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.