This quaint little sister of Covington and Newport has a main neighborhood drag of creative shops, galleries and unique restaurants.
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- BRUNCH — Try the Bellevue Bistro (313 Fairfield Ave., enjoybellevuebistro.com) or Virgil’s Café (710 Fairfield Ave., virgilscafe.com). Siam Orchid (511 Fairfield Ave., siamorchidky.com) offers up authentic Thai cuisine. And The Elusive Cow (519 Fairfield Ave., theelusivecow.com) offers locally sourced, organic and natural meals for vegetarians and meat-eaters.
- TEA AND CAKE — A teetotaler paradise, enjoy a cup of joe at Avenue Brew (310 Fairfield Ave., avenuebrew.com) or traditional English tea at Mrs. Teapot’s Tea Room (339 Fairfield Ave., mrsteapots.com). The adorably named Thyme Square (421 Fairfield Ave., 859-261-4650) is a wonderfully fragrant tea, spice and herb shop. And Schneider’s Sweet Shop (420 Fairfield Ave., schneiderscandies.com) has been satisfying sweet tooths with ice cream and homemade candy since 1939.
- SPECIALIZED SHOPPING — With too many great gift shops to name, just walk down Fairfield Avenue and stop in all of them. Ladies will love Bella on the Avenue (318 Fairfield Ave., 859-431-2978) and Cleves and Lonnemann Jewelers (319 Fairfield Ave., clevesandlonnemann.com). For the violin virtuoso in your life, Patrick Higgins, luthier, runs Bellevue Violins (705 Fairfield Ave., bellevueviolins.com), repairing and building violins, violas and cellos. Doggynauts (708 Fairfield Ave., doggynauts.com) sells “doggy stuff for people who love dogs,” including leashes, collars, toys, treats, clothing and more.
- PARTY TIME — The Party Source’s (95 Riviera Drive, thepartysource.com) huge selection of booze at great prices will blow your mind. And they’re in the process of building a bourbon micro-distillery, Nth Degree Distilling, on the grounds. The Riverside Marina (145 Mary Ingles Highway, riversidemarinaky.com), down the river in Dayton, Ky., is a floating bar and grill with food, drinks and live music.
- THOMAS MORE COLLEGE — Take a short drive from Bellevue to the campus of Thomas More College (333 Thomas More Parkway, thomasmore.edu) to see “the smallest church in the world.” The Monte Casino Chapel was built in the late 19th century by Benedictine monks, and the 6-foot by 9-foot fieldstone building was moved to the college grounds in 1965.
- WHERE TO STAY — The Weller Haus Bed & Breakfast (319 Poplar St., wellerhaus.com) consists of two side-by-side Victorian Gothic homes in the Taylor’s Daughters Historic District featuring original millwork, hardwood floors, 18th-century period pieces as well as modern furnishings. Walk down to Bellevue Beach Park (665 Frank Benke Way, bellevueky.org), directly across the river from Cincinnati’s Friendship Park, for city and river views.
The main attraction in Covington is MainStrasse Village (Fifth and Main streets), a restored German village full of unique shops, restaurants and taverns that is home to numerous street festivals held throughout the year.
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- WALKABLE HISTORY — MainStrasse Village (mainstrasse.org) is the city square of Covington with a strong German history. The village offers a printable walking tour with detailed history of the historic buildings. Transport to another time during a walk through the Riverside Drive Historic District (Riverside Drive, nkytourism.com). This 13-block area includes Civil War homes, carriage houses and life-size bronze statues of historic figures. At certain times of day you can see animatronic figures pop out of the clock in the German Gothic Carroll Chimes Bell Tower (Sixth and Philadelphia streets) to depict the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. And don’t miss the French-Gothic replica of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica (1140 Madison Ave., covcathedral.com), featuring 80 stained glass windows.
- DINING WITH DRINKS — Famous for their mac and cheese menu, the Keystone Bar & Grill (313 Greenup St., keystonebar.com) serves more than 12 different varieties. In MainStrasse Village, sandwich shop turned restaurant Otto’s (521 Main St., ottosonmain.com) is a brunch favorite with yummy mimosas. And Dee Felice Café (529 Main St., deefelice.com) has exciting Cajun options. Or if you’re feeling smart, Molly Malone’s Irish Pub (112 E
- EXCELLENT ASIAN — For a global experience, sit at a traditional floor table at Riverside Korean Restaurant (512 Madison Ave., riversidekoreanrestaurant.com). The comfortably small Amerasia (521 Madison Ave., kungfoodchu.com) serves up super fresh and classic Americanized Asian with a Kung-Fu lean.
- BISTROS VERSUS DINERS — For quick bites, try one of the ’hoods’ bistros or diners. Grab lunch at the Europa Bistro & Café (50 E. Rivercenter, europabistrocafe.com) or hidden gem Wolf & Co. Bistro (14 E. Fifth St., 859-655-9653). At Frank’s Old Town Cafe (9 W. Pike St., otccatering.com), you’ll find policemen and firefighters chatting up the grill guy. The Anchor Grill (438 Pike St., 859-431-9498), a kitschy greasy spoon, has a tiny mechanical band that dances to songs played on the jukebox ... and goetta.
- PUB CRAWL — MainStrasse Village is a great place for a pub crawl. Zola Pub and Grill (626 Main St., zolapubandgrill.com) is an unpretentious neighborhood pub with food and live music. The Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar (629 Main St., 859-581-1777) has more than 150 different types of bourbon and an extremely knowledgeable staff. Pachinko (424 W. Sixth St., pachinkobar.com) is a sports bar with a ton of weekly specials. Cosmo’s Grille Pub (604 Main St., 859-261-1330) has a daily happy hour 11 a.m.-7 p.m. The Strasse Haus (630 Main St., strassehauspub.com) has been part of MainStrasse for more than 20 years, serving up bar food and German fare with an outdoor patio and live music.
- LGBT-FRIENDLY BARS — The Pike Street Lounge (266 Pike St., pikestreetlounge.com) is a gay-friendly bar/coffee shop. Rosie’s Tavern (643 Bakewell St., 859-291-9707), just off MainStrasse, offers a casual environment for happy hour, darts, pool and pinball. 701 Bar and Lounge (701 Bakewell St., facebook.com/701bar) offers fun themed nights like WOOF Wednesdays.
- ART & CULTURE — Enjoy an evening glass of wine and rooftop Jazz at Chez Nora (530 Main St., cheznora.com), or some louder live music at the Madison Theater (730 Madison Ave., madisontheateronline.com). Visit the The Carnegie (1028 Scott St., thecarnegie.com) for visual and performing arts events. On your way across the Roebling Bridge, check out the wonderfully detailed Roebling Murals (Greenup Street to Madison Avenue). Drive up the hill to Devou Park (638 Madison Road) for great views, as well as a golf course and the Behringer-Crawford Museum (1600 Montague Road, bcmuseum.org), a museum dedicated to collecting, preserving and exhibiting the Ohio Valley’s natural, cultural and visual and performing arts heritage.
- GET INKED — Get a permanent reminder of your time in Covington at either of these nationally renowned tattoo shops: Designs by Dana (631 Main St., danatattoo.com) or Mothers Tattoo (617 Main St., motherstattoo.com).
- MYSTICAL SHOPPING — If you have a fairy princess in your life, Stoney’s Gifts (323 W. Sixth St., stoneysgifts.com) has fairy wings and tutus. Strasse Dog (605 Main St.) has all the accessories for the fashionable pooch. And The Magic Shop (526 Philadelphia St., artiesmagic.com) sells supplies for amateur and professional magicians. Ottoman Imports (609 Main St., ottomanimports.com) sells treasures from abroad.
FLORENCE AND NEARBY NEIGHBORHOODS
The city of Florence, famous for its “Florence Y’all” water tower, is home to a big mall, chain restaurants and more, including independent minor league baseball team the Florence Freedom.
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- FAST-PACED SPORTS — Turfway Park (7500 Turfway Road, turfway.com) is a horse race track conducting live thoroughbred races in fall, holiday and winter/spring, with off-season year-round simulcast wagering. The Florence Freedom (7950 Freedom Way, florencefreedom.com) is a frontier league independent professional baseball team with the food, amenities and giant, fuzzy mascots of the major leagues. In Sparta, Ky., the Kentucky Speedway (1 Kentucky Speedway Blvd., kentuckyspeedway.com) hosts a slew of racing events including ARCA, NASCAR and the Indy Racing League.
- ALTERNATIVE ATTRACTIONS — The Creation Museum (2800 Bullittsburg Church Road, creationmuseum.org) in Petersburg is a museum that brings the pages of the Bible to life with dynamic animal and human displays featuring the likes of Adam and Eve and dinosaurs. There’s also a planetarium describing how God built the universe, a zip line, botanical gardens and a petting zoo with camel rides and zorse and zonkey. Visit the world’s only museum dedicated to the art of ventriloquism, Vent Haven Museum (33 W. Maple Ave., venthavenmuseum.com), full of classic “figures.” Opened in 1932, the Wildwood Inn (7809 U.S. 42, wildwood-inn.com) is a tropical dome with themed suites. There’s an Aladdin suite with a magic carpet, a Kentucky Cave suite with replica stalactite and stalagmite formations, an Arctic Cave made of mock solid ice and more. Northern Kentucky University (1 Nunn Drive, nku.edu), home of the NKU Norse, has athletic teams in soccer, basketball, baseball, golf, tennis and more, with games open to the public.
- HISTORICAL HOMES — James A. Ramage Civil War Museum (1402 Highland Ave., fortwright.com) in Fort Wright preserves and interprets Northern Kentucky’s unique role in the Civil War through archaeology, education and research in a historic building offering Civil War-related events. The Dinsmore Homestead (5656 Burlington Pike, dinsmorefarm.org) replicates what rural life was like in the 19th and early 20th century with hiking trails and a home that contains antiques that belonged to five generations of Dinsmores.
- SOUTHERN-STYLE DINING — The Greyhound Tavern (2500 Dixie Highway, greyhoundtavern.com) is a tavern built in 1921 serving classic fried chicken in Fort Mitchell.
- ANTIQUE SHOPPING — Florence Antique Mall (8145 Mall Road, florenceantiquemall.com) is filled with vintage treasures and cool stuff.
- OUTDOOR ENTERTAINMENT OPTIONS — Kentucky’s largest winery, Elk Creek Vineyard (150 Highway 330, elkcreekvineyards.com), is housed in the rolling hills of Owenton, Ky., and offers award-winning wines produced and bottled on-site. Big Bone Lick (3380 Beaver Road, parks.ky.gov) is named after the Pleistocene megafauna — giant sloths, mammoths, etc. — fossils found there. The indoor museum there houses a 1,000-pound mastodon skull while the outdoor museum is home to a marsh bog diorama with woolly mammoths, sloths, bison and other giant creatures. Walk along one of the many park trails and find yourself face-to-face with a herd of real bison. Go back in time again in Rabbit Hash, Ky., (10021 Lower River Road, rabbithash.com), a small rivertown grounded by its historic general store and a slew of dog mayors. The current canine mayor is Lucy Lou, a border collie.
Historically referred to as “Sin City,” Newport was once home to casinos, brothels and speakeasies. While the gangster past — and a couple of strip clubs — are still there (discover more on the Newport Gangster Tour), the city is now home to family-friendly restaurants and attractions.
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- FAMILY-FRIENDLY ATTRACTIONS — Newport on the Levee is a one-stop-shop for restaurants and entertainment. Visit the Newport Aquarium (1 Aquarium Way, newportaquarium.com) at Newport on the Levee to see the largest collection of shark rays in world. Also on the Levee is The Funny Bone (funnybonecentral.com), a comedy club with national acts; an AMC Theater (amctheatres.com); GameWorks (gameworks.com) for arcade games, billiards and darts; and Star Lanes (starlaneslevee.com), a boutique bowling alley.
- LIVE MUSIC — Check out live music at the historic Thompson House (24 E. Third St., thompsonhousenewport.com), birthplace of the inventor of the Tommy Gun, or the recently relocated Southgate House Revival (111 E. Sixth St., southgatehouse.com), now housed in an old church but still offering the same classic blend of live music and booze.
- UNIQUE DINING — The Pepper Pod (703 Monmouth St., 859-431-7455), a 24/7 diner, is a bit more casual than nearby choices such as Mokka (500 Monmouth St., mokkasunset.com) and the area’s “best first date restaurant,” York Street Café (738 York St., yorkstonline.com). Knotty Pine on the Bayou (6302 Licking Pike, 859-781-2200) offers up Cajun classics in a cozy environment.
- A PLETHORA OF PIZZA AND MUCHO MEXICAN — There are many favorites to choose from. Strong’s Brick Oven Pizza (336 Monmouth St., strongsbrickovenpizza.com), Newport Pizza Company (601 Monmouth St., newportpizzacompany.com) and Pasquale’s Pizza (630 Monmouth St., pasqualesnewport.com) all have loyal followings. Pompilios Restaurant (600 Washington Ave., pompiliosrestaurant.com), the restaurant where the toothpick scene in Rain Man was filmed, has been offering classic family Italian since 1933. La Mexicana (642 Monmouth St., 859-261-6112) offers authentic Mexican dishes including sesos (beef brains) tacos, while Rio Grande (34 Carothers Road, 859-292-8750) serves up good strip-mall Mexican.
- TOURS (AQUATIC AND LAND) — Relish Newport’s seedy past on the Newport Gangster Tour (americanlegacytours.com), which leaves from Gangsters Dueling Piano Bar (18 E. Fifth St., gangstersduelingpianobar.com). For a more family-friendly adventure, check out Ride the Ducks (1 Aquarium Way, newport.ridetheducks.com), the amphibious sightseeing tour. BB Riverboats (101 Riverboat Row, bbriverboats.com) has two historic steamboats offering a variety of tours and dinner cruises on the Ohio. Stratus Helicopter (99 Riverboat Row, stratushelicopters.com) is the city’s premier aerial sightseeing tour. If you’re taking your own tour, see The World Peace Bell (425 York St.), one of 20 bells cast around the world to commemorate the new millennium. Or the Wiedemann Hill Mansion (1102 Park Ave., whillmansion.com) a Samuel Hannaford-designed historic estate with panoramic views of the Cincinnati skyline.
- BEST BEER BARS — The Beer Sellar (301 Riverboat Row, 859-431-6969), a sports bar on a docked riverboat, offers 60 beers on tap. Or grab a stein of German brew and a schnitzel at the first authentic Hofbräuhaus (200 E. Third St., hofbrauhausnewport.com) in America — “Where it’s Oktoberfest every day!”