A lively riverfront, Italianate architecture and creative fare are among Cincinnati’s many allures.
The top things to do in Cincinnati are emblematic of the city’s culture: catch a baseball game, visit art museums, taste creative craft ales or hit one of many trails in the city parks and beyond. Each neighborhood, speckled across the city’s rolling hills, bubbles with its own culture and identity.
But one thing’s for certain: Cincinnatians take their food, brews, sports, outdoor recreation and good times seriously. With so many options, we've compiled our list as a handy guide to the very best of Cincinnati this fall.
Smale Riverfront Park
Smale Riverfront Park links downtown Cincinnati with the calm Ohio River. It’s attached to the bustling food-and-beverage district, The Banks, with craft beer favorites like Moerlein Lager House and Yard House just steps from the park’s swinging benches and flower-fringed trails.
Smale Riverfront Park packs an array of Cincinnati park attractions into its 45 green acres, from Carol Ann’s Carousel with 44 Cincinnati-themed characters to an interactive fountain and a giant foot piano, a la Tom Hanks in Big. The park joins with other riverfront parks, such as Sawyer Point, via a pedestrian bike-friendly path. Rent wheels via bike-share system Cincinnati Red Bike, or stroll across the adjacent sky-blue Roebling Suspension Bridge to cross the state border into Northern Kentucky.
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
With nearly 600 animal species, including Fiona the hippo, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is a can’t-miss attraction. It’s the second-oldest zoo in the US, not to mention a National Historic Landmark. Conservation and furthering global research are major zoo priorities – as is guest experience. Take the new kangaroo and penguin-view Hops craft beer garden as proof.
The zoo is located in Cincinnati’s Clifton neighborhood. It’s minutes from the neighborhood’s Gaslight District, where arguably the best Indian food in all of Cincinnati – Ambar – awaits.
Great American Ball Park
Cincinnati is a baseball city, and the best place to enjoy this chill summer pastime is Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds. The season starts in April with a massive opening-day parade and outdoor festival, from Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine (OTR) through to The Banks by the river and stadium.
Baseball fun continues throughout the season, whether it’s Bark in the Park dog nights or ‘90s nights with post-game entertainment. Cheap seats in the “nosebleeds” (the upper level) run for around $15, although you can always catch a game on TV from a Reds bars in The Banks, including rowdy Holy Grail Tavern and Grille, a vibrant spot just 100 yards from Reds’ home plate.
As Ohio’s oldest continuously operating public market, Findlay Market in OTR is one of the best spots to see in Cincinnati. The market packs more than 50 full-time merchants into its mix of enclosed and open-air space. Local vendors sell everything from homemade soaps and beeswax candles to a host of favorite food spots: think waffles-to-go from Taste of Belgium or dense New York-style bagels from OTR Bagel Bar. Beyond bites and buys, Findlay Market dazzles with its array of 19th-century architecture.
Cincinnati Art Museum
The Cincinnati Art Museum impresses for many reasons: its 67,000 pieces of art, its skyline views from the museum property and the historic collection of art spanning 6000 years – including one of the nation’s oldest Asian art collections. On top of that? It’s free.
The Cincinnati Art Museum in the hilltop Mount Adams neighborhood features regular and rotating exhibits, along with a wing for local art. In addition to packed galleries, the museum hosts regular events, including Art After Dark, where timeless masterpieces pair with appetizers, drinks and dancing.
Ault Park lies between Hyde Park and Mount Lookout (15 minutes from downtown Cincinnati), and offers hilltop tranquility across its 223 acres. The Cincinnati park’s nine connected trails weave hikers through city forests perfect for fall leaf-peeping. The park's formal gardens, sprawling terrace and Italianate architecture – particularly the 1930s-era pavilion – entice photographers from across the region, particularly at golden hour, when the white structure glows orange. Beyond nature, Ault Park is best known for its Ohio River views; don’t miss the vistas from Heekin Overlook.
Brewing Heritage Trail
Cincinnati’s German roots run deep, and the Brewing Heritage Trail, a route that follows in the footsteps of the city’s early German brewers, is one of the best ways to experience this history. The walking trail winds through OTR, the hub of Cincinnati’s brewing history, with trail markers, interpretive signs, public art and, of course, local breweries, including Cincinnati's oldest active brewery, Christian Moerlein Brewery, founded in 1853.
Beneath this trail, a maze of former beer cellars winds through the city’s underground. Climb down into these old cellars on a can’t-miss Cincinnati experience: a Queen City Underground Tour. Or, take an above-ground tour with the Brewing Heritage Trail association. For self-guided tours, download the heritage trail’s interactive app.
Cincinnati Museum Center
The Cincinnati Museum Center packs not one, not two, but three museums into its historic Art Deco digs. In this multi-museum complex, located in the downtown Cincinnati neighborhood, you’ll find the Cincinnati History Museum, The Children’s Museum, and the Museum of Natural History and Science. The sprawling complex features more than 1.8 million artifacts, artworks and archives, with an onsite OMNIMAX Theater and the Cincinnati History Library and Archives, too.
Dining options within the facility are plentiful, including playful eating experience Bean Sprouts, where kids choose their own healthy menu and learn about the food they’re eating (while adults have access to an organic espresso bar), and an ice cream parlor with Cincinnati staple Graeter’s Ice Cream, known for its massive chocolate chunks.
Historic Krohn Conservatory, opened in 1933, brings stunning blooms and plant species to Cincinnati’s 186-acre Eden Park, just beyond Mount Adams. Like many Cincinnati attractions, the conservatory is housed in Art Deco digs. A range of diverse flora includes the Palm House’s tropical rainforest, the Bonsai Gallery and a seasonally rotating floral showroom. While Krohn Conservatory wows with its more than 1000 plant species, its main attraction, the annual fall Butterfly Show, delights as thousands of butterflies soar through tropical gardens.
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Adjacent to Cincinnati’s riverfront and The Banks, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center shares inspiring and harrowing stories of enslaved Black Americans finding a route out of bondage. The complex includes three buildings, with exhibits rooted in tales from the Underground Railroad, which passed through Cincinnati. The center also features a walk-through exhibit detailing the rise and fall of America’s slave trade and an eternal flame to represent candles placed in the windows of those who bravely operated the Underground Railroad.
No “top things to do in Cincinnati” list is complete with a mention of the city’s legendary Skyline Chili. Skyline is an institution in Queen City. Sure, not every Cincinnatian enjoys Skyline’s mountain of noodles or hotdog (coney) topped with mounds of cheese, onions and a secret-recipe chili (made with water, meat and spices). But most do (and if they don’t, they hide it.)
In fact, even past President Barack Obama made a Skyline stop on his Ohio tour. You can find Skyline Chili establishments across Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and even Florida, although the oldest-standing restaurant, circa 1966, is located in Clifton.