Cincinnati with Teens: A Perfect Family Day

Cincinnati with Teens: A Family Vacation


If you find yourself traveling about the Queen City and at a loss for things to do in Cincinnati with teens, don't panic. This lively riverfront city offers many affordable and entertaining activities that can transform a typical vacation into a family adventure. If you're in Cincinnati with teens, or if a visit is impending, try the following ideas out on your kids and cross your fingers for a perfect family day.


Start your day off at Findlay Market. A mainstay since 1852, this historic attraction features vendors selling everything from meat and cheese to freshly baked bread. Take your time wandering. Even the teen that refuses to like anything can't help but be overwhelmed by all the sights and smells. Make your selection of pastries and fresh fruit and drive south for about two miles. Park your car for free at the public landing, located behind the U.S. Bank Arena (100 Broadway), grab your grub and walk about 50 yards east to the Serpentine Wall. It's not really a wall at all, but more like a snaky concrete staircase. Take a seat on one of the steps, watch the barges go up the river and enjoy a slice of coffee cake or a "just off the tree" peach. This zen moment is the perfect way to start a day in Cincinnati with teens.

Findlay Market, 1801 Race St, Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-665-4839; Tues-Fri 9AM-6PM, Sat 8AM-6PM, Sun 10AM-4PM

Once breakfast is finished, head back to the car, turn left and drive less than a mile to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the next activity on your list of things to do in Cincinnati. Museums rarely rank high on the to-do list for teens, but this one is different and well worth the trip. It traces the history of the Underground Railroad and offers more insight into this era of history than even the most detailed textbook. One of the most powerful exhibits is a 177-year-old log structure that served as a slave pen at a nearby Kentucky farm. Outside the museum, an actual piece of the Berlin Wall is displayed. It's a moving experience for visitors of all ages.

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, 50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-333-7500, 877-648-4838; Tues-Sat 11AM-5PM; Adults $12, Seniors (60+), Educators, students with ID $10, Children (ages 6-12) $8, Children (5 and under) free; Parking $4.50 cash only, During Cincinnati Reds home games parking is $15


Once you leave the museum, head north on Walnut Street for two blocks. Fountain Square will be to your left. The Tyler Davidson Fountain, one of Cincinnati's best-known symbols, has stood here since 1871. Streams of water flow from the outstretched hands of the nine-foot-tall Genius of Water. The four figures around the rim were originally drinking fountains, and visitors can still drink from them. The water flowing from them is fresh, not chlorinated.

Fountain Square, Corner of Fifth and Vine St, Downtown Cincinnati, OH

Continue north on Walnut for four blocks. You will walk past the entertainment section of the city, packed with theaters and restaurants, and turn left at East Court Street. Lunch awaits you at It's Just Crepes, by far one of the most loved restaurants in the city. This local favorite promises a delicious family adventure with each visit. Cincinnati patrons can choose from 39 different crepes, all reasonably priced. Contrary to popular belief, these are not highly sweetened breakfast crepes, but rather sandwiches without all the bread. Even the pickiest eater will find something here to enjoy. The Southwestern, made with pepper jack cheese, diced chicken, sautéed onions, red peppers and chipotle mayo is the number one seller. The Pizza, mozzarella cheese, sliced pepperoni, sautéed mushrooms and pizza sauce, has always been my favorite. These are very filling, but you'll want to save room for dessert. The sweeter crepes include the Elvis, which features peanut butter and banana and the Chocolate Covered Strawberry, which includes strawberries and Nutella, as well as 12 more. All ingredients are fresh, and the crepes are prepared in front of you.

It's Just Crepes, 39 E Court St, Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-632-7373; Mon-Fri 7:30AM-8PM, Sat 9AM-8PM, Sun 9AM-3PM


Head back to the car and follow the I-71 N signs to Kings Island amusement park. Tickets can be as expensive as $39.99, but when you're in Cincinnati with teens to please, the price is well worth it. As far as the kids are concerned, this may be the highlight of the trip. The park is known for thrill rides like the Diamondback, a 230-foot-tall, steel roller coaster that reaches speeds up to 80 miles per hour. The Beast, at 7,400 feet the longest wooden roller coaster in the world, is another favorite. And better still is the Vortex, a one-of-a-kind steel looping coaster that sends riders upside-down six times. There are several more, all together promising an unforgettable family adventure.

Adults in Cincinnati who prefer not to travel upside-down six times can wander over to Boomerang Bay, a huge water park included in the ticket price. I like to lie in one of the lounge chairs, occasionally cooling off by floating down the lazy river or wading through the wave pool. This is a great time to simply relax as the kids take on those thrilling coasters. But there's plenty of fun for the kids at the water park, too. They can slide down tubes perched high in the trees, or climb into a large inner tube and go shooting down a slide that dips and bends until it finally plunges the rider into a pool.

Kings Island, Kings Island Dr, Mason, OH 45040; 513-754-5700; From $21.99-$39.99; Hours vary according to season; call to confirm, especially during off-season

Worn out and hungry from Kings Island, now is the time to try the chili that Cincinnati is known for: Skyline Chili. A must on your list of places to go and things to do, this popular Cincinnati chain serves their signature chili atop a mound of spaghetti noodles and garnished with a heap of shredded cheese. Try a 4-way: noodles, chili, onions and cheese with a dish of oyster crackers on the side. For those not feeling so adventurous, a variety of other edibles are available. Skyline Chili joints can be found all over the area, but the closest to Kings Island is at 2711 Water Park Drive, right around the corner. The cost is reasonable, with most dishes priced less than $6.

Skyline Chili Kings Mill, 2711 Water Park Dr, Mason, OH 45040; 513-336-7009

To round out the evening, go back to where you started. Take 1-71 S to reach the city park again at the public landing behind the US Bank Arena. Of the nine bridges crossing the Ohio River at Cincinnati, only one is purple. And, only one is for people. A 10-minute walk will get you to the Kentucky side of the heralded Purple People Bridge. Heading back to the Cincinnati side is the real treat, as the view of the city skyline from the bridge is hard to top. It's the perfect end to a perfect day in Cincinnati with teens.

The Purple People Bridge, 421 Monmouth St, Newport, KY 41071; 859-655-7700; Open 24/7, 365 days a year
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