Whether you’re bringing your family to the Ark Encounter or want to spend a week exploring the sights and sounds of the big city, the Northern Kentucky and Cincy Region is sure to make your next family vacation a memorable one.
With award-winning restaurants and entertainment options ranging from low-key to extreme, Northern Kentucky has tons of choices to keep you busy while you’re here. And if you can’t find it in NKY, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump across the river to Cincy, featuring some of the nation’s most incredible offerings.
NKY and Cincy Trip Ideas
We’ve put together some suggestions below of key places you won’t want to miss when bringing your family to the Northern Kentucky and Cincy Region. We’re sure you’re going to love it here.
Trip Itinerary for a Family Vacation in Northern Kentucky
Below is a sample three-day itinerary for families to do in Northern Kentucky. We can’t wait to hear about how much you enjoyed your trip, then help you plan another one!
Check in to a Northern Kentucky hotel to be at the center of all the action. We have several name-brand hotels in case you want to stay loyal to your rewards, or we’d suggest using the Embassy Suites RiverCenter and taking advantage of the suite-style room and free breakfast for the whole family.
Afternoon - Head to Newport Aquarium to touch stingrays and cross the shark bridge, if you dare. While you’re at Newport on the Levee, grab a treat from the Bridgeview Box Park and take in the sights of the river and Cincinnati skyline.
Dinner - After playing all afternoon, everyone is ready for some grub! We recommend grabbing Tom & Chee at the Levee. Known for their grilled cheese donut, Tom & Chee has been on the hit television shows Man vs. Food Nation, Shark Tank, The Chew, and Amazing Eats, which made Cincinnati the envy of the rest of the world.
Evening - After dinner, take a short stroll over the pedestrian Purple People Bridge, which connects Newport on the Levee to Cincinnati and offers the opportunity to stand in two states at once! Snap a pic, mom!
Once you make it to Cincy, head toward Smale Riverfront Park to tinker on the giant foot piano, splash in the fountains, swing on the giant swings, or play on one of the many interactive playgrounds. On your way back to your car, grab some ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery at the Levee.
Breakfast - If you’re looking for a delicious breakfast spot, check out Mokka & The Sunset Bar & Grill in Newport. The kids will love the french toast, and there are tons of other options mom and dad will enjoy, too.
Morning - Head to Williamstown, Ky. to visit The Ark Encounter. The largest timber-frame structure in the world tells the story of Noah’s flood and features a petting zoo and some of the best zip lines in the Midwest. You could spend two hours or three days enjoying this marvel, so plan according to how detailed your family will want to read everything, or how many extra activities they’ll want to do (zip lines). If you breeze through quickly, follow the guidelines below. Otherwise, stay put at the Ark, enjoy lunch at Emzara’s Cafe, and keep experiencing the wonder.
Lunch - Head to Florence to have lunch at La Torta Loca. It’s a local hole-in-the-wall experience, but we promise you won’t be disappointed. The owners have combined their Mexican and Venezuelan backgrounds to serve up delicious street food. If your crew isn’t that adventurous, we recommend Drake’s, a regional chain serving up delicious sushi, sandwiches, and beer. The kids love the sliders and tater tots, but don’t skip the crab rangoon sushi roll.
Afternoon - Head to Petersburg to visit the Creation Museum, which brings the pages of the Bible to life through animatronics and incredible exhibits. Don’t miss the beautiful botanical gardens, zip line, planetarium, and more.
Dinner - After a day of learning, it’s time to refuel and recharge. We recommend dinner at Bourbon House Pizza, a local favorite for the best Chicago-style pizza outside of Chicago. The entire family will thank you.
Evening - If you aren’t worn out already, visit Full Throttle Adrenaline Park (indoor karting and axe throwing), World of Golf (mini golf, driving range, etc.), or DEFY Florence (ninja trampoline obstacle courses). We know--there are several options, so draw straws and save the others for the next visit.
Morning - Depending on your family’s adrenaline-seeking levels, we recommend either riding all the roller coasters of Kings Island or visiting Fiona the hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. Kings Island features more than 100 rides and attractions, including 15 roller coasters, as well as Planet Snoopy’s kids area, making it a great choice to satisfy the whole family. If theme parks aren’t your thing, head to the second-oldest zoo in the nation, ranked one of the top zoos in the country.
Lunch - If you went to the zoo early, you may be ready to leave and have a late lunch. We’d recommend Covington Yard, which brings together the area’s best independently owned restaurants in outdoor shipping containers. Even the pickiest of eaters will find their next favorite dish! With tons of family-friendly entertainment in an outdoor setting, Covington Yard is sure to please each member of the family.
Afternoon - We know, heading home is usually the most disappointing part of a vacation. But we have so much more to offer and we’d love to see you return soon to experience your favorites again, or to have a completely new experience at some of our lesser-known attractions.
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Other suggestions of key places families should consider when visiting the Northern Kentucky and Cincy Region:
BB Riverboats - If you’re looking to sit back, relax, and enjoy the sights of the river while dining on a delicious meal and teaching the kids a little history lesson, look no further than BB Riverboats. Let the tour guide point out some of the area’s history while the sun sets over the bridges and the skyline illuminates.
Cincy Arts Scene - In Northern Kentucky we’re only a bridge away from all of the artistic delights of a metropolitan city. Enjoy performances from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops and Cincinnati Opera at historic Music Hall; marvel at the passion and prowess of the Cincinnati Ballet; view masterpieces at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Taft Museum of Art and Contemporary Arts Center; or enjoy dinner and a show at Playhouse in the Park, Ensemble Theatre and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.
Professional Sports - From baseball (Cincinnati Reds) and soccer (FC Cincinnati) in the spring and summer, to football (Cincinnati Bengals) in the fall, to hockey (Cincinnati Cyclones) in the winter – the Cincinnati region is full of entertainment for sports fans. Don’t miss the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, which is full of memorabilia of MLB baseball’s oldest team.
NKY Art Tours - Featuring self-guided tours of stunning public art in Northern Kentucky’s river cities, NKY Art Tours is a great resource to use when you’re ready to do some exploring. From black history, architecture, murals, statues, and more, NKY Art Tours will help you map out your intended route, then add a few more to your list.
Vent Haven - Looking for something a little quirky? Vent Haven Museum is the world's only museum dedicated to ventriloquism, ventriloquial figures, and memorabilia. The museum features more than 500 figures from more than 20 countries.
Hofbrauhaus Newport - The first Hofbrauhaus outside of Munich, Germany, Hofbrauhaus Newport is sure to be a fun time for the entire family. Come thirsty, hungry, and ready to do your best chicken dance!
Bridgeview Box Park at Newport on the Levee - Featuring local food and drinks served from shipping containers, Bridgeview Box Park showcases incredible views of the skyline, beautiful sunsets, fireworks from the Reds game across the river, and excellent people watching.
Cincinnati Chili - Some say it’s an acquired taste, but when in Cincy, you have to have chili. Ordering a three- (or four- or five-) way doesn’t have a negative connotation--it’s all in whether you like beans or onions on your chili! And yes, it’s served atop of spaghetti and seasoned like no other place you’ll ever eat chili, but that’s the way we like it.
Ark Encounter and Creation Museum - At over 1.5 football fields long and reaching higher than a four-story house, Ark Encounter is one of the largest timber-frame structures in the world. Explore three decks of cutting-edge exhibits, zip lines, and a petting zoo area. Also enjoy dining in the themed restaurant or grab some ice cream, fudge, freshly smoked meats, and more throughout the grounds. If that’s not enough, head to the Creation Museum, a one-of-a-kind museum that brings the pages of the Bible to life with animatronic characters, a tranquil garden of Eden, life-size dinosaurs, a special effects theater, planetarium and more.
Newport Aquarium - Meet rare white alligators and dare to walk just inches above nearly two dozen sharks on the world's first suspended rope bridge at Newport Aquarium, which has been named one of the best aquariums in the country by Travel Channel.
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden - Visit the world-famous hippo, Fiona, feed giraffes, and swing through Jungle Trails' interactive elements at the second-oldest zoo in the nation and the National Historic Landmark that is consistently ranked as one of the top zoos in the country. The Zoo’s 75 acres house more than 580 animal species and 3,000 plant varieties making it one of the largest zoo collections in the U.S.
DEFY Florence - Defy is a collection of extreme air sport parks across America that are rewriting the rules of sport. The entire family will enjoy extreme play like the trapeze, Ninja Obstacle Course, foam pits, open jump, extreme dodgeball and more!
Kings Island - With more than 100 rides and attractions, Kings Island offers the perfect combination of world-class fun and thrills for all ages. Guests can experience 15 roller coasters like the legendary Beast and Mystic Timbers, and family rides including Kings Mills Antique Autos. For families with young kids, the Planet Snoopy kids’ area is the perfect place to spend the day.
Covington Yard - Covington Yard is your place for family gatherings, baseball games, and more. Covington Yard brings together the area’s best independently owned restaurants to provide a wide variety of bites to enjoy. Even the pickiest of eaters will find their next favorite dish at one of our food container restaurants on site. With tons of family-friendly entertainment in an outdoor setting, Covington Yard is sure to please each member of the family.