A Perfect Weekend in Cincinnati

A Perfect Twilight in Cincinnati

This question has come up in conversation and, when I’ve had the pleasure of hosting visitors to Cincinnati, as I did just a few weeks ago, I’ve faced this challenge myself: how best to introduce an outsider to the Queen City? Here is my ideal itinerary for a weekend visit.

Let’s assume arrival late afternoon on a Friday. After settling in, we would head out for a taste of old-school Cincinnati goodness either at Price Hill Chili or Pleasant Ridge Chili. On a nice evening, we would head to Bellevue Hill Park to watch the sun set over the city.

Just to mix things up a bit and show a different side of old-school Cincinnati, we would get a drink in the Art Deco splendor of the Netherland Hilton in Carew Tower downtown.

Carew Tower in Downtown Cincinnati

If we were feeling really ambitious, we would trek over to Rhinegeist in Over-the-Rhine. I’m not a beer person at all, but it’s part of Cincinnati’s German heritage, and this is a unique space with cornhole [yet another bit of local color!] and ping pong; definitely a must-see for a visitor.

Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati

Saturday morning, we would head to Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine, feasting on pastries and coffee at Skirtz & Johnston [hello, goetta danish!]. I’m more of a weekday shopper, but it’s fun to check out the market in all its competitive shopping glory.

mural by Tina Westerkamp at Rookwood Pottery

Afterward, we would stop by the Rookwood Pottery showroom to see the work of this historic Cincinnati company, and then we’d head to Cincinnati Union Terminal for a free, docent-led tour, where we’d learn all about the gorgeous Art Deco architecture, glass mosaic murals and the unique all-Rookwood ice cream parlor.

Cincinnati Union Terminal

Then we’d go up to the top of Tower A to check out the train tracks.

Tower A at Cincinnati Union Terminal

Meandering back through OTR, I would point out some of the awesome ghost signs and ghost graffiti, and then we’d visit Mike and Carolyn [and VL work] at MiCA 12/v, our favorite neighborhood store. Grabbing some coffe at Coffe Emporium on Central and continuing downtown, I would show off some of my favorite ArtWorks murals, like Amanda Checco’s Ice Cream Daydream.

Ice Cream Daydream by Amanda Checco

We’d stop for an obligatory photo-op in front of the Hustler Store, and then we’d check out the Contemporary Arts Center, where my favorite exhibit is the UnMuseum on the top floor, which includes a really cool interactive piece by my friend Cedric.

Contemporary Arts Center in downtown Cincinnati

We’d peer into the John Weld Peck Federal Building for a glimpse at Charley Harper’s awesome mosaic mural and then stop by Fabulous Frames & Art to admire his prints.

I would point out the Rookwood Pottery tile on the façade of the old Gidding-Jenny department store and the Dixie Terminal Building, where an early scene in Rain Man was filmed.

Dixie Terminal Building in downtown Cincinnati

We would explore the detailed Art Deco interior of Carew Tower and take in a view of the area from its observation deck.

view from the Carew Tower observation deck in downtown Cincinnati

In nice weather, we would grab a cone of Graeter’s on Fountain Square and continue down to the riverfront, walking across the Roebling Bridge to explore Covington. There, we’d try some bourbon at the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar and get dinner at Bouquet or Otto’s, if we were feeling fancy, or at Zola, if we just wanted excellent burgers.

Roebling Bridge

We would then stroll back to downtown Cincinnati to hang out on the patio at Arnold’s, the oldest bar in Cincinnati, hopefully listening to a fun band like Lagniappe or the Dancing Pigs.

On a cool evening, we would stay in OTR instead, grabbing an early dinner at the recently opened and excellent Salazar, and then we’d swank it up at Music Hall [tickets start at $12, so the symphony is a fancy evening without a fancy price tag].

Cincinnati Music Hall by Hannaford & Procter

Sunday brunch is the most important meal of the week and, while there are plenty of options in OTR, I’m partial to MOTR. Brunch in a bar? Hey, it works, and it’s some of the tastiest food in the neighborhood. Plus, pinball machines in the basement, so…

Afterward, we’d walk off our meal with a leisurely walk around Northside, checking out all the CoSign signs and doing a bit of shopping at Black Plastic Records, Fabricate, Shake It Records, and other cool independent businesses in the neighborhood.

CoSign Signage in Cincinnati's Northside

We would end the weekend excursion with a visit to the legitimately awesome American Sign Museum in Camp Washington:

American Sign Museum in Cincinnati

Note: This is an update of last year’s “perfect weekend” post. Places have closed or opened since then, and I incorporated a few things from the comments. Plus, a friend from Detroit visited a few weeks ago, and this is almost exactly what we did, which reminded me to make an official update.

Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati

Anyway, that’s my romp through Cincinnati at its Cincinnatiest. Fellow Queen City dwellers, what would you put on your must-do list? Where do you always take your guests?


12 thoughts on “A Perfect Weekend in Cincinnati

  1. That’s a pretty solid weekend. When we have friends or family in I usually need a week to recover from my weekend.
    And I’m glad you decided to grab the rare beer at Rhinegiest, it was nice bumping into you and your out of town guest.

  2. That’s funny, last night I was showing an out of towner downtown Porkopolis & Arnolds, a Rhinegeist IPA & the Netherlands were all included.

  3. I’m glad the experts agree! I’ll never be converted to beer, but I had a good time showing a bit of that side of Cincinnati to my beer snob friend. Plus, running into 5chw4r7z is a rare treat!

  4. I’d include something like Eden Park. 100% total Cincinnati and fills the need for some green space in your introduction…more so that Washington Park, which is nice, but it simply does not have the same classic beauty of Eden. It gets you up into the surroundings and a nice no urban river view.

  5. That’s a great suggestion! I mentioned Bellevue Hill Park because it offers a lovely downhill view of downtown and OTR, but you’re right that Eden Park is great for checking out the river and Northern Kentucky.

    I’d argue that the pavilion in the middle of Washington Park is a perfect example of “classic beauty.” The rest of the park is newly renovated, so it offers a different kind of charm.

  6. I saw you post this to the American Sign Museum FB page and I want to say thank you! We’re looking forward to being able to spend some more time in Cincinnati sometime soon, and this is a perfect starter for us. Much appreciated!

  7. Wow – looks like a packed visit! We went last year for a weekend and I was really surprised at how much there was to see in Cincy. Loved Museum Center and Graeters ice cream is probably the best I’ve ever had. We missed the farmers market, but based on your post it looks like something I would like to see on a return trip.

  8. Pingback: Top 10 VisuaLingual Posts of 2014 | Visualingual

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