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Tucked into the southeastern corner of Ohio, Cincinnati is an upbeat Midwestern city with close ties to the South. Separated from Kentucky only by the narrow Ohio and Licking Rivers, it shares a public transit system, an airport and many cultural points of interest with towns of the neighboring state that face its banks. This is a boon for visitors, as the location provides Cincinnati vacationers with even more fun things to do in and around the former steamboat town.
REASONS TO GO:
River views: Get some perspective of the city from the 49th floor Observation Deck of Carew Tower. The Art Deco-styled building offers panoramic sights of the area, including a clear view of the Ohio River waterfront and many of Cincinnati’s landmark buildings and bridges, including the historic Roebling Suspension Bridge. Cross the impressive 1866 bridge by foot into Covington, Kentucky to get a mid-river look, or hit up the pedestrian-only Newport Southbank Bridge, popularly known as the Purple People Bridge, and take in the view on one of its park benches. Nearby green spaces, such as Smale Riverfront Park and the twin parks of Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove, offer relaxing riverside sights. You can also board a historic vessel for a sightseeing cruise with BB Riverboats from the Kentucky side.
Flora and Fauna: The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden presents a daily list of animal encounters that include giraffe and camel feedings, elephant baths and wild bird shows. Across the river, the Newport Aquarium hosts exhibits such as Jellyfish Gallery and Dangerous and Deadly, which features the redeye piranha, spotted wobbegong and Gila monster. Visitors enjoy the Orchid House, rainforest waterfall, and International Butterfly Show at Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park, while a tram tour at Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum recounts the history of the uptown grounds and the stories of those laid to rest there.
Live Music: Signature venue Music Hall is home to the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops orchestras, as well as the city’s ballet and opera companies. Intimate performances take place at the three performance spaces of Aronoff Center for the Arts, while Riverbend Music Center, PNC Pavillion and Horseshoe Casino bring Broadway musicals and touring rock, country and pop acts to outdoor stages in warmer months. The city also hosts many festivals, including Buckle Up (country), Cincy Folk, Cincy Blues, Bunbury (indie rock), Ubahn (EDM) MusicNOW (contemporary and indie rock) and the Cincinnati Music Festival (R&B, jazz, soul and hip-hop). Year-round, catch underground Americana, metal, blues and punk bands at former vaudeville theater Bogart’s, Urban Artifact, and cross into Kentucky to the nearby Madison Theater in Covington and Southgate House Revival in Newport for more live music vibes.
Sporting Events: The Reds, baseball’s oldest professional franchise, draw crowds riverside for games at Great American Ballpark, and football fans gather to its west at Paul Brown Stadium to watch the Bengals play. Also nearby, the Cyclones, a minor league hockey team, hit the ice at U.S. Bank Arena.
Art Museums: Art aficionados with a taste for European Masters should plan to see the Taft Museum of Art and the Cincinnati Art Museum, which also houses a unique collection by local artists in its Cincinnati Wing addition. Cutting edge and unorthodox, the Contemporary Arts Center is committed to very recently created works in the visual arts and new media, and holds no permanent exhibits.
German Heritage: Cincy’s German population claims to hold the largest Oktoberfest outside of Munich. Every September, vendors sell record numbers of sausages, sauerkraut, soft pretzels and of course, beer, while March brings German beer lovers to the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood for Bockfest.
WHEN TO GO: Though the summers are hot and humid, the full schedule of free and outdoor events makes it worthwhile. The late spring and early fall provide the best temperatures and bluest skies. The PNC Festival of Lights between November and January is a wintertime draw.
TRAVEL TIP: Be aware of local names when asking directions. Just as the previously mentioned Newport Southbank Bridge is called the Purple People Bridge, the Brent Spence is referred to as the I-75, the Daniel Beard is known as the Big Mac and the Combs-Hehl is nicknamed the 275 Bridge.