Cincinnati is chock-full of places to explore with kids – and grownups who are kids at heart! Whether you are looking for adventure, scenery, exercise, history, education or excitement – the Cincinnati region has it.
Kings Island is a favorite destination for kids of all ages. Planet Snoopy has been voted the “Best Kids’ Area in the World” for 18 consecutive years according to Amusement Today. This fun-filled area is loaded with rides to make young kids squeal with laughter. Bigger kids can enjoy rides in the main areas of the park including Diamondback, The Beast and Banshee. The newest ride, Mystic Timbers, is sure to please riders, too. Be sure to pick up some blue ice cream while you are at the park! You might also pack a swim suit for water fun at Soak City (admission is included in your ticket price). Enjoy water rides and play areas for both small children and adventurous adults. Soak City is a great place to stay cool on a hot summer day.
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Cincinnati Zoo is a must-see for any animal lover out there. On a visit, you’ll be able to observe over 500 animals and over 3,000 different kinds of plants. Gibbon Island has animals swinging from branch to branch. At Giraffe Ridge, feed these towering mammals from the palm of your hand. See the Polar Bears swimming, the insects crawling and the lions prowling. The 4-D Theater, train and carousel rides allow some time off your feet if you are looking for a break. Stop by the Spaulding Children’s Zoo where you can watch a barnyard show, interact with animals including an aardvark and a wallaby, and play on the “Be the Animal” playground.
Newport Aquarium is located across the Ohio River, just south of downtown Cincinnati. Highlights of the aquarium include dive shows, the Tide Pool touching area, and Frog Bog where you can both see interesting frogs and burn off some energy in the play area. Brave visitors can touch a shark or cross the Shark Bridge, (a rope bridge that crosses over the giant shark tank). Visit the seahorses, penguins, alligators (including rare white alligators!), stingrays, and of course lots and lots of various types of fish! Everyone loves to walk through the shark tunnel with creatures surrounding you on all sides. After your visit to the Aquarium, but sure to spend some time walking through Newport on the Levee filled with shops and restaurants.
Coney Island is a Cincinnati tradition. This 75-acre park includes more than 50 rides and attractions, including Sunlite Pool, the world’s largest recirculating swimming pool. It has thrilling water slides and an acre of shallow water for smaller kids. The amusement park contains 26 classic carnival rides. Paddle boats, canoes, and mini-motor boats are available to explore Lake Como, too! If you don’t plan on riding or going to the pool, Coney Island doesn’t require you to purchase a ticket.
Behringer-Crawford Museum is the perfect place to entertain anyone from age two to 92. The museum covers the history of Northern Kentucky and includes plenty of hands-on activities in every room for even the littlest visitors. You’ll see an amazing train display, sit in a 1959 Buick Electra convertible, and fish from the back of a steamboat. Also included are some interesting oddities like a two-headed calf and a shrunken head.
Duke Energy Children's Museum
At the Duke Energy Children's Museum, kids can become a server at the restaurant in Kid’s Town, explore physics in Energy Zone, climb through tunnels in The Woods, construct a building, play with water, load “rocks” into the dump truck and more. Pack your lunch or try something from Bean Sprouts, a nationally-recognized café concept with a menu that empowers kids to make their own healthy choices.
Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum
Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum is a must-see for any baseball lover. This museum has plenty of interactive fun while showcasing the history America's first professional baseball team. Test your pitching speed, sit in the broadcast booth while calling a play with Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall and relax in the Ultimate Reds Room, decorated like the perfect rec room for any sports lover. See plenty of artifacts covering the history of our hometown baseball team. Tours of Great American Ball Park are also available.
Sawyer Point is a mile-long park along the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati. Play at the 1000-Hands Playground (wheelchair accessible), start a game of volleyball or tennis, or rent bikes and ride through the park. Signs posted throughout the park explain the history of the Miami-Erie Canal and provide history of the flooding of the river. The Serpentine Wall beckons kids to run up and down its steps.
Smale Riverfront Park
Smale Riverfront Park is another downtown park and is filled with a variety of activities for all ages. During the summer months, the spraygrounds are a huge hit with the kids. Several playgrounds allow kids to climb, slide, ride in a flying pig, make music on a bigger-than-life-sized piano, and creatively play in the water. Swings along the river are a great place to sit and relax and enjoy the river view. Stroll peacefully through the labyrinth and enjoy a ride on the stunningly beautiful Carol Ann’s Carousel. Animals on the carousel include a Cincinnati Bengal tiger, a flying pig and a preying mantis. The artwork on the carousel has beautiful scenes of local landmarks. Carousel rules say you need to have dry clothes on when riding, so be sure to plan your water play time for after your ride.
Highfield Discovery Center at Glenwood Gardens
Great Parks of Hamilton County have a variety of adventures for kids, or those who are a kid at heart! Highfield Discovery Center is within Glenwood Gardens. It’s a fantasy playground filled with fairy gardens, trains, a butterfly garden and more for kids to explore. When it's hot outside, the Parky’s water parks are splashy fun for the preschool age kids. And each of the parks has hiking trails and a variety of other attractions to explore. Parky’s Farm is located in Winton Woods and contains live animals and a play barn.
Cincinnati Nature Center
Cincinnati Nature Center is located in Milford and has over 2,000 acres of property with plenty of marked trails of varying difficulty to explore. The Turtle Trail is a great beginner trail for younger hikers. The Nature Playscape is perfect for kids to discover nature while having a great time! (You might want to bring a change of clothes in case they get wet!) Pick up a map to choose a trail and spend some time learning about nature and doing some bird-watching inside the Nature Center building.
Loveland Castle, or Chateau Laroche, was built to resemble a medieval European castle. Sitting along the Little Miami River, it makes a great backdrop for some photos of the kids. And kids both young and old will have a great time pretending they are knights or princesses exploring this fascinating landmark. Be sure to ask about the design and purpose of the castle’s front door.
Cincinnati Fire Museum
The Cincinnati Fire Museum is both educational and entertaining. Learn about the history of firefighting, see antique equipment and climb into the cab of a real fire engine complete with lights and sirens. Sliding down the fire pole is a highlight of the museum, and kids especially like to watch mom or dad slide down that pole!
Megaland in Colerain Park is a community-built playground. It is filled with wooden structures that provide plenty of places to climb, slide and play. Zip lines, curvy slides and climbing towers all make this a special park to explore when you are looking for somewhere to visit to keep the kids active.
Little Miami Scenic Trail
The Little Miami Scenic Trail extends from Cincinnati to Springfield, OH. It follows the path of the Little Miami River and is mostly lined with trees. You can walk, bike, rollerblade or even cross-country ski down the trail. Bike rental locations and fun shops and restaurants are also found all along the trail.
For more information on each of these locations, and over 100 more, see my book, Adventures Around Cincinnati.