In what felt like the blink of an eye, my August Freedom turned into October Chaos and has now transitioned into November. I say chaos in the best sense of the word. I read a quote that sums it up:
“There’s chaos out there, and chaos means opportunity.”
My chaos has been the best kind. The kind where I’m constantly on the go, trying new things, meeting new people, going all in. I have said yes to every opportunity that has come my way. The last couple months have not been a “get your feet wet” period of time. Instead, I went for the cannonball, and Cincinnati was ready and waiting for me to make a splash.
In honor of turning 25 since my last post, here are 25 highlights of my Cincinnati experience in the last couple months.
1. HYPE CONNECTIONS
Meeting new people and trying new things can be intimidating at times, but in a new city it’s absolutely essential. HYPE Connections has removed the intimidation factor and has made branching out easier than ever. HYPE – which stands for Harnessing Young Professional Energy – is a 6-month program through the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber that aims to introduce young professionals to new opportunities, new friends, new experiences, and helps establish true professional and community connections in the city.
So far I’ve met countless people, I’ve gone on a biking tour of downtown Cincinnati, went to an art exhibit opening for ArtWorks, drank on the Rhinegeist rooftop and have plans to go to the Bacchnalian Wine Society Fall Gathering tonight.
2. DELTA GAMMA ALUMNAE GROUP
In my four years at Drake University, Delta Gamma was a huge part of my life. I met some of my best friends, learned some important lessons, made some incredible memories, and so much more all through Delta Gamma. But, like I heard countless times during my collegian years, “It’s not four years, it’s for life.” In my effort to become involved and meet people in the Cincinnati area, I attended a Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati DG Alumnae Chapter meeting. It was refreshing to meet a variety of women that shared a common experience as Delta Gammas. Although I was the youngest by a few years, and most women knew each other from their days at NKU, it was nice to find myself in a somewhat familiar setting filled with anchors, scoops, talk of philanthropies, tradition and sisterhood.
3. ST. MARY’S YOUNG ADULT GROUP
For as long as I can remember, I have been involved in my church in some capacity. My Catholic faith and being part of a church community are integral parts of my life, largely due to the guidance and influence of my parents, family, friends and people I’ve surrounded myself with. Upon moving to Cincinnati, I knew I wanted to be involved in a church. Not only is it a way to meet new people, but being involved in church takes my faith to a deeper level and makes it more a part of my everyday life. The St. Mary’s Young Adult Group at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hyde Park has done just that. It’s refreshing to meet people in their 20s and 30s who are passionate about prayer, fellowship, volunteering, and continuously learning about our faith. Plus, like the Catholics we are, most of our meetings end with a walk over to a nearby bar for a couple beers, which makes it a fun group! It’s a great balance of faith and fun.
I recently signed up to be an adult leader for MaryThon, a nine-hour dance marathon for sixth, seventh and eighth graders at St. Mary’s that raises money for the Dragonfly Foundation. The planning for the event is just getting started, but it’s already been a joy to work with the seventh and eighth graders that are on our planning team, to get to know the other adult leaders, and to help plan for this awesome event.
East Walnut Hills
This up-and-coming neighborhood, just northeast of downtown Cincinnati, is filled with hidden gems. Here are a few that I recently discovered:
4. O PIE O
O Pie O makes handcrafted pies that bring out the best of seasonal ingredients. With both sweet and savory pies, O Pie O elicits your childhood memories and satisfies your grown-up cravings.
This vintage boutique has been called “super curated and super classy” with a carefully curated collection featuring contemporary and vintage clothing, jewelry, vinyl, housewares and curiosities.
6. MYRTLE’S PUNCH HOUSE
Punch is the traditional drink of American gatherings, and is great to share anytime groups of people get together. In that spirit, Myrtle’s Punch House is a fantastic place to gather your friends and catch some live music, play trivia with your neighbors, or to relax in a beautiful and unique atmosphere.
7. WOODBURN BREWERY
Woodburn Brewery is one of Cincinnati’s newest additions to its brewery scene. Taking the city back to its German roots, Woodburn Brewery has exclusive U.S. rights to brew SteinPils, a German gold-medal-winning beer passed on from German brewer Ingolf Steinkamp. The brewery also features an American pale ale, a chocolate cherry stout, a Cedar IPA, a Belgian Wit, and more, made with locally sourced ingredients.
Turning 25 was filled with all sorts of excitement. My neighbors Jen and Michaela packed my birthday weekend with so many fun plans. From a beer run to a German conga line and a haunted cave, we definitely had a great time.
The Beer Glow Run was an awesome combination of everything Cincinnati. The 2.5-mile run started in Northern Kentucky at Newport on the Levee, crossed over the Ohio River, through Smale Park at The Banks and back over to Newport. Donned in glow-stick jewelry, runners received samples from several craft brewers throughout the race and ended at Newport’s Oktoberfest celebration.
Cincinnati’s German roots are alive and well at Hofbrauhaus in Newport, Ky. Modeled after the legendary 400+ year-old Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Newport’s Hofbrauhaus was America’s first authentic Hofbrauhaus, featuring a Bier Hall, Bier Garden, Bavarian food and Hofbrauhaus beer. In my first experience there, an elderly man pulled me aside to dance to polka music, I carried a German flag around the bar while people latched on to my shoulders like a conga line, and we danced on benches while the two-man band played songs like Sweet Caroline on the accordion. Definitely a night to remember.
10. ALFIO’S BUON CIBO
This Italian and Argentinian restaurant is in the heart of Hyde Park Square, and is one of the best I’ve been to in Cincinnati. My recommendations: tomato mozzarella salad, steak ravioli and salted caramel gelato. Alfio’s is a perfect spot for a special event or a nice night out.
11. LEWISBURG HAUNTED CAVE
About an hour north of Cincinnati, right near Dayton, the Lewisburg Haunted Cave attracts people from all over the state for a truly scary experience. Descend 80 feet below ground into a limestone cave filled with haunted bridges, bats, ghouls, men with chainsaws, and more. Plus, the Lewisburg Haunted Cave was named the World’s Longest Haunted House in the 2010 Guinness Book of World Records.
What’s Cool in Covington
Just over the river in Northern Kentucky, Covington offers a bit of southern charm to perfectly compliment Cincinnati’s Midwestern feel. MainStrasse Village and Duveneck Square are filled with old street signs, German influence and quaint, locally owned shops, restaurants and more.
12. MAC’S PIZZA PUB
Thanks to my cousin Ryan and his band, Jukebox Heroes, I’ve gone to some pretty cool spots in the area that I may not have checked out otherwise. Mac’s Pizza Pub, located right on Main Street in MainStrasse, is a fairly large space with three different bars, including an upstairs area perfect for live music. Plus, the food is good, too! Mac’s pizza features odd toppings, like the award-winning Chicago Gyro pizza.
13. STRASSE HAUS
This was yet another concert venue for Jukebox Heroes, and was one of my favorite nights in the last couple months. The outdoor patio, complete with a bar, live music space, and strung lights overhead, is perfect for a summer or fall night with friends. We danced shamelessly and closed down the bar. Nights like that are definitely needed, and Strasse Haus is a great spot for it.
14. HOTEL COVINGTON
Hotel Covington has been a point of discussion since I arrived in Cincinnati. This boutique hotel capitalizes on all that Cincinnati USA has to offer, taking the best of the best and bringing it all together in one unique space. Every room features a signature Donna Salyers’ Fabulous Fur throw, a magic 8-ball and a deck of UNO cards – all beloved products originally created in the Cincinnati USA area. Plus, the hotel includes locally sourced linens, Maverick Chocolates, New Riff Bourbon, beer from Braxton Brewery and more. The hotel is gorgeous and definitely lives up to the hype.
15. ARK ENCOUNTER
Noah’s Ark is a story I’ve known for as long as I can remember. Until a recent outing through my office, however, I never considered the logistics of the story. Ark Encounter, located in Grant County, Ky., takes the story Noah’s Ark and makes it a reality. This giant wooden ark is built according to the dimensions given in the Bible – 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high. Inside you can find life-size replicas of animals and the people that would have been aboard the ark. The theme park features exhibits that bring the pages of the Bible to life. It’s interesting and a bit out of the ordinary, but has seen more than 400,000 visitors since its opening in July.
16. PLAYHOUSE IN THE PARK
My job has several perks, including experiencing the local arts scene at Playhouse in the Park. My friend Jen and I went to see the show A Prayer for Owen Meany, which is based on the novel by John Irving. (It’s essentially the same story as the movie Simon Birch.) Although the storyline was slightly confusing, the acting and the theatre itself were highly impressive. Playhouse in the Park is located in Eden Park, a gorgeous park atop a hill overlooking downtown in the historic Mt. Adams neighborhood. I’m always impressed by the arts and culture in every neighborhood of this city.
17. THE MOCKBEE & RED DOOR PROJECT
In Cincinnati you can find art, beauty and stories in the most unexpected places. The organization Red Door Project allows the community to experience the art, beauty and stories by exhibiting local artists’ works at a different location each month with pop-up art galleries. The mixed media artwork is submitted via an open call, and is all based on a theme that changes from month to month. I attended a Red Door Project event at a venue called The Mockbee. This space is tucked away just past Over-the-Rhine and is housed in the old lager tunnels that burrow beneath the city, giving it a cave-like feel. The impressive local artwork and the mysterious, almost secret venue made for a very intriguing night.
18. SUNDRY AND VICE
A large part of my job is working with local businesses – whether it’s bars, restaurants, entertainment destinations, or services – to promote them to travel writers or to include them in media pitches or mentions. Stu King, the owner of Sundry and Vice, asked to meet with me to discuss just that. Sundry and Vice is an apothecary-themed bar just a block away from Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine. Originally, King wanted to theme the bar around George Remus, a Cincinnati pharmacist, lawyer and bootlegger during Prohibition with a crazy history of breaking the law (including murdering his wife). The bar features a wall filled with handwritten prescriptions, glass bottles and antique items collected from old pharmacies and an assortment of cocktails, or elixirs. I recently attended an event called La Belle Epoque (The Beautiful Era), which showcased Sundry and Vice’s new fall drink menu and included flashes of Cincinnati’s arts scene as entertainment. With its unique drinks and interesting story, Sundry and Vice is definitely a neat spot to check out.
19. ORCHIDS AT PALM COURT – HILTON NETHERLAND PLAZA
It’s almost hard to write about the Hilton or its restaurant, Orchids at Palm Court, because it’s something that just needs to be experienced. The beauty, the history, the detail, the passion – this one-of-a-kind hotel has it all. A few tidbits that are interesting and worth noting:
- The Pavilion Caprice Ballroom, the largest in the hotel, is designed to mimic the nightclub on S.S. Leviathan, a 1920s super luxury ocean liner. Doris Day made her professional debut in this room, which was the hotel’s nightclub in the 1930s-50s.
- Todd Kelly, head chef at Orchids at Netherland Plaza, strives for the highest quality in all aspects when it comes to food preparation. The Orchids staff creates that high quality in-house in many cases: determining the correct pH for homemade butter; adjusting the temperature for making cheese; collecting honey from a swarm of bees; specially selecting a barrel of bourbon years before it’s aged. The detail and precision that go into creating this AAA Five Diamond restaurant is beyond impressive.
On the Road
October saw two separate trips to Indianapolis for me. The first was a girls weekend with my mom, aunt and grandma, complete with a day of penny slots at a casino and a hilarious and slightly awkward dinner theatre show, Menopause the Musical. The second Indy weekend was a much-needed visit with my good friend, Mattie. It was a packed weekend with an afternoon at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, our traditional night out for Mexican food, a bonfire out in the country and spending Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium for the Bears-Colts game. Favorite discovery in Indy: Bazbeaux Pizza’s Pizza Alla Quattro Formaggio. Ricotta, bacon, pizza goodness.
Another part of my job is dedicated to our Travel Journalist Program, which involves hosting journalists in Cincinnati on press trips and providing them details and assistance as they write about their experiences. A few weeks ago, my colleague Casey and I hosted a media reception in Nashville to share Cincinnati’s stories with members of Nashville’s media, including local news stations, magazines, blogs, etc. The event was held at Jeff Ruby’s, a Cincinnati steakhouse that recently opened in Nashville, and was a total hit. My first big project went off without a hitch, and we’ve already heard from some of our guests, including a reporter from Lonely Planet.
If you know me at all, you know I love Chicago. A lot. I will go to Chicago any chance I can, especially if it means spending time with friends or family. A couple weeks ago my sister and I ran the Monster Dash Half Marathon, which began south of Soldier Field and followed a down-and-back route along Lake Michigan. I love races, and I was so excited to run a half marathon with my sister. Plus, every time I’m in Chicago I discover something new. My favorite Chicago discovery this time around: Cindy’s Rooftop Restaurant. Delicious family-style brunch overlooking Millennium Park – my kind of post-race meal.
The hospitality and tourism industry is exceptional. In 2015 in Ohio alone, tourism supported 420,000 jobs and brought in 207 visits that resulted in $33 billion in direct visitor spending. Its economic impact is undeniable, but it’s the people that make this industry one of a kind. The people are positive, outgoing, passionate and genuine. They care about the destination they represent, about forming relationships and about promoting the tourism industry. I realized that more than ever last week at the Ohio Travel Association Conference on Tourism. I learned about travel trends, how to capitalize on big data to better reach an audience of potential travelers and visitors and how to turn a satisfied visitor into an advocate for the destination. On top of the professional insight, I was lucky enough to meet several of Ohio’s travel and tourism industry leaders who definitely helped ignite a spark to make me excited about what I do.
Life: Looking Forward
24. FOUR MONTHS IN
If you’ve made it this far into the blog, I applaud your commitment to reading about my ever-so-exciting Cincinnati adventures. Thanks for sticking with me! Like I said in the very beginning, time is flying, and somehow I’ve already been in the Queen City for four months. It seems like I’ve done so much in such a short amount of time, but on the other hand there is still so much yet to discover. I’m definitely feeling that I am meant to be here during this season of my life. There’s always something new and exciting, and I’m slowly but surely establishing myself. It’s exciting and daunting to move somewhere new and start over, but I’ve learned that it’s the best way to learn about yourself, to find what’s important to you, to continue to grow and to enjoy life’s unpredictable adventures.
25. NOVEMBER IS MY MONTH
With all of that being said, I am determined to make November my month. Sure, things have been great and exciting and busy and filled with the beautiful chaos that I’ve written about, but something has been missing. You know that sense of pure joy? That feeling of peace and calm that you get on occasion when things just feel truly and authentically right? I feel like I’m right on the cusp of that. Things are moving in that direction, and I am obviously happy, but with the fast pace of the last few months I haven’t had the chance to pause and feel that true joy. November is my month. It is a month of gratitude, of embracing the world around me, of taking care of myself, of strengthening relationships, of striving for righteousness and of finding joy.