Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a one day in Cincinnati itinerary! So many travel writers are obsessed with hanging out with locals. “Oooh!” they squeal when they see one. “A LOCAL! In the wild! I’ll love him and squeeze him and call him George.”
Well how would you like to spend a one day in Cincinnati itinerary with your very own local? That’s what happened to me when I got to spend all day with a friend of mine in Cincinnati. She took me on a One Day in Cincinnati Itinerary from the up and coming Over the Rhine neighborhood to the heights of Carew Tower to some of the best breweries in the ‘Nati! Come with me and it’s just like you’ll have a local for your very own!
One Day in Cincinnati Itinerary
Where to Stay?
The Symphony Hotel is one of my favorite hotels in the United States, not just in Cincinnati. It’s the perfect choice for your One Day in Cincinnati itinerary. The rooms are adorable, and the amenities are amazing. You get everything from breakfast made to order to complimentary chocolate in the room. Plus the restaurant with dinner and live music is fantastic. You could almost spend your entire One Day in Cincinnati itinerary in the hotel.
One Day in Cincinnati Itinerary
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
If the weather is rainy or snowy, which can happen in Ohio, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
One Day in Cincinnati Itinerary
Morning: Over the Rhine Self Guided Tour
This One Day in Cincinnati Itinerary gets in depth into three neighborhoods. First I will introduce you to the Over the Rhine neighborhood, which a lot of tourists to Cincinnati never get to experience. Perhaps you also are not familiar with this gem? Then allow me to share with you…
Three Fun Facts About Over the Rhine
1) Trendy Eateries
The One Day in Cincinnati Itinerary begins at a Belgian-style eatery called Taste of Belgium. If you’re guessing this means they just serve beer, waffles, and chocolate, you’d be correct! We indulged in some small, pearl-sugar coated, crispy Belgian waffles while my friend explained the history of Over the Rhine.
Ten years ago, no one would have taken a tour of the Over the Rhine neighborhood. It was considered one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country in terms of gun violence. A private corporation stepped in and started buying up buildings in the area with the express desire to gentrify and bring in new businesses, like Taste of Belgium. Now Over the Rhine is so hip, it’s basically the Williamsburg of Cincinnati.
Of course, many of the old residents have been displaced, and community activists are working hard to create more affordable housing in Over the Rhine. It’s the same story with every gentrifying neighborhood all over the United States, and indeed the world. Fewer people dying by gun violence is good, Belgian eateries are good, and affordable housing is also good. Surely we can find a way to have all of these at the same time?
2) Street Art
The best part of any artsy neighborhood, aside from the food, is the street art, and Over the Rhine is no exception. ArtWorks Cincinnati is dedicated to improving neighborhoods by putting up murals to beautify the city and employing young artists to paint them. Beauty is just about my favorite thing in the world, even if it is in the eye of The Beholder, which sounds painful.
My friend seemed to know every mural in the city. The one above is called No Place Like Home, and it is done in partnership with an organization called Tender Mercies that helps the homeless. The items you can see in the mural are ones that people with homes tend to take for granted.
Here’s one dedicated to Henry Holtgrewe, a German immigrant to Cincinnati who was once declared the strongest man in the world. I’m not sure how they determine that because I don’t see how it could be possible to fight every single man in the world. There aren’t enough hours in the day!
The nerdiest mural in Cincinnati is this one, which honors the Roman general Cincinnatus after whom the city was named. He ruled Rome during a military crisis, but after the crisis was over, he voluntarily stepped down from power. Many people during George Washington’s life compared him to a modern Cincinnatus. There are many, many worse Roman role models, like Caligula or Nero or…pretty much all the rest of them.
24 Hour Treasure
My favorite mural in the Over the Rhine is this one, called Ice Cream Daydream, because it is cute. I can’t always be full of deep thoughts!
3) Rookwood Pottery
The highlight of this Over the Rhine tour is getting to see the inside of the Rookwood Pottery studios. This business was founded back in 1880 by a pioneering female entrepreneur named Maria Longworth-Nichols. Photography is not allowed the studio, but it was a pleasure to meet the artists and hear them talk about how they got into the ceramics business, even if I didn’t get the pleasure of getting to put their faces on Instagram.
The two most famous Rookwood pieces are their cat statues and their decorative tiles, one of which you can see in my photo above. Their tiles are all over Cincinnati, so I highly recommend playing Spot The Rookwood Tile as you roam about the city. (My friend helped me get started with some good tips.)
The other piece they are known for its a vaguely Egyptian looking sparkly green cat statue which is currently adorning my side table. The tour guide at Rookwood said they sell one of those green cats to almost every person who sees one. I blame the sparkles! Also cats have the power to hypnotize people, even ceramic cats. Everyone knows that.
One Day in Cincinnati Itinerary
Afternoon: Downtown Cincinnati Self Guided Tour
So now we come to the most popular part of Cinci, the downtown area. This tour introduces you to Cincinnati’s three most popular foods and two of its most popular landmarks. We’ll find Oprah’s favorite ice cream and Princess Diana’s hidden tiara, so you know it’s going to be a classy day!
approximately top 5: One Day in Cincinnati Itinerary
1) Findlay Market
Our first stop is Findlay Market, which is the oldest public market in Ohio. You can see little pig signs all over the market. My friend said it was because Cincinnati’s nickname used to be Porkopolis. That’s the cutest city nickname I have ever heard! Also remember that name and be on the look out for pigs all over the city. That’s your mission: find Rookwood tiles and pigs.
Our tasting at the Findlay market was a traditional German oatmeal sausage called goetta. (The oatmeal is just the binding; there’s definitely actual meat in the sausage.) This truly is a local taste because I have never, never, never seen goetta outside of Cincinnati.
If you like sausage, I see no reason why you wouldn’t like goetta. Also, I appreciate that I got to chat with one of the owners of the shop and get his thoughts on whether or not goetta is similar to haggis. (I consider this blog one of the world’s foremost haggis promoters. YOU’RE WELCOME!)
So many people come to Cincinnati just to have a 3-Way. I wonder why they can’t get satisfied with what they’ve got at home? A 3-Way, for the shocked and confused, is a concoction from the local chain Skyline Chili. It means pasta topped with chili and a whole mound of grated cheese. You can get a 4-Way or a 5-Way if you add onions and beans, but that just seems decadent to me.
I went into more detail about the taste of Skyline Chili in my other post about Cincinnati, but my friend gave me more information about how to eat it. She said you’re supposed to cut it with a knife and fork instead of swirling it around your fork like you normally do with pasta. Then she insisted I put a plastic bib on over my clothes before I jumped into the 3-Way. Whatever floats her boat!
3) Graeter’s Ice Cream
Some of my Internet Strangers out there might be thinking, “Goetta and 3-Ways? What kind of crazy city is this Cincinnati?” But what we all can agree on is that Graeter’s Ice Cream is some of the best stuff you will ever put it in your mouth. My friend says that it’s Oprah’s favorite ice cream, and who are we to argue with Oprah?
Apparently what makes this ice cream special is that each batch is prepared one at a time in French pot freezers. The ice cream comes out so thick that each pint has to be hand packed. If your mouth isn’t drooling by now, I’m a little worried about you!
Unfortunately you can’t taste Graeter’s ice cream in this blog post, no matter how many times you lick the computer screen. But I am happy to report that my black raspberry chocolate chip, which is their signature flavor, was so creamy that I could hear “Sunshine of Your Love” playing in the background as I ate it.
4) Carew Tower
After all that snacking, it’s time for some walking! We’re heading for the main landmark of the Cincinnati skyline, the Carew Tower. Behold its majestic Art Deco exterior!
Bask in the glory of its glamorous lobby!
Spot the Rookwood tile on its walls and come that much closer to winning Cincinnati Bingo!
On top of all that, you get to ride to the top of the Observation Tower and get amazing views of the city. (The ride to the tower is included with the price of the tour.) My favorite thing about the view was getting to see the top of the Great American Building at Queen City Square. (Queen City is another one of Cincinnati’s nicknames, and it is almost as good at Porkopolis.)
You can easily spot the building when I tell you that the top was designed to look like Princess Diana’s wedding tiara. How clever to have a crown for Queen City! Back home in New York we don’t even have one skyscraper that is shaped like an apple.
The tour ends on the waterfront of the Ohio River. But there’s more going on down here than just staring at a slow moving piece of water. You can pose for pictures with the Sing the Queen City sign. (My apologies to the rando stranger in my picture but you wouldn’t move and I needed to leave.)
How would you like to see a piece of the Berlin Wall?
My favorite attraction on the waterfront was this carousel with animals that have a local significance.
Look! It’s a pig! For Porkopolis! I’m definitely going to win Cincinnati Bingo now!
One Day in Cincinnati Itinerary
Evening: Self Guided Beer Crawl!
I’ve already mentioned that Porkopolis used to be Cincinnati’s nickname back when it was the hogpacking center of the country. (PS hogpacking is a great word and I’m mad at Spell Check for not recognizing it.) Also, we’ve spoken about Cincinnati’s rich German heritage, what with the German Catholic churches, and the goetta, and the whatnot. So why not combine the piggies and the Germans with a barbecue and beer tour of the Queen City? We’ll drink, we’ll feast, and we’ll learn…
three fun facts: Cincinnati beer
1) Christian Moerlein Facts
The Christian Moerlein Brewing Company was started in 1853 in Cincinnati by a German immigrant whose name I have forgotten. Like many breweries, it went out of business during Prohibition, but it was reopened in the 1980s. The Moerlein Brewing Company follows the strict German beer purity laws known as the Reinheitsgebot.
These laws clearly state that you can only put malted barley, hops. yeast, and water in the beer. So you’ll not be finding any weird pumpkin spice latte beer at this establishment. It’s all hoppy ales and mellow lagers for these Germans! My favorite was the Amber ale because it wasn’t bitter but it had enough flavor to let you know you’re drinking beer and not water that is dressed in a beer costume.
Please to note this plaque to Pete Rose, disgraced former Cincinnati Reds player. The Christian Moerlein Brewery is located right where the old Reds stadium used to be, so this plaque marks the spot where Pete Rose became the Hit King. And all this time, I thought Charlie Hustle was just Jimmy McGill’s nickname on Better Call Saul.
2) Rhinegeist Brewery
It’s time to leave Downtown Cincinnati and head back to the Over the Rhine neighborhood for Rhinegeist. Rhinegeist means “Ghost of the Rhine” in German, so that should give you our first clue that we’re at a funkier sort of brewery. Rhinegeist is a little more recent than Moerlein, going all the way back to 2013. According to the website, every employee at Rhinegeist is a part owner, which sounds like a fantastic way to make sure everyone on the team is committed to the business’s success.
Because Rhinegeist specializes in experimental beers, they have a jillion different flavors on tap. I suggest just asking the brewista to put together a flight of four beers for you, unless you are picky, which I hope you are not!
The bartender instructed me to drink the beers in order from left to right. “Listen to your bartender,” as my grandmother used to say. Cornsnake, as you might expect from the order, was the lightest. Dodo was a fruity sour beer made with peaches. I feel ashamed to say this was my favorite because liking fruity beers is so girly…but this was my favorite. Truth was a citrusy and surprisingly drinkable IPA. (I like IPAs, but some people think they are too bitter.) Finally Panda, which I suppose gets its name from its black and white color, was a chocolaty oatmeal stout. It was almost like a dessert beer, so it makes sense that I drank it last.
24 Hour Treat: Eli’s BBQ
Rhinegeist lets you bring it outside food, so we got to enjoy our Porkopolis barbecue picnic. (We had picked this up at Eli’s BBQ at Findlay Market on our way to the brewery. You will recognize it by the sign of the neon pig outside.) Ohio is justly not famous for barbecue, but Eli’s is the real deal. It’s been called one of the best barbecue places in the country and you can really taste the hickory in every bite of smoked pork. You also get to pick one side, so I selected jalapeno grits and I regret nothing. It’s not like I was lacking for beer to wash the spice down!
On the way out we spotted one final piggy waiting to wave goodbye. I am the Cincinnati Bingo Champion!
3) Taft Ale House Facts
Our final stop is the Taft Ale House, which as you can tell is located in a former church. But whither the name Taft Ale House?
Well, William Howard Taft, or Big Billy as the Taft’s Ale House website calls him, was both a Supreme Court justice and the 27th president of the United States. He was also the only President I am aware of who was born in Cincinnati, so the Ale House likes to honor its local boy by putting Taft memorabilia on the walls. I say any man who can grow a ‘stache like that deserves to be saluted.
A beer at this stop is not included with the tour price, but I always drink when I’m on the job because I need to share my reviews with my favorite Internet Strangers. The Taft Ale House specializes in fruity Caribbean-style ales, so I ordered their Key Lime Ale. It was delicious! Why do I like fruity beers so much? Curse me and my feminine ways!
That’s a Perfect One Day in Cincinnati Itinerary
What would you do with One Day in Cincinnati Itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Cincinnati? What other presidents deserve their own ale house? And will you consider sending me many angry emails with your thoughts on gentrification in Over the Rhine? Please leave your comments below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend a One Day in Cincinnati Itinerary. If you have time to try another One Day in Cincinnati Itinerary, try this one.