Things To Do In Cincinnati,  Travel

The Ultimate Cincinnati Staycation Guide

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Adventure does not always mean catching a flight or venturing on a road trip. Discovering hidden gems in your hometown can be its own vacation. In this article, I dive into how to have a great Cincinnati staycation. Trust me, Cincinnati offers more than Cincinnati Bengal games, famous chili, and the award-winning Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

fun staycation ideas in cincinnati
The Cincinnati Zoo during Zoo Blooms

Fun Fact: In 1880, Cincinnati became the first city where a woman, Maria Longworth Nichols Storer, began and operated a large manufacturing operation—Rookwood Pottery. Today, guests can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the factory.

The great thing about a staycation in Cincinnati is that you have more flexibility on your itinerary. You can opt to overnight at Great Wolf Lodge or camp out in your living room. Try a new restaurant one day and pack a picnic the next. The options are endless.

We hit the city to discover the best Cincinnati offers to help you craft the IDEAL Staycation itinerary. We even added a few of our favorite spots for those who don’t have a tiny human in tow that dictates bedtime.

Where To Stay In Cincinnati For A Staycation

While many may opt to stay in their own home, others will sneak out for night away at a local hotel. Cincinnati offers accommodations for all types of travelers, from chic boutique hotels to more family-friendly options. We list a few of our favorites per traveler type to help you find the best fit.

Great Wolf Lodge in Mason
Great Wolf Lodge in Mason

Family-Friendly Hotels: Families with kids know that having an indoor swimming pool is often a big perk of any staycation experience. A complimentary breakfast adds a nice touch as well.

  • Great Wolf Lodge– Guests can splurge on an overnight at Cincinnati’s only indoor waterpark hotel. Great Wolf does not include breakfast but has options on-site, or you can pack your own. My local tip: Go during the week for lower pricing and fewer crowds. Check Groupon for discounts and sign up for their Voyagers Club to receive special offers.
  • Drury Inn – One of our favorite spots to stay with kids is the Drury Inn. Not only do they have a pool, but they have complimentary breakfast, snacks, and happy hour for adults.
  • Hyatt Regency– Families looking for a downtown hotel with an indoor pool should consider the Hyatt Regency. It is within walking distance of museums, restaurants, and the Connector.

Luxury Hotels: If having an indoor pool is not on your must-have list and luxury is, Cincinnati has quite a few options to pamper your needs.

  • Lytle Park Hotel- Head downtown for a luxurious room at the Lytle Park Hotel. Grab a drink at the beautiful rooftop bar, get a reservation at Subito, and then venture across the street to check out the Taft Museum of Art.
  • Summit Hotel– The suburbs of Cincinnati have some hidden gems scattered within, including the Summit Hotel. This beautiful hotel sports a contemporary vibe with a top-notch restaurant, The Overlook Kitchen + Bar, and a fitness center.
  • 21 C Museum Hotel– Add a little artistic flair to your staycation with an overnight at the 21C Museum Hotel. Home to free on-site contemporary art galleries, the hotel also offers an on-site spa for all of your pampering needs.

Budget-Friendly Hotels: Check out these budget-friendly hotel options in Cincinnati for your next staycation.

  • Hampton Inn in Blue Ash-An indoor pool and complimentary breakfast with delicious waffles make this an excellent staycation hotel.
  • Symphony Hotel & Restaurant – This cute little boutique hotel near Cincinnati Music Hall makes the perfect spot to stay before an FC game or makes a great home base for exploring Cincinnati’s OTR neighborhood.
  • Holiday Inn – With many locations throughout the Cincinnati area, many travelers enjoy the quality standard of their rooms and complimentary breakfast.

Tip: Searching for bed bugs is always a wise idea wherever you stay. That is the last souvenir anyone wants to bring home. Bed bugs don’t discriminate between luxury and budget hotels; always check.

Tips For Planning Out Your Cincinnati Staycation

Tips for planning  a Cincinnati Staycation
Tips for planning a Cincinnati Staycation

Use Your Memberships

Take advantage of any memberships you have and incorporate visits during your staycation. Take a look and see what membership reciprocity is available. For example, with a Cincinnati Zoo Membership, you get half off admission at the Columbus Zoo, or with a Cincinnati Museum Membership, you get free admission or discounted admission into a ton of museums, such as COSI in Columbus.


A new pass has hit the Cincinnati market, called POGO Pass. Each Pogo pass gets you one or two visits to numerous Cincinnati attractions such as the Cincinnati Zoo, The Happy Hangout, Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati Underground Freedom Center, EnterTrainment Junction, The Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum, Fowling Warehouse, and more!

The POGO pass is a great value if you want to visit several attractions during your staycation without breaking the bank.

The Happy Hangout is part of the Pogo Pass Attractions
The Happy Hangout is part of the Pogo Pass Attractions

Consider Theme Days

During every staycation, we have a theme day! The day will revolve around dinosaurs, the arts, or even the great outdoors. If you need some Cincinnati theme day inspiration, check out the articles below:

Determine Your Budget

Put a budget in place as you would any vacation. Expenses can rack up quickly between attraction admissions, dining out, and the fun extras that we purchase while out and about. Are you planning on getting a hotel or doing meals at home? All of that adds up. Look for discount days and deals online.

To help ease the strain on the pocketbook, check out these Free Things To Do In Cincinnati in the Winter.

Cincinnati Staycation Ideas For Families

Cincinnati has tons of activities to do with families. Take advantage of discovering places off the beaten path, try a new hobby or plan a return visit to one of your trusted staples. Even elevate your staycation by taking advantage of different experiences and add-ons that attractions may offer.

Newport Aquarium

Newport on the Levee offers spectacular views of the Cincinnati skyline and has a wide selection of restaurants and activities. One that families flock to is the Newport Aquarium. Pet stingrays cross the shark bridge and get up close to marine life.

Newport Aquarium

Level Up: Sign up your crew for a Penguin Encounter. You’ll step right into the enclosure with nearly a dozen African Penguins.

Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

The zoo is a beautiful spot to visit any time of the year. There is always a reason to visit, whether during the gorgeous Zoo Blooms or the Festival of Lights. Say hello to Fiona, feed the giraffes, or take a spin on the new carousel overlooking Swan Lake.

Top things for kids to do in cincinnati ohio
Visit the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Level Up: The zoo offers a variety of behind-the-scenes experiences such as Slow Down With Our Sloth, Elephant Baths, Kickin’ It with Kangaroos, and more!

Cincinnati Art Museum

Look at all the incredible FREE programming at the Cincinnati Art Museum before planning your visit. Come for REC Reads, Baby Art Tours, or CAM Kids Day! The Art Museum is one of the top free things to do in Cincinnati for all ages. See works by Pablo Picasso, Leonardo Di Vinci, and other famous artists.

Cincinnati Art Museum
Cincinnati Art Museum

Local Tip: If you plan on having lunch at the Terrace Cafe inside the museum, make a reservation. Tables book up quickly.

Cincinnati Museum Center

Spend the entire day exploring caves, learning about the moon landing, playing in a treehouse, and so much more. The Cincinnati Museum Center offers three museums under one roof, along with the OMNIMAX Theater. Get up close with dinosaur fossils at the Museum of Natural History & Science, pretend to be a dentist at the Children’s Museum, and discover how Cincinnati became the great city it is today at the Cincinnati History Museum.

dinosaurs in Cincinnati
Cincinnati Museum Center

That isn’t all; guests can visit the Holocaust & Humanity Center and the Cincinnati History Library. Don’t forget to check to see what the latest exhibition is, during the time of this article, Pompeii: The Exhibition is running.

Explore Downtown Cincinnati On The Cincinnati Bell Connector

Kids will love exploring the city onboard the Cincinnati Bell Connector. The Connector is Cincinnati’s free streetcar that takes riders on a 4-mile loop throughout key downtown communities. Start you day off by playing at Washington Park, then hop on the Connector to grab lunch at Findlay Market or head to the Creativity Center at the Contemporary Arts Center. The sky’s the limit!

Family Streetcar Tour in Cincinnati

Local Tip: Pull up the map of the Connector and put together a game plan of where you want to go. We typically park underneath Washington Park then start our adventure.

Explore A New Park

An excellent staycation idea is to visit a new-to-you park. Cincinnati has a fabulous park system full of hiking trails, playgrounds, disc golf courses, and fishing. Maybe spend the day exploring the other side of town or finally visit that playground on your bucket list. Here are a few of our personal favorites to visit with kids:

Highfield Discovery Garden

Step into a magical fairy garden with an enchanting treehouse, oversized mushrooms, fairy gardens, and trains. Find this whimsical place inside Glenwood Gardens. There is an additional fee per person for entry into Highfield Discovery Garden.

Highfield Discovery Garden
Highfield Discovery Garden

West Fork Park

A west-side staple for playground fun is West Fork Park in Green Township. The park appears to have leaped off a Candyland gameboard with brightly colored play structures, a maze, and more.

Throughout the park, eight different areas are designed specifically to increase engagement and is accessible to all children.

West Fork Park
West Fork Park

For the record, there is no mulch or dirt in the play areas of the park, amen. The whole park is also completely fenced with a gate!

Makino Park

The Common Ground Playground at Makino Park in Mason, is an all-inclusive playground designed to encourage children and adults of all abilities to play together helping to build confidence, self-esteem, interpersonal relationships, and motor skills. It is known as the Butterfly Park, because the park is in the shape of a butterfly!

Trammel Fossil Park

A unique park in Cincinnati is the Trammel Fossil Park in Sharonville, where kids of all ages can go and dig for fossils. There is no charge to enter the park and you can keep what fossils you find! Be sure to check out our guide to visiting Trammel Fossil Park so that you come fully prepared for this experience.

Dig for fossils at Trammel Fossil Park
Dig for fossils at Trammel Fossil Park

Unique Cincinnati Staycation Ideas

Being a tourist in your city can result in some incredible finds that quickly become your new staple. Whether it is checking out a new-to-you museum, discovering a new restaurant, or creating your own adventure, we share a few unique things to check out in Cincinnati.

Jungle Jim’s International Market

For a grocery experience unlike any other, schedule an afternoon to visit Jungle Jims. There are two locations, the original is in Fairfield with a second store in Eastgate. Explore aisles of exotic foods and rare cuisines with an eccentric mix of decor, animatronics, and Cincinnati memorabilia.

foodie date ideas in Cincinnati
Jungle Jim’s International Market

Our family likes to pull a country out of a hat and visit Jungle Jim’s to put together a meal around the traditional foods served. We like to grab different things to sample from that country and spend a whole evening learning about a new culture.

Level Up: Jungle Jim’s offers tours that include samples! You will have to register ahead of time.

Loveland Castle

The Loveland Castle near downtown Loveland, Ohio, has a remarkable history along with claims of being haunted. As one of the many castles to visit in Ohio, the Loveland Castle makes a fun stop while in the Cincinnati area or a unique adventure for locals.

Downtown Loveland and the Loveland Castle
Tour the Loveland Castle

Include a stop into the heart of downtown Loveland, Ohio, to round out your visit. With the Loveland-Miami bike trail, plenty of cafes, and the ever-popular Whippy Dip, it is easy to plan a fun day exploring this small town.

Try Archery Dodgeball

For older kids and adults, a fun new activity to try is Archery Dodgeball at the Archery Arena in West Chester. Padded arrows are shot across the arena in an attempt to take out your opponents. Reserve a time slot with a group or join an open play. Nerf Wars are also available.

Try a game of archery dodgeball at the Archery Arena
Try a game of archery dodgeball at the Archery Arena

Visit A Small Local Museum

Big things come in small packages. Consider visiting one of these lesser-known museums in the area.

  • Cincinnati Fire Museum
  • Greater Cincinnati Police Museum
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe House
  • Lucky Cat Museum
  • Over-the-Rhine Museum
  • Betts House
  • American Sign Museum

Explore Fort Ancient

Did you know that a UNESCO World Heritage Site is only minutes outside of Cincinnati? Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve is Ohio’s oldest state park and the largest hilltop enclosure in North America. While the name suggests that this site was used as some kind of defensive structure, evidence shows it was actually a gathering place used for ceremonial purposes.

Explore the Fort Ancient Museum
Explore the Fort Ancient Museum

Take time to visit the on-site museum and gift shop, recreated American Indian garden and three miles of hiking trails with scenic overlooks.

Explore Local Favorites

The best spots in the city are often ones that we return to time and time again. Whether is in the Greater Cincinnati area or Northern Kentucky, take a day to rediscover these Cincinnati classics.

Smale Riverfront Park

Take in the beauty of the Ohio River and the majestic Cincinnati skyline as you stroll the walkways in Smale Riverfront Park.  This gorgeous 45-acres of urban greenspace situated alongside the Ohio River features playful fountains, lush gardens, creative playgrounds, restaurants, and event lawns.

Snag a swing overlooking the Ohio River at Smale Riverfront Park
Snag a swing overlooking the Ohio River at Smale Riverfront Park

With sweeping views of the Roebling Suspension Bridge and the Ohio River, this park is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Families will fall in love with multiple playgrounds and splash areas.  It even contains one of the largest outdoor chime foot pianos in the world.

Findlay Market

A perfect place to spend the day is in Ohio’s oldest public market, Findlay Market. The market is full of local vendors with everything from exotic spices to fine wines. Spend the afternoon browsing the market, grab lunch at The Rhined, pho at Pho Lang Thang or a cup of coffee from Deeper Roots.

Findlay Market
Take a tour of Findlay Market

Level Up: Findlay Market offers different tours of the market. Sign up to learn more about the history, go on a tasting, and more!

Take A Picnic To A Park

Pack a lunch and head to one of these beautiful Cincinnati parks! Many offer miles of hiking trails, picnic spots, and playgrounds.

Explore Cincinnati Parks
  • Eden Park
  • Ault Park
  • Alms Park
  • Mt Airy Forest
  • California Woods
  • Mt. Storm Park
  • Sawyer Point

National Underground Freedom Center

 National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

A true gem that many locals love is the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Through permanent and traveling exhibits, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center shares the stories of freedom’s heroes, from the era of the Underground Railroad to contemporary times, challenging and inspiring us all.

Kings Island

Depending on the time of year of your staycation, one of the most popular things to do is visit the Midwest’s largest amusement park, Kings Island. Kings Island is often an all day or multi-day experience that includes Soak City Waterpark.

Planet Snoopy at Kings Island
Planet Snoopy at Kings Island

Ride the world’s longest wooden roller coaster, The Beast, or take a spin on the Dodgems. From endless thrills on roller coasters to top-notch entertainment, Kings Island has been a staple in Cincinnati staycations for years.

I highly recommend checking out my Local Mom’s Guide To Planet Snoopy if you plan on visiting with kids!

Even More Cincinnati Staycation Ideas

Still looking for more things to do in the Queen City? We share a few more ideas to help you create the perfect staycation.

  • Catch a Reds game at the Great American Ballpark
  • Make a candle at Candle Lab OTR
  • Tackle miles of trails at the Cincinnati Nature Center
  • Tour local breweries.
  • Go on a Cincinnati Food Tour
  • Join family events happening at Fountain Square
  • Find free concerts to attend around the city.
  • Take the kids to indoor play areas such as Lily Pad Play, Dig N Play, Happy Hang Out, and more.
  • Have a progressive dinner throughout Covington. There are so many new spots popping up in Covington why not try a few in one night with a progressive dinner?
What to do in Cincinnati During a Staycation
Cincinnati Skyline

We put together many Cincinnati guides to help you discover all the great places in Cincinnati. If you are still looking for more activities and hidden gems here are a few related articles to check out.

40 Top Indoor Things To Do With Kids In Cincinnati

19 Unique Things To Do In Cincinnati

Our Ultimate Cincinnati Guide

Save These Cincinnati Staycation Ideas For Later

The Ultimate Cincinnati Staycation Guide

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