It’s been dubbed “The Nasty Nati” and simply “Cincy,” but the nickname that serves this trendy Ohio metropolis best is its official moniker: “The Queen City.” Cincinnati, which borders Northern Kentucky, is a progressive haven that’s the perfect mix of bustling city life and Southern charm (not to mention extremely affordable). You’ll come for the river views and festivals, and stay for the beer and people, respectively. All hail the Queen.
Cincinnati is the birthplace of a number of scrumptious and exclusive delights, including our famous skyline chili, a mouthwatering secret recipe of noodles, chili, and cheese available at its namesake resto, Skyline Chili (254 E. 4th St.—Google for more locations). Graeters (511 Walnut St.) is Cincinnati’s beloved ice cream empire; one taste of their infamous Black Raspberry Chip and you’ll never be the same. Keystone Bar & Grill (3384 Erie Ave.) is a local hotspot that serves some of the city’s best brunch; their veggie-stuffed frittata pairs perfectly with the peach mimosas. Check out Holtman’s Donuts (1332 Vine St.), family owned since 1960, when you’re in the mood for a custard-filled or sprinkled deep-fried treat.
With a wide selection of lounges featuring even more choices on tap, Cincinnati is a certified beer hub that satisfies any suds snob’s wildest dreams. Local brewer Rhinegeist (1910 Elm St.) offers a rooftop craft experience that is classically Cincinnati; try Alice, a Belgian-style blonde ale with “spicy banana and pear notes.” MadTree (5164 Kennedy Ave.) serves up local brews and the city’s finest wood-fired pizzas in a quaint drinking lounge located in the same space as their brewery. Taft’s Ale House (1429 Race St.) is another local favorite with its impossibly high ceilings, artisanal beers, and downtown charm.
Cincinnati has a serious knack for festivals: Bunbury Music Festival and Taste of Cincinnati are the city’s summer staples; Oktoberfest Zinzinnati celebrates food, alcohol, and German culture in mid-September; and Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo (3400 Vine St.) is the must-see local holiday tradition. Unknown to most, Cincinnati’s comedy scene is one of the best in the country. Check out MOTR Pub (1345 Main St.) on Tuesdays for open mic night and Myrtle’s Punch House (2733 Woodburn Ave.) on Thursday nights for rad comedy showcases featuring hilarious locals like Kelly Collette and Liza Treyger. Before winter sets in, enjoy Cincinnati’s thriving outdoor spaces. Walk across the pedestrian-friendly Purple People Bridge or Roebling Bridge (connecting Ohio and Kentucky, it was the prototype for designer John Roebling’s Brooklyn Bridge). Washington Park (1230 Elm St.) and Sawyer Point (705 E. Pete Rose Way) are the city’s most delightful greenspaces with impeccable views and people-watching, guaranteed river breezes, and countless food truck encounters (keep your eyes peeled for Empanadas Aqui). During the summer, a Reds baseball game at the Great American Ball Park (100 Joe Nuxhall Way) is an absolute must. Fall brings Bengals games to Paul Brown Stadium, a guaranteed good time for football lovers. We take tailgating very seriously; dress accordingly in proper Cincinnati gear, pack a cooler full of cold brews, and enjoy the wonders of a pre-game parking lot party.
Once a busy railroad station, the beautiful Art Deco architecture of Union Terminal now houses the Cincinnati Museum Center (1301 Western Ave.), a special place that offers natural history and science exhibits. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975, Music Hall (1241 Elm St.) is one of the classiest places in town to go see a show. Locals also say it’s haunted, with stories of supernatural activity dating back to the 1800s; guided ghost tours are offered after-hours every Friday.
Like any major metropolitan area, mainstream stores and expansive shopping centers cover the Cincinnati area. But hidden gems do exist. Local boutique Leeli + Lou (2732 Erie Ave.) provides fabulous finds for affordable prices, whether your outfit of choice is a simple shirt-dress or a sexy jumpsuit. The hybrid Lydia’s On Ludlow (329 Ludlow Ave.) is part hole-in-the-wall boutique and part cozy coffee house offering crystals, books, herbs, and tarot cards. Woman-co-owned Casablanca Vintage (3944 Spring Grove Ave.) is Cincinnati’s best-kept shopping secret, specializing in clothing from the 1920s through ’70s, and good vintage Levi’s that will make your ass look exceptional. Founded in 1852, Findlay Market (1801 Race St.), Ohio’s oldest continuously operating public market, is a Cincinnati treasure where farmers and merchants sell homegrown produce, cheese, flowers, food, and locally produced goods. A Saturday wandering through Findlay, blooms and tea in hand, perusing the vendors and enjoying the street performers, is a Saturday well spent.
WRITTEN BY DANNIAH DAHER
PHOTOGRAPHED BY MACKENZIE FRANK
This article originally appeared in the October/November 2016 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
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