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Over 30 Free Things to do in Cincinnati

Aerial image of the Bengals stadium and Cincinnati skylinePin

Whoever said you can’t have fun without spending money hasn’t read this post where I’ll cover 30+ free things to do in Cincinnati.

After growing up here and spending over 30 years of my life getting to know the area I’m uniquely positioned to provide budget conscious locals and visitors with advice on some of the best free activities to enjoy in town.

Sure it’s fun to attend a Reds game, go to a movie or hang out with friends at your favorite brewery. But all of these activities require money, money, money and sometimes it’s nice to make it through the weekend without burning up every last dollar you earned while working that week.

In this post I’ll cover a wide range of activities from fan favorite seasonal events like the WEBN fireworks, places where you can watch free movies, some of Cincinnati’s most scenic viewpoints, and everything in between!

You’ll notice some links and advertisements from partner or affiliate sites throughout this post. I typically earn a small commission on any purchases made through those links at no additional cost to you. If you check those out, great. If not, I’m still happy you’re here! 

Visit the Cincinnati Museum Center (free on certain days)

The Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) is a fantastic destination for those seeking a fun and free activity in the city. On select free admission days, visitors can explore the center’s numerous exhibits, including the Children’s Museum, the Cincinnati History Museum, and the Museum of Natural History & Science. 

Not only are the exhibits fun and educational but the museum is set inside the impressive Union Terminal building which was used as a train station that once serviced Cincinnati dating back to the 1920s.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve enjoyed visiting the CMC and free admission days are a great way to visit without breaking the bank. To keep an eye out for these dates I’d suggest heading over to the CMC website and subscribing to their e-mail list to ensure you never miss a date announcement!

Enjoy Cincinnati’s greatest tradition, the Reds Opening Day Parade

The Opening Day Reds Parade is a beloved Cincinnati tradition that marks the beginning of the baseball season. The Cincinnati Red Stockings are known as the oldest professional baseball franchise and the city always turns up in full support of their home team on Opening Day.

This fun and free event brings together fans and community members to celebrate the city’s rich baseball history and the excitement of a new season. The parade features an array of floats, marching bands, and local celebrities, creating a lively and festive atmosphere.

Golden hour shot of Great American Ball Park in CincinnatiPin

The area surrounding Fountain Square is one of the most popular places to catch a glimpse of the parade. As the actual game start time approaches, many celebrants will work their way down to the Banks area near the river to watch and party all day long.

Tailgate for a Bengals game then watch it at Fountain Square

It’s no secret that attending professional sporting events can get expensive quickly and NFL games are no exception.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t find budget friendly ways to take in the energy and atmosphere of these events.

The best Bengals tailgates are had at the Longworth Hall parking lot, located on the west side of the stadium, but you’ll find rowdy crowds in every direction. Park Downtown at a meter before walking your way over to the lot. 

BYOB and pack a small cooler with some food and enjoy your time getting rowdy with tens of thousands of die hard Bengals fans before the game!

Once kickoff time approaches grab your things and make your way up to Fountain Square where you can watch the game on a large screen that overlooks the square. 

Just don’t forget to wear your orange and black. Who Dey!!

Explore the University of Cincinnati campus

Taking a walking tour of the University of Cincinnati (UC) is an excellent free activity that allows visitors to explore the stunning campus and learn about its history. With its beautiful architecture and picturesque green spaces, the university offers an array of sights and experiences that can be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. 

Nippert stadium, home to the University of Cincinnati Football team, is located in the heart of campus. If you’re lucky, you’ll pass through while the team is practicing and you can grab a seat anywhere in the stadium to watch!

UC’s campus is located minutes north of Downtown Cincinnati in the Clifton area. Just don’t forget to wear red and black!

Watch live horse racing at Belterra Park

The thrill of live horse racing can be experienced for free at Belterra Park in Cincinnati. The track is located just off I-275 along the Ohio River, near Coney Island and Riverbend.

Though betting is optional, simply observing the races and soaking in the atmosphere is a fun experience in itself. With food and beverage options available on-site, you can make a fun-filled day out of your visit to Belterra Park without risking a dime!

People watch at the Hard Rock Casino

While gambling at the Hard Rock Casino itself isn’t a free activity, it won’t cost you a penny to get in. The casino is conveniently located Downtown and offers free parking options.

With live music performances, themed nights, and special promotions, there’s always something happening at the casino. 

Keep an eye out for entertainment events passing through the casino at their website. You’re always free to browse the Hard Rock Casino memorabilia on display or watch sporting events at their sports book & restaurant!

Hang out at Rhinegeist Brewery

Located in OTR, the Rhinegeist Brewery offers a unique and enjoyable experience for beer enthusiasts and casual visitors alike. The massive taproom is free and open to the public, allowing guests to explore the expansive space, enjoy a game of corn hole or one of the many events that pass through the venue without spending a penny.

Stop by on select game days and you’ll find a fun place to watch FC Cincinnati or the Bengals compete with tons of other locals. And don’t forget that for amazing city views, the brewery boasts a panoramic rooftop beer garden!

I’ve been frequenting Rhinegeist Brewery ever since their doors opened and it’s one of my all time favorite places in Cincy to hang out and enjoy great beer. 

Enjoy the Ohio River at Smale Park

The first sections of Smale Park were opened to the public during 2012 with the finishing touches being completed during 2015. Since then, Smale Park has both transformed and revitalized the prime real estate that exists in Downtown Cincinnati between the major sporting venues and the Ohio River.

This beautifully designed urban park offers a serene escape along the banks of the river, featuring lush green spaces, picnic areas, interactive fountains, adult swings, bicycle paths and playgrounds for children.

The park also boasts impressive views of the Roebling Suspension Bridge, making it a hotspot for local photographers.

I’ve enjoyed many evenings down at Smale Park with my camera, riding through on a red bike or enjoying one of the many free events that pass through the space.

In 2024 Smale was named the best river walk in the United States by USA Today!

Check out free events at Fountain Square

Fountain Square is at the heart of Cincinnati’s bustling downtown and offers a variety of free events that cater to all interests. From outdoor movie nights and live music performances to cultural festivals and holiday celebrations, there’s always something happening at the square.

Be sure to head over to Fountain Square’s official website to see what’s happening this week at the square!

Take in the street art throughout OTR

Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood is renowned for its historical buildings and captivating street art, making this a fantastic free and outdoor activity.

Consider starting off near the intersection of Court and Main Streets where you’ll find abundant parking. Head north along Main Street, up to Liberty Street which will take you through the heart of OTR.

Once you reach Liberty, head West and keep an eye out for the Ezzard Charles mural which is a tribute to the Cincinnati native who is renowned as one of the greatest boxers of all time.

You can find a full list of Downtown Cincinnati street art at the ArtWorks website.

If you’re more interested in a guided option where you can learn about each murals significance and the areas history, consider booking a guided walking tour.

Attend the world’s second largest Oktoberfest

Attending Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest, the world’s second-largest celebration of its kind, is a fun and free way to experience the city’s rich German heritage. This annual event draws huge crowds from all over the world and features a wide range of activities, including live music, traditional dancing, and delicious German cuisine.

Individual event activities can vary each year but two fan favorite free festival to dos are the chicken dance and running of the Weiner dogs! 

Even though the festival is referred to as Oktoberfest, it typically takes place in mid-September so be sure to mark your calendar accordingly.

Enjoy city views from the north at Bellevue Park

For stunning city views from the north, head to Bellevue Park in Cincinnati’s Clifton area. The park’s elevated location provides panoramic views of the city skyline making it an ideal spot for photography enthusiasts or simply those looking to appreciate the beauty of Cincinnati. 

Girl sitting at Bellevue park overlooking CincinnatiPin

The park is located near the University of Cincinnati campus so don’t be surprised if you encounter students hanging out here during your visit. Pack a picnic or bring some cold drinks to enjoy while you take in some of the best skyline views in all of town!

Catch city views from the west at the Incline District

To enjoy spectacular views of Cincinnati from the west, make your way to the Incline District. Named after the historic incline railways that once transported residents up the steep hillside, this area offers a unique vantage point of the city. 

While you can enjoy the vista views for free, consider popping into the nearby Incline Public House restaurant which is one of my favorite local spots. From here you can enjoy the epic views while sipping a cold beer or enjoying a slice of their delicious pizza!

Enjoy city views from the east at Mt Adams

Mt Adams is a quiet and charming neighborhood known for its prominent location that overlooks Cincinnati’s Downtown business district.

The area is home to cultural sites such as the Krohn Conservatory and Cincinnati Art Museum but it’s also one of my favorite places in town to enjoy city views!

Views from Mount Adams overlooking Downtown Cincinnati during sunsetPin

My favorite viewpoints are near the old Rookwood Pottery building, just off Celestial Street or at the Church of The Holy Cross which sits on Guido street.

After taking in the views, head to Pavilion Street for a drink or bite to eat at one of the mainstay bars and restaurants.

Experience city views from the south at Devou Park

For those seeking city views from the Kentucky side of the river, Devou Park is the perfect destination. This hilltop park in Covington offers visitors a chance to enjoy panoramic views of Cincinnati’s skyline and the Ohio River. 

Devou Park also features a variety of amenities, including playgrounds, walking paths, a golf course, disc golf, and an amphitheater that hosts free events and concerts. If you’re interested in finding more to do here I’d suggest heading over to the official Devou Park website.

You could easily spend a full afternoon here playing disc golf, enjoying the walking paths and taking in sunset views all without spending a penny!

Hang out at Newport on the Levee

While there are plenty of bars, shops and restaurants to enjoy at Newport on the Levee, it also offers some of the best Cincinnati city views in the entire area.

During the summer is my favorite time to take a stroll across the Purple People Bridge, grab a cocktail at the DORA space on the levee and take in beautiful city views.

The levee is also known to host free live music events on the weekends during the summer so keep an eye out for those as well.

You’ll encounter tons of great seating options and free games like corn hole peppered throughout the levee during your visit.

Visit Washington Park for community events

Washington Park is a fantastic destination for free activities in Cincinnati. The park itself is home to a children’s splash pad, playground, dog park and beautiful green spaces with views of Music Hall’s architectural magnificence on full display throughout the area.

The park frequently hosts free events such as group yoga and movie night on its large lawn area. To stay up to date with all of the latest free park offerings head over to the Washington Park OTR website.

Walk across the Roebling Bridge

Walking across the historic Roebling Bridge is a fun and free activity that offers visitors a unique perspective of the Queen City and the Ohio River. As the prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge, the Roebling Bridge is an architectural marvel that holds an important place in American history. 

The pedestrian walkway allows you to take in the stunning views of the river and the city skyline while appreciating the bridge’s intricate design.

Aerial image of the Roebling Bridge lit up at nightPin

Whether you’re a history buff or simply seeking a leisurely stroll with picturesque views, a walk across the Roebling Bridge is one of my favorite Cincinnati past times.

If possible, time your visit so you can enjoy sunset views from the bridge just as the lights start to come on!

Go for a hike or frisbee golf at Mount Airy Forest

Mt. Airy Forest is located minutes west of Downtown Cincinnati just off Colerain Road. This beautiful green space offers hiking trails through dense forests, picnic areas and a disc golf course.

It’s the largest forested park space in the area immediately surrounding Downtown. For years this has been a go to of mine when I want to trade the hustle bustle of living in the city for a peaceful afternoon hiking in the woods.

The park area is free to access so all you’ve gotta do is show up!

Chip and putt for free at CRC golf courses

The Cincinnati Recreation Commission (CRC) golf courses provide a wonderful opportunity for both beginners and experienced golfers to sharpen their skills without breaking the bank. 

All of the CRC courses around town have a practice green located near the club house which is free to use. Just bring your own clubs and balls and you can spend as much time as you’d like honing your short game without spending a penny.

Don’t have golf clubs? A lot of courses will loan out clubs if you leave an ID with them as a safety deposit. Just be sure to call ahead to ensure they have clubs available for this.

Walk or bike at Lunken

The Lunken Playfield, with its beautiful and extensive network of paved trails, is a haven for walkers, joggers, and cyclists alike. The flat terrain and scenic surroundings make it an inviting space for people of all fitness levels to engage in their preferred form of exercise. 

Not only is this a great place to get some exercise, but given its proximity to Lunken Airport, you’ll be able to watch countless planes and helicopters taking off while you’re enjoying some fresh air.

Climb the stairs to the Church of the Holy Cross

Climbing the Mount Adams stairs to the Church of the Holy Cross is a great way to enjoy some of the best city views while knocking out some physical activity.

The stairs officially begin at a small area known as Riverview Park. This park is located near the Sawyer Point Pickleball Courts but is tucked away behind a condominium complex so it’s difficult to find if you aren’t looking for it.

Church of the Holy Cross at sunset in CincinnatiPin

The steps will lead you over a walking bridge that crosses Columbia Parkway, up the height of Mount Adams and to the front stoop of the Church of the Holy Cross which overlooks Downtown Cincinnati.

Attend Blink after dark

Attend Blink after dark is a one-of-a-kind, immersive art experience that transforms Cincinnati into a captivating canvas of light and color.

This biannual, free event showcases the power of creativity through large-scale light installations, projection mapping, and interactive displays that cover the city’s iconic buildings and streets. 

Drone show above Blink Cincinnati displayPin

The event reaches the far corners of Downtown Cincinnati and even dips into some of Northern Kentucky’s neighborhoods. Some of the notable activities include a huge opening parade, drone show, interactive games and indie style performances at Music Hall.

Be sure to check out the Blink Cincinnati website for future event dates.

Ride the street car

Cincinnati’s streetcar route connects popular destinations like The Banks, Over-the-Rhine, and Findlay Market, making it quick and easy to explore different parts of the city without spending a dime!

Explore Findlay Market

Findlay Market is Ohio’s oldest continuously operating public market and a historic gem nestled in the heart of Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. 

You’ll find a wide range of vendors setup in stalls around the perimeter, farmers selling produce, family owned restaurants, a number of small grocers and much more in this historic open air market.

Consider picking up some of your groceries for the week while you enjoy a free stroll through one of Cincinnati’s most iconic facilities.

As a pro tip – I’d suggest visiting during the week or first thing on the weekends to avoid parking headaches here. If the main lot behind the market is full, you’ll have to find street parking or a surface lot in the surrounding area which can be a pain! 

Riverfest and the WEBN fireworks

Riverfest and the WEBN fireworks are a beloved Cincinnati tradition. This annual event is held along the banks of the Ohio River and attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators who watch Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks detonate the sky into a million colorful pieces.

WEBN Riverfest fireworks display over Cincinnati at nightPin

I’ve been enjoying this event ever since I was a child living in Cincinnati and still mark my calendar each year for this free event of epic proportions. It’s typically held each year on the Sunday evening preceding Labor Day.

Visit the Loveland bike trail

The Loveland bike trail stretches over 70 miles (112 km), is part of the larger Little Miami Scenic Trail system and offers a well-maintained, paved path perfect for cycling, walking, and jogging. 

This bike trail winds along The Little Miami River and offers beautiful views of the river and surrounding wooded areas while you enjoy some exercise and fresh air. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the historic Loveland Castle while you’re passing through!

To truly make this a free activity you’ll need to supply your own bike or go for a jog instead. However, there are plenty of bicycle rental shops in the Loveland area if you need to rent one.

Get outside at East Fork Lake

East Fork Lake is located about 30 minutes east of Downtown Cincinnati and offers visitors a free way to enjoy an afternoon outdoors. Visitors can hike with their pets, fish, picnic and swim at the lakes beach all without spending a dime.

The park is also a popular area for boating and camping, but you’ll either need to provide your own boat or pay a fee to reserve a campsite if you’re interested in either of these activities.

This massive Ohio State Park spans approximately 7,500 acres so it will keep visitors coming back for more if they hope to see everything that the lake has to offer!

Enjoy views at Ault Park

Cincinnati has no shortage of beautiful hill top parks and panoramic viewpoints and Ault Park is another great example of this. The park is situated on the east side of Downtown and overlooks Lunken Municipal Airport.

You can reach the park by cutting through the Mount Lookout area. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Cincinnati Observatory which is located along the parks outskirts.

Ault Park boasts a beautiful pavilion at its highest point that makes for an incredible backdrop for portrait photography. Don’t be surprised if you see graduating students, couples or newlyweds taking photos in this area during your visit.

Throughout the year Ault Park hosts a variety of free events so be sure to check out their event calendar to stay on top of all the latest happenings here!

Go for a hike at Shawnee Lookout (free on certain days)

Going for a hike at Shawnee Lookout is a fun and free way to immerse yourself in the breathtaking natural beauty of Cincinnati’s landscape. I spent many weekends growing up wandering through the forests of Shawnee Lookout so this park holds a special place near and dear to me.

This scenic Hamilton County Park is rich with historical and archaeological significance that dates back to the Native Americans who once called this area home.

Located to the west of Downtown Cincinnati, the park bumps up against Ohio’s border with Indiana but is just a 30 minute drive from the city.

Normally visitors will require an annual Hamilton County vehicle pass to enter the park, but there are select community days where the entry fee is waived. These days occur (approximately) once a month but you’ll need to check with their official website to keep track of those dates. 

Check out the Cincinnati Art Museum

Located in Mount Adams, the Cincinnati Art Museum is a fun, free and educational way to spend an afternoon.

Entrance to the general art museum is free and boasts over 73,000 works of art spanning 6,000+ years of human history. Just be mindful that certain rotating exhibitions do require a paid entrance ticket.

The Cincinnati Art Museum is one of the best budget friendly ways to beat the summer heat in Cincy. 

Keep an eye out for free special events that the museum hosts such as Art After Dark, where you can visit the museum in the evening to survey the galleries and enjoy special performances by a variety of musical and dance professionals.

Play pickleball at Sawyer Point

Sawyer Point is a popular riverside park that features well-maintained pickleball courts, providing an inviting space for players of all skill levels to engage in one of the worlds fastest growing sports.

In addition to pickleball itself, Sawyer Point offers a variety of other recreational opportunities, such as walking trails, playgrounds, volleyball courts and picnic areas, ensuring a fun and fulfilling day for visitors of all ages. 

The courts offer a mix of open play and organized leagues that vary depending on the time of day and which day of the week. Be sure to check out the official Sawyer Point pickleball calendar to time your visit accordingly. 

Don’t forget your paddle!

Go plane spotting at CVG airport

Did you know that the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport has a dedicated plane viewing area? 

On the eastern end of the airport visitors will find a dedicated viewing area and parking lot that puts them directly underneath the flight path for one of CVG’s major runways.

This fun and free activity is a great way to spend an afternoon feeling the immense power of aircraft passing directly above you as they come in to land.

Check out these activities available in the Cincinnati area

Looking for more ways to fill out your trip to Cincinnati? Be sure to check out the list of activities below from GetYourGuide:

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What attracts people to Cincinnati?

Cincinnati is one of the Midwest’s hidden gems. The city boasts a mix of big city amenities such as professional sports teams, major museums, the world class Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens and an international airport.

Views of Downtown Cincinnati with the Roebling Bridge in focusPin

The city is well respected for its up and coming food scene as well as its wide range of craft breweries and cocktail bars.

People are attracted to Cincinnati since it offers locals everything you could want in a big metropolitan city but at reasonable prices and a more laid back, Midwest pace of life.

You can explore some of the different things that Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods have to offer here.

If you’re looking for help planning a trip to Cincinnati then drop me a line! I can help you find the perfect hotel or plan your trip to my hometown.

The Queen City has been home for over 30 years and I hope you find this carefully curated list of free things to do in Cincinnati helpful when planning your next weekend in town!

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