For the last stop on my cross country drive from Colorado Springs, Colorado to Washington, DC my good friend, who I was helping move across the country, and I had chosen to stay two nights in Cincinnati, Ohio. Having spent the previous night in Kansas City, where we savored some of the finest BBQ available, we were ready to explore what Cincy had to offer.
Cincinnati, OH and Covington, KY and Tourism
While Cincinnati may not be the first place you think of for a weekend getaway, you may be surprised to learn that the city is home to several craft breweries, a prosperous downtown public market, and a riverfront baseball stadium. Overall tourism plays a minor role in the combined economies of Cincinnati, northern Kentucky, and eastern Indiana, but it is a growing industry and is ideal for an impactful trip.
In recent years, tourism has had a positive impact on the regional economy with 24.1 million visitors in 2013, spending $4.4 billion, and supporting roughly 70,000 jobs, many part of small businesses, like our favorite, craft breweries. Through the concerted efforts of the partnership between Cincinnati USA and meetNKY, the industry continues to grow and will begin to play a more important role in the regional economies.
Where to Stay near Cincinnati
The regional economy is so integrated that Covington, KY and Cincinnati, OH have partnered to develop a robust tourism strategy. So as an alternative to staying in downtown Cincinnati, consider hotels located just across the Ohio River in Covington, Kentucky. There are several hotels right along the banks of the river in Covington and it's an incredibly quick and easy trip back and forth to Cincinnati, even by Uber, which are ubiquitous.
In an effort to save money we opted for one of the chain hotels, not ideal of course for an impactful stay, but sometimes it’s necessary. The hotel was situated along the river, but our room unfortunately did not have a river view. Whether you stay decide to in Ohio or Kentucky, you will at some point end up on the other side of the Ohio River, meaning the impact of your stay will be felt across the region.
Where to Eat in Cincinnati
The state’s oldest continuously operated public market (founded in 1985), Findlay Market is a must see, and over the weekend a great place to grab lunch and hangout. During our visit, Glass Alley was filled with local food stalls selling all kinds of delicious looking and smelling goodies. Thinking back on my trip to Colombia two years ago, I couldn’t resist the homemade arepas, and grabbed an enormous one filled with beef. My friend had chicken tika masala from another one of the vendors. We grabbed a table in front of the market, also called the OTR Biergarten at the weekend and washed down our lunch on that hot late spring day with a local craft beer from Christian Moerlein. Another great reason to stop by over the weekend is that each weekend the OTR Biergarten features a different local craft brewery. Check the market’s website to see which will be featured the weekend you’re in town.
Shopping in markets, like Findlay Market, located in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood is a great way to have an impact on the community you are visiting. By purchasing fresh or prepared food from local farmers or vendors you are contributing directly to the local economy.
The interior of the market resembles that of an old European market. If you are in town for awhile and have access to a kitchen, this would be a great place to pick up some fresh food.
What to See and Do in Cincinnati and the Surrounding Area
Braxton Brewing Company
The story of the Braxton Brewing Company, located in the downtown area of Covington, is a familiar one for many craft brewers. It all starts with one person or a group of friends in a basement or a garage pursuing a hobby, doing something they love and care about. What’s unique to Braxton is the fact that it was started by 16 year old Evan Rouse of Union, Kentucky. Through the support of his family, Evan pursued his love of brewing craft beer, which eventually gave rise to Braxton Brewing Company.
The brewery and its taproom are set in a large warehouse offering a wide selection of core, seasonal, garage, and heritage craft beers-over 20 different options! The brewery also has a large patio, perfect for a warm summer evening!
We grabbed two flights each, starting first with a selection of Hefeweizen, IPAs, and a Stout. I enjoyed the coffee-infused stout so much, my next flight consisted of all the remaining dark beers they offer.
Pro tip: The Braxton doesn’t serve food, but there are plenty of nearby pizza places that will deliver, which is exactly what we did.
Rhinegeist Brewing Company
Located just two blocks north of Findlay Market, Rhinegeist Brewing Company is set in an enormous warehouse spread out over two floors. The brewery has two bars, an area for cornhole, a rooftop, and lots of picnic tables accompanied hundreds of people, but yet it still felt spacious. If you are interested in learning about how they brew their beer, they offer tours.
Rhinegeist has an extensive selection of beers and as it was a really warm day I opted for a refreshing selection of summer beers that included a Session IPA, Spring Saison, Belgian Wit, and a Belgian XPA. I rounded off the visit with their Summer Pale Ale and a purchase of one of their unique glasses, both a must-do if you visit.
Catch a Cincinnati Reds Game
Fun fact, the Cincinnati Reds are named after the first ever professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings formed in 1869. As an avid baseball fan it was near impossible not to catch a game with the Reds playing at home during my visit. I wasn’t able to see the Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, or the St. Louis Cardinals as they all happened to be away during our drive.
The Reds stadium, offers a decent selection of local craft beers. This is a great trend that I am starting to see at ballparks and one I hope continues. The late afternoon game with the Oakland Athletics was the perfect conclusion to my weekend in Cincinnati. Oh, and the Reds won 2-1, in case you were curious.
Cincinnati might not be on your summer vacation to-do list, but if you are looking for a good local craft brewery scene, the chance to shop at Ohio’s oldest market, and catch a baseball game then consider Cincinnati for your next trip.
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