If you’re thinking about planning a Midwest family vacation to Ohio, look no further than the many terrific Cincinnati kid activities. This thriving destination spread across the hills of the Ohio River Valley offers outstanding opportunities for all kinds of adventure. Whether it’s an afternoon of exploring the Cincinnati Fire Museum, seeing the amazing wildlife at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, or enjoying thrilling rides at Kings Island amusement park, these Cincinnati kid activities are sure to make it a trip to remember. Rich in culture, history, cuisine, and outdoor beauty, Cincinnati offers much to experience year-round.
1. Explore the exquisite fauna and flora at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
As the 2nd-oldest zoo in the United States, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden continues to bring joy to new generations of visitors. It’s no surprise that it is a popular destination for family fun with captivating animals from every corner of the globe in habitats from Cat Canyon to Lemur Lookout and more. There are several hands-on encounters, from the Giraffe Feeding to the Open Goat Yard. As for the garden experiences, there are several including the magical Butterfly Garden with its diverse plants and beautiful blooms.
2. Follow in the footsteps of heroes at the Cincinnati Fire Museum
You may not be familiar with this fun fact, but Cincinnati is where professional firefighting got its start. Located in the former Engine Company #45 Fire House, the Cincinnati Fire Museum stands out when it comes Cincinnati kid activities. Here, visitors will encounter fascinating exhibits such as The Volunteer Era Collection featuring artifacts that date back to the 1800s, and the Modern Era Collection featuring “The Safe House,” with hands-on exhibits that teach fire-prevention tips and how to create an escape plan. Self-guided tours are available for parents and children to take everything in.
3. Stop and smell the flowers at the Krohn Conservatory
Certain Cincinnati kid activities make for fantastic photo ops, and exploring the Krohn Conservatory definitely does. Located in Eden Park, the art deco-inspired gem opened in 1933 to the delight of plant lovers everywhere. Inside, there is plenty to explore from the recreated tropical rain forest in the Palm House to fragrant flowers in the Orchid House and miniature Japanese woody plants at the John Carroll Bonsai Gallery. If you happen to be visiting during the Butterfly Show, be sure not to miss it.
4. Experience the thrilling rides at Kings Island
When it comes to family fun in Cincinnati and the surrounding area, Kings Island stands out for its epic rides, tasty eats, and entertaining experiences. Located less than 30 minutes from the city in the town of Mason, this dynamic destination features something for everyone, from the Banshee roller coaster to Congo Falls and the K.I. Miami Valley Railroad. Tiny tots and younger children can’t get enough of the Planet Snoopy Kids Area with its leisurely rides and character appearances from the Peanuts gang.
5. Play awhile at Smale Riverfront Park
Boasting views of the Ohio River, Smale Riverfront Park provides a scenic retreat for family fun in Cincinnati. Spanning 45 acres, the urban green space is nestled between the Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium and is a lovely place for a leisurely stroll. During the day, families spend time at the playground and splash pad or take a whimsical ride on Carol Anne’s Carousel. There’s also a Labyrinth and Riverwalk, among other features. It also makes the perfect rest stop when exploring this part of the city.
6. Discover dinosaurs and more at the Museum of Natural History & Science
Learning about the prehistoric beasts that once roamed the earth ranks up there among top Cincinnati kid activities. At the Museum of Natural History & Science, the Dinosaur Hall boasts 6 towering specimens including the 60-foot-long Galeamopus pabsti and other predators. Interactive displays delve into the evolution, ecology, and biology of dinosaurs even further. If time permits, be sure to stop by other areas of the museum, such as the Neil Armstrong Space Exploration Gallery.
7. Have a water adventure at Coney Island
During the warmer months, a visit to the Coney Island water park is a must for family fun in Cincinnati and the surrounding area. Located 10 miles east of downtown in Anderson Township, this kid-friendly place features attractions for all ages. Whether enjoying the Sunlite Water Adventure and its many slides and refreshing pools or Storybook Paddle Boats and Cincy Mini Golf, it will be hard to get the gang to leave at the end of the day. Other convenient features include cabana rentals and dining at the Island Cafe with cheese coneys, chili fries, and more.
8. Celebrate baseball at the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum
Sports reign supreme in the world of Cincinnati kid activities. It doesn’t have to be baseball season to visit the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum. Even if you’re not into America’s favorite pastime, the displays of memorabilia and moments will appeal to history buffs. Highlights include the Root the Reds Home exhibit, featuring 200 Reds pennants from the team’s championship seasons, Pursuit of a Dream, which shines a spotlight on Jackie Robinson and other influential African American players, and The Uniform, with all the looks of years gone by.
9. Put on your hiking shoes and take on the gorgeous trails at the Cincinnati Nature Center
If spending time outdoors with the family sounds like a splendid idea, then be sure to carve out some time on your trip and head to the Cincinnati Nature Center. A short drive from the city in Milford, this scenic destination boasts 16 miles of hiking trails in the Rowe Woods featuring a beautiful backdrop of deciduous forest, fields, and ponds. The center is also home to the Nature Playscape featuring hands-on activities and programming that promotes a sense of wonder about the environment.
10. Order a dozen of the most pillowy creations at Holtman’s Donut Shop
No visit to Cincinnati with kids is complete without some sweet treats, and Holtman’s Donut Shop does not disappoint. Since 1960, this mom-and-pop shop with several locations in and around the city has been turning out scrumptious goodies that depart from the standard glazed variety. Instead, you can find creative offerings with an assortment of toppings, from the Fruity Pebbles to the red velvet cake donut and the apple fritter. Order a box for breakfast or to enjoy later. In Cincinnati proper, you can find them in the neighborhoods of Oakley and Over-The-Rhine. You won’t know until you taste these old-fashioned donuts why people crave these delicious creations.
11. See what’s on view at the Cincinnati Art Museum
A day at the museum is always a grand time for the family, and the Cincinnati Art Museum is no exception. Located in the Eden Park neighborhood, this cultural gem has been around since 1881 and has the distinction of being the first purpose-built museum west of the Appalachians. The collection is impressive with more than 67,000 works spanning 6,000 years. Whether you're into African, Asian or American art, sculptures, paintings, photographs, and more, there is something that will appeal to everyone. Kids especially love the Family ArtVentures tours and MadCap Puppets shows.
12. Learn about heroes and history at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Sometimes, family things to do in Cincinnati can be an eye-opening experience. Set on the north bank of the Ohio River, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center offers inspiring stories, exhibits, and hands-on activities that touch on the cornerstones of freedom, courage, cooperation, and perseverance. Permanent exhibits include "Escape! Freedom Seekers and the Underground Railroad" and the film “Brothers of the Borderland." Also not to miss is The Eternal Flame that shines brightly on the 3rd floor representing the candles that were placed in the windows of Underground Railroad operators.
13. Have blast at the Duke Energy Children’s Museum
Parents looking for things for kids to do in Cincinnati, especially younger ones, will want to add the Duke Energy Children’s Museum to their travel plans. Part of the Cincinnati Museum Center, this cultural organization boasts educational and themed play areas that encourage youngsters to explore the world around them. It is consistently ranked as one of the 10 top children’s museums in the United States for a reason, with enriching environments such as the pint-sized neighborhood Kids' Town featuring a pet hospital, diner, and more, and the wilderness-inspired The Woods, among others.
14. Bike, hike, and the like on the Little Miami Scenic Trail
It is easy to find family fun in Cincinnati that encourages time outdoors. The Little Miami Scenic Trail happens to be the longest paved trail in the country, and part of it travels through the southwestern counties of Ohio including the Cincinnati area. It is the ultimate destination for recreation that attracts tykes on tricycles, runners, walkers, and sightseers, with many stops along the way including the Top Trailhead in Newtown and the neighborhood of Loveland, to name a few.
15. Bring the little ones to Highfield Discovery Garden
Located in the 335-acre Glenwood Gardens, the Highfield Discovery Garden is a special place for family fun in Cincinnati. Spanning 12 acres, this enchanting environment features a 25-foot Discovery Tree and smaller themed gardens including Frogs & Toads with lovely lily pads. Over at the Wizard’s Garden, kids have to walk across a wooden bridge to reach the fairy garden, while the Trolley Garden boasts small-scale trains. There is certainly something to see at every turn including the huge caterpillars and beautiful butterflies fluttering about. Afterward, if time permits, stop by the nearby Cotswold Visitor Centre and take a look inside the Nature’s Niche Gift and Book Shop.
16. Stop by the American Sign Museum
As the largest public museum dedicated to signs in the United States, the American Sign Museum offers a one-of-a-kind experience and should be considered for your things to do with the family in Cincinnati. The 20,000-square-foot space offers a flashy display of colorful, commercial signs including a Big Boy statue along with other cool things to see, such as NeonWorks, a real-life workshop located in the museum. If you can’t find the building, it’s easy to spot. Just look for the giant green Holiday Inn sign, and you'll know that you have come to the right place.
17. Order a scoop or 2 at Graeter’s Ice Cream
Founded in 1870 by Louis C. Graeter, Graeter’s Ice Cream is a local institution and a must-visit destination when you’re in Cincinnati with the kids. Specializing in handcrafted French Pot ice cream, this specialty purveyor has a huge following thanks to its creamy creations using only the finest ingredients. While all of the flavors such as Brown Butter Pecan and Birthday Cake sound yummy, someone in your party needs to order the signature Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip. Along with the 30 ice cream flavors, the menu also features other specialty items including the Buckeye Sundae and Island Blast Frozen Drink.
18. Play tennis and volleyball or head to the playground at Sawyer Point Park & Yeatman’s Cove
When it comes to pretty public green spaces, Sawyer Point Park & Yeatman’s Cove, which sit side by side, make great options for Cincinnati kid activities. Spanning 1 mile, this scenic space is set along the Ohio River providing a picturesque backdrop for families enjoying the Armleder Memorial Spray Ground and other fun activities and amenities such as tennis and volleyball courts, playgrounds, and taking in the scenery on 2 wheels on rented bikes. During the warmer months, the park also hosts events including the Sawyer Point Summer Concert Series and the Sawyer Point Local Music Concert Series.
19. Gaze at the magnificent stars at the Cincinnati Observatory
As far as Cincinnati kid activities go, the Cincinnati Observatory is pretty neat. Located at the top of Mount Lookout, this site is a budding astronomer’s dream with refracting telescopes to observe the night sky. You can also visit during the day and take a tour of the complex that houses 2 telescopes and an out-of-this-world shop. Visitors can also take self-guided tours of the Observatory Historic District and see beautifully restored homes from the 1800s. Or, if the kids prefer, wait until dark to attend special events including Astronomy Fridays with viewings through the historic telescopes.