The New Cin City: A Weekend Guide to Cincinnati

Die-hard Michigan fans, brace yourselves. I know this may come as a shock coming from a Michigan student, but Ohio may have something to offer us. Over Fall Break, my boyfriend and I decided to take a road trip to Cincinnati to get out of the Ann Arbor Bubble for a bit. Why Cincinnati? Frankly, I really don’t know. I had suggested Chicago, but after comparing costs, Cincinnati was going to be better for both our budgets. Though Cincinnati has not always had the best reputation, in recent years there’s been a push to renovate, and it’s now dotted with cute cafés and community bookstores. For anyone familiar with downtown Detroit, Cincy is in a similar position right now. So here are some suggestions for Thanksgiving break, Winter break, or a weekend when you really need a pause.  

WHERE TO STAY

This was a piece of artwork done by one of the residents of Over-The-Rhine commenting on the conflicting perceptions of the people that live in the area.

We booked an Airbnb right near Findley Market (more on that later) in the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood. It was very nice with a little gated courtyard and shiny appliances. I wish I lived in an apartment that nice in Ann Arbor for that price. The host had left us a bottle of wine and some snacks. I’ve used Airbnb twice now, and both experiences have been really great. The hosts offered to give us a tour of the area and suggestions on where to eat. I will admit that a couple blocks down there were some boarded up buildings that did not look the greatest. Most websites suggest that visitors stay south of Liberty St because the area above is still a bit rough-looking, but our hosts assured us that it was a safe area. 2 bed, 1 bath apartments for up to four people, $83 per night  

WHERE TO EAT  

SOTTO 118 E 6th St, sottocincinnati.com, $20-30

I have been lucky enough to travel to some very nice restaurants in my lifetime, and SOTTO restaurant was far and away the best I’ve been to. For $50 between two people, you can get about four different dishes and create your own tasting menu. In the basement of an unassuming building, my boyfriend and I felt like we were part of a secret club for epicureans. Sit at the bar because reservations are difficult to come by and chat with the friendly bartenders. The goat cheese, honey and hazelnut bruschetta was ungodly. The pastas were bouncy and light. The desserts warmed us up. The quality of the food caused me to dance in my seat. The second night we came back, and Bryan recognized us. We told him how enamored we were with the place, and he brought us to the back kitchen to introduce us to the chef who had made our pasta. I cannot make this up; I folded pasta with them while we talked about the restaurant and how to make the perfect ravioli. It was a luxury experience.    

This is my plate with a sample of each of the three pastas we tried one night.

WHERE TO GO  

Findley Market

I love the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market and so, of course, I had to go to one of the oldest markets in the United States: Findley Market. Opened in 1852, this market has been a staple in the community through its ups and downs. The prices for meats, fresh pastas, and breads were all great, and I picked up some groceries for my empty fridge the day we left. Stop by Em’s Sourdough Bread for a gooey grilled cheese with garlic butter or a turkey club with locally sourced turkey and candied bacon. Talk to the owner of Aunt Fiona’s whose family has a long history of delicious cobblers and get a slice of vanilla cream pound cake. Pick up some handmade Rosemary pasta from Bouchard’s and some tomatoes and garlic to fry up to top the pasta. Everyone was kind and had a story to tell. It was a very welcoming atmosphere.  

Cincinnati Zoo

A zoo’s a zoo right, once you see one, you’ve seen them all? Wrong! The Cincinnati Zoo is very different from other zoos. It’s on a hilly area and the paths are all intertwined. Follow each new pathway and discover a different animal hidden behind the dense trees. We got lost and turned around multiple times, but for us that just added to the trip which seemed to have an overall theme of spontaneity. Don’t miss their interactive exhibit where you can watch a cheetah run at full speed across a field. Ask if there’s a student discount and show them your MCard to knock off a couple dollars from the admission.  

Cincinnati Museum Center 

This complex is large so dedicate a whole day to it if you want to see everything it has to offer. Of particular interest are the History and Science museums, which are similar to ones in Chicago in terms of quality and level of interaction. They also have trains on display and recently renovated Union Terminal which looks just as imposing as Grand Central but with about a fourth of the crowds.  

ADDITIONAL OHIO INSTITUTIONS  

Skyline Chili

While you’re in Ohio, you might as well indulge in some Ohioan traditions, even if you don’t tell your friends back home. Check out Skyline Chili for Ohio’s take on a Coney dog. They’re smaller than regular hotdogs so if you’re hungry, I’d get at least two. The chili is less tomato-y than Detroit style chili, but it’s hearty, and I enjoyed it.  

Graeter's Ice Cream

Yes, you may be able to get this at Meijer or Kroger, but my boyfriend insists that it is better in store. Many tourist-centered places have a counter in their gift shop or you can find one in downtown Cincy. Recommendations include black raspberry chocolate chip and mint chocolate chip.  

There wasn’t enough time to get to see everything we had planned to do, and I blame the fact that Fall Break really was not long enough. I would have liked to stay longer because I finally felt comfortable in the city the day we were leaving. For anyone looking for an unassuming place to have quiet vacation, Cincinnati should be on your list.

 

Image credits: Sara Shoemaker