25 Touristy Things Every Cincinnati Resident Should Do at Least Once
Touristy things in any city can get a bad rap for their cheesiness or crowdedness and the long-running joke that you won't find locals in these places. But in Cincinnati, we tend to send tourists to places we love visiting, too.
From the iconic stops like Fountain Square and Findlay Market to the wackier, off-the-beaten-path attractions like museums dedicated to ventriloquist dolls and lucky cats to a giant singing soup can, there are just some things in Cincinnati that both tourists and locals need to check out at least once in their lives.
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Photo: Hailey Bollinger
520 Vine St., Downtown
If you want to get to the heart of Cincinnati and its people, Fountain Square is the place to start. Home to the Tyler Davidson Fountain (a.k.a. The Genius of Water), Fountain Square sits right in the middle of Downtown Cincinnati at Fifth and Vine streets and plays host to numerous events and programs throughout the year, including the beloved UC Health Ice Rink in the winter, Salsa on the Square and Frisch’s Roller Rink. It’s within walking distance to some of Downtown’s best restaurants, like Via Vite, Jeff Ruby’s, Sotto and Mita’s, making it the perfect place to stop before or after dinner with friends. Fountain Square also has its own mini-bar, Fountain Bar, where you can buy a pop, beer, seltzer or mixed drink while you enjoy live music or just people-watching.
Photo: Scott Dittgen
166 W. Mehring Way, The Banks
You can’t be a Cincinnati tourist if you don’t stop to look at one of our most iconic landmarks: the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. While it’s true the best view of the bridge is from Covington with Cincinnati’s skyline in the background, Smale Riverfront Park offers stunning views of the bridge, plus a whole lot more. Recently voted one of the top five riverwalks in the country in USA Today
’s 10Best, Smale connects downtown from Paul Brown Stadium to Great American Ball Park with 45 acres of greenway. The park features public art, interactive fountains, playgrounds and giant swing sets that give a hell of a view of the Ohio River. Not only that, but you can walk or bike the paved trail from Smale through Sawyer Point, Yeatman’s Cove and down to Montgomery Inn and Friendship Park, or over the Purple People Bridge into Newport, all without getting near a car. And at Smale, you’re near all the fun The Banks has to offer, like the Andrew J Brady Music Center, Carol Ann’s Carousel, The Banks’ DORA (designated outdoor refreshment area) and quality Cincinnati establishments like Moerlein Lager House, E+O Kitchen and The Filson.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine
It would almost be a crime to miss out on seeing Findlay Market. Ohio’s oldest-operating public market, Findlay Market is easily recognized by its candy-colored awnings and buildings and the bustling people around it throughout the day. But the market isn’t just colorful; it’s also a treasure trove of some of Cincinnati’s best food and shops. Satisfy your sweet tooth with gelato from uGOgelato or Dojo Gelato or a pastry from Moxy. For lunch, you can try Colombian arepas at The Arepa Place or a croque monsieur at French Crust. Eckerlin Meats has Cincinnati staple goetta you can cook up, and The Rhined is your go-to spot for all things charcuterie (and don’t forget to stop in Market Wines to find the perfect wine to pair with your board). You can also find artisan goods like all-natural soap from Maumee World Traders, candles and honey from Bee Haven or CBD products from Cincinnati Hemp Company.
Photo: Devin Luginbill
1301 Western Ave., West End
Union Terminal is home to several smaller museums within the Cincinnati Museum Center, including the Cincinnati History Museum and the Children’s Museum, both of which were named in the top 10 best museums of their kind by USA Today
’s 10Best. Not only does the Cincinnati Museum Center host extraordinary traveling exhibits, like Dinosaurs of Antarctica or The Science Behind Pixar, its history museum allows visitors to step back in time to become immersed in Cincinnati’s history, from the earliest settlers to traditions only found here, like our chili. The museum has everything from costumed interpreters to a recreation of the bustling Public Landing as it was in the 1850s and a replica of the Queen of the West, a side-wheel steamboat. At the Children’s Museum, kids can dive into arts, culture and science. The museum has over 1,800 hours of programming each year and offers hands-on fun for kids of all ages with its eight themed play areas, including two designed for younger children. You can also catch a documentary in the museum’s state-of-the-art IMAX theater or hear the stories of courage and perseverance from survivors at the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center.
3400 Vine St., Avondale
When you visit the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, the first thing you’ll want to do is meet true Cincinnati royalty. Fiona, her baby brother Fritz, mom Bibi and step/dad Tucker will all be at Hippo Cove waiting to see you. There are also tons of other adorable animals to stop and see while you’re there, from elephants and manatees to giraffes and lions. If you’re lucky enough to go in April, you’ll see an explosion of color from the tulips and daffodils of Zoo Blooms. And toward the end of the year, the zoo comes alive with millions of bright, twinkly lights for the Festival of Lights.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine
Cincinnati is a hub for great art in every medium, and that’s never more apparent than when you attend a show at Music Hall, which is arguably a work of art in and of itself. Want to catch a live symphony of a Star Wars
soundtrack or see the Cincinnati Ballet in action? Head to this historic landmark. Friends of Music Hall, its nonprofit arm, also offers tours of the building so you can dive deeper into its history and see what’s happening behind the scenes (and maybe even meet a ghost). And right across the street is the beautifully renovated Washington Park, which is a great place to unwind, see free live music or enjoy a drink at its patio bar, The Porch.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
1330 Monmouth Ave., Camp Washington
This one-of-a-kind museum dedicated to the art and history of commercial signs and sign-making holds the stories of a not-often-seen side of American history. You can wander through the American Sign Museum’s collection and ever-present neon glow to learn more about these stories, as well as see what goes into preserving or restoring old signs.
Photo: Stephanie Scarbrough
1501 Eden Park Drive, Walnut Hills
Located in historic Eden Park, the Krohn Conservatory is an aluminum-and-glass Art Deco destination (in the shape of an upside-down heart) filled with more than 3,500 plant species from around the world. Permanent displays include a rare orchid house, a steamy tropical room, a succulent-filled desert space and a fun walk-through rainforest rock waterfall.
50 E. Freedom Way, The Banks
Recently named the best history museum in the country in USA Today
’s 10Best, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is renowned for its focus on how oppression and slavery have impacted society. The museum does this by sharing stories of slavery, the Underground Railroad, the Civil Rights movement and those who are enslaved today. Permanent exhibits include “Slave Pen,” an 1800s holding pen recovered from a farm in Mason County, Kentucky, that’s a somber and sobering reminder of slavery’s history in the United States and our region. There is also “ESCAPE! Freedom Seekers and the Underground Railroad,” which uses storytelling, roleplaying and interactive activities to share stories of those who resisted slavery. The museum also hosts various traveling exhibits, events and programming aimed at promoting its mission of social justice and inclusive freedom.
Photo: Brittany Thornton
3489 Observatory Place, Hyde Park
Founded in 1842, the Cincinnati Observatory houses the oldest fully operational telescope in the nation. On many Friday nights — and some Saturday nights — it hosts public viewings where anyone and everyone (who RSVPs) is welcome to come explore the cosmos with a local astronomer. Listen to a presentation and then partake in a guided stargaze through “a 16-foot long wood and brass refractor first used in 1845.” Weather permitting, you’ll see the moon, planets and stars. If it’s cloudy, you’ll get a tour of the cool historical building. And on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, you can also take part in a daytime history tour, which includes the observatory’s two buildings and two main telescopes, as well as a stop at their out-of-this-world gift shop.