25 Outdoor Activities to Put On Your Cincinnati Summer Bucket List

Summer is right around the corner, and if you're not quite ready to head indoors to satisfy your entertainment itch, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the season in the great outdoors. From keeping cool with a Northern Kentucky ice ball to munching on extravagant eats at the ballpark, kayaking, hiking and more, here's your can't-miss guide to summer in Cincy.
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Visit Sharonville’s The Root Beer Stand
11566 Reading Road, Sharonville
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.
Photo: Danielle Schuster

Visit Sharonville’s The Root Beer Stand

11566 Reading Road, Sharonville
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.
Photo: Danielle Schuster
Get Frosty With a Northern Kentucky Ice Ball
20 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue
As summer approaches, a seasonal favorite is making its way back to Northern Kentucky sweet shops — ice balls. A combination of finely ground ice with rich, flavored syrup generously poured on top, this dessert has become a seasonal staple in Northern Kentucky since its inception in 1919. The more-than-a-century-old legacy continues at places like Schneider’s Sweet Shop in Bellevue and Sweet Tooth Candies in Newport, where you can pair your favorite flavored ice with smooth ice cream to further enhance the experience.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Get Frosty With a Northern Kentucky Ice Ball

20 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue
As summer approaches, a seasonal favorite is making its way back to Northern Kentucky sweet shops — ice balls. A combination of finely ground ice with rich, flavored syrup generously poured on top, this dessert has become a seasonal staple in Northern Kentucky since its inception in 1919. The more-than-a-century-old legacy continues at places like Schneider’s Sweet Shop in Bellevue and Sweet Tooth Candies in Newport, where you can pair your favorite flavored ice with smooth ice cream to further enhance the experience.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Stroll Through Findlay Market
1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine
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.
Photo: facebook.com/findlaymarket

Stroll Through Findlay Market

1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine
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.
Photo: facebook.com/findlaymarket
Catch a Reds Game and Chow Down on a Smokehouse Parfait
100 Joe Nuxhall Way, The Banks
With its leisurely pace, foam-fingered cheers and Hammond organ interludes, baseball is the quintessential summer sport. But honestly? Sometimes we just want the food.
Ballpark fare can make anyone salivate. The mouth-watering nostalgia of ice cream in miniature batter’s helmets. The tantalizing siren call of tangy relish on a foot-long hot dog. And those are all great. But we really want the good stuff. The weird stuff. The Smokehouse Parfait at the Great American Ball Park scratches that itch. New for 2021, the item is exactly what you’d imagine: barbecue pulled pork, mac and cheese and coleslaw, all loaded up into a squishy bread cone. Find it behind section 137 of the GABP at Mr. Red's Smokehouse presented by Montgomery Inn.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Catch a Reds Game and Chow Down on a Smokehouse Parfait

100 Joe Nuxhall Way, The Banks
With its leisurely pace, foam-fingered cheers and Hammond organ interludes, baseball is the quintessential summer sport. But honestly? Sometimes we just want the food. Ballpark fare can make anyone salivate. The mouth-watering nostalgia of ice cream in miniature batter’s helmets. The tantalizing siren call of tangy relish on a foot-long hot dog. And those are all great. But we really want the good stuff. The weird stuff. The Smokehouse Parfait at the Great American Ball Park scratches that itch. New for 2021, the item is exactly what you’d imagine: barbecue pulled pork, mac and cheese and coleslaw, all loaded up into a squishy bread cone. Find it behind section 137 of the GABP at Mr. Red's Smokehouse presented by Montgomery Inn.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Get Your Float On at Green Acres Kayak Rental
10465 Suspension Bridge Road, Harrison
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 be age 12+ and 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.
Photo: facebook.com/greenacreskayak

Get Your Float On at Green Acres Kayak Rental

10465 Suspension Bridge Road, Harrison
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 be age 12+ and 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.
Photo: facebook.com/greenacreskayak

See (and Hear) a Concert from the Lawn at Riverbend

6295 Kellogg Ave., California
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.
Photo: facebook.com/riverbendmusiccenter
Get Fit for Free at Washington Park
1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine
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. 
Photo: facebook.com/washingtonparkotr

Get Fit for Free at Washington Park

1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine
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.
Photo: facebook.com/washingtonparkotr
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).
Photo: Jesse Fox

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).
Photo: Jesse Fox
Eat Blue Creamy Whip
2673 Putz’s Place, Westwood
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 as just “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.
Photo: Sami Stewart

Eat Blue Creamy Whip

2673 Putz’s Place, Westwood
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 as just “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.
Photo: Sami Stewart
Bump, Set, Spike at Fifty West Brewing Company’s Sand Volleyball Courts
7605 Wooster Pike, Columbia Township
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.
Photo: facebook.com/fiftywestbrewingcompany

Bump, Set, Spike at Fifty West Brewing Company’s Sand Volleyball Courts

7605 Wooster Pike, Columbia Township
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.
Photo: facebook.com/fiftywestbrewingcompany