Cincinnati Staycation on a Budget
Are you itching to take a vacation but just don’t have room in your budget to head out of town? You need a Cincinnati Staycation, and we’ve got some tips about how to enjoy the day for less than $25 per person. It’s the perfect cure for cabin fever.
- Park on the south side of the Ohio River at Newport on the Levee. This parking garage is easily accessed from I-471 or the Taylor Southgate Bridge. Park Monday through Thursday for only $2 per day, or park weekends for $3-$5 per day. Wander around the collection of shops and restaurants near the Newport Aquarium, and take a photo of the Cincinnati skyline across the river.
- Walk across the Purple People Bridge. The half-mile walk on this pedestrian bridge from Kentucky to Ohio offers sweeping views of Downtown Cincinnati and the hillside neighborhood of Mt. Adams. With riverboats and barges plying their way down the river, it’s easy to understand how Cincinnati came to be founded on the banks of the Ohio.
- On the Ohio side of the river, you’ll find yourself in the midst of a wonderful collection of parks and green space including Sawyer Point, Yeatman’s Cove, and Smale Riverfront Park. I encourage you to walk west on the Ohio River Trail toward Great American Ball Park, home of baseball’s oldest professional team the Cincinnati Reds.
- Between the stadium and the river, you’ll find Smale Riverfront Park. Take a break on one of the porch-sized swings as you relax and catch your breath. Admire the blue John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. Watch the kids playing in the interactive water fountains, on the gigantic foot piano, or on the flying pig. Explore the well-manicured gardens, the Black Brigade Monument, or the labyrinth. It’s all free!
- If you’re ready to spend a couple bucks (literally $2), walk up to Carol Ann’s Carousel. With 44 Cincinnati-centric characters, this carousel offers adults and kids a chance to ride on a Bengal tiger, a Queen bee, or a variety of other “horses” representative of Cincinnati lore.
- Now head for the main entrance of Great American Ball Park near Joe Nuxhall Way and 2nd Street. Walk among life-size statues of some of the greatest players to wear the Cincinnati Reds uniform. These bronze statues, as well as the limestone mural nearby, honor the history and tradition of Cincinnati baseball.
- After all that walking (a little less than 2 miles since you left Newport), it’s time to take a ride. Walk toward the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and pause to reflect on the segment of the Berlin Wall near the main entrance. Continue through the archway between the museum’s pavilions. You’ll marvel at the building’s architecture and its marble and copper sheathing.
- Near 2nd & Main, you’ll approach the Cincinnati Bell Connector station called The Banks. It’s time for a streetcar ride! Purchase a $2 fare pass from the ticket machine. The $2 pass is valid all day and allows you to step on and off the streetcar as many times as you’d like at any of the 18 stops along the 3.6 mile looped route. The streetcar only goes one direction and arrives every 12-14 minutes so hop on the next one that you see.
- Enjoy the smooth ride and climate-controlled comfort as you travel through downtown Cincinnati toward the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. In about 15 minutes, you’ll be stepping off at the Findlay Market-Elm Street Stop.
- Have you worked up an appetite yet? You’ve come to Findlay Market, Cincinnati’s favorite gathering place for foods from near and far. Ohio’s oldest continuous operating public market has been at this location since 1852. Steeped in history and embedded in a neighborhood settled by mid-19th century German immigrants, Findlay Market draws more than one million visitors a year to shop, eat, and support more than 42 small, independent businesses that are part of this unique community. Stroll through the market house and check out some of the adjoining storefronts. You’re sure to find lunch for less than $10. Enjoy it in the OTR Biergarten or pack it to go because we’re about to head to another park.
- Hop on the Cincinnati Bell Connector at the Race Street end of Findlay Market. Ride two stops and disembark at the Washington Park Station. You can’t help but notice the massive Music Hall on the opposite side of the park. This historic performance venue is home to the Cincinnati Symphony, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Cincinnati Ballet, The May Festival, and Cincinnati Opera. Built in 1878, it towers over Washington Park, a community space that serves as Over-the-Rhine’s backyard. Here you can enjoy your picnic lunch, walk your dog, play kickball, enjoy a cold beer on the community deck, or watch kids playing in the fountains. You may even catch a free concert or a lunchtime performance by students from the nearby School for Creative and Performing Arts.
- From Washington Park, you can easily explore Over-the-Rhine’s booming culinary scene that surrounds Vine Street to the east. Need some dessert? Grab a doughnut hole for $.25 or a whole doughnut for $1 or $2 at Holtman’s Donuts.
- We’ll get back on the streetcar at the Washington Park stop again. Ride the rails toward downtown, and don’t miss the murals painted on the brick facades of many of the buildings. These public masterpieces are a product of professional artists and local apprentices under the auspices of non-profit ArtWorks Cincinnati. Each one tells a story and connects us to the significant history and individuals of our area.
- After a short ride past the main Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (worth a stop itself) and the Aronoff Center for the Performing Arts, you’ll hear the announcement for the Fountain Square stop. Step off at 4th & Walnut, and walk a block toward Cincinnati’s center. Here you’ll see the Tyler Davidson Fountain, the symbol of Cincinnati and one of the area’s most visited attractions. On the corner of 5th & Vine, you can see the Carew Tower. It’s worth a trip across the street to walk through the arcade and read about the history of one of the earliest skyscrapers. For a few dollars, you can even ride an elevator to the top to enjoy a breathtaking view from the Observation Deck. If you’re still craving dessert, you can’t go wrong with Cincinnati’s homegrown Graeter’s Ice Cream from the nearby ice cream parlor back on the Square.
- Whew! We’ve packed a lot into today. If the idea of riding the streetcar back to The Banks and walking back over the bridge to Newport sounds too daunting, you can take the Southbank Shuttle from Fountain Square back to Newport on the Levee. The shuttle runs every 15 minutes and at only $1, you can’t beat the price.
If you’ve done the math, it really is possible to fill a day in Cincinnati without spending much money. Admit it. You need a stay-at-home vacation. Treat yourself. There’s no reason to go anywhere else when Cincinnati has so much to see, learn, taste, and enjoy.