Cincinnati is distinct amongst Midwestern cities. Its culture is a mixture of the Northeast, Old South, Midwest, and Appalachia blended with a strong German-Catholic heritage. It was one of the United States' early boomtowns, and the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood is the largest National Historic District in the country. Today, it's part of a fast-growing metro area, and home to a remarkable blend of industry and architecture. Downtown Cincinnati is surrounded by picturesque foothills that add a beautiful backdrop to the Queen City and its legendary skyline – celebrated in the opening credits of television show WKRP in Cincinnati.
The city center is "Downtown" Cincinnati, sometimes referred to as the "Central Business District". With many major attractions and corporate headquarters located here, the focus of the region revolves around this district. The Cincinnati skyline is breathtaking—especially at night—when viewed from Devou Park in northern Kentucky, Mount Echo in Price Hill, or Eden Park and neighboring Mt. Adams.
Over-the-Rhine (OTR) is the city's largest historic district. Just to the north of Downtown, it is the location of Music Hall, home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Opera; Findlay Market, Ohio's oldest public market in continuous operation; the Main Street Entertainment District; and much of Cincinnati's creative arts. Also of note is the Gateway Quarter a rebranded part of the neighborhood which has some of the city's hottest/hippest bars/dining spots between Central Parkway and 14th Street on Vine. Care should be taken when visiting this neighborhood as crime is more frequent here than in other areas of the city though it's going down every year. Since the 1980s, the neighborhood has been a battleground between advocates for low income housing and historic preservationists/real estate developers. As a result, the neighborhood is inconsistent in its make up, with high-end housing and shopping within viewing distance of abandoned and decayed buildings with boarded up windows.
The area designated in this page as "Over-the-Rhine" also includes part of the West End neighborhood, which was ripped apart by the construction of Interstate 75 in the 1960s. The most notable landmark in this area is TQL Stadium, which opened in 2021 as the new home of FC Cincinnati, the city's Major League Soccer team.
|Clifton and Northside |
Clifton is just north of Over-the-Rhine, from which is it is separated by a steep cliff. It is home to an especially wide range of people, boasting a population diverse in ethnicity, race, sexuality, gender, age, country of origin, and economic status. A number of students at the local university inhabit the stately apartment buildings, and many of the beautiful older homes that line the gas-lit streets, though a number of families and other residents are also proud to call Clifton home. Especially notable is the stretch of Ludlow between Clifton Ave and Whitfield, as it is home to restaurants specializing in American fare and ethnic delights as well as a number of independent shops and boutiques. Northside is an economically and racially diverse neighborhood notable for a strong sense of community investment and pride. The nightlife in Northside is lively with a variety of clubs including Bronz, Mayday, Serpent, The Comet, and the Northside Tavern. The neighborhood is also home to a sizable LGBT population and hosts many of the city's gay pride events. This neighborhood is full of hipsters.
|Western Cincinnati |
Traditionally the blue-collar side of the city, the western fringes of Cincinnati offer several attractions.
|Eastern Cincinnati |
Eastern Cincinnati is known has the more upscale, white-collar part of the city, especially in neighborhoods like Mount Adams, Walnut Hills, Hyde Park, Mount Lookout, and Columbia–Tusculum. The northern reaches of this area tend towards the industrial, but have some up-and-coming neighborhoods like Oakley.
Though not part of the City of Cincinnati, the two cities just south across the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky are practically contiguous with the downtown area:
Home to good restaurants and Devou Park, which provides one of the best views of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Mainstrasse Village is a popular destination for bar-goers.
Locally famous because it was home to local Italian mobsters and was known as a sin city at one point. Now it is more family-friendly, featuring Newport Aquarium and Newport on the Levee as popular regional destinations.
Peak tourist season is summer and fall. If you are visiting during the winter or early spring, some activities or sights may have shortened hours or possibly be closed.
Formerly known as Losantiville, the city was renamed Cincinnati by the first governor of the Northwest Territory, Arthur St. Clair, in honor of the Society of the Cincinnati, a society named after Roman dictator Cincinnatus who famously gave up absolute power and returned to his farm after serving his country in times of crisis and founded at the end of the Revolutionary War. Many members of the society were prominent men in the early years of the United States.
The city's early economy was based on the pork industry, and this was celebrated in the summer of 2000 with the Big Pig Gig, during which large flying pig statues took up residence along the city's main thoroughfares. Many of these pig statues later found homes downtown in offices, parks and even private residences. The Miami and Erie canal was completed in the 1840s, and was used to transport hogs and butchered pork products to Cincinnati from much of western Ohio.
During this time period massive waves of Germans settled into the city populating neighborhoods which at their height in the late 1800s were some of the most densely populated outside of New York City. These German immigrants built a culture based on beer gardens, beer brewing, dance and music halls giving Cincinnati a very distinct and vibrant local culture. Very little remains from this era due to both World War I anti-German backlash and the prohibition of alcohol in 1920. Lately, with the beginnings of revitalization of the Downtown Basin neighborhoods, there has been a renewed interest in this heritage and some of it can be seen to this day in faded German signs on densely built ornate Victorian buildings in Over-The-Rhine, a high per-capita number of bars, and the celebration of large German festivals such as Bockfest, Mayfest, and the largest Oktoberfest celebration in the United States.
Cincinnati also has a charming riverboat heritage that dates back to the days when large, steam and paddle-wheel driven vessels were used to transport locally produced pork products. In recognition of this tradition, the city plays host to the Tall Stacks Festival once every few years (although it hasn't been held since 2006), during which time the river front is transformed into a mass of color, with river boats of all shapes and sizes jostling for positions along the river banks. Baseball is another Cincinnati tradition, and the Cincinnati Reds were the first professional baseball team in the United States; in deference to that, Opening Day is always a home game for the Reds, held at Great American Ball Park.
No, Cincinnatians are not correcting your manners. Cincinnati's linguistic claim to fame is the distinctive expression its residents use when other English-speaking Americans might say "What?" or "Could you repeat that?" Cincinnati was built by German immigrants, whose native expression was "Bitte?", which translates most directly into English as... "Please?"
Cincinnati has a thriving local industrial economy and is home to many businesses ranging from manufacturing to services, including General Electric, Procter and Gamble, Fifth Third Bank, Milacron, Kroger, Macy's, and the American Financial Group. In World Wars I and II, Cincinnati's local machine tool companies, such as LeBlond (now Makino) and the Cincinnati Screw and Tap Company (now Milacron), played an important role, providing what is commonly considered the best machine tool technology in the world for its time.
Cincinnati has undertaken some large scale revitalization projects, such as the construction of Great American Ball Park, Paycor Stadium, and TQL Stadium; the reconstruction of Fountain Square, the construction of the first and second phases of the Banks neighborhood, the beginnings of restoration of Over-The-Rhine south of Liberty Street, and a streetcar line connecting downtown to the historic Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine. This has given the central areas of Cincinnati a vitality that hadn't been around for decades, and a small degree of national attention from travel publications. In spite of the sweeping changes over the last 10 years its still a work in progress creating an odd mix of abandoned buildings next to high end restaurants and boutiques.
This progress did not come easy. For instance, county officials, city government, and area residents were flabbergasted that large-scale projects like "The Banks" were undeveloped for over 10 years while the smaller cities of Newport and Covington, across the Ohio River, continued to develop their riverfronts and draw visitors away from Cincinnati. However the tide seems to be flowing back in Cincinnati's favor; time will tell as these developments mature.
There is a rivalry between the "East Side" and "West Side" of Cincinnati. Historically people from the West Side were blue collar workers, while those from the East Side were white collar workers
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Cincinnati has four distinct seasons. Winters range from harsh to mild, while summer and early fall is hot and humid.
The average temperature in the winter drops to the low 30s (F) and during the summer reaches the upper 70s (F) to mid-90s (F).
Normally, there are very few snowy days that impair driving on the city's hilliest roads. Snow in Northern Kentucky is of exceptional concern, though, because of the increased number of hills and rural roads, which are not as quickly treated as roads in Southwest Ohio. If you plan to drive or travel through Northern Kentucky during a snowy period, be extremely careful and phone ahead to make sure your destination is still accessible.
Newspapers and magazines
- Cincinnati Enquirer. Morning daily newspaper, including a Sunday edition. Located downtown.
- Cincinnati Magazine
- City Beat. The city's oldest free weekly arts and entertainment publication, geared toward college students and young adults. Has a good list of upcoming events, bars, restaurants and museums.
Blogs & news websites
- Soapbox Cincinnati. The city's newest weekly publication, focuses on the economic and physical transformation of the Cincinnati region by highlighting interesting development and innovation news, profiles on growth businesses, and providing guides of neighborhoods that have a concentration of locally owned restaurants, shops, and unique housing opportunities.
- Urban Cincy. Blog focusing on issues of urbanism in the Cincinnati area. Also discusses local development projects and news events towards promoting city living. A good source for information regarding local events too.
- 1 Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG IATA) (Follow I-275 south then east to Exit 4, State Route 212. Follow the signs to airport terminals and parking), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. It is on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, so you'll have to cross the bridge to get to Cincinnati itself. The airport serves 56 destinations on nearly 200 daily flights, with international service to Freeport, Cancun, Montego Bay, Toronto, and Paris. The airport is a focus city for Delta Air Lines and offers daily flights to many of the largest U.S. cities, in addition to nonstop service to France, Canada, and Mexico. In addition, the airport is a focus city for Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines, which are U.S. ultra-low-cost carriers and offer daily flights across the United States and Caribbean. Although fares have been historically high, Delta's market dominance has considerably diminished in the last decade, resulting in much more competitive fares compared to nearby cities.
- Air Canada: Toronto–Pearson
- Allegiant Air: Austin, Baltimore, Cancun, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Walton Beach, Jacksonville (FL), Las Vegas, Montego Bay, Myrtle Beach, Newark, New Orleans, Orlando/Sanford, Phoenix/Mesa, Punta Cana, Punta Gorda/Fort Myers, San Juan, Savannah, St. Petersburg/Clearwater
- American Airlines: Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Philadelphia, Washington–National
- Apple Vacations: Cancun, Monetgo Bay, Punta Cana
- Delta Air Lines: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cancun, Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Fayetteville/Bentonville, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Grand Rapids, Hartford, Houston–Intercontinental, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville, New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Newark, Orlando, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Raleigh/Durham, Richmond, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma, St. Louis, Tampa, Toronto–Pearson, Washington–National
- Frontier Airlines: Atlanta, Cancún, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Houston–Intercontinental, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, San Francisco, Tampa
- Southwest Airlines: Baltimore, Chicago–Midway
- United Airlines: Chicago–O'Hare, Denver, Houston–Intercontinental, Newark, San Francisco, Washington–Dulles
- Vacation Express: Cancun, Freeport, Monetgo Bay, Punta Cana
- 2 Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport (LUK IATA). Lunken Airport is the other option for travelers, but, in general, only travelers flying their own private planes or who chartered a flight will use the airport.
- 3 Ultimate Air Shuttle, 4700 Airport Rd. (At Lunken Airport), toll-free: . A luxury scheduled airline, flying small jets between Lunken Airport in Cincinnati and Chicago, New York City, Charlotte, and Cleveland. Given the high price of conventional air service, sometimes this option is reasonably priced by comparison.
Cincinnati is served by Interstates 71 (from Columbus and Louisville), 74 (from Indianapolis), 75 (from Dayton and Lexington), 471 (a spur of I-71 to the south), and 275 (the circle beltway). US 50 also serves the area as an expressway to the eastern neighborhoods (Columbia Parkway) and western neighborhoods via the Sixth Street Expressway, which links River Road and the Waldvogel Memorial Viaduct to Downtown. If you feel like taking the scenic route, take Columbia Parkway east of the city and enjoy the beautiful Ohio River views along the parkway.
One of the most beautiful panoramic views in the country occurs when driving northbound on Interstate 71/75 (the interstate routes share the same highway in part of Northern Kentucky) traveling into downtown Cincinnati. The panoramic view comes up once you get to what's known as the "Cut-in-the-Hill", which is reached once you pass signs warning you of a steep grade. Traffic on the Brent Spence Bridge sometimes backs up, though, especially during rush hour. Try to plan your trips so you don't get too much of this truly spectacular view!
- See also: Rail travel in the United States
- 4 Union Terminal/Cincinnati Museum Center, 1301 Western Ave (Cincinnati Museum Center). Tu-Su 11PM-6:30AM. The station is one mile from downtown Cincinnati and since all trains arrive before public transportation is available it may be wise to call a taxi to finish your journey (See Taxis.).
- Amtrak, ☏ , toll-free: . Operates trains throughout the United States of America. Route stopping in Cincinnati:
- Cardinal operating three trips weekly between Chicago and New York City with stops in Dyer, Rensselaer, Lafayette, Crawfordsville, Indianapolis, Connersville, Cincinnati, Ashland, Huntington, Charleston, Hinton, White Sulphur Springs, Staunton, Charlottesville, Culpeper, Manassas, Alexandria, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, Trenton, and Newark. All westbound and eastbound trains stop in Cincinnati during the night.
- Amtrak, ☏ , toll-free: . Operates trains throughout the United States of America. Route stopping in Cincinnati:
- 5 Greyhound, 1005 Gilbert Ave, ☏ . Station & ticketing hours: Daily: 24 hours. Greyhound offers passenger bus service from many U.S. cities. Buses arrive and depart from Greyhound's station in downtown Cincinnati.
- 6 Megabus, 691 Gest St (parking lot between 6th and 7th Sts), toll-free: . Megabus is a budget bus company offering service to Cincinnati from Chicago and Indianapolis. Fares start at $1. Megabus also stops at the University of Cincinnati (on the corner of West University Avenue and Commons Way) on the way to the Downtown stop listed above. The University Stop has a little better transit connections to Metro buses than the Gest Street location which is in kind of an isolated area. Fares can only be bought online.
- 7 Megabus UC, 45 W University Ave (Corner of University Commons and W University Ave - University of Cincinnati), toll-free: . See above entry for most details. Until local politicians decide that having the Megabus stop in the virtually unused multi-million dollar climate controlled Riverfront Transit Center by "The Banks" downtown would be a good investment for tourism, the University stop may be a better idea than going to Gest Street with Megabus as its far more integrated into an actual neighborhood, far less isolated, and has relatively easy local transit bus connectivity.
- 8 Baron's Bus, 45 W University Ave (Corner of University Commons and W University Ave - University of Cincinnati), toll-free: . College student oriented bus service that offers destinations throughout Ohio, Michigan and West Virginia, notably OSU and Miami Oxford. Like Megabus there is free wi-fi and express service. Be careful when selecting your destination as they have an arrangement with Greyhound and you could be using a Greyhound bus if going to a more distant destination, look for GLI on the ticket to see if you are getting a Greyhound.
Cincinnati SubwayBetween 1920 and 1925 the City of Cincinnati spent $6 million building a subway system, which was supposed to ease congestion and spur growth in Cincinnati. However, when funding ran out in 1925, the construction came to an end with nearly 7 miles of the subway dug or graded, but no track laid. Several attempts to complete the subway have been made, but all proposals have failed. However, sections of the tunnel have been used for various purposes including the conversion of the Liberty Street station into a nuclear fallout shelter and are now partially occupied by a water main. The money borrowed to build in the 1920s was finally paid off in 1966. While the tunnels still exist (and remain in a remarkably good condition given their age), there is no real plan to do anything with them long term. While some studies have suggested that the best use for the tunnels would be some form of rail transit after all, a 2002 ballot measure to bring light rail to the metro area failed by a 2:1 margin and effectively killed any efforts in that direction for the time-being.
The main form of public transportation is by bus. The region is served by two bus systems. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (Sorta) operates Metro, the bus company that serves the Ohio side of the state line. The Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (Tank) serves Northern Kentucky and all routes between Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati. Bus lines marked with a "X" are express routes and make less frequent stops. Be sure to check whether the bus makes a stop at your required destination before you get on. Sorta and Tank operate a different fare rate system, though both require passengers to submit the exact fare and no change is given.
If you plan on taking the bus, highly recommended is the "Cincinnati Frequent Transit Map" which was developed by a concerned citizen looking to increase transit use. This will give you a good idea of which parts of town are well served by transit as well as which parts of town are underserved, eliminating lines from the official map that don't have frequent service. More information here: https://web.archive.org/web/20221211225107/http://cincymap.org/
For sightseeing the recommended option is the Metro 1 bus. Metro's tag line for this bus is "Ride the One for Fun," because it visits the most important cultural destinations in the city. The bus loops from the Union Terminal Museum Center, to downtown's theaters and museums, to the sports stadiums and parks on the riverfront, to the upscale Mount Adams residential neighborhood, to Eden Park and Krohn Conservatory, ending in nearby Peebles Corner, Walnut Hills. This bus is $1.75 a ride, but passes are available. If taking the 1 especially if from a more transit rich city, make sure to check a schedule first as the line can close early and doesn't have the highest frequencies of routes.
If you wish to cross the river into Kentucky be sure to ride the Southbank Shuttle, which loops around the riverfront on the Ohio and Kentucky sides. Stops include Fountain Square, The Banks, Newport on the Levee, and Roebling Point. The Shuttle is often used by locals who do not want to drink and drive or pay high parking prices, as the shuttle stops at many popular nightlife spots. The Shuttle is instantly recognizable by its old-fashioned trolley look, but are newer and cleaner than the regular TANK bus system. The shuttle is also cheaper at $1 a ride. Daily passes are available.
Metro charges passengers based on zones: Zone 1 (The City of Cincinnati), Zone 2 (Hamilton County, outside of Cincinnati), and Zone 3 (Stops outside of Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati). Prices for each zone are respectively: $1.75, $2.65, and $3. Metro has several routes, most notably routes 71X and 72 (both $4.25), which charge a slightly higher fare than normal. Transferring between one bus route to another on the Metro system requires another 50 cents for a transfer ticket and passengers transferring from a Zone 2 or 3 bus to another Zone 2 or 3 bus should ensure that the bus driver hole punches the appropriate zone on the transfer ticket. Otherwise a further payment equivalent to the difference between the zone you're traveling to, if your trip ends in zone 2 or 3, and zone 1 fare must be paid.
TANK (Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky) buses charge a flat rate of $1.50 for all adults, 75¢ for seniors, $1; for students. Transfers between TANK buses are free. However, transferring between TANK buses and a Metro buses costs an additional 50¢ or 40¢, if you're transferring to a TANK bus from a Metro bus.
Government Square is the main bus hub for Metro and is on Walnut Street. Occasionally, when large events are going on downtown, bus routes will be re-routed to avoid Government Square. The square received its name due to the government buildings that border the square, such as the Federal Office Building, a Federal Courthouse, and a Federal Reserve Bank branch. Within the complex is an information kiosk providing details of bus routes and a free Wi-Fi service.
Below is a short list of the most important SORTA (Metro) lines that serve tourist sites.
- Route 1 is a route marketed to tourists as the 1 for Fun, and although it only runs about every 30 min on weekdays and every hour on weekends, its still useful for getting to some major sites between Union Terminal and Mt Adams just make sure to get a schedule on Metro's website before trying to catch it: Museum Center,Ezzard Charles and Linn Street (Near Music Hall and Washington Park), Government square area F(eastbound)/4 & Walnut Downtown (westbound), Art Museum (Mt. Adams), Park and Taft Ave.
- Route 72 - stops from Downtown to Kings Island: Walnut Street & Court Street (Downtown), Government Square, Area B, Kenwood Road & Montgomery Road, Mason-Montgomery & Fields Ertel Road ("Park and Ride"), Mason-Montgomery & Western Row Road, Kings Island.
- Route 71X - stops from Downtown to Kings Island: Walnut Street & Court Street (Downtown), Government Square, Area B, Kings Island, Mason-Montgomery & Fields Ertel Road ("Park and Ride").
- Route 17 - one of the more frequent routes in Metro, good for going to OTR, University of Cincinnati, Clifton and Northside. The ride up from Main Street in OTR to the hilltop neighborhoods on E Clifton is a good way to soak in the gorgeous Victorian architecture of the area and see a few of the more vibrant urban neighborhoods too.
- Metro*Plus - Metro's try at speeding up bus times by reducing stops. This limited route goes between Downtown and Kenwood Mall passing by University of Cincinnati (not far from the Zoo) and Xavier University along the way. Runs every 15-30 min, weekdays only. See website schedule for details.
A streetcar line, the Cincinnati Bell Connector, runs in a loop between Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine neighbourhood and the Riverfront Transit Center. Starting in October 2020, there is no fare required to ride.
There used to be some odd regulations making riding taxis without calling ahead of time a chore, this has changed. People now can hail taxis from anywhere and unlike heavy taxi oriented-cities like Chicago some cabs have lights (newly installed) indicating if someone is in the cab or not. Taxis are pretty easy to come by downtown and in OTR, but are much harder outside of these key neighborhoods. Taxi costs are all over the place as rates aren't set by the city or the state, if you pick the wrong company, you could pay 50% more than another company! Inquire with the taxi companies regarding rates, see below for contact information.
Taxi companies in Cincinnati include:
- Cincinnati Airport Taxi, ☏ .
- Taxi Cincinnati, ☏ .
- Cincinnati Ohio Yellow Taxi, ☏ .
- Yellow Taxi Cincinnati, ☏ .
- Blue Taxi & Shuttle, ☏ .
- Taxi Cincinnati, ☏ .
Lyft and UberX are also available in Cincinnati on a smartphone - the rates are usually cheaper than normal taxis, but watch out for surge pricing (up to 7 times the normal price) on Uber and PrimeTime (up to 200% the original cost) on Lyft during busy times like after sports games or during large events.
Some of the older neighborhoods in Cincinnati are quite walkable, with the Clifton Gaslight District (Ludlow), Over-The-Rhine, Mt. Adams, and Downtown being amongst the easiest to travel by foot. Due to massive depopulation of neighborhoods that had densities approaching that of New York City, (like Over-The-Rhine and the West End), Cincinnati is way more car oriented these days with most destinations being too spread out to walk to. However, many of these districts were built to pedestrian scale and are worth a stroll so long as one exercises caution (see the stay safe section). A visitor from a larger East Coast city may expect neighborhoods of similar scale and architectural composition to be filled with people, but instead oftentimes they are full of abandonment and the problems that come along with it. However, places like Mt. Adams, Downtown, or Clifton around the Gaslight District don't have these problems are well worth exploring by foot, park your car outside of the neighborhood and walk right in.
Cincinnati's Downtown has a Skywalk path. The Skywalk is an indoor, above-ground path through the streets of Cincinnati's Downtown. The Skywalk is free, and only used by pedestrians. Urban analysts hired by the city and downtown business leaders want to tear down chunks of the elevated passageways. Although most of the paths have been torn down, some of the Skywalk still exists, allowing travelers to continue to beat the weather.
Cincinnati has over 400 hillside steps for the adventurous traveler to explore. These steps were built before people had cars to facilitate easy transportation by foot up and down the steep hillsides that populate the city. Some steps are very famous such as the Mt. Adams Steps up to the Holy Cross Immaculata Church (described under the To See section) while others underused and/or are falling apart. Still more, like St. Gregory's steps in Mt. Adams, are hidden gems, guiding a traveler through a hidden forest oasis in a densely populated neighborhood. Be cautious when traveling on these steps, as they sometimes go through remote areas and while the neighborhood on one end of the steps could be safe, the neighborhood at the other could be crime infested. The city has a somewhat difficult to decipher but extensive guide of the locations and conditions of the steps here.
Cincinnati has a long way to go before it reaches the level of Portland or Chicago in terms of bicycle culture and accessibility. However, the city has installed bicycle lanes and on-street bicycle parking in some key neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine and Northside. Biking in Cincinnati is challenging, and is recommended for experienced urban riders, as the terrain is quite hilly producing often curvy roads that can go up or down very steep grades.
Despite the challenge, the narrow roads and urban setting are well suited for using a bicycle. Residential neighborhoods along the river near downtown (Roebling Point, The Banks, Over-the-Rhine, Newport Historic East Row) are relatively flat and quiet. The city posts a color-coded map/guide to recommended bicycle routes and facilities, and provides information regarding its bicycle policies and projects here. All buses have bike mounts on the front if you get tired or don't want to pedal up a hill.
Bike share is also available: Cincy Red Bike - $8 for a day-pass which will give you unlimited free hour-long trips over the course of a day (different from the 30-min trips common for most cities). The bikes come with locks and baskets. If you have a yearly pass with another Bcycle bike share system your card will work with Cincy's (see website for details). Most stations are concentrated in Downtown, Over the Rhine, and by the university with a map available on the website and on individual stations, though the system is expanding with new stations in Northern Kentucky's river towns, Northside and Eden Park being the newest locations. Be careful to return the bikes within an hour as the longer you leave the bikes off of a station the more you will get charged!
For getting quickly and conveniently to most places in Cincinnati, you will need a car. There is a street grid only in Downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods. Outside of those parts of the city navigation can be tough, with street names changing constantly and unintuitive routes being the norm. It can be particularly tough getting up to Mt. Adams. If you don't go down the right series of one-way streets, you could wind up getting flung out to one of the surrounding neighborhoods or Eden Park. There are a few signs directing drivers through the neighborhood, but they are easily missed. A good roadmap or GPS system is highly recommended if you plan on driving around.
Many roads are very narrow and very hilly reflecting the age of most of Cincinnati, which was built well before the automobile was the mainstay of transportation. Some streets will feel like country roads with the occasional urban house or apartment built where the terrain can support it. Other roads like the aptly named Straight Street quite literally go straight down a hill at a very steep grade. Be careful when driving in inclement weather. When parking on a steep slope, point your tires towards the curb (if downhill) or away from the curb (if uphill) and use your emergency brake.
I-75 is to be avoided around rush hours at all costs. While traffic isn't as heavy as one would encounter in much larger cities, it can still be quite formidable. The large amount of truck traffic, combined short ramps and many blind corners create a traffic nightmare. If you can, take the less traveled (though still somewhat congested) I-71.
Parking is generally cheap and plentiful in Cincinnati. The few trouble spots are around the University in the Clifton/Corryville areas (Uptown), Downtown, Mt. Adams and Over the Rhine south of Liberty Street. When parking in Mt. Adams, be aware of parking restrictions by reading the signs. There are far more parking restrictions here than anywhere else in the city, due to the narrow streets and dense population of that neighborhood.
Cincinnati has quite an impressive assortment of 19th century architecture. Parts of town will remind a visitor of large east coast cities like Boston or Brooklyn. With a renewed interest in the oldest parts of the city there are an increasing number of tours highlighting Cincinnati's golden age when it was one of the largest cities in the US. During some events like Oktoberfest or Bockfest, additional tours are offered, such as those highlighting the cities strong brewing heritage, or even the rare venture down into the abandoned subway tunnels, inquire locally or read local blogs as these are not well advertised to people from out of town.
Sports are taken extremely seriously in Cincinnati. Everyone roots for the Reds and the Bengals, but college basketball is where the city becomes divided. One of the most intense rivalries in all of college basketball is the Crosstown Shootout (called "Crosstown Classic" from 2012 to 2014), the annual matchup between the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. The game has returned to having the two schools alternate hosting duties after three years at the neutral site now known as Heritage Bank Center in the Central Business District. This came about because the 2011 game ended in a bench-clearing brawl (which also led to the temporary name change).
Cincinnati's most prominent institutions of higher learning are the University of Cincinnati in Clifton, and Xavier University in Norwood. Northern Kentucky University is also across the river.
Cincinnati is home to numerous international corporations that are important employers within the Greater Cincinnati area. The region fares well nationally with 10 Fortune 500 companies and 18 Fortune 1000 companies headquartered in the Cincinnati area. Statistically, Greater Cincinnati ranks sixth in the U.S. with 4.98 Fortune 500 companies per million residents and fourth in the U.S. with 8.96 Fortune 1000 companies per million residents. A few of Cincinnati's notable businesses include: Fifth Third Bank, Great American Insurance, Macy's Department Stores [formerly dead link], Kroger[dead link] and Procter & Gamble.
In the summer, restaurants and amusement parks employ large numbers of foreign students with J-1 Visas. Kings Island in particular is a major employer, hiring several thousand foreign college students.
Cincinnati has 52 neighborhoods, and each one has its own shopping districts. Some of the more noteworthy are Clifton Gaslight District (Ludlow Avenue between Clifton Avenue and Middleton Avenue), which offers bohemian and international shops, Northside Business District (Ludlow Viaduct/Blue Rock Street/Spring Grove Avenue), Hyde Park Square (Erie Avenue between Zumstein Avenue and Shaw Avenue) and Oakley Square (Madison Road between Hyde Park Avenue and Marburg Avenue) offer upscale boutiques.
If you're searching for something that is quintessentially Cincinnati, be sure to look for Rookwood Pottery, Findlay Market, Ulf's Big Onions, or Graeter's handmade candy.
Cincinnati is famous for its unique chili, based on a Macedonian recipe. It contains finely-ground meat, no beans or onions, and usually contains spices such as cinnamon or cocoa powder, and not as much tomato as traditional recipes. It is served over spaghetti with finely-shredded Cheddar cheese on top, known as a "three-way"; add diced white onions or kidney beans to make it a "four-way"; and add both kidney beans and onions for a "five-way". It's also served over hot dogs with shredded Cheddar cheese on top, known as a "cheese coney." Cincinnati has more chili restaurants per capita than any city in the United States. The debate over where to find the best Cincinnati chili is almost a religious war. Two major chili-parlor chains (Skyline & Gold Star) are dominant, but individual parlors and other smaller chains have their fans as well.
Goetta (pronounced "get-uh") is another Cincinnati tradition, developed by German immigrants. It's a sausage made of pork and/or beef, mixed with oats and spices. It's usually sliced and then fried, and most often served as a breakfast food, although goetta sandwiches are also popular.
Due to its heavily German population Cincinnati was at one time one of the largest producers of beer in the United States . Prohibition and the anti-German backlash following World War I were not kind to Cincinnati's brewing legacy and by the end of the 20th century very little beer was produced in town. Today there is a revival of long dead local brands and recipes led by the new Christian Moerlein Brewing Company. They are even starting to brew them in an old brewery in Over-The-Rhine. If you see beers at a bar such as Burger, Hudy/Hudepohl, Little Kings, and the premium Christian Moerlein beers, get one of them for a bit of local culture. Surprisingly the only large brewery left that brews in town is Sam Adams, which produces more beer in Cincy than in its hometown of Boston and is according to its founder (Cincinnati native, Jim Koch) based on an old Cincy recipe!
The Main Street Entertainment District (on Main Street north of 12th Street in Over-the-Rhine) was a popular area featuring many clubs and bars. However the riots did their number on the district forcing just about every bar to close down during the 2000s. This isn't all doom and gloom as, there have been attempts to bring bars back up there with several notable night spots opening up in the last few years such as Neon's and Japp's. After a few years of Kentucky getting the attention, the center of nightlife in Cincinnati has shifted to the area near Fountain Square and the Arnoff Center, or Restaurant Row generally bounded by 8th St to the North, 5th St to the South, Vine St to the West and Main St to the East. The area is always busy on weekends, especially with many young professionals. Over the last few years it has been slowly growing with many new bars/clubs and other night spots opening up.
With the loosening of laws regarding microbreweries and allowing them to sell beer on site, and with increased interest in reviving its brewing heritage, Cincinnati has a growing scene of tap rooms which aren't necessarily open late but may be a good way to get microbrew straight from the source.
Many Covington hotels shamelessly play up their proximity to their more famous neighbor. From Covington, it's a short drive, walk or bus ride (Southbank Shuttle) across the bridge to get back to downtown Cincinnati, so it's not an inconvenient option.
Cincinnati is a safe city to visit, however care should be taken when visiting certain neighborhoods. Some perceive downtown as unsafe, but according to a 2011 article by the Cincinnati Enquirer, Downtown is "as safe as the suburbs.... The most common crime [downtown] is theft, which includes shoplifting but not muggings, and the most likely crime you'll suffer is having your car broken into." Therefore, it's safer to park your car in a monitored lot than on the street. As always, be sure to take proactive steps to ensure your safety regardless of where you are by using common sense. There are a fair number of Panhandlers, most aren't harmful, use common sense and firmly say no if approached.
The safest neighborhood near downtown is Mount Adams, which statistically experiences almost no serious crime. Some neighborhoods you should use care in, particularly at night, include Avondale, Walnut Hills (though East Walnut hills is fine), The West End, and parts of Over-the-Rhine.
Over-the-Rhine is becoming a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, but it is still in a transition phase. As of 2015, the safest part of Over-the-Rhine is on Vine Street from Central Parkway to just north of 14th Street at the Cincinnati Color Company building (large sign) and Main Street up to Liberty as well as the area immediately surrounding and including Washington Park (which is monitored security cameras) as far north as Taft's Ale House, and Walnut Street up to 14th street just past the 16 bit bar. These areas is well lit at night, and have constant police presence. Use caution wandering off by yourself in Over-the-Rhine at night as the neighborhood is inconsistent in its makeup. A good rule of thumb for OTR is to stay on the major streets (Vine and Main) and stay south of Liberty. Travel in a group if possible, or call/hail a cab.
- Cincinnati Bell[dead link] offers over 300 Wi-Fi spots throughout Cincinnati. Rates are $4.95 an hour or $9.95 for 24 hours payable with credit card. Free for Cincinnati Bell Fuse/Zoomtown customers.
- The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County offers free Wi-Fi at the Main library downtown, and at all the branches.
- Lily Pad is a 100% volunteer-driven free Wi-Fi service throughout Cincinnati, available in most public, business, and common areas, including on many Cincinnati metro buses.
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Cincinnati is part of a very fractured metro region with many old small towns and suburbs, some of the more notable ones include:
- Clermont County, directly to the east
- Milford-Miami Township. An average town with plenty of outdoor activities and parks.
- Warren County, to the northeast
- Oxford. Home to Miami University, called "the prettiest campus ever there was" by Robert Frost.
- Northern Kentucky
- Florence. Just south of I-275 in Northern Kentucky. Famous for the Florence Y'All water tower.
- Creation Museum, near Hebron - A unique and interesting attraction, whether you believe it or not.
- Ark Encounter in Williamstown, billed as a life-size replica of Noah's Ark and operated by the same organization responsible for the Creation Museum. Said organization also offers a combo package that includes a one-day Ark Encounter ticket and a two-day Creation Museum ticket, and a 7-day pass with unlimited entry to both attractions. See the website of either attraction for details.
- Southeastern Indiana
- Perfect North Slopes. Winter ski resort in nearby Lawrenceburg. 1/2 hour from Cincinnati.
- Rising Sun. 30 mins west in Indiana by the Ohio river. Regional center for casino gambling, home of the Grand Victoria Casino.
Cincinnati is centrally located in reference to other interesting Midwestern or Southern cities and attractions. The following are accessible as day trips:
- Indianapolis. Home of the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 automobile races. A two-hour drive from Cincinnati via Interstate 74.
- Chicago. The largest city in the Midwest is a little over a four-hour drive from Cincinnati via Interstates 74 and 65. Flights to Chicago are also available from $100-200 and take just under an hour.
- Dayton. 45 min north on I-75. Home of the Wright Brothers, The Dayton Art Institute, The National Museum of the United States Air Force, and The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.
- Columbus. Ohio's capital and largest city is a 1½ hour drive from Cincinnati.
- Cleveland. The Rock and Roll city is in northern Ohio and is about a four-hour drive from Cincinnati. Flights to Cleveland are also available from $200-300 and take just under an hour.
- Serpent Mound. The largest effigy of a serpent in North America (¼ mile long). The park is dated to belong to the Fort Ancient era. The mound apparently represents an uncoiling serpent eating an egg. It's believed that the head of the serpent is aligned with the summer solstice sunset and the coiled tail is pointed toward the winter solstice sunrise and the equinox sunrise. 3850 State Route 73 in Peebles, Ohio.
- Lexington, Kentucky. Lexington is Kentucky's beautiful college town. It's home to the University of Kentucky and the top ranked Wildcats, and is generally acknowledged as the Thoroughbred racehorse capital of the world, with many famous horse farms nearby. Lexington is a 1½-hour drive south on Interstate 75.
- Daniel Boone National Forest. The Daniel Boone National Forest is home to the Red River Gorge Geological Area—over 80 natural arches, historical sites, and miles and miles of trails made for cross-country backpacking or just day hikes. Eastern Kentucky past the city of Winchester.
- Kentucky Speedway. A new racing speedway in Sparta Kentucky, home to major motor races.
- Louisville. Home of the Kentucky Derby, the world's most famous horse race. A 1½-hour drive southwest on Interstate 71.
- Mammoth Cave National Park. The world's largest cave system, in Kentucky. About three hours southwest, via Interstates 71 and 65.
|Routes through Cincinnati|
|Chicago ← Indianapolis ←||W E||→ Maysville → Charleston|
|Columbus ← Blue Ash/Montgomery ←||N S||→ Covington → Louisville|
|Indianapolis ← Harrison ←||W E||→ END|
|Dayton ← Sharonville ←||N S||→ Covington → Lexington|
|Richmond ← Oxford ← Northgate ←||N S||→ Newport → Lexington|
|Vincennes ← Seymour ←||W E||→ Milford → Chillicothe|
|Indianapolis ← Harrison ←||W E||→ Jct N S → Portsmouth → Huntington|
|Van Wert ← Fairfield ←||N S||→ Covington → Frankfort|