Families can explore baseball, museums and other Queen City attractions.

Looking for a budget-friendly spring break escape? Cincinnati is less than a two-hour drive southwest from Columbus and makes for an action-packed, family-friendly getaway, whether you’re there for one day or several.

If you only have time for a day trip, make plans to catch the 100th Cincinnati Reds Opening Day Parade on March 28, paired with the season opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park. Or, for a later trip, go to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden for Zoo and Blooms in April, Zoo Babies in May and educational programs throughout the spring.

An overnight trip to Cincinnati is the best way to take in some of the top attractions and enjoy the food and neighborhoods that give the Queen City its character. Plan a visit with this sample itinerary.

DAY 1

The Cincinnati Museum Center
1301 Western Ave., Cincinnati; 513-287-7000; cincymuseum.org

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily

Cost: Basic admission is $14.50 for adults, $10.50 for children ages 3-12, $5.50 for ages 1-2, free for infants

The Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is a must-see for families. The grand art deco building is a historic train terminal converted into three venues: the Cincinnati History Museum, the Museum of Natural History & Science and the Duke Energy Children’s Museum. There is also an OMNIMAX Theater that screens films for an additional fee.

Basic “Discovery” passes allow visitors to travel between venues. The Cincinnati History Museum has living history exhibits with costumed interpreters, while the Children’s Museum features hands-on exploration of energy, gardening and nature with educational play exhibits. The Museum of Natural History focuses on dinosaurs and science through interactive experiences.

Parking areas are often busy, but it is rarely crowded inside, given the large size of the venue. Parents can find snacks at the Bean Sprouts café, which offers kid-friendly foods such as monster-shaped sandwiches and guacamole hummus decorated like an alligator.

Lunch at Skyline Chili
254 E. Fourth St., Cincinnati; 513-241-4848; skylinechili.com

For a true Cincinnati experience, stop by Skyline Chili, which was started in 1949 by Greek immigrant Nicholas Lambrinides, who named the restaurant for the view out the windows of his original (now closed) location. The menu is the same as you’ll find in Central Ohio, but it’s fun to eat like a local at the downtown Cincinnati restaurant. The best bet for parking is on the street or at the nearby garage.

Newport Aquarium
1 Dave Cowens Drive, Newport, Kentucky; 800-406-3474; newportaquarium.com

Hours: Varies seasonally, opening at 9 or 10 a.m. and closing at 6 or 7 p.m. daily

Cost: $25.99 for ages 13 and older, $17.99 for ages 2-12, free for younger children

Just across the bridge from downtown is the Newport Aquarium, located at the Newport on the Levee complex. The attraction has more than 60 exhibits and thousands of aquatic creatures. Visitors can check out five underwater tunnels or walk along the Shark Bridge. This year marks the aquarium’s 20th anniversary, so keep an eye out for special events, including Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles Reeftown Adventure, which allows kids to crawl through the Coral Cove and learn about the animals that live there.

Strollers are not permitted before 4 p.m., but free child carriers are available from guest services. Outside food and drinks are prohibited, but the on-site Sharky’s Café has refreshments.

Over-the-Rhine

Wind down the day in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, one of Cincinnati’s most vibrant and historic districts. Stop by Washington Park for the children’s playground and fountains, then walk a few blocks to The Rook OTR (1115 Vine St.), a board game parlor with more than 1,000 games plus a full-service restaurant. Street parking is limited, but grab a spot under Washington Park for a few hours for $3 to $5.

After dinner, take a spin on the SkyStar Observation Wheel at The Banks riverfront entertainment district nearby. The 150-foot-tall observation wheel is covered with 1 million colored LEDs and provides a panoramic view of the city. Tickets are $12.50, but check Groupon for a recurring offer of $40 for four riders. Note that the traveling attraction is scheduled to leave town June 16.

DAY 2

Breakfast at Taste of Belgium
16 W. Freedom Way, Cincinnati; 513-396-5800; authenticwaffle.com

Head to Taste of Belgium in The Banks to fuel up for the day. Try an authentic Belgian waffle, Waffle & Chicken, crêpes or other morning fare.

Smale Riverfront Park
West Mehring Way, Cincinnati; mysmaleriverfrontpark.org

Spend a few hours at Smale Riverfront Park, a revitalized green space along the river. Visit the P&G Go Vibrantscape play area, where kids can enjoy the giant foot piano, and check out the hand-carved carousel, fountains, rose garden and riverfront swings.

Bike Across the Purple People Bridge
traillink.com/trail/newport-southbank-bridge-(purple-people-bridge)

Rent a Red Bike at The Banks near Smale Riverfront Park and pedal from one state into another on the Purple People Bridge. The pedestrian-only span, officially called the Newport Southbank Bridge, opened in 1872 to connect Newport on the Levee in Kentucky with Sawyer Point in Cincinnati. Bike rentals are $8; learn more at cincyredbike.org.

Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum
100 Joe Nuxhall Way, Cincinnati; 513-765-7923; mlb.com/reds/hall-of-fame

Hours: 10 a.m. until two hours after afternoon games end; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. for night games; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. non-game weekend days. The museum is open seasonally.

Cost: $10 for adults, $8 for children, free for ages 4 and younger

The Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum is a great pregame activity for learning about history and seeing the largest such facility for any team in baseball. The museum has recently undergone significant renovations. Be sure to check out the kids clubhouse (ages 6 and younger) for a pint-sized locker room, team jerseys to try on and more. 

Catch a Reds Game
100 Joe Nuxhall Way, Cincinnati; 513-765-7000; mlb.com/reds

This year is the 150th anniversary of Major League Baseball’s Cincinnati Reds, so Great American Ball Park will have action, giveaways and special events throughout 2019. A Reds game is one of the more iconic experiences in Cincinnati. Game times vary, as do ticket prices.

Plenty of standard ballpark fare is available—plus Skyline and local favorites LaRosa’s Pizza and Montgomery Inn—for lunch or dinner before heading home.