Cincinnati Travel Guide: One-of-a-Kind Experiences for Kids
Two local moms. Ten one-of-a-kind Cincy experiences. Cincinnati locals LOVE their city, and we can see why. We’ll help you plan your next family vacation to Cincinnati with 10 off-the-beaten-path places to eat and play.
Look at a map and you’ll see Cincinnati hugs the northern bank of the Ohio River, just across the border from Kentucky. Roads leading to and from the river wind here and there before coming to dead ends. It’s the kind of road planning (or lack of) that gives visitors a headache. But it’s also the kind of terrain that lends itself to exploration—where does this road go, what’s around the next bend?
To help you explore Cincinnati, we asked two local moms to share their favorite Cincy spots. BabyQuip Quality Providers Lindsey Brown and Rachael Tayce had so many fantastic suggestions that we had a hard time narrowing it down to just ten, but we managed!
Here are our top 10 things to do with babies and kids in Cincinnati:
We love one-of-a-kind toy stores, and Cincinnati is home to a real gem—King Arthur’s Court Toys. If you can, we recommend scheduling your visit around story time—Tuesdays at 11 a.m.—for a tale AND complimentary coffee and popcorn! In the basement of the store you’ll find The Dungeon. It’s a play area where toddlers can explore a new book in one of the hanging Hugglepods or bigger kids can fly on the zip line.
There’s a lot to explore at Smale Riverfront Park located along the Ohio River. We suggest starting off at Heekin Family/PNC Grow Up Great Adventure Playground. This fully accessible playground features a rock climbing canyon, a rope bridge and fog-mist for cooling off on hot summer days. Then head to the Rosenberg Swings to rest, snack, and hydrate. These family-sized porch swings offer views of the Ohio River and the Northern Kentucky shoreline. Next, check out Carol Ann’s Carousel—a hand carved carousel whose whimsical characters were inspired by Cincinnati life, history, and culture. The carousel is located in a glass building and is open year round.
Designed to encourage exploration, this 12-acre discovery garden features the 25-foot Discovery Tree as well as seven smaller gardens. We especially love the Frog & Toads Garden and the Trolley Garden. Highfield is located within the 335-acre Glenwood Gardens which offers formal gardens, prairies, forests, wetlands, a 1-mile paved trail and the 1.6-mile Wetland Loop nature trail. Glenwood Gardens is open to the public. Admission to the Discovery Garden is $5 per person but free for little ones under two.
Since 1870, Graeter’s has been serving up handcrafted ice cream in Cincinnati. Graeter’s ice cream is a favorite coast to coast. It’s Oprah’s favorite ice cream so you can’t go wrong! You can see what all the hype is about at the Cherry Grove location where your little ones can play in the ice cream themed Lil’ Pints Playroom. It’s always good to keep an indoor playground in your back pocket for rainy days. Having trouble deciding which flavor to try? Black Raspberry Chip is BabyQuip Quality Provider Lindsey Brown’s favorite!
Thirty minutes east of downtown, the Cincinnati Nature Center is committed to providing nature play opportunities for kids. The natural features of the center’s Nature Playscape are geared towards visitors under 11 years. The natural play space is designed for open-ended, creative play where your child can touch a variety of plants, soil, and water. Be sure to check out the weekly Playscape events when planning your visit. They include Preschool Storytime and Toddler Stories and Songs. There are also 16 miles of trails winding through the 1,016-acre property, including 65-acres of old growth forest! Admission is charged for non-members: Adults $9, Children 4–12 $4, Children 3 and under free.
Washington Park is a beautiful, green oasis in the middle of downtown Cincinnati and one of BabyQuip Quality Provider Rachael Tayce’s favorite places to take kids, especially during the summer months. Rachael always brings out-of-town friends and their kids to the 18,000 square foot, fenced-in playground whose features include a play castle, climbing wall, and a canal boat in a stream. Another hit with Rachael’s family is the 7,000 square foot interactive water park with more than 130 pop-up jets. When you’re ready for a break, relax under the covered patio, sip on a local beer, and enjoy a snack. The park hosts a huge variety of free events, including Youngster Yoga, family movie nights, and live music.
The Cincinnati Art Museum is always free and offers a world-class art collection in addition to rotating exhibits. The big draw for families with little ones here is the Rosenthal Education Center (REC) where kids can learn about art in an interactive setting geared towards little minds and bodies. Kids can work on an art project in the studio that corresponds to a current exhibit. On Wednesdays, the RED Reads program shares art-themed books, songs, and sensory activities with toddlers and pre-schoolers. BabyQuip Quality Provider Rachael Tayce shared with us that the Terrace Café located within the museum is kid-friendly and impresses diners with good food.
This 730-acre park features the 35-acre Sharon Lake, walking trails, and an indoor playground. During the summer months, rent a rowboat and get out on the water. On cold and rainy days, the two-story Adventure Station will impress the 2–12 age group with various climbing features, a cave, tunnels, and 1800s themed town. Be sure to ask the attendant about the scavenger hunt. If you can find all six items you’ll win a prize! Admission to the Adventure Station is $4.50 per child ages 2–12, kids under two are free.
Cincinnati has a hoppenin’ beer scene. If you’re looking to experience some kid-friendly beer culture, the Rhinegeist should be on your itinerary. BabyQuip Quality Provider Rachael Tayce had her baby shower at Rhinegeist and she shares that her daughter loves visiting the taproom. While the grownups sip on a beer, the whole family can enjoy a game of ping pong or cornhole. Rachael recommends Bubbles, a fruited ale with apple, peach, and cranberry. For an extra dish of fun, you can order food from Sartre and watch as it’s delivered via pneumatic tube.
The Red Balloon is a unique kid-centric store, cafe AND play space. The indoor playroom is designed for kiddos 1–6 years old with spaces to climb, explore, and create. The store offers a selection of babywearing carriers, cloth diapers, and other natural items for babies and mamas. The cafe serves breakfast, soups, salads and sandwiches made from locally sourced organic ingredients (when possible). Playroom admission is $8.75 per child, additional children are $6.75. They also offer an Eat and Play Combo for $11, which includes unlimited play plus a kids meal and drink.
Kathy is a freelance writer, an Independent Quality Provider with BabyQuip and the mother of a very active one-year-old boy. When she’s not changing diapers, developing engaging content for clients, or helping families travel with little ones, she enjoys reading, gardening, yoga, and naps.