Cincinnati’s Best Hidden Gems and Unique Things to Do

Do you love to find unique things to do when you visit a city?

I’m from the Cincinnati metro and sharing Cincinnati’s best hidden gems and unique things to do!

American Sign Museum in Cincinnati

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Neon Sign Lovers Must Visit the American Sign Museum

Table of Contents

1330 Monmouth Ave, Cincinnati, OH

My favorite museum in Cincinnati is the American Sign Museum. The museum is a time capsule of sorts for multiple generations.

American Sign Museum in Cincinnati

This museum is a MUST for photographers, especially if you have visited the Neon Museum in Las Vegas. 

American Sign Museum in Cincinnati

I highly recommend taking the tour during your visit. You’ll learn more about the sign-making process and hear stories about several of the signs throughout the museum.

See Rock City Barn sign at American Sign Museum in Cincinnati

You’ll find yourself reminiscing stories from road trips as you see familiar signs throughout the museum.

Lucky Cat Museum in Cincinnati

View an Incredible Collection at The Lucky Cat Museum

2511 Essex Pl, Cincinnati, OH

(Open by appointment)

The Lucky Cat Museum is dedicated to the lucky charm originating in Edo-era Japan, Maneki Neko (statue of a cat holding up or waving its paw.)

Lucky Cat Museum in Cincinnati

The Maneki Neko is said to bring prosperity to those who display it, which means that this museum is VERY lucky!

The Lucky Cat Museum is housed in the Essex Studios, the former building of the Herschede Clock factory in the 1920s.

Lucky Cat Museum in Cincinnati

Admission to the Lucky Cat Museum is FREE (aren’t we lucky) and donations are always greatly appreciated to help support the museum. 

Lucky Cat Museum in Cincinnati

The Lucky Cat Museum is open to the public by appointment, on the hour from 3:00pm-6:00pm. Each appointment at the museum is 45 minutes long with a maximum of 6 guests.

There is also Lucky Cat-themed merchandise you can purchase so you can take some luck home.

Abandoned subway in Cincinnati
photo credit: Chez Chesak

Discover What’s Hidden Under the Streets of Cincinnati

Cincinnati has many stories to tell and you’ll be even more surprised to discover what’s underneath the surface.

Check out this tour to explore Cincinnati underground.

Brewery tunnel in Cincinnati

Explore the Brewery Tunnels Under the Old Kauffman Brewery

Did you know that there are lots of lager tunnels located in Cincinnati because of its rich brewery heritage?  

You can even step inside a former brewery tunnel on an Underground Tour.  On the tour, you’ll go down steep steps into the former Koffman lager tunnels.

The tunnels were formerly used for the John Koffman Brewery which was in operation until the early 1900s.

These tunnels were dug out by hand in the late 1800s. They helped keep the beer cool and made it easier to transport between locations.

More Brewery Tunnels to Explore

Check out this unique experience for discovering two sets of beer caverns: the Linck Brewery tunnels and the Jackson Brewery tunnels.

You will also learn more about local history with your guide and taste beer.

crypt in Cincinnati

Visit a Crypt Where the 1st Residents of Cincinnati are Buried

When you go on the Queen City Underground Tour you also get to step inside a crypt below Saint Francis Catholic Church.

The bodies were formerly in an Irish cemetery. There are 100 bodies in a mass grave under the altar, and only 38 of those bodies were able to be identified.

Abandoned subway in Cincinnati
photo credit: Chez Chesak

Read About the Abandoned Subway in Cincinnati

Cincinnati started building a subway in the early 1900s and then delayed the project during World War 1.

The city eventually abandoned the project in 1928 due to cost, politics, and the Great Depression

Abandoned subway in Cincinnati
photo credit: Chez Chesak

Once a year a limited number of people used to be able to tour the Abandoned Subway through the Heritage Program Tour but that is no longer an option.

Tours of the Cincinnati subway tunnel are no longer permitted by the City of Cincinnati due to a risk assessment performed in the spring of 2015.

I’m still hoping that one day we will be able to tour them again but until then you can learn more from the Abandoned Subway website. 

Cincinnati Museum Center

Admire the Largest Half-Dome in the Western Hemisphere

1301 Western Ave, Cincinnati, OH

Does this Cincinnati Union Terminal look familiar?

Union Terminal was the real-life inspiration for the Super Friends’ Hall of Justice in the 1970s and a popular train station in the 1930s.

Cincinnati Museum Center

Incredible Art Deco

The art Deco design is an architecture lover’s dream and you can learn more about the building’s history, construction, and design during a FREE 50-minute Rotunda tour.

*Don’t forget to chat with a friend on opposite ends of the Rotunda at the Whispering Fountains.

Multiple Museums in One Location

Cincinnati Union Terminal houses the Cincinnati Museum Center with multiple museums and attractions within the building.

Save on Admission to the Cincinnati Museum Center with the POGO Pass. Use Discount Code “ADVMOM” for 50% off
The Nancy and David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center

Learn About Inspirational Locals at The Nancy and David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center

This museum uses creative storytelling, artifacts, and creative and interactive exhibits that are heartbreaking and inspiring.

The Nancy and David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center

My favorite part of the museum was a wall displaying stories of Holocaust survivors connected to Cincinnati.

The exhibit shares more about their story before arriving in Cincinnati.

replica cave at Cincinnati Museum Center

Explore a Limestone Cave in a Museum

1301 Western Ave, Cincinnati, OH

Kids and adults will love exploring the darkened two-level, 500 ft cave inside the Museum of Natural History & Science at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

The limestone cave is a replica but it’s still pretty amazing!

Tri-State caves around the area served as the inspiration for the replica cave at the museum.

Inside the Cave at the Cincinnati Museum Center

The lower level of the cave has many twists and turns with tight spaces. There is a wheelchair-accessible trail that will still allow for great overlook views.

Cave guests will view cascading waterfalls and cave formations with stalagmites and stalactites.

Newport Gangster Tour with American Legacy Tours

Take a Gangster Tour in Newport

Did you know Newport, Kentucky has a seedy history of gangster activity?

Newport was formerly known as the “Sin City of the South.”  There were tales of illegal casinos, crime, bootleggers, scandals, and crime rings.

Find out more about the historical significance of Newport, and discover its role in the modern-day gaming industry.

Book Newport Gangster Tour now here. Don’t miss this tour!

Vent Haven Museum

View 900+ Dummies at the Vent Haven Museum 

33 West Maple Avenue, Fort Mitchell, KY

Vent Haven Museum

The World’s Only Museum Dedicated to Ventriloquism is tucked away on a suburban street in Northern Kentucky.

Vent Haven Museum

The museum began from one man’s private collection who ironically was not a professional ventriloquist.

Vent Haven Museum

You’re likely to spot some familiar faces with 900+ dummies on display used by ventriloquists from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

Vent Haven Museum

A few of the more popular dummies on display at Vent Haven Museum are from Jeff Dunham’s act and Lamb Chops created by puppeteer and ventriloquist, Shari Lewis.

Vent Haven Museum is open seven days a week by advanced appointment only from May 1 through September 30.

Cincinnati Dinner Train

Take a Ride on the Cincinnati Dinner Train

2172 E Seymour Ave, Cincinnati, OH

Be transported back in time to the 1940s-era inside three vintage dining cars on a 3-hour train ride.

Cincinnati Dinner Train

Enjoy a four-course meal with friends or with a date while you view the relaxing scenery slowly pass by.

Only around 10 Dinner Trains are in operation in the United States making this experience even more special!

Jungle Jim's International Market

Take a Tour of Jungle Jim’s International Market

A grocery store meets amusement park, Jungle Jim’s International Market is an adventure for a foodie at heart.

Jungle Jim's International Market

You can take a tour, enjoy food samples from around the world, participate in a Scavenger Hunt, and sign up for cooking classes and special events.

bathrooms at Jungle Jim's International Market

And don’t forget to stop by their famous bathrooms previously voted “America’s Best Bathrooms.”

There are two locations for Jungle Jim’s International Market is located at 5440 Dixie Hwy, Fairfield, OH and

Jungle Jim’s Eastgate is located at 4450 Eastgate S Dr, Cincinnati, OH.

stand in two states at once on the Purple People Bridge

Stand in two states at the same time on the Purple People Bridge

On the Purple People Pedestrian Bridge, you can walk from Newport on the Levee in Newport, Kentucky to Sawyer Point Park in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The bridge is just over half a mile long and a great way to explore both sides of the Ohio River.

The Kentucky-Ohio State Boundary is clearly marked to help create some fun photo ops.

Roebling Bridge

Drive Across the “Singing Bridge”

Listen to the humming sounds as you drive across the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge connecting Covington, Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio. 

John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge connecting Covington to Cincinnati

On December 1, 1866, the Roebling Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world at 1,057 feet.

The bridge was also designed by the same architect, John A Roebling, who later designed the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Smale Riverfront Park

Have Your “Big” Moment on a Giant-Foot Piano at Smale Riverfront Park

166 W Mehring Way, Cincinnati, OH

(Temporarily out of order)

Remember the movie “Big” with Tom Hanks?

giant foot piano Smale Park in Cincinnati

You can have your moment of chopstick glory playing the giant foot piano at Smale Riverfront Park. 

former slave pen at National Underground Freedom Center

Step Inside a Former Slave Pen Now Used as an Opportunity to Educate 

50 E Freedom Way, Cincinnati, OH

As painful as it is to read about the horrific experiences that people suffered from being forced into slavery, we need to know their stories so that history does not repeat itself.

At the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, you can learn more about injustices throughout history and modern-day life, that take place throughout the world.

Save on Admission to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center with the POGO Pass. Use Discount Code “ADVMOM” for 50% off
sign for slave pen

The slave pen gives you a frame of reference for what slaves experienced and really gives you greater understanding and empathy for what the slaves experienced.

John Rankin House

Explore Ripley, Ohio

After you visit the museum, I highly recommend adding a trip to Ripley, Ohio if you have enough time.

At the National Underground Railroad Freedom Museum, you will learn how Ripley was a big part of the Underground Railroad movement.

The inspirational stories of heroes within that community come to life when you visit those locations.

Loveland Castle  - Historic Loveland Castle & Museum Chateau Laroche

Visit a Castle Made by Hand

12025 Shore Dr, Loveland, OH

Discover one man’s labor of love as you explore the medieval-style castle he built by hand over 50+ years!

Loveland Castle - Historic Loveland Castle & Museum Chateau Laroche

The Historic Loveland Castle & Museum Chateau Laroche was a dream brought to life by Harry Andrews.

Kids and adults will enjoy checking out the collection of weapons and exploring the castle on a self-guided tour.

Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame

Visit the Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame

190 W Mehring Way, Cincinnati, OH

The Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame celebrates the legacy and untold stories of music artists, songwriters, producers, and musicians from Cincinnati, Hamilton County, and Southwest Ohio.

This state-of-the-art, outdoor interactive permanent tourism attraction is free and fun for all ages.

the Beast wooden roller coster at Kings Island Amusement Park

Ride the Longest Wooden Roller Coaster in the World

“The Beast” at Kings Island Amusement Park is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s longest wooden roller coaster, at 7,359 feet.

the Beast wooden roller coster at Kings Island Amusement Park

Experience The Beast at Kings Island

The Beast can reach speeds up to 64.77 mph and has vertical drops of 135 feet & 141 feet.

There is a 125-foot-long underground tunnel at the bottom of the 135-foot drop, eight banked turns, some to 45 degrees; and a large 540-degree helix near the end.

The four-minute, 10-second ride will definitely shake you up!

If you prefer a smoother experience ride Diamondback or Orion instead, but if you can handle the Beast, you will have a tale to tell!

Save on Admission to Kings Island Amusement Park Here
Findley Market

Wander the Shops or Grab a Bite to Eat at Findlay Market

1801 Race St, Cincinnati, OH

Findlay Market has been a favorite shopping destination for generations of locals and tourists alike.

Findley Market

Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market and houses indoor vendors year-round. During the warmer months, there are outdoor vendors too.

I highly recommend taking a Cincinnati Food Tour at Findlay Market if you want to dive more into the market’s history, sample a variety of foods, and hear more about the vendor’s stories.

Findley Market

The Over the Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati has one of the largest concentrations of Italianate architecture in the United States.

Make sure that you also look up to observe the incredible detail on the buildings surrounding the market.

Lawn Bowling

Try Lawn Bowling

3811 Newtown Rd, Cincinnati, OH

Cincinnati is the only city where you can lawn bowl within a 250-mile radius! You can try Lawn Bowling offered at Little Miami Golf Center.

Players roll the ball intending to reach the jack (white ball)  at the other end of the green. There are two dots on the sides of the ball, one large and one small.

The ball will turn in the direction of the smaller dot on the ball when it is rolled.  The closest bowls get the points and you play in teams.

The World’s First Shark Bridge at Newport Aquarium

Walk Across the Shark Bridge at Newport Aquarium

Walk above nearly 2 dozen sharks as you cross the world’s first and only shark bridge at Newport Aquarium in Northern Kentucky.

The Shark Bridge attraction is included in the price of admission.

This adventure is something that the whole family can enjoy but walking across the bridge is optional to all guests.

Purchase Discounted Tickets for Newport Aquarium Here
Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park

Explore Art Sculptures By Golf Cart at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park

The perfect blend of art and the outdoors. Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park is definitely a hidden gem worth discovering.

Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park has incredible sculptures by artists from all over the world. There are 56 outdoor sculptures by 48 artists.

Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park

Rent an Art Cart

You can drive around the park or rent an “art cart.”  The art cart/ golf cart makes it discover more than 50+ art sculptures in 265 acres of natural surroundings.

A visit to Pyramid Sculpture Park also includes a visit to the 10,000 sq. ft Ancient Sculpture Museum. The incredible museum is filled with sculptures that are thousands of years old.

Bison at Big Bone Lick State Historic Park

Visit a Herd of Bison at Big Bone Lick State Historic Park

Yes, we know the name of the park sounds odd. The name inspiration came from the Pleistocene megafauna fossils found there.

Mammoths were believed to have frequented this location of the salt lick deposited around the sulfur springs.

With that understanding, the name makes a little more sense.

Bison at Big Bone Lick State Historic Park

Fossils from this location have been displayed in museums all over the country.

There is a museum and visitor center, hiking trails, and a herd of bison that you can view.

mural in downtown Cincinnati

Take A Self-Guided Tour of Cincinnati’s Murals

Cincinnati has incredible street art created by artists from around the world.

mural in downtown Cincinnati

Use the self-guided map and find your favorite or take a group tour from ArtWorks.

mural in downtown Cincinnati

The map includes over 40 mural listings within Downtown Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine.

reptile house at Tunes and Blooms at The Cincinnati Zoo

View the Oldest Continuously Used Zoo Building at The Cincinnati Zoo

3400 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH

The Reptile House at the Cincinnati Zoo, built in 1875 is the oldest zoo building in the United States still continuously used for its intended function.

Other highlights at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden include:

Purchase Discounted Tickets for the Cincinnati Zoo Here

The Cincinnati Zoo is also on the Cincinnati POGO Pass.

Cincinnati style chili

Unique Foods to Eat in Cincinnati

Cincinnati has several local foods that are unique to the area. Learn more about local history and cuisine with this guided tour. Don’t miss this unique experience!

Skyline chili

Explore the Cincinnati Chili Trail

A Mediterranean-influenced meat sauce that is an acquired taste.

Picture chili on top of spaghetti noodles loaded with a giant pile of shredded cheese and topped with oyster crackers. This chili does not taste like a traditional chili because the meat isn’t chunky and has a sweeter taste.

Ways to Order Cincinnati Chili

3-way Chili + spaghetti + a mound of shredded cheddar cheese.

4-way (A 3-Way with diced onions OR beans)

5-way (A 3-Way with diced onions AND beans)

The most well-known local chain is Skyline Chili but Gold Star Chili also has loyal fans.

Many local chili parlors can’t be overlooked.

Camp Washington Chili

Check out Camp Washington Chili, Dixie Chili, Empress Chili, Price Hill Chili, Blue Jay Restaurant, Cretan Grill, Pleasant Ridge Chili, Blue Ash Chili, and Gourmet Chili.

*Gold Star Chili also offers a vegetarian Cincinnati-style chili option.

Which local Cincinnati-style chili is the best?

You decide.


Try Goetta

Goetta is German-inspired meat and grain sausage made of ground meat, pin-head oats, and spices.

It was a way to stretch the meat for poorer families back in the day but it has become a regional favorite served for breakfast at many local restaurants and meat markets.

Local goetta is made by Finke’s Market, Queen City Sausage, Glier’s Goetta, and Eckerlin Meats.

Graeter's ice cream

Treat Yourself to a Scoop of Graeter’s Ice Cream

A company founded in 1870, Graeter’s is known for its ice cream made from a  “French pot” process that produces denser than the average ice cream.

The Chocolate chips/chunks in their ice cream are large and their ice cream is delicious!

Their most popular flavor is Raspberry Chip but I highly recommend sampling a few flavors to discover yours.

Donut Trail

Hike the Donut Trail

Yes, we have a Donut Trail in the area and hiking has never been so delicious!

There are 13 local donut shops and 80 miles of trail to choose from throughout the county.

The Schoolhouse restaurant

Dine inside a Former Schoolhouse

The Schoolhouse Restaurant offers a unique dining experience inside the former classroom of a school in operation from the 1860s-the 1940s.

The Schoolhouse is known for its fried chicken and comfort foods that will remind you of grandma.

Incline Public House

Eat from the Top of a Former Incline

Cincinnati used to have lots of inclines throughout the city. Unfortunately, the last incline went away in 1948, but you can still dine from the top of one.

Incline Public House is located at the top of a former incline that dates back to 1874. The large outdoor deck is a popular spot on a beautiful day because of its fantastic views of Cincinnati.

The Swing House Air BnB

Unique Places to Sleep in Cincinnati

The Swing House 

1373 Avon Pl, Cincinnati, OH

The Swing House

On the outside, the house blends in with the other residences in the neighborhood.

On the inside, the house is anything but ordinary. It’s a house…with a giant swing!

The Swing House

The Swing House is the passion project of artist Mark DeJong. It took 3 years to reimagine and transform this freestanding 1880s three-story building into a space that is whimsical and literal art.

The Swing House has special events open to the public throughout the year or you can book an overnight stay.

Unique Hotels and Airbnbs in Cincinnati, Ohio

21C Museum hotel in Cincinnati

21C Museum Hotel 

609 Walnut St, Cincinnati, OH

Art +Overnight Stay. 21C Museum Hotel is a multi-venue contemporary art museum and boutique hotel.

21C Museum hotel in Cincinnati

As you check-in, you’ll notice an art gallery open for the public, along with giant yellow plastic penguins throughout the hotel.

They’re fun for guests to take pictures with and move throughout the hotel. If you want to take a penguin home, you’ll find a mini version in the hotel gift shop.

shower in room at 21C Museum hotel in Cincinnati

The Rookwood tile featured in the bathroom is functional art that doubles as a conversation piece.

21C has a great restaurant/bar and an incredible rooftop bar with great city views.

The hotel is located across the street from the Aronoff Center for the Arts and next to the CAC (Contemporary Arts Center.)

Don’t miss such a unique overnight stay!

Save on Your Stay at 21C Museum Hotel Here

Graduate Hotel Cincinnati

Graduate Hotel Cincinnati

151 Goodman St, Cincinnati, OH 

A Cincinnati-themed boutique hotel in the heart of the University of Cincinnati campus.

foyer Graduate Hotel Cincinnati

This hotel has a LOT of Cincinnati personality. Each Graduate Hotel reflects the city it’s based in with unique and distinct tributes to that area.

Make sure that you check out the Graduate Hotel in Nashville if you get a chance.

room at the Graduate Hotel Cincinnati

A few notable details in the room are the nod to WKRC in Cincinnati, Cincinnati chili, Kenner toys and Tallstacks (a steamboat festival held every few years from the late 80’s- 2006).

nightstand in room at the Graduate Hotel Cincinnati

We’ve already established that Cincinnati chili is an acquired taste and you see two variations of the local dish displayed on each nightstand.

Bootsy Collins wallpaper in bathroom at the Graduate Hotel Cincinnati

The bathroom wallpaper is a tribute to Bootsy Collins who played base for James Brown and in the early 70’s and later played with Parliament-Funkadelic.

You can easily walk to the University of Cincinnati campus or local restaurants during your stay.

Fiona's at the Graduate Hotel Cincinnati

There is also a bar/restaurant onsite named Fiona’s after our famous hippo from the Cincinnati Zoo and a fast-casual option called Poindexter for coffee and sandwiches.

Save on Booking Your Stay at The Graduate Hotel Cincinnati Here

treeehouse at EarthJoy Tree Adventures

Sleep in a Treehouse

Located about an hour from Cincinnati, EarthJoy Tree Adventures offers multiple treehouses to sleep in.

They even have a treehouse built by Treehouse Master builder, Pete Nelson.

Check out this article for even more unique overnight adventures around the Tri-State. 

Cross off your favorite adventures and share them on social media on Cincinnati’s Hidden Gems Bingo card.

Cincinnai Hidden Gem Bingo

Plan your trip to Cincinnati

Make your trip more exciting with a guided tour from Viator.

Protect your trip with VisitorsCoverage.

view of Cincinnati from Devou Park in Northern Kentucky

More Unique Adventures to Try Around Cincinnati

5 thoughts on “Cincinnati’s Best Hidden Gems and Unique Things to Do”

  1. Hi Nendra,

    It was a very helpful article! I recently booked a trip to Cincinnati for my parent’s anniversary, and I think they will have a lot of fun. I will definitely share this list of activities with them, and hopefully, they can have a great time on this trip. All of these gems and activities sound amazing, and I am sure my parents would love to check them out. Thanks a lot for sharing such a helpful article.

  2. If you have a library card from The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, you can log on to their website and through the Discovery Pass, obtain 2 passes for FREE to the Sign Museum! Both my husband and I did this earlier this year and we were able to see it with our kids for free. It was a place we had been wanting to visit for a while, but just didn’t want to spend $40. It would have been well worth the $$ though!

  3. Wow! This is an amazing read and something great to share with any visitors to the area! I definitely need to check out a few of these places I didn’t know about!

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