Send It Cincinnati: Queen City’s Best Outdoor Experiences

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Built along rolling hills and a lazy river, Cincinnati promises urban adventures for everyone. The Queen’s 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 of the epic Ohio-Erie Multi-Use Trail, connecting Cincinnati to Cleveland on the Erie Coast.

Ways to spend time outdoors in Cincinnati range from riverside biking and hikes in the forest to beach volleyball at local craft breweries. Here are eight of our favorite outdoor activities in Cincinnati, with something for all levels 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 have a moment in Ohio, and the Ohio-to-Erie Long Distance Trail, completed in 2017, is the best way to join this revolution in pedal power. From south to north, the trail connects the Ohio River in Cincinnati to Lake Erie on the Cleveland waterfront, a 326 mile course. Following old railroad tracks and historic canal paths, this largely off-street adventure, known as Route 1, is a big hit with cyclists, but even skaters, hikers, horse riders and families. with strollers can enjoy the mostly asphalt trail.

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

From there you can walk along the riverbank and follow Route 1 for five miles to local legend Eli’s BBQ, a very popular, no-frills outdoor barbecue by the water. After lunch, return for a baseball game or stop at the Moerlein Lager House Brewery, located just behind Smale Riverfront Park. Rent bikes through the Cincinnati Bike Share Program, Red bike, with a convenient bike station at Smale Riverfront Park (day passes cost $ 10).

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

Hike in the forest of Mont Airy

Covering 1,459 acres of forest, Mount Airy Forest is not only one of the best parks in town, it is also the setting for Cincinnati’s best hiking trails. More than a dozen trails crisscross this dense and quiet forest, located just 13 kilometers from the city center. With no trails exceeding four miles, Mt Airy Forest is great for beginners, but the interconnected trail system gives more experienced hikers the flexibility to customize their own heart workouts. Weekdays and mornings are the quietest times for hiking, although the Mount Airy forest remains relatively uncrowded, even on weekends.

The forest of Mount Airy also includes the only Americans with Disabilities Act ADA Compliant Treehouse Everybody’s Treehouse with raised shelters connected by wheelchair-friendly raised 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 provide a place to relax and meet the four-legged residents of Cincinnati. Public toilets are available near the treehouse and the playground.

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

Mountain biking in Devou park

Northern Kentucky Devou Park, a hilly getaway across the river from Cincinnati, features over 700 acres of outdoor adventure, with one of the area’s newest mountain bike trail systems. The network includes miles of backcountry roads, with gentle rock features and climbs of over 200 vertical feet. Most of the trails are two-way and stretch for one to two miles. The mile-long Incinerator Trail is possibly the park’s most popular attraction. Rent bikes at the Devou Park Visitor Center; rates range from $ 6 to $ 20 per hour.

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

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 Fifty West Brewery is as passionate about outdoor fun as he is about delicious foam. In 2016, the Fifty West team transformed 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 courtyard, with the famous Coast-to-Coast IPA and Doom Pedal white ale among the most popular beers.

The courts are mainly reserved for local league games during the week, but from Friday to Sunday they are available on a first come, first served basis. If you can’t snag a volleyball court, try your hand at pickleball or cornhole (throwing bean bags filled with corn at a hole in a wooden board). You can also organize kayak trips through Fifty West Canoe and Kayak (contact them for the latest timetables 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 activities, starting with its flagship offering: paddling around an 85-acre lake.

In fact, the name “whitewater” is misleading: the lake is serene, tranquil, and ideal for families or novice 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 gear 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, paddleboards, powerboats, four-seater pedal boats, and hydrobikes, for periods of one to six hours. If you have your own canoe or kayak, you can launch out 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 hippo, Fiona, are just the most well-known residents of Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. The zoo has 580 animal species and more than 3,000 plant species in its 75 acres, with well-appointed enclosures suitable for enrichment. This is 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 refreshments abound, with by far the best views (and best beers) at Hops, a craft beer garden serving local beers and bites overlooking kangaroo and penguin habitats. You can also test your climbing skills at the new Kanga ‘Klimb, an aerial adventure course with multiple platforms. Parking is available on the zoo grounds.

Picking strawberries
Picking strawberries is the taste of summer © Shutterstock / Julia Zavalishina

Go pick berries at a local farm

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

Tickets are required for events such as Fall on the Farm; you can buy them online or upon arrival at the property. Year-round, farm-fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, and handcrafted housewares are on sale in the Market Barn store.

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

Camp on a horse ranch

With the Keeneland Race Track just down the road in Lexington and the Kentucky DerbyNearby 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 equestrian life is to stop or stay at 40 acres Misty Ridge Farm, just 10 miles from downtown Cincinnati.

This northern Kentucky getaway offers everything from two-hour family and beginner horseback rides to overnight stays in the on-site inn (which can accommodate up to eight people) and campgrounds dotted around the property. Tent sites are available along the farm’s creek or on top of an 800 foot hill with panoramic views. Campfires are allowed here, as are pets, although space is limited and advance reservation is required.


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