Cincinnati Love Isn’t Just Nostalgia

I love Cincinnati. It’s where I grew up. It’s where my family lives. It has very little traffic (compared to the wilds of Washington, D.C.). But it wasn’t until recent years that the rest of the country knew or cared much about the city, apart from a Delta stopover at the airport.

But today, there is something brewing in the Queen City. Literally. Locals and tourists alike are going on brewery tours at Hudepohl, Rhinegeist, or Sam Adams in the Over-the-Rhine—or OTR—neighborhood.

OTR is in many ways symbolic of how far Cincinnati has come. The neighborhood was at the center of Cincinnati’s 2001 race riots, a dark time in the city’s past, and was named the most dangerous neighborhood in America in 2009 (using questionable data from 2005-2007). Today, it gleams with refurbished buildings home to Millennials who want to walk to work, and trendy shops and restaurants—even my mother goes to OTR for dinner these days!


I was recently in town for a weekend and got to see firsthand the power of change. I joined my family to run the Flying Pig Marathon Relay, and was able to see a lot of the city quickly...okay, not that quickly. 

It was clear that Cincinnati was getting ready to roll out the Reds carpet (see what I did there?) for the 2015 MLB All-Star Game. The brand new Smale Riverfront Park looked to be days away from an official opening and the Riverfront gleamed with new life brought by The Banks development between the Reds and the Bengals stadiums. 

I also got to see Fountain Square, the heartbeat of downtown that hosts events, viewing parties (World Cup, anyone?), and an ice skating rink for the winter months. But beyond downtown, one of my favorite placesand where I ended my leg of the Flying Pigis Eden Park. Home to the Cincinnati Art MuseumPlayhouse in the Park, and the Krohn Conservatory, Eden Park is a beautiful enclave perched high atop the city. 

No trip to Cincinnati is complete without a stop at Union Terminal, home of the Cincinnati Museum Center. This historic building has a special place in my memory as a kid and an adult, but beyond nostalgia, the art deco masterpiece is a marvel. The museums also boast exhibits that are worth the trip, especially if you have kids. Between the Duke Energy Children's Museum, real cave exploring, and an IMAX movie, it's a full and fantastic day.

I wasn’t there for some of Cincinnati’s best times of year. If you get the chance, here are a few more unique events to consider in the Queen City:

  • Lumenocity: This was the event that proved Cincinnati’s revitalization. Crowds nearly doubled expectations in the event’s first year (2013) for the Washington Park event that features a performance by the Cincinnati Symphony set to live 3-D light projections cast on the façade of historic Music Hall.
  • Riverfest Fireworks: Anyone can do a killer fireworks show on July 4th, but Cincinnati's Labor Day fireworks are where it's at. Join half a million revelers to celebrate a tradition three decades and counting--it doesn't disappoint.
  • Oktoberfest Zinzinnati: The city boasts a large German population—hence neighborhood names like “Over-the-Rhine”—and is home to the largest Oktoberfest celebration in the country, and the second largest in the world after Munich. Not to mention one hell of a chicken dance. 
  • Reds Opening Day: Fresh off hosting the 2015 All Star Game, Cincinnati’s history with America’s pastime is long and storied. The Reds were baseball’s first professional team, and those roots run deep on Opening Day. It’s an unofficial citywide vacation day where office chairs are empty, but bar stools by the stadium are tough to come by.

July 13, 2015