Back in the mid-1800s, Cincinnati was considered the largest city in the West. While this part of the country is no longer considered the “West,” and other cities have surpassed Cincinnati in size, the Queen City continues to have a wealth of attractions that hold special distinctions.
The first documented fossils of Ice Age mammals were discovered in Big Bone Lick, Kentucky, about 25 miles southwest of Cincinnati, making it the birthplace of American Paleontology. Thomas Jefferson sent William Clark (of Lewis & Clark) on a major fossil-collecting expedition to Big Bone Lick in 1807. The area is now a state park with a visitor center that features exhibits of fossils, an outdoor diorama, a Discovery Trail, and a herd of bison.
In 1853, the city of Cincinnati started the first full-time professional fire department in the United States. Two Cincinnati inventors also developed the first practical steam fire pumper, making the city famous for the design and manufacturing of firefighting apparatus. Learn more about the history of firefighting in Cincinnati at the Fire Museum of Greater Cincinnati which is located in an old firehouse.
The Cincinnati Reds, originally known as the Cincinnati Red Stockings, became the first all-professional baseball team in 1869 with 10 salaried players. The Reds also played in Major League Baseball’s first-ever night game at the former Crosley Field in 1935. Nowadays you can watch the Reds play at Great American Ball Park and learn more about the team's history at the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum.
Just five miles south of Cincinnati in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, is Vent Haven Museum, the world’s first and only museum dedicated to the art of ventriloquism. The museum is open by appointment from May through September. See more than 700 dummies and puppets, plus other memorabilia.
The Contemporary Arts Center has been around since 1939 and was one of the first contemporary art institutions in the country. It became even more notable in 2003 when it moved into the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in downtown Cincinnati. This architecturally significant building, designed by Zaha Hadid, was the first U.S. museum to be designed by a woman.
A few blocks away is the Ingalls Building, which was the world’s first reinforced concrete skyscraper when it was built in 1903.
The American Sign Museum is the first and only public sign museum in the world that covers the full range of American signs. The collection includes signs from the late nineteenth century to the 1970s, made using a variety of techniques.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center holds the world’s first permanent exhibition on modern-day slavery, Invisible: Slavery Today. Visitors learn about the most common forms of modern slavery (forced labor, bonded indenture, child slavery, sex trafficking, and domestic servitude) along with 21st century abolition efforts.
The Cincinnati Observatory boasts the oldest telescope in the United States, which is still in use. The Observatory holds astronomy programs as well as historical tours for the general public.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is home to the oldest zoo building in the United States, the Reptile House, which was built in 1875. The zoo itself is the second oldest in the country.
The world’s largest indoor, interactive train display can be found at EnterTRAINment Junction in West Chester, Ohio. The 25,0000 square-foot display contains over two miles of track and 90 trains, and covers three periods of railroad history.
Cincinnati’s Over-The-Rhine neighborhood is another architectural marvel with the country’s largest collection of Italianate architecture.
The Over-the-Rhine Brewery District has the largest number of pre-Prohitition breweries in the U.S. Take a tour to learn more about this part of Cincinnati’s history.
The Pendleton Art Center boasts the world’s largest number of artists under one roof. The studios are open to the public on the final Friday of each month and the Saturday following that.
While there are dozens of creationist museums in the world, the Cincinnati region has the largest and most high-tech in The Creation Museum.
The world’s biggest chocolate bar is in Cincinnati, but you can’t see it because it’s buried under tons and tons of garbage. Take a tour of Rumpke Landfill to hear the story.
Be sure to visit Cincinnati in the summer to take a dip in the largest flat-surface swimming pool in North America - Coney Island's Sunlite Pool.
The Beast at Kings Island is the world’s longest wooden roller coaster.
Another Kings Island ride, The Banshee, is the world’s longest inverted steel roller coaster.
Cincinnati also has several attractions that are notably impressive, even if they aren’t quite the oldest, biggest, or longest.
Findlay Market has been in operation since 1855 making it one of the oldest continuously operated public markets in the country. Visit the market anytime or take a tour with Cincinnati Food Tours to learn more about its history.
The Roebling Suspension Bridge was the longest bridge in the world when it opened in 1867.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1895, making it the fifth oldest in the U.S. and the oldest in Ohio.
Lunken Airport was the largest municipal airport in the world when it opened in 1925. The first meals served on a commercial airliner (American Airlines) were prepared in what is now Sky Galley Restaurant.
Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum is the second largest cemetery in the United States. Public tram tours are offered twice a month, plus walking tours.
The World Peace Bell in Newport, Kentucky, was the world’s largest free swinging bell when it first swung at the start of the year 2000. At 66,000 pounds, it held the title of world’s largest until 2006. Watch the bell swing at five minutes before noon, daily.
St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, Kentucky, contains one of the world’s largest stained glass windows. It measures 67 ft. high by 24 ft. wide. Self guided tours are available.
Scene75 Entertainment Center is one of the largest indoor entertainment center's in the country with an arcade, laser tag, go-karts, mini golf, inflatables, bumper cars and more.
The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was the 5th busiest library in the United States in 2014 according to a report published by the Public Library Association. The library offers many materials, program, and services. Visit the library to learn even more about the extraordinary city of Cincinnati.