The 5 Coolest Neighborhoods in Cincinnati
Cincinnati is one of the most underrated destinations in America.
It doesn’t make travel mag best-of lists. It doesn’t get featured in films. It doesn’t have mainstream celebrity chefs. And that is exactly why you should visit Cincinnati.
As unpretentious as it is rich in arts and architecture, Cincinnati, Ohio doesn’t scream, “Look at me!” If you find yourself cheering for the underdog, you will like Cincinnati. If you love discovering diamonds in the rough, you will like Cincinnati. If you like ethnic food and 250-year-old buildings and history and hills and rivers and ice cream and cemeteries, you will like Cincinnati.
I was born and raised in Cincy until I was 11. Like any good hometown, Cincy kept calling to me to return. And I did. Every year, I went back to visit friends and family until I was in my twenties.
I left a piece of my soul in my hometown.
I hadn’t been back to the Buckeye State in years, but when I went there a few months ago, I almost couldn’t leave. I discovered a vibrant and revamped downtown. I learned that the iconic Roebling Bridge was a prototype of the Brooklyn Bridge. I joined the hipsters in previously unexplored neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine (called it OTR if you’re cool). And I couldn’t stop looking up. Cincinnati architecture is that stunning. It really is exceptional for a U.S. city and I’ve been in a lot of cities.
If this reads like a love letter, it is.
I don’t mind wearing my heart on my sleeve when it comes to places I love. But, I hope you will see through my bias and discover Cincinnati for yourself. I have no stake in it, I just believe in sharing hidden gems.
I remember going downtown as a kid to splash in the Serpentine Wall pools. We never had anything like the Smale Riverfront Park back then. With 1,459 acres of green space, Smale is an awesome place to hang out, catch a sunset on the Ohio River, or frolic like a kid around fountains, giant swings, and yes, a playground. The park is full of roses, hosts outdoor events, and even has a carousel. Best part, it’s free and easy to access.
You can stroll across the gorgeous Roebling Bridge any time of day or night and go from Cincy to hip Covington, Kentucky.
I met friends downtown every other night for the week I stayed in Cincy. From bar hopping to dining to exploring Cincy’s great fountains and architecture, you will not be bored downtown. And fortunately, it wasn’t overcrowded during the week.
Call it OTR and you’ll immediately be “in.” One of the newly revamped neighborhoods of downtown deserves no shade just it’s gentrified. Dozens of hipster bars, restaurants, and shops make up this patch of cool. You can hang out here and still have street cred. Hop on the new streetcar, the Cincinnati Bell Connector, to get a tour of downtown in a 3.6-mile loop (New York City, it is not).
OTR feels like a mini Brooklyn and in fact, is believed to have the largest intact historical architecture in the U.S. The New York Times described the neighborhood as having “a scale and grace reminiscent of Greenwich Village in New York.”
Over-the-Rhine was first settled by German immigrants in 1865. From the Venetian Gothic Music Hall to Queen Anne styles, this is one of the many neighborhoods to swoon over architecture in Cincinnati.
The Findlay Market, founded in 1852, is still held in OTR. You can pick up all the deli and ethnic foods your heart desires at the market, as well as flowers and produce.
Half my childhood was spent in Clifton, so I feel like this neighborhood raised me. Clifton is probably the reason I love architecture so much. It truly feels like a European neighborhood with a modern edge.
Check out the gorgeous Art Deco Esquire Theatre, eat the world’s best chocolate chip ice cream (not lying) at Graeter’s, and just stroll the residential streets behind Clifton Avenue. It’s all a bit dreamy and I get emotional just thinking about it.
I spent the least amount of time in Mt. Adams when I lived in Cincinnati, but it stuck with me. Actually, that’s not true. I spent a lot of time in the Cincinnati Art Museum which is part of the neighborhood. My dad was a night watchman there and many a night I drove my Big Wheels through the dark, empty halls. That is, when I wasn’t totally freaked out by the mummies. (If I seem a little macabre, now you know why.)
Besides the gorgeous Cincinnati Art Museum, I didn’t hang out in the hilltop Mt. Adams much. However, it’s steep narrow streets called back to me on my last visit and I had to go. Overlooking the Ohio River, this tiny colorful neighborhood has a New England feel with all of its charms still intact.
The neighborhood was originally called Mt. Ida, after a washerwoman who lived in a sycamore tree. How’s that for history? Straight out of a Tim Burton film, I’d say! Surrounded by one of Cincinnati’s most beautiful outdoor spaces, Eden Park, Mt. Adams really is idyllic.
Spring Grove Cemetery
Technically not a neighborhood, but pretty large just the same, Spring Grove Cemetery is much more than a field of graves. Don’t wait until you die to go there. It’s perfect for a leisurely drive or a picnic. This 250-year-old cemetery consists of 733 acres. It’s all winding roads traverse hills, ponds, fountains, and of course, monuments to the dead. You could even go there to take wedding pictures, it’s that beautiful.
Like many mid-west towns, Cincinnati is most beautiful and temperate in the spring, but these photos were taken in fall and it was lovely too.
Stay tuned for a Cincinnati film! Cincy was my first stop on the Great American Roadtrip in my Airstream.