Fun things to do in Cincinnati for families

By: Margy Waller

April 22, 2016

Rooftops of Over-the-Rhine viewed from the Carew Tower Observation Deck © Brent Moore/Flickr

Cincinnati draws people from all over to see the sports, music, theatre, museums, and parks, and especially the historic architecture. It’s no surprise that kids and adults alike find so many great activities here, too. From trains of all kinds, to carousels, to bikes, and more, here are some of our favourite fun things to do in Cincinnati for families.

Skyscrapers and sweet treats

At any time of year, the Carew Tower Observation Deck offers a spectacular view from the 49th floor of the second tallest building in the city. You can see three states, the river, all of historic Over-the-Rhine’s beautiful rooftops, and some of the most iconic buildings in the area. Enter this historic landmark property from the art-deco style arcade with historic and colourful Rookwood Pottery tiles and before heading up in the elevator get a bite at the long-time favourite, Hathaway’s Diner, where pie is always a special treat.

Cincinnati for families
Kids enjoy the old-fashioned fun of a beautiful carousel © Mandy Paige for Cincinnati Park Board

Take a ride on the carousel

When the weather is good, spend some time outside with an easy walk from downtown to Smale Park, 40 acres of fun along the Ohio River. One of our favourite fun things to do in Cincinnati for families with young children, there’s the chance to ride some of the 44 whimsical characters on Carol Anne’s Carousel, where all the animals and figures are inspired by the ideas of local citizens and carved by the world’s largest maker of carousel figures, based in Ohio. They can also play on the giant flying pig and keyboard, and then try the giant swings overlooking the river.

Cincinnati for families
The Roebling Suspension Bridge is a great way to cross the Ohio River on bike or on foot © Chuck Eilerman

Two-wheeling along the river

Rent bikes at one of two rental shops along the river, or borrow a Red Bike from Cincinnati’s ubiquitous bike share, and take a leisurely family cycle along the river up and down nearly five km of park space filled with views and public art. Or head across one of the bridges to the shopping, eating, and entertainment at Kentucky’s Newport on the Levee or Covington’s Mainstrasse Village. The Purple People Bridge is a bike and pedestrian only option that takes you to Newport, while the historic Roebling Suspension Bridge (the model for the Brooklyn Bridge) has separate walking and riding sections.

Cincinnati for families
Smale Park attracts people of all ages every month of the year © Steven Schuckman for Cincinnati Park Board

Spend a day at Washington Park

Make your way just north of the city centre to Over-the-Rhine for fun food and entertainment in and around Washington Park, eight acres of green space surrounded by gorgeous 19th century architecture. The park is a 150-year-old gathering space for the neighbourhood featuring an interactive water area, dog park, and children’s playground, as well as a deck with concessions for adult lounging. The bandstand and stage offer free concerts and movies in the evening for much of the year and summertime brings yoga and other workouts to the green. Grab a snack at Picnic and Pantry around the corner from the park and wrap up playtime with one of Cincinnati’s most famous foods, the Graeter’s ice cream cone.

Cincinnati for families
Washington Park hits the spot on a warm day © 3CDC

Family theatre and music

Located in downtown Cincinnati, you won’t want to miss the UnMuseum with its interactive installations for kids of all ages at the Contemporary Arts Center, housed in one of the late architect Zaha Hadid’s most celebrated buildings. Cincinnati’s Children’s Theatre has been creating magic onstage for over 90 years and nearby the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra offers its Lollipop series for the youngest listeners. Kids love the giant sized puppets at Madcap Puppets and sometimes you can see them at a Peanut Butter and Jam Session with Linton Music, too.

Cincinnati for families
Head to Findlay Market for a food party © Cincinnati USA

Take a ride on a train

For young train lovers, Cincinnati offers an array of attractions from model trains to the sort you can ride. Entertrainment Junction is 25,000 feet and two miles of track with model trains that feature railroading across the centuries, including handmade cities and buildings. Visit the Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad for a ride on the real thing and special event rides throughout the year, perfect for family days out. Starting in September 2016, the Cincinnati Streetcar will begin running and is a great way to get from a Reds game all the way to Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest public market, where there’s entertainment every weekend and foodie treats all the time.

Cincinnati for families
Union Terminal still has lots of trains, and museums too © Travis Estell/Flickr

Explore Union Terminal

Cincinnati was a major crossroads for train traffic in the early part of the 20th century, and leaders built a train station to reflect its importance in the network of national railroads. Union Terminal is an art-deco beauty with a stunning rotunda and gorgeous tile art throughout. Today, it’s still used as a passenger and commercial rail station. The rotunda is the largest half-dome in the western hemisphere and is so perfectly designed that it’s possible to stand in one corner and whisper a secret to your friend or sibling in the other corner. In addition to serving as a station, the building houses The Children’s Museum, The History Museum, the Museum of Science and Natural History, and an Omni-Max theatre. Plus, the local railroad club hosts guests in Tower A where the view of trains and train history is superb.

Cincinnati for families
Train lovers of all ages enjoy the Cincinnati Streetcar © 5chw4r7z

Be amused

Just a little ways out of town, King’s Island Amusement Park offers plenty of fun things to do in Cincinnati with over 100 rides and a waterpark, as well as food and interactive experiences. In 2016, the park opened a new seven-storey water slide and featured the award-winning Planet Snoopy kids’ area for the perfect mix of thrills and fun. Coney Island on the Ohio River offers old-fashioned good times at the Sunlight Pool, the world’s largest recirculating swimming pool with over two acres and three million gallons of water fun, with classic rides in the park like Tilt-a-Whirl, bumper cars, and pedal boats.

Cincinnati for families
The Cincinnati Zoo is one of the most popular places for kids © Cincinnati USA

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

This is the second oldest zoo in the USA and it’s a repeat award winner with giraffe petting, cheetah runs, and polar bear chats, and other animal encounters all day long. There are special events throughout the year and the winter holiday Festival of Lights is a huge draw for families from across the US.

Our partnership with Delta connects you to numerous destinations across the United States and Canada, bringing your family holiday in Cincinnati within easy reach.

Have you been to Cincinnati before? Where are your favourite fun things to do in Cincinnati for families? Tell us your suggestions in the comments section below.


Margy Waller

Margy is a boomerang Cincinnatian: she returned to promote the city’s arts after living in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, and loves to show off her hometown, a place where she knows all the indie shopping spots and architectural beauties. She’s a fan of the region’s surprisingly diverse performances of theatre, dance, and music in unusual spots. Follow Margy @margyartgrrl.

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