I’ve been in Cincinnati for almost two weeks, and it’s been everything I hoped it would be. In just that short amount of time I’ve experienced so much in this city, tried some new things, and met some wonderful people. I’ve learned that what makes the hotels, restaurants, attractions, and even the little hat shop on the corner fascinating are the stories behind them. Cincinnati has such rich history and is filled with stories. It’s those stories that I’m already loving and am eager to discover.
Here are a few snippets of my story in Cincinnati so far, from the local venues I’ve visited, the restaurants and bars I’ve tried, and a few of the lessons I’ve learned.
Covington, Ky. Farmers Market
On my first Saturday in Cincinnati I ventured across the Ohio River to Northern Kentucky. In case you haven’t brushed up on your Ohio geography recently, Cincinnati is located in the southwest corner of the state, just minutes away from Kentucky to the south and Indiana to the west.
There are several ways to get to Kentucky from Cincy, each involving a bridge with a story to tell. This time, I went back and forth on the historic Roebling Suspension Bridge. The big, blue bridge opened in 1867 and is often called the “singing bridge” because of the humming noise it makes as you drive from one state to the other.
Fun Fact: The Roebling Bridge was a prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, which opened almost 20 years later in 1883.
The farmers market itself was small and not particularly interesting, but the emphasis on the history of the area, and the bridge in particular was definitely noteworthy.
Fountain Square is the center or hub of downtown Cincinnati. The open area is flanked by restaurants, hotels and offices, making it a popular spot for locals, particularly over lunch. Aside from the food options and the chance to get some fresh air in the middle of a workday, Fountain Square is always bustling with activity. One day there’s a farmers market, another features local food trucks, and Thursdays are salsa days, with live music and salsa dancing on the main stage and in the square that night. It’s not uncommon to hear the soft echo of live music from our 15th floor offices directly across from Fountain Square.
Whether you want to socialize and grab a bite to eat or sit, relax and do some people watching, Fountain Square is the perfect spot to take in downtown Cincinnati and all its happenings.
Fun Fact: On my first day of work, my boss took me over to the fountain in Fountain Square to make a wish. She told me she likes to take travel writers and other visitors there to do the same with the idea that it will bring good luck to your time in Cincinnati.
Aronoff Center for the Arts
Early last week I attended a press conference with my team to reveal local artwork that was done for two multicultural conventions taking place in July in Cincinnati. The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) Convention begins July 4, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Convention begins July 16. The artwork was beautiful, and the artists’ stories behind the inspiration for the pieces, even more so.
The press conference was held at Aronoff Center for the Arts, which is home to Cincinnati’s Broadway shows, the Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Orchestra, and more. Cincinnati is a very arts-focused community, with several organizations to promote the artistic and cultural experiences within the city. The art that was presented at the press conference gave me just a glimpse of talent within Cincinnati. Stay tuned for a post about ArtWorks and the awe-inspiring murals around town.
Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown Hotel
Another highlight of my first week at the CVB was the 1st Annual Cincinnati USA Partner Summit. There, I learned a lot about the tourism industry from speakers like Don Welsh, President and CEO of Destination Marketing Association International, and many others. It’s incredible how much of an impact tourism has on the Cincinnati economy.
Fun Fact: Each year Cincinnati hosts more than 24 million visitors. And those visitors spend a chunk of change. Cincinnati visitors spend $4.4 billion annually.
Back to the topic at hand. The Partner Summit was hosted at the Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown Hotel, which opened after renovations in 2014. The historic building, originally built in 1901, was once a bank, and may have been a shopping mall for a time. In the main meeting space where the Summit was held, it was easy to see where the old storefronts used to be for a glimpse into the past.
The Renaissance is a great example of what Cincinnati is about and what makes the city so unique. Cincinnati embraces its historic past and incorporates it as the city continues to grow and evolve. Rather than tearing things down and building from the ground up, Cincinnati restores old buildings, cherishes its history and expands upon it.
This Italian bistro-style restaurant is located right on Fountain Square, with outdoor seating at a casual, yet classy terrace and courtyard. Major perk about this place: they have a great happy hour with half-priced drinks. My coworkers and I went for happy hour to celebrate my first day.
>>> What to Try: Sausage and Peperonata Pizza
Although I did not go to the actual restaurant, I was able to try Revolution’s rotisserie chicken at the restaurant’s tent at the farmers market in Fountain Square. The rotisserie and bar has a great story, however. The owner began with a small tent at Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine (again, we’ll get into this later), and had such positive responses to his chicken that he opened his own restaurant shortly after.
>>> What to Try: Thomas Jefferson Chita (a chicken pita with arugula, tomato, queso fresco, roasted corn salsa and chimichurri sauce)
Ingredients is a convenient lunch spot located in the atrium outside the lobby of the Westin hotel, just across from Fountain Square. It’s the perfect build-your-own place, with light, fresh ingredients for healthy and quick salads or wraps. Plus, there are pre-made options if you’re in a hurry.
>>> What to Try: Build your own! Pick your choice of greens, then add in any toppings you’d like, including a variety of vegetables, proteins and other flavorful add-ins.
The CVB hosted a Member Mixer at Bru Burgers as an opportunity for members to network with other local businesses. While local businessmen and women mingled, they also had the chance to enjoy some American classics: burgers and beer. Bru’s is perfect for the simple deliciousness of just that.
>>> What to Try: Soft pretzels with beer cheese. (Beer + cheese = pure goodness)
This Vietnamese restaurant is an office favorite for my team at the CVB, specifically the pho (pronounced ‘fuh’). Pho is a bowl of rice noodles served in beef or chicken broth and your choice of meat, garnished with onions, scallions and cilantro. We ordered takeout, but the main restaurant is in Over-the-Rhine.
>>> What to Try: Pho, obviously.
Awakenings Coffee and Wine
To celebrate my first full week of work, I treated myself to a wine night at Awakenings, located in Hyde Park. The coffee shop and wine bar featured live, acoustic music, wine on the walls from top to bottom, and patrons of all ages. Its calm, intimate setting seemed perfect for anything from a date night to a study session.
This bar, like many of the restaurants mentioned above, is located in Over-the-Rhine (OTR), just above a pizza place called Goodfella’s that I still have yet to discover. While the inside was dark and crowded, the two-level, quaintly lit deck offered a quieter, more relaxed space with lots of options for seating. The bar is known for its bourbon, craft cocktails and craft beers on tap.
Feeling settled and organized in a new place obviously takes time.
No matter how badly you want to get everything unpacked and put in its spot, or to cover your walls so your place looks straight out of Apartment Therapy or BHG, it’s an ongoing process. Little baby steps, one at a time. But the small joy and feeling of accomplishment after taking one of those steps toward creating your new home is a wonderful feeling.
Doing things alone is far from lonely when you have the right mindset. It can be scary at times, but I think it’s so exciting to have the confidence and courage to go out on your own, try something new, smile or talk to someone you’ve never met before, and be comfortable enough that you don’t need someone there to hold your hand through it all. Meeting people and making friends will come with time, but it’s having the courage to branch out and step outside your comfort zone, on your own, that leads to that.
Small reminders of how much you are loved go a long way.
A good luck bamboo plant that my parents sent me sits on my desk at work, and is a little reminder of how much they have supported me, how I will always strive to make them proud, and how adding a little life or a little reminder of home to any space can add so much positivity.