Looking for a family vacation that your teenagers won’t groan about? Look no further than Cincinnati, where you can find a variety of exciting experiences that will keep your teens engaged and entertained. From sampling world-famous chili to exploring historic neighborhoods, this guide highlights five unforgettable Cincinnati experiences for teens that will create lasting memories for your family. So, pack your bags and prepare for a trip your teens will never forget!
Get your chili fix at Skyline Chili
When I think of Cincinnati, one of the first things that comes to mind is Cincinnati chili. Skyline and Goldstar seem to be the two front runners in the battle for the best Cincinnati-style chili, and while we were in town, we checked out Skyline Chili.
Locals will tell you that Skyline Chili is a must-try dish when visiting Cincinnati, and they’re not wrong. The unique blend of spices makes it different from any other chili you’ve tasted. Your family can choose to have it over spaghetti or hot dogs, and it doesn’t matter which way you choose; it’s delicious either way.
The classic Skyline Chili is a secret recipe that hasn’t changed since its introduction in 1949. And, if you’re wondering why it’s called Skyline, it’s because the founder wanted to create a restaurant that offered stunning views of the city’s skyline. So, be sure to enjoy the chili while taking in the view!
Skyline Chili has become a Cincinnati institution and a favorite among locals and visitors alike. With locations all over the city, there’s no excuse not to try it. Don’t be surprised if your family starts craving Skyline Chili long after your trip to Cincinnati ends. Nick ordered his as the “5-Way” – steaming spaghetti covered with chili, diced onions, beans, and a mound of shredded cheddar cheese.
Step back in time at Over-the-Rhine
While Cincinnati offers plenty of modern attractions, there’s also an opportunity to step back in time at Over-the-Rhine. This neighborhood’s stunning architecture and eclectic shops are a reminder of Cincinnati’s past. Walking through the area’s lively streets, you’ll see buildings that date back to the 1800s and get a sense of what life was like in the city decades ago.
We did a walking tour with American Legacy Tours, and I cannot recommend it enough! We started in Washington Park (pic on the left), on the grounds of the Cincinnati Music Hall (which is most definitely haunted!). In the 17-1800s, this area was a graveyard. Following a cholera outbreak that killed 10% of the population, people were told to move their loved ones to cemeteries further outside the city.
At the time, people thought that all the deaths were due to toxic gasses released from the bodies (because cholera hadn’t been discovered yet). Most people didn’t move their loved ones; instead, the city dumped three feet of dirt over the graves and created a park.
Then we made our way through the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood on the north edge of downtown Cincinnati. Germans settled in this area during the mid-1800s. They had to cross the Miami and Erie Canal that ran through the city to get downtown to work. The canal was nicknamed the Rhine, and the German neighborhood north of the canal became Over-The-Rhine. This neighborhood is now home to the country’s most extensive collection of 19th-century Italianate architecture.
Get Underground and explore the Hidden side of Cincy
As part of our Ultimate Queen City Underground tour with American Legacy Tours, we also went… yep, you guessed it… underground! As a German neighborhood, beer was king in Over-The-Rhine. In fact, in the Cincinnati area, people drank nearly three times as much beer annually (40-50 gallons!) as the national average. Beer was cleaner (safer!) than the water! At its peak, OTR had more than 130 bars, saloons, and breweries.
Beer production was big in OTR, and most of the beer was consumed within about a mile of where it was brewed. While making ale in this area was easy, lager (the preferred choice!) was more complicated since it requires a constant 40-45° temp during the aging and fermenting process. The brewers built tunnels under the city to keep the lager at the correct temperature.
These massive lagering tunnels – part of the Kaufmann Brewery – were used to brew and store beer 30 feet below ground in the late 1800s.
Because lager must be kept at 40-45° for the aging and fermenting process, it was only brewed from autumn to spring. Large blocks of ice were used to lower the temperature in the tunnels, and cold water ran through the copper pipes to help as well.
However, in 1905, the Kaufmann tunnels were rendered obsolete after the advent of modern refrigeration. They were filled with trash and debris and remained that way for almost 100 years.
In the mid-1990s, the tunnels were rediscovered when the building above was being renovated. In fact, the hole we entered through was the one the developer made with a jackhammer late one night, looking to see what was below the building. Crews hauled out several tons of debris, so now some of the tunnels are cleared and accessible.
Check out all the neon at the American Sign Museum
The largest public museum dedicated to signs in the United States, the American Sign Museum is a must-do when exploring with teens. It doesn’t take long to explore fully – I’d allow about an hour, but it is definitely a fun stop.
The museum covers more than 100 years of American sign history, and you can walk through the different stages of technology and design.
Our favorite area was “Main Street USA” with signs from a typical Main Street in the height of the neon era. Public tours are available on Saturdays at 12:30 and 2:30pm and Sundays at 2:30pm. Otherwise, there’s an online audio tour, or you can just stroll through the museum at your own pace.
Brush up on history at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Brush up on your history and learn about the brave men and women who risked their lives to help enslaved people escape to freedom. This museum is an important reminder of America’s past and the ongoing struggle for equality. The National Underground Railroad Museum is a must-visit for teenagers who want to learn about the history of slavery and the brave heroes who risked their lives to help the enslaved escape to freedom.
The museum offers a wealth of information about the Underground Railroad’s history and its routes. Visitors can immerse themselves in the exhibits and learn about the journey that so many slaves took to escape from bondage. Through photos, videos, and interactive displays, the museum educates visitors about the importance of the Underground Railroad in shaping American history.
What’s more, the museum also hosts special events and programs, so there’s always something new to discover during your visit. Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for an educational experience, the National Underground Railroad Museum is an excellent option for teenagers.
A visit to this museum is a somber reminder of the atrocities that slavery inflicts, even to this day. It’s a reminder of how far America has come and how much more work needs to be done in the ongoing struggle for equality. We were there for about two hours and did not have time to see it all. I’d allow closer to 4 hours to see everything and watch most of the movies.
Bonus Cincinnati Experiences for Teens
If you still have time to explore Cincinnati, here are a few more ideas!
Stop by Graeters for the best ice cream around
For some of the best ice cream you’ll ever have, stop by Graeter’s, a popular Cincinnati chain. For over 150 years, Graeter’s has been serving ice cream in Cincy, and they’ve perfected how to make ultra-creamy ice cream. Their black cherry chocolate chip is my fave!
Catch a game at Great American Ball Park
Another must-see attraction for teens visiting Cincinnati is catching a game at Great American Ball Park. Home to the Cincinnati Reds, this stadium offers a unique and exciting experience for sports enthusiasts. With a capacity of over 42,000 fans, the energy and excitement in the air is palpable.
Besides the game itself, visitors can explore the stadium and take in the views of the Ohio River and the city skyline. For an even more immersive experience, consider booking a guided tour of the stadium, which includes a visit to the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.
Set Sail on the Ohio River
We didn’t have time to do a boat trip while we were in town, but I would jump all over doing one of these, especially the sunset cruise.
Cincinnati offers an array of activities for families with teens, from exploring historic neighborhoods to getting immersed in history. Don’t miss out on these one-of-a-kind experiences that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on your teens as they get a taste of the city’s unique culture and history. Plan your trip today – check out a few of these Cincinnati experiences for teens, and get ready to make memories that will last a lifetime. Have you visited Cincinnati, Ohio? It was a surprisingly fun stop for us and one I’d highly recommend with teens!
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