If you have a ticket in your hand to see the Reds play baseball at the Great American Ball Park or the Bengals play football at Paul Brown Stadium, or if you have reserved your seat for a performance in the grand Cincinnati Music Hall, then you already recognize the reasons why so many people love being in Cincinnati. But, for curious travelers who might be considering a weekend in this vibrant city, allow me to make some suggestions that could enhance your visit.
ONE: Walking/Strolling/Biking Areas
Whether you are a power-walker, a biker or more of a stroller, Cincinnati offers plenty of places to do all of those activities. Consider Theodore M. Berry International Friendship Park. It provides walking trails and a biking path beside the river while it meanders through beautifully-landscaped gardens. Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove connects Friendship Park with Smale Riverfront Park. Be sure to look for the statue of the city’s namesake Cincinnatus while you’re there. If you have young children with you, they will love the P & G Go Vibrantscape play area with a carousel, a giant piano, water features and even a flying pig!
At the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, you’ll be hard-pressed to know which aspect is more dominant. In addition to the wonderful animal habitats, it is also one of only two accredited botanical gardens in Ohio. In the spring, the tulips are spectacular! Well worth timing your visit to see them.
Findlay Market attracts over a million visitors every year. It is THAT special. Open Tuesday through Sunday, and throughout the year, you’ll find at least 40 merchants selling a wide variety of meat, fish, cheese and produce. Then, from April to November, it also becomes a farmers market. On weekends you are likely to find street performers and all kinds of special events.
Near Findley Market, you can begin a delightful stroll through Over-the Rhine Historic Neighborhood, primarily along Vine Street. You will especially love all of the evidences of the massive revitalization efforts, the colorful buildings, the restaurants, and the murals depicting the stories and famous citizens of Cincinnati. Rosemary Clooney, as she appeared in the movie “White Christmas,” is certainly a favorite.
WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
Understandably, Cincinnati is proud of one of its favorite sons, William Howard Taft, the only man in U.S. history to serve as both President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Located at 2038 Auburn Avenue, the building on this site was Taft’s home from the time of his birth until he went to college. It is open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., tours begin every thirty minutes, and there is no entrance fee.
NATIONAL UNDERGROUND RAILROAD FREEDOM CENTER
Prepare to be impressed, educated and motivated to action during your visit to the Freedom Center. The exhibits begin during the period of the Underground Railroad and continue to the issues of slavery still occurring in the world today. The magnificent facilities and displays are viewed by more than 100,000 visitors each year, with many of them being school-age children. The Center is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The location of the Freedom Center is very deliberate. It is situated along the banks of the Ohio River which played a pivotal role in the working of the Underground Railroad. It is also in a section of Cincinnati formerly known as “Little Africa.”
Inside, on the first and second floors, are three large pavilions – Perseverance, Courage (which houses a theater) and Cooperation. Two of the most striking sights are RagGonNons – quilt-type wall hangings — created by Aminah Robinson. She called them RagGonNons because she thought of them as “rags that go on and on.” A more sophisticated definition would be “a complex work of art that takes years to research and create and that continues to evolve as others respond to it.” Ms. Robinson was an American artist from Columbus, Ohio, and these commissioned pieces took her 35 years to complete. Each piece tells a story, and Ms. Robinson did all of the painting, drawing and stitching herself. She used a vast collection of found objects in these RagGonNons, including cloth, socks, thread, buttons, beads, ties, paper, paint, graphite, shells, and even music boxes. You will be hypnotized by the intricacies.
A traveling exhibit about Nelson Mandela closed a few days ago. The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection will open November 4, 2017, and a display called Confederate Currency: The Color of Money will open in the spring of 2018. And, if you are interested in genealogy, the John Parker Library Family Search Center is open from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m Tuesdays through Saturdays on the 4th floor of the Freedom Center.
Plan to spend several hours here, and you will likely want to make a return visit.
CINCINNATI REDS HALL OF FAME
Lovers of sports history, particularly baseball, will enjoy a visit through this fun museum and collection of Reds memorabilia. The Hall of Fame began in 1958 and has become the largest of its kind in the sport of baseball. You’ll definitely “see red” in a most entertaining way.
THREE: Culinary Options
ON THE RIVER
Possibly the most popular place to dine with a view of the river is Montgomery Inn Boathouse. Be sure to try the ribs. They are world-famous and dripping with succulent sauce and tender meat.
NEAR FOUNTAIN SQUARE
At Hathaway’s Diner on the ground floor of Carew Tower, you can sample a Cincinnati creation called goetta. It is a tasty concoction of sausage and oats that the locals consume by the tons every year.
Via Vite is an Italian-themed restaurant almost within splashing distance of the fountain. The interior is cool and modern, and the cuisine is innovative.
HYDE PARK SQUARE
Recommendations here include Teller’s of Hyde Park for its unmatched ambiance, Alfios Buon Cibo for classic Italian food served with an Argentinian flavor and Arthur’s for its burgers and casual atmosphere.
Along Vine Street, you might want to consider Taste of Belgium for waffles, Bakersfield for Mexican food and tequilas, or The Eagle for superior fried chicken, spoonbread and mac and cheese.
On Race Street, Cincinnati’s oldest Protestant church is now a three-level microbrewery called Taft’s Ale House.
SCATTERED THROUGHOUT THE CITY
All over town, you will find places to try Cincinnati’s unique chili recipe and Graeter’s ice cream. When you decide to give it a try, consider Skyline Chili and Camp Washington, and there’s a whole Graeter’s ice cream store in Fountain Square.
FOUR: An Uncommonly Unique Accommodation
The Symphony Hotel is a few steps away from the Cincinnati Music Hall and a connection point for the city’s streetcar system known as Cincinnati Bell Connector. The Connector’s route runs from The Banks along the river to a short distance past Findlay Market. It is the cheapest and easiest way to navigate most of the sights and tastes Cincinnatians have to offer.
If you are a music lover, or even if you aren’t, you will find the Symphony Hotel to be comfortable, conveniently-located and full of fascinating art and eccentric touches. Breakfast is always included, but on weekends breakfast is a gourmet affair prepared by the chef. In addition, there is a restaurant in-house offering three- and five-course dinners on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Of course, many of the well-known hotel chains have locations in Cincinnati, but keep Symphony Hotel in mind if you’re looking for local personality and color.
Cincinnati is well-situated to be reached from many parts of Central, Eastern and Southern United States. It has everything you could want for a fun-packed weekend. I highly recommend that you put it on your must-see list soon.