Cincinnati has been simmering just under the surface of national tourism awareness for a few years now, but in 2018 it leapt into the top 10 of the list every place wants to be on.
At number 8 on the New York Times 52 Places to Visit in 2018, Cincinnati earned some enviable and well-deserved awareness, particularly for its programming strengths. They ranked high in our report as well: the city is #27 for Culture, #31 for Restaurants and #27 for Nightlife.
The architecturally glorious 140-year-old Music Hall is recently reopened and home to the symphony, ballet and opera; it joins an expanded Ensemble Theater Cincinnati and a new home for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company to give the Over the Rhine neighborhood real cultural chops. (The huge interactive fountain facing the Music Hall in Washington Park is an all-ages frolic and a pure pleasure for families day and night.) The city ranks #24 for Attractions.
Cincy, which ranks #20 for its Professional Sports Teams, is painting the town red in 2019. The Reds made history in 1869 when they became the first team in America to pay the players. MLB’s first professional team celebrates 150 years in 2019 with special events and half price tickets on home games when you book a hotel stay on CicinnatiUSA.com. Plus the team will be wearing throwback uniforms at 15 homes games.
Cincinnati may only rank #43 in our deep Place category, but it lands at #28 for Neighborhoods. OTR, as Over the Rhine is known, was already becoming acclaimed for other cultural pursuits, namely the crafting and consuming of small-batch beers and the savoring of culinary delights. According to Politico, the neighborhood is a mostly-intact architectural jewel, some 362 acres of densely-packed 19th century brick Italianate and German Revival buildings “that locals claim as the largest historic district in the United States (a title contested by Savannah, Georgia).”
Named one of the most dangerous communities in the country as recently as 2009, OTR has been transformed through visionary planning and plenty of money—since 2006, some $93 million has been invested in the development of locally-owned restaurateurs, boutiques, shops and bars.
Some of that money comes from Cincy’s corporate sector—the city ranks #17 for Fortune 500 offices—there are nine—including Macy’s and Fifth Third Bancorp. Originally settled by Germans, OTR was home to vast brewery infrastructure; when re-development began, the revival of the brewing traditions was an authentic and profitable route in tune with the times. Visits to underground breweries and lagering tunnels are now a must for visitors. Dining, nightlife, new businesses and new residents soon beat a path to OTL.
Other city neighborhoods are flourishing, too: a $90 million project is bringing the first major supermarket to the downtown area in nearly 45 years, and an Arts and Backstage District is growing north of downtown’s Fountain Square, home to the Aronoff Center, Contemporary Arts Center and the influential and arty 21c Museum Hotel along with a slew of entertainment venues, restaurants, and shopping. But it’s The Banks entertainment district that has become downtown’s focal point.
Cincinnati has long worked to bring the city to the banks of the Ohio at Smale Riverfront Park, and two major sports stadia on the water have been a major draw. The Banks, which sits between the Reds and Bengals stadiums, won the 2013 National Planning Excellence Award, and has been firing on all cylinders ever since: a 171-room AC Hotel by Marriott is the latest hospitality provider, and in 2018, three concert promoters proposed a music venue at the Banks next to the Paul Brown football stadium. Ideas range from 1,500 to 8,000 seats, 140 to 180 events a year, 250,000 to 350,000 visitors annually, and between $19 million and $66 million in development costs.