Cincinnati’s Best Hidden Gems and Unique Things to Do

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

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I’m from the Cincinnati metro and I live here which means that I have a lot of unique things to do and hidden gems to share!

The Best Hidden Gems and Unique Things to Do Around Cincinnati

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.)

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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.

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

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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.

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photo credit: Chez Chesak

Discover What’s Under Hidden the Streets of Cincinnati

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

To explore the underground Cincinnati in a better way check out this tour, you will definitely love it!

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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.

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.

Tour of a Crypt in Cincinnati Ohio

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.

Abandoned Subway in Cincinnati e1576637329129
photo credit: Chez Chesak

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

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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. 

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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.

Newport Gangster Tour 1

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.

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

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View 900+ Dummies at the Vent Haven Museum 

33 West Maple Avenue, Fort Mitchell, KY

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

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

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

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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.

Cincinnati Dinner Train 13

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.

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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!

Jungle Jims International Market in Ohio

Take a Tour of Jungle Jim’s International Market

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

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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.

famous bathrooms at Jungle Jims International Market

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 is located at 4450 Eastgate S Dr, Cincinnati, OH.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Kentucky and Ohio at the same time 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.

John A. Roebling Suspension 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. 

foot piano at Smale Park in Cincinnati

Have Your “Big” Moment on a Giant Foot Piano

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 Park. 

former slave pen at National Underground Freedom Center

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.

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.

Explore Ripley

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

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!

Loveland Castle in Ohio

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.

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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.

Beast Roller Coaster at Kings Island in Ohio

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Lawn Bowling in Ohio

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 “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.

Shark Bridge at Newport Aquarium11

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.

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 from artists all over the world. There are 56 outdoor sculptures by 48 artists.

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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.

Bison viewing at Big Bone Lick State Park in Kentucky

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.

Big Bone Lick State Park in Kentucky

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.

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Take A Self-Guided Tour of Cincinnati’s Murals

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

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

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

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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 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)

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

There are also many local chili parlors that can’t be overlooked.

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Check out Camp Washington Chili, Dixie Chili, Empress Chili, Price Hill Chili, Blue Jay Restaurant, Chili Time, 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 that is served for breakfast at many restaurants and meat markets.

A few places to try goetta are Colonial Cottage, Queen City Sausage, Glier’s Goetta, and Eckerlin Meats.

Bourbon pecan chip from Graeters at Liberty Center

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.

Butler County Donut Trail

Hike the Donut Trail

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.

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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-the 1940s.

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

Incline Public House in Cincinnati Ohio

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.

The Swing House Air BnB

Unique Places to Sleep in Cincinnati

The Swing House 

1373 Avon Pl, Cincinnati, OH

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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!

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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

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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 that’s also open for public 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.

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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.)

Book your stay in the 21c Museum hotel here. Don’t miss such a unique overnight stay!

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.

Book your stay in the Graduate Hotel Cincinnati here.

treehouse in Germantown Kentucky

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.

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Plan your trip to Cincinnati?

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4 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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