Top Things to Do with Kids in Cincinnati
Grown-ups don’t need any excuse to visit the Cincinnati Museum Center, the Reds Hall of Fame or the Newport Aquarium on their own, but bringing the kids makes sense on this Midwest weekend getaway in Cincinnati. Here’s what belongs on your Queen City to-do list.
Pandemic-related closures and restrictions may be in place. Please check destinations' websites before making travel plans.
1) Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden The second-oldest zoo in the country often appears near the top in rankings. It's no wonder, with 75 acres to wander including Cat Canyon filled with cougars, snow leopards and tigers; jungle trails winding through orangutan habitats; and restored gardens around the domed Reptile House. The must-see Africa exhibit lets you get up close to lions, race a cheetah and feed giraffes. cincinnatizoo.org
2) Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal The first thing you'll notice about this three-for-one destination is its stunning Art Deco architecture; Union Terminal was one of the most notable passenger rail stations in the Midwest when it opened in the 1930s. These days, this former "temple to transportation" houses the Cincinnati History Museum, the Museum of Natural History and Science and the Duke Energy Children's Museum (temporarily closed during the pandemic) under one expansive roof. Block off a whole day to explore this recently renovated landmark. cincymuseum.org
3) Newport Aquarium Zip across the river to Kentucky's Newport on the Levee entertainment complex. You'll find thousands of colorful fish, water mammals and amphibians. This massive aquarium holds 1 million gallons of water, a shark-petting tank, penguins and an otherwordly jellyfish gallery. Wave to Mighty Mike, a live 14-footer from Florida, as you pass through Gator Alley. newportaquarium.com
4) EnterTrainment Junction If your gang's fascinated by trains-and who isn't, really?-head to this gigantic railroad-theme center. The world's largest indoor train display is as big as a half a football field and features 90 trains and more than 2 miles of tracks. If the kids get antsy, they can burn off energy in the Imagination Junction play area or by running a few laps through a circus funhouse area that includes a mirror maze. entertrainmentjunction.com
5) Zip's Cafe Keep the train theme going with lunch or dinner at this casual Mount Lookout burger joint, where a model train chugs around the top of the room and nobody cares if your kids make a lot of noise. A basic Zips Burger is always a good choice; the Train Wreck ups the ante with shaved ham, grilled mettwurst and three kinds of cheese. The chili and onion rings are good, too. zipscafe.com
6) Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum Did you know the Cincinnati Reds were the first professional baseball team in the country? This museum pays a fine tribute to America's pastime with trivia, interactive exhibits and artifacts. Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Sparky Anderson … the gang's all here. (Well, except for Pete Rose. He's ineligible.) If baseball is in season, time your visit to coincide with a game at the beautiful Great American Ballpark overlooking the mighty Ohio River. mlb.com
7) Kings Island The granddaddy of Midwest amusement parks, Kings Island—about 25 miles northeast of Cincinnati— is heaven for adrenaline junkies. It may not be the newest or the flashiest, but the Beast is still a guaranteed nerve-rattler, and it's the longest wooden roller coaster in the world. Littler visitors are more likely to appreciate the Planet Snoopy area. During summer, admission includes entrance to Soak City Waterpark. (513) 754-5700; visitkingsisland.com
8) Graeter's Ice Cream This is the only ice cream company in the world that uses fancy French-pot freezers, and Graeter's churns out batches just two gallons at a time for ultimate quality control. The first franchise store opened in 1984-now, they're all over town-but the business actually dates to the mid-1800s. Vanilla, chocolate, butter pecan and other classic flavors are delish, but the signature black raspberry chocolate chip will blow your tastebuds away. Various locations; graeters.com
9) National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Situated along the Ohio River (a former dividing line between freedom and slavery for African Americans), this multilevel museum captures the history of slavery and slaves' struggles for freedom. Escape! Freedom Seekers and the Underground Railroad is a good place to start exploration with your kids. freedomcenter.org