The New York Times’ travel itinerary for the fair city I call home took Cincinnati by storm. Cincy natives and transplants alike boasted and blushed with the Times’ attention to what has long-been an industrial city on the banks of a river.
Our simpleton reputation as a pork and beer city is no more. Today, Cincinnati is a “booming” city with thriving arts, brewery, foodie and recreational scenes. There is plenty to do, see and experience in Cincy that even the 36 hours defined in the NYT’s write-up is hardly enough time to scratch the surface of all that Cincinnati has to offer.
I moved to Cincy three years ago, after marrying a proud Cincinnati native. He loves this city like a king loves his kingdom. He boasts at Findlay Market’s historic significance as the longest running market; at the Roebling Bridges’ role as the prototype to the Brooklyn Bridge; and, of course, to the Reds’ historic fame as the first professional baseball team.
Moving to Cincy from Chicago meant that there was a bit of … shall we say, “transition,” (more like fits and fights) for me to find the nuances of Queen City living that make it so spectacular. Familiarity with places like Millennium Park, the shores of Lake Michigan and the marvel of public transit that is the “El” meant that humble lil’ Cincinnati couldn’t compete for my heartstrings.
But compete it has. And this past weekend, as host to my Chicago roomie for 36 hours, I tested and tried – and found true – that Cincinnati not only competes, but hits a few home runs.
Below in my own take on “36 Hours Cincinnati” with personal commentary on where and how Cincinnati surprised and delighted not only my guest, but me as well.
5:30 PM: Dinner reservations at Salazar – Owned by James Beard nominee Jose Salazar, this delightful 40-person restaurant in the heart of Over-the-Rhine serves New American fare. Early reservations meant we slid in during Happy Hour and successfully tasted several dishes for an amazing price.
7 PM: Final Friday – We lucked out in that my roomie visited during “Final Friday” weekend, a monthly event hosted by the galleries and shops of Over-the-Rhine in which they “open their doors for a special showing.” We wandered the streets of OTR and up to Pendleton Art Center to pay witness to the established – and always growing – art scene.
9:00 AM: Coffee Emporium – A short walk from our home, Coffee Emporium in East Hyde Park offers the perfect Saturday morning brew to welcome the weekend. Even better is that my roomie, a bonafide coffee snob, gave their coffee two thumbs up. Drink up!
10:00 AM: Oakley O.F.F. Market – Hosted monthly throughout the summer in Oakley Square, this street-fair shows off the creative, entrepreneurial spirit of Cincinnati. Stop by artisan baker Gadabout Doughnuts and ask for the Earl Grey with Lemon Drizzle. Yum!!
12:30 PM: Lunch at Panino, OTR – Head back downtown to catch OTR in the daylight. We ate lunch at Panino where my roomie touted the meatball sandwich as “worth the trip to Cincinnati all by itself.”
3:00 PM: Findlay Market food tour by Cincinnati Food Tours – $20 gets you a guided tour of five Findlay Market vendors, each of whom share their stories. A fantastic way to learn more of Cincinnati history using all five senses. Highly recommend!!
5:00 PM: Farm Chores at Turner Farm – As a member of Turner Farm’s meat program, I commit to caring of the animals at this organic educational farm just outside of Cincinnati city limits. Farming doesn’t take a break for guests, but fortunately my guest was willing to tag along as I fed and watered the pigs, sheep and horses. For your own itinerary, consider simply visiting the farm – it’s always free and open to the public and shows how Cincinnatians can enjoy urban and rural life all within a 20 minute drive.
7:30 PM: Dinner at Mazunte Taqueria – Inconspicuous and humble with its strip mall facade, this Mexican joint complete with salsa bar, serves fare worthy of your “last meal on earth.” (my words). Try the chicken tostadas and margarita on the rocks for a winning combo.
9:00 PM: Madtree Brewery – Any trip to Cincinnati must include a brewery stop. We chose Madtree for its location in our neighborhood and its indoor-outdoor space that can’t be beat. Even for non-beer drinkers, the airplane hangar-turned-brewery makes for an impressive display.
9:00 AM: Brunch at Home – Nothing is closer to eating local than eggs you collected yourself the day before at Turner Farm.
10:00 AM: Red Bike along the Banks – Head downtown one final time to ride along the Banks via Red Bike. $8 for the entire day, Sunday morning proved the best time to show off Cincinnati from the banks of the Ohio River. Ride over the Roebling Bridge and say a quick hello to our Kentucky neighbors.
12:30 PM: Ice cream for lunch at Graeter’s – Finish the trip with a milkshake from Cincinnati’s hometown scoop-ery. It’s a sure-fire way to leave a lasting impression on the merits of Cincinnati!
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