“The Queen City,” more commonly known as Cincinnati, is located in southwest Ohio, about 3 1/2 hours’ drive from Cleveland. Among their best features include Over-the-Rhine, which is a neighborhood which lies north of Downtown Cincinnati. It has the world’s major collections of Italianate architecture. Back in the 1800s, this city was also referred to as ‘Paris of America,’ because of the momentous architectural projects like the Cincinnatian Hotel, Shillito Departmental Store, and Music Hall. Cincinnati lies just across the Ohio River from Kentucky. It is a lively metropolitan All-American vacation destination with a feel of the great South and a touch of Europe.
Cincinnati was founded in 1788 at the point where a Native American trading route intersected with the Ohio River. Cincinnati is known to have attained the country’s first professional baseball team, which is known as “the Reds”. But no matter your age or interests, Cincinnati is sure to have just the right features to provide you with the trip of a lifetime. It’s a 5 hour drive to Chicago (300 miles), right over a 1½ hour drive to Columbus (100 miles), right over a 1½ hour drive to Louisville (100 miles) and a 2 hour drive from Indianapolis (112 miles).
Top 10 Attractions
1. Fountain Square – Each year Fountain Square welcomes over 2 million people to its tailgates, lunchtime contests, special events and free concerts. It’s a family place to hang out with your friends and family and grab a meal. You can bring your children here to splash through the water feature as well as make them learn about Cincinnati history. You can spend a whole day here having fun throughout the day with so many activities just around the corner. You can find many reasons to come back to Fountain Square once you visit it.
2. The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens – Lions, tiger and bears, oh my! The Cincinnati Zoo is a wonderful place to visit and they actually have species that far surpass the traditional ones. In my interview with the author of “America’s Best Zoos,” I learned that this is the only zoo in the world to have the rare Sumatran rhino, which I thought made it a reason to visit the zoo in and of itself. They feature birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish and invertebrates along with many other exhibits. They also offer self-guided tours that the whole family will enjoy. See the 4-D show, and go for a ride on the carousel and trains. Admission is $25 for adults and $20 for children and seniors.
3. The Newport Aquarium features 70 sprawling exhibits and 14 galleries, all placed within over a million gallons of water, this aquarium showcases thousands of animals from around the world and houses the largest jellyfish gallery in the Midwest. Their rain forest habitat includes Oriental Small-clawed Otter, Burmese pythons, Kookaburra, and a number of colorful lorikeets. Gator Alley is home to white gators and Mighty Mike, the largest american alligator outside of Florida. Penguin Palooza is home to King penguin, Inca tern, Chinstrap penguin, Gentoo penguin, Macaroni Penguin and Rockhopper penguin. They also have dangerous and deadly specimens like the gila monster, red lionfish, pinecone fish, electric eel, gaboon viper, and the whitespotted bamboo shark. We rank it at #9 on our list of the 25 Best Aquariums In America. General admission is $23 for adults and $15 for children.
4. The Cincinnati Museum Center is located in the old Union Terminal. It was originally built in 1933 as Union Terminal train station and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977. In the 10-story arched limestone and glass building, it houses the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children’s Museum, Museum of Natural History and Science and the Omnimax Theater. Admission is $7.95 for adults and $5.25 for children.
5. Paramount’s Kings Island is located about 30 minutes north of Cincinnati, Ohio just off of I-71. They offer fun for the whole family. They have thrill rides such as the Diamondback, their new roller coaster. Some other roller coasters are the Beast and the Vortex. You can take the little kids to Nickelodeon Universe where there is more than 18 kids attractions with a Dora the Explorer area and a Sponge Bob Square Pants area. Paramount’s Kings Island also offers family rides such as Adventure Express roller coaster, Whitewater Canyon water ride, Congo Falls and a real train ride. There is also live entertainment shows and a character meet and greet. And you can’t skip Boomerang Bay, the 15 acre Australian themed water park with over 50 water activities, 30 slides and a 36,000 gallon wave pool. Water park is free with park admission. Admission is $32.99 for adults.
6. The Cincinnati Art Museum was founded in 1881 and today it houses a collection of over 60,000 works of art. It features American Painting and Sculpture, European Painting and Sculpture, Far Eastern Art, Art of Africa and much more. They also offer educational activities for all ages. The Cincinnati Art Museum also has a gift shop and a Cafe where you can purchase sandwiches and drinks. Admission is free of charge.
7. The Horseshoe Casino – For adults, the nightlife at downtown Cincinnati goes upbeat with the fun at Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati. They have signature cocktail lounges and Rock bars where you would surely want to raise a toast to a fabulous vacation. Enjoy an extensive 100,000 sq. ft. casino floor with over 2,000 slot machines.
8. The Krohn Conservatory was built in 1933. It is a nationally recognized showcase of more than 3,500 plants from around the world. It has a rain forest area and a desert area. It also features a gift shop and has many special exhibits throughout the year. Don’t miss their ever-popular “Butterfly Show,” where thousands of butterflies are free to fly around the room and even on to your hand. Once you are there, do have a look at the exotic plants and famous rainforest waterfall and enjoy the serenity of the Orchid, Tropical, Palm, and Desert houses as well. Admission is $7 for adults and $4 for children.
9. The Beach Water Park is located off of I-71 at exit 25-A, about 20 minutes north of Cincinnati. They offer the Kahuna Beach Wave Pool, Aztec Adventure. Lazy Miami River, Splash Mountain and Emerald Bay, along with many other fun water adventures. General admission is $27.99 for adults and $19.99 for children (receive reduced prices by buying your tickets online).
10. Sawyer Point & Yeatman’s Cove is a mile long stretch of park along Cincinnati’s riverfront between Berry International Friendship Park and Smale Riverfront Park. They have a performance pavilion, 8 outdoor tennis courts, concessions, the Armeleder Memorial Sprayground , an award winning landscape, bike rentals, 3 sand volleyball courts, a world class playground, the Serpentine Wall, the Showboat Majestic and the Public Landing. It is an ideal place for fun, excitement and relaxation for the whole family.
The Cheesecake Factory – Since first opening in Beverly Hills in 1978, these restaurants have become well known for their fun atmosphere, huge portions and more than 200 menu selections to choose from. They offer 50 cheesecakes and specialty desserts, with some that are only offered seasonally. These include: Key lime cheesecake, Chocolate Chip Cookie – Dough cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake (available from October – holidays), Pineapple Upside-Down Cheesecake, and after thanksgiving they even have a peppermint Bark Cheesecake!
Margaritaville – Named after Jimmy Buffett’s famous 1977 song, Margaritaville, redefines the meaning of the laid back American lifestyle. Sip on a Pina Colada and chill by the bay, here at this delicious restaurant. Don’t forget to pick up Jimmy Buffet themed merchandise on the way out.
Buca di Beppo – Owned by Planet Hollywood, Buca di Beppo specializes in immigrant Southern Italian food. Vintage photographs cover the walls, in fact each restaurant is said to have more than 2,500 pictures. The food is served family style, where each item is shared among the dinner party. A select number of locations have a lunch menu, with individual-sized portions. All restaurants have a Pope table, a large table in a room to itself, with a bust of the pope in the center. Most locations also have a room right across from the kitchen, where you can watch them cook – chefs even come over and talk to you and even let you sample dishes.
CoCo Key Water Resort – This 50,000 sq. ft. indoor water park resort is located at the Crowne Plaza Cincinnati North Hotel and offers a year-round enjoyable temperature. This resort is the place to be for fun and excitement for every member of the family. It is a complete adventure and it is much more than a water park or hotel. Come just for the day or to spend the night at this fabulous resort.
The Great Wolf Lodge features a huge 84-degree indoor water park. The little ones can get an ice cream-themed manicure in Scoops Kid Spa or they can grab a wand and battle the dragon in MagiQuest, all before a nice and cozy gathering for your family in the Grand Lobby for their nightly fireside Story Time, marking the flawless ending to a fairy-tale Great Wolf day.
The Cincinnatian Hotel – The Cincinnatian Hotel has 146 guest rooms, with 7 luxurious suites. The rooms have elegant décor and amenities which include balconies, luxurious linens, tailored upholstery, roman tubs, fireplaces, balconies and soft terrycloth robes.
Those with kids will especially want to make the two hour drive to Indianapolis to visit the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which we rank #1 on our list of the 10 Best Children’s Museums In America. This 472,900 square foot world class museum is spread across five floors of exhibits, making it the single largest children’s museum in the country. It is perhaps best known for it’s beloved Dinosphere, which contains a working paleontology lab, hands-on simulated fossil “digs,” several life-size simulated dinosaurs, and one of the largest collections of real fossils and dinosaur art in the country. Take note of the life-sized replica of a Tyrannosaurus rex, which is the third most complete T. rex fossil in the world. Throughout the museum, over 10,000 artifacts are on display, including a 55-ton steam engine, a working 1927 carousel, and the largest waterclock in North America.