Cincinnati: A guide to the best things to see and do in the Queen City

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Nestled on the Ohio River, where the southwestern corner of Ohio meets Kentucky and Indiana, Cincinnati boasts a rich history, magnificent murals, local breweries and much more. Here are the best things to do in Cincinnati.

Roebling Bridge over the Ohio River on a beautiful fall day.
Roebling Bridge in Cincinnati. Photo credit: Alias Imaging.

Affectionately known as the Queen City, Cincinnati is a charming city with many things to do and see. Plenty of adventure awaits in Cincinnati, whether you are fascinated by landmarks, love the great outdoors, live for the crowd’s roar or enjoy getting lost in a museum. And if you leave Cincinnati with a craving for its famous chili, here’s how you can make it back at home in the slow cooker.

Cincinnati landmarks

Cincinnati has several iconic landmarks that showcase its rich history and architectural beauty. From the picturesque Roebling Suspension Bridge to the bustling Fountain Square, these must-see attractions offer unforgettable experiences.

Stroll across the Roebling Bridge

Often referred to as the sister of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge is an iconic Cincinnati landmark. The bridge spans the Ohio River, where it has connected Ohio and Kentucky, since 1866. For unparalleled views of downtown, walk across the bridge — a little less than a half-mile each way.

Experience Fountain Square

Surrounded by shops and restaurants, Cincinnati’s Fountain Square is a lively public space in the heart of downtown. Many special events are hosted there throughout the year, including live music, food festivals and art shows. The square surrounds the 43-foot bronze Tyler Davidson Fountain that is regarded as Cincinnati’s symbol and is one of the city’s most visited attractions.

Lion licking his lips in tall grass at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Lion at the Cincinnati Zoo. Photo credit: Sage Scott.
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Cincinnati parks and outdoor activities

The Queen City is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting an array of scenic parks and recreational activities. Whether you want to stretch your legs, relax and enjoy the green space or interact with animals, there are many outdoor things to do in Cincinnati.

Washington Park

Washington Park is a beautiful six-acre park in the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati. The urban greenspace features an interactive water park, children’s playground and an off-leash dog park for your four-legged best friend.

Eden Park

Eden Park is a beautiful 186-acre park in the Walnut Hills neighborhood. It has several landmarks, including the Spring House Gazebo and the Elsinore Arch, and is home to the Cincinnati Art Museum complex and Krohn Conservatory. Eden Park is gorgeous between mid-March and mid-April when the cherry blossoms flower

Cincinnati Zoo

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is a must-visit for animal lovers with more than 500 animal species. The zoo is well known for its conservation efforts and endangered species breeding programs. Be sure to visit the zoo’s famous hippo, Fiona, who gained national attention for her premature birth and miraculous survival, and her new baby brother, Fritz.

Smale Riverfront Park

Connecting the two sports stadiums along the bank of the Ohio River, Smale Riverfront Park is a beautiful 32-acre park in the heart of downtown Cincinnati. It offers stunning river views, pergola-covered swings, a tree grove, rose gardens and public art installations. You can also ride Carol Ann’s Carousel, cool off in the interactive water features or enjoy a picnic with family and friends.

Old time single arch neon McDonald's sign at the American Sign Museum.
Single arch neon McDonald’s sign at the American Sign Museum. Photo credit: Sage Scott.

Cincinnati museums

If you enjoy immersing yourself in history, art or culture when you travel, you’ll be delighted by Cincinnati’s museums. With institutions like the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati Art Museum, and the American Sign Museum, there’s an exhibit to pique every interest.

Discover Cincinnati’s role in abolishing slavery

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center details the heartbreak of nearly 400 years of slavery, from the first Africans brought to the “new world” in 1619 to the present day. The museum has interactive exhibits, films, and artifacts that explore the history of slavery, abolition, and the ongoing fight for civil rights. 

Explore the Cincinnati Art Museum

Located in scenic Eden Park, the Cincinnati Art Museum is one of the oldest art museums in the country, with more than 67,000 works of art from around the world. Its vast collection features everything from ancient artifacts to contemporary art, including fashion arts, musical instruments, photography and Native American art. 

Get nostalgic at the American Sign Museum

The American Sign Museum is America’s largest sign museum featuring signs from 1900 through the 1960s. The museum has several exhibits, including neon signs, hand-painted signs, and advertising displays. You can also take a guided tour of the museum and learn about the history of the signs and the techniques used to create them. 

Cheer for the home team

Whether you’re a football fan or a baseball buff, Cincinnati has a sporting event for you! The Bengals are Cincinnati’s professional football team and play home games at Paycor Stadium, formerly Paul Brown Stadium. Nearby, the Great American Ball Park is home to the Cincinnati Reds, the Queen City’s professional baseball team. Both stadiums are located in the heart of downtown Cincinnati and offer stunning views of the river and city.

Other things to do in Cincinnati

Beyond its landmarks and museums, Cincinnati offers several additional unique activities to make your visit memorable. See the sights from the streetcar, discover the city’s impressive murals, or explore the charming boutiques of Over-the-Rhine.

Ride the Cincinnati streetcar

The Cincinnati streetcar is a free and convenient way to explore the city. It runs in a 3.6-mile loop from Cincinnati’s beautiful riverfront through its downtown and into the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Many recommendations on this list of things to do in Cincinnati are accessible via the Cincinnati streetcar.

Discover Cincinnati’s murals

Cincinnati has over 200 murals, many located in the downtown area and Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The murals depict various subjects, from local history and culture to social justice issues and abstract art. You can take a one-hour, self-guided walking tour or join a guided mural tour to learn more about the artists and their inspiration. 

The Fresh Harvest mural in Cincinnati features a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Fresh Harvest mural on the side of Kroger’s headquarters. Photo credit: Sage Scott.

Cincinnati’s food scene

Foodies will find Cincinnati’s thriving culinary scene absolutely delicious. From sipping craft beers in the city’s Brewery District to digging into local dishes, your tastebuds will go home happy.

Sip suds in Cincinnati’s Brewery District

Thanks to the German immigrants who brought a strong brewing tradition from their homeland, Cincinnati was the nation’s third-largest beer producer at the turn of the 19th century. Sadly, America’s prohibition against alcohol in 1919 took the oompah out of Cincinnati’s beer tent. But as the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood started experiencing a renaissance in the mid-2000s, so did its Brewery District. Today Cincinnati is known for its craft beer scene, and there are plenty of local breweries to choose from. Take a brewery tour and sample some of the city’s best beers.

Shop local at the Findlay Market

The Findlay Market is Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market. It’s a great place to shop for local souvenirs or sample some of Cincinnati’s best food. The market also hosts several events throughout the year.

“I was lucky to visit Cincinnati a few years ago, and their food scene left a great big impression on me. Beyond the famous chili, there are tons of great restaurants, bars and breweries.”

— Susannah Brinkley Henry, Feast + West

Savor local flavors at these Cincinnati restaurants

Cincinnati’s food scene includes several must-visit restaurants. Be sure to visit Eli’s BBQ, which serves up some of the best barbecue in the city, and Skyline Chili, known for its unique take on Cincinnati-style chili. You should know that Cincinnati chili is a significant departure from typical Tex-Mex style chili and includes Mediterranean spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and unsweetened dark chocolate. Lastly, try a scoop of the black raspberry chocolate chip at Graeter’s Ice Cream, a Cincinnati institution since 1870.

The Final Word on Things to Do in Cincinnati

Whether you call Cincinnati home or are just visiting, there’s plenty to see, do, eat and drink in the Queen City. Cincinnati has something for everyone, from beautiful parks to museums, delicious food to local breweries, and sports teams to local markets. 

Sage Scott was bitten by the travel bug as a preschooler when her family moved abroad for the first time. Now settled in America’s Heartland, Sage is a travel writer, world wanderer, and photographer whose favorite color is golden hour.

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