BIGGEST IMPACT ON THE DEFINITION OF A NEIGHBORHOOD:
Watching Over-the-Rhine mold over the past several years has been like watching a child grow into maturity. It’s blossomed into a meaningful, beautiful adolescent with a true, vivacious personality — but it’s not anywhere close to reaching its peak. The renovation of OTR’s Washington Park, which will include an overhaul, expansion and installation of a massive underground garage, will result in a complete metamorphism of a pivotal metropolitan space and truly streamline OTR with an already-hopping downtown scene. The $48 million overhaul will include a dog park, water playground, event plaza and a performance stage. The park couldn’t be in better company; once it comes alive, it joins the likes of Music Hall, the burgeoning Gateway District, the new SCPA and Memorial Hall. 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-352-4080, 3cdc.org.
BEST PLACE TO FIND CLASSES TO GET YOUR GARDEN GROWING:
The Civic Garden Center offers classes and training to the public to foster environmental stewardship and to teach all of us how to grow our own gardens — including community gardens through a community garden program, which they started in 1980. If you’re only interested in growing green in your own backyard, the center offers frequent classes (generally for $10) on topics like permaculture, composting, organic gardening, fruit tree pruning and how to build rain barrels. If you want to take your green thumb to the public, the Community Garden Development Training program focuses on the technical assistance, leadership training, horticulture education and start-up materials needed for Cincinnatians to start their own community garden. The training program is a free, 12-class series that educates community residents on how to organize, plan, build and sustain their own community garden. 2715 Reading Road, Avondale, 513-221-0981, civicgardencenter.org.
BEST PLACE TO BUMP INTO RYAN GOSLING:
The best “paparazzi” pics from when Ides of March was shooting in town weren’t of boy George and papa Nick chatting in Northside or Paul Giamatti devouring Chalupas at the Norwood Taco Bell (that one may have been a case of mistaken identity on our part) — they were at the Cincinnati Zoo. The adorable shots of the adorable Ryan Gosling playing with various adorable animals at the Cincinnati Zoo fit perfectly in our The Notebook scrapbooks. And now stalkers know to set up camp at their local pet shops and zoos if a Gosling shoot ever comes to their hood.
BEST CINCINNATI TRANSPORTATION NEWS OF THIS CENTURY/MILLENNIUM:
It was a long, rancorous fight — optimistic progressives versus all those embittered, depressive naysayers who believe there’s no future for the urban core or Over-the-Rhine — and there are still skirmishes going on, but construction for the Great Cincinnati Streetcar started in February outside Memorial Hall. Best of all, during the years of debate, activities along the route have blossomed — The Banks, downtown restaurants and housing, a newly remodeled Washington Park, a revived Findlay Market — so that the streetcar will be connecting development as much as it will be sparking it.
BEST WAY TO SAY ‘IN YO FACE, NEWPORT!’:
While Newport, Ky. is certainly part of Greater Cincinnati, there’s always been a bit of competition between the two shorts of the Ohio River. Newport on the Levee became a hotspot while Cincinnati’s side was, well, not as hot. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. With our own brew house, Moerlein Lager House, plus countless other developments on the Banks, locals now have two riverfront entertainment destinations. moerleinlagerhouse.com.
BEST PLACE INSIDE THE CITY LIMITS TO FISH:
Green space within city limits outside of a few shabby patches of grass along the sidewalk is a scarcity. It’s even more rare to find blue space — water (puddles and fountains don’t count). Find both at Burnet Woods, the scenic city-park decorated with a lake, walking trails, a bandstand, a playground, picnic areas, a Frisbee golf course and ample woodland to make you forget you’re in one of Cincinnati’s noisier neighborhoods. The staff stocks the lake annually with bluegill, largemouth bass and channel catfish, and if you’re ambitious enough, you can take your catch home and have your own fish fry, as long as it meets the size requirements. You don’t need a fishing permit, so cast your line ’til your arm hurts. 3251 Brookline Ave., Clifton, 513-751-3679, cincinnatiparks.com.
BEST GUIDED UNDERGROUND TOUR:
Want to see the city from a different angle? Then make your reservation for the Queen City Underground tour. This guided tour not only takes you through historic buildings and landmarks in the Gateway District, which were once home to more than 130 saloons, bars and theaters (which hosted the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Wild Bill Hickok), the tour also takes you below ground to explore hidden burial vaults and the winding tunnels that were vital to Cincinnati’s brewing history. Tours start at the Cincy Haus, 1218 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 859-951-8560, americanlegacytours.com.
BEST REASON TO CLEAN OUT YOUR GARAGE:
Before Pawn Stars and Auction Hunters, there was Antiques Roadshow. This July, the OG appraisal show will film an episode in Cincinnati and hopefully make few locals a little bit richer. If you’ve got some garage gold, apply for tickets (free, but randomly awarded) to the show by April 16. The episode will air on PBS sometime in 2013. pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow.
BEST WAY TO BUILD INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS WITH MUSIC:
Surely you’ve heard about this summer’s World Choir Games, but do you know just how amazing it is that the event is taking place in Cincinnati? The Games are the largest choir competition in the world — think Olympics of vocal arts. This seventh WCG, July 4-14, is the first to take place in the United States, and Cincinnati will welcome thousands to the States, many for the first time. The Games will feature more than 400 choirs from 60-70 countries across the globe. Tickets are now on sale. 2012worldchoirgames.com.
BEST PLACE IN A BUSY CITY TO STOP AND SMELL (AND SEE) THE FLOWERS:
Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park has a new florist, Bethany Butler, whose first show is an urban dazzler. Sparkle and Bling sets off colorful spring flowers with hand-strung beads, shining glass and recycled wine bottles. It’s as if Mardi Gras revelers created the Garden of Eden. And after you visit it, tour the soothing greenery in the rest of the building. The show is up through April 8. 1501 Eden Park Dr., Mount Adams, 513-421-5707,
BEST NEW PROPOSAL FOR CINCINNATI’S ONGOING DOWNTOWN REVIVAL:
It isn’t a formal proposal yet, just an idea being floated about — but we sure hope it lands on terra firma. As The Enquirer reported, Cincinnati is trying to lure dunnhumbyUSA headquarters to a new midrise building at Fifth and Race that would also include a specially designed “urban” Kroger grocery store
BEST YEAR-ROUND FARMERS MARKET :
Since 2001, The Northside Farmers Market has been serving the community locally raised meats, produce, baked goods and other prepared foods. Setting up shop at Hoffner Park at the corner of Hamilton and Spring Grove avenues in the warmer months, the market moves to the North Presbyterian Church (4222 Hamilton Ave.) from November to April. Regardless of location, every Wednesday from 4-7 p.m., patrons can come and get their fill of local and organic seasonal foods. You’ll get fresh veggies in spring and summer, farm-raised turkeys in November and fermented foods, local honey, micro-greens, eggs, soap, coffee, handmade goods and more, year-round. Of course they aren’t the only year-round market (e.g. Findlay Market, Madeira Farmers Market), but the Northside Market constantly got a great selection of quality and quantity food and goods. For more information or to see a list of vendors, head to northside.net.
BEST WAY TO EXPERIENCE ANOTHER CULTURE/RELIGION WITHOUT LEAVING CINCINNATI:
Can’t make the mecca to India this summer to have the exotic vacation you’ve been dreaming of? Yea, neither can we. Luckily, a trip to The Hindu Temple of Greater Cincinnati allows visitors to become completely immersed in the world’s third largest religion and experience a culture ripe with zest, history and color. Especially under rays of sunlight, the temple looks a bit like something from Aladdin come to life, and expect to see attendees wearing traditional garb including bindis and exquisitely ornate saris. Let the setting send you across the seas; maybe someday, it won’t be just your imagination. 4920 Klatte Road, Anderson Twp., 513-528-3714, cincinnatitemple.com.
BEST PLACE TO IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE WORLD OF LITERATURE, MEET A WRITER OR EXPLORE AN ESOTERIC SUBJECT:
The Mercantile Library is so well hidden you’d almost think they didn’t want you find it. This gem is an urban sanctuary waiting to be discovered. Channel your inner geek with books more than 100 years old, plop down in a comfy leather chair with a magazine or just get some old-fashioned peace and quiet somewhere between the shelves. Members are also encouraged to bring a lunch; if you’re looking to escape the downtown bustle, this is the place to do it. Ornate decorations and artwork scream scholar, but the serenity whispers it. The library also hosts lectures from luminaries such as Seamus Heaney and Joyce Carol Oates, special exhibits, poetry societies and book readings. You have to be a member to check out anything, but members of the public can peruse to their pleasing any time. 414 Walnut St. #1100, Downtown, 513-621-0717, mercantilelibrary.com.
BEST WAY TO NAVIGATE A BAR CRAWL:
What better way to cruise around town than on a giant, pedal-powered cart? Jack Heekin and Tom O’Brian created the Pedal Wagon to give locals a unique way to experience all the bars, historical sites and landmarks Cincy has to offer. It works like this: Thirteen passengers sit around a rectangular wagon with pedals underneath the seats. Those passengers provide the power while a driver steers the wagon along. The Pedal Wagon can be seen at area parades and festivals, and is available for rented “Pedal Parties.” The crew plans to join forces with American Legacy Tours this summer. 513-201-ROLL. pedalwagon.com.
BEST $5 SPENT ON A SUNDAY (OR SATURDAY) :
Wine! Yea! Market Wines in Findlay Market is the perfect pit stop for your weekend grocery trip (or a destination in and of itself). With more than 500 wines in stock, Market Wines does some tasty tastings every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. For a mere $5, anyone can stop in and taste four wines. Then you can buy some and keep drinking, or head home to take a nap. 128 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine, market-wines.com.
BEST WAY TO REAWAKEN YOUR MIND-BODY CONNECTION:
Stacy Sims entered middle age as a self-described “alcoholic woman with a serious panic disorder.” Then she found a 12-step program and Pilates. In 2010, Sims sold her very successful Pendleton Pilates business to embark on a year of dance and contemplation, including a trip to work with trauma victims in Cambodia. Her new mission is the True Movement program. This program works with clients (long-term Pilates students, yogis, runners, someone who hasn’t exercised at all, or someone recovering from a physical or emotional injury) to create wellness through balance and function. Her private classes focus on a “highly personal study of how a well body is organized for strength, agility, peace of mind and flexibility and what a body looks like and feels like when dysfunction begins to occur.” Sims is also the founder of the True Body Project, which helps girls engage their bodies and minds in an intense study of self-discovery and connection with others. She is a specialist in alignment for injury rehab, pelvic floor issues, anxiety, addiction and trauma. 513-470-5548, truebodyproject.org.
BEST PLACE TO MEET HOT SINGLES WHILE LIVING IN A PIECE OF CINCINNATI HISTORY :
The American Can Lofts in Northside offer green living in New-York-style, light-filled spaces nestled in an energy efficient renovated 1920s can factory. With secure entry, urban views, rotating art shows, special events, low-flow plumbing, well-curated display remnants of the original factory supplies and a cool neighborhood, it’s become the place to live. Like a college dorm for adults, this loft complex is a great place to run into attractive strangers while paying as little as $525 a month. 4101 Spring Grove Ave., Northside, 513-827-5638, americancanlofts.com.
BEST HISTORICAL LIBRARY:
The Cincinnati History Library in Union Terminal has been collecting and preserving Greater Cincinnati materials and ephemera including pamphlets, photographs, manuscripts and more since 1831. Great for research (and should be considered another riveting historical aspect of this museum), students, authors, historians, genealogists and the curious will find one of the most significant regional history collections in the United States — and a staff of incredibly helpful and knowledgeable librarians. Definitely worth a stop next time you’re at Union Terminal. 1301 Western Ave., Queensgate, 513-287-7030, cincymuseum.org/library.
BEST WILD PARADE CELEBRATING AMERICA:
Everything seems a little funkier in Northside, and the annual Fourth of July parade is no exception. Paraders old and young join in the festivities, donning wacky floats and even wackier costumes for the mile-long parade route, which is the longest in Hamilton County. Among the do-gooders, catch scantily clad belly dancers, Segway advocates, veterans and, of course, the Lawn Chair Ladies Brigade. It’s been a tradition for the community since 1854, so nothing is half-assed. It’s the perfect place to do something wholesome with 4,000 other attendees before you pair alcohol and explosives later on. Hamilton Ave., Northside, northsidejuly4.com.
BEST NON-STATICY PUBLIC CONCRETE SLIDE:
All slides are not equal. There’s no better way to throw off the qi of a perfectly pleasant playground experience than with a static-y slide sending shock waves around your tush. The powers that be at Alms Parks took that into consideration when they created the zippy concrete slide, which is a straight, smooth chute that’s fun for kids and adults alike. Plus, it’s huge. 710 Tusculum Ave., Columbia-Tusculum, 513-352-4080, cincinnatiparks.com.
BEST NEW DOWNTOWN COMBINATION OF HOTEL AND CUTTING-EDGE ART MUSEUM:
The folks at Louisville’s 21c Museum Hotel — Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson — may or may not have realized the urban trend they were starting in 2006 by combining a hotel with a museum devoted to the new century’s most challenging, thought-provoking and invigorating contemporary art, but it’s become a model that every city wants. That they chose Cincinnati’s old Metropole Hotel for an early expansion speaks volumes of their belief in our capacity for arts tourism. This will be art you’ll want to sleep with. The hotel is set to open late 2012. 609 Walnut St., Downtown. 21cmuseumhotel.com.
BEST PANORAMIC VIEW OF THE CINCINNATI RIVERFRONT:
No, you don’t need to walk over the Purple People Bridge or drive up Devou Park for the most spectacular view of our river city. Rather, step back in time by going to the downtown Public Library’s Cincinnati Room to view the stunning restoration of Fontayne and Porter’s 1848 daguerreotype photograph of two miles’ worth of the riverfront. The panorama was returned to glory last year. Pat Van Skaik, the Library’s Genealogy Department manager, spent years on this project and it was worth every moment. 800 Vine St., Downtown, 513-369-6900, cincinnatilibrary.org.
BEST MUSIC-LOVING, FREEFORM-STYLE, IRREPRESSIBLY HIP ROCK-AND-SOUL DISC JOCKEY IN CINCINNATI:
Mr. Rhythm Man, whose live show on non-profit WNKU-FM at 6 p.m. on Saturdays has become both a joyous institution and a refuge from the awfulness of local commercial rock radio, keeps spinning those platters and improvising the appropriate patter to fill the breaks. Reaching back to the 1950s (or earlier) for the formative R&B of Richard Berry & the Flairs or the early Drifters (“Honey Love”), he’ll move through the decades to newer deeply soulful material by the likes of Alabama 3 or Eli Paperboy Reed. For three hours of weekly popular-music greatness, tune into 89.7, 104.1 or 105.9 FM, wnku.org.
BEST CATCH AND RELEASE PROGRAM :
Ohio Alleycat Resource & Spay/Neuter Clinic is a nonprofit organization that helps control feral cat colonies (i.e. that cats that live under your porch or car) using humane methods such as their Trap-Neuter-Return program. TNR is basically what it sounds like. They lend humane traps to catch feral cats, neuter them with high-quality spay/neuter services (which they also offer to house cats), and then return them to their habitat. OAR also runs a small rescue operation with adoptable cats and kittens. They have placed thousands of rehabilitated and socialized abandoned cats, after removing them from their feral colonies, into loving, well-screened homes. They also foster pregnant females kitties and newborn cats who have limited experience with humans and are very afraid. 5619 Orlando Place, 513-871-7297, ohioalleycat.org.
BEST BIG-TIME POWER MOVE:
Last year, the Cincinnati Zoo helped the city become a focal point of the global quest for a clean energy solution with its huge solar initiative. The Zoo is saving a bundle on its utility bills, but the visibility of the installation — the panels cover nearly four acres of the Vine St. parking lot, making it impossible for zoo-goers (and commuters) to miss — is the most important aspect. The attention to the project, both locally and across the country, has led officials in other cities to take a look at solar power alternatives. cincinnatizoo.org. 3400 Vine St., Avondale. 513-281-4700.
BEST BIG SCREEN COMMERCIAL FOR CINCINNATI TOURISM:
Cincinnatians usually have to wait for Monday Night Football to see some breathtaking views of our town that make the Queen City look like the beauty she truly is. With no MNF for the Bengals last season (probably a regrettable decision for the NFL the way things tuned out for the team), Ides of March was a more than apt substitute, putting some great footage of a glorious array of local landmarks and cool spots on the big screen. From The Stand in Mount Lookout to Xavier’s Cintas Center to the Roebling Suspension Bridge, the intimate, perspective-shifting scenes were much more compelling than the usual “stadiums” and “nearest Skyline restaurant” shots of so many bumpers during local college basketball games on ESPN.
BEST WAY TO WORK OUT WITHOUT EMBARASSING YOURSELF IN FRONT OF A BUNCH OF PEOPLE:
Especially when you’re first getting in the swing of working out, it can be tough to do it front of a bunch of people. Falling off a treadmill in the middle of a crowded gym takes its toll on a person. Clear Wellness yoga/fitness studio caters to antisocial exercisers in an intimate, private environment; classes are limited to four students per session. Small classes mean personalized attention and feedback from your instructor in a judgment-free environment. 2452 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills. 513-800-9645, clearwellness.net.
BEST PLACE TO ENJOY THE FIRST NICE DAY OF SPRING:
The best things in life never seem to last — that’s why it’s worth it to hightail yourself to the Hinkle Magnolia Garden in Eden Park on just the right day to catch the magnolia trees in bloom. A picnic among these blossoms with a pair of sunglasses and a good book is serendipity at its finest — the picturesque gazebo and nearby fountain don’t hurt the mood, either. 1501 Eden Park Dr., Mount Adams, 513-357-2604, cincyparks.com.
BEST SPEAKER SERIES:
Organized in 1835, the Mercantile Library is a private library and one of the oldest cultural institutions in the Midwest — its reading room is one of Cincinnati’s most notable and historic interior spaces. The library offers a vast collection of books and a rich schedule of events, including the open-to-the-public author speaker series. The author lecture series this year offers reading and conversation with authors including Peter Cozzens, Chris Abani and Cathleen Schine. This year’s prestigious Niehoff Lecture features Irish poet, writer and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney. Previous Niehoff Lectures have featured legends including John Updike, Ray Bradbury, Julia Child, Joyce Carol Oates and more. Lectures generally cost around $20 (except the Niehoff Lecture). 414 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-621-0717, mercantilelibrary.com.
BEST USE OF THE WORD ‘BITCH’ :
Bitch’s Brew is an all-star powerhouse of talented female poets — a collective of badass bitches, if you will — organized by writer, editor, educator and artist Kathy Y. Wilson. With a name paying homage to the Miles Davis album “Bitches Brew” — and so-named to reclaim the powerful rights the generally negative term “bitch” — these ladies (“funky flowerchild” Abiyah; “sardonic loud-mouth” Murray; “punk DJ” Apryl Reign; and Yvette Nepper, whose graceful way with words inspired Wilson), come together for regular evenings of fast-paced spoken word and poetry. The Brew preforms two sets of readings every other month at The Greenwich Tavern in Walnut Hills. The sets are followed by a five-slot open mic for anyone who feels so inclined to get up and express themselves. The Greenwich Tavern, 2442 Gilbert Ave., Walnut Hills. facebook.com/thebbrew.