Cincinnati is not exactly a shopping mecca. Suburban malls have pulled almost all but Tiffany’s and Macy’s from downtown. For the most unusual Cincinnati shops, head to the Clifton, Over-the-Rhine and Northside neighborhoods, where shops reflect the owner's taste and personality. As with restaurants and hotels, northern Kentucky is part of Cincinnati’s shopping scene.
MainStrasse is the walking district of historic painted brick buildings in downtown Covington, Ky. Although it was mainly developed as a walking street to bring tourists in, locals come here, too. Shop options are eclectic and plentiful. Three standouts are The Candy Bar with 200 candies, many of them childhood favorites; The Magic Shop, with everything a budding or professional magician might need, and Kaleidoscope Stained Glass, where you can buy a stained glass artwork and stained glass kits and materials, or take a class.
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Jungle Jim’s is not just shopping, it’s an adventure, and worth the drive northwest from downtown Cincinnati to Fairfield. What started out as a small food stand has exploded into a multi-sensory grocery store, entertainment center and place to find items you’d never think of buying until you see them. Those “As Seen on TV” items have a section of their own, and in the Hidden Treasures you’ll find items from closeout sales. The delivery method at Jungle Jim’s is as unusual as the goods. Coney Island bumper cars, a shrimp boat and three life-size fiberglass elephants are a small part of the visual and auditory cacophony. Oh, yeah. Jungle Jim’s snagged first place in the America’s Best Restroom Contest in 2007 for its Port-o-Lets.
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For the fifth year in a row, The Mustard Seed Boutique has won the award for Cincinnati’s best non-chain clothing store. Clothing isn’t the only thing that fills this new and resale boutique store in the Clifton area of Cincinnati. As a consignment shop, vintage and the latest fashions are just part of the bounty. Jewelry, shoes, scarves and hats are part of the blend. Kenneth Cole, Steve Madden, Gucci and the Gap are some of the labels you might find.
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Shopping at Findlay Market is shopping in history. Opened in 1855, this is the oldest public market in Ohio, but it’s been renovated to exude a contemporary vibe with bright colors and more windows. Here’s where you’ll find stalls of independent vendors offering artisan cheeses, baked goods, produce and the best meats in Cincinnati. Whether you want to buy ingredients to cook a meal, or buy prepared food, the market is made for browsing. Wander among stalls on the inside of the market and along the shops that edge the outside of the main building. Not all offerings are food-related. Jewelry, furniture, art and pottery are part of the mix. If you’re looking for ingredients for any ethnic food, you’ll find it here, somewhere. A must-see is the Market Carpet, a mosaic tile “carpet” on the floor of the center tower. It represents the 150 years of Findlay Market’s history.
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Park +Vine is Cincinnati’s best shop for environmentally friendly goods. Every item in this general store seems to say, “Be thoughtful about what you buy.” For Cincinnati travelers, this is the best place to pick up nifty and trendy reusable bags. Within Park + Vine’s repertoire, you’ll find several made-in-Ohio goodies, including apparel by Handmade in Ohio, Look at Me Shirts and Alternative Motive. The store has been expanding its food selection, so you’ll find green groceries as well. The store’s recent move to a bigger building means the addition of a vegan grocery, food/coffee bar, classroom space and an outdoor patio. Good move.
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