National Underground Railroad Freedom Center – Cincinnati

My family and I decided that this year we’d explore the history of the Underground Railroad in Ohio.  So, in February we started that journey off with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Located along the Ohio River in downtown Cinci, the three floors of the museum explore the history of slavery in America, the experience of escaping slavery along the Underground Railroad, and show the state of slavery today.

The museum staff suggested we start our journey on the third floor and work our way down.  We started off in the “From Slavery to Freedom” exhibit.  This area walked us through the history of bringing slaves into america from Africa and showed us what the conditions were like for the enslaved people during the journey and after they arrived.  We learned about some of the driving factors behind the use of slave labor.  There were many stories and displays about the lives of slaves and their journey to be free.

Next we went to “Invisible: Slavery Today”.  This area came with a warning that some exhibits might be intense, especially for younger people.  The gallery shows the kinds of slavery that exist today and profiles several people.  Some of the displays regarding sex trafficking were on the more graphic end of the spectrum.  Everyone in our group agreed that it was not too intense but was very eye opening.  It lead to some good discussions with my teens about how some young women end up as prostitutes and addicted to drugs.

We wandered down to the second floor from here and explored “The Slave Pen” and “Escape”.  These areas talked more about the journey to freedom along the underground railroad.  At the end of this exhibit was the “Brothers of the Borderland” movie in the “experiential” theater.  This movie shows the journey of a young woman across the Ohio River and into the home of an abolitionist.  The film was fairly intense.  We all agreed that it was worth waiting for the movie and it was good.  But the “experiential theater” was a little goofy.

When we were there, the Harriet Tubman Theater was not available due to a private group using the space.  From the description, this area gives you an orientation to the museum which would have been helpful.

Our Impressions

On this trip, we took my Aunt, my 19-year old cousin, my 16-year old son, and my 13-year old daughter.  Across our three generations, we all agreed the museum was nice, there was far too much reading necessary to really get the full experience, but overall it was worth the trip.

Throughout the museum there are a few short movies that give a good overview of the material in the museum.  As you walk around there are a lot of displays with lengthy descriptions.  None of us are “read all the plaques” people, but if you travel with one of those, you’ll be here a while.


Tickets for anyone over 12 are $15, Seniors get a break at $13, Kids 3 – 12 are $10.50.  If you buy your tickets online from their website ahead of time, you save $2 per ticket.   Parking in the garage was $8.

For my two kids and I our total was $47 for this adventure plus; not too shabby for downtown parking and a museum.

Good to Know

  • There was no cafe or food option available at the museum.  There are a few restaurants around the area, check hours before you head down since not everything is open on the weekend.
  • We parked in a parking garage off of Rosa Parks Street (around here) which brought us up right next to the museum.  My aunt parked a couple blocks away and paid the same price.
  • It only took a couple of hours for us to go through the museum.  This stop would make a great addition to a bigger day trip to Cincinnati.



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