Founded in 1788, Cincinnati soon became a key inland port on the Ohio River, the first city of the Midwest to rival the major Eastern Seaboard cities in size and wealth.
No longer does it have anywhere near the prominence it did at its peak, but Cincinnati is still a large thriving city, with more urban greenery and natural beauty than most cities its size.
If you’re considering a visit to Cincinnati, here are a few of its most popular tourist attractions:
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
The largest half-domed structure in the United States, and once a major train station, Union Station one mile northwest of downtown Cincinnati now houses multiple attractions.
The Cincinnati History Museum, opened in 1990, is one of the largest urban history museums in the country. Among its permanent exhibits telling the history of Cincinnati and the surrounding area is a re-creation of the Cincinnati Public Landing of the 1850s, with a 94-foot sidewheel steamboat. Costumed interpreters throughout the museum tell their stories and answer questions from visitors.
The Museum of Natural Science takes you back to the last ice age 19,000 years ago, gives you an opportunity to explore a re-created limestone cave with underground waterfalls, streams, fossils, and a colony of live bats, and presents exhibits and live demonstrations on such topics as the human body, migration, and extinction.
The Duke Energy Children’s Museum, opened in 1998, consistently is voted in the top 10 of children’s museums in the country. Of course the exhibits are hands-on and interactive, covering topics such as arts, culture, reading, and science. Little Sprouts Farm and Kids’ Town are visitor favorites.
The Omnimax Theater has a five-story, 72-foot diameter, tilted, domed screen and one of the most sophisticated digital sound systems of any theater in the world.
Union Terminal itself is a National Historic Landmark, and was named one of the 50 most architecturally significant buildings in the United States by the American Institute of Architects. It is a 10-story arched, limestone and glass building with a quarter-mile plaza, illuminated fountain, cascade, and pool.
The Cincinnati Museum Center is open Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 5 PM, and Sunday 11 AM to 6 PM.
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens has earned its share of accolades. Zagat Survey found it to be the #1 attraction in Cincinnati, and one of the top five zoos in the nation. Parents magazine rated it the #7 best zoo for kids.
The zoo draws over a million visitors per year to see its 500 animal and 3,000 plant species. It is the second oldest zoo in the country, dating back to 1875. It is especially well regarded for its work with animals facing extinction.
Visitors to the zoo can see everything from Komodo dragons to Indian elephants, to orangutans, to penguins, to king cobras, to giant walking stick insects. Spaulding Children’s Zoo is a hands-on exhibit for kids, where they can touch and pet various of the animals.
What sets this zoo apart from most others is that it also contains such an extensive collection of plants. Some visitors spend hours exploring the annuals, perennials, ornamental grasses, trees, shrubs, and more.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens is open every day but Christmas, from 9 AM to 5 PM, with extended evening hours some days.
Contemporary Arts Center
The Contemporary Arts Center, originally called the Modern Art Society at its founding in 1939, didn’t move into its first free-standing location until 2003 when it found a home in the architecturally acclaimed Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art building designed by Zaha Hadid.
The Center’s motto is “the art of the last five minutes.” It has no permanent collection, and focuses only on the most recently created contemporary art, including painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, performance art, and new media. The Center hosts six to twelve exhibitions and over twenty performances annually.
Over the years it has presented the works of many famous artists-some of whom were famous at the time and some of whom were not-including Laurie Anderson, Jasper Johns, I.M. Pei, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol.
The Center is open seven days a week. Admission is $7.50 for ages 14 and up, $6.50 for seniors, $5.50 for students, and $4.50 for children.
Kings Island Theme Park, Kings Mill
Located in the unincorporated community of Kings Mill in the northeastern portion of the Cincinnati metropolitan area, Kings Island is one of the Midwest’s largest theme and water parks.
King’s Island includes over 80 rides and attractions, with fifteen roller coasters including the Beast, the longest wooden roller coaster in the world, Firehawk, which propels its riders 115 feet into the air, and Diamondback, the newest, tallest, and fastest of all the park’s roller coasters.
There are plenty of live shows, the affiliated 30-acre Boomerang Bay water park, and the new Planet Snoopy, featuring meet and greets with all your favorite Peanuts characters.
A special attraction is the park’s Halloween Haunt during October, with haunted trails, monsters, mazes, and trick or treating with the Nickelodeon characters at Nick-or-Treat.
King’s Island is open May through August, and weekends in September and October.
Krohn Conservatory is housed in a striking Art Deco building from 1933 in Eden Park. Inside are 3,500 plant species from around the world in the indoor rainforest and waterfall, Palm House, Tropical House, Desert Garden, and Orchid Display. One of the highlights of the conservatory is its extensive collection of bonsai plants.
Every spring is the popular Butterfly Show, where thousands of butterflies are released in a specially-themed garden.
The conservatory is open every day from 10 AM to 5 PM. Admission is free, though donations are accepted.
“Awesome Ohio Adventure!” Discover Ohio.
“Ohio Things to Do.” Yahoo! Travel.
“Ohio Tourism.” Ohio Beautiful.
“Ohio Tourist Attractions.” We Go Places.