Built along the banks of the Ohio River, bustling Cincinnati is one of the Midwest’s most charming and charismatic cities.
Vibrant German heritage abounds in this Southwest Ohio gem, with historic architecture and a legendary beer scene celebrated with the world’s second-largest Oktoberfest. Cincinnati’s neighborhoods are dotted across the city’s rolling hills – and those hills make cars and rideshares the best way to hop from borough to borough.
Downtown is packed with Cincinnati’s best hotels, making it the best place to stay in the city. Though once you're settled in, get out and soak up each neighborhood’s distinct culture. Here are the best neighborhoods to visit on your next Cincinnati excursion.
Best neighborhood for bites and brews
The Queen City is a symbol of resilience, and fewer places illustrate this as well as Over-the-Rhine (referred to by locals as "OTR"), one of the best neighborhoods around Cincinnati. In the early 2000s, OTR topped America’s most dangerous cities list. Now, it packs crowds into its colorful bars, breweries and restaurants. OTR is easily walkable, although the city’s latest addition, the Cincinnati Street Car, runs from the neighborhood’s north end out to downtown’s riverfront, connecting attractions like food and artisan hub Findlay Market, the new FC Cincinnati soccer stadium and historic classical-music venue, Cincinnati Music Hall.
Craft beer was a boon to OTR’s revival, and with nearly a dozen breweries in this Cincinnati travel hotspot, it’s easy to see why. Rhinegeist, one of the city’s earliest craft breweries, dazzles beer enthusiasts with a city-view rooftop terrace and sprawling warehouse-style taproom. The UK’s cult-followed Brewdog Brewery has one of its only US taprooms on the OTR-Pendleton neighborhood border. And Taft’s Ale House brews creative beer in an upcycled church, with the main seating area in place of pews, and a uniquely elevated dining area in the former rafters.
Beer isn’t the only OTR attraction. OTR’s ever-growing list of Ohio’s top restaurants surprises first-time Cincinnati travelers. Salazar Restaurant, the brainchild of James Beard-nominated José Salazar, is among the district’s most sought-after reservations, although upscale hotdogs at Senate are equally hard to beat. And, after a long day of beer tasting, few things satisfy like crispy burritos – known as the Turtle Shell – from walk-up taco stand Gomez Salsa.
Best neighborhood for outdoor activities
The recently revamped riverfront neighborhood is one of the best places to visit while traveling in Cincinnati. Gardens, bike paths, fountains and shaded benches line this Ohio River bank, which sits at the base of Cincinnati’s greater downtown area. It’s a destination for sports lovers, with professional baseball, football and hockey stadiums mere steps from the water. And a buzzing row of bars and restaurants built around the stadiums, including Cincinnati’s iconic Moerlein Lager House and brunch-favorite Taste of Belgium, are part of the new The Banks development.
A meandering pedestrian pathway connects Smale Riverfront Park to a series of parks along the water. This route attracts runners, walkers and cyclists, as do the two bridges connecting Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky: the pedestrian-only Newport Southbank Bridge, known as the “Purple People Bridge” for its vibrant violet color and the bright-blue John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, created by the same man who built the Brooklyn Bridge.
And a host of waterfront attractions offer families full-day fun. Start at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for an important dose of history. Then hit up the new 15-story Skystar Observation Wheel and Carol Ann’s Carousel for a unique Cincinnati view. Perhaps most unique and true to Cincinnati’s steam-boat-production history is the BB Riverboat Cruises, which provides themed tours via steamboat cruises along the Ohio River.
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Best neighborhood for sightseeing
Downtown Cincinnati boasts the Queen City’s best sights, starting with culture-packed Cincinnati Museum Center, a National Historic Landmark with multiple museums under one stunning roof: the art-deco Union Station train terminal. Find more than 1.8 million artifacts, pieces of art and archives across the center’s interconnected attractions, including the Cincinnati History Museum, Cincinnati History Library and Archive, the Museum of Natural History & Science and The Children’s Museum. This crash-course in Cincinnati’s culture and history continues in the eastern section of downtown, with the city’s Broadway hub, the Aronoff Center for the Arts and the tucked-away Taft Museum of Art, which houses work from artists like Rembrandt.
The city’s main plaza, Fountain Square, is a gathering space for events, including Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in September and a German-style holiday market with an ice skating rink each winter. Live music, dancing and food-truck festivals keep Fountain Square lively throughout the year, making it one of the best places to explore in Cincinnati.
While it’s hardly as restaurant-packed as neighbor OTR, downtown Cincinnati hardly lacks for delicious fare. Can’t-miss classic Arnold’s Bar & Grill, the city’s oldest continually open tavern, dishes comfort food and craft brews in its eclectic bar and outdoor patio. Scottish-American gastropub Nicholson’s Pub transports diners straight across the pond, while The Righteous Room down the street is one of many hip and emerging bars to hit up for a nightcap.
Best neighborhood for art lovers
Perched feet above the Ohio River, Cincinnati’s Mount Adams neighborhood allures visitors with can’t-beat skyline views, then delights them with an array of art experiences – starting with a larger-than-life monk fountain on St. Gregory Street, the area's colorful main drag. Townhouses every hue of the crayon box in downtown Mount Adams lead to the neighborhood’s most beloved attraction, Playhouse in the Park. This theater hosts local shows throughout the year and has helped Hollywood stars like Cincinnati native Sarah Jessica Parker get their start. Just beyond the theater is the forest-fringed Cincinnati Art Museum, an expansive century-old art hub with 67,000 works of art and some of the hilltop neighborhood’s best vistas.
Another entertainment venue, the Seasongood Pavilion, hosts summer movie nights and outdoor concerts at the Mount Adams entrance to Eden Park, one of Cincinnati’s most celebrated green spaces. This meandering park houses lakes, shelters, architectural relics and trails between Mount Adams and the neighboring town, Walnut Hills. The park’s main attraction is Krohn Conservatory, an indoor botanical garden and butterfly house.
While arts and nature are the most captivating features, Mount Adams boasts some historic and hidden dining spots as well. Former speakeasy Mount Adams Bar & Grill serves tasty bar food with local brews, while hole-in-the-wall City View Tavern offers one of Cincinnati’s most scenic views from its downtown-facing deck.
Best neighborhood for families
Hyde Park is a peaceful alternative to the excitement of downtown Cincinnati. The charming borough, one of the best neighborhoods for families in Cincinnati, lies 15 minutes east of OTR and downtown. Its signature attraction, Hyde Park Square, displays the area’s family-friendly culture. Sweet stops like renowned Cincinnati ice cream shop Graeters, praised for chocolate chips the size of boulders, and Peace, Love & Little Donuts bring Cincinnatians of all ages to the square – as does comfort food nook Arthur’s and the upscale new farm-to-table Dear Restaurant, both family-friendly as well.
This eastern borough also houses Queen City’s best stargazing spot, the Cincinnati Observatory. The 19th-century observatory runs stargazing and astronomy education events, with weekly observations and “late-night date nights” for adults-only astro fun.
And Ault Park, set between Hyde Park and neighboring Mount Lookout, is by far the city’s most photogenic greenspace. These lush and secluded 223 acres feature 39 manicured gardens, nine densely forested trails and an Italian-Renaissance-style pavilion that stands grand above the expansive grounds.
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