Cincinnati, Ohio, is a bustling city in the southwestern corner of Ohio near the borders of Indiana and Kentucky. Within a few miles in every direction, there is fun to be had with grandchildren of all ages, interests, and energy levels. Great food, amusement parks, and sports galore can be mingled with quirky museums and attractions with important historical significance. Cincinnati is the perfect home base for experiencing all the action of these 14 recommendations.
I have visited Cincinnati on my own and as part of a press trip. All opinions are my own.
1. Great American Ball Park
The game atmosphere inside Great American Ball Park is the quintessential summertime experience. Even if you’re not a Reds fan or even a baseball fan, you’ll find yourself swept up in the cracks of the bat, the jumbotron capturing faces in the crowd, the antics of the mascots, and the smell of hot dogs and popcorn.
Pro Tip: Be sure to get to the park in time to visit the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum right inside the gates. This is a good way for grandparents to tell tales of past baseball heroes among the exhibits of uniforms and equipment from years ago.
2. Graeter’s Ice Cream
The flavor that put Graeter’s Ice Cream on the map is probably its black raspberry chocolate chip, but all are outstanding. Graeter’s has been using the French-pot process since 1870, which means batches are made 2.5 gallons at a time. The chocolate chips are also made in a unique way. The result is wonderful ice cream which is now available in five states. You will find 18 stand-alone shops scattered throughout Cincinnati, a Graeter’s food truck, and, of course, a Graeter’s kiosk at the Great American Ball Park.
3. Skyline Chili
The first step to Cincinnati’s five-way chili is browning ground beef with onions, spices, and dark unsweetened chocolate. Yes, chocolate. The meat mixture is served over warm spaghetti pasta for the second step. Cheese is third, onions make up the fourth layer, and beans are added for a true five-way version. Each person in your party can decide which of the five elements they prefer to include or leave off, so the chili is customizable.
The first Skyline Chili restaurant opened in 1949 and there are now more than 150 locations scattered throughout Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Florida.
4. Kings Island
Kings Island is about a 30-minute drive north of Cincinnati in the town of Mason, Ohio. Older grandkids will enjoy riding and squealing their way along Orion, Diamondback, The Beast, and other roller coasters, while the younger set will enjoy less scary thrills in the Planet Snoopy section of the park. Soak City Water Park is included in the daily ticket price.
Pro Tip: Kings Island encompasses 364 acres, which might be exhausting for grandparents. Fortunately, there are many shady places to sit and catch your breath.
5. Cincinnati Connector
Cincinnati’s streetcar, known as The Connector, is one of the most convenient and helpful public transportation systems you’ll find. It runs from the Ohio River to Findlay Market and passes the public library, fountain square, and Washington Park along the way. There are 18 stops on the route and a streetcar comes by every 15 minutes. Best of all, The Connector is free.
Along the river, you will be near the stadium and ballpark of the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cincinnati Reds, the Riverwalk, Smale Riverfront Park, and the Roebling Suspension Bridge. This part of the city is known as The Banks. At Findlay Market, consider giving your grandchild a few dollars and allowing them to select a treat.
6. National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
If your grandchild is old enough to have studied U.S. history, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is a great place to reinforce that knowledge and bring it to life. Inside is the only surviving slave jail and visitors can use the interactive exhibits to learn more about the Civil War. Much of the museum, however, is best suited for older children and teenagers.
7. Sample Goetta
Goetta is a uniquely Cincinnati food that is normally eaten at breakfast time. Loosely speaking, it is a mixture of sausage, oats, and spices, but recipes vary. Glier’s is the best-known producer of goetta and they take it a step further by hosting a yearly GoettaFest. Most restaurants who serve breakfast will offer goetta. It’s a great way to “do as the Cincinnatians do.”
8. Cincinnati Zoo
Cincinnati Zoo has been educating and entertaining the public since 1875. It now houses almost 2,000 animals. Children will enjoy animal antics (especially those of Fiona the hippo), the train, carousel, and Kanga Klimb, an aerial climbing adventure. Very young children will be happy if you rent a Scooter Pal for getting around the 75-acre park. Grandparents will appreciate the outstanding botanical gardens.
9. Ark Encounter
A short drive down Interstate 75 South will take you to an attraction of (literally) biblical proportions. You will see the ark from a distance and be amazed at its size, which is said to have followed the measurements spelled out in the Bible for Noah’s famous ark. Grandparents will like the fact that admission for children 10 and under is free.
Three decks are filled with exhibits inside, while a zoo, camel rides, zip lines, animal shows, and restaurants wait outside.
Pro Tip: The Creation Museum is closer to Cincinnati than the Ark Encounter and features gardens and a planetarium along with zip lines and restaurants. The two experiences are designed by Answers in Genesis and have similar themes and formats.
10. American Sign Museum
The American Sign Museum on Monmouth Avenue is both a visual treat and a way for grandparents to share “the way things used to be” with their grandchildren. The museum utilizes 20,000 square feet as it covers 100 years of signs that were iconic throughout the United States landscape. Children 12 and under are free, so this is an economical as well as an entertaining outing.
11. Swing House
The Swing House is the brainchild of Mark de Jong, located in the Camp Washington area of Cincinnati. It features a three-story swing suspended from the ceiling which provides an exhilarating experience for young and old alike. The Swing House can be rented as an Airbnb, but if you time your visit to Cincinnati for a second Saturday in the month, the house is open to the public free of charge from noon until 4 p.m.
Pro Tip: If you are fascinated by the merger of art and architecture, look for Mark de Jong’s other projects: Circle House, Square House, and soon-to-come Stair House.
12. Vent Haven Museum
A visit to Vent Haven Museum might very well be the start of a new hobby for grandchildren, and it will certainly be a nostalgic journey for their grandparents. In addition to more than 1,100 dummies, you will find memorabilia, posters, and every kind of ventriloquism-related paraphernalia you could imagine. Some dummies were made famous on television. Others are replicas of well-known political figures.
Pro Tip: The museum is only open by appointment, so be sure to make plans by emailing the address on the website before you come to Cincinnati. Cost is $15 per person and the tour lasts about an hour.
13. Coney Island Park
Coney Island Park is a dream location about 10 miles east of downtown Cincinnati for children or teenagers who want to cool off in the water in the summertime. Waterslides, obstacle courses, diving boards, and a giant swimming pool await. Paddle boats and mini-golf are available if you want to be dry for a while.
Dressing rooms, cabanas for shade, concession stands, and more contribute to an enjoyable full day at Coney Island Park.
14. Lucky Cat Museum
The Lucky Cat Museum, housed in the Essex Studios building, is open for visitors in the afternoons of Tuesday through Saturday from 3–6 p.m. Hundreds of smiling, waving cats are on display in forms ranging from clocks to figurines and stationary to wall hangings. The owner will be happy to answer questions and explain all the different versions and styles. You will want to choose your favorite and hope it brings you good luck.
Cincinnati and the region surrounding it provide a wide variety of activities and attractions for grandparents to enjoy with their grandchildren.