Whether you live in Cincinnati, Ohio or  are planning a visit, there are plenty of amazing things to do with your kids. With its foundation solidly rooted in the arts, your family has an endless number of museums to peruse, attractions to frequent and eateries to check out. Before you head out to explore the Queen city, take a moment to make a list of the best things to do. Read on for our list of top picks.

photo: by Annette Benedetti

1. Explore Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine

One of the first stops on your Cincinnati to-do list, should be the now-famous Over-the-Rhine. This historic German neighborhood, once lay in disrepair and ruins, and is now a vibrant neighborhood with a bustling street market, boutique shops, and a wide array of eateries. Stretch your legs at Findlay Market which is home to more than 40 indoor merchants selling meat, fish, poultry, produce, flowers, cheese, deli, and ethnic foods. Your family will marvel at the unique options, that are hard to find elsewhere. Head outside on weekends from April through November when the Market becomes home to a thriving farmers market with  outdoor vendors,  street performers, and special events. It’s the perfect spot to go for souvenirs and gifts. For an extra special experience, sign up for a food tour with Cincinnati Food Tours. Your guided experience will included a little education about the sights, sounds, and flavors of Cincinnati’s historic public market, the history of the hood and tastings.

2. Visit the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal

Cincinnati is packed with incredible museums and you can hit four museums and a theater in this one spot.This National Historic Landmark is home to the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center, Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children’s MuseumMuseum of Natural History & Science, and Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater.

At the Cincinnati History Museum visitors step back in time and walk through the city’s history from the time of the earliest settlers to the present. Along the way, you meet costumed interpreters that help you understand and connect with history. And your family can explore a recreation of the bustling Public Landing from the late 1850s and climb aboard the Queen of the West, a replica side-wheel steamboat.

Duke Energy Children’s Museum is consistently rated one of the top 10 Children’s Museums in the US. It offers kids of all ages a chance to explore and learn through hands-on experiences. Exhibit spaces are specifically designed for kids and include Little Sprouts Farm, Nature’s Trading Post, and The Woods. The Museum of Natural History & Science offers a world of science, history and nature through interactive exhibits and amazing artifacts. Don’t miss the Dinosaur Hall, which is sure to be one of your kiddos favorite experiences.

If your legs are tired after visiting all of the museums, catch a laser show that the OMNIMAX theater. It’s a perfect way to end a day of learning.

photo: via Joe Simon

3. Play at Washington Park

This recently renovated park in Over-the-Rhine has it all. It includes a playground for kids that is fully equipped with a play castle, climbing wall, sandbox and slides. During the summer months children enjoy the interactive water features which include over 130 pop-up jets. It is also home to a historic restored bandstand gazebo for weekly live music; a fenced-in dog area, American Classical Music Walk of Fame and more. This is where you’ll find a variety of events throughout the year.

4. Squeal at Coney Island Park

Located on the Ohio river, this park offers families a splashing good time. Complete with a water and theme park, families can escape the summer heat with a swim, slide or rides that turns sweltering days into paradise. There are also family attractions that include mini golf. Additionally this fun parks puts on year-round events that families with kids of all ages can enjoy.

5. Star Gaze at the Cincinnati Observatory

Get your astronomy on at this  fully functioning 19th century observatory and a National Historic Landmark. Located at the top of  Mt. Lookout, the Cincinnati Observatory is home to the world’s oldest telescope, and it still used nightly by the general public. You can visit the historic building and check out the telescope during the day hours, but the evening programs are where the fun is at. Astronomy evenings are held most Thursday and Friday nights and include short astronomy presentations on a wide variety of topics. There is a short tour of this National Historic Landmark followed by stargazing through the 1845 telescope to see the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, and stars.

6. Check Out Newport Aquarium

This incredible aquarium is home to thousands of creatures from around the world. It’s home to an interactive seahorse exhibit, the Ring of Fire: World of the Octopus exhibit and the incredible Shark Bridge. You’ll find hours of endless fun doing things like playing with penguins, touching sharks and viewing sea animals from all angels. It’s a one-of-a-kind Cincy experience.

7. Enjoy Smale Riverfront Park

With 45 acres of riverfront urban greens space that runs between the Great American Ball Park and the Paul Brown Stadium there’s tons for every person in your family to do. During the summer, there are interactive fountains. This park not only gives your crew tons of room to move it features splash grounds and water play areas, playground, picnic area, a labyrinth, river walk and more!

Photo: via Mark Dumont

8. Head to Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

This stop is sure to be a highlight for your little animal  lovers. With a variety of habitats with fun names like Cat Canyon, Dragons!, Jungle Trails and Gibbon Island, it’s hard to decide where to start first. There’s even a children’s zoo where the kiddos can meet barnyard animals! Don’t miss the awesome animal encounters during the Spring and Summer seasons when your family has the chance to see how fast a cheetah can run and watch awesome birds take flight.

While the animals are amazing, don’t forget to check out the gardens. From a community garden, to an endangered garden to a butterfly garden, your crew will delight at the greenery. Don’t forget to check out the 4-D Special FX Theater and take a ride on the The Safari Train before you go!

9. Take a Ride on Carol Ann’s Carousel

Nothing screams perfect childhood memory like a ride on a traditional carousel. This Carousel is located in Smale Riverfront Park. It features 44 characters your kids can choose from to keep them company as they take a spin. One of the coolest things about this Carousel is the art. Several of the panels feature historic Cincinnati landmarks, other depict animal characters frolicking one of the local parks.

photo: via Farshid Assassi

10. National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

A visit to the NURFC is a must visit for everyone living in and visiting Cincinnati. Located in in the downtown area, this special museum pays tribute to all efforts to “abolish human enslavement and secure freedom for all people.” Cincinnati played a significant role in the history of the Underground Railroad. Thousands of slaves escaped to freedom by crossing the Ohio River–a natural barrier between the North and the South– from enslavement in the Southern states.

One of the most significant artifacts housed in this museum is a two-story log slave pen that was erected in 1830. It is the only remaining slave jail. Guides tell the stories of both the slaves and the slave owners giving attendees a powerful and moving lesson in our past. A trip to this museum is sure to give your family a opportunity to consider what freedom really means, and find new heroes they may not of heard of in the past.

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—Annette Benedetti

Featured image: Photo Credit: Michelle Curley

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