There are carousel horses, of course: Zinzinnati Oktoberfest Horse, Observatory Horse, and Cincinnati Baseball Horse, among others, but the Carol Ann Carousel at Smale Riverfront Park also allows guests to ride on a gorilla, an elephant, a car and a frog prince. Even more unusual, riders can saddle up on a selection of pigs, an Ohio River Catfish, a Bearcat, Bengal Tiger, and a variety of insects, including a Cincinnati Cicada and the Queen Bee. Housed inside glass, the carousel features 44 Cincinnati inspired characters, along with panels depicting historic Cincinnati landmarks.
Smale Park, itself, is now among Cincinnati’s most popular landmarks. In addition to the iconic carousel, the 40-acre park, located along the Ohio River, between Great American Ballpark and Paul Brown Stadium, features endless opportunities for family fun.
The Heekin Family/PNC “Grow up Great” Adventure Playground is a fully accessible playground near the Roebling Suspension Bridge. Its rock canyon challenges kids to climb to the top of the twin slides, and then race to the bottom. Young adventurers can cross the swinging rope bridge, balance on climbing logs, and hop across stepping stones. Meanwhile, parents and grandparents can play along, or relax and watch from the playground’s ample seating. And, when summer heats up, a fog mist keeps kids cool.
When rising temperatures call for more than a mist, visit the Sue & Joe Pichler Family Fountains. Underground, a 26,000-gallon tank and two miles of piping filter and recycle water, for the three spectacular aboveground features. An urban waterfall flows in two cascades along the Grand Staircase on Vine Street, and rain curtains shower from glass balconies. But it’s the 61-head Splash-and-Play feature that provides wet and wild fun as kids stomp on, sit on, and revel in the spray. And at night it all gets a little cooler, as colored lights illuminate these spectacular water features.
There’s more water fun at the P&G Go VibrantScape. From the top of the Oinkithopter, a climbing structure in the shape of a flying pig, climbers can get a view of the entire riverfront, or at least a scale map of it. A granite three-dimensional model of Cincinnati’s riverfront teaches about flooding. Man the pumps and turn the Archimedes’ screw to release water, and then control the rising river by opening and closing model flood gates. And for those who want mood music for the flood, or accompaniment for the flapping wings of the Oinkithopter, there’s a giant piano. Musicians and curious toe tappers can jump on the keys of the two-octave foot piano to ring the 32 chimes overhead.
Experience more immersive learning at the Black Brigade Monument. Described as “a place of reflection, blending facts, poetry and art,” the monument tells the story of the Black Brigade, volunteers of African descent who constructed barricades to defend Cincinnati from Confederate attack during the Civil War. The area physically echoes the fortifications built by the brigade, and includes bronze statues, interpretive signs, and carved stones naming all 718 members of the brigade.
Smale has everything else we love about parks: grassy fields for Frisbees and kites, beautiful flora and fauna in the Gardner Family Grove & Rose Garden, picnic tables, and paved pathways for biking and walking. And there are swings. On both the east and west sides of the Roebling Bridge, the Rosenberg Swings, family-sized, trellis-shaded porch swings, welcome park-goers to sit, swing and relax, and watch the river roll by.
Smale Riverfront Park
100 W. Mehring Way | mysmaleriverfrontpark.org