Now that it’s the weekend, I thought I’d share a brief itinerary of how I spent last weekend. With so much to do in this lively and historic city, it’s important to spend time taking it all in. Don’t waste two precious days of sunshine and free time. Instead, explore.
After a busy day at work, I started my weekend festivities with some good eats and happy hour drinks.
Located in Over-the-Rhine, like so many of my other local favorites so far, Gomez Salsa is a hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint. Literally, it’s a hole in the wall. A window on 12th Street, just east of Walnut Street, has sheets of paper and pencils in a slot nearby for customers to check boxes for their order and turn it in through the window.
A burrito-sized tortilla is stuffed with any of your favorite fillings – rice, beans, sour cream, lettuce, salsa, meat, veggies and cheese – and is then encased in a tostada and baked with a shell of cheese. In fewer words, it’s mouth-watering goodness.
Right around the corner is HalfCut, a small bar featuring a variation of craft beers and board games. After we turned in our orders at Gomez, we found a spot at HalfCut, ordered beers and waited for our food to arrive. (That’s another perk of Gomez – you can either wait to pick your food up at the window, or they’ll deliver it directly to HalfCut!)
HalfCut draws people from all walks of life – couples on a double date, young professionals out for happy hour, or the hipster guy at the end of our table with his dog who told us about his trip throughout Europe. Good food, good beer, good conversation – perfect start to the weekend.
I wrote before about having the confidence to do things alone. It’s not necessarily lonely. In fact, it’s kind of invigorating to venture out, free of agenda, open to the possibilities of the people and experiences you’ll encounter. So Friday night, that’s what I did.
Looking for a good music scene? MOTR is the place to go. Every weekend night MOTR has free shows, typically featuring local bands. The small stage in the corner livens up the dark pub, bringing people up out of their bar stools and booths and in front of the band, bobbing and moving along with the music. I ordered a Moerlein OTR – an IPA from a local brewery – sat at the bar, talked to a few people next to me, then stood to watch and listen to the band. Even on my own, it was a fun night.
Saturday was a beautiful day. Sun shining, light breeze, hardly a cloud in the sky – the perfect day for an adventure.
I won’t go into detail with this again, but I just want to reiterate how joyful riding a bike can be. I started my morning by going downtown and renting a Red Bike for the day. There were hardly any cars driving through the streets. Rather, there were people walking, riding bikes and enjoying the morning.
My first stop was Findlay Market. Don’t worry, this won’t be a repeat of last week’s blog. But I have to say, Findlay Market is a totally different beast over the weekend. The streets were packed with locals scouring the shops, plus tents and stands with entrepreneurs trying to catch their big break. From potters and cooks to soap-makers or pastry chefs, there were so many passionate and courageous people following their dreams. When you stop and think about it, it’s a pretty impressive feat.
Food to try: Connecting Bridges
Himalayan/Nepalese food with the motto “Connecting Through Food”
Entrée: Basmati rice with chicken tikka masala, chuala and potato curry. In laymen’s terms, it’s a bowl of rice with chicken, curry, spices and topped with salsa and fresh cilantro. Simply delicious.
Smale Riverfront Park
After Findlay Market, I hopped back on a bike and rode about two miles south to the Ohio River. Hundreds of years ago, when Cincinnati was just a young city, the riverfront was the hub of local commerce. Boats would dock and sell their goods in the stores along the river. Now, the original site of those old stores has been transformed into a beautifully intricate city park, called Smale Park, with the original foundations of the stores incorporated into its design.
On one end of the park, directly across from the Reds’ Great American Ball Park, large, suspended swings line a path underneath a wavy, metal awning. Walk a little further and you’ll find some of the coolest playgrounds. I honestly wanted to play! There were giant logs to climb on, winding slides, a huge foot piano, even a suspended pig for kids to sit in and pull cables to make it ‘fly.’ There were kids everywhere, having such innocent, pure fun.
Along with the playgrounds, there are fountains and streams for kids to play in that mimic the Ohio River floodplain, biking and running trails, and rolling picnic tables secured to tracks in front of Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals. There is so much to see at Smale Park, such beauty, life and excitement. It truly encapsulates what Cincinnati stands for – new features built on a historic foundation that provides a good time for all ages.
After a morning of biking, I spent the afternoon relaxing and reading at home. Some downtime on the weekend is very necessary. For book-lovers out there, I highly recommend “Salem Falls” by Jodi Picoult.
And then for another night out, with quite the assortment of bars.
Famous Neons Unplugged
More commonly known as Neons, the best part of this spot is its giant patio. After waiting in a line that wrapped around the building, the patio was packed with people shoulder to shoulder, just trying for a chance to get to the bar. Due to the crowd, I wasn’t able to see much of the place, but it seemed like the perfect place to spend a summer night.
Below Zero is gay bar that has a large selection of vodkas, electronic dance music, and lots of flashing lights. If people weren’t dancing, several were waiting in line to go to the upper level of the bar where drag shows take place over the weekend. Though it wasn’t my scene, it was a fun, flashy stop on our little OTR tour.
Apparently Mr. Pitifuls was just taken over by new owners, and has recently undergone major changes. The best way I can describe this bar is a college bar trying to grow up a little bit. With popular dance songs blaring, tanned twenty-somethings flirting and drinking cans of Bud Light, and the floor literally shaking beneath us, it felt like a flashback to college days.
Like every Sunday, I started my day with mass. With so many other changes in my life right now, I always feel a sense of peace, comfort and familiarity when I go to mass. After a solid start to my day, I truly took advantage of Sunday being a day of rest.
Hyde Park Farmers Market
Do you have a dog? A baby in a stroller? Do you wear yoga pants? Are you young and attractive and in a relationship of some sort? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should go to Hyde Park. Without any of these fitting the bill for me on Sunday, I felt a bit out of place, but the produce tents, food trucks and live bluegrass music were pleasant distractions. I bought myself a breakfast pastry from O Pie O (Get it? Like Ohio!), did some browsing and people watching, and was on my merry way. Hyde Park’s farmers market is nothing like Findlay Market, but the quaint, trendy neighborhood puts on a great market for a calm Sunday morning.
- Catch some rays with a little tanning on the porch
- Read a (new) book
- Catch up with family and friends
- Make a dinner that’s colorful and fresh
- Plant some flowers or succulents
- Commit to having a positive week