A couple weekends ago we headed to Cincinnati, OH and spent the weekend playing tourist. We had the best time!! It is a city we visit frequently because it’s not too far from Lexington and we have friends there–but during this trip we decided to really fully explore the city.
We treated it as if we had never been to the area before and crammed our schedule full of activities, eating, drinking and relaxing.. just like we do when we travel to new cities. At the end of the weekend I had a whole new appreciation and love for the area. Ethan and I were so happily surprised at how much we enjoyed spending time in the city.
Moral of the story? I HIGHLY suggest planning a trip to Cincinnati.
Now, let’s get into the details!
WHERE WE STAYED
21c MUSEUM HOTEL: I do not have one bad thing to stay about this hotel. The location is amazing and that is just the beginning of the long list of positives. I have a full post detailing our stay and you can read that HERE.
WHERE WE ATE
MAPLEWOOD KITCHEN and BAR: We grabbed a bite to eat and a coffee here so we could fuel up for the day and it did not disappoint. We loved that it was a walk-up-to-the-counter and order type of place. It keeps it casual and makes it a fairly quick experience. It’s nice to have options like that. I had the “everything” toast. It was yummy and the whipped cream cheese really made it. I will say that I had to steal some of the dipping sauce and fries from Ethan’s order too because they were fabulous. Skinny and seasoned with a tangy sauce–perfect.
TASTE OF BELGIUM: We have eaten at Taste of Belgium before but it is one of our favorites so we made sure to squeeze a visit in during this weekend too. There are several locations in Cincinnati. It’s a staple and a great spot to keep in mind for brunch. Their waffle dishes are the speciality (and are very good) but this time we opted for a fig, cheese and prosciutto crepe to split and a couple cocktails.
LOUVINO: This was where we had dinner on Friday night. It’s a nice little spot in the Over-the-Rhine area. It’s intimate but not stuffy. There were plenty of couples there on date night and a few groups of friends there having a night full of laughs. They specialize in wine and sharable small plates. My suggestion? Go for the dates and tater tots. Both were good. Very good!! ps, there are a couple other locations in Louisville and Indiana when you’re in those cities as well.
COURT STREET LOBSTER BAR: I love any and all seafood but I had never had a lobster roll. It had been on my wish list to try for years so when I came across Court Street Lobster Bar I knew I wanted to visit for lunch. It is a really neat spot and the food was on-point. The kitchen is open to the restaurant booths making it a cute and casual spot. We split the lobster poutine fries and Connecticut lobster roll so we had room to try both. Neither disappointed! I loved both! Add the glass of rosé I had to it and it made for the perfect lunch.
LOSANTI: Put this on your MUST visit list. Ethan and I both agreed that if we lived in Cincinnati it would be one of our go-to spots. You know the restaurants you always keep in your back pocket and visit frequently? They are the ones that you pick for date night, like to visit with your friends and family and would recommend to someone when they come to your city for the first time. Losanti would be one of those to us.
It is a new steakhouse in the Over-the-Rhine area. The atmosphere is intimate but not intimidating. It is approachable and warm. The exposed brick walls and candlelit fireplaces make it a enjoyable evening spot.
We loved that the menu was diverse. I had oysters, a wedge salad and gnocchi. Ethan had focaccia and steak. Everything was divine and after trying everything we were surprised at how fairly the menu was priced.
Here are a few takeaways that I have to mention.. The oysters are priced individually this way you can order as many or as few as you want. I loved this because oysters are a favorite of mine however Ethan does not like them. Most of the time I shy away from ordering them since they are not a sharable item between the two of us. But at Losanti I was able to put in an order for three so there was nothing holding me back! It was perfect. The focaccia is out of this world. Don’t skip it. The wedge salad is anything but ordinary. It has a six minute egg on it and pickled onions. I was in Heaven! The gnocchi is fab and something that I will undoubtedly be back to have again in the future. And the steaks are all priced per ounce. You can choose your size and they cut the meat in house.
And the best part? The service at Losanti is five star. They know when to check on you, when to leave you alone and how to give you menu recommendations. Our server took away our extras from each course (starters, salad and entrees) and boxed them in the back. When we were done she delivered us a to-go bag with all our leftovers packaged up nicely. It was the best treat to have back at the hotel later that evening!
So, clearly I am a fan. Ethan is too. We have nothing but glowing reviews to give from this spot and have already told our friends who are local to Cincy that they have to visit ASAP!
GOOSE & ELDER: Goodness–this is yet another restaurant that I have WONDERFUL reviews of. I have not stopped talking about our visit here since we left! It’s located right across from Findlay Market and is where we had brunch on Sunday. I loved the natural light that all the windows give from the corner location and the casual feel. Also important to note.. the service was top notch.
Ok, now on to the food. I had a bloody mary and the Royale Goose burger. A bloody mary is a brunch staple for me but a burger definitely is not. I am just not really a “burger person”. But for some reason it sounded good to me that day and I am SO glad it did. It ended up being the best burger I have ever, ever had. I ate every single last bite and by that afternoon I was already wishing I had leftovers. Ethan and I also split a side of fries. They came with a dipping sauce called goose sauce and it’s out of this world. Seriously. I will go back to this restaurant just for more of that! Trust me and go try it for yourself if you have the chance.
I am counting down the days until we can venture back to Cincy so I can have that hamburger and fries again. It will happen. It’s top of my list for when we get back from Hawaii next week and I can yet again stop worrying about calories, haha!
WHERE WE DRANK
JAPP’S BAR: We have been here with friends before but it is always a good one to stop in for a cocktail on the weekend.
FAUSTO at the CAC: This was our first stop for lattes on Saturday morning. It is a perfect location to visit for coffee and/or a meal if you happen to be staying at 21c Museum Hotel–it’s literally right around the corner, just a few steps away. The lattes must have been good too because Ethan had one while we were sitting and chatting and got another one to-go! It is an open space within the lobby of the Contemporary Arts Center so even if you are not staying at 21c, it’s a nice stop or date because you can browse the art after.
SUNDRY & VICE: This bar is so unique and is NOT one to be missed. If you are in the area then it is a must. We stopped in for a couple cocktails on Friday afternoon and if we did not have a schedule to stick to we would probably hung around longer. The atmosphere is moody, intimate and has an old world feel. The bar is carved with etchings, there are street lamps in between some of the booths and the cocktail menu (seen HERE) is anything but boring. Sundry & Vice puts three word descriptors under each of their items which helps when selecting a craft cocktail.
Once I saw the Chanel No. 5 cocktail I knew I wanted to try it (that name!) and after reading that it is a combo of gin, bubbles and lemon it was definitely calling my name. Right up my alley! And so good I could have easily had two!
I also tried a Green Carnation and it was unlike any other drink that I have had. I loved it and I really loved the fact that I was at the type of place where I could order new and interesting things. Refreshing. Needless to say, we will be back!
BAR AT PALM COURT: We had happy hour here and I can tell you that it was the best kick off to a special evening. It’s a bar located in Hilton Netherland Plaza. The large room is completely filled with bold art deco decor. On one side you will find tables for Orchids at Palm Court and on the other side you will find a large bar and stage surrounded by grand high back booths. There is even live jazz music every Monday – Saturday night which adds to the ambiance and special feel of the bar. I kept having the feeling like I was in a much larger city when we were there. There is something about this place that reminds me of a bar in The Plaza in NYC. When I mentioned this to the bar manager, Ty Stinson, he said that was fairly fitting because the bar had actually been taken out of Grand Central Station in NYC! Just a glimpse into the charm that this place holds.
Ethan and I had our go-to cocktails here–a French 75 for me and an Old Fashioned for Ethan. They were lovely but the real star was the charcuterie board we ordered to nibble on. It was the first one I have had out at a restaurant since we came back from our honeymoon that resembled the many we had in France. It really reminded me of the one we had on the day we visited Reims, France and toured the champagne cellars.
I would LOVE to come back and schedule an Afternoon Tea or Sunday brunch at Orchids at Palm Court. It is 100% on my list of things to make sure we do in the near future. It’s supposed to be epic and once I shared that I was at the bar on my IG stories I had several people message me saying they make a whole weekend around this brunch–even people from Lexington! So, clearly it’s a must.
TOKYO KITTY: This is where we ended up going late night with friends. I had never been here before but it was a lot of fun. The front room has party music and you can rent private rooms in the back for karoke! We got one and had the best time. Annnnd when you are in there a robot delivers your cocktails down from the ceiling! (go see my Cincy highlight tab on Instagram to see this).
NADA: When we were on my bachelorette party we went to the Nada location in Indianapolis for lunch and drinks so I knew it was a great place to get a margarita. They are full of fresh tangy fruit and not sweet or syrup-y at all. We had a little time to spare one day so we popped into the Cincinnati location since it was directly across the street from 21c Museum Hotel.
1215 WINE BAR + COFFEE LAB: We stopped in here for a glass of wine with friends we met up with after dinner. It’s a great place to keep in mind because people can order from a full menu of coffees or wine.
WHAT WE DID
QUEEN CITY UNDERGROUND TOUR: I came across this tour while googling Cincinnati and I knew I wanted to book it. When we were in Paris for our honeymoon in February we took a biking history tour around the city and it really opened my eyes to how much learning details about an area could enhance my travels. If done right, they are not cheesy or a bore. They can make you appreciate a city so much more!
American Legacy Tours is the company who puts this tour on and Ethan and I were so impressed with them. They are the real deal! You meet the group in a small office in the Over-the-Rhine area and then head off on foot with a tour guide. George led our tour and he was fabulous. He was really knowledgable and had a story telling gift–which is the most important part, right? He has a way of keeping the group engaged, laughing and gasping at the history tales.
I wont tell you any of the specific stories– you will have to take the tour yourself to hear those–but I will give you a few hints into what to expect. We heard spooky stories about newly found underground grave sites, went down into a crypt under a church and wandered around in the old tunnels that were used for beer brewing before and after prohibition. It was all fascinating!
This is something I think people would enjoy even if you have lived in Cincinnati your whole life. So be sure to put it on your list if you are local (maybe even go while you are entertaining family/friends in town) or if you are visiting Cincinnati for the very first time. It won’t disappoint! We would like to do the other tours that American Legacy Tours offers in the future!
CAREW TOWER OBSERVATION DECK: If you are looking for a great view of the city from above then this is your spot! There is not much to do at the top of this tower but it is worth it to head up and take in the view. I love how you can see over the water, across the bridges and into the stadiums. And, it is a great photo opp!
FOUNTAIN SQUARE ICE RINK: Such a fun activity for the Winter months! Unfortunately the day and time we had scheduled to skate ended up not working out because it rained all morning and the rink was closed due to standing water. However, I will say we still got to enjoy the rink and skating because of the brilliant way it is set up. It’s right in the middle of downtown and is surrounded by pop up tents with food, drinks, cocktails etc and there is a stage where music is going on at certain times so we were still able to hang out here a couple times during our trip. We watched the skaters and took in the festive vibe – so it was still a win.
AMERICAN SIGN MUSEUM: This is a spot that I kept coming across in my searches so I knew we had to visit. It is a little bit outside of downtown but definitely worth the visit. This was one of my favorite things that we did during our weekend. The museum is FULL of unique and interesting signage that was used across the country over the years. Stepping inside is a sensory overload, in the best possible way.
A piece of advice? If you visit, plan to be there during one of their free guided tours. We got lucky and just so happened to show up a few minutes before one started. We joined the group and the guide told us so much more than we would have ever known if we just wandered through on our own. Our guide was so knowledgable and shared the history and evolution of signs. Now Ethan and I both reference things from this tour all the time in the everyday world.
21c MUSEUM HOTEL ART GALLERY: Again, you can see my recap HERE. Just make sure you keep this art gallery on your list even if you do not stay at the hotel. It is free and the hotel encourages anyone to come in and view. It’s open 24/7. Stop in and grab a cocktail or coffee and go take in the art!
SKYSTAR WHEEL: This is actually a traveling ferris wheel. It sits right down on the waterfront in Cincinnati and has been so popular the city plans to make a permanent one here in it’s place as soon as the wheel moves on! It’s a great way to see the city and get a little perspective. I think having activity options like this give Cincinnati that “big city feel” that I enjoy so much!
FINDLAY MARKET: This was right across from where we ate brunch, Goose & Elder so we headed over for a stroll through after. It is somewhere that I would frequent if I lived in this area. There are so many yummy options from the vendors inside. Anything from cuts of meat to seasonings!
DURING OUR NEXT VISIT
GOMEZ: We have eaten here before but it is truly one of our favorites so I couldn’t do this blog without mentioning it. We had every intention (as we always do when we visiting Cincy) of squeezing a stop here in but it did not work out this time. However–if you have the chance, go! You will not regret it. We have been as a late night stop and we have been in the middle of the day.. whenever you stop in it won’t be a mistake. My suggestion? Get one of the turtles! They are a must! It’s a tortilla stuffed with all the fixings and sealed with a cheesy tostada crunch. YUM.
ORCHIDS AT PALM COURT: As I mentioned before under the Bar at Palm Court listing, this is a restaurant that is at the top of our list to visit in the future. I plan to have brunch here soon!
CINCINNATI ART MUSEUM: This is another free art museum that I would like to visit. We did not have time during this trip so it will remain on my list until next time!
QUEEN CITY EXCHANGE: I have heard that this bar is neat because the drink prices are displayed similarly to stock market prices. I would like to check it out!
JACOB JAMES: Another place I had intentions of going! This is a curated luxury resale shop and I am sure they have goodies worth spying on. Next time!
ROEBLING MURALS: When the weather is better I’d like to walk around and take all these murals in.
SECOND STREET SPIRITS: This is actually in Newport but it sounds like such a cool distillery so I am keeping it on our to-do list. I’d like to do a tour at some point when we are back in the area. It looks like a fun and quirky place!
SENATE: Another place I have eaten before and HAD to include in this list. It’s a popular place in the Over-the-Rhine area and they specialize in gourmet hot dogs! And they are fabulous. My favorite is the Lindsay Lohan. But I will say, I looked over the menu again while putting this list together and I am realizing that there are more options on there that sound too yummy not to try. I will have to make a point to go back soon!
OGGO: I really wanted to take advantage of this transportation option but it just never worked out for us on this weekend. It is a really neat idea though. These are e-cars that give people rides for free (tipping appreciated).
SALAZAR and MITA’S: Based on how OBSESSED we were with Goose & Elder, I think it is only fair that we should give the other two restaurants in this group a visit too! Both of these spots are on the list!
HOW WE PLANNED
CINCINNATI CONVENTION & VISITOR BUREAU: This is a very useful resource and I highly suggest you utilize it if you are planning a trip to Cincinnati. I did my own research (googling and Instagram searches) to make a list of things I thought we would be interested in doing in the city but in addition I also reached out to the CVB offices beforehand. They were quick to respond and happy to help me plan a trip out specifically for my interests. I would have missed some of the great places we visited if it wasn’t for them! Their website is also a great resource to check out. Don’t hesitate to contact their offices if you are coming to the area!
All in all, we left Cincinnati much more in love with the city than we were before this weekend. It really does have a lot to offer. We will be back soon and I definitely suggest you all give it a visit too. If you do, live it up and play tourist!