7 Must-Visit Outdoor Spaces in the Cincy Region
Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have a lot to offer visitors who haven’t been before — especially when it comes to food and culture. What first-time visitors also might not know is that the area is surprisingly walkable. Neighborhoods like Mt. Adams plus downtown hubs clustered around the river make for an easily-explored city, especially when compared to other Midwestern cities. That, combined with an extensive parks system, means there are plenty of opportunities for getting outside when visiting this hidden gem. To help you figure out where to stop when checking out the Cincy Region, here are our picks for the must-see outdoor spaces:
No visit to Cincy is complete without some time spent on the river, and Smale Park is one of the best ways to experience it. Smale is especially kid-friendly, with extensive water playgrounds, an interactive piano, and Carol Ann’s Carousel. Adults will have plenty to enjoy as well, thanks to the public art, yoga classes, live music, and more. The park is particularly known for its pollinator garden, designed using native species. Smale is even classified as an arboretum, and hosts events designed to educate visitors on the ecology of the Cincinnati riverfront.
Blue Ash, about 20 minutes north of Cincinnati, is a smaller community with an abundance of parks, farmers markets, and town events (plus a golf course for those whose outdoor time is best enjoyed on a cart). However, the standout is Summit Park, a relatively new space that’s packed with features. Their events calendar is full of free classes like yoga and line dancing, movies in the park, and road races. A fishing pond allows for catch-and-release anglers to cast their lines, and anyone looking to dine can grab dinner at one of the restaurants that serve meals up under the giant glass canopy in the center of the park.
Cincy’s food traditions are no joke, and the open-air Findlay Market is one of the best places to take them all in while enjoying a walk. Open Tuesday through Sunday all year round, it’s basically an ongoing food festival that hosts music, cooking classes, and a huge lineup of local vendors. If you’re looking to explore Cincy’s vast food catalog in one go, this is the place to go. Everything from pierogies to goetta, local chocolate and tea can be found here, plus plenty of shoppables like jewelry and even cigars. All of this is housed within Findlay’s old-school architecture, which recalls the coziness of a traditional German marketplace.
Mt. Airy Forest
The largest park in Cincinnati’s park system, Mt. Airy encompasses almost 1,500 acres of forested area. It’s the perfect spot for those whose preferred outdoor activities skew more towards hiking less towards, say, drinking on patios. Disc golf fans should definitely make the trek out to play Mt. Airy’s 18 holes (the Nati golf shop runs the course events and can hook you up with discs). Other activities run the range of woodsy options: bike trails, picnic areas, and even a wheelchair-accessible elevated treehouse that gives you a total immersion among the trees.
For those looking for even more high-intensity outdoorsing, head up to Little Miami River in North Cincinnati. Ozone Zipline operates a ropes course and six-section zip line that crosses the river, with lines ranging up to 1,300 feet long and 200 feet high. It’s a thrill-seeker’s dream, and the breezy treehouses and picturesque views of the woods surrounding the river only add to the experience. Visits need to be booked at least 24 hours in advance, so be sure to make a reservation on their website.
Compact urban spaces don’t get much better than Washington Park. Warm weather days are the best time to visit — Washington’s water fountains draw a crowd, and just watching the spectacle is worth a trip. People watching and dog watching (thanks to the dog park) are excellent here, and it’s easy to stop by, grab a drink at The Porch, and check out the scene. Like most Cincy parks, Washington hosts an excellent summer lineup of events: Every Wednesday in the summer is movie night, and if brass bands in the park sound like your jam, definitely don’t miss it here.
Cincinnati proper is just across the river from Northern Kentucky, making it easy to visit the area’s famous bourbon distilleries. The B-Line is your guide to the distilleries, bars, and restaurants serving up the local spirit of choice, and the stops on the tour include some of the most pleasant walks around. Old Pogue distillery is an especially good stop for those seeking fresh air, historic sights, and well-aged rye. There's also Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar in Mainstrasse Village, which features a patio perfect for people watching. However, almost all of the locations on the B-Line are reliable stops for outdoor dining in walkable neighborhoods — Cincy’s speciality.