Any time is a great time to visit the Greater Cincinnati region – AKA #Cincy or the #QueenCity – which includes Northern Kentucky and part of Indiana. There’s so much to see, do and enjoy for all ages.
I really feel it’s a hidden gem that everyone should take the time to explore and I guarantee you’ll want to come back for more.
Note: If you are driving to Cincinnati (or anywhere in the USA), make sure you download the Cincinnati-based app, Roadtrippers as a helpful tip.
Here are my MUST VISIT places to explore in Cincinnati with kids:
There are so many fun and fascinating exhibits at this museum, but I highly recommend the “Kenner and the Building of an Empire” exhibit that will appeal to kids as well as the kid that’s still inside of all of us. Childhood-favorite toys like the Easy Bake Oven, Play-Doh and Spirograph were all made in Cincinnati by the Kenner Company, and in 1977, Kenner became an overnight sensation when it acquired the right to manufacture toys from the new-at-the-time Star Wars film.
Speaking of “Star Wars,” regardless of whether or not you’re a huge fan, check out the traveling Smithsonian exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum, which runs until October 2017. One of the highlights of this exhibit are mirrors that allow you to turn yourself into a Star Wars character. Everyone in my family enjoyed this. We’ve already gone to this exhibit twice and will definitely go again soon.
Prior to going, purchase general and special exhibit tickets online.
There are sometimes renovations at the Cincinnati Museum Center so check the website for updates on parking.
Allow yourself about 1-2 hours to check out the “Star Wars” exhibit.
Also check out the Duke Energy Children’s Museum, which is in the same building. It features eight educational and themed-play areas that encourage kids to climb, crawl, explore and learn about themselves and the world around them.
This is a fun place in a great location with a wonderful owner. Admission to the library is free, but memberships are available.
The Play Library offers more than 1,000 games and toys, seasonal outdoor equipment (including new REI tents!), giant Jenga, Big Wheels and more. Adults and kids can enjoy the equipment on site, or check it out like books at a library. (Membership is required to check out items.)
I think the coolest thing about this place is that it encourages parents and caregivers to play with their little ones as well as interact with other adults. Thus, it’s great for family time as well as community building.
This is a great, temperature-controlled spot to go on a hot summer or cold winter day.
It’s an easy walk from Downtown, Washington Park and Findlay Market – all places to take the family when visiting Cincinnati.
If a toy breaks while visiting Cincinnati, take it to the “Toy Doctor” at the Play Library.
3. Cincinnati Zoo / Newport Aquarium
The Cincinnati Zoo is the second-oldest zoo in the United States and it is, in a word: amazing. It’s a very large zoo and a great place to walk and explore. Be sure to check out Fiona, the baby Hippo, and take a ride on the train – it’s so fun!
Then, walk across the bridges to Covington, KY and explore the Newport Aquarium. There’s always great exhibits and fun things to do.
See what exhibits and displays they have in advance, so you can plan your adventure.
Wear comfortable walking shoes – there’s lots to explore.
Take a ride on the zoo train first and walk around the zoo afterwards.
The zoo has picnic tables and allows carry-ins. Food and drinks – including alcoholic beverages for parents – are also available.
If all family members can ride an adult-sized bike use the Cincinnati Red Bikes to get around.
Treat yourself and your family to souvenirs in the gift shops because all of the proceeds go back to the organization.
Because Cincinnati has all four seasons for approximately three months, the city’s parks are always great places to play, walk, explore and experience nature all year ‘round.
One of our favorite parks is Smale Riverfront Park, featuring Carol Ann’s Carousel. The beautiful carousel, which is inside a glass building, features animals that are iconic to Cincinnati history and culture.
The P&G go Vibrantscape, also inside the park, is an “interactive park where human movement causes things to happen.” It includes the world’s largest outdoor foot piano, a flying pig to climb and “fly,” climbing poles with bells on the top, outdoor exercise equipment, an outdoor chess set and an interactive water feature. You really have to see it to believe it.
The park also allows guests to play in its fountains and features porch-sized swings overlooking the river.
5. Eden Park
Eden Park, one of the most popular Cincinnati Parks, is home to Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and the Krohn Conservatory. Landmarks within the park include Hinkle Magnolia Garden, which features a picturesque gazebo, memorial tree groves and paths, Mirror Lake and the Bettman Fountain.
One of our favorite aspects of the park is Twin Lakes, once an old quarry, that has two lakes, a footbridge and walking paths, an impressive view of the Ohio River and Kentucky, several sculptures and a playground. There’s a 172-foot Water Tower from 1894 that’s nearby and worth checking out.
Before we moved to Cincinnati, we were told we must go to Jungle Jim’s because it would be unlike anything else we’ve seen before. And this is true! It’s a grocery store, but also way more than a grocery store featuring 200,000-square-feet of shopping space, tours, food demonstrations and many special food-related events.
You will need a car to get here.
Give yourselves 2-4 hours to explore.
Book your food tour in advance.
Put your phone on silent, take your camera out and bring your appetite!
Here are my MUSTS for cost-efficient, family-friendly eating in Cincinnati:
This is, hands down, the best ice cream we’ve ever had. Graeter’s makes craft ice cream using the small batch, artisanal, French Pot process that’s almost 150 years old. Our three favorite flavors are black raspberry chocolate chip (this is also Oprah Winfrey’s favorite ice cream!), the handcrafted lemon sorbet and the low-glycemic mint chocolate chip.
I’ve lived and traveled around the world, and this is the best place in the City of Cincinnati to enjoy great food and produce from local vendors and restaurateurs. My three top places to go in the market are Pho Lang Tang for Vietnamese, Gramma Deb’s Kitchen for comfort food and The Taste of Belgium for waffles, beer, pizza, crepes, quiches and pastries.
Both of these places are local, newish chains and offer great options for kids and adults. They both have vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options, too.
At Fusian, you can build-your-own sushi rolls – which kids generally appreciate – and Tom+Chee offers a tasty, no-frills local chain with grilled cheese sandwiches, soups and salads.
When traveling and exploring new places, always try, taste, and do something new; you never know what you might just come back for more.
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