Some of the best attractions in greater Cincinnati will require hefty admission fees. Don't skip all of those experiences, but mix in some less expensive activities for a more affordable itinerary. Here are some great things to do in Cincinnati that cost $10 or less per person.
The Cincinnati Observatory is called the birthplace of American astronomy. It dates back to 1842, when Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel went door to door to raise money for a community telescope housed on Mount Adams. The idea was to make star-gazing accessible to everyone, regardless of social status.
Because of air pollution, the observatory later was moved about five miles from downtown to its current location on Mount Lookout. The University of Cincinnati's physics department took over operations in 1979, but the facilities remain open to the public.
Tours are available 12-4 p.m. Monday-Friday for $5. The observatory also is open to visitors most Thursday and Friday nights, when admission is $7 for adults, and $5 for children under 18.
When 574-foot Carew Tower was completed in 1930, it ranked among the tallest U.S. buildings located somewhere other than New York City. It bears the classic setback architecture of the period and remained the city's tallest until 2010 when Great American Tower at Queen City Square surpassed it in height.
In 1994, Carew Tower was added to the register of National Historic Landmarks. Today, the Carew Tower provides a panoramic view of the river and city from an observation deck on the 49th floor. The price for enjoying this vantage point is a modest, $4 for adults and $2 for children. Pick a clear day with light winds and enjoy.
Art museums west of the Alleghenies were rare in the 1800s, so The Cincinnati Art Museum adopted the nickname "Art Palace of the West" when it opened in 1886. Scores of renovations and acquisitions later, the place today houses more than 100,000 art objects, making it the largest museum in Ohio.
Thanks to funding through The Rosenthal Family Foundation, admission is free to the public. Free admission often does not apply to special exhibitions, but even those usually fall under $10.
Members get preferred spots in the museum's parking lot, but everyone else parks for free in slightly less convenient spaces.
Cincinnati Reds Ticket Deals
Major League Baseball's Cincinnati Reds call Great American Ball Park their home, and the club has a long-standing tradition of offering its top-six row seats (some might call them nose-bleed seats) for $10 or less.
If you'll be in town for a while, you can get these seats for even less, but it involves buying multiple tickets. Here's how it works: You choose a seat in the top six rows of the stadium and pay $29.99. That exceeds our $10 limit, but consider this. If you attend even five baseball games, the cost-per-ticket drops to $5.80. If there are 14 home games in a month, the per-ticket price drops to about $2.
Krohn Conservatory is located in Eden Park, a large urban green space just to the east of downtown Cincinnati. Famous for its tropical rain forest, the conservatory houses about 3,500 plant species from throughout the world.
You might have to dodge a few school groups during your visit, but Krohn is a Cincinnati gem that charges only $7 admission for adults. It also hosts floral shows throughout the year that require admission fees of $4 to $7. If you're a plant lover, this is easily one of Cincinnati's best visitor bargains.
Cincinnati Shakespeare in the Park performances have become an honored summer tradition in the Tri-State area. Schedules typically run from mid-July until about Labor Day. A recent schedule included 35 performances at locations in Cincinnati and throughout the Ohio Valley. Usually, one of two Shakespeare plays are performed at these venues. A full schedule often appears in early June each year.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company produces these summer productions. Their high-quality indoor dates at other times of the year can cost $55/person. But Shakespeare in the Park performances are free, and reservations are never required. Bring lawn chairs and blankets, and arrive early to claim the best vantage points.
Each venue has its own set of rules about issues such as parking and alcoholic beverages.
Cincinnati's bike share program is known as Red Bike. It offers 57 stations and more than 400 bikes. This is a not-for-profit enterprise aimed at improving health and providing green transportation.
Bikes can be rented for 24 hours at a cost of $8. Payment can be online or at a station, but a credit card is required. Each bike comes equipped with a lock and a basket capable of carrying up to 30 lbs.
Be aware that Cincinnati is a very hilly city, and grades on some roads are quite steep. Plan your route carefully.
There are no Red Bike stations along the Loveland Bike Trail. But there are other rental options, and if you can get access to a bike, this trail provides ample rewards.
The 70-mile trail is built on what once was the line for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The route was discontinued in 1962, and about 20 years later, plans took shape to pave over the tracks and create a relatively flat trail for cyclists to use free of charge.
Few people cover the entire length of the trail, but there are suggested rides of various lengths that show off the historic sections of Loveland, Lebanon, and other towns along the Little Miami River.