If you have three hours…
With a fairly brief layover, it’s probably your best bet to stay in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. If you have kids with you, there are plenty of options to pass the time. Natalie’s Candy Jar, a sweet shop wonderland, and Creative Kidstuff, an interactive toy store, both at Gate 12, are good places to start. There are also children’s play areas near the food court in Concourse B and near Gate 4 in Concourse A, where little ones can blow off steam, and you can relax.
If you’re up for a drink or two, Vino Volo offers a chance to relax with a glass of wine in Concourses A and B. Small plates, wine tastings, full dinners, and a wine shop will let you clear your mind and stave off impatience.
If you’d really rather not stay in the airport, head over to Tammy’s, a neighborhood bar with cheap drinks and barbecue, just a short walk away.
Tammy’s, 4101 Airport Rd., Cincinnati, OH, USA, +1 513 321 3800
If you have five hours…
If you have five hours to spare in Cincinnati and are itching to leave the airport, you’ll want to stay as close as you can. The American Sign Museum is about 20 minutes from the airport and is chock-full of vintage memorabilia, neon signs from the past century of American commerce, along with retro statues, posters, and ads.
Smale Riverfront Park, one of Cincinnati’s ultimate highlights, is just 15 minutes from the airport. A scenic waterfront park with killer views of the Ohio River, it’s a great place to stroll as you check out the playground, carousel, riverboats, gardens, and brightly lit fountains.
If you’re in the park and want to grab a bite, Moerlein Lager House, another Cincinnati institution, is 16 minutes from the airport. A microbrewery serving up local Ohio beers and German-inspired bar favorites, Moerlein is a quick but memorable option for a handcrafted sandwich and a drink before you head back to the airport.
American Sign Museum, 1330 Monmouth Ave., Cincinnati, OH, USA, +1 513 541 6366
Smale Riverfront Park, 100 Ted Berry Way, Cincinnati, OH, USA, +1 513 352 6180
Moerlein Lager House, 115 Joe Nuxhall Way, Cincinnati, OH, USA, +1 513 421 2337
If you have seven hours…
With seven hours to spare, you have a little more leeway in terms of what you can do, but you’ll still need to be mindful of the time. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 24 minutes from the airport, is home to the world-renowned Fiona the Hippo, as well as a butterfly garden and hundreds of other animals, from reptiles to polar bears.
If you need a snack along the way, take the kids (or your date!) to the world-famous Graeter’s Ice Cream, an ice cream shop that serves up homemade French pot ice cream. Graeter’s has a 145-year history and 17 locations throughout Cincinnati.
The Newport Aquarium lies just over the river in Newport, Kentucky. It’s 18 minutes from the airport. The aquarium is home to the world’s first Shark Bridge, which allows you to walk across a bridge above dozens of sharks in a massive tank, as well as a variety of other ocean life and interactive touch tanks that the kids will love.
If you have time for some shopping, head over to Findlay Market, Cincinnati’s longest-running market, 22 minutes from the airport. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday all year long. Local vendors, farmers, and artisans sell meats, cheeses, bread, jams and jellies, pastries, chocolates and candies, ethnic foods, and produce.
Graeter’s Ice Cream, 1401 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH, USA, +1 513 421 5300
Newport Aquarium, 1 Dave Cowens Dr., Newport, KY, USA, +1 859 261 7444
Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Cincinnati, OH, USA, +1 513 665 4839
If you have 12 hours…
If you have a lengthy layover, you can explore quite a bit of Cincinnati. Start at the Urbana Cafe, 21 minutes from the airport and one of Cincinnati’s best espresso bars. (The orange-infused olive oil cake is to die for too.)
With hours to spare, you have time to try your hand at the JACK Cincinnati Casino, 18 minutes from the airport. The casino has nearly 2,000 slot machines, as well as table games, poker, and a number of restaurants and live shows.
If your layover is in the evening (or even in the daytime on certain days), you can take a BB Riverboats sightseeing, wine, bourbon, or dinner cruise along the Ohio River (18 minutes from the airport). Enjoy a full-course meal or wine tasting against the backdrop of the Cincinnati skyline.
Urbana Cafe, 1206 Broadway St., Cincinnati, OH, USA, +1 513 813 3133
JACK Cincinnati Casino, 1000 Broadway St., Cincinnati, OH, USA, +1 513 252 0777
BB Riverboats, 101 Riverboat Row, Newport, KY, USA, +1 800 261 8586