Our Family Vacation in Cincinnati

One highlight of summer in our family is the family vacation. This summer, we descended on Cincinnati, Ohio with my extended family and two children under the age of two. If you are planning to take a family vacation in Cincinnati, are a few places we visited and enjoyed.

The Ark Encounter

Family Vacation in Cincinnati

A life-size replica of Noah’s Ark

Adult (13-59): $40
Child (5-12): $28
Children 5 & Under: Free
Parking: $10 per car

Money-Saving Tip: If you plan to visit the Ark and Creation Museum, a combo pass costs $60 for adults and $34 for children. Small children under the age of 5 are free! The combo saves you $10 per person.

The Combo Pass is a single day pass to the Ark and two days to the Creation Museum.

The primary reason we picked Cincinnati is because of the Ark Encounter and The Creation Museum. We were all really excited to visit a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark.

The ark is the largest free-standing wooden structure in the world and it has three levels in it. We were there for about five hours when our two-year-old had had enough for the day.

You can see replicas of animals that were probably on the ark, there are also exhibits of what the world was like pre-flood and the immediate post-flood period. They also have a few exhibits on how life on the ark might have been and designs for the cages, food storage systems, and animal waste removal.

The Creation Museum

Family Vacation in Cincinnati

Dinosaur Lovers Will Enjoy The Creation Museum

Adult (13-59): $30
Child (5-12): $16
Children Under 5: Free
Parking: Free

Money-Saving Tip: If you plan to visit the Ark and Creation Museum, a combo pass costs $60 for adults and $34 for children. Small children under the age of 5 are free! The combo saves you $10 per person.

The Combo Pass is a single day pass to the Ark and two days to the Creation Museum.

Be prepared to do a lot of reading (in a good way). You almost need two days just to soak up all the information.

My wife and I visited The Creation Museum once before when we lived in Kentucky and it was still really enjoyable and we took the opportunity to visit parts of the museum we glossed over the first time. The combo pass gives you two days of admission to the museum, which is great as you can spend one day attending guest speakers and a few other activities. Or, if you have small children.

The Creation Museum has three different exhibits:

  • Creation vs Evolution
  • History of the Bible walkthrough
  • An outdoor botanical garden with a petting zoo (and zip lines for an additional fee)
Family Vacation in Cincinnati

My favorite part of The Creation Museum is the gardens


Children will also like The Creation Museum because there are several dinosaurs throughout the museum. One of the main contributors helped design the dinosaurs for the Jurassic Park movie series.

Things to Do in Cincinnati

Family Vacation in Cincinnati

Catch a Reds Game!

We didn’t spend much time in Cincinnati proper, but we stayed just across the river on the Kentucky side. Right along the Ohio River are the stadiums for the Bengals and the Reds. We did visit the Cincinnati waterfront one evening that has a nice park to walk and a small playground for children. It is also bordered by the stadiums that you can walk up to even on non-gamedays.

Parking is reasonable at $2 an hour for street parking and $3 an hour for garage parking on non-gamedays.

Here are a few things you can do in Cincinnati:

Visit a Game

The Reds haven’t been real competitive in recent years, but, their stadium grounds are beautiful even for the casual baseball fan. You can visit the Reds Hall of Fame next to their stadium if you are a baseball aficionado.

During the fall, watch the Bengals compete or catch a University of Cincinnati football or basketball game during the school year.

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Family Vacation in Cincinnati

My wife and I stayed at home for nap time the afternoon my family visited the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. They enjoyed it and said it was very educational. It obviously talks about the history of slavery in the U.S. and how it still exists around the world today.

It is located on the Ohio riverfront near the stadiums as well. The cost is $15 per adult.

President William Taft National Historical Site

We ran out of time, but, President Taft was a Cincinnati native. His two-story house and museum is free to visit and operated by the National Park Service at the William Howard Taft National Historic Site.

Things to Do in Northern Kentucky

We stayed in Covington, Kentucky which is one of the communities on the other side of the river from Cincinnati, OH. Both The Creation Museum and Ark Encounter are in Kentucky and are 40 minutes away from Cincy proper.

Newport Aquarium

Newport is another community that is borders Cincinnati across the river. They have their own riverwalk called Newport on the Levee that has a shopping and dining district. They also have the Newport Aquarium. We didn’t visit it but locals have said it is pretty good for an aquarium.

Frisbee Golf/Disc Golf

A new family tradition of ours is frisbee golf. It’s cheap (a starter disc golf set costs $30), fun, and outdoors. Which means our toddler can stretch their legs and play in the grass as the adults have fun!

We found a course about 15 minutes from our rental house at Lincoln Ridge Park in Independence, KY. On another day, we found another course that was also enjoyable at another local park.

Financing Family Vacation

Florence Family Aquatic Center

Family Vacation in Cincinnati

Cool off at a small waterpark

Adults: $10
Children (3-15 years): $7

As it was pushing 90 degrees a couple days, we went to the Florence Family Aquatic Center. You can also visit a “real” waterpark at Coney Island, but, we just wanted something simple and more affordable that our toddler would enjoy.

There are two slides, a lazy river, splash pad, and zero depth pool for small children. It’s run by the City of Florence and is pretty good if you want to get wet on a hot day.

Things to Do in Loveland, Ohio

We also made a road trip to Loveland, Ohio which is located east of Cincinnati on the I-275 loop.

Loveland Castle

Family Vacation in Cincinnati

This castle was built by hand with rocks from the adjacent river

A World War I vet built Loveland Castle by hand with rocks he pulled from the river next to his castle house. It is based off a castle he was stationed at during the War. The tour is self-guided and only takes one to two hours to visit all the grounds.

Downtown Loveland

We went to downtown Loveland for ice cream at Graeter’s (more info below). Loveland is a beautiful midwest town where the old railroad line cutting through the downtown has been transformed into a walking and biking trail. It’s worth a stop to justify the drive if you come to visit the castle.


One reason we like to travel is to try out the local cuisine. We have two memories, Cincinnati chili and ice cream.

Cincinnati Chili

You might think the only two types of chili are red chili and white chili. Well, Cincinnati chili adds cinnamon to their red chili. Each restaurant has their own unique twist to the recipe so you might have to try more than one place.

Family Vacation in Cincinnati

My family did a Chili taste off

Personally, I prefer more traditional chili, but, the rest of my family tried some from five different restaurants. And, they all tasted differently.

They love chili so the daily chili run was a highlight of the week for them. Out of the ones they tried, we recommend avoiding Dixie Chili (much more cinammon) and Skyline Chili (very little meat, would be good over noodles).

Graeter’s Ice Cream

We happened upon Graeter’s by accident in Loveland, OH thinking it was a mom and pop shop from the review. Afterwards, we found out they are a regional chain. Which is great because we went back a second day on National Ice Cream Day when everything was half price!

Graeter’s Ice Cream is worth the splurge

They use local milk and eggs, 100% cane sugar, no corn syrup or artificial sweeteners to make really good ice cream. It’s some of the healthiest (conventional) stuff you can buy and it tastes really good too.

If you love chocolate, you will love their flavors that contain chocolate pieces, it’s loaded with them.

I told my family they could just drop me off here and pick me back up on the last day. Of course, ice cream is my kryptonite.

Where to Stay

Family Vacation in Cincinnati

Our humble abode for the week


We found a rental house on Airbnb (use this link to get $40 off your first stay!). The house was built after World War II and fit our family of eight people. Parking was a little tight as you could park two cars, but, we had an excellent host with a stocked kitchen and our very own chicken coop (fresh eggs!) in the morning.

Staying on the Kentucky side was easier for us to get to the Ark and Creation Museum since we didn’t have to fight the commuter traffic to sightsee. If you have easy access to I-275 you can quickly get to the airport or visit the Tri-State area.

This was our first time using Airbnb, but, we were pleased with the host, property, and the price. We will definitely consider Airbnb in the future when we find a property that meets our needs.


An old standby for us is VRBO for renting homes. We use VRBO when we vacation at Hilton Head and houses are generally cheaper than hotels when you need to put a roof over more than four people.

We also prefer VRBO because many Airbnb listings are geared for couples, not families with small children. I will say in recent years, it seems VRBO has allowed more agencies to list which tend to throw in additional fees that aren’t reflected in the nightly rate.

WoodSpring Suites

If you are budget-conscious and still want a kitchenette, try out WoodSpring Suites. These are the cheapest extended stay hotels I have been able to find. And, they usually have pretty good ratings and are clean. The nightly rate for one room that sleeps four start at $52! That’s cheaper than most roach hotels!

To save money traveling, my wife and I often like to stay at Candlewood Suites because they belong to the IHG Hotel Rewards program (i.e. Holiday Inn Express) because they require fewer points and allow us to cook small meals on a stove top.


We didn’t realize there would be so much to do in the Queen City of Ohio. The Creation Museum and Ark Encounter were definitely our largest expenses, but, I highly recommend them if you want to learn about how the earth was formed, explore a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark, or bolster your Christian beliefs. There are plenty of other activities too that you can enjoy on the Ohio or Kentucky side of the river.

Related Articles

Planning your next family trip?

These two articles can help you travel without breaking the bank!

  • Save money before you travel: Financing Family Vacations
  • Save money while you travel: Financing Family Vacation (Part 2)
  • Travel Off-Season: Why We Take an Off-Season Vacation





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