Family time… what is the first thing that pops into your head when you see those words? For me, it means special time just Shadrach, Logan, and I enjoying each other’s company uninterrupted. If I’m being honest, finding uninterrupted family time seems to be getting harder and harder. Life seems to be good at throwing distractions in our path, and before I know it, it’s been months, and we haven’t spent any quality time together.
Each year we set a family goal of spending one weekend a month getting out of the house and having quality time together. I must admit that this past year we have failed at this! It has not happened monthly. However, we were able to get in a weekend away this fall to one of our favorite cities!
It turned out to be the ultimate family weekend in Cincinnati, and I have to say I loved every minute of it! We live two hours away, which to me, is the perfect distance for a quick getaway. One of my rules for a weekend trip is that it must be three hours or less drive because I don’t want to spend all weekend in the car. We love it when there is a little bit of a road trip involved because, hello, road trip snacks! But really, when you have younger children, shorter road trips are just more enjoyable. So, Cincinnati meets this requirement for us, plus it’s an awesome place to visit as a family!
There is so much to do and see! More than you can fit into a weekend but on this adventure, we packed in as much as we could, and I’m so excited to share it all with you! Plus, if you make it to the end, there will be a printable itinerary with all the details, so you can plan your own family getaway.
After getting up and out the door (later than planned) we made it into Cincinnati around lunchtime. So, we decided before heading to any fun activities we needed to stop and get some lunch. I don’t know about you guys, but Shadrach gets hangry, and it makes a trip more enjoyable for everyone if we keep him fed. That leads me to our first stop on our ultimate family weekend.
Camp Washington Chili
One of the foods that Cincinnati is known for is their chili. So, what better way to kick off our trip than with a lunch trying some of the best in town at a restaurant that is a staple in Cincy. Camp Washington Chili is a fun restaurant that is open 24/6. Yep, you read that right, they are closed on Sunday, but otherwise, you can eat there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner or whenever you get a hankering for chili.
One big thing that makes this family-friendly is that they have a kid’s menu! Logan was able to find a grilled cheese, (which ended up being one of four grilled cheese from our weekend). The food was good, and it was a great casual atmosphere. It turned out to be the perfect way to fuel up before heading to our next stop. Just be sure before you leave to check out the awesome Camp Washington Chili mural behind the restaurant!
Cincinnati Museum Center
One of our favorite things to do as a family is checking out museums. It is a big plus when they are kid friendly or have a children’s museum. As it happened our next stop was the Cincinnati Museum Center which has a children’s museum, along with three other museums, Omnimax theater, and special exhibits that change periodically (and you can learn more about all of that here.) For full disclosure, while we were there, the entire center was undergoing major renovations. That means we couldn’t see all it has to offer but what we were able to see was amazing!
We checked out the Duke Energy Children’s Museum and two special exhibits, one was all about chocolate, and the other was all about guitars. Let me just say, we did the two special exhibits first and they did a fantastic job making them family friendly. In both, there were plenty of hands-on exhibits that Logan loved checking out and they kept his attention.
Then we headed into the children’s museum, which is by far one of our favorite children’s museums. They have everything you can think of and is the perfect place to let your kiddo’s imagination run wild while running off energy.
We could have easily spent all day at the Cincinnati Museum Center, but we had a few other stops planned for the day, so we only spent a few hours. However, if you do decide to visit, you can check out hours and prices here! I know that I can’t give an honest opinion about the other museums inside the center, but if they are done as well as the two special exhibits and the children’s museums, then I can promise you won’t be disappointed.
Carew Tower and Observation Deck
After leaving the Cincinnati Museum Center, we headed to our hotel to get checked in, and just take a quick rest. (And don’t worry, I will share more about the awesome hotel later.) Then we headed to my absolute, hands-down, favorite place from the entire weekend, the Carew Tower and Observation Deck.
I know what you are thinking, it’s one of those cheesy touristy spots. Well, maybe you could look at it that way, but I must tell you all, the views were spectacular! It is worth embracing the whole tourist attitude and stopping for a look.
Just a few things to keep in mind. This is located downtown, so parking can be a little hairy. Be sure to look at a map of downtown ahead of time (which you can find at your hotel) and see where the parking is. We discovered that our GPS wouldn’t work for some odd reason and we ended up getting a little lost, but what is a trip without a little adventure (which is what I call it when we get lost.)
Once you find parking and get to the tower, you walk in and head to the elevators. In all honesty, I was a little nervous about the elevator ride because it was up 45 floors, and I wasn’t sure how long it would take. Well, as it turns out, it goes super-fast! Then once you get to the 45th floor, you get out, go around a corner and find yourself face to face with a very vintage elevator to take the last few floors to the top.
There is an option to walk up steps the last four floors, or you can take the tiny elevator (it had a max capacity of 4 people!), it’s up to you. In case you are wondering, we took the elevator, and it worked just find. Just keep in mind, that you will have a few stairs to walk up after the last elevator ride.
Once you get to the top, there is a little shop you walk through and pay (yes you must pay to go out on the deck). One big thing to keep in mind is that they only take cash, you can’t use your credit card to pay for tickets! So, go prepared or otherwise you’ve just enjoyed a fun elevator ride. One more thing I want to let you know about is that they do not allow you to take bags (like backpacks) out on the observation deck. You may want to leave it in the car if you don’t feel comfortable leaving it in the shop.
Once we finally made it out onto the deck, I completely forgot about everything else. We arrived around sunset, and the views were spectacular! It was amazing to see Cincinnati from this vantage point. All three of us ended up loving the Carew Tower and Observation Deck. Well, worth your time, I promise!
Americano Burger Bar
At this point, it was getting to be dinner time. Thankfully our next planned stop was just right around the corner from the Carew Tower. We headed to Americano Burger Bar and let me tell you, the food here is so good!
It turned out to be a great family friendly place to eat. There is a fun shuffleboard that you could play while you wait for your food, which is always a good thing when you have a wiggly child. I will say they did not have an actual children’s menu. However, when we asked, they do have a few options for kids. Keep in mind, this is a burger place, so most kids will eat a hamburger and fries, so a children’s menu isn’t necessary. If you do happen to have a picky eater like us, the few things they had were a life saver. They did have a grilled cheese (which ended up being grilled cheese #2 of 4), and Logan enjoyed that!
Overall, this place was great, and I can’t recommend it enough! The service was fantastic, and the food was so good. You can check out the menu and location here. Also, before you leave, be sure to look up at the ceiling for a fun little surprise.
Sporting Events or Parks
One of the great things about being in a big city, like Cincinnati, is that you have lots of options after dinner. Depending on the time of year you can go visit a park. One of our favorites is the Smale Riverfront Park, which is right down the road from Americano Burger Bar.
Or you can check and see what sports are going on and head to a game. We had the option of heading to the opening night of Cincinnati’s hockey team, the Cyclones. Or, depending on the time of year, you can check out the Cincinnati Reds (Baseball) or the Bengals (Football).
By the time we finished with dinner, it was getting close to 8 pm, and we were exhausted. So, we opted to head back to the hotel and relax since we knew the next day was going to be busy. However, if it had been a little warmer, and stayed lighter out longer, we probably would have headed to the park for a little bit. Just know, if you aren’t ready for the day to end after dinner, there are lots of options.
After getting a good night’s sleep, we woke up, grabbed some breakfast, and got ready for day two of quality family time exploring Cincinnati. And in full disclosure, in typical Ramnath family style, we ended up running about an hour later than planned, but it all worked out (which you can find out more about that from our videos)
Our first stop of day 2 is the Newport Aquarium, which is one of our favorite places in Cincinnati. It’s definitely one of those places you must time just right, or it can be super packed. However, this day was busy, but we were still able to enjoy it.
While we enjoy taking our time and looking at everything, there are a few things that we always make sure to stop and see. First stop is always the locations set up where you can touch starfish and various other sea creatures. There is also a place you can touch small sharks and another one where you can touch sting rays. We always take the time to stop and give Logan the option to touch these things. Sometimes he is brave and touches, other times, he just enjoys looking at them. Either way, it gives you and you your kiddos the opportunity to see these animals up close.
The next thing we always stop and see is the penguins. They are a favorite because they are so interesting to watch. Then all the 360 tunnels that you walk through and can watch all the fish and sharks all around you. Finally, our final favorite thing is the shark walk! There is something fun and adventurous about walking in a net tunnel above sharks. It never disappoints.
One more quick thing about Newport Aquarium is that occasionally they have special events and while we were there, they had mermaids and pirates throughout the aquarium. Logan loved the mermaids. So, check ahead of time to see if any special events are happening and plan your trip to include them because they make it just a little more special.
Tom + Chee
After checking out the Aquarium, we worked up quite an appetite and so our next stop was one of our favorite places in Cincinnati, Tom + Chee! They serve grilled cheese and tomato soup, which was the perfect comfort food for the rainy day that we were having. And there just happens to be a Tom + Chee right outside the aquarium, so we stopped in for lunch.
If you are keeping count, this turned out to be grilled cheese 3 of 4 for Logan on our trip, but I think it might have been the best! Also, if you get the chance to stop here for a meal, you need to try their signature grilled cheese donut. Shadrach gets one every time, and he loves it! It’s so rich but worth trying at least once.
Cincinnati Art Museum
After a quick lunch, our next stop was the Cincinnati Art Museum. I must be truthful, this stop made me really nervous because I have a child that loves to experience everything by touch. Art museums aren’t exactly known for being kid-friendly. So, before we even arrived at the museum, I was busy preparing Logan that he would not be allowed to touch anything!
I did do my research before our trip, and I knew that the Cincinnati Art Museum offered family programs and the Sunday that we were going to be there, they had art carts set up. So, as soon as we arrived and headed inside, we stopped at the front desk and asked them where the art cart was. They pointed us in the right direction, and we headed there first. Let me just tell you, if you can plan your visit around these special family events, please do! They are done on a regular schedule, and they help make the art museum fun and interactive for kids. Also, if needed to help keep your kiddos entertained, they have See Play Learn Kits that you can ask for at the front desk. You can read more about those here.
One of the big things to keep in mind about the Art Museum is it is huge! We spent three hours there and only made it through 1/3 of the museum. So, pace yourself and know if you have children, you probably won’t make it through the whole thing in your first visit. That’s okay though because this museum is FREE so you can head back another time.
Also, another thing to keep in mind is you must be careful about what you take pictures of. Look at the signs for each painting and piece of art because you are not allowed to photograph everything. We also discovered upon arrival that we couldn’t record any videos. Just a heads up before you go!
Overall, we ended up loving the Cincinnati Art Museum and will definitely be heading back the next time we get a chance. Especially since there is still so much to see and it’s free! It is a very family friendly place and worth taking your kids of any age!
The Rook – Cincinnati Board Game Parlor
At this point in our Sunday, we were getting kind of tired and needed a bit of a break. So, our next stop was The Rook, which is a Board Game Parlor downtown in the Over the Rhine district. It turned out to be the perfect stop for a rainy afternoon that allowed us to recharge.
The Rook has over 800 board games to choose from, and they range across all age groups and group sizes. We opted to play Mouse Trap (a little throwback to my childhood) per Logan’s request. The atmosphere is relaxed and fun. One thing to keep in mind though if you are going with children, this is technically a bar, and there is alcohol served. Since we were there at 3 pm on a Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t a problem for us. So just be aware of what time you are going if you have kids.
One more thing about this amazing place is that you can sit and play games as long as you like for free! However, they do ask that you order something to eat or drink; otherwise, they will charge you a $5 fee. We took that time to get something to drink and relax for about an hour. It was such a fun place and worth checking out!
Revolution Rotisserie and Bar
Our last stop of the evening was dinner at Revolution Rotisserie and Bar. Let me just say, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this place was so good! It turned out to be the perfect comfort food for a rainy cold Sunday evening. It turned out that we were the only people in the restaurant eating, which made for a nice quiet meal.
In case you were wondering from the name, rotisserie chicken is their thing. So if you aren’t a fan of chicken, this isn’t your place. But I will say both of the meals Shadrach and I got were amazing! We love chicken, and they did not disappoint. Logan, however, at his fourth grilled cheese of the weekend. They did have a kids menu and crayons which made this place very family friendly! If you find yourself in the Over the Rhine area, be sure to hit this place up for lunch or dinner!
One quick tip to keep in mind with the Over the Rhine area, you are downtown, which means parking can be a little hairy. We did find a parking lot that was close to The Rook and was within walking distance to Revolution Rotisserie. Just be prepared to park and do some walking and hopefully you won’t get lost as we did!
The Summit Hotel
Now it’s time to jump into a little about the amazing hotel we stayed in for our trip! For two nights, our home was the Summit Hotel, which is a new hotel that just opened in the last year. It’s a contemporary hotel filled with artwork which we absolutely loved! I’m pretty sure Logan’s favorite part was the glass elevator that we took to the eighth floor. Never mind the fact that Shadrach and did our best not to look as we went up, Logan had his face plastered to the window the entire ride.
The rooms were spacious, clean, and had everything we needed. While we didn’t eat at the hotel on site, it was highly recommended by the staff along with the rooftop terrace. Since it rained our entire trip, we didn’t get a chance to check out the terrace, but we had a great view of it from our room, and it looks like a great place to relax and have a drink at the end of the day.
There are a few hidden surprises throughout the hotel, like a library with a pool table and foosball table, a fully equipped gym, and plenty of places to sit and work or read quietly. Since our weekend was so packed full, we didn’t get much of a chance to do any of those things, but we did enjoy exploring the hotel and seeing everything it had to offer.
While the Summit Hotel wasn’t central to downtown and all of the activities, it was just a quick 15-minute car ride away and worked out perfect for us. We loved that they had their own parking deck so we didn’t need to worry about parking outside or searching for parking like we would have had we stayed in downtown Cincinnati. So, check this place out! It’s perfect for a family weekend away.
The Ultimate Family Weekend
There you have it, the ultimate family weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio! This turned out to be a fun-filled two days, and we made so many memories. Logan is still talking about this trip and everything we did. It ended up being a great way to get away for a few days and recharge and spend some quality time together as a family. So tell me, do you enjoy taking fun weekends away as a family? Don’t forget to download the free itinerary! Would you add anything else to it?