Stipulated: the perfect travel time for a three-day weekend getaway is four hours. More, and you waste your vacation. Less, and you’re still near home. Hence our series: The 4hr. Rule, dedicated to revealing the best destinations that are far away, yet still close to home.
Over the past decade, it's emerged one of the surprising destinations on the mid-sized-American-city travel circuit.
You look at a map and you begin to see why: a little more than four hours away from Chicago, nestled right on the banks of the Ohio River and spitting distance from Kentucky. A city built on Midwestern spirit (and immigrant German muscle) with a slight dose of Southern charm.
Diehard sports fans? Yes. Cincinnati chili? Also definitely yes. If you go to Skyline, stick with the cheese coneys.
In a city seemingly ruled by Fortune 500 companies, it's the young entrepreneurial set that's staking claim to a lion's share of the city's cool quotient. Established boroughs like Over-the-Rhine and Northside remain buzz-worthy while enclaves like Walnut Hills and Mount Adams offer a proper respite.
Below, your guide on what to do, eat and see in what Henry Wadsworth Longfellow romantically referred to as the “queen city of the West.”
Stay at the 21c and you'll quickly realize what Cincinnati's been up to these past few years. This 156-room boutique hotel-meets-modern-art-gallery is smack-dab in the middle of Downtown and walking distance from the much buzzed-about Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.
Big bonus: you have the Metropole right on-site, which is serving up some of the city's most imaginative cuisine. As for your morning pick-me-up, don't miss the Collective Espresso outpost at the Contemporary Arts Center right next door.
609 Walnut St, Cincinnati, OH 45202 (map)
Also check out: The Ragland Road Residence
Housed in a former butcher shop, Salazar Restaurant — with its corner tavern vibe and refined gastropub menu — is our pick in a food scene that seems forever on the up. This is gutsy cooking. For Cincinnati, anyway.
Potted duck leg rillete. Blistered shishito peppers in yuzu vinaigrette. Point is, you don't come here for the burger (which is great, by the way), you come here for the "everything"-crusted salmon served up with cream cheese dumplings and pickled fresno chiles. Also: cocktails. Come here for the cocktails.
1401 Republic St, Cincinnati, OH 45202 (map)
Also check out: The Eagle
Offering a charming view across the way to Newport, Kentucky, the 186-acre Eden Park is where you get your nature on. It's up on the hills, so expect some seclusion. But why you're really here: the Cincinnati Art Museum. Always free, always world-class. And the Krohn Conservatory: built in 1933, feels like a hidden gem.
950 Eden Park Dr, Cincinnati, OH 45202 (map)
Also check out: Smale Riverfront Park
You can thank the influx of German immigrants in the 1800s for Cincy's rich beer heritage. And no other brewery in the city represents that heritage better than Rhinegeist. IPAs be the speciality here, and their 25,000-square-foot brewery is a good spot to kill a few hours sampling brew and playing cornhole.
1910 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202 (map)
Also check out: MadTree Brewing
You'll find Article on a busy corner of OTR, where top-of-the-line menswear and all things Americana are on offer. Real friendly, down-to-earth gents, too — it's a good idea to stumble in and ask what's good in the city. Labels include Grayers, Todd Snyder and hometown makers Noble Denim — who, coincidentally, are opening up their own brick-and-mortar down the street.
1150 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH 45202 (map)
Also check out: Noble Denim
Locals talk about Covington, Kentucky — located right across the river — like it's Cincinnati. Sure, there's some old-time Southern charm about this area, and you're at the very end of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, but we call it as the natives do.
It's here where you'll find Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar, an unpretentious watering hole where you can enjoy a few pours of brown and friendly conversation. The crew behind this bar owns a slew of fine estbalishments in the city (see: Japp's, Myrtle's Punch House and Neons) and OKBB is no different.
629 Main St, Covington, KY 41011 (map)
Also check out: Northside Yacht Club