A Kid-Friendly Weekend in Cincinnati

I’m not sure why it took our family so long to make it over to Cincinnati, considering it’s only a few hours away from us, but I’m glad we finally visited.

What we did:

Cincinnati Zoo.

This zoo, and specifically its famous hippo Fiona and her family, was the original motivation for our trip. To be honest, I was sort of underwhelmed. It’s a decent zoo. But it didn’t stand out to me as better than the Indianapolis Zoo and it’s considerably more expensive. But we did get lucky with an absolutely beautiful 80 degree low humidity day, and my 4 year old really enjoyed seeing lots of different animals.

We paid a bit more for a ticket that came with unlimited train and carousel rides. Unfortunately we didn’t get to ride the train at all (the line was at least an hour long), but the carousel was a big hit and had a much more manageable line so we rode that too many times to count.

Cincinnati Museum Center. While the Zoo didn’t wow me, I was seriously impressed with the Cincinnati Museum Center, which has several different museums under one roof and admission fee. The museums are housed in the Cincinnati railroad terminal, built in the early 20th century in Art Deco style. The interior is gorgeous.

We were able to visit for just the cost of parking thanks to our ASTC passport membership, and spent the better part of a day at the Museum of Natural History and Science, which is great for older preschoolers and school age children. They also have a children’s museum for younger kids, but we had so much fun at the natural history museum we never even made it over there.

I was especially impressed with the space exhibit (complete with moon rock and Mars rover you could control) and the ice age exhibit where you can walk through an ice cave to see what southern Ohio and northern Kentucky looked like in the Pleistocene era.

Washington Park. After getting dinner in the charming Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, we walked to Washington Park, which is a great place to hang out if you’re visiting Cincinnati with kids. There’s a playground with some creative play structures, including a pirate ship, a splash pad with colorful lights and a gazebo that was surrounded by flowers when we were there in August.

Where we ate: Our best meal was at Pepp + Dolores. The restaurant has a cute ambiance with lovely patio seating and great Italian food. They were great with my 4 year old and whipped her up some plain pasta, and my meal of pesto pasta and homemade ricotta and sourdough was delicious.

Where we stayed: The Graduate, on the campus of the University of Cincinnati and right down the street from the zoo. This wasn’t my favorite of the Graduate hotels I’ve stayed in (that would be the Ann Arbor location with its Hogwarts-like lobby), but I love the college theme and I appreciate the way this chain commits to honoring local landmarks in the decor. We enjoyed the Fiona statue in the lobby, the John Glenn lamps and the room keys that are student IDs of famous alumni, a Graduate signature (I got Sandy Koufax).

It was a quick trip, but a fun one, and I hope to have the chance to explore the city in more depth some day. Have you been to Cincinnati? What should we add to our itinerary for our next trip?

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