Straddling the Mason-Dixon Line, Cincinnati, Ohio, has characteristics of both a cosmopolitan Northeastern city and a tiny Appalachian hill town—that latter characteristic due to the thousands of Appalachians from Kentucky and Tennessee who migrated here in the early 20th century looking for work. Long known as a conservative city unflinchingly set in its ways, Cincinnati is rediscovering its sense of fun with innovative restaurants, massive beer halls, and quirky festivals celebrating everything from baseball to bratwurst.
When to Go
Winters here are dreary—summers downright sticky. So it would be wise to schedule your visit for the spring or fall, especially if you want to take advantage of the city’s parks, bike trails, and festivals.
By far the most “Cincinnati” of Cincinnati festivals is Bockfest, a three-day celebration of spring’s arrival and, more importantly, the seasonal release, by dozens of local brewers, of the rich, malty bock beers that were traditionally brewed each spring in Germany. A parade, starting at Arnold’s, the city’s oldest saloon, is followed by a “blessing of the beer” at Bockfest Hall, which goes on to host three days of live music, contests, German food, and, of course, beer. Just as hyper-local is the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day Parade. Thousands play hooky from work and school to welcome a winning (God willing) season with marching bands, drill teams, floats, and politicians looking to score a home run with voters. Finally, the Cincinnati Food & Wine Classic, which takes place in August, is a two-day event featuring the best cuisine in the Midwest and beyond, as well as cooking competitions and discussions hosted by local and national food personalities, all set along the river at Sawyer Point Park.
What to Eat
Chili parlors are as ubiquitous in Cincinnati as pizza parlors in New York. But this chili is unlike any you’ve ever tasted—an iconic Greek-inspired meat sauce seasoned with allspice, cinnamon, and chocolate, served over spaghetti, and covered in a heaping mound of cheddar cheese. Equally beloved is Cincinnati’s goetta (pronounced GET-AH), a savory mixture of pork, beef, and steel-cut oats that’s a breakfast staple at local diners and restaurants.
Souvenir to Take Home
A can of Cincinnati chili is never a bad bet. But for something that will last a little longer, visit the Rookwood Pottery Co. store in Over-the-Rhine. There you can buy Art Deco-style tiles, vases, and other ceramics made by the famed century-old company whose beautifully glazed tilework can be seen in homes and buildings all over the city, as well as in Chicago and New York’s Grand Central Station.
Sustainable Travel Tip
Though Cincinnati is hilly, it’s extremely walkable, with the added bonus of pedestrian bridges that let you cross the Ohio River into northern Kentucky, home to the historic towns of Covington and Newport. If your legs get tired, take advantage of the Cincinnati Bell Connector, a 3.6-mile streetcar system that covers much of downtown and Over-the-Rhine.