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Guide to Downtown, Over-the-Rhine and Mount Adams

A reference to the city center for MPMFers

By Staff · August 23rd, 2013 · MPMF Visitors' Guide
21c5_jilliantellep21c Museum Hotel Rooftop Bar - Photo: Jillian Tellep
Known as the Queen City, Cincinnati’s city center is the bustling heart (or maybe it’s the stomach ... or the liver?) of the arts and culture scene. A thriving hub of nationally recognized urban eateries, professional and avant-garde performance venues, historical architecture, popular watering holes, Euro-style green spaces, river views and beloved sports teams, the city is imbued with international polish and Midwestern charm.

View from Carew Tower
Photo: Jesse Fox

Cincinnati’s business center might be full of skyscrapers, but architectural interest abounds. From French Art Deco gem the Carew Tower, which served as the model for the Empire State Building, to the Ingalls Building, the world’s first reinforced skyscraper, to the Contemporary Arts Center, Zaha Hadid’s first American work, there’s beauty built on every block. It’s also home to a cast of impressive arts institutions, such as the Broadway-to-ballet Aronoff Center for the Arts, and popular community spaces, including Fountain Square. 


  • SEE CITY VIEWS — For $2 and a 49-story elevator ride, see everything Cincinnati has to offer from the Carew Tower Observation Deck (441 Vine St., 513-241-3888). Walk or bike across the The Purple People Bridge (purplepeoplebridge.com), which sometimes offers an adult refreshment or two along the way during festivals. Built in 1872, the bridge, painted purple in 2001, connects the Cincinnati riverfront with entertainment destination Newport on the Levee (newportonthelevee.com). And for a mobile view of downtown, hop in one of the many horse-drawn carriages that flank the Square or the Levee on weekend evenings (downtowncincinnati.com). Or people watch on the Square from Palomino’s (505 Vine St., palomino.com) giant window with an all-day happy hour — on food and booze — in the bar.
  • FAMILY-FRIENDLY ENTERTAINMENT —There are plenty of free events on Fountain Square (520 Vine St., myfountainsquare.com) almost every night: dancing, live music, movies and more, right smack dab in the middle of downtown. And Downtown Cincinnati also offers a downloadable PDF map and routes for various self-guided Queen City Walking Tours (downtowncincinnati.com). Sawyer Point (705 E. Pete Rose Way, cincinnatiparks.com),a mile-long stretch of park along the riverfront, has a performance pavilion, concessions, outdoor tennis courts, sand volleyball courts, a world-class playground, a sprayground, multiple events and the Serpentine Wall, a curving set of concrete stairs, for watching the Ohio go by.
  • DINING DESTINATIONS — Plenty of choices for the refined palate. Foodies can enjoy farm-to-table dishes at Local 127 (413 Vine St., mylocal127.com); Northern Italian with a twist at Via Vite (520 Vine St., viaviterestaurant.com), which also offers a grand piazza overlooking Fountain Square; modern Mexican and a big patio at Nada (600 Walnut St., eatdrinknada.com); or handmade pasta at Tuscan basement destination Sotto (118 E. Sixth St., sottocincinnati.com). Celebrate Cincinnati’s brewing heritage at the riverfront Moerlein Lager House (115 Joe Nuxhall Way, moerleinlagerhouse.com) on The Banks (thebankscincy.com), a mixed-use development located near the sports stadiums with dining, entertainment and a public park. For the Francophile in you, try some Italian-French at Boca (114 E. Sixth St., bocacincinnati.com) or some real rustic French — frog legs, foie gras, rabbit confit and all — at Jean-Robert’s Table (713 Vine St., jrtable.com). For late-night noodles, Shanghai Mama’s (216 E. Sixth St., shanghaimamas.com) is a must. There are also plenty of lunch options open during the week downtown, including Café de Paris (17 Garfield Place, 513-651-1919), It’s Just Crepes (39 E. Court St., itsjustcrepes.com), sandwich shop Fred & Gari’s (629 Vine St., 513-784-9000) and make-your-own sushi shop Fusian (600 Vine St., fusian.com).
  • SPORTS OF ALL SORTS — Downtown houses all the pro stadiums: U.S. Bank Arena (100 Broadway St., cycloneshockey.com), home of the Cincinnati Cyclones; Paul Brown Stadium (1 Paul Brown Stadium, bengals.com), the Bengals’ home jungle; and Great American Ballpark (100 Joe Nuxhall Way, cincinnati.reds.mlb.com), the Reds’ home turf. Or rent a bike from the Cincinnati Bike Center (Smale Riverfront Park, 120 E. Mehring Way, bikeandpark.com) and ride through Sawyer Point for a great view of the Ohio River. Before or after Reds/Bengals games, stop by the Head First Sports Café (218 W. Third St., 513-721-3767), which appeared in the locally shot George Clooney film Ides of March, or Tina’s (350 W. Fourth St., tinasbar.com) a quintessential Bengals bar.
  • ENJOY THE ARTS DISTRICT — Find anything and everything in entertainment, from shows to live music. The Taft Theatre (317 E. Fifth St., tafttheatre.org) brings national music acts and comedy shows to the city. Take in a show at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (719 Race St., cincyshakes.com); the Showboat Majestic (435 E. Mehring Way, cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com), which presents classic musicals and comedies on a riverboat; or the Aronoff Center for the Arts (650 Walnut St., cincinnatiarts.org/aronoff), which offers up everything from ballet to Broadway. For cultural institutions, stop by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (50 E. Freedom Way, freedomcenter.org) or the Taft Museum of Art (316 Pike St., taftmuseum.org), an art museum inside a historic landmark. After viewing some of the best contemporary art in the nation, visit the Contemporary Arts Center gift shop (44 E. Sixth St., contemporaryartscenter.org) in the lobby for posters, shirts and other ephemera from their exhibits.
  • HIP HOTEL BARS — The 21c Museum Hotel (609 Walnut St., 21cmuseumhotels.com/cincinnati) offers unparalleled views and delicious drinks from their rooftop bar and lounge. Take a secret elevator up and watch the sun go down on downtown. Enjoy a Great Gatsby-esque cocktail — the Fleuri 75 with gin and champagne — surrounded by Art Deco design at the Bar at Palm Court (Hilton Netherland Plaza, 35 W. Fifth St., orchidsatpalmcourt.com). The Phelps Bar (506 E. Fourth St., marriott.com) at the Residence Inn overlooking Lytle Park is housed in a historic apartment building with a Euro-esque park view. 
  • COCKTAILS AND CLASSICSArnold’s (210 E. Eighth St., arnoldsbarandgrill.com), the oldest continuously operated tavern in the city, was recently named as one of Esquire magazine’s top bars in America. There are also neighbor dancing/lounge destinations The Righteous Room (641 Walnut St., therighteousroom.com) and Scene Ultra Lounge (637 Walnut St., scenecinci.com), right by Scottish pub Nicholson’s (625 Walnut St., nicholsonspub.com), which offers a huge selection of single malt scotches. The nearby Igby’s (122 E. Sixth St., igbysbar.com) has a covered patio, three floors and happy hour Monday-Saturday until 8 p.m. Or relax on Chesterfield sofas at L.A.-style lounge FB’s (126 W. Sixth St., fb-cincy.com). 
  • PRETTY PUBLIC TILE WORK — Visit St. Peter in Chains Cathedral (325 W. Eighth St., stpeterinchainscathedral.org) for elaborate Greek-themed mosaics and international vocal concerts. View ornate Rookwood Pottery tiles and a beautifully maintained arcade at the Dixie Terminal (41 E. Fourth St.), which was built in 1921 and once housed the city’s streetcar terminal and stock exchange. The John Weld Peck Federal Building (550 Main St., 513-246-4472) houses a giant wall mosaic featuring some of Art Academy of Cincinnati graduate Charley Harper’s iconic animal designs.
  • LITERARY LEGACY — Literary buffs should stop by the Mercantile Library (414 Walnut St., mercantilelibrary.com), a members-only library founded in 1835.

Non-members can view the space (except for the reading room) and attend their frequent discussion groups and literary lectures. Or see the Literary Club Cincinnati (500 E. Fourth St., cincylit.org), a Greek Revival home that houses the club. Past guests include Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain. Get lost in five floors of new and old books and magazines at the Ohio Book Store (726 Main St., ohiobookstore.net), which also offers bookbinding and repair.

  • LGBT LIFESTYLE STOPS — Grab a beer at Country Western gay bar Shooters (927 Race St., 513-381-9900); lose all pretension at comfortable dive bar Simon Says (428 Walnut St., 513-381-7577); or sashay the night away at the Diamond Palace (435 Elm St., 513-721-HOTT), fulfilling all your drag, drinking and dancing needs until 4 a.m. on weekends.
  • SHOPPINGBatsakes (1 W. Sixth St., 513-721-9345) proprietor Gus Miller runs one of the best hat shops in the nation. The store has been around for more than 100 years and has celebrity clientele.


Krohn Conservatory

Mount Adams was named after President John Quincy Adams, but it used to be called Mount Ida, a tribute to the old washerwoman who lived in the hollow of a tree up there. Today it’s home to winding streets, beautiful river views, interesting townhomes and YP nightlife.   


  • CULTURE STOPS — An arts neighborhood, Mount Adams is home to the Tony Award-winning Playhouse in the Park (962 Mount Adams Circle, cincyplay.com) as well as consistently classic Cincinnati Art Museum (953 Eden Park Drive, cincinnatiartmuseum.org). The Krohn Conservatory (1501 Eden Park Drive, cincinnatiparks.com/krohn) botanical garden is home to a rain forest, desert and orchid display as well as a popular butterfly show. Even if you aren’t religious, the Holy Cross Immaculata (30 Guido St., 2011.hciparish.org) church is a must-see. Every year on Good Friday, the faithful ascend the 85 steps of this pilgrimage church while praying the Rosary. 
  • DINING AND DRINKS WITH A VIEWThe Rookwood (1077 Celestial St., therookwood.com), housed in Rookwood Pottery’s old building — you can even eat in a kiln — has Cincinnati-centric favorites like hanky pankies (goetta, beef and bechamel on rye) and fries seasoned with Grippos barbecue chip seasoning. The Celestial (1071 Celestial St., thecelestial.com) and the City View Tavern (403 Oregon St., cityviewtavern.com) both offer incredible city views. The Celestial’s four-star and four-diamond award-winning steakhouse houses a bar and Jazz lounge with live music, light bites and a full-window view of the Cincinnati skyline and the Ohio River; City View has one of the best bloody marys in the city. 
  • PLAY IN THE PARK — Visit Eden Park (950 Eden Park Drive, cincinnatiparks.com/eden-park) for one of Mount Adams’ incredible city views and a comfortable running/walking path around Mirror Lake. The Old Eden Park Reservoir wall, on Eden Park Drive, made in the 1800s of limestone, is also a popular place for rock climbers to train. Or visit Twin Lakes (950 Eden Park Drive), which was once an old quarry and now features two lakes, a bridge, walking paths and an impressive view of the Ohio River and Kentucky. Nearby is an 1894 historic water tower definitely worth seeing. For another view of the city, find the Celestial Street Overlook (corner of Celestial and Hill streets, hillsidetrust.org). Architreks offers a guided walking tour of this historically rich suburb, which leaves from the Sweetest Things bakery (942 Hatch St., architecturecincy.org) on the second and fourth Sunday of the month. 
  • ECLECTIC BITESMantra on the Hill (934 Hatch St., mantraonthehill.com) offers a refreshing, urban take on classic Indian food with entrees such as Lahori Kofta (chicken meatballs with onion-tomato sauce) and Gobi Charchari (cauliflower with green peas, cherry tomatoes, garlic confit and panch puran). Mount Adams Bar & Grill (938 Hatch St., mtadamsbarandgrill.com), once a speakeasy, is now a great place for burgers. And Teak Thai (1051 Saint Gregory St., teakthaicuisine.com) offers all variations of Thai cuisine, from sushi to curry, in addition to a wild, secret garden-esque back patio. 
  • NIGHTLIFE HOT SPOTS — Grab a Guinness at Crowley’s (958 Pavilion St., 513-721-7709), Cincinnati’s oldest Irish pub. For dancing, try Mount Adams Pavilion (949 Pavilion St., mountadamspavilion.com), a former 1848 home with multiple patios and skyline views. AliveOne (941 Pavilion St., aliveone.com) offers two floors and an all-live jukebox; Longworth’s (1108 Saint Gregory St., longworths-mtadams.com) offers food and drinks; Monk’s Cove (1104 Saint Gregory St., monkscove.com) specializes in Jell-o shots and Keno; Tap & Go (950 Pavilion St., tapandgocincy.com) is a rugby-themed hangout; and Yesterday’s Old Time Saloon (930 Hatch St., 513-421-9998) has great happy hour specials. For a more laid-back atmosphere, visit the The Blind Lemon (936 Hatch St., theblindlemon.com), with live music, a romantic, historic bar and sequestered patio; or Bow Tie Café (1101 Saint Gregory St., bowtiecafe.com), for coffee and cocktails.
  • LATE-NIGHT EATSMount Adams Pizza & Deli (1045 Saint Gregory St., mtadamspizza.com) serves up pizza, calzones, sandwiches, wings and more until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Tavern on the Hill (1111 Saint Gregory St., mtadamstavernonthehill.com) is the place for sports enthusiasts and late night noshing with pizza by the slice at midnight.


Music Hall

The New York Times described Over-the-Rhine as having “a scale and grace reminiscent of Greenwich Village in New York.” With nationally recognized restaurants, award-winning up-and-coming chefs, the coolest boutiques and the hippest bars, along with one of the best collections of historic Italianate architecture in the nation. OTR is constantly changing and growing, but consistently offers the best in buzzworthy cultural attractions — from food to fashion — and maintains its grittier, secret urban spots.


  • THE PLACE TO SEE AND BE SEEN EATING — OTR is the epicenter of Cincinnati’s dining scene, so be prepared to wait a while for a table. Nicola’s Ristorante (1420 Sycamore St., nicolasrestaurant.com) is a top Zagat-rated authentic Italian restaurant. Food & Wine magazine’s 2012 “People’s Best New Chef – Great Lakes Division,” Chef Daniel Wright, owns two restaurants back-to-back. His Mediterranean tapas-style stop Abigail Street (1214 Vine St., abigailstreet.com) boasts wine on tap, and Senate (1212 Vine St., senatepub.com), his gourmet streetfood restaurant, features specialty hot dogs and great cocktails. Bakersfield OTR (1213 Vine St., bakersfieldotr.com) is a California-inspired taco joint with a ton of tequila and whisky; A Tavola (1220 Vine St., atavolapizza.com) has a pizza oven imported from Naples, Italy; and Taste of Belgium (1133-1135 Vine St., authenticwaffle.com) is a contemporary bar and bistro. There’s also a strong Asian component on Vine with Japanese gastropub and sushi bar Kaze (1400 Vine St., kazeotr.com) and Asian street food purveyor Quan Hapa (1331 Vine St., quanhapa.com) — famous or infamous for their fertilized duck egg. The Anchor OTR (1401 Race St., facebook.com/theanchorotr) serves up remarkably fresh seafood. Also popular is Tucker’s Restaurant (1637 Vine St., 513-721-7123), a breakfast/lunch greasy-spoon classic. 
  • GET BUZZED — Enjoy a wine flight at 1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab (1215 Vine St., facebook.com/1215winecoffee) or one of 14 beers on tap at The Lackman (1237 Vine St., lackmanbar.com) while you wait for a table at any of the nearby restaurants; sit on the giant, dog-friendly patio at The Famous Neons Unplugged (208 E. 12th St., facebook.com/neonsunplugged), one of Travel + Leisure’s best bar patio in America; dance the night away to some Rock n’ Roll at MOTR Pub (1345 Main St., motrpub.com) or a little gay cabaret at Below Zero Lounge (1122 Walnut St., belowzerolounge.com). If you’re serious about cocktails and history, visit Japp’s Since 1879 (1134 Main St., japps1879.com) for pre-Prohibition style spirits and a history lesson. And for a caffeine buzz, hit up locals Coffee Emporium (110 E. Central Parkway, coffee-emporium.com) or Collective Espresso (207 Woodward Ave., facebook.com/collectiveespressootr).
  • HISTORICAL WALKING TOURS — Much of OTR was built by German immigrants between 1865 and the 1880s, ranging in architectural style from Greek Revival and Italianate to Art Deco. Book an American Legacy Tour (1218 Vine St., americanlegacytours.com), an Over-the-Rhine Brewery District Tour (otrbrewerydistrict.org) to go below the streets into hidden brewery tunnels or a Subway Walk and Talk (cincymuseum.org) for a five-block walk in Cincinnati’s unfinished subway system. Stroll Findlay Market (1801 Race St., findlaymarket.org), Ohio’s oldest continually operating public market, for farm-fresh food, local favorites and weekend $5 wine flights at Market Wines (128 W. Elder St., market-wines.com).
  • NOTABLE ARCHITECTURE — The possibly haunted concert venue Music Hall (1241 Elm St., cincinnatiarts.org/musichall) was built in 1878 with old-school flair and is home to the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Opera; and Beaux Arts performance space Memorial Hall (1225 Elm St., cincinnatimemorialhall.com) was built by famous architect Samuel Hannaford. In the West End’s Betts-Longworth Historic District, the Betts House (416 Clark St., thebettshouse.org), the oldest surviving brick building in Cincinnati, is near the Dayton Street Historic District, the city’s original Millionaires’ Row. Also between the West End and OTR is the city’s Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal (1301 Western Ave., cincymuseum.org), opened in 1933 as a train station and now serving as a bastion to Art Deco architecture, and a history and natural museum center with an award-winning children’s museum inside (it also made a brief appearance in Batman Forever). 
  • WASHINGTON PARK —The six-acre Washington Park (1230 Elm St., washingtonpark.org) is a renovated 150-year old public space that today offers a dog park, children’s playground and concert stage. It also hosts almost daily free events, live music, movies and more. 
  • ART STOPS — The Final Friday Gallery Walk (facebook.com/finalfridayotr) is held each month along Main Street and in the Pendleton Art Center (1310 Pendleton St., pendletonartcenter.com). OTR is also home to the Art Academy of Cincinnati (1212 Jackson St., artacademy.edu), a renowned art and design school that hosts various art shows. For the latest in avant-garde theater, check out Know Theatre of Cincinnati (1120 Jackson St., knowtheatre.com). ArtWorks, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting the community with art, does yearly community murals on the sides of buildings throughout the city. Find locations at artworkscincinnati.org.
  • ARTFUL SHOPPING — The best in vintage, eco and current design. The Spotted Magpie (1420 Main St., facebook.com/thespottedmagpie) and Atomic Number 10 (1306 Main St., atomicnumberten.com) have great vintage. Sloane Boutique (1216 Vine St., sloaneboutique.com) has fashion-forward clothing and accessories for women. For unique art and design goodies, try MiCA 12/v (1201 Vine St., shopmica.com). HighStreet (1401 Reading Road, highstreetcincinnati.com), a Martha Stewart favorite, and Joseph Williams Home (1232 Vine St., josephwilliamshome.com) have the latest in Euro-inspired home decor. Smartfish Studio & Sustainable Supply — soon to be Rock Paper Scissors (1301  Main St., smarterthanagoldfish.com) — and Substance (1435 Main St., shopsubstance.com) are both fashion-conscious and eco-conscious, as is Park + Vine (1202 Main St., parkandvine.com), the green general store. To see them all in one place, head to Second Sunday on Main (secondsundayonmain.org) June-September, an eclectic neighborhood festival, or The City Flea (thecityflea.com), a curated urban flea market held monthly June-September in Washington Park.


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