12 Reasons I Love Cincinnati

In Fuller Pop, My Year Downtown by Steve Fuller36 Comments

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Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

It’s 2014. If you live in Cincinnati and still think the city is lame or boring, or that there’s nothing fun to do, the problem is you, not Cincinnati. Why do I love Cincinnati so much? Here are 12 reasons:

1. Delicious Food. Most locals grew up on Cincinnati favorites like Skyline Chili, LaRosa’s, Montgomery Inn, and Graeter’s. While all four are delicious (I just had ribs at Montgomery Inn on Saturday, and they are simply outstanding; and don’t even get me started on mint chocolate chip ice cream from Graeter’s), the Cincinnati food scene has exploded in the past decade. My wife and I mostly eat downtown, in Over-the-Rhine, and at the Banks, but I know excellent eateries are popping up all over the city. Some of our favorites include Sotto, Nada, Taste of Belgium, A Tavola, The Eagle, Senate, Salazar, Christian Moerlein Lager House, Mt. Adams Bar & Grill, The Precinct, and the list goes on and on. Guy Fieri was just in town last week to explore some of the places on my list. The secret is out. If you love good food, come to Cincinnati.

2. Findlay Market. Findlay Market is probably one of the most underrated and underutilized features of Cincinnati. Fresh fruit, vegetables, pasta, meat, fish, and bread are yummy in my tummy. Plus, the overall atmosphere is one-of-kind. And you haven’t truly lived until you’ve eaten a fresh waffle from Taste of Belgium. Findlay Market is especially alive in the summer months when the Farmers Market sells produce so fresh that you’re practically picking it from the vine.

3. Local Breweries. The local brewery scene is alive and well in Cincinnati. The city is well-known for its brewing past, and breweries like Rhinegeist, Fifty West, Listermann, Mt. Carmel, Rivertown, and MadTree are securing our brewing future.

4. Theater. My wife and I recently ordered season tickets to the 2014-2015 Aronoff Broadway Series. The six shows include The Lion King, Dirty Dancing, Elf, Once, Cinderella, and I Love Lucy. Simply fantastic. And that’s just one series in one theater. We love shows at Playhouse in the Park in Mt. Adams. The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is a hidden gem on Race Street. Not to mention the dozens of community theaters throughout the city.

5. Music. The Bunbury Music Festival just wrapped up its 3-day event at Sawyer Point. A few weeks ago, a couple of little-known musicians named Jay Z and Beyoncé filled Great American Ballpark. Not to mention Bruno Mars, who performed the previous night at U.S. Bank Arena, and Tim McGraw, who played at Riverbend Music Center the following night. That one weekend speaks to Cincinnati’s diverse music scene. Midpoint Music Fest kicks off in late September. There’s always live music on Fountain Square. Heck, there was literally a concert right outside our downtown apartment last night. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Local musicians looking for their big break frequent Cincinnati’s bars, clubs, and coffee shops daily.

6. The Arts. The Cincinnati Ballet just celebrated its 50th anniversary. My wife and I have seen a handful of excellent shows, including The Nutcracker and their spectacular annual performance with Over the Rhine. The Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra is perennially rated one of the best in the country. One of the most entertaining shows I’ve ever attended was their Holiday Pops Spectacular. The Cincinnati Art Museum is gorgeous (and free!), the Cincinnati Museum Center is located in historic Union Terminal, the Taft Museum of Art is one of the finest small art museums in the nation, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is quickly becoming world-renowned. Cincinnati even has an Opera!

7. Sports. Cincinnati is home to the oldest professional baseball team, a professional football team, a minor league professional hockey team, two major college athletic programs (one slightly more major than the other … Go Bearcats!), and a professional tennis tour stop. Not to mention, high school football is huge in Cincinnati. There’s nothing quite like drinking a beer in the moon deck at Great American Ballpark on a warm summer night, drinking a beer at historic Nippert Stadium on a cool autumn evening, or drinking a beer at Center Court while Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal exchange forehand winners. (Wait, I might drink too much beer.)

8. Parks. I’m particularly fond of Smale Riverfront Park on the Banks (so is our dog), but Cincinnati has a collection of amazing parks throughout the city. Eden Park, Ault Park, and Washington Park are some of my favorites. I’m sure there are dozens I haven’t discovered yet where families gather, friends play, and lovers dream.

9. Cincinnati Zoo. The second oldest zoo in the United States (and we only missed beating the Philadelphia Zoo by 14 months!) is in Cincinnati. From a huge collection of animals and plants, to the Wild About Wine events that Liz and I are, well, wild about, to the Festival of Lights every holiday season, we visit the zoo three or four times per year. What a treat for Cincinnatians with children to have such a fun, educational zoo within a stone’s throw of downtown. And if you’re more interested in aquatic life, the Newport Aquarium is just across the river.

10. Kings Island. Kings Island opened five years before my birth and played a huge role in my childhood. Rollercoasters, games, shows, food, and a water park make Kings Island a childhood oasis. Even The Brady Bunch visited the park back in 1973! For the love of God, Evel Knievel jumped over 14 buses at Kings Island! What more can you ask for? Once Coney Island, The Beach Waterpark, Coco Key Water Resort, and the Great Wolf Lodge get thrown into the mix, there is plenty of amusement to be had in Cincinnati.

11. Labor Day Fireworks. Perhaps the greatest Cincinnati tradition is our Labor Day fireworks show. Hundreds of thousands of locals line the Ohio River to watch WEBN and Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks put on an amazing display. Other traditions include the Cincinnati Reds opening day parade, Santa Claus repelling down a skyscraper, and Steve Fuller Day (okay, that one hasn’t happened yet).

12. Cincinnati’s 52 Neighborhoods. Mt. Adams, Hyde Park, Oakley, Mt. Lookout, Over-the-Rhine, Clifton, and many others make Cincinnati truly unique. Local bars, restaurants, and shops give each community its own personality. There’s something for everyone in each of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods.

This list isn’t exhaustive, so I invite you to add to it. What do you love about Cincinnati?

Photo (Flickr CC) by brett211

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Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Featured Storyteller
Steve Fuller is a Professor of Communication at the University of Cincinnati and a Rebel Storytellers co-founder. In 2009, Steve completed The Church Experiment, visiting 52 places of worship in 52 weeks and documenting his experiences here. His hobbies include podcasting, eating Graeter's ice cream, having his heart broken by Cincinnati sports, and getting angry at complete strangers on social media, Steve, his wife, and their Cairn Terrier call downtown Cincinnati home.
Steve Fuller

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  1. Mark Haas
    Mark Haas

    Awesome article! My friend and I have started sketching down at Findlay Market.

    Got to send out the love for Holtman Crack Donuts!

    1. Jen

      Right. He said it just wrapped up, and then he said Jay-Z/Beyonce, Bruno Mars and Tim McGraw were here a few weeks ago.

  2. Michelle

    I love Cinncinati! As a non-local it’s our home from home and wish we could visit every year. Favourites for us not included : bluegrass in Washington Park on a Thursday night in the summer; tacos from Tacocity on Hamilton Ave; and my first tattoo from Dana’s on Hamilton Ave; burgers from Quatmans in Mason; pulled pork from Eli’s BBQ. And I could go on and on. And the people, so many good friends.

  3. Nancy Jane Simpson

    I adore my city! For all the reasons you mentioned and…. Yoga on the Green, in Washington Park every Tuesday evening. As many as 500 people show up with their mats and it is magical. Dillards Clearance Stores in Western Hills and at Tri County, give, and I mean give the clothes away. The whole store is 65% off and then another 50% usually. Insane. Next, The Esquire. Such a fun movie theater and with interesting shows. And, then there is Coffee Emporium in Hyde Park, OTR and etc. I call it my “office”. Next, the lookout, in Eden Park, where you can see the river bend and Kentucky and it is glorious. And, then there is The Leo Coffeehouse on Sundays, one of the oldest coffee houses in the US of A. It rocks with folk music and the best of local musicians. Next, Blue Oven Bread, which is To. Die. For. The Flying Pig Marathon and the love and spirit that goes into it, and all our marathons. Bob Rockner’s Running Spot and it’s support for walker and runners. This girl is on a run and could keep going and going. I love my city! Over and out!

  4. dle

    Agree with most of this, but we used to be a be a world-class food town. Now we’re just average. Even the local food was better in the past. Larosa’s in the ’10s is nowhere near the pizza it was in the ’80s. Cincy once had two renowned French restaurants and now we have none. And while we still have Jean-Robert, the last great restaurant in Cincy, his eponymous one at Pigall’s, is no more. We may have overpriced, trendy replacements, but the days of glorious Cincy eateries seem a thing of the past.

  5. Steve Fuller Author
    Steve Fuller


    That’s what I wrote. The next sentence reads Jay Z and Beyonce were here a few weeks ago.

  6. Steve Fuller Author
    Steve Fuller


    That’s an interesting perspective. Most people seem to think the food scene is on the rise. Perhaps trendy restaurants are “trending” because of OTR, but maybe we’re losing fine dining experiences because of it? Hadn’t really thought about that until your comment, so thanks for the perspective!

  7. Kay

    LOVE Cincinnati and all its neighborhoods. But, don’t forget, the best view of Cincinnati is from the Kentucky side! We frequent the restaurants on Mainstrasse in Covington: Ottos(love!), Main Bite, Dee Felice, and Bouquet. The best OLD FASHION drink you will ever sip is at the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar (OKBB)! And, in nearby Bellevue, KY is Virgils Cafe – yum!!

  8. Ali F

    The architecture and the hilly landscape (even if the hills make driving the neighborhoods a little like navigating a bowl of spaghetti)!

  9. Lindsay H

    Great list! It’s worth noting, the Cincinnati Opera is one of the oldest opera companies in the country, second only to the Met in New York.

  10. Mic

    I love the beer scene in Cincinnati. You mentioned the breweries, but the Craft beer bars are pretty exceptional as well. The Brass Tap, Dutch’s, Dilly, Halfcut, Market Wines, Eight Ball, Marty’s…we have exceptional access to beer from all over the world. The distribution that Cincinnati sees is better than 95% of the country.

  11. Cory Dan

    Great article! Loved every bit of it. Although you did omit one sports team. The Cincinnati Saints. The Cincinnati Saints, Hoist, and 3CDC just hosted the World Cup watch party on Fountain Square.

    The Saints have been around 5 years and are continuously growing. A home grown team for a home grown city. I dare you to come check them out, even if you don’t care for soccer. Ask Mo Egger.

  12. Cynthia

    I moved to the West End after many years in the burbs! I love Findlay and it is my grocery store now. Ensemble Theatre just has an amazing season (I volunteer there) and don’t forget our soccer team – Cincinnati Saints! Their home field is Stargel Stadium in OTR. Great post!

  13. Brandon

    I left Cincinnati 22 years ago. However, local family and friends have been bringing me back ever since. Cincinnati will always feel like home. I often tell unfamiliar people how great of a city it is, and now that Graeter’s is available in my grocery store here in Denver, CO, I often recommend it to people overwhelmed by the options in the dessert aisle. To finish off, I’d like to mention one of my favorite Cincinnati places that was not mentioned, Zips in Mt. Lookout Square. I always look forward to the Girth Burger!

  14. Chris Ridenour

    As I once said on stage at Ignite Cincinnati, “Cincinnati isn’t boring, you’re boring.”

    Great article.

  15. Nikki

    What about goetta! Mmmmmm goetta… And really all of the rich German heritage of Cincinnati. If you like German food there are a ton if tasty German eateries. And can’t forget Oktoberfest!

  16. Joe D.

    LaRosa’s is just okay. Nothing to write home about. Montgomery Inn is also just okay also. Skyline. That nastiest food on the face of the planet. I don’t know why people love it so much. I’ve had vomit spew out my mouth that tasted better than Skyline. Serious guys how messed up are your taste buds to love Skyline?

  17. Joette

    If your children tease you about living in the ‘middle ages’, you may enjoy a trip to Château Laroche in Loveland. Also known as the Loveland Castle, this edifice is located on the banks of the Little Miami River. A folly of a historical European castle, construction began in 1929 by Boy Scout troop leader, World War I veteran and medievalist Harry D. Andrews. He built the castle on two free plots of land that his scouts obtained by paying for one-year subscriptions to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Andrews named his castle after a military hospital in the Chateau La Roche in southwest France where he was stationed during the First World War. Its name means “Rock Castle” in French.

    For over fifty years, Andrews worked on his castle project. He pulled stones from the nearby Little Miami River, and when that supply was exhausted, molded bricks with cement and quart milk cartons. It is truly a “must see”.

  18. Sue

    Cincinnati nature center is amazing for walks in the woods – can’t beat Loveland bike trail for FLAT riding and peaceful scenery, the view of the city from Mt Echo park is hard to beat, and just the fact that its so easy to get around to most places compared to big cities that take you and hour to go from one place to the next! I LOVE my hometown!

  19. Sue

    The FRIENDLINESS! Now that I don’t live in Cincinnati, I miss how friendly the city is. People actually smile and say hi, even to strangers. On the interstates, they’ll slow down and LET you merge rather than try to run you off the road. Until you’ve lived somewhere else and seen the stares you get from people when you say “hi!” or try to smile, you don’t realize how welcoming and friendly and gemuetlichkeit Cincinnati really is, all the way to its core. Appreciate it!

  20. Mark Fages

    No improv theater makes the improv comedy scene like a fraternity without a frat house.
    Bengals RARELY sell out meaning constant “blackouts”. Plus, they almost always underachieve.
    Bearcats losing the majority of Crosstown Shootouts over the course of the past 25 years.
    If it isn’t a Friday or Saturday, downtown Cincinnati is a GHOST TOWN. Don’t be surprised to see tumbleweeds rolling down 5th Street on a Wednesday night.
    Reds are the ONLY baseball team on Earth that will EVER matter. The one thing Cincy does have going for it.
    Cincinnati is also the 1 city responsible for holding out on the proposed 3C&D rail line that would connect Southwest Ohio to Northeast Ohio and all points in between.
    Selfish “old money” Cincinnati does all they can to stop the streetcar.
    The list could go on….

    1. Steve Fuller Author
      Steve Fuller

      Mark, you’re entitled to your opinion, but it feels like you wrote this comment in 2002. Downtown Cincinnati is NOT a ghost town on Wednesday nights. They’ve been doing concerts on Fountain Square every Wednesday, not to mention all of the restaurants and bars that have popped up in the past decade. Not sure where you live, but I live in downtown Cincinnati, so I’m down here on Wednesdays, and there are people everywhere. This is the kind of attitude that gives Cincinnati a bad name. You can’t just keep living in 2002. The city is different. Hence, the streetcar getting built IN SPITE OF conservative opposition. That’s a pretty good sign that the city has turned a corner and there’s no going back. The Banks area is THRIVING. GE is about to bring a couple thousand new jobs to the Banks. People are flocking downtown to work, play, and live. Businesses are choosing downtown. Over-the-Rhine is revitalized. I’m sorry you don’t see what I (and the nearly 7,500 people who “liked” this article on Facebook) see, but there’s a LOT to love about Cincinnati in 2014.

  21. Lauren

    Add to the arts scene: The City Flea, Hyde Park Art Show, Bellevue’s Art in the Park, the Duveneck Art Show, Autumn Air Art Fair, Crafts and Drafts, Crafty Supermarket, Maker Faire… Don’t wanna go to an “event”? Okay, how about Indigenous, the Red Tree Gallery, Brazee Street Studios (and the school of glass), Broadhope, Art on the Levee, Fabricate, MiCA 12/v, Dandy Haberdashery? There are more, that’s just off the top of my head… 21c Museum Hotel is also very cool…

  22. John

    You just can’t forget about the amazing Jungle Jim’s. Every kind of food from around the world all in one really cool super market…

  23. Nicole

    I’m bummed you didn’t mention any of the modern dance companies along with the ballet! Don’t forget MamLuft &Co Dance, Pones Inc, de la Dance, and Exhale Dance Tribe!

  24. Rebecca

    Things I love best about living in Cincinnati: the libraries! I don’t think there’s a place in the whole city that is more than a stone’s throw from a library branch, they’re on every corner. In addition to being able to borrow books and movies there, you can attend free classes, seminars, game nights, etc. And it is so cool that the Cincinnati library cooperates with the surrounding library systems, so that I’ve been able to check out materials from Kenton and Campbell and Butler county libraries if I can’t find what I need closer to home.

    WGUC! You mentioned all the wonderful live arts, and I love them too, but I feel really lucky to live in one of the few remaining American cities that still offers a classical music on the radio 24 hours/day. Also WNKU and WVXU.

    In addition to Findlay Market I love all of the neighborhood farmers markets — especially the Hyde Park market on Sundays and the little one every day next to Lunken airport.

    You already praised the parks, but I have to add my appreciation for them too — there seems to be at least one park in every neighborhood, and all that green space makes for a beautiful, inviting, livable city. They allow me to really enjoy the specatular natural beauty that this area has to offer — in addition to providing places to play and gather, they offer stunning views of hills and valleys, rivers and city skylines.

    I want to toss in one more — I am thankful for the recent push to make our city more bike-friendly. I love the new bike lanes and trails that my family is making good use of for both transportation and sport. I look forward to more in the near future.

  25. JYM

    Mark said; “Reds are the ONLY baseball team on Earth that will EVER matter. The one thing Cincy does have going for it”
    Sorry Mark, the best baseball team wears red, but they are NOT in Cincinnati!

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