Do you love to find unique things to do when you visit a city?
I’m from here and I live here which means that I have a lot of hidden gems to share!
This article contains affiliate links.
Neon Sign Lovers Must Visit the American Sign Museum
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.
This museum is a MUST for photographers, especially if you have visited the Neon Museum in Las Vegas.
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.
You’ll definitely find yourself reminiscing stories from road trips as you see familiar signs throughout the museum.
View an Incredible Collection at The Lucky Cat Museum
2511 Essex Pl, Cincinnati, OH
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.)
The Maneki Neko is said to bring prosperity to those who display it, which means that this museum must be VERY lucky!
The Lucky Cat Museum is housed in the Essex Studios, the former building of the Herschede Clock factory in the 1920s.
Admission to the Lucky Cat Museum is FREE (aren’t we lucky) and donations are always greatly appreciated to help support the museum.
The Lucky Cat Museum is open to the public Tuesday-Saturday from 3:00pm-6:00pm and most guests spend around 30-45 minutes at the museum.
There is also Lucky Cat-themed merchandise that you can purchase if you want to take some luck home with you.
Discover What’s Under Hidden the Streets of Cincinnati
Cincinnati has many stories to tell and you’ll be even more surprised to discover is what’s underneath the surface.
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. During the tour, you will go down steps into the former Koffman lager tunnels. The tunnels were formerly used for the John Koffman Brewery that 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.
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 located below Saint Francis Catholic Church.
The bodies were formerly in an Irish cemetery. There are 100 bodies in a mass grave under the altar, only 38 of those bodies were able to be identified.
Read About the Abandoned Subway in Cincinnati
Yes, Cincinnati started building a subway in the early 1900s and abandoned the project in 1928 due to cost, politics and the Great Depression
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.
Explore a Limestone Cave in a Museum
1301 Western Ave, Cincinnati, OH
The limestone cave is a replica but it’s still pretty amazing!
Kids and adults will love exploring the darkened two-level, 500 ft cave located inside the Museum of Natural History & Science at the Cincinnati Museum Center.
Tri-State caves around the area served as the inspiration for the replica cave at the museum.
Inside the Cave
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.
Take a Gangster Tour in Newport
Did you know that Newport, Kentucky has a seedy history with gangster activity?
The city of 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 it’s role in the modern-day gaming industry.
View 900+ Dummies at the Vent Haven Museum
33 West Maple Avenue, Fort Mitchell, KY
The World’s Only Museum Dedicated to Ventriloquism is tucked away on a suburban street in Northern Kentucky.
The museum began from one man’s private collection who ironically was not a professional ventriloquist.
You are likely to spot some familiar faces with 900+ dummies on display used by ventriloquists from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.
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 May 1 through September 30.
Take a Ride on the Cincinnati Dinner Train
2172 E Seymour Ave, Cincinnati, OH
Be transported back in time to the 1940’s era inside three vintage dining cars on a 3-hour train ride.
Enjoy a four-course meal with friends or with a date while you view the relaxing scenery slowly pass by.
There are only about 10 Dinner Trains still in operation in the United States which makes this experience even more special!
A grocery store meets amusement park, Jungle Jim’s International Market is definitely an adventure for a foodie at heart.
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.
And don’t forget to stop by their famous bathrooms that have been 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 located at 4450 Eastgate S Dr, Cincinnati, OH.
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 very popular train station in the 1930s.
Incredible Art Deco
The art deco design is an architecture lovers’ 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 now houses the Cincinnati Museum Center with multiple museums and attractions within the building.
- Cincinnati History Museum
- Duke Energy Children’s Museum
- Museum of Natural History & Science
- Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater
- Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center
- Cincinnati History Library and Archives
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 both heartbreaking and inspiring.
My favorite part of the museum was a wall displaying stories of Holocaust survivors that were connected to Cincinnati in some way.
The exhibit shares more about their story before arriving in Cincinnati.
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.
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.
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.
Have Your “Big” Moment on a Giant Foot Piano
Remember the movie “Big” with Tom Hanks?
You can have your moment of chopstick glory playing the giant foot piano at Smale Park.
You Can Step Inside a Former Slave Pen That is 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 around the world throughout history and modern-day life.
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.
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.
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 the course of 50+ years!
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.
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 longest wooden roller coaster in the world, at 7,359 feet.
Experience The Beast
The Beast reaches 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 have neck or back issues you might want to pass on this one and ride Diamondback instead, but if you can handle the Beast, you will have a tale to tell!
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.
It’s Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market and houses indoor vendors year-round along with outdoor vendors during the warmer months.
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.
The Over the Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati has one of the largest concentrations of Italianate architecture in the country.
Make sure that you also look up to observe the incredible detail on the buildings surrounding the market.
Try Lawn Bowling
3811 Newtown Rd, Cincinnati, OH
Cincinnati is the only city that you can lawn bowl within a 250-mile radius! You can try Lawn Bowling offered at Little Miami Golf Center.
Players roll the “bowl” on the mat with the goal of reaching 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.
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.
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 from artists all over the world. There are 56 outdoor sculptures by 48 artists.
Rent an Art Cart
You can drive yourself around the park or rent an “art cart.” The art cart makes it easy to view more than 50 pieces of art 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.
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 by the salt lick deposited around the sulfur springs.
With that understanding, it makes a little more sense.
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 see.
Cincinnati has incredible street art created by artists from around the world.
Use the self-guided map and find your favorite or take a group tour from ArtWorks.
The map includes over 40 mural listings within Downtown Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine.
Unique Foods to Eat in Cincinnati
Cincinnati has several local foods that are unique to the area.
Explore the Cincinnati Chili Trail
A Mediterranean influenced meat sauce that is an acquired taste.
Picture chili on top of spaghetti noodles with LOTS of cheese and oyster crackers. Only this chili does not taste like a traditional chili because the meat isn’t chunky.
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)
There are also many local chili parlors that can’t be overlooked.
*Gold Star Chili also offers a vegetarian Cincinnati style chili option.
Which local Cincinnati style chili is the best?
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 that is served for breakfast at many restaurants and meat markets.
Treat Yourself to a Scoop of Graeter’s Ice Cream
A company founded in 1870, Graeter’s is known for their 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.
Yes, we have a Donut Trail in the area and hiking has never been so delicious!
There are 12 local donut shops and 80 miles of trail to choose from located throughout the county.
Dine inside a Former Schoolhouse
The Schoolhouse Restaurant offers a unique dining experience inside the former classroom of a school that was in operation from the 1860s-1940s.
The Schoolhouse is known for its fried chicken and comfort foods that will remind you of grandma.
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 very popular spot on a beautiful day because of its fantastic views of Cincinnati.
Unique Places to Sleep in Cincinnati
1373 Avon Pl, Cincinnati, OH
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 is the passion project of artist Mark DeJong. It took 3 years to reimagine and transform this freestanding 1880’s 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.
Hotels and Airbnbs in Cincinnati, Ohio
609 Walnut St, Cincinnati, OH
Art +Overnight Stay. 21C Museum Hotel is a multi-venue contemporary art museum and boutique hotel.
As you check-in, you’ll notice an art gallery that’s also open to the public to view along with giant yellow plastic penguins throughout the hotel.
They are fun for guests to take pictures with and move throughout the hotel. If you want to take one home, you’ll find a mini version in the hotel gift shop.
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 views of the city.
The hotel is located across the street from the Aronoff Center for the Arts and next door to the CAC (Contemporary Arts Center.)
151 Goodman St, Cincinnati, OH
A Cincinnati-themed boutique hotel in the heart of the University of Cincinnati campus.
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.
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).
We’ve already established that Cincinnati chili is an acquired taste and you see two variations of the local dish displayed on each nightstand.
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.
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 on social media on Cincinnati’s Hidden Gems Bingo card.