Things to Do on the Ohio River near Cincinnati
The Ohio River has been an important trading port since the early 19th century. The Ohio River saw two major historical events early on, right off her shores—the first being the invention of steamboats and how easy they made transportation. The second is the completion of the Erie and Miami Canals. Combined, these two events created a booming economy for Cincinnati in the mid-19th century, inviting a growing population around the port and shoreline. Eventually, the railway came into the city and the city’s influence grew.
Cincinnati is known as the birthplace of America’s pastime, baseball, and has many city parks that you can explore on your visit. Downtown sits at the Ohio River’s edge. Known as The Banks, the riverfront welcomes locals and guests alike to experience a new age of Cincinnati and how grand it will become in the future.
American Queen Voyages offers multiple overnight cruises along the Ohio River that will take you through Cincinnati. Below are some of the top things to do when you have a chance to explore one of the fastest-growing cities in the country!
See in real life how Noah’s Ark was described in the Old Testament in this life-size replica built to carry two of every animal there ever was. This is a 510-feet long ship that sits largely in front of the horizon. About a mile from the Ohio River, you have to really see it to believe the magnitude of what the Bible said happened. This is an optional tour excursion when you visit the Ohio river on an American Queen Voyages, and it is well worth it!
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Located in downtown Cincinnati, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center shows exhibits and hosts discussions on the history of slavery within the United States and how freedom was won after the Civil War. The museum is a “museum on conscience,” meaning that it is meant to challenge the views of visitors and ask them what freedom really means to them. Cincinnati played a major role in the Underground Railroad, and the Ohio River was the crossing point that many slaves made to have freedom.
Coney Island Park
You can visit the Coney Island water park on the shores of the Ohio River, about 10 miles from downtown while you’re in Cincinnati. Dozens of rides can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Open daily during the summer, unless there is bad weather, you can rent cabanas and book swim lessons in addition to wading in pools and going down water slides. This is the perfect spot for groups to go or to celebrate a special occasion or birthday.
Riverbend Music Center
The Riverbend Music Center is an outdoor concert venue on the banks of the Ohio River. There is enough for more than 20,000 people to enjoy concerts and events together, between reserved seats and the lawn space. It is owned by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which puts on concerts throughout the season that anyone can enjoy. They also host concerts for all genres, such as country and pop stars. This is a great place to spend the evening with your friends.
Belterra Park is a “racino,” meaning that it is part racetrack, part casino. Horse racing goes on typically from April until late September or early October. People can bet on horses that are on the track and you may even see the next best horse—Seabiscuit raced here twice!
John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge
For more than 150 years, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge has been a landmark over the Ohio River. It is the longest bridge in the world at 1,075 feet across. It was at the time and still is, an engineering marvel that uses two cables to help support the loads crossing the river. A National Historic Landmark, the Roebling Bridge is a great backdrop to a photo commemorating your trip to Cincinnati.
You can see thousands of animals at the Newport Aquarium. There are touch tanks where you can pet a shark or sting ray, and you can take a selfie up close with a penguin. There are also land animals that you can see, like amphibians and alligators. And of course, there are tons of fish that are colorful, big and small, and from all over the world. You can also take a break and walk over the world’s first suspension bridge over a shark tank, or play on the jungle gym in Coral Cove.
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
The second oldest zoo in America, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden has been around for almost 150 years. There are more than 500 animal species that you can see at the zoo. Learn about their very successful breeding program and see the last living passenger pigeon, Martha. You can also see classic zoo animals like elephants, lemurs, wolves, hippos, and so much more. Walk about the botanical gardens and see more than unique 3,000 plant species and learn about the different climates that they all come from.
Cincinnati Reds Game
If you’re a sports fan, especially for baseball, you have to catch a game while being in the city where the first-ever baseball game was played in 1869. Baseball has changed since the Cincinnati Red Stockings took on the Mansfield Independents. These days, you can cheer on the Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ball Park, which has been their home field since 2003.
Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum
Located adjacent to the Great American Ball Park, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum features a historical journey of the club, beginning with the Cincinnati Stockings in 1869. In addition to interactive displays, a locker room, memorabilia, and photographs, the museum offers over 7,000 team artifacts.
Taft Museum of Art
Built around 1820, this historic landmark has been home to many prominent Cincinnatians, one of them being President William H. Taft’s half-brother, Charles Taft. The Taft’s bequeathed their historic home and private art collection to Cincinnati in 1927. The collection includes Chinese porcelains, European and American paintings, 18th-century watches, and French Renaissance enamels. Iconic artists such as Goya, Rembrandt, Turner, Gainsborough, Ingres, Whistler, and Sargent, as well as Federal-period American furniture and pre-Civil War domestic murals.
Withrow Nature Reserve
Located along the Ohio River, Withrow Nature Reserve is a peaceful preserve that features a 1.7-mile Trout Lily nature trail, with 270 acres of forest nestled in the Queen City. The park offers stunning views of the Ohio River and Kentucky hills and is a popular area for hiking, dog walking, bird watching, and outdoor weddings.
No matter where you decide to go in Cincinnati while you’re visiting the city, you will get to see historic structures, have access to delicious foods, watch fun games, and of course, see one of the most beautiful waterfronts in the Midwest and the country. See Cincinnati with ease by booking an American Queen Voyage tour that takes you on the Ohio River for your next vacation! Be on the lookout for more fun things to do along the Ohio River!
(Original Publish Date: July 8, 2022)