Day One: Get to Know Downtown Cincinnati
Breakfast at Graeter's on Fountain Square
Graeter’s is mostly known for its creamy French pot ice cream, but they also serve up some scrumptious pastries as well. Or have ice cream for breakfast…it is vacation after all! There are many tables available for dining on Fountain Square.
After breakfast stop by the Cincinnati USA Visitor Center on Fountain Square, in between Chipotle and Rock Bottom Brewery. You will find a wealth of resources to help you put your vacation plans into action, and get even more ideas for fun. And if your family is into Geocaching this place has a great cache!
One of the best views of Downtown Cincinnati can be found at the top of Carew Tower, which is just steps away from Fountain Square. The Observation Deck is located on the 49th floor of the gorgeous Art Deco building that opened in 1931. Take in the 360-degree views and snap some pictures.
One of the newest ways to get around downtown is the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar that runs on a 3.6 mile loop through the city. Hop on the Connector and take a ride to Findlay Market for lunch, enjoying the downtown sights and landmarks along the way.
Lunch & Shopping at Findlay Market
Findlay Market is the oldest public market in Cincinnati, and it’s a great spot to do a little shopping and have a bite to eat for lunch. It’s a perfect place to feed a family because there are so many options, from gyros to BBQ to tacos to crepes and so much more! And do not even get me started on the amount of sweets you could try for dessert (like the rich chocolate from Maverick’s). You can also travel from vendor to vendor and try bits and pieces from many different places. So many choices, so little time. And be sure to pick up a few snacks to take back to your hotel room for your stay.
Play at the Park
Smale Riverfront Park is a beautiful and exciting place to play, walk, swing and ride bikes right along the Ohio River. There are water play areas for children, playgrounds, giant metal porch swings that overlook the river, and a wonderful bike path that connects Smale with other parks along the riverfront like Sawyer Point and the International Friendship Park. It’s a very easy bike path for kids and adults. If you don't have a bike, rent a Cincy Red Bike.
After having fun at the parks walk to The Banks for dinner. There are many different restaurants, so you are sure to find the perfect place for your family. One of our favorites is the Moerlein Lager House because the menu is so varied that it has something to please everyone in our big family. Walk around The Banks to find what you are craving!
Day Two: Rivertown Fun in Northern Kentucky
Breakfast & River History
Stop by Left Bank Coffeehouse in Covington to start your day with coffee, tea and pastries. Stay and enjoy your breakfast at this charming coffeehouse, or take your goods to go and have a picnic. I would recommend heading north a few blocks to George Rogers Clark Park, where you can sit on a bench and enjoy your breakfast while you watch the boats go by on the Ohio River.
Next stop is the Behringer-Crawford Museum in Devou Park to learn about the history of the Ohio River and Northern Kentucky. The small museum has lots of hands-on learning experiences for little ones and a wealth of local history. Behind the museum you will find the Nature Play at BCM area where kids can explore nature.
After the museum, grab lunch at The Gruff to enjoy a delicious brick-fired pizza. I recommend starting off with a shared plate of Braised Beef Stroganoff, and the Beet Salad also receives high accolades. They also serve sandwiches of all sorts and craft brews. Enjoy the food but beware of Trolls! (The restaurant is located seemingly "under" the end of the Roebling Suspension Bridge.)
Tour the Ohio River
The best views of the Ohio River can come from actually on the river. Book your family a BB Riverboats historic cruise, and spend a few hours sightseeing on the river and learning about the history of the Ohio from the Captain. I recommend a riverboat ride to all of my out-of-town guests, and my family loves them as well.
After your cruise, stay in Newport for dinner at Newport on the Levee. Much like The Banks, the Levee offers a variety of restaurants serving everything from seafood to pizza. Our family usually picks Dewey’s Pizza or Tom + Chee, both popular choices with the locals. After dinner you can wander the Levee and find more fun like shopping, movies, video games, bowling and more!
Day Three: Murals & Sculptures
Donuts & Murals in Over-the-Rhine
Head to Over-the-Rhine and pick up donuts at Holtman’s Donuts. There’re a few seats inside if you want to eat there, or you can get your donuts to go and start on your next adventure for the day!
Next up – a mural tour. There are more than 130 ArtWorks Murals in the Cincinnati region, with quite a few cool ones in Over-the-Rhine. These murals give a nod to art, local history, local culture and what makes Cincinnati special. You can download a map and walk around the neighborhood exploring the murals on your own, or you can take a guided tour. While you are admiring the murals, stop in some of the cool locally-owned shops in the area.
Fuel up after all that walking around with lunch in Over-the-Rhine. There are many restaurants to choose from, but I suggest The Eagle for a big country-style fried chicken lunch with all the sides and biscuits. And be sure to order some Brown Sugar Bacon, it’s like bacon candy!
Sculptures Before Dinner
You have seen the murals, now head north to Hamilton to the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park for out-of-this world sculptures. This park is a wonder to walk around, there are sculptures scattered all over the rolling hills, and they are really impressive works of art. We spent several hours walking and exploring, but you can also rent golf carts if that works best for your family.
You are going to need a good dinner after all of the mural and sculpture exploring. I suggest you head to Richards Pizza for a filling dinner that won’t break the bank. Known for its world-famous Steak Sandwich, the restaurant also offers a wide variety of other options like pizza, pasta and salad.
After dinner stroll over to True West Coffee for an after-dinner coffee and dessert. This quirky little coffeehouse is a fun locale for a spot of tea or cup of coffee.
Day Four: Fun & Games in the North
After fueling up at the cafe, even if you have never played golf before you may just want to try your hand at Topgolf in West Chester. It is not your traditional game of golf. It is a sky high golf adventure where you rent a bay and then hit balls toward giant targets. It is more like a party than a golf game. This is a fun activity for all ages!
For a mid-day meal drive south to Madtree Brewing Company, one of Cincinnati’s popular craft breweries. Inside the brewery is Catch-a-Fire Café serving wood-fired pizzas. The pizza is so good and made with fresh ingredients (and even a little bit of beer). They also offer soups, salads and appetizers. While you eat pizza with the family pull out a board game to play, or bring your own!
Next stop, take the family to the Play Library in Over-the-Rhine. The Play Library rents out games to families for a membership fee, but also welcomes guests to visit and play games together as a family. Play time is free, but donations are greatly appreciated to help build the inventory.
For more fun and games, the next stop is The Rook OTR, a bar and restaurant that doesn’t just serve food and drinks. The Rook also offers up a HUGE selection of games that you can play while you eat and drink. They have every game you can imagine, even some from your childhood that you may not have seen recently. The menu focuses on snack-style shareables, so it is like you are at a game party instead of a boring ol’ sit down dinner. We love checking out new-to-us games at The Rook before we buy them for our house.
Day Five: The Arts
Start Things Off Right
Start your day of the arts with breakfast at Maplewood Kitchen on Race Street. This place has been the talk of the town since it opened. You can either dine in at Maplewood and enjoy a big breakfast or grab something to go and eat while you walk to the Contemporary Arts Center or take the food to Fountain Square for a picnic. Maplewood Kitchen uses fresh ingredients to create unique dishes and also serves pressed juices.
Explore Contemporary Art
Let your young ones explore the arts at the Contemporary Arts Center’s UnMuseum, a unique collection of exhibits geared toward children (that adults will get a kick out of as well). If you are at the UnMuseum on a Thursday morning your child can take part in Thursday Art Play with special art projects geared toward preschool-aged children. After the UnMuseum, be sure to visit the exhibits throughout the rest of the museum.
More Fabulous Art
For lunch you can head to the next stop on the itinerary, the Cincinnati Art Museum, just a few minutes from downtown up in Mt. Adams. The Terrace Café is just the place to grab a light lunch while you are visiting the art museum. Choose from soups, salads and sandwiches to enjoy indoors in a beautiful dining room or outdoors in a courtyard area.
Located in Eden Park, the Cincinnati Art Museum has an impressive collection of art from ancient pieces to more recent works. There are local artists spotlighted and masterpieces from around the world. The museum is a wonderful place to introduce your children to art, and after you explore the galleries, head to the Rosenthal Education Center in the museum. The REC is a HUGE room full of places for children to learn more about art in a hands-on manner. Your children will have so much fun while they learn!
After you leave the art museum, head to Mount Adams Bar & Grill for a traditional, casual dining experience to end your day. The restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating and a menu that offers a wide variety of dishes.
Day Six: Use Your Imagination!
From Sleepy to Discovery
Sleepy Bee in the northern suburb of Blue Ash is a charming restaurant that offers healthy, fresh, seasonal dishes that are both interesting and delicious. The menu for the little ones has some cute selections like the ROYGBIV Fruit Plate with Yogurt and “Shape Cakes”. My kids love Sleepy Bee, and so do I!
After breakfast head to the Highfield Discovery Garden at Glenwood Gardens. Step into a magical land of imagination with fairy gardens, sorcerer’s hats, Frog & Toad, a Giant Tree House and more. This place is amazing for children of all ages. After you visit the Highfield Discovery Gardens, wander the beautiful walking trails of the Glenwood Gardens.
An Old-Fashioned Lunch
The Root Beer Stand is an old-school-style diner where customers order at the counter and sit in the small diner or a picnic table out back. The Root Beer Stand is known for its root beer of course, and for the hot dogs. Grab a root beer float and a chili cheese dog – a perfect fun lunch in the sun. There is a play set in the backyard so kids can play after they eat. And if you love the root beer, buy a gallon to take with you!
Ride the Rails
The next stop is EnterTRAINment Junction, home to the world’s largest indoor train display. There is also a children’s play area, a fun house, a railway museum, and more for train enthusiasts of all ages to enjoy. Get in touch with your inner conductor!
If your family still has some energy left after this busy day, head to Main Event for dinner. Main Event has a little bit of everything under one roof: bowling, laser tag, video games…and oh yeah, a full menu for dinner as well!
Day Seven: Choose Your Own Adventure
If roller coasters are your jam, you need to take a day to visit Kings Island! They have coasters for thrillseekers of all ages, from the littlest ones in the family to the teenage daredevils. And if coasters are not your thing, you can spend some time at the park's Soak City Waterpark.
Want to take a long walk in the woods, or let the little ones look for turtles in a pond or walk in a creek? The Cincinnati Nature Center has all of those things and more. You could spend an entire day here exploring the trails, birdwatching from Rowe Visitor Center and letting the kids get in touch with nature at the Nature PlayScape.
Want to meet some wild animals? The Cincinnati Zoo is the place for you! You could spend a whole day here, saying hello to the animals, riding the train around the grounds, spinning around the carousel, and more!
Cincinnati’s Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park offers a glimpse into life in the desert, the rainforest, and everything in between. There are over 3,500 different species from around the world, and each summer the conservatory hosts an annual Butterfly Show where you can not only see beautiful flowers, but be surrounded by beautiful butterflies.
If you want to get up close and personal with ocean creatures, you must visit the Newport Aquarium, where you can touch stingrays, walk through a shark tunnel with sharks swimming all around you, play on a frog-themed play scape for kids, and much more.
A Drive In The Country
Just a stone’s throw away from the big city you can find the only city around that has a dog for a Mayor. Travel some winding country roads to visit Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, a tiny community on the banks of the Ohio River. Stop by the newly re-built General Store for some snacks and soda and sit by the river or wander around this very small town.
If you want to catch a sporting event then Cincinnati is the place to be. Not only do we have the Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals, but there’s the Cincinnati Cyclones hockey team, FC Cincinnati soccer team, Cincinnati Rollergirls and all the college sports to boot!