48 Hours in Cincinnati // travel guide
Headed to Cincinnati for the weekend? Only have 48 hours to explore this fun city? While I totally recommend more than two days in the Queen City, if that’s all you can spare, here’s how to spend it.
We lived in a northeast suburb of Cincy for about a year before we moved north a few hours to Findlay, and we still head back every couple of months. Coming to the midwest from Utah, we had little idea what to expect but it didn’t take long for us to fall in love with the charm of Cincinnati. I remember the view of the P&G towers lit up as we crossed the bridge through the city from the airport my very first night in Ohio – captivating. Just over the border from Kentucky, it has luscious rolling green hills and plenty of that southern hospitality you start to expect a bit further south. But it is also full of history and culture as a city that was known as the gateway to the west. Churchill called it the most beautiful of all America’s inland cities and nestled between hills right on the Ohio river, and it’s easy to see what he meant.
Start your morning off at the zoo
Whether or not you have kids, the zoo is a Cincinnati favorite. It is the second oldest zoo in the United States with it’s Reptile House being the oldest zoo building in the country (it’ll make you feel a little bit like 10 year old Harry Potter). The other bonus is the zoo offers a few local favorites as food vendors so you can try Skyline Chili or La Rosa’s pizza while you’re there.
An afternoon downtown: Union Terminal, 21C Musueum Hotel, Fountain Square, and Graeter’s Ice Cream
After a morning at the zoo, spend the afternoon wandering downtown. You’ll find it incredibly dense, charming, and walkable. Be sure to hit up Tom & Chee for lunch and don’t shy away from a grilled cheese donut for dessert. Start with the Mac & Chee with bacon and order the Mint Summer’s Night Dream for dessert. The family startup was featured on Shark Tank before they started expanding their grilled cheese empire but their original location is right downtown. If you’re too full from snacking at the zoo, you can push Tom & Chee off till tomorrow at their Newport location.
Check into 21C Museum Hotel and explore their unique collection of modern art (available to the public and featuring contemporary artists). Once you’re settled, walk over to Union Terminal and choose between the Underground Railroad Museum and the Children’s Museum, depending on who you’re with. There are plenty of great places for dinner (like Nada or Sotto) but be sure to end the evening with ice cream at Graeters in Fountain Square. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a live concert or if it’s the winter you can can spend a few dollars to rent skates and spend time on the ice. Take a minute to appreciate the “Genius of Water,” a nine-foot-tall goddess atop the 1871 fountain.
If you don’t need to have kids in bed by 8pm, go ahead and check to see what is showing at the Arnoff Center and take in a ballet or concert. Cincinnati has a vibrant arts scene with an orchestra and ballet worth attending (one of my favorite valentine’s to date was our snowy evening watching Cincinnati’s Ballet’s “King Arthur”).
^beautiful old buildings in Over-the-Rhine
Morning at Findlay Market and Over-the-Rhine
Start your morning off early at Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market and a local favorite. They’re proud of their farm frest, locally sourced, artisanal and specialty foods and are open from Tuesday- Sunday year round. The market is walkable from any downtown hotel and you’ll get a glimpse of the up and coming Over-the-Rhine neighborhood with it’s rich history and 19th century architecture.
^the view of Kentucky from the outlook in Eden Park
Afternoon at the Cincinnati Art musuem and Eden park.
After your visit to Findlay Market, drive up to Eden Park, spend an hour (which could easily turn into a full day) meandering through Cincinnati’s’ Art Museum, and then enjoy the beautiful views of the Ohio river from the park. If you have time, stop the Krohn Conservatory on your way out and catch the butterfly exhibit if it’s in season.
P.S. If you’re local, Eden Park is an awesome location for family photos
^the view of Cincinnati from Newport-on-the-Levee
A night of baseball or Newport-on-the-Levee
That evening, take in a baseball game at Reds Stadium, the “Great American Ball Park.” The Cincinnati Reds were the first established team in Major League Baseball and a huge source of pride for residents of Cincinnati. If you can’t catch a game, you can still tour the stadium’s museum and then head across the Purple People Bridge to Newport and Covington. Across the river you’ll actually be in Kentucky, but this part of Cincinnati shouldn’t be missed. Check out Newport-on-the-levee for upcoming events or just stroll the riverwalk for a great view from the other side of the river.
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Thank you for sharing! I stumbled across your post while googling photos of the Cincinnati Riverwalk. I am also from Utah, and I am moving out to Cincinnati in two-days. I’m happy to know that there are so many fun things to see and explore.
Awesome post Elizabeth, your content was amazing! Been there with the fam at the zoo and am super excited to be back again. This content is also very helpful for folks who want to explore Cincinnati, thanks for sharing!