Ready to venture beyond your own backyard this summer?
If the answer is a resounding “yes,” then you’ve come to the right place. The USA TODAY Ohio Network is offering suggestions of things to do in Cincinnati and around the state.
Southwest Ohio is likely best known for its cornucopia of Cincinnati-style chili parlors and sports teams that cause die-hard fans roller-coasters of emotions year in and year out.
But as summer peeks its head around the clouds, it’s a perfect time to appreciate this little slice of Ohio’s other lovable gems besides those beautiful bowls of brown chili and Bengals losses.
Want to take a trip? 24 exciting things to do in Southeast Ohio this summer
More things to do in Ohio: Looking for things to do around Columbus this summer? Here are some attractions worth visiting
6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason (Warren County)
Adrenaline junkies of all ages can get their thrills at this southwestern Ohio theme park. Visit Planet Snoopy for the kiddos and fan-favorite Diamondback for the grown-ups. Or, hop over to Soak City Water Park for a dip or slip down a waterslide. From July 17 to Aug. 1, the park will host the Grand Carnivale, a vibrant festival celebrating culture through food, games, crafts and parades.
Admission: Starting at $45; after-4 p.m. tickets start at $29.99
Information: visitkingsisland.com, 513-754-5700
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6201 Kellogg Ave., Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
Splash around this water park on the edge of the Ohio River. Take a slip down water slides or maneuver through the Challenge Zone obstacle course. Visit life-sized dinosaurs through the park in a drive-thru event through June 27. Or, stop by throughout the year to hear some family-friendly live music.
Admission: Ticket prices vary depending on the weekday. General admission daily tickets range from $22 to $28, or $18 to $24 for senior citizens 62 and older; $14 to $21 for ages 2 to 7. After 4 p.m., pricing is also available at a lower cost.
Information: coneyislandpark.com, 513-232-8230
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11490 Hamilton-Cleves Road, Hamilton (Hamilton County)
This family-owned-and-operated theme park is unlike others: it is only open to the public a handful of times a year. Rent out the park for completely private events for groups of 500 or more for things such as group meetings, family reunions or wedding receptions.
Admission: based on group number; visit website for details
Information: strickersgrove.com, 513-738-3366 (park), 513-521-9747 (office)
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Conservatories, botanical gardens and zoos
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
3400 Vine St., Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
Home of social-media darling Fiona the Hippo, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is 74 acres of lush greenery and animal exhibits. Folks with sensory sensitivity issues can stop by on June 30 for a Celebration Day with Quiet Hours that cut down on external stimuli. The zoo will hold multiple special events through the summer such as Fiona’s Sundae Fundae on July 25.
Admission: beginning at $14.50, or $8.50 for children 2 to 12 and senior citizens 62 and older; parking is $10
Information: cincinnatizoo.org, 513-281-4700
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950 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
Step into this greenhouse paradise for the Butterflies of Bali show every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. now until Sept. 6 to watch thousands of butterflies in free flight. The conservatory also boasts curated collections of flora: bonsai, desert plants, orchids, palms, tropical greenery and more. Book your tickets early — they go fast!
Admission: Timed tickets must be purchased online prior to arriving to access the conservatory. No in-person tickets are being sold. General admission for 45-minute appointments are $10, or $7 for children 5 to 17, free for children younger than 4.
Information: cincinnatiparks.com/krohn, 513-421-4086
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6733 Springboro Pike, Dayton (Montgomery County)
Cox Arboretum is a 174-acre space that offers several gardens, a butterfly house, a tree tower and a maze designed just for kids. Geocaching fanatics can flock to the park to find caches hidden in its landscape. There are lots of education events on the calendar for kids including nighttime nature explorations and conservation education. Adults can stop by for wildlife photography lessons.
Admission: Entrance to the park is free. There is a registration fee depending on the activity. Check out the website for details.
Information: metroparks.org/places-to-go/cox-arboretum, 937-275-7275
Outdoor music and drama
Riverbend Music Center
6295 Kellogg Ave., Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
As the name suggests, this outdoor amphitheater is situated on the banks of the Ohio River. This summer it is welcoming tons of acts: Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band on July 13, Luke Bryan on July 22, Harry Connick Jr. on Aug. 7, Maroon 5 on Aug. 28 and many more. Check out full listings on their website.
Admission: varies per show; check the event listing on their website for details.
Information: riverbend.org, 513-232-6220
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520 Vine St., Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
Fountain Square boasts all kinds of free activities to visitors — including lots of live music.
Information: myfountainsquare.com, 513-621-4400
Shakespeare in the Park
This summer, the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company will be leading a free outdoor theater tour to over 40 parks in southwest Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky through Sept. 12. The tour will include performances of the Shakespeare staples “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Macbeth.”
Information: cincyshakes.com/event/park, 513-381-2273
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Wednesdays in the Woods
3298 Clifton Ave., Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
Every Wednesday through Aug. 11, visit the Burnet Woods Bandstand at 7 p.m. for some free live music. There are also activities for kids, food trucks and HighGrain Brewing Co. selling some brews to sip on during the show. The Latin-based musical duo the Amador Sisters will make an appearance June 30.
Information: cliftonculturalarts.org, 513-497-2860
Rose Music Center at The Heights
6800 Executive Blvd., Huber Heights (Greene County)
Boasting a full list of performances from acts such as The Beach Boys (July 18), Chicago (July 27), Billy Idol (Aug. 3), Jason Mraz (Aug. 10), John Legend (Sept. 4) and others, the Rose Music Center looks to be in full swing this summer. For the venue’s full event list, go to https://www.rosemusiccenter.com/events-tickets/event-list.html.
Admission: varies; ticket prices for each event can be found at https://www.rosemusiccenter.com/events-tickets/purchase-tickets.html
Information: https://www.rosemusiccenter.com/, 937-610-0288
Tecumseh! Outdoor Drama
Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre, 5968 Marietta Rd, Chillicothe (Ross County)
Witness the story of legendary Shawnee cheif Tecumseh, who fought to defend his homeland in Ohio during the late 1700s.
The outdoor play encapsulates Tecumseh’s fight and the surrounding elements of the time period, with the use of horses, live military cannons and reimagined battle sequences to heighten the experience.
The nationally recognized drama, which began on June 17, will have ongoing showings through Sept. 5 every day except Sundays.
Admission: from $28 weeknights, from $33 weekends; VIP packages available from $45. Group rates will not be offered this year
Information: https://tecumsehdrama.com/, 740-775-0700
Tecumseh!:With changes, Tecumseh! returns to Sugarloaf Mountain on Thursday
Contemporary Arts Center
44 E. 6th St., Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
This haven for contemporary art is hosting a slew of special exhibits for summer 2021. Through Aug. 8, visit multimedia exhibits by the Cincinnati native Steffani Jemison or Santa Barbara-based Joan Tanner. The CAC will also home exhibits by Hellen Ascoli and Wild Frictions until Sept. 19.
Admission: Admission to the center is free. Timed tickets may be required for certain exhibits. Check the website for details. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Information: contemporaryartscenter.org, 513-345-8400
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Cincinnati Art Museum
953 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
Cincinnati Art Museum has several exhibits for summer 2021. Until Sept. 5, visit “American Painting: The Eighties Revisited” to learn about a pivotal moment in art history accompanied by 41 provocative works. Or, check out a reimagining of the museum’s permanent collection in “Future Retrieval: Close Parallel” until Aug. 29.
Admission: free, special exhibits have various pricing.
Information: cincinnatiartmuseum.org, 513-721-2787
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Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
1301 Western Ave., Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
Illicit your curiosity with special events throughout the summer with limited-time exhibits such as “A Year on the Edge,” a photo collection of Appalachian nature scenes; and 47 artworks in the “Borrowed Gems from the Taft Museum of Art” show. On July 1, The Children’s Museum will reopen to the public with themed play areas, exploration and education opportunities.
Admission: $14.50 for age 13 and older; $13.50 for senior citizens; $10.50 for children 3-12, free for children younger than 2. Reserved timed tickets online up to three weeks in advance. Museum is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Information: cincymuseum.org, 513-287-7000
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The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
50 E. Freedom Way, Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
Situated in downtown Cincinnati, this museum is dedicated to education on the abolishment of slavery. The exhibits are rooted in the stories of the Underground Railroad but strive to challenge modern society’s implicit biases.
Admission: $15, or $13 for senior citizens 60 and older, $10.50 for children 3-12, free for children younger than 3. Museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Information: freedomcenter.org, 513-333-7500
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The Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park
100 Joe Nuxhall Way, Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
Can you imagine Cincinnati without the Reds? This summer, stop by Great American Ball Park for a sunshiny day of homerun fireworks, mascot races and stadium-wide chants. The park is accommodating for all with a space for kids to play and nursing suites for mothers. New this year, those with special needs can retreat to a one-of-a-kind Sensory Suite when the commotion of the game can get to be too much.
Admission: varies by game. Check the website for details.
Information: mlb.com/reds, 1513-765-7000
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FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium
1501 Central Parkway, Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
Root for the orange and blue this summer at the brand-new TQL Stadium. On July 9, FC Cincinnati will go head-to-head at home with their in-state rival the Columbus Crew in a must-see match.
Admission: varies by game. Check the website for details.
Information: fccincinnati.com, 513-977-5435
New stadium:Here’s how FC Cincinnati is preparing for a packed, near-capacity TQL Stadium
The Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium
1 Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
Starting in August, Paul Brown Stadium will come to life with NFL action. Check out a preseason game on Aug. 29 against the Miami Dolphins. On Sept. 12, the Bengals will go up against the Minnesota Vikings in the first home game of the regular season.
Admission: varies by game. Check the website for details.
Information: bengals.com, 513-621-8383
Festivals and fairs
Asian Food Fest
Cincinnati, Second Street between Elm and Walnut streets (Hamilton County)
Hosted by Kroger on Aug. 7 and 8 in downtown Cincinnati, the Asian Food Fest is an outside celebration of cuisine and culture through educational activities, entertainment and, of course, plenty of nourishment. Check out food and drink from Cambodia, Hawaii, India, Korea, Taiwan and more.
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Black Midwest Regional Family Reunion
Fountain Square: 5th and Vine streets, Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
Since 1989, this three-day weekend event has been a family-focused cultural celebration of Black family values and history. This year, the festivities will run from Aug. 20 to 22 and include speakers, live music and a career fair.
Information: myblackfamilyreunion.org, 513-229-0502
378 E. 12th St., Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
On July 31, stop by Pendleton on the east end of Over-the-Rhine for a day of adults racing big-wheeled bicycles downhill. Costumes are encouraged. Everyone is welcome. Anyone can register as a team to participate by the July 20 deadline with a bike provided at the event — as long as you come with the appropriate safety gear.
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Ohio River Paddlefest
Schmidt Recreation Complex: 2944 Humbert Ave., Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
On Aug. 7, join 2,000 participants in canoes and kayaks on the Ohio River for the country’s largest paddling celebration. Once you’re done paddling, enjoy some music, food and drink at the Finish Line Festival.
Admission: There are two available routes, the 9-mile route and the 4.5-mile route. Rates vary based on registration date and route. Prices range from $50 to $75, or $20 to $25 for kids. Rental boats are also available.
Information: ohioriverpaddlefest.org, 513-235-9700
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Ohio Renaissance Festival
10542 E. Ohio 73, Waynesville (Warren County)
From Sept. 4 to Oct. 31, southwestern Ohio is home to a little slice of history and fantasy. Each weekend hosts a new theme for cosplayers: from fantasy to pirates and time-travelers. There are vendors, games, rides and lots of grub.
Admission: Purchase tickets online for a discount: $19 for ages 13 and older, or $7.50 for children 5 to 12. Tickets at the gate cost $23, or $9.50 for children, $21 for senior citizens 65 and older, and $21 for military, police, fire and EMTs. Parking is $3.
Information: renfestival.com, 513-897-7000
Breweries and wineries
Vinoklet Winery & Restaurant
11069 Colerain Ave., Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
With 12 award-winning wines, Vinoklet knows how to make a quality drink. Among 30 acres of vineyard, visit the Vinoklet Winery for wine tastings and dinner with a breathtaking view. They offer a range of wines such as Brother Joe, their awarded red blend and Traminette, their premium white wine with hints of honey and florals.
Admission: Taste wines for $1 apiece or order a flight of 12 for $12.15. Bottles range from $15 to $25. Glasses range from around $5 to $8. Seating is limited, so book a table online ahead of time.
Information: vinokletwines.com, 513-385-9309
1910 Elm St., Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
Soak up the sun on the rooftop of this trendy downtown Cincinnati brewery while sipping on a selection of craft beers and ciders. They offer a range of seasonal drinks to enjoy this summer including the Slangria fruited ale, the Andromeda pale ale and the Bloom hard cider. Stop by the taproom or book a tour of the brewery.
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3301 Madison Road, Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
Stop by the MadTree taproom for some brews, a tour and some sustenance from Catch-a-Fire Pizza. There are plenty of favorites on tap such as the orange-vanilla ale Dreamsicle and the imperial IPA Citra High. This summer, you can grab a beer on tap such as Kickboard and the Melting Pop with a refreshing popsicle on the side.
Information: madtreebrewing.com, 513-836-8733
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Fifty West Brewing Company
7605 Route 50, Cincinnati (Hamilton County)
Fifty West blends good drinks with outdoor fun for the perfect summer evening. Sign up for cornhole, pickleball and volleyball leagues. For cyclists, stop by the adjoining full-service bicycle shop Fifty West Cycling Company. If you’re looking for a relaxed evening, choose from a selection of ales, sours, lagers and more on tap, by the can and by the bottle.
Information: fiftywestbrew.com, 513-834-8789
Adventures on the Great Miami
1995 Ross Road, Tipp City (Miami County)
This outdoor adventure makes for a memorable summer day. Book canoes, kayaks, rafts and tubes for trips on the water. Dogs are welcome for canoeing trips.
Admission: Boat and raft rentals range from $20 to $30 for 3.5-mile trips. Reservations are not available for groups smaller than 25 — in this case, it’s first-come, first-served.
Information: greatmiami.net, 937-266-6252
Cedar Bog Nature Preserve
980 Woodburn Road off U.S. 68, Urbana (Champaign County)
Take a stroll along a mile-long boardwalk through a 450-acre preserve overlooking wetlands filled with rare Ohio flora. Some folks even catch glimpses of critters like the endangered spotted turtle or the massasauga rattlesnake. According to their website, this spot is home to 40% of Ohio’s rare species — as well as being rich in Native American history.
Information: ohiohistory.org, 800-860-0147
East Fork State Park
3294 Elklick Road, Bethel (Clermont County)
As one of the largest state parks in Ohio, East Fork State Park offers a picturesque experience for fishing, hiking, horseback riding and camping. Boaters can take to the William H. Harsha Lake for unlimited horsepower boating. The park has a diverse landscape that includes rocky cascades, thick woods and abandoned farmland begging to be explored on a sunny summer day.