Best outdoor activities in Cincinnati

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Built along rolling hills and a lazy river, Cincinnati promises urban adventures for everyone. The Queen City has some of the best parks in the country, and it’s a key hub for Ohio’s ever-expanding trail system. Cincinnati is the starting point for the epic multi-use trail from Ohio to the Erie, connecting Cincinnati to Cleveland on the Erie shore.

Outdoor activities in Cincinnati range from riverside biking to hilly forest hikes to beach volleyball at local craft breweries. Here are eight of our favorite outdoor activities in Cincinnati, with something for every level of experience and commitment.

Smale Riverfront Park marks the start of the Ohio-to-Eerie Trail ©Christian Hinkle/Shutterstock

Biking the Ohio-Erie Trail

Bikes are having a moment in Ohio, and the Ohio-to-Erie Long-Distance Trail, completed in 2017, is the best way to join this pedal power revolution. Running south to north, the trail connects the Ohio River in Cincinnati to Lake Erie on the Cleveland waterfront, a 326-mile journey. Following old railroads and historic canal paths, this largely off-street adventure, known as Route 1, is a big hit with cyclists, but even skaters, hikers, horseback riders and families with strollers can enjoy the mostly paved trail.

While it’s certainly worthy of a bucket list, you don’t have to cycle all 326 miles to enjoy Ohio’s trailside scenery. For an easy sightseeing ride in Cincinnati, take the south end of the trail at Smale Riverside Park on the Ohio River, steps from the Cincinnati Reds Great American baseball stadium.

From there, you can weave along the shore and follow Highway 1 for five miles to legendary local Eli’s BBQ, a wildly popular, no-frills outdoor barbecue near the water. After lunch, return for a baseball game or a stop at the Moerlein Lager House brewery, located just behind Smale Riverfront Park. Rent bikes through the Cincinnati Bike Share Program, red bikewith a convenient bike station at Smale Riverfront Park (day passes are $10).

Autumn leaves
Autumn paints the forest with vivid colors in Ohio and Kentucky © John J. Miller Photography / Getty Images

Mount Airy Forest Hike

Covering 1,459 acres of woodland, Mount Airy Forest is not only one of the city’s best parks, it’s also home to some of Cincinnati’s best hiking trails. More than a dozen trails criss-cross this dense, tranquil forest, located just eight miles from downtown. With no trails longer than four miles, Mt Airy Forest is ideal for beginners, but the interconnecting trail system gives more experienced hikers the ability to customize their own thrilling workouts. Weekdays and mornings are the quietest times to hike, although Mt Airy Forest remains relatively uncrowded even on weekends.

Mt Airy Forest also includes the state’s only Americans with Disabilities Act ADA-compliant treehouse (Everybody’s Treehouse), with raised shelters connected by elevated wheelchair-friendly walkways. And, if you’re looking for a relaxing way to end the day, stop by Mt Airy Forest Dog Park, where benches and shade make it easy to relax and meet Cincinnati’s four-legged residents. Public restrooms are available near the treehouse and playground.

Cincinnati from Devou Park
Sunrise over Cincinnati from Devou Park ©Shutterstock / Chris LaBasco

Mountain biking at Devou Park

Northern Kentucky Devou Park, a hilly jaunt across the river from Cincinnati, offers more than 700 acres of outdoor adventure, with one of the newest ATV trail networks in the region. The network includes miles of backcountry routes, with gentle rock features and climbs of over 200 vertical feet. Most trails are two-way and run one to two miles. The one-mile Incinerator Trail is probably the most popular ride in the park. Rent bikes at the Devou Park Welcome Center; rates range from $6 to $20 per hour.

The routes are mostly easy or intermediate, although there are a handful of trickier paths. If you’d rather stay on the sidewalk for a leisurely (but hilly) ride, you can take advantage of the park’s multi-purpose trails and paved roads, including Park Lane, which leads to the photogenic Memorial Overlook, offering stunning views of the line. Cincinnati skyline. Restrooms and parking are available throughout Devou Park. For post-ride dining, try Devou Park Bar & Grill’s cozy bar or outdoor terrace.

pour beer
Locals take their beers seriously in Cincinnati ©Shutterstock / Paul Velgos

Play beach volleyball at the Fifty West Brewery

They can brew their own beer, but the West Fifty Brewery is as passionate about outdoor fun as he is about delicious foam. In 2016, the team at Fifty West turned a closed beach bar into a beer production site, but kept the bar’s beach volleyball courts intact. More than a dozen Fifty West beer taps now line the sides of the grounds, with the famous Coast-to-Coast IPA and Doom Pedal Wheat beer among the most popular beers.

The courts are mainly reserved for local league matches during the week, but from Friday to Sunday they are available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you can’t hold on to a volleyball court, try your hand at pickleball or cornhole (throwing beanbags filled with corn towards a hole in a wooden board). You can also organize kayak trips through West Fifty Canoe & Kayak (contact them for the latest opening hours and prices).

Kayaker
Kayaking is the best way to explore Ohio’s waterways ©Shutterstock / Popartic

Dive into the Miami Whitewater Forest

At 4,435 acres, Miami Whitewater Forest, 20 minutes from downtown, is Hamilton County’s largest and busiest park. This natural oasis is a fun playground for outdoor pursuits, starting with its signature offering: paddling around an 85-acre lake.

In fact, the name “whitewater” is misleading – the lake is serene, tranquil and ideal for families or beginner paddlers ready to try their hand at kayaking for the first time. Beyond paddling, fishing is also available; an Ohio fishing license is required, and tackle and bait can be purchased at the park’s boathouse, along with lunch and snacks (summer only).

The Miami Whitewater Forest Boathouse rents kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, motorboats, four-seater paddle boats, and hydrobikes, for periods of one to six hours. If you have your own canoe or kayak, you can launch from a gravel ramp near the boathouse (an ADA-accessible floating dock is also available).

Spring at the Cincinnati Zoo
Tulip beds in front of the Reptile House at the Cincinnati Zoo ©Getty Images / iStockphoto

Flora and Fauna at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

Giraffes, elephants and a world-famous hippopotamus, Fiona, are just the best-known residents of Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. The zoo is home to 580 animal species and over 3,000 plant species within its 75 acres, with well-appointed enclosures conducive to enrichment. That’s just one of the reasons the Cincinnati Zoo, the second-oldest zoo in the United States, was granted National Historic Landmark status. He is also admired for his global research and conservation projects.

The zoo, located just north of the city center, is worth at least a half-day visit, with mornings, especially weekdays, being the best times to avoid the crowds and see the most active animals. Restaurants and refreshment stalls abound, with by far the best views (and beers) at Hops, an artisanal beer garden serving local beers and bites overlooking kangaroo and penguin habitats. You can also test your climbing skills at the new Kanga’ Klimb, a multi-platform aerial adventure course. Parking is available on the zoo grounds.

Strawberry picking
Strawberry picking tastes like summer ©Shutterstock / Julia Zavalishina

Go berry picking at a local farm

Nestled in the northeast Cincinnati suburb of Loveland, a family-owned Flower and berry farm market offers a taste (literally) of Ohio’s rich agricultural culture. Hands-on farm experiences run spring through fall, including U-pick blueberries and strawberries in the summer, and the popular fall farm experience from September through October, with wagon rides, mazes, pick-your-own pumpkins and fields of sunflowers.

Tickets are required for events such as Fall on the Farm; you can buy them online or when you arrive at the property. Year-round, farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, and artisan housewares are on sale at the Market Barn store.

horse farm
Horse farms abound in Ohio and Kentucky © Lottie Davies / Lonely Planet

Camp at a horse ranch

With Keeneland Race Track just down the road in Lexington and the kentucky derbyNear the Churchill Downs course in Louisville, horses are an integral part of the culture of this corner of the Midwest. One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the horse life is to stop or stay at 40 Acres Misty Ridge Farmjust 10 miles from downtown Cincinnati.

This northern Kentucky getaway offers everything from two-hour horseback rides for families and beginners to overnight stays at the on-site inn (sleeps up to eight people) and campgrounds dotted around the property . Tent sites are available along the farm creek or at the top of an 800 foot hill with panoramic views. Campfires are allowed here, as are pets, although space is limited and advance reservations are required.

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