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Old 12-16-2013, 08:45 AM
 
Location: Charlotte. Or Detroit.
1,455 posts, read 3,556,483 times
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Every year my wife and I take a short "Christmas" trip instead of exchanging gifts. This year our destination is Cincinnati, this upcoming weekend (Dec 20-22). What I'd like to do is give you our basic plan and ask for advice on filling in some details.

We're driving in from Charlotte and expect to arrive in early-to-mid afternoon on Friday. We're staying at the Residence Inn downtown on 4th St., near Lytle Park.

Friday: We'll get settled in to the hotel and then head out to explore downtown on foot. After 7+ hours driving, I don't expect that I'll want to drive anywhere. We'd like to stroll around the downtown area and look at anything Christmassy -- can I expect a big ol' decorated twinkly tree somewhere? Perhaps a skating rink? If there's anything else pretty and Christmassy we shouldn't miss, please let me know (extra credit if it's free!). Dinner will probably be at a Skyline Chili, unless someone has a better idea?

Saturday: Saturday night is the main event, the reason we chose Cincinnati as our destination: the Christmas concert by Over The Rhine at the Taft Theatre. To stick with our "Over The Rhine" theme, we'd like to visit the OTR section of Cincinnati during the day. Is it realistic to think we can spend the morning to early afternoon walking to and around OTR from our hotel, or is Cinci not so walkable? If we have to drive there we will, but would prefer to walk. Here's where I could really use some advice: what to do/see and where to eat lunch in OTR? To be quite honest, I'm not even sure where OTR begins or ends -- so even if you could tell me where the main drag is (if there is such a thing) I'd sure appreciate it. I especially love things that are unique to the city/area that I'm in, whether they be little galleries, independent restaurants, funky little souvenir stores/shops -- things like that.

Sunday: Getaway day. If we're worn out, we'll just have breakfast at the hotel and hit the road. But I'd like to squeeze in something before we hit the road. Maybe swing by Mt. Adams/Eden Park for a short walk and some views of the city/river? Any other ideas for an hour or two (extra credit for being near the hotel)? Ooh! Another thing for Sunday (or even Saturday) morning: I often get up EARLY. Any recommendations on a place to walk to near my hotel for good sunrise photos? Maybe along the river somewhere with a view of a bridge or skyline or something like that?

Also, for both Saturday and Sunday we could probably just eat breakfast at the hotel, but if you know of a can't-miss breakfast spot downtown, or a really good coffeehouse or bakery, I'd much prefer that.

Thanks for reading all that, and thank you in advance for any advice/ideas you may offer.
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Old 12-16-2013, 10:28 AM
 
Location: Mason, OH
9,259 posts, read 13,363,536 times
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Your hotel puts you within good walking distance of many things downtown, the Taft Theatre being one of them. A can't miss Christmasy thing will be Fountain Square at 5th and Vine. There is a large tree there and a skating rink. While I would never discourage anyone from Skyline Chili, you might want to consider a stroll south on Vine Street across I-71 towards the river. This is where the Banks development is, one of the newest spots in Cincinnati. There are many pubs and restaurants there and you get a great view of the revitalized Cincinnati riverfront.

Cincinnati is just not that large. You should be able to walk to most of your destinations. Vine street is the main north/south bisector. OTR is bascially north of Central Parkway which in downtown runs east/west. Central Parkway is basically where the old Miami and Erie Canal ran separating the area north of it from downtown. Since the canal was water it got the nickname of the Cincinnati Rhine, and those who crossed over it daily to and from work as the Over The Rhiners. Just thought I would throw a little history in there.

The area you want to confine yourself to is between Central Parkway and Liberty Street to the north. To give you a distance perspective Central Parkway is north of 9th street. Since you are starting on 4th, not that great a distance. A good walk yes, but not requiring a drive.

I believe some of the younger legions may jump in here with a ton of recommendations as to places to eat/drink and make merrry in both OTR and the Banks. Likely to be far more than you can possibly absorb.

I hope you enjoy your weekend in Cincinnati.
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Old 12-16-2013, 03:05 PM
 
Location: Cincinnati
152 posts, read 140,304 times
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If the weather is nice the Carew Tower observation deck is a great way to see the city and it only costs 2 dollars per person. While inside the Carew tower you may wish to get a drink at Orchids in the adjoining Hilton Hotel. It is considered an Art Deco masterpiece. I agree with checking out the Banks especially the Moerlien Lager House for great beer and food and a fantastic view of the Suspension Bridge built by John Roebling. It was, at the time built, the longest single span bridge in the world and is a prototype to the Brooklyn Bridge. The 21C Hotel downtown is also a free modern art museum and is a great place for dinner. OTR is a must see especially along Vine Street north of Central Parkway. The shops and restaurants are amazing and among the best in the City. Washington Park is also a must see. If you can get to Findlay Market Saturday you wont be disappointed either. Hope this helps let us know how things went.
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Old 12-16-2013, 03:50 PM
 
Location: Cincinnati
152 posts, read 140,304 times
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Here's a few breakfast options I would highly consider: The French Crust Café, a patisserie on Vine Street recently opened by one of Cincinnati's Master Chefs Jean Robert de Cavel, Lavomatic also on Vine Street has a great brunch and a new Chef, I highly recommend the French Toast and Taste of Belgium right down the street has authentic Waffles and other amazing breakfast items. Further down on Vine St. is Holtman's doughnuts. Just look them up on the internet for directions. If you want coffee, there is the Coffee Emporium on Central Parkway. Another great brunch option would be Orchids at Palm Court again in the Carew Tower, Netherland Hilton where you can gawk some more at the Art Deco architecture.
Cincy is very walkable you should have no problems getting around Downtown at all. You will get panhandled, like in any big city, just be firm with whatever you decide to do and you will be fine. Cab fares are crazy reasonable as well, you would be hard pressed to ever pay more than five dollars anywhere you went within the city core just check with the concierge at your hotel for some companies to call.
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Old 12-16-2013, 04:00 PM
 
Location: Mason, OH
9,259 posts, read 13,363,536 times
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I am glad to see someone agrees with my recommendations. The Moerlien Lager House is immediately adjacent to the Banks. Christian Moerlien was an old Cincinnati Brewery, at one time the City's largest. A Cincinnatian has bought up the rights as well as several other old Cincinnati Beers - Hudepohl for one, and is trying to establish a revived brewing tradition here. Hudepohl Amber Lager has become on of my favorite brews.

Findlay Market is a regional treasure, one of the oldest markets in the country. If you are really feeling good on Saturday and willing to walk a good distance, take Vine Street north to Liberty, take Liberty west to Elm then head north where you will encounter Findlay Market. Then head back south on Elm. You will pass Music Hall, one of the preeminent performance venues in the country. And also Washington Park, a totally rebuilt inner city park. I would suggest getting a local map and locating all of these landmarks so you don't get disoriented.

At 74 I rarely get downtown anymore, as my wife requires a wheelchair. But those still physically capable need to see Cincinnati as it was meant to be seen. The resurgence here has been immense, and we want to see out-of-staters come and experience it.

Far as Sunday goes, I would hate to see you leave Cincinnati without experiencing the river views from Mt Adams. Do a Google and identify a location in Mt Adams which delivers a dynamite brunch. I have to believe there is more than one. Have a great time here.
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Old 12-16-2013, 04:31 PM
 
Location: Charlotte. Or Detroit.
1,455 posts, read 3,556,483 times
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Thanks for all the ideas -- looks like I have some google investigating to do! Luckily I still have several days to finalize plans/ideas.
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Old 12-16-2013, 05:07 PM
 
Location: "Daytonnati"
4,245 posts, read 5,750,175 times
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Quote:
While inside the Carew tower you may wish to get a drink at Orchids in the adjoining Hilton Hotel. It is considered an Art Deco masterpiece.
Yes, this is a must see. Also, for food, on Court Street & Walnut there is Servati (for baked things) and a neat little Crepe place which has a good spicy crepe made with goat cheese.....called Its Just Crepes...and take a a peak at Avril-Bleh butcher shop next door
It's Just Crepes - Downtown - Cincinnati, OH

If you are here on a Saturday, Saturday morning @ Findlay Market is grrreat! One of the best Cincy Experiences.....it's always busy and they have street muscians too. Very nice, the heart and soul of Cincy as much as Fountain Square. I cant say how much I enjoy coming here on a busy Saturday morning! (all the way from suburban Dayton)....

Fountain Square has already been mentioned. This is really a great space. Theres'a a cozy Scottish pub restaurant just up (north) on Walnut from this called "Nicholsons", which can be fun. Good hot filling food and a thick beer for the cold! All warm dark wood inside....
Home | Nicholson's Restaurant

Also, I should also recommend Arnolds. This is a very cozy old tavern that serves food, at the edge of downtown. I like this place a lot, too....its more authentic than Nicholsons, thoug a bit out of the way and more crowded.
Arnold's Bar and Grill

Also a great place to see (but maybe you could drive there tho its walkable) is Mount Adams.

I'm a big coffeeshop fan...but my favorite, Sidewinder, is further out from downtown.

The two that are close -n that I like is the aformentioned Coffee Emporium...or...deeper north into Over The Rhine is Iris Bookcafe, which also has good soups. Nice destination for a stroll through the old Over The Rhine area.
:: Iris Bookcafé

...tho Vine Street is probably THE place to be in that neighborhood right now. A lot going in on that street ....as others have mentioned....

Cincy is a great road trip destination for folks who like cities or urban environments, since its so built-up and so walkable. You should easily be able to walk through OTR and downtown...possible up to Findlay Market via Elm and Race. My favorite morning walk there would be up Vine or Main, then along Liberty, then north again via Race or Elm to Findlay Market.

If you are really interested there are walking tours of the city offered by this storefront operation in Over The Rhine, on Vine Street...dont recall the name or the exact location...

Cincy is very picturesque with the hills and neighborhoods on the hills (like Mount Adams)... I should say it actually is possible to walk up to Mount Adams from the basin (this being downtown and Over The Rhine) using the steps...i did do that partway...but not sure where to tell you to go in Mount Adams as I usually just drive through that area, not stopping. Nice park behind the neighborhood, too..Eden Park....
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Old 12-17-2013, 05:36 AM
 
Location: Cambridge, MA
4,730 posts, read 10,933,946 times
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If you have a sweet tooth there are two local delicacies which shouldn't be missed.
"Schnecken" is a holiday-season treat originally from Germany that I can "almost taste" right now. It's an airy loaf of bread about the size of a fruitcake, drenched with a thick cinnamon-laced glaze and containing the occasional raisin. (Words don't do it justice.) A handful of suburban bakeries vie for the "best schnecken" title, but you don't have to leave downtown to find one. Every outlet of the local Busken chain keeps an ample supply on hand at this time of year. Just look for the stack of white bakery boxes with red lettering on top. Why's there the name of a different bakery in that lettering? Because Busken's owners - after some trying - were able to obtain the "secret family recipe" for the much-loved version produced by the defunct Virginia Bakery. For thousands of Cincinnatians picking up schnecken from the Virginia Bakery was part of the routine at Christmas time. Sentiment ran deeper than a layer of schnecken glaze. So the Busken people decided to give a nod to that.
I like mine with a tall glass of cold milk.

And, you of course don't have to wait for summer to enjoy ice cream. Cincinnati is an unlikely Mecca for lovers of this American dessert institution. As is true with hamburgers, schnecken, and chili, endless fun debate rages over which local company turns out the best frozen dairy products. One of the perennial top runners (also my own favorite) is Graeter's. Indulge on cones from one of their stores and you'll be glad you did - they allow for sampling, and you definitely should take them up on that. (They also do froyo.) You can find one of their parlors in Fountain Square, and another just opened at 1401 Vine St if the urge strikes while you're in Over-the-Rhine.

P.S. Duck into the "21c Hotel" downtown while you're in the area. You can't miss it from the street, just look for the yellow penguins stationed atop the marquee. The "modern" art on display is for all to see. And speaking of "for all to see," their bar is one of the new hot spots to be seen at while you sip a cocktail.

P.P.S. I hope a full-time resident can let us know when Santa will be rappelling down the office tower downtown!
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Old 12-17-2013, 08:10 AM
 
Location: Mason, OH
9,259 posts, read 13,363,536 times
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OP ... You have been given enough recommendations for a week. But some are worth repeating.

The Carew Tower Observation Deck - definitely worth the time. You can see all of the Cincinnati basin from there. As a reminder, Friday hours are 9:00 A.M. - 6:00 P.M., Saturday and Sunday 10:00 - 7:00 P.M. The Carew Tower is right off the corner of Fountain Square. A good Friday game plan could be check into the hotel and then walk off some of those in the car hours by taking 4th street west to Vine. Here you are basically at Fountain Square and the Carew Tower should be obvious. Do the observation deck while it is still light. Then take Vine south across I-71 to The Banks. Locate the Moerlein Lager House at the south-east end. If there is still enough light you will have a good view of Cincinnati's new riverfront park and revitalized development. As has been commented this is one of Cincinnati's new jewels.

After viewing the offerings at the Banks consider having a bite to eat there or going back north up Vine to Fountain Square, which should be quite a happening area at night with the Christmas tree, skating rink, and general revelry. As commented there is a Cincinnati icon Greaters Ice Cream parlor there. And Skyline is just a little east at 4th and Sycamore.

But don't forget there is Saturday. Somewhat of the same path to travel, west on 4th to Vine and then north on Vine to probably Liberty. West on Liberty to probably Race and then north about 3 blocks to Findlay Market. Findlay Market is another Cincinnati institution you need to experience if you can, especially on Saturday morning. The one thing you will have to resist is purchasing. It is a long way back to the Residence Inn. But you can always say What the Hell, I'll take a cab. Just be sure whatever you buy can survive the trip back home.

Saturday evening should be a snap, Taft Theatre is on 5th street near Broadway and should be a stones throw from your hotel.

One of the things we on this forum, myself included, tend to do is offer too many places to visit in Cincinnati in our zeal to have visitors experience Cincinnati. The simple fact is there are so many places to experience in Cincinnati it takes weeks, months, probably years.

I strongly suggest printing out a map of downtown Cincinnati and plotting out your anticipated itinerary, including timelines. What you want to avoid is wondering around aimlessly and asking what were we supposed to be doing now? That can disrupt the entire weekend.
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Old 12-17-2013, 08:51 AM
 
Location: Over-the-Rhine, Ohio
548 posts, read 607,694 times
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There are some great recommendations here. I'll second Fountain Square, Walking along the River, Strolling though Washington Park (There's caroling this weekend at 6pm; Washington Park – Cincinnati Ohio | Seeding the Future), having a meal or drink at Arnold's, and seeing the view from Guido St in Mt Adams. It's a shame you didn't choose last weekend, the height of holiday fun. We had Downtown Dazzle, the Christkindlmarkt, and Mainstrasse was in full festive mode.

One thing that I really think you should add to your schedule is the Queen City Underground Tour. It's a walking tour of Over-the-Rhine that goes into the history of the neighborhood and German beer brewing history. It's a great way to get a feel of what made Cincinnati great. You also go into the old Lagering tunnels that are buried beneath the streets of Cincinnati and then you end at the Christian Moerlein Brewery where you can drink some fresh beer and maybe see the holiday trains!

I hope you enjoy your visit to Cincinnati. I think this city is absolutely magical this time of year.
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