This may come as a surprise, but Cincinnati, Ohio is an excellent city for a weekend getaway. It’s within driving distance of many other cities, making it convenient to get to. And once you’ve arrived you are rewarded with many activities indoor and outdoor. As an added bonus the restaurant and bar scene is to die for too. Keep reading to find out where to stay, where to eat, and what to do in Cincinnati on a weekend getaway with or without kids.
In need of a quick getaway and not wanting to venture out of the country? If you are anywhere near Cincinnati, I recommend packing a bag and heading there for a weekend getaway. Cincinnati is the perfect escape from the day to day grind. With nearby hiking, museums, theme parks, musicals, zoo, aquarium, and tons of sporting events, you are guaranteed to stay entertained non stop should you choose to.
I recommend staying in downtown Cincinnati where you can walk to almost everything you might want to see or do. We stayed at the Renaissance Marriott Hotel in downtown Cincinnati. If you stay here, you may not need a car. The most popular area in downtown Cincinnati is Over-the-Rhine and it is less than a 30 minute walk. The Banks Entertainment along the waterfront is even closer. Rooms at the Renaissance are large and you will have more than enough space. If you can, splurge for a suite where your family will have lots of room to spread out.
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THINGS TO DO IN CINCINNATI
There are lots of things to do in Cincinnati with kids. Families can stay as busy as they want during a vacation here.
Cincinnati has two theme parks, kids will love, Kind’s Island and Cooney Island.
Coney Island Cincinnati – They have many traditional amusement park rides like a Ferris wheel and roller coasters. It is also home to a water park, Sunlite Water Adventure. They have the world’s largest recirculating swimming pool covering more than 2 acres, including an acre of shallow water. They have three water slides, the Twister, Pipeline Plunge and the Cyclone. For younger kids there are 70 interactive water playground.
King’s Island – King’s Island has over 100 rides, shows, attractions. They have over 9 miles of roller coaster tracks and a water park. Part of the year there is a stunt show.
Visit the Zoo
The Cincinnati Zoo is home to over a thousand animals, minus one notable gorilla, Harambe. Fiona the famous premature hippo also lives here. Open since 1875, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is the second-oldest zoo in the United States.
Experience Ocean Life
At the Newport Aquarium you can touch stingrays and watch penguins waddle around and sharks stalking through massive aquariums. Fun Fact: They have the largest alligator outside of Florida, Mighty Mike a 14-foot, 800-pound alligator!
Catch a Game
Cincinnati has many national sports teams, including the Cincinnati Bengals football team, the Cincinnati Red baseball team, the Cincinnati Cyclones hockey team, and the FC Cincinnati Uptown soccer team.
Step Back in Time
Learn some history at the National Underground Railroad Center. Here you can be educated on three centuries of slavery and learn about the men and women who bravely resisted slavery.
Another unique way to squeeze in some history is an American Legacy tour. They have some fantastic tours of the city, including a gangster tour, prohibition tour, and ghost tours.
Cincinnati is home to an assortment of unique playgrounds and parks, all of which are perfect for helping kids burn off energy!
Smale Riverfront – Smale Riverfront is a gorgeous park and a great spot for families to hang out. Parents can sit and swing will kids run through the splash pad. If your children are younger then they will also enjoy riding the little carousel. Also found here is the Heeken Family/PNC Grow Up Great Adventure Playground with slides, a rope bridge, wooden climbing structures, climbing walls, and cute hiding places.
Highfield Discovery Center inside Glenwood Gardens is incredible. It’s a fantasy playground filled with fairy gardens, trains, a butterfly garden and more
Bike trails – Cincinnati has quite a few bike trails, all of which are family friendly. If you are trying to stay in the downtown area bike from Smale Riverfront Park to Sawyer Point then along the trail to Friendship Park.
Go on a Food Tour
Cincinnati Food Tours offers a lot of fun tours. I recommend skipping breakfast one morning and instead taking the Sweet Stroll tour with them. This is a 2.5 hour walking tour through the popular Over-the-Rhine neighborhood featuring waffles, pretzels, and so much more it’s a delicious time. I recommend grabbing a cup of coffee before starting the tour, because it will be a while before you get any on the tour. The tour kicks off at historic Findlay Market, where you get to learn about the market and taste some of the local favorites. From there you will walk around the area learning about the history and the future all while tasting one treat after another.
They also offer a great tour of Findlay Market, which they specifically suggest for families. It is the Taste the World at Findlay Market tours for just $25 per person making it also their most affordable tour. The tour takes an hour and a half where you will learn the history of Ohio’s oldest public market. Along the way you will taste samples and small bites as you meet five specialty merchants. Stops include popular merchants like Fresh Table, Dean’s Mediterranean Imports, Churchill’s Fine Teas, Gramma Debbie’s Kitchen, Taste of Belgium, Mimi’s Gourmet Eggrolls, Maverick Chocolate, and Babushka Pierogies.
Where to have the best family meals in Cincinnati
If you have the kids with you, you probably want a more casual atmosphere to dine in and breweries make great places for families to eat. I love when the place is loud enough that kids getting a little too loud is no big deal.
Close to Downtown, are two breweries I would recommend: Rhinegeist and Taft’s Ale House.
Five minutes away from downtown is Northern Kentucky where there are more great breweries: I recommend Braxton Brewery.
Holtman’s Donut Shop is a must for breakfast one day.
Jefferson Social, located in the Banks Entertainment area (stadium area) is one of the go to places for tacos. The tacos found here are completely different from Bakersfield’s. Although they offer traditional tacos, you will also find crazy combinations, like a hotdog taco. If you go on a Bengals or Reds game day, expect a long wait and slow service, so if possible try to visit on a non-game day.
Krueger’s Tavern is a solid spot on a nice day. You cannot beat hanging out on their rooftop, especially on the weekend when they offer brunch. Enjoy a spicy hamburger and wash it down with an extra-spicy Bloody Mary. Skip the French toast bread pudding (it’s too dry), but do try their delicious Hot Beer Cheese with pretzels.
Things to do in Cincinnati without kids
If you are in Cincinnati without the kids then there’s a whole other side of Cincinnati that awaits you!
Soak in Some Culture
Let’s face it kids typically do not like art museums, so if they are not with you this is the perfect opportunity to indulge in a more grown up activity. One top choice would be the Cincinnati Art Museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art. Here you will find a painting collection that includes the great works by Titian, Halls, Rubens, Cole, Harnett and Wood.
Another thing kids seem to hate is shopping, so enjoy a little shopping in some of the cute neighborhoods near downtown, including Over-the-Rhine.The other area worth checking out Mainstrasse Village in Northern Kentucy. Here you will find lots of shops and more dining options. Oh, and the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar is here in Mainstrasse. The other shopping area is closer
Fabulous Dinner Dates
Before heading out to dinner, grab a drink in the beautiful hotel bar at the Renaissance, D. Burnhams. They have a great selection of beer, wine, and spirits. They serve food here as well, but I did not try any. On Monday nights they have live music at 6 p.m.
For dinner there are an unbelievable number of options. For a more upscale experience, dine at Boca. Want a more casual night? Dine at Bakersfield. Both are located in downtown Cincinnati, but Boca is much closer to the hotel than Bakersfield. Whichever one you do not eat at the first night, you can go to on your second night.
Boca is a dining experience. The food is wonderful, the service is killer, and the atmosphere is lively and fun. Here you will dine on oysters, risotto, and Beef Wellington. Course after course you will be impressed. Although reservations are not required, you will need to make a reservation well in advance in order to dine here on the weekend.
Bakersfield is a much more laid back atmosphere, but even livelier than Boca. Here you will enjoy tequila flights and margaritas to go along with the guacamole and tacos. You do not need a reservation to dine here, but there is usually a wait. I waited over an hour and thought it was more than worth the wait. Their guacamole is incredible as were the tacos we tried.
Other notable restaurants worth visiting if you have time The Eagle, Senate, and a Taste of Belgium.
Cincinnati Bar Crawl
One of the things you can’t do with kids is go to a bar, well maybe some bars you can. If you happen to be kid-free there are an assortment of bars vying for your patronage.
I have quite a few to recommend in Over -the-Rhine. My favorite is The Rook Cincinnati’s Game Parlor. Here you can find almost any board game ever created. While you play a game you can enjoy random candy drinks like the Rock Em Sock Em Rita a margarita popping with pop rocks. Another fun spot for playing games is 16 Bit an adult only arcade. Here you can play over 50 different kinds of old school games. As long as you order a drink the games are free.
If you want to go somewhere more low-key, head to Nicholson’s Pub, a Scottish-inspired tavern. They offer one of the greatest selections of single-malt scotch whiskies in town. Their food selection is also on point.
One bar that is good during the day or at night, with a nice selection of rotating beers from all around the United States and an even better list of cocktail offerings, is The Lackman. (Sadly, they do not serve any food, so if you’re hungry you are out of luck here.)
If you want someone to guide you from bar to bar check out the Pedal Wagon.