The Queen City is calling.
Cincinnati just made the list of top travel destinations for the summer, and you’ll find plenty of reasons why. Just a short drive away from Dayton, Cincinnati ranked as the sixth most popular city for summer travel this year.
This news organization gives you some inside tips for having the BEST weekend in Cincinnati. From places to stay to the best restaurants, here are 20 ideas for the perfect weekend in Porkopolis:
1. Transport yourself to the coast at The Anchor OTR
The Anchor OTR, located next to Washington Park, feels like a quaint coastal eatery. Sit outside on the patio, and order a round of Crawfish Beignets and Octopus to start out. For the main dish, try one of their many seafood dishes: the Lobster Roll, Trout BLT, Bouillabaisse Pot Pie or a huge plate of Bourbon Chipotle Butter and Cotija Cheese Oysters.
Where: 1401 Race St.
2. Share some relaxed vibes with friends at Che OTR
Che is the place to be after a stressful week. This Argentine restaurant and pub, located in Over the Rhine, offers up a relaxed atmosphere and a newly opened outdoor patio. Order up a whole platter (or two) of empanadas, served with Chimichurri and Pepper Relish. Empanada flavors vary from Crab Rangoon and Korean BBQ to Short Rib, Mushroom Feta, Jerk Chicken and Queso y Cebolla.
The waiters couldn’t be more attentive, and you might even hear some live music from talented, local musicians.
Where: 1342 Walnut St.
3. Experience the arts
If you need some culture in your life, come to the Queen City.
You’ve got your choices of museums and shows for the summer. Check out Playhouse in the Park in Mt. Adams, where you can watch plays like “Treasure Island” and “Murder for Two.” While you’re in the hilly neighborhood of Mt. Adams, head over to the Cincinnati Art Museum. The museum boasts an art collection of more than 67,000 works, and general admission is always free. Special exhibitions from all over the world come to the Cincinnati Art Museum. Right now? Check out the “Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China,” which stays on exhibit until Aug. 12.
The newly renovated Cincinnati Music Hall is once again home to performances by the Cincinnati Opera and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, among other events. And if you’re lucky, you might even be in town for BLINK Cincinnati.
Visit the Taft Museum of Art, which has a rich history even before it opened as a museum in 1932. While you’re there, grab brunch on the terrace of the Lindner Family Cafe. Other museums and arts center to visit include: the Contemporary Arts Center, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Sign Museum.
Cincinnati Art Museum: 953 Eden Park Drive
Playhouse at the Park: 962 Mt. Adams Circle
Cincinnati Music Hall: 1241 Elm St.
Contemporary Arts Center: 44 E. 6th St.
Taft Museum of Art: 316 Pike St.
4. Say hello to Fiona
A trip to Cincinnati isn’t complete without seeing not-so-little Fiona the Hippo at The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. The zoo is more than just one, famous hippo. More than 1.5 million people visit the zoo annually, and it features more than 500 animals and 3,000 plant species.
WHERE: 3400 Vine St.
5. Eat some chili, but not just Skyline
It’s always Skyline Time when you’re in Cincinnati. No one loves chili like the Queen City does. The very first Skyline Chili opened in 1949 by Nicholas Lambrinides at 3822 Glenway Ave., but that location was torn down in 2002. Another great location is in the gaslight district of Clifton, located at 290 Ludlow Ave.
Don’t leave Cincinnati without trying at least one other chili joint. Head over to Camp Washington Chili, which has been serving “chili-heads” since 1940. The restaurant’s retro look will make you feel like you stepped back in time a few decades.
Camp Washington Chili: 3005 Colerain Ave.
Skyline: Multiple locations
6. Browse for books
Cincinnati was made for bookworms. Spend a day exploring the Ohio Book Store, which has FIVE FLOORS of books and magazines. The iconic store has been open since 1940. In Rookwood, stop by the two-story Joseph-Beth Booksellers. The independent bookseller is inviting for a rainy day, with the beautiful Bronte Bistro and plenty of Cincinnati-themed gifts to pick up for yourself or a friend.
Joseph-Beth Booksellers: 2692 Madison Road
Ohio Book Store: 726 Main St.
7. Be the ultimate foodie at Findlay Market
Spend an afternoon at Findlay Market. It’s the oldest continuously operated public market in Ohio, surrounded by rich 19th century architecture in Over the Rhine. There are more than 40 indoor merchants selling fish, meat, poultry, produce, cheese, flowers — and just about anything else that you may need. Grab some Eli’s BBQ and sit in the Findlay Market Biergarten, where local musicians play on the weekends. You can take a FREE tour of the market every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month at 10 a.m., or just wander around by yourself.
While you’re there, here are some things to check out:
• Grab a loaf of fresh bread from Blue Oven Bakery. The selection is better in the morning.
• Browse the overwhelming selection of tea at Churchill’s Fine Teas.
• Stock up on your herbs and spices at Colonel De Gourmet Herbs & Spices. Some favorites include the Bourbon Smoked Black Pepper, the OTR Butt & Booty Rub and the Okie Dokie seasoning.
• Snack on some currywurst from Little Berlin, a food vendor specializing in doner kebab sandwiches and other German street food.
• Pick up some gourmet chocolate at Maverick Chocolate Co., a bean to bar chocolate factory.
• Head across the street to The Rhined. This cheese shop focuses on domestic artisan cheese. You can pick up some cheese to go, or order a cheese flight and glass of wine in the shop.
WHERE: 1801 Race St.
8. Bon appétit! Spend a morning eating like the French do
Before Findlay Market, grab breakfast at the French Crust Bistro & Cafe. Well-known chef Jean-Robert de Cavel gives Cincinnatians a little taste of Paris right in the heart of Over the Rhine. Order a Croque Monsieur with a fried egg and a cappuccino. Get a few croissants and pain au chocolate to go.
WHERE: 1801 Elm St.
9. Cool off at Ziegler Park pool
Cool off at Ziegler Park pool in Over the Rhine, which offers cheap daily admission and season passes. Ziegler has a pool, playground, lawn and organized games for the community.
WHERE: 1322 Sycamore St.
10. Buy some new art at City Flea
Check out City Flea, a curated urban flea market at Washington Park. Vendors range from vintage decor dealers to artisan pizza makers and art sellers. The market will pop up on: May 19, June 16, July 21, Aug. 18 and Sept. 15.
WHERE: 1230 Elm St.
11. Take the streetcar from brewery to brewery
Hop on the Cincinnati Bell Connector, the streetcar system in Cincinnati, and head to a few of Cincinnati’s many breweries. Climb the steps up to the rooftop bar at Rhinegeist and enjoy a birds-eye view of Cincinnati. Sip on a Rhinegeist Bubbles while you’re there.
Walk down to Taft’s Ale House for an Alehouse tri-tip steak sandwich and a Nellie’s Key Lime beer. The Ale House is located in a renovated church, just a block away from Washington Park.
Want to try some other breweries around the city? Here are a few to choose from:
• Brink Brewing in College Hill
• Fifty West Brewing in Columbia Twp.
• Listermann Brewing in Norwood
• MadTree Brewing Company in Oakley
• Nine Giant Brewing in Pleasant Ridge
• West Side Brewing in Westwood
12. Spend a leisurely afternoon in Mt. Adams
Take a walk around Mount Adams. Grab a coffee and breakfast sandwich at Bow Tie Cafe, and then walk to Holy Cross Immaculata Church for the best views of Cincinnati. If you’re thirsty, grab a frozen drink at Mount Adams Pavilion. The bar has four party decks overlooking the city and live music. You also can’t go wrong with the Blind Lemon or Mt. Adams Bar & Grill.
Want to learn more about the history of Mount Adams? You can take a 90-minute guided walking tour every Sunday.
Head over to the Mt. Adams pool, located behind the Playhouse in the Park. This hidden gem is great place to cool off after a run or walk in Eden Park. Eden park is home to the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and the Krohn Conservatory. The park features two lakes, a footbridge, wooded running paths and stunning views of the Ohio River.
13. Grab the best bagel of your life at Marx
Nothing compares to Marx Bagels in Blue Ash, the only kosher Jewish bagel shop in Cincinnati. The shop features more than 30 kinds of bagels, fresh sandwiches, pastries and vegetarian options.
If you’re lucky, the Bagel Man himself — owner John Marx — will take your order. There’s a warning near the door though: “Owner not politically correct. Why be normal? This is an experience.”
So, you really should experience it for yourself.
14. Eat and drink like the Germans do at Mecklenburg Gardens before an FC Cincinnati game
Mecklenburg Gardens was named America’s Best Beer Garden by Travel and Leisure Magazine. The restaurant has some of the best outdoor seating in the city, and it’s been a Cincinnati staple since 1865. The authentic joint serves up German cuisine along with traditional German Lagers, Dunkels, Hefeweizen and Pilsners. Try the Sauerkraut Balls and a Schnitzel Sandwich.
Head over to Nippert Stadium to watch the FC Cincinnati soccer team dominate on the field. The United Soccer League club team started playing in 2016, and the electric atmosphere of the games are now a favorite activity of Cincinnati residents. Grab an orange and blue shirt and check out the game schedule for the summer.
15. Fall in love with the University of Cincinnati
There’s a good reason former university president Santa Ono dubbed the University of Cincinnati the #HottestCollegeInAmerica. The campus is consistently named one of the most beautiful campuses in the world, and it mixes modern and classic architecture perfectly. “Its master plan showcases major architectural works by Michael Graves, Peter Eisenman and Frank Gehry, among others,” according to Forbes’ ranking.
While you’re on campus, buy some cheap tickets to a world-class performance at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Get a selfie with the Mick and Mac lions in front of McMicken Hall before you go.
If you want to feel like a college student again, make sure to stop at some of these Clifton favorites:
• Grab a cup of coffee at Roh’s Cafe
• Order some take-out from Krishna Indian Restaurant and Carry Out
• Enjoy a slice of pizza at Adriatico’s or Mac’s Pizza Pub
• Grab a free hot dog and popcorn at Murphy’s
• Head up to the Short Vine entertainment district to see a show at Bogart’s or stop into Taste of Belgium for a waffle
WHERE: 2600 Clifton Ave.
16. Skip the pubs, and head straight for the s’mores bar
Satisfy your sweet tooth at Quaintrelle Confections, an artisan marshmallow maker and s’mores bar. The little Over the Rhine shop has unique flavors like PB&J s’mores, Sriracha s’mores and even Blueberry Lavendar marshmallows.
WHERE: 1210 Main St.
17. Hand pour your own candle
If you’re looking for a rainy day activity, head over to Manitou Candle Co. in the Columbia-Tusculum district. The candle shop hosts events, classes and workshops where you can hand pour your own candles. The shop even allows you to bring your own snacks and drinks.
“We thrive on community and strive to be a place where people can come together to create, inspire, and gather around the flame,” the candle company says on its website.
WHERE: 4015 Eastern Ave.
18. Grab a gourmet hot dog, then play some games
Senate pub serves up gourmet hot dogs with creative toppings at its restaurants in Over the Rhine and Blue Ash. The pub is constantly coming up with new hot dog variations. The poutine — topped with braised short rib — is just as good as anything you’ll find in Montreal, Canada. Try the Trailer Park Hot Dog, which comes with Applewood Bacon, American Cheese, Coleslaw and Grippo’s Chips.
Then, walk over to 16-Bit Bar + Arcade, a retro watering hole offering more than 50 classic arcade games. The bar has cocktails named after everyone from Carrie Fisher, Molly Ringwald and Janet Jackson to Cyndi Lauper and Marky Mark.
WHERE: 1212 Vine St.
Senate Blue Ash location: 1100 Summit Place Dr.
16-Bit Bar + Arcade: 1331 Walnut St.
19. Sweat out all that food you’ve eaten
Cardio is king in the Queen City, so they say! Probably because there’s so much to eat. You can find a race to come to almost any weekend of the summer, including the OTR 5K and the Hyde Park Blast. If you’re looking for a new kind of work out, try one of Cincinnati’s climbing gyms like RockQuest or Climb Time.
Work out those triceps with a trip to the newest axe-throwing attraction in West Chester.
20. So, where should you stay?
• 21c Museum Hotel, downtown
• The Cincinnatian Hotel
• The Westin Cincinnati
• Kingsgate Marriott Conference Center at the University of Cincinnati
You can also rent an airbnb to feel like a true Queen City native.
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