Do you live within a few hours of Cincinnati? Plan a fun-filled, family-friendly weekend getaway to Cincinnati with over 15 budget-conscious ideas.
A weekend getaway to Cincinnati was the perfect quick trip for our family. The first grader, fifth grader, and the adults all approved of this fun and budget-friendly 3-day visit to Cincy.
It’s not always easy to please a variety of ages – so, I’m excited to share this weekend itinerary with you. It will include options for both a 3-day weekend and a 2-day weekend – whichever works best for your family!
We have a big vacation planned for September (can’t wait to pull out our countdown calendar again), but we still wanted to something fun with the kids over Spring Break. Less than a 2 hour drive from Louisville, Cincinnati was an obvious choice for our weekend getaway.
I knew we’d have a good time, but I underestimated just how much my kids would love this city. They had an absolute blast.
And truth be told – we didn’t do a lot of planning. We selected the hotel during Thanksgiving (a Black Friday deal) and did a little research in advance about what we wanted to do in Cincy, but…
… we left the researched list of places at home. Womp, womp.
So, we pulled the rest of the itinerary together after we arrived! Still, it went perfectly and I wouldn’t change it one bit. Let’s get to the details, shall we?
Where to Stay in Cincinnati
We highly recommend Graduate Hotels. This is our second stay at a Graduate and each hotel exudes the culture and style of the city in which it is located.
Located on the University of Cincinnati campus, the Graduate is within minutes of the zoo, art museums, stadiums, and more. Plus, it’s proximity to the Clifton Heights neighborhood provides a slew of great restaurants to check out.
As a nod to Cincy’s art culture, the hotel is decorated in a modern pop art style. The decor is playful, fun, and bright (as my kids said “it’s kind of like a Disney hotel!”).
In the lobby area, you’ll find a bar and restaurant named after the Cincinnati Zoo’s famous hippo Fiona (we liked the pizza!). Complete with a pool table and lounge area, we enjoyed hanging out down here in the evenings.
Where to Eat in Cincinnati
When we travel, you won’t find us eating at any restaurants that we have back home. We love to check out the reviews online, and prefer to select local eateries with 4-star and higher ratings.
While we aren’t expert foodies, we do like to eat well – and well-reviewed, highly restaurants don’t often disappoint.
In addition to that criteria, we also like to eat food representative of the area. On this trip, that included:
as well as several other well-known local restaurants (all listed, below).
3-Day Cincinnati Weekend Getaway Ideas
While there is plenty to keep you busy in downtown Cincy alone, the 3-day itinerary also includes a few options on the outskirts of the city, as well. I’ve listed each Cincinnati trip idea by proximity to one another, so you can tour strategically.
After checking into our hotel, we enjoyed a late dinner at the historic Mecklenburg Gardens restaurant (#1 Beer Garden in America, according to Travel and Leisure). Over 150 years old, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places and has menus hanging from its early years - when 90 cents was the most you'd pay for a glass of any alcoholic drink.
On Friday morning we headed toward the outskirts of Cincinnati to the famous Jungle Jim's International Market. A gigantic (seriously, it's huge) grocery store filled with unique foods and unique sights - we enjoyed exploring this unusual place (and grabbed a few old-fashioned candies, too!).
From Jungle Jim's, we drove 30 minutes to the city of Loveland (for the castle - stop #5 on this list). Hungry for lunch but wanting something quick, we grabbed tacos, chips, and queso at TAHONA Kitchen + Bar.
P.S. The kids loved TAHONA's take on the walking taco.
On Friday afternoon, we had Loveland Castle all to ourselves to explore (another family did arrive just as we were leaving). The man at the desk gave us some history about the place and then we took our time checking out everything from the dungeon to views of the rooftop.
This may have been our kid's favorite stop of the entire trip!
A game-loving family - our Friday evening was spent at Escape Game Family. We've done many escape rooms, but never one like this. Specifically geared toward families (we had a just-turned-7 year old), the room is filled with strategic and physical activities that are geared toward a variety of ages and skillsets.
Rather than having to complete the tasks in order like a traditional escape room, your family is completing as many activities as possible to earn points. So, young and old, alike, can be involved and feel accomplished!
Note: Escape Game Family is between Jungle Jim's and Loveland Castle. Due to the available escape room time slots, we did the escape room last. However, the shortest trip would be to place Escape Game Family between Jungle Jim's and Loveland Castle.
On Saturday morning, we began at the American Sign Museum. Our kids were promptly handed scavenger hunts (and you know how we like scavenger hunts) upon entry, which kept even the 7-year-old fully engaged. The bright neon, blinking lights, and quintessential main street make this unique museum a must-do.
Price: $15 each (12 & under free) | Time: 1-2 Hours
Within minutes of the American Sign Museum, grab Cincinnati-style chili at Camp Washington Chili. Over 75 years old, this 1940s diner vibe is the perfect way to cap off your visit to the sign museum (and the chili is good, too!).
Our kids are a bit young to spend hours looking at art, but since both the Contemporary Arts Center and the Cincinnati Art Museum are free, we decided to make a stop. The art inside the Contemporary Arts Center is unique and unexpected, using a variety of mediums not often found in traditional art museums.
For kids, there is a small make-and-take art area for a few minutes of play and creativity.
Also free, the Cincinnati Art Museum is much larger than the Contemporary Arts Center. In addition to 2 floors featuring hall after hall of artwork, there is also the outdoor Art Climb (164 steps, 16 landings, and 4 art plazas). You could easily spend hours here as an avid art lover.
For dinner on Saturday, we visited a nearly 100-year-old burger joint and pub called Zip's Cafe. Complete with a toy train circling the ceiling, this small pub has loads of character. There aren't a ton of seats, so be prepared to wait a bit - but the delicious food and memorable atmosphere is worth the wait.
After dinner, walk around the corner to grab some handcrafted gelato from Buona Terra (also called Sweet Hunter). Even if you aren't in the mood for a cold treat, you're sure to find something from their wide selection of handmade chocolates.
While this restaurant doesn't fit in the "budget-friendly" category we adhered to most of our time in Cincy, it was a great way to end our trip. Sitting on the Ohio River, looking across to Kentucky from our table, and eating delicious ribs - while the sun was setting - made for a lovely ending to a fun weekend getaway.
BONUS STOP: The Cincinnati Mushroom House is a local curiosity and fun drive-by if you are in the area. You can park on the street and walk along the sidewalks to see it up close. An unusual home - located in the Hyde Park neighborhood - is just outside downtown and a fun, quick stop at any point during your Cincinnati weekend getaway!
Price: Free | Time: 0.5 Hour
2-Day Cincinnati Weekend Getaway Ideas
Only have 2 days to visit Cincinnati? Modify our 3-day itinerary to a 2-day itinerary by:
skipping the activities located on the outskirts of Cincinnati (Loveland Castle, Escape Room Family, and Jungle Jims) or
allocating 1 day to downtown and 1 day to outside the city (for example, skip the zoo or the museums downtown – whichever makes the most sense for your family).
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