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How To Navigate Riverfest 2018


Riverfest is Cincinnati's unofficial farewell salute to summer. Here's what you need to know if you're planning to attend the 42nd annual fireworks show.

Riverfest begins at noon on Sunday, September 2, 2018 and runs until 10 p.m. The fireworks go off at 9:07 p.m. The event is free, happens rain or shine, and draws half a million people each year.

Wondering what you can or cannot bring/do? All the answers are in this FAQ. Generally speaking, arrive early and leave the alcohol at home.

How This Affects Streets In Cincinnati

Most Downtown streets will remain open to vehicular and foot traffic throughout the day so that visitors can access Downtown destinations like Fountain Square and area restaurants and shops. A number of streets, however, will continue to have lane restrictions due to ongoing construction zones. Visit for up-to-date traffic information.

Access to the Cincinnati Riverfront will be limited to pedestrians only. Third Street, and all streets north of Third Street, will be open so that people can access points throughout Downtown. On-street parking will not be available throughout the downtown area south of Ninth Street after 11 a.m. on Sunday, September 2.

Other important closures include:

  • The Purple People Bridge will close at 5 p.m.
  • The Clay Wade Bailey Bridge, Suspension Bridge and the Taylor Southgate Bridge will close at 6 p.m. to vehicles and pedestrians. (Pedestrians may cross on the west side of the Taylor Southgate Bridge until 7:30 p.m.)
  • Access to the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge (I-471) from Ohio will close at 7:30 p.m.
  • The Third Street exit from westbound Columbia Parkway will close at 9 p.m.
  • The Third Street exit from southbound 71 will close at 9 p.m.

The actual timing of these closures may be adjusted as traffic volumes dictate.
While Cincinnati's Department of Transportation recommends using public transit, parking will be available in the lots and garages north of Third Street.

Additional parking lots are located north and west of Paul Brown Stadium. Cash parking will be available in Riverfront surface lots in the vicinity of Paul Brown Stadium on a limited first come, first served basis.  Construction sites in and around the riverfront are off-limits for public parking. Sites will be clearly marked and secured, and anyone parking in these areas will be towed, the city notes. 

How This Affects Streets In Covington (Including Devou Park)

The Covington Police Command Center for the Western & Southern/WEBN Fireworks will be located once again at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, at the corner of Madison Avenue and Rivercenter Boulevard.
To help people with disabilities access the Impact Area, police will have a cart and driver on site. People who need this service should contact the Command Center at 859-409-8509 when they arrive on Sunday.
Road closures include: 

  • All streets north of East Fourth Street from Madison Avenue to the Licking River will be closed to vehicular traffic at 6 p.m.
  • The Roebling Suspension Bridge and the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge will be closed to all traffic beginning at 6 p.m.
  • The Fourth Street Bridge to Newport will close at 8 p.m.
  • Madison Avenue will remain open to allow access to public parking lots and garages until they are full or 6 p.m., whichever occurs first. Once the parking lots and garages are full, Madison will be closed to through traffic north of Fourth Street. Exceptions will be made for TANK buses, invitation holders to the Metropolitan Club, and hotel guests with room keys and parking passes.
  • Access to Devou Park, Kenton Hills, and The Bluffs will be restricted beginning at 2 p.m. to residents and their guests only.
  • Streets inside of the Impact Area will not reopen and residents and guests will not be permitted to exit the Impact Area in a vehicle until pedestrians have safely cleared out and Covington Police determine that it is safe to do so. This may take up to an hour after the fireworks are completed. (The fireworks begin just after 9 p.m. and last for about 30 minutes.)

The following areas within the Impact Area will be posted as "No Parking, Tow Away Zones." Vehicles parked in these areas will be towed starting at 7 a.m., including next to parking meters:

  • Riverside Drive
  • Garrard Street between East Second Street and Riverside Drive
  • Kennedy Street between East Second Street and Riverside Drive
  • Shelby Street
  • Scott Boulevard north of East Fourth Street
  • Greenup Street north of East Fourth Street
  • East Third Street east of Madison Avenue
  • Park Place
  • Court Street
  • Surface lots along the floodwall on Rivercenter Boulevard between Madison Avenue and Johnson Street and below the Roebling Suspension Bridge
  • Grass areas in Devou Park

All vehicles parked in garages and parking lots located in the Impact Area will not be permitted to leave until pedestrian traffic has cleared and Covington Police have determined that it is safe for vehicle traffic. 
Alcohol And Other Restrictions

  • Alcohol is prohibited on any city property and in public places at all times. All coolers and beverage containers are subject to inspection and will be checked at designated checkpoints.
  • Anyone wishing to bring alcohol to a private event must have it in the Impact Area before 6 p.m. After 6 p.m., police officers will not allow anyone - including residents - with alcohol to enter the Impact Area.
  • Glass containers, bicycles, skateboards, pets, roller blades, roller skates, and fireworks are all prohibited in the Impact Area.
  • Motorized vehicles or scooters are not permitted on floodwalls.
  • Swimming in both the Ohio and Licking Rivers is prohibited during Riverfest.
  • Mooring along the Covington shoreline is prohibited.
  • Vendors are not permitted to enter the Impact Area.

How This Affects Streets In Newport

Traffic and Street Closures

  • Riverboat Row: Closes at 8 a.m.
  • Columbia Street (North of 4th St): Closes at 8 a.m.
  • Purple People Bridge: Closes at 5:00 p.m.
  • Taylor Southgate Bridge (vehicular): Closes at 6 p.m.
  • Taylor Southgate Bridge (pedestrians): Closes at 7:30 p.m.
  • Monmouth St, 3rd St to 11th Street: Closes at 7:30 p.m., with no parking allowed on Monmouth
  • Dave Cowens Dr: Closes at 7:30 p.m.
  • I471 Ramps to Route 8 (Exit 5): Closes at 7:30 p.m.
  • Both NORTH and SOUTH 10th St between Saratoga and York: Closes at 7:30 p.m.
  • 4th Street Bridge:Closes at 8:30 p.m.
  • Licking Pike (Route 9) North at Aspen Dr: Closes at 9 p.m.
  • I-471 North will remain open during the event, unless the safety of motorist determines it needs to be closed.  

All traffic leaving the event is being routed to I-471 or I-275. If you are directed to a route or direction that you are not wanting to take, please continue on the route as instructed, and once on the interstate, you can take any exit to get turned around. Due to street closures and the large amount of traffic, the direct route to your destination, may not be available. The Kentucky transportation department asks that you turn off your GPS while not on the interstate. 
When Leaving Newport

  • At approximately 9 p.m., Monmouth St will reopen and change to a one-way street going South to send all traffic to I-471.
  • All traffic west of York Street will be directed south to 12th Street. 12th St will be a one-way street going west to send all traffic to I-275.
  • After the event, the NKU buses will stage on Dave Cowens (Route 8) entrance ramp to I-471 South for everyone that arrived on the buses.
  • All traffic near Dave Cowens (Route 8) after the event will be sent to I-471 North or South.

Public Transportation

Metro and the Cincinnati Bell Connector will be running normal operating schedules. For more information, call MetroCenter at 513-621-4455 or visit For more information about the Southbank Shuttle as well as the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky, contact TANK at 859-331-TANK or visit

On The River

The caption of the Port Ohio Valley has established a special local regulation for mariners transiting the Ohio River between mile markers 463.0 and 477.0, and the Licking River from mile markers 0 to 0.3 from noon on Sunday to 3 a.m. on Monday.

Additionally, the river will be closed to all commercial and recreational vessel traffic in the downtown Cincinnati area from Ohio River mile 469.2 to mile 470.5 and Licking River mile 0.0 to 0.4 from 7 p.m. until the end of the fireworks display. During the river closure, no vessel traffic, including commercial or recreational vessels, personal water crafts or sailing vessels will be allowed to transit, launch or leave any Kentucky or Ohio harbors or ramps located within this river closure without the permission of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The U.S. Coast Guard Sector Ohio Valley will be standing by on VHF-FM Channel 16.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.