Adventure Activities in Cincinnati -- Try if You Dare

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Adventure Activity Cincinnati

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The Queen City may seem an unlikely source for family adventure, but the Cincinnati metropolitan area boasts plenty of hidden gems for the thrill seeker. You just might have to look a bit harder to find a unique adventure activity in Cincinnati. Here are a few daring endeavors you can pursue on your next visit.

1. Bockfest

When German immigrants founded Cincinnati in the 1800s, it was a beer-brewing hub. The Bockfest website proudly brags that during that time "Cincinnatians drank more beer per capita than any city in the country." This adventure activity in Cincinnati offers a way to relive the glory days of that era.

Every March, natives come out of the woodwork to celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of spring through this boisterous homage to bock – a dark and rich lager. Various bars, restaurants and churches host live music, exhibitions, and food specials. Of course, there is no shortage of bock during the festivities. The weekend-long celebration takes place in the historic and beautiful Over-the-Rhine area of downtown Cincinnati, kicking off on Friday night with the Bockfest Parade. You can spend the days visiting various venues, eating and drinking as you wish, all the while checking out the beautiful architecture of the area. For $20, you can also go on a guided Historic Church Walking Tour with all proceeds going to the Over-the-Rhine Foundation. Times for special events vary, so you'll want to check the Bockfest website before you head out.

The Prohibition Resistance Tour is perhaps the standout of the festival. A real source of family adventure, this Cincinnati highlight lasts for two and a half hours and leads participants through the storied lagering cellars and historic breweries that were shut down during Prohibition. The tour also includes a trip into the recently rediscovered and reopened (after 50 years of being sealed) underground tunnel that connected the banned facilities. Plan ahead; the $30 tour tickets sell out quickly. Tours depart from the Christian Moerlein Brewery at 1621 Moore Street. Visit the website or call (513) 604-9812 to make reservations.

Insider tip: Free shuttle buses operate between all participating venues.


2. Glier's GoettaFest

Glier's GoettaFest is yet another adventure activity in Cincinnati that is influenced by the city's German heritage. Back when Cincinnati was Zinzinnati, flocks of German immigrants concocted goetta (pronounced "get-uh"), a tasty dish made with ground meat, pork, oats and various spices. Though virtually no one outside of the Cincinnati area knows what goetta is, and even some locals don't know how it's prepared, most natives can't imagine a life without it.

The weekend-long festival in August features a variety of local vendors who compete for the hearts of goetta enthusiasts. This is a hard fought competition to create the latest, greatest and often strangest goetta meal (goetta fudge brownies, goetta pizza and goetta burritos are among the menu items). Although the main attraction is the cuisine, the festival also offers games and live music, all situated on a scenic overlook of the Ohio River. Admission to the festival is free, and all dishes are priced at six dollars or less. Feeling daring during your trip to Cincinnati? Few adventure activities in the city compare to trying the weirdest goetta dish. Bon appétit!

Insider tip: If you're not into the idea of actually eating the ground meat hodgepodge, fear not. Vendors also sell things like potatoes and hot dogs.


3. Shakespeare in the Park

Like many large cities, Cincinnati brings theatre to the masses in the summer through its Shakespeare in the Park festival. The series showcases talent from the well-respected Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park theatre company, which performs the series in many parks throughout the area. Shows run from mid-July through mid-September and require no reservations. It's a great way to spend a summer's evening, and there are also a few afternoon performances. Tickets for single shows are $28 for adults, $24 for seniors, and $22 for students. Visit the website or call 513-381-2273 to purchase. Show times vary.

What makes this an adventure activity? In Cincinnati, summers can be unbearably humid. If you are headed out to the park, be sure to bring water.

Insider tip: Although Cincinnati has many nice parks to brag about, check out a performance at Eden Park (1501 Eden Park Drive, 513-421-4086), a lovely park situated on a hill in the downtown area and home to the Cincinnati Art Museum (953 Eden Park Drive, 513-639-2995), Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (962 Mt. Adams Circle, 513-421-3888) and the Krohn Conservatory (1501 Eden Park Drive, 513-421-5707).

Cincinnati Art Museum Hours: Tue-Sun 11AM-5PM, Admission: Free
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park: Show times and ticket prices vary
Krohn Conservatory Visitors Center Hours: Daily 10AM-5PM


4. The Great Ohio Swim

This excursion exemplifies the most traditional definition of daring and offers a great family adventure in Cincinnati – if you're up for it. The Great Ohio Swim is held early on a Saturday morning in July and is the biggest and only open swim competition on the Ohio River. Participants jump in the river from the Cincinnati shore, swim to the Kentucky side and then swim back. Although the current is generally negligible, the distance is approximately half a mile and all participants must be members of USA Triathlon or pay the one-day insurance license fee of $10. Early registrants get the discounted $25 entry fee (which does not include the license fee if applicable). Some dedicated triathletes use the swim as a "warm up" for bigger competitions to come. As a tourist, the swim will give you a truly unique view of the city as you freestyle back to the mainland.

Insider tip: Although entry is cheaper if you plan early, you can also register the day of, but don't be late.


5. Chili

Chances are when you think of Cincinnati, you think of one of three things: the sports teams, WKRP in Cincinnati or the chili, the last of which presents an exciting and daring adventure for non-natives. It's fairly well known that Cincinnati is home to some of the best chili on earth, but it should be mentioned the Cincinnati chili is not for the culinary faint of heart.

Cincinnati chili is uniquely served atop hot dogs, poured on a bed of spaghetti or alone with a heaping amount of grated cheese. New combinations arise as the local chili parlors discover bolder ways to pile on the chili. Traditional staples include the two-way, three-way, four-way and five-way, each having one more ingredient than the other, with the five-way comprised of spaghetti, chili, shredded cheese, diced onions and beans. Skyline Chili (various locations throughout the city, 513-874-1188) has long been unofficially crowned the "King of Cincinnati Chili," though other local joints, including Gold Star Chili (various locations throughout the city, 513-231-4541) and a wide array of mom and pop places, have also earned credit for their tasty treats. It's up to you to decide what venue to go to, but make sure you make a stop. And you may not want to eat for a few days beforehand, or afterwards.

Insider tip: Good news for vegetarians – some chili restaurants, including Gold Star, now serve vegetarian chili. Skyline also has a vegetarian bean and rice option for the herbivores.
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