Riverfront Parks Tours
Map and Walking Tour
- Planning started in 1997, ground was broken in 2008 and the first phase of the park opened in May, 2012.
- The Park is managed by the Cincinnati Park Board and Parks has led the planning, design, fundraising and construction of the park.
- First phase construction was funded at $24 million from the City, $3 million from the State and $11 million from the Federal government. And $28 million of private funds have been raised as of the beginning of 2012.
- The park is intended to reconnect downtown to the river, and to link with the existing riverfront parks to the east. It is a place from which to view the river and river traffic, a place to gather and celebrate as a community, and a place to recreate, contemplate, and be inspired.
- The first phase of the park has been constructed between Walnut Street and Joe Nuxhall Way, on the roof of The Banks garage, and, south of Mehring Way, from the Roebling Bridge to the Great American Ballpark. Future phases will extend the park to Broadway on the east, along the river edge on the south, and eventually extend west to Central Avenue and beyond.
The Heekin Family /PNC Grow Up Great Adventure Playground
- An innovative, fully accessible playground next to the Roebling Suspension Bridge that will contain a rock climbing canyon, log climbers, twin racing slides, a rope bridge, granite seating amphitheater and a fog-mist feature for cooling off on hot summer days.
The Sue & Joe Pichler Family Fountains at Vine Street
- Steps aligning with Vine Street will be flanked by water cascades, illuminated with rainbow lights in the evening, and a plaza will contain fountains (splash and play!), a reflecting pool, water curtains, and glass balconies.
The Annie W. & Elizabeth M. Anderson Pavilion
- A banquet center on the floor beneath Carol Ann’s Carousel will be a setting for parties, weddings and corporate functions. The center features views of the lower park, the Roebling Suspension Bridge and the Ohio River.
Carol Ann’s Carousel
- A hand-carved carousel—a gift of The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation — will be filled with whimsical characters who each have a story to tell about a fascinating aspect of Cincinnati life, history or culture. The carousel—which will be open year ‘round—will whirl within a glass building set on a plaza fronting Ted Berry Way. The plaza will contain water features and balconies overlooking the river as well as a comfort station.
The Rosenberg Swings
- Two sets of family-sized porch swings (one adjacent to the Fath Family Fountain at Main Street, and the other rimming the Great Lawn west of the Roebling Bridge) allow visitors to take in relaxing, sweeping views of the Ohio River and the Northern Kentucky shoreline.
P&G go Vibrantscape
- A series of fun play and exercise features for people of all ages, set within a unique environment. Features are being designed to be interactive and include a giant foot piano, a flying pig, and water pumps and channels.
Gardner Family Grove and Rose Garden
- This tree grove—similar to yet larger than the existing tree grove on the east side of the park—will contain meandering pathways, understory plantings and several varieties of roses.
- The esplanade will be a setting for farmers’ markets and other community activities. Its design will reflect the historic character of the produce industry that used to be housed on the site. A picnic terrace will flank both sides of the Castellini Esplanade. The unique setting includes moveable picnic tables on wheels, set on rails in a tribute to the produce distribution center formerly on the site.
- The park is divided into two primary levels. The Schmidlapp Event Lawn is part of the upper level and provides a green roof for the parking garage.
- The upper level of the park is above the 100 year flood. The rest of the park, the lower level south of Mehring Way is within the floodplain. Pathways within the park are universally accessible, and there is access to the water’s edge.
Walnut Street Grand Stairway and Fountain
- The grand stairway, complete with a bike “runnel” carved into the granite – that allows riders to easily roll bikes up or down the stairway – is flanked by dramatic cascades and waterfalls which tumble into pools along Mehring Way.
- Colorful water curtains fall from glass balconies which abut a plaza filled with interactive water jets. A loggia allows visitors to walk behind the water curtains, with a glass walkway above. The cascades, jets and water curtains are vividly illuminated at night with thousands of combinations of colors.
Schmidlapp Event Lawn and Stage
- The performance stage is covered by a canopy topped with solar panels. A broad pedestrian promenade borders the lawn and affords sweeping views of the river and the lower part of the park.
Cincinnati Bike Center
- The Bike Center provides bike rentals and repairs and serves downtown bike commuters. It offers memberships for bike storage, showers and lockers. It also houses the Park Visitor Center.
Moerlein Lager House
- The Moerlein Lager House celebrates Cincinnati’s beer-brewing heritage. It is a working microbrewery and restaurant and contains the newly established Beer Barons Hall of Fame. The design of the Moerlein Lager House was created to greatly enliven the dining experience by offering sweeping views of the park, the Ohio River, the Roebling Suspension Bridge and Great American Ballpark from both its indoor dining spaces and its expansive outdoor beer gardens and balconies.
- The park’s labyrinth—a walking meditation space with a single winding path that spirals inward to the center—provides a compelling place in which to achieve many positive health benefits.
- A labyrinth is not a maze, and does not require its walker to make choices about which way to proceed or turn. There is a single, winding path that leads to its center.
- Since ancient times, labyrinths have been created to offer people an activity that leads to personal reflection, relaxation, meditation and spiritual connectedness. Scientific research has demonstrated that focused walking meditations can also effectively reduce anxiety. This can lead to many health benefits, including lower blood pressure, increased levels of concentration and a greater sense of happiness in everyday life.
Black Brigade Monument
- The park’s Black Brigade Monument commemorates the voluntary service of hundreds of African-American men who, in 1862, erected barricades in Northern Kentucky during the Civil War.
- Brutally rounded up by an appointed corps of rough-neck provost guards, dozens of black men were to be forced into hard labor, to build fortifications against Confederate raiders from the South.
- Their inhumane treatment resulted in protests in the local press that advocated passionately on their behalf. Rapid intervention by Union officers led to an invitation to the men to volunteer their services, reversing the unfair conscription. These volunteers were later recognized as the Black Brigade, and were part of a group of 8,000 Cincinnatians who built the barricades.
- The monument is built into the earth, much like the original fortifications. Bronze statues and plaques, and carved stones were created by a team of local artists and incorporated into a single work of art. The monument includes the names of all 700 members of the brigade.
Main Street Fountain
- – A plaza filled with water jets which dance to light and music fill the space south of Mehring Way aligned with the foot of Joe Nuxhall Way. It is a place to watch the dancing water, and the people playing in it, and it is a place to get wet.
Ohio River Trail
- – A section of the Ohio River Trail, a multi-use bike trail along the Ohio River, is in place in the park. It will eventually connect Madison, Indiana to New Richmond, Ohio, and many sections of the trail are already complete. The trail also connects to the Little Miami River Trail which is a part of the Ohio to Erie Trail that will someday connect Cincinnati to Cleveland.
- – A tree grove frames the north side of the Roebling Green, extending from the Suspension Bridge to the Main Street Fountain. The grove is crossed by walking paths and contains a variety of ground covers and trees.
- The park has several “green” features to make it more sustainable. The stair and elevator structure on the east side of the park has a vegetated green roof.
- The Moerlein Lager House, the Bike Center, and the Public Toilet Rooms and maintenance spaces are all heated and cooled with a geothermal system.
- The Bike Center encourages people to bike to work and bike to the park to reduce the use of individual cars and the burning of fossil fuels.
- Solar panels on the stage canopy and at the entrance to the Bike Center and Garage provide electricity to the park.
- The Schmidlapp Event Lawn is a green roof with trees that covers the roof of the garage structure underneath.
In future phases of construction, the park will extend to the west and will include such features as a transient boat dock, adventure playgrounds, a carousel, gardens, tree groves, promenades and fountains.
JOHN G. AND PHYLLIS W. SMALE
In the Spring of 2011, John G. Smale, former Chairman of Procter & Gamble, presented a gift of $20 million to the Cincinnati Parks Foundation for the construction of Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park. Mr. Smale’s gift was given in tribute to his late wife, who spent decades working tirelessly to raise funds for the city’s green spaces.
Upon Mr. Smale’s passing in the Fall of 2011, the park became The John G. and Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park.