Cincinnati is the third-largest city in the state of Ohio, but the Greater Cincinnati area spans the states of Indiana and Kentucky, too. Sitting on the north bank of the Ohio River, “Cincy” is unofficially regarded as the first truly American city, because it was the first major city to be founded post-American Revolution, in 1788.
The city’s landscape consists of hills, ridges and bluffs. In the days before abolition, many fugitive slaves escaped slave states in the south by heading north on the Ohio River and stopping, or passing through, Cincinnati. Today, the city prides itself on being a river city that offers visitors a little bit of everything.
For a dose of fresh air, try out some of this river city’s walking and bike trails. Stop off at The Banks precinct for music, food, family-friendly activities and sporting events. A few minutes from Smale Riverfront Park is the Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals football team. At the end of The Banks you’ll find the Great American Ballpark, home to the Cincinnati Reds baseball team.
The National Underground Railway Freedom Centre, just around the corner, is the place to learn about the history of slavery in America. If you’ve got an eye for a nice bridge, Cincinnati boasts a decent handful (don’t miss the pedestrian-only Purple People Bridge).
Adrenalin junkies will appreciate the Kentucky Speedway as well as Paramount’s Kings Island, which has the world’s tallest and fastest wooden rollercoaster. For a day out with a difference, visit the Vent Haven Museum, which describes itself as “the only museum in the world dedicated to the art of ventriloquism”.
Eat and Drink
As the American city with the strongest German influence – German immigrants were a big part of Cincinnati even at its inception – it makes sense that Cincy has its own sausage. If you visit in August, sample it at the Goettafest, a tribute to the spiced breakfast sausage made from pork and oats.
Every Memorial Day weekend (Memorial Day is the last Monday in May) there’s also the Taste of Cincinnati festival, during which many restaurants around town serve meals for just $5, and there’s live music too. Beer drinkers will appreciate the ancient lager cellars hidden beneath the historic Over-the-Rhine district. In keeping with the Germanic influence, the largest Oktoberfest outside Munich happens right here, too.
With more chilli restaurants per capita than in any other American city, it’s also no surprise that Cincy has its own chilli dish, made from ground meat and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cocoa. Served over spaghetti with shredded cheese to top it off, it’s known as a “three-way”; add diced onions and kidney beans for a “five-way”.
Where to Stay
Take your pick from modest B&Bs to top-of-the-range luxury. Downtown has the big-name hotels and high-rise accommodation, and a lot offer packages with game tickets thrown in. Uptown has a more grounded vibe, and a selection of hotels also lines the river. Dotting the suburbs surrounding the city centre are comfortable, but more modestly priced, hotels.
Each of the city’s 52 different neighbourhoods has its own retail district. Jungle Jim’s International Food Market is not to be missed if you like a comprehensive supermarket with character.
It has Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian, European, South American, African and Hispanic sections. The Findlay Market, in the Over-the-Rhine district, is a popular spot to pick up local spice blends and fresh food.
If you’re after a new hat, check out the 100-year-old Batsakes, where you can buy off the shelf or order a hat made-to-measure. Music fans should stop by Everybody’s Records on Montgomery Road. There is also a stack of malls to choose from.
Cincinnati Like a Local
Dive into the Cincy outdoor spirit by participating in the Great Ohio River Swim, across the river and back again. The event is part of the Ohio River Paddlefest, and takes place every September. Proceeds go towards supporting outdoor events and venues in the region.