Summer is here, and it’s finally time to shake off that COVID-19 ennui and safely mingle with your pals outside. Greater Cincinnati has an abundance of activities for all interests and ages, but there are a few that every resident needs to try. So why not make a game of it?
Read on for CityBeat's favorite summertime activities.
EAT BLUE CREAMY WHIP
If you’ve lived in Cincinnati for any length of time, chances are you can distinctly evoke the taste of blue ice cream. A blueberry-based soft serve, the actual name of the flavor is known simply as “blue.” Introduced by Kings Island in 1982 to promote a then-new Smurfs ride in the park’s Hanna-Barbera Land, it’s become a quintessential Queen City summer treat. Thankfully the cult following for the dessert is as rich as its flavor, so you can grab a cone at most local creamy whip windows, like Putz’s Creamy Whip in Westwood. Although blue creamy whip varies slightly at each location — with many shops implementing special (and secret) twists — the treats taste nearly identical, staying faithful to the amusement park’s true-blue recipe. Putz’s Creamy Whip, 2673 Putz’s Place, Westwood, putzscreamywhip.com.
SOAK UP CULTURE AT SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company kicked off its 2021 Shakespeare in the Park series in early May with performances listed online through May 23 (information for performances for June through August will be announced soon). Locations for the events span across the Greater Cincinnati area in beautiful destinations like Devou, Eden and Washington parks. Admittance is free and open to the public. Visit individual venue websites for COVID protocols. cincyshakes.com.
AMBLE AMONG ART AT PYRAMID HILL SCULPTURE PARK & MUSEUM
Art appreciation and fresh air aren’t mutually exclusive, at least at Hamilton’s Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum. Since 1997, the 300-acre nonprofit outdoor art park features more than 80 gargantuan sculptures displayed among rolling hills, lakes and hiking trails. If the weather’s not to your taste, head indoors to explore the ancient sculpture museum, which houses Greek, Roman, Syrian and Egyptian art, as well as rotating exhibitions of more modern work. The park rents out special Art Carts (aka golf carts) on a first-come, first-served basis. Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum, 1763 Hamilton Cleves Road, Hamilton, pyramidhill.org.
STEP BACK IN TIME AT A DRIVE-IN THEATER
Greater Cincinnati has two drive-in theaters — Holiday Auto Theatre in Oxford and Starlite Drive-In in Amelia. And both, like drive-ins across the country, have seen renewed interest since the advent of COVID. Sporting vintage vibes and cheery concession stands, the theaters offer an opportunity to hang in your car while you watch first-run films and classic cinema with sound beamed straight to your radio. Starlite, open since 1947, and Holiday, open for more than 60 years, both offer double features for the price of one (and an option to pay an additional $5ish to bring in your own food). Holiday Auto Theatre, 1816 Old Oxford Road, Oxford, holidayautotheatre.com. Starlite Drive-In, 2255 Ohio Route 125, Amelia, starlitedriveinohio.com.
SEE (AND HEAR) A CONCERT FROM THE LAWN AT RIVERBEND
After a long, live concertless year, Riverbend Music Center is loading its summer and fall schedules with a star-studded lineup. Currently, the venue is anticipating performances by Alicia Keys, Maroon 5, Dave Matthews Band, Alanis Morissette and (parrotheads, rejoice) Jimmy Buffett. In 2019, the venue made it even easier to see live music from the lawn seats by removing support beam towers that have been part of the pavilion structure since 1984. Riverbend Music Center, 6295 Kellogg Ave., California, riverbend.org.
PUT YOUR TOES IN THE SAND AT CAESAR CREEK STATE PARK BEACH
The Queen City may be landlocked, but when you’re in need of some sand between your toes, there are a few beach-boasting state park lakes within a one-hour drive from downtown, such as Caesar Creek State Park, Hueston Woods State Park and East Fork State Park. Caesar Creek offers a 1,300-foot beach that is open during daylight hours. After a day of hiking, mountain biking, fishing or boating, visitors can hang out on the beach or take a dip in the lake. Caesar Creek State Park, 8570 Ohio Route 73, Waynesville, Ohio, caesarcreeknatureassociation.org.
GET FIT FOR FREE AT WASHINGTON PARK
Ditch the gym membership and head to Washington Park on Wednesdays and Thursdays this summer for the park’s weekly free Workout on the Green series. Spring sessions include yoga, HIIT and dance fitness; summer session dates and workouts have not yet been announced. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, washingtonpark.org.
DO A CANNONBALL IN THE ZIEGLER PARK POOL
Located in Ziegler Park, this renovated Over-the-Rhine pool is not only a community hot spot, but also a hip place to see and be seen. It’s popularity largely is due to the location (across from Alumni Lofts in the former School for Creative and Performing Arts), the cost (daily admission is just $4 for adults) and the features, including a zero-depth entry, lap lanes and a rock climbing wall that arcs out over the water. Due to capacity restrictions, the pool is offering three two-hour swimming sessions per day with a maximum of 175 swimmers per session, split between season pass holders and reservations. Guests must reserve their visit at least one day in advance; walk-up ticket sales are currently unavailable. Ziegler Pool, 216 Woodward St., Over-the-Rhine, zieglerpark.org.
TAKE A SELFIE WITH A CINCINNATI MURAL
Since its inception in 2007, the ArtWorks mural pro-gram has been a boon to public art along the streets of Cincinnati. The nonprofit organization — dedicated to employing and training local youth and other creative individuals to achieve community impact through art — has created nearly 200 of them. Download or print a map from online and build your own tour, or purchase a ticket for an ArtWorks-guided tour. artworkscincinnati.org.
GET YOUR FLOAT ON AT GREEN ACRES KAYAK RENTAL
Harrison’s Green Acres kayak rental has officially opened for the season. If you didn’t get a chance to visit the livery last summer, traditional operations have shifted a bit to allow for safer trips for their guests. You must book your date and pay for your trip online in advance. The outfitter is only offering the 8-mile trip, and guests must weigh more than 75 pounds to participate. No dogs or large coolers are permitted, and only single kayaks are available. Trips start at $26.75 and increase by $8 on weekends or holidays. Green Acres Kayak Rental, 10465 Suspension Bridge Road, Harrison, greenacrescanoe.com.
VISIT FIONA AND THE ‘ROOS AT THE CINCINNATI ZOO & BOTANICAL GARDEN
The Cincinnati Zoo’s new Roo Valley habitat is an interactive experience that allows visitors to wander a 15,000-square-foot green space where red and grey kangaroos roam about. In this land down under (it is technically down under — located where the zoo’s Wildlife Canyon used to be and currently below the local-beer-serving Hops Beer Garden), adorable marsupials may even come up and interact with you. Another zoo superstar to check out? Fiona the hippo, the Queen City’s perfectly plump princess. Since being born six weeks early in January 2017, Fiona has become a bona fide celebrity. Initially weighing just 29 pounds, she inspired the hashtag #TeamFiona as well as plenty of international media coverage, books and mountains of themed merchandise. Visit her and her mom Bibi in the zoo’s Africa exhibit, or check out the other animal tots who steal our hearts on the regular, especially during Zoo Babies month in May. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, cincinnatizoo.org.
ZIG-ZAG UP THE ART CLIMB
Starting near the intersection of Eden Park Drive and Gilbert Avenue, the new and expansive Art Climb is a flight of 164 steps that ascends from the sidewalk and zig-zags its way up to the Cincinnati Art Museum. At nine stories high, the stairway includes 16 landings and is flanked on either side by greenery and modern light beam structures. If the climb seems daunting, don’t fret: not only are benches placed throughout, but users can also check out artworks placed at four different plazas. Cincinnati Art Museum, 953 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, cincinnatiartmuseum.org.
SHOP LOCAL AT A THE CITY FLEA
This “curated urban flea market” pops up monthly from May to October — with a special winter holiday market — in Washington Park. Small businesses and independent makers sell everything from vintage duds and air plants to apothecary items and artisan pizza. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, thecityflea.com.
VISIT SHARONVILLE’S THE ROOT BEER STAND
Opened as an A&W Root Beer Stand in 1957, the now family-owned restaurant makes secret-recipe root beer (available by the jug) using water from the property’s 280-foot-deep well. But don’t miss out on the food — the secret-recipe chili for the eatery’s famous foot-long coney dogs is to die for. Open seasonally. The Root Beer Stand, 11566 Reading Road, Sharonville, therootbeerstand.com.
STROLL THROUGH FINDLAY MARKET
We already knew Findlay Market is great, but one of the best in the world? OK, we kinda knew that, too. In 2019, Newsweek affirmed our love for the 165-year-old outdoor market — the oldest continually operated public market in Ohio — by declaring it one of the top 10 food markets in the world as well as the only market in the United States to make the list. More than 50 full-time merchants at the 19th-century landmark sell everything from meat, cheese and fresh-baked bread to produce, flowers and international eats. Stop by for a pint at the newly opened Jane’s bar (a partnership with Karrikin Spirits taking over the former biergarten), a local farmers market and plenty of arts and crafts vendors. Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, findlaymarket.org.
RIDE THE LOVELAND BIKE TRAIL
Spanning more than 70 miles along the Little Miami River, the Loveland Bike Trail is a haven for cyclists, runners and walkers alike. The paved, flat trail was developed in 1983, replacing what was once the Pennsylvania Railroad. Now, visitors pedal through to immerse themselves in the landscape of Little Miami State Park, grab ice cream at Loveland Sweets or Loveland Dairy Whip, and maybe even learn a thing or two at the Loveland History Museum. Loveland is also a DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area) district, so if you grab a brew from Narrow Path Brewing, you can take it with you while you wander the quaint downtown. And if you don’t own a bike, don’t worry — rentals are a phone call away. Loveland Bike Trail, lovelandbiketrail.com.
BUMP, SET, SPIKE AT FIFTY WEST BREWING COMPANY’S SAND VOLLEYBALL COURTS
Fifty West has turned a stretch of Wooster Pike into a veritable outdoor recreation corridor with several sand volleyball courts (register online for leagues), plus running groups, the Fifty West Cycling Company and more. All are geared toward building community through shared experiences, which include drinking craft beer and getting outside. The brewery hub also added its popular new Burger Bar to the sprawling campus, with a menu of bread-and-butter diner specialties like classic cheeseburgers, flat-top hot dogs and loaded crinkle-cut fries. Don’t miss the 12 specialty burgers named for the 12 states that U.S. Route 50 runs through. Grab a house-made root beer or orange soda to wash it all down, or choose from a wide range of Fifty West canned, bottled or draft beers. Fifty West Brewing Company, 7605 Wooster Pike, Columbia Township, fiftywestbrew.com.
SLIDE THROUGH THE TWISTER AT CONEY ISLAND
Cincinnatians have been splashing around in the world’s largest recirculating pool at Coney Island amusement park since 1925. The 200-foot-by- 401-foot Sunlite Pool has plenty of space for small children, teenagers and lap swimmers to cool off during the summer, in addition to water slides like The Twister, a Typhoon Tower and adjacent Cannonball Cove, which has three diving boards (the tallest one is 9 feet high). Coney Island Amusement Park, 6201 Kellogg Ave., California, coneyislandpark.com.
SHOP VINTAGE AT THE BURLINGTON ANTIQUE MARKET
The Midwest’s premier antique market kicked off its 2021 season in April and has monthly dates slated through October. Visitors can expect to hunt through authentic wares — mid-century modern, Art Deco, pre-war, industrial and more — from more than 200 dealers offering the best antiques and vintage collectibles. If you’re a real hunter, aim for early-bird admission ($6; 6-8 a.m.), or just browse until 3 p.m. General admission is $4. Boone County Fairgrounds, 5819 Idlewild Road, Burlington, burlingtonantiqueshow.com.
Still craving more? Read our full 2021 Summer Guide issue or check out these activities:
- Chill out at Cincinnati's best rooftop bars
- Get away from it all (but stay close to home)
- Scoop an ice ball to mark the region's official start of summer
- Devour the meat cone at Great American Ball Park
- Explore Kings Island and read the new book Kings Island: A Ride Through Time
- See Kings Island's many famous friends