City Cheat Sheet: A Travel Guide for Cincinnati, Ohio

Photography by RVP Photography.

WHY SHOULD YOU VISIT THE HISTORIC MIDWESTERN CITY of Cincinnati, Ohio? The Scout Guide Cincinnati editor McKenna Brooks can name a few reasons. This bustling city not only overflows with signature midwestern friendliness, but is also home to a variety of enticing culinary options and gorgeous outdoor spaces. If you’re a runner like McKenna, there’s a robust running community, and according to the editor, the plentiful microbreweries are a great place to unwind—whether or not you choose to lace up your trainers. Finally, there are too many beautiful parks to name, and together form a keystone to what makes this city so special. 

Ready to plan your next getaway (or staycation) to Cincinnati? Read on for McKenna’s favorite local finds and activities for taking in her city.

*Please note that due to COVID-19 some of these businesses might be closed or have specific guidelines in place. We recommend calling ahead and/or visiting their websites for the latest information on their status, offerings, etc. 

WHEN TO GO // Cincinnati is a four-season city that’s exciting to visit any time of the year. Here, McKenna shares the advantages and highlights of each season.

Spring: The famous Flying Pig Marathon, which generally takes place the first weekend in May, is ranked by many locals as the best Sunday of the year. And in spring 2021, TQL Stadium, Cincinnati’s own Major League Soccer stadium, opened for FC Cincinnati. Last but not least the Cincinnati Zoo, home to the famous Fiona the hippo and one of the largest tulip displays in the Midwest, should not be missed.

Summer: This is the ideal time for baseball lovers, and Cincinnati is the home of the oldest team in MLB history. It’s also the ideal season to explore one of the nation’s top riverfront parks, Smale Park Riverfront Park, the crown jewel of the Cincinnati Parks system. You can also explore Cincinnati by bike on hundreds of miles of paved trails via the Little Miami Scenic Trail and stop for refreshments in one of the great restaurants in Milford and Loveland. 

Fall: Cincinnati has tremendous German history, which is why the second-biggest Oktoberfest celebration in the world occurs here. You can sample the local cuisine by going on one of the city’s interactive food tours while hopping on and off the city’s streetcar, which includes a stop at Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest continuously operating public market.

Winter: Locals like to ice skate or drive bumper cars on ice at the Ice Rink at Fountain Square or see the Holliday Junction miniature train display at Cincinnati Museum Center (1301 Western Avenue). You can also hit the slopes at Perfect North (19074 Perfect Place, Lawrenceberg, Indiana) in nearby Indiana. 

WHERE TO STAY // Hotel Covington (638 Madison Avenue, Covington, Kentucky). A luxurious riverfront hotel that features a bar beloved by locals. 

The Summit Hotel (5345 Medpace Way). A contemporary, art-forward hotel that’s close to many shops and parks on the east side of town. 

Kinley Cincinnati Downtown, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel (636 Race Street). Live like a local in this art deco-inspired hotel in the city’s bustling business district. The historic 1915 Jewelers Exchange Building was beautifully restored and features murals painted by Cincinnati artists.

Lytle Park Hotel (311 Pike Street) Nestled in the Lytle Park Historic District, this hotel beautifully combines Cincinnati’s past and present with views of The Taft Museum of Art, and is only a quick walk away from Great American Ballpark.

WHAT TO DO // Museum Center (1301 Western Avenue). A complex of four distinct museums located inside a massive art deco train station, Union Terminal. One Discovery pass gives you access to the Cincinnati History Museum, The Cincinnati History Library and Archives, The Duke Energy Children’s Museums, the Museum of Natural History & Science, and the Robert D. Linder Family Omnimax® Theater. There’s something for everyone!

Eden Park (950 Eden Park Drive). A hilltop spot overlooking downtown Cincinnati, the Ohio River, and Kentucky, where many locals like to walk or run. It also has a unique playground for little ones. 

Cincinnati Art Museum (953 Eden Park Drive). Located near Eden Park, this art museum has free admission every day and a collection with more than 67,ooo works, including paintings by Monet and Van Gogh. (Pro tip: Taking a photo in front of the bronze sculpture of Pinocchio out front is a must.) 

Krohn Conservatory (1501 Eden Park Drive). This floral oasis boasts a fantastic selection of plants in an art deco setting and the annual butterfly show is a must-see.

Ault Park (5090 Observatory Avenue). Located on the East Side of town, this park has a beautiful pavilion, gorgeous gardens, fun playgrounds, and fantastic views. 

National Underground Railroad Freedom Museum (50 E. Freedom Way). A monument to freedom, filled with stories of courage, cooperation, and perseverance. 

Cincinnati neighborhoods. Explore Hyde Park, Mount Lookout, Mariemont, Madeira, Milford, and Loveland to experience these neighborhoods full of walkable tree-lined streets, shops, restaurants, and tons of personality.

DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas). Explore some of Cincinnati’s most fun areas with a beverage in hand. Loveland, Milford, Wyoming, Mason, Montgomery, and The Banks district in Cincinnati, as well as Bellevue, Kentucky, are all great spots to window shop with a cocktail in hand.

Summit Park (4335 Glendale Milford Road, Blue Ash). Located in Blue Ash, Ohio, this 130-acre park has restaurants, playgrounds, and running trails. Visit the Observation Tower for a great view of downtown Cincinnati and King Island’s Eiffel Tower in Mason. 

Contemporary Arts Center (44 E. Sixth Street). One of the first contemporary art institutions in the United States, with three floors of ever-changing exhibits. 

Over The Rhine. Dubbed “OTR” by Cincinnatians, this eclectic, recently revitalized  neighborhood, once home to German immigrants in the 1800s, is now chock full of restaurants, breweries, bars, gastropubs, and shopping, as well as Cincinnati’s iconic Music Hall (650 Walnut Street). You can also explore Cincinnati’s unfinished subway system via an underground tour

Taft Museum of Art (316 Pike Street). This 200-year-old historic home is one of the nation’s finest small art museums. Rich in history, explore their permanent collections, nationally anticipated special exhibitions, and beautiful gardens where art and history combine.

WHERE TO SHOP // Elizabeth Grace Home (7809 A Cooper Road). Offers luxurious home items, including exceptional linens.

Camargo Trading Company (7744 Laurel Avenue). Features lovely candles, dishware, and plenty of decorating inspiration.

Pomegranate & Lime (6804 Wooster Pike). This shop has a little bit of everything, including baby presents, gifts for gents, and a selection of jewelry.

Khakis (3445 Edwards Road). A family-owned clothing store in Hyde Park Square, featuring some of our favorite brands.

Castle House (3435 Edwards Road). Located next to Khakis, it’s one of the best (and oldest) children’s apparel and gift shops in the city.

Wardrobe Cincinnati (6816 Wooster Pike). A contemporary designer boutique with beautiful clothing, shoes, handbags and hats. Be sure to check out local jewelry designer Fifth & Arrow and build your stack of stylish and beautiful handmade bracelets.

Capsule Woman (6810 Wooster Pike). Carefully curated clothing for an edited, effortless wardrobe. While there, scope out local maker Baqette and their collection of sweet bags and pouches, all handmade from upcycled leather.

Honey on Miami (6928 Miami Avenue). A women’s clothing store in downtown Madeira featuring elevated, elegant-yet-approachable pieces.

Trevor Furbay (6880 Wooster Pike). A classic approach to men’s fashion, run by Cincinnati’s top haberdasher.

Alley Boutique (201 West Loveland Avenue, Loveland). Women’s fashions, with a special focus on fun.

Welling & Co. Jewelers (208 West Loveland Avenue, Loveland). A family-run jewelry store with a 60-plus-year heritage in Cincinnati.

Oil Paintings by Karen Rolfes (6808 Miami Avenue, Madeira). Remember the vistas and views from Cincinnati, as well as favorite spots around the country, with an oil painting by local artist Karen Rolfes. Her work can also be seen in Harbor Springs, Michigan.
Switch Collection (312 West Fourth Street)A modern lighting, furniture, and design emporium that’s a great interior design resource in the Historic West Fourth neighborhood.
Fill More Waste Less (4305 Whetsel). A zero waste refillery for the sustainability-minded shopper.

WHERE TO EAT // Tahona Kitchen + Bar (11oo Summit Place, Blue Ash; 117 Karl Brown Way, Loveland).  A taqueria and tequila bar in the heart of Summit Park that has a second location in Loveland coming soon. Their tacos are house-made with fresh ingredients, and we love their salsa bar. 

S.W. Clyborne Co. Provision & Spirits (5948 Snider Road, Mason). With chef-driven, modern seasonal menus of dishes all made from scratch, Clyborne’s brings great cuisine to the Mason.

Toast & Berry (9856 Montgomery Road, Montgomery). Mimosa tasting, anyone? Elevate your brunch and lunch game with the most comfy of comfort foods—and some great fresh and healthy options as well.

Emery (6914 Wooster Pike). Mariemont’s newest restaurant, with a seafood-forward menu and a little something for everyone, served in their casual pub and elegant upstairs sit-down dining area.

Findlay Market (1801 Race Street). The oldest continuously operated market in Ohio dates back to 1852. With its historical and architectural significance, this market carrying culinary treasures from local farms, vendors, artisans, and restaurateurs throughout cannot be missed. 

Sotto (118 East Sixth Street), Boca (114 East Sixth Street), and Nada (600 Walnut Street). Italian, French, and Mexican, these restaurants by chef David Falk light up Cincinnati’s business district. His new brainchild, Domo At Home, delivers chef-driven meals directly to your doorstep.

Khora (636 Race Street). Located in the new Kinley hotel, this was one of the nation’s most anticipated restaurant openings according to Vogue magazine.

Mita (501 Race Street), Goose & Elder (1800 Race Street), and Salazar (140 Republic Street). You can’t go wrong with one of Chef Jose Salazar’s restaurants, which helped set the bar of the Cincinnati culinary scene.

The Birch (703 Indian Hill Road). A family-friendly restaurant in the charming Terrace Park neighborhood, serving up chef-inspired comfort food. Their patio is a great gathering spot for a cocktail and a game of bocci. 

Jeff Ruby’s Precinct (311 Delta Avenue). This police-station-turned-restaurant is the longest running white tablecloth restaurant in the city. It’s also been named one of the best steakhouses in the country.

La Soupe (915 E. McMillan). Chef Suzy De Young and her team of philanthropists work with area chefs to rescue food that would otherwise be wasted and turn it into delicious and nutritious meals that are distributed to underserved communities in Cincinnati. La Soupe funds this initiative by selling take-out soups, desserts, and Suzy’s legendary boeuf bourguignon—with convenient curbside pickup. You’ll eat well knowing you’ve done something good.

KungFood AmerAsia (521 Madison Avenue, Covington) It’s worth hopping over a bridge to Covington, Kentucky to visit chef Chu at KungFood. Famous for their dumplings, you can’t go wrong with their cold beef salad—or anything on their menu.
MashRoots (5903 Hamilton Avenue) Build your own Mofongo bowl for a delicious Latin-influenced meal in Cincy’s College Hill neighborhood.

Cincinnati Chili Parlours (multiple locations throughout the city). It wouldn’t be a trip to Cincinnati without sampling the local favorite, Cincinnati-style. Chains Skyline, Gold Star set the bar, as well as neighborhood favorites all over the city, like Blue Ash Chili (9525 Kenwood Road and 11711 Princeton Pike), Camp Washington Chili (3005 Colerain Avenue) and new OTR Chili (1910 Elm Street). Each chili parlour has its own distinct flair, but at each place you’ll find three way, four way or five way spaghetti: chili served over spaghetti with cheese, onions, and/or beans.

WHERE TO DRINK // Cream & Sugar Coffeehouse (3546 Montgomery Road). It’s not just a place for a great cup of coffee, but also a community, perfect for social gatherings and informal business meetings. This is a coffee house with a vision to change the business landscape of the African American community with an entrepreneurship intern program.

Rooted Juicery + Kitchen (3010 Madison Road and 6844 Wooster Pike). Cold-pressed juices, homemade nut milks, and delicious plant-based meals—made to order or grab and go!

Woodburn Brewing (2800 Woodburn Avenue). Visit Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills neighborhood and raise a pint of craft beer, cider, or hard seltzer.

March First Brewing (7885 E. Kemper Road). This place packs a punch as Cincinnati’s only brewery, cidery, and distillery, with a name that pays homage to Ohio’s founding on March 1, 1803.

Fretboard Brewing & Public House (5800 Creek Road). A fun taproom and live music venue. 

Nostalgia Wine & Jazz Lounge (1432 Vine Street). An intimate gathering spot in the heart of Cincinnati’s Over The Rhine neighborhood, featuring live traditional jazz and soul music, and an array of wines with a focus on minority and women winemakers and producers. If you can’t get to Cincinnati, you can stream their playlist.

LOCAL PRO TIP // Cincinnati combines the hustle of the east coast with the hospitality of the south, and the friendly vibe of the midwest, with a little something for everyone. Everyone you meet will have a recommendation of where to go and what to see. And you can explore on foot, by streetcar, or one of the city’s shared scooters or bikes.

You can download this Cincinnati cheat sheet by clicking here. For additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Cincinnati, check out The Scout Guide Cincinnati.