Explore both art and animals during this family weekend in the Queen City.
Once a bustling community of German beer brewers and pork packers, Cincinnati and the area of Northern Kentucky just across the Ohio River now offer families plenty of kid-friendly options for a day or weekend packed with art and animals.
Where to stay?
Opened in 2012, 21c Museum Hotel is not only a chic boutique hotel but also a contemporary art museum in downtown Cincinnati. It’s a great way to expose your kids to the arts without any extra cost. The hotel’s interior is bright, stylish, and clean. And the art can move into your hotel room! Each 21c Museum Hotel has its own family of penguins (yes, penguins) made from recycled plastic. My son parked his yellow penguin - which doubled as a coat rack - next to his in-room tent. To top it off, room service delivered complimentary milk and chocolate chip cookies at bedtime. While this downtown location can be a little noisy, it’s a far more family-friendly location than neighborhoods to the north.
KidTripster Tip: Request a room on the quieter side of the hotel.
We took advantage of the convenient hotel restaurant, Metropole. The award-winning food here is delicious. For breakfast, my son was very happy with his berry smoothie and stack of pancakes.
If you’re looking to eat like a local, head to Skyline Chili (various locations) for a Cincinnati-style chili dog or a three-way plate (shredded cheese + secret recipe chili + spaghetti). End your day with a scoop from Graeters (various locations), a small-batch French pot ice creamery operating since 1868. You can’t go wrong with Bourbon Pecan Chocolate Chip!
What to do?
Just two minutes from downtown Cincinnati on the Kentucky side of the river, the impressive Newport Aquarium is definitely worth a visit. Kids can touch sea stars, horseshoe crabs, turtles, and all sorts of other underwater creatures. But it’s the sharks that stopped my son in his tracks! Take time to sit down right in front of the tank. And don’t miss the Penguin Parade that starts at 10:15 a.m. Your child could even be chosen as the Grand Marshall! Just know, the aquarium is a favorite spot on rainy days, so expect big crowds, and I do mean big! Cost: Youth (2-12) $15.99, Adult $23.99.
KidTripster Tip: Discounted tickets available at some local Kroger stores. Check aquarium website for "$5 Kids after 5pm" specials.
Continuing our wildlife theme, we also visited the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, located about three miles from downtown Cincinnati. It’s nicknamed "World’s Sexiest Zoo," because it holds the record for more births than any other zoo in the world! It’s well laid out, but be prepared to walk up and down some hills as you explore its 75 acres. We fell in love with the otters and enjoyed watching the polar bears, in particular. Plus, don’t miss an opportunity to see cheetahs run (summers only). In addition to the animals, there’s the BB&T Express Train, Conservation Carousel, and 4-D FX Theater experience. This zoo doesn’t disappoint. Cost: Youth (2-12) $22, Adult $27, Parking $10.
KidTripster Tip: Discounted tickets available online or at some local Kroger stores.
Located in southern Ohio, Cincinnati is less than a two-hour drive from Indianapolis, Columbus, Louisville, and Lexington.
A recent transplant from California, Lara Abrams-Melman lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband and kindergartener.