10 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Cincinnati, OH
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The city of Cincinnati lies in a beautiful location in a wide basin on the north bank of the Ohio River, surrounded by hills, which is how it became known as the "Pearl of the West" and the "Queen City."
Today, this largely industrial city in Ohio has a wide range of cultural and recreational facilities, as well as revived neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine and Mount Airy that are expanding the city's social scene. Cincinnati is booming with sports, entertainment, culture, and history. It also has a great culinary scene, and offers a range of outdoor opportunities. The city makes a wonderful destination for a weekend getaway in Ohio.
Plan your time here with our list of attractions and things to do in Cincinnati.
See also: Where to Stay in Cincinnati
1. Cincinnati Museum Center
The Cincinnati Union Terminal, an Art Deco railroad station built in 1933, has been occupied since 1990 by the Cincinnati Museum Center. The center is a Cincinnati icon and features three museums at its one location at Union Station. These include the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children's Museum, and the Museum of Natural History and Science.
Other tourist attractions here include the Robert D. Lidner Family OMNIMAX Theater, the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center, and the Cincinnati History Library and Archives. The Museum Center has an active schedule of traveling national and international exhibits.
Address: 1301 Western Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio
Official site: http://www.cincymuseum.org
2. Catch a Performance at the Music Hall
The splendidly renovated 1878 Music Hall is one of the finest buildings in Cincinnati. The expansive Music Hall is in Cincinnati's re-energized Over-the-Rhine neighborhood at Washington Park, with a stunning presence. The façade contains arched entranceways below one huge round window and is flanked by two square towers.
Take in a performance at The Music Hall, home to the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra, Cincinnati Ballet, and Cincinnati Opera. It features two tiers of balconies and an ornate ceiling with decorative panels that give it a particular charm. The Music Hall Ballroom can accommodate some 1,300 people and is used for events and exhibitions. Events requiring a more intimate setting are held in the Corbett Tower, which holds just 300 people.
Address: 1241 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio
Official site: http://www.cincinnatiarts.org/music-hall
3. Cincinnati Zoo
The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens is famed for its white Bengal tigers and gorillas. It also contains one of the largest insectariums in the world. A visit to the zoo is a full day, with rides, a 4D theater, and animal encounters and shows.
Get up-close to the animals in the zoo's world-class exhibits, like Gorilla World, Africa, Cat Canyon, and Painted Dog Valley. Family programs are available as well as special events throughout the year.
Stroll the botanical garden and cast an eye over the many exhibits that are also educational. Here, you can learn about the best plants for pollinators, native plants, or take part in one of the many symposiums and classes offered throughout the year.
Address: 3400 Vine Street, Cincinnati, Ohio
Official site: http://cincinnatizoo.org
4. Take in a Cincinnati Reds Baseball Game
A visit to Cincinnati is not complete without taking in an iconic Reds Baseball game at the Great American Ball Park in the heart of downtown. As baseball's first professional franchise, the Reds are a household name in Cincinnati and an important part of the community.
While baseball games are seasonal, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum is open year-round, and you will often find Reds-related events throughout the year.
Address: 100 Joe Nuxhall Way, Cincinnati, Ohio
Official site: http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=cin
5. Cincinnati Art Museum
In Eden Park, the Cincinnati Art Museum features prominent works of art, including sculpture, ceramics, and pictures from great civilizations of five millennia. On display is the permanent collection, along with temporary national and international exhibitions.
Highlights of the collection include American and European painting and sculpture, Far East and African art, Decorative Arts, textiles, and photographs. The museum is also popular for its art-related programs and special events held throughout the year.
Address: 953 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio
Official site: http://www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org
6. See the Colorful Plants at the Irwin M. Krohn Conservatory
The Irwin M. Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnati has more than 3,500 plant species from all corners of the globe and is a horticultural gem. The conservatory features unique themed houses that include a desert and a tropical rainforest, complete with waterfalls.
Built in 1933 during the Art Deco era, the Krohn Conservatory became known for its unique architecture of aluminum and glass, as well as its diverse species of plants inside the greenhouse. Various "houses" have different plants from around the world and include the Fern House, Palm House, and the Desert House. Also of interest is the John Carroll Bonsai Gallery of miniature trees and the seasonal floral show room that bursts into color several times a year.
It is managed by the City of Cincinnati Parks Department and hosts various events and changing exhibits throughout the year.
Address: 1501 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio
Official site: https://www.cincinnatiparks.com/krohn/
7. Taft Museum of Art
The world-renowned Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati is housed in a majestic 1820 Palladian-style building called the Baum-Longworth-Taft House. It is listed as a National Historic Landmark and gives a sense of the grandeur of an earlier age.
The museum displays a small but impressive collection of paintings from Old Masters, European Decorative Arts, sculptures, and furniture among many other pieces. In front of the museum is a statue of Abraham Lincoln created by George Grey Barnard in 1917. It is regarded as Barnard's best work but was controversial at the time for its representation. Barnard had hoped to portray a less conventional image and show Lincoln more as a man of the people, and consequently the statue revealed Lincoln in a slouched stance wearing common, if not shabby, clothes.
The museum hosts regular educational talks and social events throughout the year.
Address: 316 Pike Street, Cincinnati, Ohio
Official site: http://www.taftmuseum.org
8. Enjoy a Night Out at Fountain Square
The focal point of the Cincinnati city center, with its modern tower blocks, is Fountain Square. At the heart of the square is the impressive Tyler Davidson Fountain, which was cast in Munich and erected in 1871.
Fountain Square is a social center surrounded by a great assortment of restaurants and is an ideal spot for grabbing a bite to eat, especially in the summer. Be sure to snag a table at one of the patios. In winter, skating on the outdoor ice rink is one of the most popular things to do here. Once a week, the crazy sport of ice bumper cars takes over the ice rink and is a hilarious spectacle.
Address: 520 Vine Street, Cincinnati, Ohio
Official site: http://myfountainsquare.com/
9. Get a Bird's-Eye View from the Carew Tower's Observation Deck
Carew Tower is the second tallest building in Cincinnati. This French Art Deco building, built in the 1930s at the height of the Art Deco era in the United States, is a National Historic Landmark. This multifunctional building contains offices, stores, restaurants, and hotel rooms, but the highlight for most people is the view of the city from the Observation Deck on the 49th floor. Come here on a clear day to enjoy fabulous views over the city and river.
Address: 441 Vine Street, Cincinnati, Ohio
10. American Sign Museum
One of the hidden gems in Cincinnati is the American Sign Museum. This unique and colorful museum displays every type of sign imaginable throughout its 20,000 square feet of space. The "neon shop" shows sign makers busy at their craft during weekdays, and a museum tour gives a close up look at the process.
The brightly lit signs are truly a feast for the eyes and a visual experience unmatched by other museums. Be sure to bring your phone – a self-guided audio tour can be downloaded for free, and headphones are available at the front desk. Alternatively, guided tours are also available.
Address: 1330 Monmouth Street, Cincinnati, Ohio
Official site: http://www.americansignmuseum.org/
Where to Stay in Cincinnati for Sightseeing
The best place to stay in Cincinnati is right downtown among the wonderfully restored historical buildings, famous museums, and pleasant public spaces. The city is laid out in an easy-to-navigate grid pattern with the Ohio River marking the southern border.
Art and nature lovers will want to stay on the eastern side to be close to the Cincinnati Art Museum and Johnston Park. Those in town to see a concert at the Cincinnati Music Hall should try to stay on the northern edge of downtown. Below is a list of highly rated hotels in convenient locations:
- In a great location in the heart of the action, the 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati is an innovative, new concept property with luxurious rooms; pop up penguins; an art gallery; and rooftop terrace in the summer, with expansive views out over the city.
- One of the city's landmark hotels, the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza is housed in a 1931 Art Deco building, near Fountain Square.
- Modern and conveniently located, The Westin Cincinnati is also on Fountain Square and steps to some of the best restaurants in the city.
- The downtown Residence Inn Cincinnati Downtown/The Phelps offers studios and two-room suites, complete with kitchens and a welcoming outdoor space with BBQs. It is conveniently located a short walk from the Taft Museum.
- Offering similar amenities, the Homewood Suites by Hilton Cincinnati-Downtown is housed in a historical building by Fountain Park and close to the Contemporary Arts Center.
- With a modern take on Art Deco design, the Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown has comfortable rooms and luxurious bathrooms. Rooms above the 10th floor have great city views.
- The BEST WESTERN PLUS Hannaford Inn & Suites is an easy 12-mile drive on Interstate 71 out of downtown and offers a generous breakfast buffet.
- The recently renovated Comfort Inn Northeast is another five miles out and offers large rooms at an attractive price.
- A bit farther out in Beechmont is the Red Roof Cincinnati East. Pet friendly, clean, and comfortable, the hotel is easily accessible off Interstate 275.