* This post is in partnership with Ohio. Find It Here.
Cincinnati is just 3 hours away from Toledo, but there are many opportunities for adventures along the way. Making room in your travel schedule for spontaneity makes the drive even more fun. My travel buddies on this adventure to Cincinnati were my mom and my daughter. We had a few things planned but we were flexible. We love to discover and happen upon activities and places to eat.
Our travels started with an open road and a curious mind. We headed down 75 north with the GPS set to our Airbnb in downtown Cincinnati. Let’s go!
About 1 hour and 20 minutes down the road we noticed signage for the Armstrong Air & Space Museum. We had never been there so we got off the exit to check it. The Armstrong Air & Space Museum is located in Wapakoneta, Ohio, the hometown of aviator and astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon.
The museum features artifacts of Apollo 11 commander Neil Alden Armstrong’s life and career, as well the Gemini and Apollo spacesuits he wore on his NASA missions. It’s just a great display of history in one building. We really enjoyed our impromptu visit.
We continued our trip down I-75 until we reached Dayton, Ohio where we saw signs for Cox Arboretum Metroparks. We quickly googled it and decided that was a great place to check out and take a small break from driving. Cox Arboretum Metroparks is one of 18 parks in the Five Rivers MetroParks system.
The park sits on 174-acres and features nature trails, specialty gardens, beautiful trees, and an array of flowers in bloom. This place was so peaceful and serene. I could have stayed there for hours.
When we were planning our trip, we knew that we wanted to try to get a couple of stops in from the Butler County Donut Trail. My daughter loves donuts so she was the most excited about this stop. Before heading into Cincinnati we stopped in Middleton, Ohio to visit Central Pastry Shop and get our first passport stamp. Everything looked so tasty!! We decided to try the Apple Fritter, the CPS Ugly, and their Fried Danish. Oh, what a treat that was!
The Apple Fritters were filled with so many apples and the perfect amount of cinnamon. The outside had that nice crunchy body. Yum! The CPS Ugly was one of their featured donuts for the Butler County Donut Trail. It was like a cake donut/fritter hybrid. It was most amazing and nothing like I’ve ever had. Lastly, the Fried Danish, twisted donut dough fried to perfection then coated with glaze. So much yum! After enjoying our tasty treats, we headed to our Airbnb in downtown Cincinnati to rest up for the next day’s adventures.
Our first official day of adventure in Cincinnati started with a morning walk to Freedom Park to get a photo of the “Sing the Queen City” sculpture. This sculpture by Tommy Sheehan, was placed along the Cincinnati waterfront in 2015. The words “Sing the Queen City,” is a line from the last stanza of the poem “Seven Hills and a Queen to Name Them.” In the early 1800s, Cincinnati exploded as a center of arts and commerce, causing locals to start calling it “The Queen City” and “The Queen of the West”.
The next stop was right across the street to Taste of Belgium for their classic Liege Waffle. The story of this famed waffle began in 2007 when Jean-François Flechet brought back a 120lb cast iron waffle maker from his native Belgium. After much success selling his waffles, he eventually opened several locations and quickly became a Cincinnati favorite.
These waffles are something special. They’re made with yeast dough rather than a batter-like traditional American waffles. The dough is mixed with a very coarse sugar called pearl sugar. As the waffle bakes the sugar caramelizes on the inside of the waffle. There is really no need for syrup. It’s very tasty. I also ordered a latte that was the perfect accompaniment to the waffle.
Next on our Cincinnati adventure tour was to Skyline Chili for another local specialty. Skyline Chili is known for their Cheese Coneys, a hot dog in a steamed bun with mustard, covered with their original secret-recipe chili, diced onions, and a mound of shredded cheddar cheese. Unlike what most people consider chili, Skyline Chili is made of just meat, spices, and water. The chili was more of a sauce to me. Maybe because I like beans in my chili. I thought it was pretty good. They got major points for the mountain of cheese on top. Yessss.
The Foundation Square District was our next destination. We walked a couple of blocks where we found the Tyler Davidson Fountain. The fountain was dedicated in 1871 and was meant to rival the great fountains in Europe. It features the Genius of Water who is flowing with water representing the blessings of water. The fountain is centrally placed in the square along with space for seating and areas for events. It’s a great place to enjoy your lunch or ice cream from Graeter’s Ice Cream shop, located right in the square.
Graeter’s Ice Cream had its humble beginnings in 1870, serving their ice cream from a cart in a Cincinnati market. One hundred and fifty years later Graeter’s is still family-owned and operated and still serving delicious scoops of ice cream. What sets them apart from most ice cream shops is their unique French Pot process. The process makes a more dense and creamy ice cream that is truly delightful. I ordered their most famous flavor, Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip. It was rich, decadent, and absolutely delicious.
Next, we hopped on the Cincinnati Bell Connector and headed to Macaron Bar for another sweet treat. The Macaron Bar, founded in 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio, specializes in French macarons and macaron baking classes.
As soon as you set foot into the shop your nose is invaded by the aroma of fresh macarons baking. I wanted to just buy everything! There were so many amazing flavors to choose from. I decided on the Earl Grey Macaron and thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved that you could watch the macarons being made right in front of you. It takes a very skilled baker to present a proper macaron and a proper macaron is exactly what I received.
We decided to head back to our Airbnb to rest a bit and to freshen up before continuing our Cincinnati adventures. Along the way, we saw so many amazing murals.
So after a quick rest, we headed back out. Since we had a few more hours of exploring to do we decided to check out a local coffee shop for a quick pick me up. Black Coffee Lounge provided just that. Located on the corner of Elm and West 9th Street, Black Coffee Lounge had a great selection of espresso beverages, teas, and juices.
They had this Vegan Chai Muffin that was ridiculously good. I wish I would have gotten three! The staff was warm and very accommodating. They are currently only taking orders to go but they have a great outside seating area where you can enjoy your coffee.
My daughter wanted to take a bike ride down by the riverfront and it was a beautiful day so we went to Smale Riverfront Park. In addition to the bike path with a beautiful view, the park features a playground, public art, and gardens. While my daughter rode up and down the riverfront, my mom and I took advantage of family-sized porch swings. It was so relaxing.
More amazing views of the Ohio River awaited us at the Eden Park Overlook. The view is so spectacular! It’s definitely worth the visit. While we were in the area we went to check out Art Climb at the Cincinnati Art Museum. The Art Climb is located at the corner of Gilbert Avenue and Eden Park Drive. Its purpose is to connect the community through casual and recreational art interactions outside the walls of the museum.
The flights of steps currently feature outdoor sculptures from the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & the Cincinnati Art Museum’s collection. While we were there we saw people utilizing the steps as a form of exercise but also noticed picnic tables that could be used as an eating area. The surroundings are so picturesque with lots of trees that provide natural shade from the sun. This was our last activity for the day. We were all exhausted but had agreed that it was a great day and couldn’t wait to see what exciting adventures tomorrow would bring.
After a most amazing previous day, we decided to start our day with a visit to Cream + Sugar Coffeehouse. This beautiful coffeehouse is situated in the center of the community, providing a welcoming place to engage through art, business, or just connecting with friends and family.
The shop is super cute and they have a great outside seating area perfect for enjoying the weather while sipping on an espresso beverage. Their Sweet Potato Latte caught my eye and I just had to order it. It was delicious! My daughter ordered one of their fruit smoothies and that was great as well. Mom had an iced latte which she also enjoyed.
Next, on to brunch at Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey. Ever since this restaurant opened I’ve been plotting a visit to it. I have watched Owner and Executive Chef Christian Gill’s winning journey through many Food Network competitions. He was just fun to watch with his larger-than-life personality. When I found out about Boomtown Biscuits and Whiskey, two of my favorite things, I knew I had to visit. I was very excited to be finally eating here.
The restaurant wasn’t even open for 30 minutes and it was already full. That’s a great sign of positive things to come. Our waitress was the best. She informed us of all the goodies that we should order. All of her suggestions were on point. We ended up ordering the Trail Pickings, a selection of butter, jams, jellies, and pickles, for our appetizer.
I ordered the Yukon, a biscuit sandwich made with Fried Chicken, Sawmill Gravy, Smoked Cheddar, Bacon, and an Over Easy Egg. Sage ordered Aunt Sally’s Shrimp, a Thai-inspired Lemongrass Shrimp, Coconut Chili Gravy, Smoked Cheddar Grits, and Diced Country Ham. Mom chose the Fool’s Gold, a cast iron plate filled with Two Biscuits, Two Eggs, Bacon, and Sawmill Gravy. EVERYTHING was delicious!! It was truly an amazing dining experience.
Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey was in a super neighborhood so we decided to walk around and explore before heading to our next destination. We stumbled upon a very cool barbershop that was also an art gallery. Gallery at Gumbo features a diverse collection of art from local and regional artists. While you’re there enjoying the art, you can get a great haircut. The shop focuses on the importance of inclusiveness and does not tolerate divisions in gender, race, or sexual orientation.
What I loved most about Cincinnati was there were colorful murals everywhere! I wanted to stop every chance I got to capture it all.
The last stop of the day was to Findlay Market. Findlay Market’s beginnings started in the 19th and early 20th century and is Ohio’s oldest surviving municipal market house. Today Findlay Market is a vibrant living landmark in the heart of Cincinnati. If you’re looking for local food and artisan products, this is the place.
We went on a Wednesday so there weren’t as many vendors as there are on the weekends. Yet it was still bustling with customers looking to support local businesses. While we were there we did some shopping at some of the local shops and even got to taste a popular Cincinnati sausage called Goetta from Ekerlin Meats.
Goetta is a mixture of meat and grain that is formed into sausage patties and then fried. It had great flavor and I love the crispness of the outside. Another place we wanted to check out was The Arepa Place. After serving food on the weekends from a pop-up tent, Colombia native, Isis Arrieta-Dennis, opened her first brick-and-mortar at Findlay Market in October 2018.
The Arepa Place specializes in traditional Colombian-made arepas. They also serve empanadas made with freshly ground corn. We ordered an arepa filled with chicken and one filled with beef. It was a very tasty bite. Great seasoning on the chicken and the beef. Delicious!
While we were sitting eating out arepas we noticed that Kanji Sushi & Korean Cuisine was celebrating their grand opening. Sage got excited because it was a sushi restaurant. She loves sushi! During their grand opening, all sushi was half off so we walked across the street to check it out. The restaurant is very nice! We ordered a couple of sushi rolls to go and headed back to the outside seating area at Findlay Market. The sushi was very good and the highlight of Sage’s day. She has been wanting sushi for a while now.
We saved room for one last treat before leaving Findlay Market and paid a visit to Dojo Gelato. I got the Baked 2.0, a sweet cream gelato with pastry pieces, and blackberry jam. So yummy! The perfect end to a fun-filled day.
Thursday we packed our bags and checked out of our amazing Airbnb. Before hitting the road we decided to get breakfast. We found a spot right up the street called The Sleepy Bee. When we arrived it was pretty busy but we didn’t wait very long for a table. The menu was full of dishes that sounded so good. It seemed that just about anything we ordered would be good. I especially loved that restaurant had a barista. We all ordered lattes. Our food was excellent and our waitress was very attentive. Another great dining experience in the books!
Earlier in the week I, noticed an art gallery in downtown Cincinnati that had an exhibit wanted to see so we stopped by the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery to check it out. The current exhibition, “Material Message: Photographs of Fabric is a group exhibition of photographers curated by Marcella Hackbardt (Mt. Vernon, OH) responding to fabric’s aesthetic, formal, and conceptual potential, exploiting the medium’s malleability to construct messages ranging from notions of the veil to reveries of memory.” Every piece was mesmerizing. I really enjoyed it.
We finally get on the road and decide that we have time for one more adventure. We set the GPS for the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum. Pyramid Hill is one of the very few sculpture parks in the United States. It sits on 335 acres and features more than 60 monumental contemporary sculptures. This park is truly a gem. I’m only showing you a few pictures because you should really see them for yourself.
Our Cincinnati trip was a success! We enjoyed every moment. We had a plan yet we were spontaneous, which made it even more exciting. We will be back very soon to do some more exploring. Thank you Cincinnati! ❤️