Cincinnati is a fabulous celebration of extremes. Slick speakeasies rub elbows with landmark watering holes. The Cincinnati Reds play ball a stone’s throw away from the scenic Ohio River. Flea markets bursting with treasures sit side by side with sophisticated fashion outlets. It’s a town for everyone -- unapologetically quirky, steeped in history, and brimming with world-class attractions.
No matter what your taste or budget, you can easily have an enjoyable and unique weekend in good ol’ Cincy. Here are some of the best things to see and do.
Check Out Smale Riverfront Park
Smale Riverfront Park is a sprawling public space that sits right on the Ohio River overlooking Kentucky. It’s a fantastic place to enjoy a midday stroll. If you get warm, the many water features and fountains of Smale Riverfront Park are there to send a cool misty breeze your way. The park is bursting with gardens and tranquil paths, and it even features a huge functional piano. Tap into your inner kid and play a little something!
Perhaps the most fun feature of Smale Riverfront Park is the row of swings facing the river. They’re perfect for kicking up your feet, enjoying an iced coffee, and simply watching the boats lazily make their way down the river. Tucked away from the sounds of traffic, Smale Riverfront Park is a relaxing haven in the big city.
Pay Your Respects At The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Cincinnati was an important stop on the Underground Railroad. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center honors the brave people who risked their lives for a taste of freedom -- and reminds us of the struggles our nation faces today.
Interactive exhibits like The Rosa Parks Experience allow visitors to step into the shoes of the activists who fought against cruel Jim Crow laws. A poignant memorial to the victims of the Middle Passage and an actual slave pen force visitors to reckon with the sins of the past, and an exhibit called Invisible: Slavery Today addresses present-day human trafficking and exploitation.
It’s a sobering, informative, and important museum that is a must-visit. Tickets are $15 at the door, and the museum is open daily until 5 p.m.
Step Into A Speakeasy
Why settle for a ho-hum bar when you can access a secret watering hole through a vintage video store? The Video Archive is a love letter to film director Quentin Tarantino, and the entrance is located behind a moving shelf in a nondescript video store.
Getting to the general area is easy, but you might have some trouble finding the actual place. Look for Just Q’in BBQ, and The Video Archive is right next door. Once inside The Video Archive, you’ll be instructed to pull out a VHS tape from the far wall and watch a secret door slide open. The bar itself is cozy, and the drinks menu is inspired by classic Tarantino movies.
Visit The City’s Top Attractions
Cincinnati is home to one of the most acclaimed zoos in the country, and it’s located right downtown, so you can spend the morning greeting animals from around the world and the afternoon at the waterfront. Baseball fans will not want to miss a Cincinnati Reds game.
The city is home to yet another themed bar for those who want a dash of Stephen King with their whiskey and rye. The Overlook Lodge bears an eerie resemblance to the hotel from The Shining. Just avoid room 237!
Eating In Cincinnati
You will not go hungry on your weekend getaway in Cincinnati. The city is chock-full of local favorites and comfort foods that have a special Cincy spin on them. From flavorful chilis to decadent ice creams, you’ll be eating well in this Midwestern city.
Skyline Chili is a chain of restaurants with a loyal following in Cincinnati and beyond. Its signature dish is chili, Cincinnati style. Skyline’s Cincinnati chili is flavorful and decadent, with notes of sweet clove and cinnamon mingling with savory, beefy flavors. It comes served atop a pile of spaghetti and crowned with a massive helping of shredded Cheddar cheese. The combination of chili, pasta, and cheese is completely addictive.
You can order your chili several ways, customizing it with diced onions and beans. You can even order it without the cheese, although I wouldn’t recommend it. The thinly grated cheese is what makes this local dish sing, and it’s what you will remember long after you leave the Buckeye State.
Graeter’s Ice Cream
Ask any Cincinnatian where they go for a tasty sweet treat, and they will automatically mention Graeter’s Ice Cream. This chain of local shops has been around since the turn of the last century and is famous for its thick, custardy ice cream.
Graeter’s Ice Cream gets its consistency from its French pot process, which turns out tiny batches that are supremely creamy and thick. The company offers standard flavors like chocolate and vanilla as well as ones that pay tribute to Ohio, like buckeye chocolate chip. Graeter’s shops are located all across Cincinnati, and each one is reminiscent of an old-fashioned ice cream parlor -- a wholesome slice of Americana that’s sure to hit the sweet spot.
Montgomery Inn Boathouse
For the best barbecue in Cincinnati, head to Riverside Drive and belly up to a table at the Montgomery Inn Boathouse. Slow-cooked ribs are the specialty of the house. The tender, flavorful meat falls right off the bone and goes perfectly with a decadent side of Montgomery Inn’s own macaroni and cheese. If you want something that’s less filling, check out the barbecued chicken or the fresh Gulf shrimp.
The coleslaw is another signature recipe, striking the right balance between spicy and sweet. If you’re feeling like something on the lighter side, opt for the wedge salad drizzled in blue cheese and topped with bacon crumbles.
Findlay Market is one of the oldest fresh fruit and vegetable markets in the city. On the weekends, it’s packed with vendors and merchants, and you can sample some of Cincinnati’s local wares. In addition to farm-fresh produce and fruits, you can find thick cubes of homemade fudge and jewel-toned jars of delicious jam. It’s a great place to stop for lunch and a unique spot to pick up souvenirs for family and friends.
From slow-cooked barbecue to heaps of creamy ice cream, Cincinnati has you covered on the food front.
Shopping In Cincinnati
It should come as absolutely no surprise that Cincinnati’s shopping options are as varied as everything else in the city. Whether you’re in the mood to go treasure hunting at a flea market or browse a high-end boutique, you can scratch your shopping itch in Cincy.
Cincinnati Premium Outlets
If you’re looking for great deals on luxury brands like Lacoste and Michael Kors, you need to check out the Cincinnati Premium Outlets. They're about a 40-minute drive from the heart of downtown, but they're well worth the trip. The outlets are huge and full of discounted luxury items from major designers like Ann Taylor and Ralph Lauren.
Hyde Park Square
Hyde Park is a sophisticated neighborhood full of cute boutique shops that sell everything from home goods to yoga clothes. Even if you don’t find anything that catches your eye, you’ll still enjoy strolling through this charming shopping district.
Ohio Valley Antique Mall
The Ohio Valley Antique Mall is a nod to Cincinnati’s love for flea markets. The only difference is that it’s a massive mall organized by vendor and street signs. The aisles all have different names or street signs, so you can easily identify where you are in the enormous complex. If you’d prefer to throw caution to the wind and lose yourself in the antique extravaganza, that’s okay, too. Plan to spend the better part of the day exploring the mall.
Art On Vine
Art on Vine is a cool and chic artisan market where you can support local artists and find one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Located conveniently in Washington Park, this market is very popular with art-loving locals and visitors alike.
In Cincinnati, there are dozens of flea markets! Peddlers Flea Market, open weekends from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., has over 400 vendors and plenty of local tasty treats to keep you fueled as you search for the perfect treasure. Not to be outdone, Everybody’s Flea Market on Reading Road strives to meet the demands of all of its patrons. Village Flea Market is another local haunt, open all day on Saturdays and Sundays and packed full of weird, wacky, and wonderful wares.
If you have the patience and desire, you can certainly unearth some incredible treasures in the flea markets of Cincy.
Cincinnati is a great weekend getaway option, especially if you live in the eastern part of the United States. It’s completely affordable, full of attractions and things to do, and has a ton of flair and character. Next time you’re thinking about getting away from it all, think Cincy.