The 5 Coolest Neighborhoods in Cincinnati

Jessica Peterson

Night view of Roebling Bridge in Cincinnati, Ohio

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.

Downtown

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.

Night view of Roebling Bridge in Cincinnati, Ohio Night view of Roebling Bridge in Cincinnati, OhioNight view of Smale Park fountains in Cincinnati, OhioCincinnati, Ohio Smale Riverfront Park fountains at nightCincinnati, Ohio Smale Riverfront Park carousel

Over-the-Rhine

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.

Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati, Ohio Over-the-Rhine antipasti plate in Cincinnati, Ohio Over-the-Rhine antipasti plate in Cincinnati, Ohio

Clifton

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.

Esquire Theatre marquee, Cincinnati, OhioJessica Peterson of Global Girl Travels at Esquire Theatre in Cincinnati, OhioSitwells in Cincinnati, Ohio

Mt. Adams

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.

Aerial drone photograph of Mt. Adams, Cincinnati, OhioMt. Adams, Cincinnati, OhioMt. Adams, Cincinnati, OhioAerial drone photograph of Mt. Adams, Cincinnati, OhioMt. Adams, Cincinnati, OhioAerial drone photograph of Mt. Adams, Cincinnati, Ohio Mt. Adams, Cincinnati, OhioAerial drone photograph of Mt. Adams, Cincinnati, Ohio

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.

Aerial drone view of Spring Grove Cemetary in Cincinnati, OhioSpring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, OhioAerial drone view of Spring Grove Cemetary in Cincinnati, Ohio

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.

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Have you been to Cincinnati?


Jessica Peterson
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Jessica Peterson

Jessica Peterson is a travel filmmaker, photographer, and journalist. She released her first documentary film about indigenous culture on Guam in 2016, after having lived nearly 7 years on the Pacific island. Jessica is currently on the Great American Roadtrip in her Airstream trailer.
Jessica Peterson
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Latest posts by Jessica Peterson (see all)

  • Hair to There

    I’ve never been to Cincinnati, but your photos & description make me want to change that! It’s ok to be biased about a city you’ve lived in! Boston is home for me & will always be my favorite city!

  • Brittany Kulick

    I’ve only driven through Cincinnati and enjoyed the gloriousness that is Skyline Chili and buckeyes. Now, though, I’m pretty sure that I need to plan a visit. You’ve made me fall a little in love with your town!

    • I haven’t had Skyline since I was a kid, but yes, it’s a staple of Cincinnati. I’m glad you could fall in love with it too.

  • Raghav

    Clifton looks the most retro and interesting to me. I must say I not regret not going to Cincy when I was in Lexington a while back. Had the opportunity but didn’t know if it would be worth the drive. Next time though. The gothic architecture at the Cemetery is pretty interesting too.

    • I hope you do get to visit Cincy and Clifton one day, Raghav. You were so close!

  • I never thought I’ll say this about a cemetery, but it looks n just gorgeous! Very serene in the lap of nature. Love the lights, absolutely gorgeous. It might be because of the very fact that it’s not touristy!

  • Michaela Terese Harrison

    It’s amazing! Love photos, if lived in America it would want to visit. Findlay Market and the Smale Riverfront Park would on my list to see

  • Editor-in-Style Good

    Cincinnati is definitely underrated! I have travelled through many times on the way to Florida and have had little time to explore. I am a big baseball fan and would love to catch a Reds game sometime. The wall pools look spectacular. I definitely need to take a day or two to explore the next time I am in the area.

  • Teach A Man

    Incredible photos!! You’re so right that it is a city that is never seen on any travel websites and that’s why it’s a perfect reason to go visit! We haven’t been, but after this article it’s on the list. I adore your love letter to your hometown, it’s so sweet and very nice to read. Thank you for sharing!

  • Jean Bean

    I never knew cicinati had such wonderful history and unique buildings. Though really you had me sold at worlds best ice cream!! Who doesn’t love ice cream?

  • Shani Ogden

    I’ve never been to Cincy, but this post makes me want to go! Your photography is stunning.

  • Sonia Sahni

    The night pics are awesome! Which camera have you used? Also, did you use a tripod?
    I think I am going to give the cemetery a skip … they always spook me out!

  • Neha Verma

    It might be difficult for you to believe but actually I had not heard of CINCINNATI until I read your post. The place really looks very promising. And as usual your pictures are perfect

    • No, I’m not surprised. Cincinnati doesn’t get a ton of press. Thanks for reading, Neha!

  • I have been to Cincinnati and love it too. I totally agree that most travelers would enjoy it and be surprised by how much it has to offer. There’s a lot of free and fun community events all the time like public concerts and festivals. One of our favorites was called Salsa on the Square, at Fountain Square. Every thursday a salsa band plays a free concert, professional dancers give a lesson, the community (from toddlers to hipsters to granny) dance salsa, and the music plays for hours. And that’s just a thursday night.

    • Yay. I’m glad to find a fellow Cincy lover! Salsa on the Square sounds cool. I didn’t know about it!

  • Vyjay Rao

    Some places sure entice and ensnare you with their charm and make you fall head over heels in love with them. This happens all the time when we travel. The gems of Cincinnation do fall in this category. I find Mt. Adams, especially endearing.

  • First of all…..STUNNING pictures. I love the sound of Mt. Adams and those fountains at night just look magical. It seems like a place where you are never have to rush around.

  • Prerna Sinha

    Jessica you do such an amazing job with your pictures. Read in your bio that you are a film maker so no doubt about it. There is an old world charm to this place which I absolutely loved.

  • Shirley

    You have certainly caught the beauty and charm of this “big, little city”. I spent the first 14 years of my life there. Shillito’s at Christmas, Burnett Woods in the fall, Coney Island on the river at night, Skyline chili. The smell of German food and music from beer gardens. Not to mention the lovely views and architecture all over Cincy. Thanks for these great pictures to stir the desire to go back for a visit.

  • Collette Schoenegge

    I am still amazed after reading this. I moved to Cincinnati in May for a job after 30 years in Colorado. I left the job after 3 weeks as it wasn’t a good fit. I stayed here in Cincinnati because I have absolutely fallen in love with it!! Everyone laughs that I didn’t head back to Colorado…..I post pictures ALLLLLLLLL the time of my adventures in Cincinnati….It is such an amazing city. I am living in Clifton Heights, right by UC campus. All of your places are my favorites as well. Am 55 years old and am waitressing at Taste of Belgium at the Banks. I am having the time of my life!!!!! Thank you so incredibly much for this. 👍☺

    • Hey Collette. That is awesome! I just tried the chicken and waffles at Taste of Belgium. Yum. Glad you’re enjoying the city so much.

    • Hi Collette, You’re amazing! Thanks so much for your comment. Nice to connect with you over a shared love of Cincy.

  • Clem Carpenter

    No love for Northside?

    • Hi Clem. Just haven’t experienced Northside… yet!

    • Hi Clem. Just haven’t experienced Northside… yet!

      • Clem Carpenter

        Please do; The Comet, Northside Tavern, & Northside Yacht Club are highly recommended! 🙂