Set on the banks of the Ohio River, the Queen City thrills with its neon lights, energetic sports scene, jazzy cocktail bars, European-style boroughs, and passion for craft brewing. From a walk through Cincy’s parks, to taking in an exhibit at one of its shiny arts venues, to exploring its secret tunnels, you’ll be charmed by this rust belt revival town. You’ll find so many things to do in downtown Cincinnati that you won’t know where to start.
Start with a scenic walk along the famous Ohio River. The river is the focus of the city, and the trail along its bank is stunning. Pass through the picturesque gardens and quaint fountains in the Smale Riverfront Park, and walk along the impressive Roebling Suspension Bridge for good views and numerous photo ops. Your kids will appreciate the swing sets, playgrounds, and the carousel. Serious photographers should come back later for a view of the city from the bridge at sunset.
There are a ton of great museums in the city: the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Cincinnati Museum Center, and the Taft Museum of Art are all worth a visit. But the American Sign Museum is a truly unique experience. Wander among the huge, flashing neon lights and reflect on how these buzzing structures have become a symbol of American culture. Don’t forget to bring your camera, as this is probably the most Instagrammable stop you’ll make in the city.
Explore the epicenter of Reds country by taking in a game at this iconic stadium. The park is an attraction in itself with restaurants, beer gardens, a Hall of Fame, and even a museum located on the grounds. From the surrounding park is a pretty view of the river, and it’s just a short walk to the Ohio River Trail. If baseball isn't your thing, the football stadium is just on the other side of the park.
Don’t miss the iconic water fountain at Fountain Square. As the symbolic city center, Fountain Square is Cincinnati’s central plaza and main gathering space. The square features the famous water fountain and hosts street festivals, Saturday night movies, and sporting events throughout the year. If you happen to be visiting in the winter, the plaza also hosts a seasonal ice rink, highlighting the city’s identity as a winter-loving town. Check out the city’s events calendar for information about seasonal events. Be sure to leave some time to explore the excellent restaurants and independent cafes along 5th street.
If Cincinnati is anything, it’s a beer town. The city has been producing high-quality beers since the 1800s and production is still going strong with a vast craft beer scene. There are over 20 local breweries, with at least another 10 on the Kentucky side of the river. The best way to delve into this community of beer lovers is on a tour with a local guide. Make a point to stop by Rhinegeist for its rooftop patio and Urban Artifact for its unique location in the basement of a former church. If you’re bringing pets, MadTree’s dog-friendly patio has you covered.
Cincinnati's deep history is particularly well-preserved in the 19th-century buildings that adorn the streets of Over-the-Rhine, a neighborhood in the north of downtown Cincinnati. These days, the evocative buildings and historical landmarks are contrasted with hip bistros, trendy cafes, and vintage shops. This part of the city is also brimming with breweries; it features the Brewing Heritage Trail, a half-mile path that takes you past some of the city's best alehouses.
If you're a foodie, make sure you don't leave Cincinnati before trying its "five-way" chili. It's a spiced meat stew served over beans and spaghetti and then sprinkled with onions and freshly grated cheese. The five-way is considered a local specialty, and it was even recognized on a list of "20 Most Iconic Foods in America" by Smithsonian magazine.
There's a labyrinth of tunnels and crypts beneath the streets that you can explore with a thrilling tour of Cincinnati’s underground. The Queen City Underground Tour is one of the better tours, descending under the city and taking you on a historical trek through a hidden crypt and newly discovered tunnels that were once vital to Cincy's early beer industry. A tour beneath the city's surface is one of the most exciting ways to see the Cincinnati and is certain to give you a new perspective.
You won’t find goetta anywhere else. The breakfast sausage—made from pork and oats, and spiced with herbs—is only found in the Cincinnati area. The best time to try it is in August at Goetta Fest, a festival dedicated entirely to this local delicacy. The festival even erects a goetta vending machine, likely the only one in the world, where you can get your hands on all the goetta souvenirs your heart desires.
For another perspective on the history of Cincinnati, check out the National Underground Railroad Center, which recognizes the important role that Cincy played in the freedom of slaves from the South. The center’s artifacts and exhibits educate the viewer not only on the history of slaves in the United States, but it also covers the modern struggle for civil rights around the world.