Museums offer more than simply educational benefits. By visiting a museum, you can connect with the world around you, experience different times and places, and discover new areas of interest. Whether you’re only in Cincinnati for a day or making the city your home, you’ll find several amazing Cincinnati museums covering history, science, art, and more. Here are the 9 best museums in Cincinnati that should definitely be on your list to visit.
Museum of Natural History & Science – Best Cincinnati Museum for Dinosaur Lovers
MNHS is the place to be for history and fossil lovers of all ages. Located in Union Terminal at the Cincinnati Museum Center, the history and science museum features a 7,000-square-foot Dinosaur Hall with six large specimens from the Jurassic to Cretaceous Periods. Five of the specimens are on display for the first time to the public. One of the most popular attractions in Cincinnati, place your hand inside a dinosaur’s footprint and marvel at the Galeamopus pabsti, a newly discovered species of long-necked (diplodocid) dinosaur over 60 feet long. The museum is also home to an interactive STEM experience in the Science Interactives Gallery.
The Museum of Natural History & Science has an amazing history going back to 1818 when scientist and physician Daniel Drake, who founded Cincinnati’s first medical school, created the Western Museum and hired John James Audobon as the first employee. The Western Academy of Natural Sciences was formed 17 years later and eventually became the Cincinnati Society of Natural History, today the Museum of Natural History & Science.
Duke Energy Children’s Museum – Best Museum in Cincinnati for Kids
The Duke Energy Children’s Museum is one of the top Cincinnati attractions for kids. You’ll find it in Union Terminal, one of America’s last great train stations. This beautiful Art Deco building is now a museum center home to three museums, including Cincinnati’s children’s museum.
Explore hands-on exhibits where kids can learn, climb, and have fun. Kids’ Town features a miniature town with a grocery store while The Woods offers a wilderness adventure. The museum also creates more than 1,800 hours of programs in arts, reading, science, and culture for kids that are included with admission.
The Duke Energy Children’s Museum is frequently ranked as one of the best children’s museums in the U.S. Admission is $14.50 for adults and $10.50 for kids 3 to 12. Cincinnati Museum Center members enjoy free admission to the children’s museum and the other museums at Union Terminal.
Taft Museum of Art – Best Small Cincinnati Museum
Located in a 200-year-old wooden house, the oldest wooden domestic home in downtown, is the Taft Museum of Art. The historic building was once home to numerous prominent Cincinnati residents like Charles Phelps Taft, the editor of the Cincinnati Times-Star who owned the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies and was half-brother to President William Taft. The Tafts were well-known for their art collection and bequeathed it along with the home to Cincinnati in 1927.
The Taft Museum of Art’s permanent collection includes paintings by old masters of Europe, watches, sculptures, Chinese porcelain, and historic furniture. The Taft Museum is one of the best Cincinnati museums when you don’t have much time to explore. The museum offers a unique art display with beautiful grounds that are fun to explore on a warm day.
Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and free for members with discounts when you buy tickets online. This Cincinnati museum always offers free admission on Sundays!
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center – Riverfront Cincinnati Museum on Global Slavery
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Cincinnati sits on the Ohio River that once separated slaves in the South from free states in the North. While many escaped slaves stayed in Cincinnati, others continued their journey north to Canada. The Freedom Center is one of Cincinnati’s newest museums. Opened in 2004 on Cincinnati’s riverfront, the Freedom Center features a large exhibit on American slavery complete with historic artifacts and interactive exhibits. Along with covering the American slave trade, the Underground Railroad, and the Civil War, the museum explores global slavery that exists today including sex trafficking and child labor. Through its exhibits, the museum challenges visitors to consider what freedom means in their lives.
The primary artifact at the Freedom Center is The Slave Pen, a two-story log slave pen constructed in 1830 and found on a farm in Kentucky. The pen was transported and reconstructed at the Center where visitors can walk inside, touch the walls, and see the original wrought iron rings that once tethered slaves inside.
Visitors to this Cincinnati museum are sure to find it a powerful experience. Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, and $10.50 for kids 3 to 12. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Cincinnati Art Museum – Best Free Museum in Cincinnati
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In the beautiful Eden Park neighborhood you’ll find the Cincinnati Art Museum, one of America’s oldest art museums. Built in 1881 when art museums were a new phenomenon, the museum features more than 100,000 works, one of the Midwest’s largest art collections. The museum features paintings by Picasso, Botticelli, Rubens, Renoir, Monet, and van der Neer with a permanent Cincinnati Wing.
The Cincinnati Art Museum also offers frequent programs and events like themed Art After Dark events with live musical performances and cocktails in the museum.
Admission to the Cincinnati Art Museum is always free with free parking.
American Sign Museum – Most Unique Museum in Cincinnati
Want a unique museum experience? The American Sign Museum is one of the most fun museums in Cincinnati and America’s largest public sign museum. The museum, which opened in 2005, features over 200 signs and items on display ranging from early examples from the late 1800s to the 1970s. There’s everything from a Frisch’s Big Boy statue and a rotating neon windmill from a donut shop to a 20-foot-tall fiberglass genie from a carpet cleaning store in L.A.
You’ll love the storefront Signs on Main Street display which recreates the typical small town, American with sign-filled shop windows. Inside the museum is the Neonworks of Cincinnati, a full-time neon workshop where you can watch tube-benders at work.
Admission to the American Sign Museum is just $15 for adults, $10 for kids 13-18, and free for members with discounts for seniors, students, military members, and first responders. The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 to 4 and Sunday from 12 to 4.
Contemporary Arts Center – Cincinnati’s Best Art Museum (& Free)
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Located in downtown Cincinnati, the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) was founded in 1939 as one of the country’s first contemporary art museums. This non-collecting museum displays new pieces such as paintings, sculptures, photography, performance art, and architecture in an iconic building near Fountain Square designed by famed female architect Zaha Hadid.
Along with ever-changing exhibitions, the Contemporary Arts Center features many public programs including special events, school programs, family programs, and teen programs including films, conferences, workshops, and performances.
Admission to CAC is free but the galleries are closed Sunday through Tuesday.
Cincinnati Fire Museum – Fun Museum in Cincinnati
Did you know the Cincinnati Fire Department was America’s first professional, paid fire department? At the Cincinnati Fire Museum, you can learn about Cincinnati’s firefighting history with in-depth exhibits and artifacts going back 200 years. The museum is one of the best things to do in Cincinnati with kids thanks to its popular Safe House exhibit: a world-class fire safety program that teaches families how to prevent and escape fires in a real-world scenario. The museum even hosts birthday parties for kids!
Admission is just $8 for adults with discounts for kids and seniors. Kids 6 and younger are free.
Cincinnati Fire Museum, 315 W Court St, Cincinnati, OH 45202 (513) 621-5553
Cincinnati Observatory – Home of the World’s Oldest Continually Operated Telescope
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Located between Mt. Lookout and the upscale Hyde Park neighborhood, the Cincinnati Observatory isn’t technically a museum, but it offers educational programs and historic artifacts to explore. The observatory is home to the oldest continually operated telescope in the world. The Merz refractor, when it was built in 1845, was the largest in the U.S.
Visit the observatory to use the telescope and stop by for frequent events like Halloween at the Observatory with smores, cider, and viewings.
Map of Cincinnati Museums
Cincinnati’s top-rated museums, including some of the oldest in America, are just part of the city’s charm. Combine a visit to one of these amazing Cincinnati museums with a day spent at other local attractions like the Cincinnati Zoo, the Newport Aquarium near the Freedom Center, and Eden Park near the Cincinnati Art Museum.