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.
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Giraffe Ridge at Cincinnati Zoo
Credit: Courtesy of Michelle Curley/Cincinnati USA

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. 

Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
| Credit: Randall L. Schieber

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 Children's Museum under one expansive roof. Block off a whole day to explore this recently renovated landmark.

Newport Aquarium near Cincinnati
Credit: Courtesy of Newport Aquarium

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.

Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum
Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux

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. 

Banshee roller coaster at Kings Island
Credit: Courtesy of Kings Island

Kings Island 

The granddaddy of Midwest amusement parks, Kings Island—about 25 miles northeast of Cincinnati— is heaven for adrenaline junkies. The 4,124-foot long Banshee is the world's longest steel inverted roller coaster; the venerable Beast, opened in 1979 (and refurbished in early 2022), is 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 water park.

Graeter's ice cream French pots with scoop
Credit: Courtesy of Graeter's

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.

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Cincinnati Ohio
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
| Credit: Ryan Donnell

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. 

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.

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 and three kinds of cheese. The chili and onion rings are good, too.