The Weekly Getaway: Is Cincinnati the new midwestern mecca?
Once a national destination for both its pork and beer production, around the turn of the 20th century, Cincinnati fell off the culinary travel radar. Nearly 100 years later, however, it’s experiencing a true culinary renaissance, attracting and keeping world-class chefs who are invigorating the city with fresh ideas for restaurants and unique bars.
Likewise, the city was at one time struggling to find a new workforce. Now, it’s drawing millennials by the hordes, intrigued by the startup-friendly city’s new initiatives that embrace up-and-coming businesses and soon-to-be-locals.
Travelers also are starting to understand all that Cincinnati, in its strategic, edge-of-the-Midwest location, offers. From food to shopping, sports to the great outdoors, there’s new and exciting options popping up everywhere you look.
A historic neighborhood that’s really come into its own over the last decade, Over-the-Rhine (or OTR for short) offers a little bit of everything. You’ll find local boutiques selling collectible prints, plants, jewelry and clothes; spectacular restaurants; arts and cultural events and more. Washington Park provides a beautiful setting for a stroll or one of their many free events, from outdoor movies to live music to group fitness activities. It’s also right next to Cincinnati Music Hall, newly refurbished and hosting world-class performances on a regular basis. Findlay Market is a can’t-miss, as the oldest continuously running market in the state, and also where you can find lots of regional foodie favorites. Plus, the breweries on this side of town are aplenty.
The central business district of the city, downtown Cincinnati has seen a surge in new attractions. Once a part of town that only hustled and bustled Monday-Friday, 9-5, it now draws both travelers and city locals for its recreation. See the Cincinnati Reds play during baseball season, or catch a football game when the Bengals are in town. Stop by Fountain Square, if not for the live music and nearby restaurants, at least to snap a great Instagram pic of the dramatic fountain. Beyond the “fun stuff,” the neighborhood is also home to several higher end hotels.
While Over-the-Rhine and downtown Cincinnati have experienced their rebirths, Walnut Hills is in the first gentle stages of rediscovering itself. Still a little quiet, but with plenty of charm to offer, it’s home to boutiques, antique stores and unique dining. Most certainly one of the more inventive dining spots is Myrtle’s Punch House, created by mixologist and Cincinnati sweetheart Molly Wellmann, who’s been making her mark on the mixology scene for years.
Further out in the suburbs of Cincinnati lies Camp Washington, quite possibly best known for the chili parlor that took its name — Camp Washington Chili. While Cincinnati chili, with its Greek influence and strict regional following is a worthy experience, there’s more here than the food. One of the other highlights in the area is the American Sign Museum, dedicated to the history of signs in the United States, a journey that’s more riveting than you might initially think.
- American Sign Museum - Small museum with a hodgepodge of historic signs from around the country, including an impressive collection of neon, as well as a neon shop onsite
- Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden - Frequently named one of the most visually pleasing historic zoos in America, it’s also home to media favorite, Baby Fiona the Hippo
- Cincinnati Art Museum - More than 67,000 works of art with rotating exhibits
- Purple People Bridge - Dating back to 1872, the bridge connects Cincinnati to Newport, Ky., for riverside attractions in both states
- Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal - Home to three museums (Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children’s Museum and Museum of Natural History and Science), the center was originally a train station and now an impressive historic landmark
- Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown - Housed in a historic building, with a dramatic, Gatsby-esque lobby, chic bar and upscale guestrooms
- 21c Museum Hotel - Worth a visit even if you’re not staying on the property. The entire first floor is dedicated to an eclectic museum with rotating exhibits; it’s completely free and only takes a few moments of your time.
- Millennium Cincinnati - A favorite for business travelers, connected to the Duke Energy Convention Center via sky-walk and located in the financial district
- Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza - A charter member of the Historic Hotels of America, this 1930s French Art Deco property is a few steps from a Cincinnati Bell Connector stop, providing quick and affordable access to the rest of the city
- AC Hotel Cincinnati at The Banks - A great choice for easy walks to Paul Brown Stadium for games, as well as Smale Riverfront Park for taking in the Ohio River
- A Taste of Belgium - Authentic Belgian waffles combined with regional favorites, such as goetta, a Cincinnati breakfast meat
- Camp Washington Chili - Original Cincinnati chili served on a mountain of spaghetti and topped with cheese and onions
- Graeter’s - The local ice cream favorite, made using quality ingredients; they’re serving up huge scoops in multiple locations around town
- Video Archive - A trendy bar inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s career and serving up a limited menu of strong drinks alongside classic movies
- Myrtle’s Punch House - Enjoy a flight of classic punch with a kick, in a charming and intimate environment