaceful environment.

If you're in the mood for a little culture, Eden Park is also home to a museum and a theatre.

I love seeing a show at the theater and then strolling through the park afterward, the story still fresh in my mind.

Colorful art pieces at Eden Park
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A Hidden Gem: Clifton Fountain

There's a kind of enchantment to Cincinnati that you might not pick up on if you're just passing through.

It's in the charming, winding streets of Clifton, the history that pervades Over-the-Rhine, and especially, it's embedded in the beauty of the Clifton Fountain.

Just across from the oldest Skyline Chili, this little gem is something you might miss if your focus is on getting a heaping plate of Cincinnati's famous chili spaghetti - but trust me, you don't want to.

The Clifton Fountain is absolutely breathtaking.

Nestled in a small plaza, its stunning and intricate design will surely catch your eye.

The water dances and glistens under the sunlight, creating an almost magical ambiance that never fails to relax me after a long day.

Not only is it a beautiful sight to behold, but the history behind it gives it that extra charm.

The fountain is a reminder of the city's rich past and the legacy of Clifton.

There’s just something unique about sitting on one of the nearby benches, watching as the water cascades down the fountain, the world just seems to slow down for a moment.

It's a perfect place to unwind, read a book, or simply enjoy the peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

If you ever happen to be in Cincinnati, make sure not to miss out on this hidden gem.

Here's the Google maps link to Clifton Fountain for your reference.

And hey, while you're there, why not stop by Skyline Chili for a hearty meal?

After all, it's right across the street!

Walk Your Fido at Washington Park

Gazebo at Washington Park
Rosamar / Shutterstock.com

Isn't it wonderful when you discover a place that's always buzzing with life?

Well, Washington Park is one such gem tucked away in my city.

Be it the playground packed with kids or the lawn where I often stumble upon unexpected cultural performances, there's never a dull day here.

The park is more than just a breath of fresh air for me and my neighbors.

Time after time, I find myself drawn toward its lively splash pad, where you can frequently spot kids having the time of their lives.

And let's not forget the adorable dog park - it's a haven for our furry friends and their doting owners.

The park also houses an outdoor bar, perfect for unwinding after a long day or catching up with friends over the weekend.

Benches at Washington Park covered with snow
Edward Lumbert / Shutterstock.com

One of my favorite things about Washington Park is its role as a DORA - a designated outdoor refreshment area.

I can grab a drink of my choice and leisurely explore this vibrant space without any restrictions.

The fact that the park also hosts free concerts regularly makes it even more appealing.

There's nothing like enjoying live music under the stars, surrounded by the comforting hum of my fellow residents.

Speaking of convenience, Washington Park offers affordable parking options, a boon during special events or soccer games.

Now, I don't have to worry about finding a spot, even if I decide on a whim to spend my evening there.

The underground parking is another feature that I absolutely appreciate.

It's always a pleasure to see the park's greenery well maintained and the furniture looking as good as new.

During the warmer months, the fountains become an instant hit with my little ones, while the grand Music Hall often serves as the perfect backdrop for stunning photographs.

Benches at Washington Park
Rosamar / Shutterstock.com

Play Ball Games at Sawyer Point Park

It's always a delight to have Sawyer Point Park right by my doorstep.

Situated along the banks of the Ohio River, this picturesque urban park provides a beautiful setting for outdoor recreation and leisure.

Take a leisurely stroll along the park's expansive riverfront promenade and soak in the breathtaking views of the Ohio River.

The park's location offers fantastic vistas of the river, downtown Cincinnati, and the nearby bridges.

It's a perfect spot to relax, unwind, and appreciate the natural beauty of the area.

Sawyer Point Park hosts numerous festivals, concerts, and cultural events throughout the year.

From the popular Bunbury Music Festival to the Taste of Cincinnati, there's always something happening at the park.

With its prime location along the river, Sawyer Point Park provides opportunities for various water-based activities.

The park offers a variety of recreational amenities, including playgrounds, sports fields, and fitness stations.

Children can have a blast at the playgrounds, while sports enthusiasts can engage in a game of soccer, basketball, or volleyball.

The fitness stations provide opportunities for outdoor workouts and exercise, making it a great destination for fitness enthusiasts.

Have a Picnic at Mt. Airy Forest

Walking through the trails of the Mt. Airy Forest is a rejuvenating experience I cherish every time.

The towering trees, the gentle rustle of leaves, and the sun's rays peeking through the foliage all create a sense of tranquility that's hard to find elsewhere.

One of the highlights for me is the hidden gem of a treehouse.

It's not just a hit among kids, but it also has a unique charm that brings out the inner child in adults, too.

And guess what?

It's even accessible to those with mobility challenges.

It's truly a joy to see everyone enjoy this magical space.

I often bring my dog along for these walks.

The dog park in a different part of the forest is his absolute favorite.

While it's a bit of a challenge for me to navigate the steep grade, the joy and excitement my little buddy gets from running around freely and playing on the dog-friendly equipment makes it totally worth it.

The forest also has a picturesque lake with a gazebo, making it a perfect spot for a quiet, reflective moment.

Driving by this area, I can't help but marvel at the beauty that surrounds me.

It's a place where you can't help but feel one with nature.

For those thinking about a weekend outing, Mt. Airy Forest offers excellent spots for barbecues and get-togethers, making it a great place to connect with friends and family.

Just remember to tread carefully on the trails; they can be a bit tricky with narrowing paths and tree roots.

But don't worry, the stunning views and the fresh air more than make up for the adventure.

Catch an Event at Sawyer Point Park & Yeatman's Cove

Pathway at Sawyer Point Park & Yeatman's Cove
Rosamar / Shutterstock.com

Cincinnati is home to many beautiful parks, but Sawyer Point Park & Yeatman's Cove is one that always manages to steal my heart away.

Nestled along the shimmering Ohio River, it's the perfect spot to unwind after a long day, with an incredible amphitheater area that's a sight to behold.

With an abundance of green spaces and trees, it's the perfect oasis in the heart of the city.

The shade is refreshing on a hot summer day, and there's nothing quite like lounging on the grass and watching the world go by.

The view of Newport and Covington across the river is nothing short of breathtaking, and it's a sight I never tire of.

The park is a haven for families, too, with a fantastic playground that always draws in the little ones.

If you're more adventurous, you can even rent a bike and explore the park on two wheels.

It's one of my favorite ways to see everything the park has to offer.

Walkway at Sawyer Point Park & Yeatman's Cove
Rosamar / Shutterstock.com

In the evenings, the park really comes alive.

I've had the privilege of experiencing the Webn fireworks display, an annual event that never fails to impress.

The park is also home to various concerts and performances, and there's nothing quite like watching a show under the stars.

Remember, the park closes at 10 pm, so make sure to plan your visit accordingly.

There's something truly epic about those big steps leading down to the river, a sight that never fails to fill me with awe.

It's just one of the many incredible features that continue to draw me back to this place, time and time again.

Platform at Sawyer Point Park & Yeatman's Cove
Rosamar / Shutterstock.com

Soak in the Foliage of Buttercup Valley Preserve

Whenever I feel the need to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, I always find refuge at Buttercup Valley Preserve.

This hidden gem, nestled within the city's heart, never fails to amaze me with its tranquil ambiance.

The moment I step onto the walking trails, I'm taken to a world far away from the city's noise.

The trails, adorned with several intricately crafted wooden bridges over babbling brooks, evoke a sense of serenity that's hard to find elsewhere.

These trails are almost always quiet, with only the occasional fellow nature lover passing by.

One of the highlights of this preserve for me is the assortment of old, towering trees of various species.

There's nothing more soothing than seeking shelter under their shady canopy on a sweltering summer day.

When autumn sets in, the entire valley is transformed into an artist's palette, with leaves changing their color to create a vibrant spectacle.

It's one of the most beautiful sights you'll ever witness.

The entrance of Buttercup Valley Preserve is tucked away at the end of a neighborhood, which only adds to its charm.

As I park on the roadside and begin my walk, I'm instantly transported to a peaceful wilderness.

The park is also pet-friendly, so I often bring along my furry friend for company.

We enjoy exploring the open trails together, and occasionally, we even take a dip in the small river that runs through the preserve.

Since my childhood, this valley, fondly dubbed "BUTTERCUP" has been my sanctuary.

Every visit brings back a flood of wonderful memories and presents an opportunity to make new ones.

Bring Your Favorite Book to Burnet Woods

Fountain at Burnet Woods
Warren LeMay from Cincinnati, OH, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

There's this hidden gem in CUF that I've always considered my sanctuary from the city's hustle and bustle.

Nestled in the heart of Cincinnati, Burnet Woods offers a breath of fresh air — literally and figuratively.

After a typical weekday, I often find myself walking to the park, which is conveniently situated across the street from the University of Cincinnati and Good Samaritan Hospital.

Its 90-acre expanse of lush forest and trails is the perfect antidote to the monotony of daily life.

From the moment you step into Burnet Woods, you feel an instant connection with nature.

The park is teeming with activities for anyone and everyone.

There's a variety of trails for both casual and serious hikers.

I particularly appreciate the bird-watching spot near the nature center building.

It's such a serene place, and the variety of species chirping melodiously is just awe-inspiring.

Burnet Woods on a sunny day
Warren LeMay from Cincinnati, OH, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The small fishing lake, which is a favorite among locals, is another hidden treasure.

I enjoy casting my line out, waiting for a bite, and relishing the tranquility that surrounds me.

That's not all.

Burnet Woods is also home to playgrounds and picnic areas.

On weekends, I love bringing my little ones to play while I unwind with a good book under the shade of the picnic areas.

The park is also pet-friendly, so our furry friend never misses out on all the fun.

It’s also a sight to behold in the Fall when the trees are awash with vibrant hues of red, orange, and yellow.

Burnet Woods isn't just a park; it's a community.

It's where students from the nearby university come to unwind, friends gather for a BBQ, or families spend quality time together.

Despite the limited parking space, the park is always bustling with activity from dawn to dusk.

And although it's advisable to steer clear after dark due to safety issues, during the day it's as safe and welcoming as any neighborhood park can be.

Gazebo covered in snow at Burnet Woods
Warren LeMay from Cincinnati, OH, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spot the Wildlife at Caldwell Nature Center

Every dawn, as the sun peeks over the horizon and the city of Cincinnati comes to life, my adventure begins at the Caldwell Nature Center.

With the fresh morning air, the greenery, and the tranquil surroundings, it's my sanctuary in the heart of the city.

The trails in the preserve are my morning workout.

At first, the steep, winding trails might seem intimidating, but if you're someone who walks regularly like I do, it's a challenge that can be exciting.

On these trails, every day is different.

Sometimes, I follow the main path; other times, I take the deer trails that branch off.

Although, it's easy to lose your way if you're not careful.

One thing I love about the Caldwell Nature Center is that it's never too crowded.

On cool fall weekends, you could enjoy the serene beauty of the forest all by yourself.

But remember, it's right off the highway, and sometimes the road noise can be heard.

Still, for me, the chirping of the birds and the rustling of the leaves are the dominant sounds, making the place a perfect retreat from bustling city life.

The center is also a haven for wildlife.

Deer, squirrels, and an abundance of flora and fauna call this place their home, so don't forget to bring your camera!

And if you're a dog owner, don't hesitate to bring your furry friends along – the park is pet-friendly.

If you're in Cincinnati, whether you're a seasoned hiker or just a casual walker, the Caldwell Nature Center is a place you won't want to miss.

It's a place that offers more than a breath of fresh air, it's where every day holds a new adventure.

Final Thoughts

Cincinnati is brimming with natural beauty and fascinating sights - and the fact that you can experience most of them for free only adds to the charm.

From the serene ambiance of Mt. Airy Forest to the lively heartbeat of Washington Park, there's no shortage of places to explore.

Cincinnati, Ohio, with all its free attractions, is a city that continually surprises and delights, making every day feel like a new adventure.

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