The Queen City: A Beginner’s Cincinnati Guide

By: Margy Waller

January 14, 2014

Cincinnati is located as far south and west as you can go and still be in Ohio. A boomtown in the mid-1800s, the city’s architecture looks a lot like parts of New York or Philadelphia, yet the Queen City has a distinctive personality all of its own. Take a look at our beginner’s Cincinnati guide for the lowdown on what to see and do in town.

You can’t help but get swept up in the vibrancy of the city centre, Fountain Square, where people gather for music and dancing in warm weather and ice-skating when it’s cold. There are events on the square nearly every day – salsa nights, indie bands, local food markets and wine tasting – and everything’s free. Across the street is the Carew Tower and Hilton Netherland Plaza hotel, one of the city’s finest examples of Art Deco architecture and reportedly the model for the Empire State Building.


Findlay Market | The Queen City | Cincinnati Guide

The historic Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine © Dish Design

For an afternoon out and about exploring the city by foot, head straight for Over-the-Rhine. The first neighbourhood north of the iconic Fountain Square, OTR is one of the largest historic districts in the USA. Today, OTR is a wonderland of beautifully redeveloped Italianate architecture, a place to walk around with your neck craned, and if you like history-telling, grab a spot on one of the Underground Tours which ends up in a 19th century beer tunnel under the streets. One of the best stops in OTR is Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest outdoor market and a perpetual festival of food, with plenty of places to stop and eat, while listening to a local street performer nearby.


Union Terminal | The Queen City | Cincinnati Guide

Union Terminal is one of Cincinnati’s top cultural destinations © PunkToad

Just a quick hop from OTR is Union Terminal – known as the Cincinnati Museum Center, but also more importantly as the “˜Hall of Justice’, since it’s the inspiration for the superhero headquarters. There are three museums – children’s, history, and nature, an OMNIMAX® Theatre, and an enormous miniature train display.


The Esquire | The Queen City | Cincinnati Guide

The Esquire is a top indie theatre in Cincinnati © Esquire Theatre

Cincinnati is a city of neighbourhoods and there are a few near the city centre that are great for both food and retail therapy. Hyde Park Square has a relaxing park and fountain surrounded by shops and pubs. This is a great place to sample Cincinnati’s famous ice cream local, Graeter’s, a third generation family operation that uses specially-made pots to create a dense and super-creamy treat. Further west, you can visit Clifton, a university neighbourhood where professors and grad students hang out in the coffee shops, enjoy wine-tasting, and patronize the indie movie theatre house, The Esquire. You can check out the unusual Cincinnati chili at the landmark Skyline restaurant there too – it’s a required stop for presidential candidates.

Shepard Fairey | The Queen City | Cincinnati Guide

Shepard Fairey and his mural in Northside © Scott Beseler

Cincinnatians love their art and artists, and maybe that’s why the world’s street artists keep showing up to add to the landscape of murals created by locals. International stars like Shepard Fairey, TED prize winner JR, and VHILS have stopped in town to paint the urban walls.


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Have you visited The Queen City? What do you think of the historic, culture-rich Cincinnati? Share your impressions with us below.


Written by Margy Waller


Margy Waller

Margy is a boomerang Cincinnatian: she returned to promote the city’s arts after living in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, and loves to show off her hometown, a place where she knows all the indie shopping spots and architectural beauties. She’s a fan of the region’s surprisingly diverse performances of theatre, dance, and music in unusual spots. Follow Margy @margyartgrrl.

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