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Cincinnati Neighborhoods

The Ohio River and the surrounding hills influenced the development of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods. Visually, the skyscrapers of downtown, like Carew Tower and the PNC building toward the west, and the Proctor and Gamble towers to the east, beckon travelers. Like the saying, “All roads lead to Rome,” it does seem that all roads lead to Cincinnati—even those over the river in northern Kentucky. Inventions of the streetcar and trolley inclines made living along Cincinnati’s steep hills easier and more desirable. Money, more than ethnic groups, has influenced the look of each neighborhood. The mansions in Clifton reflect its wealthy days in the late-1800s and early-1900s, while Over-the-Rhine’s row houses were working-class homes during the same time period. These days, young, urban professionals and artsy entrepreneurial types are adding their mark, turning once-stagnant neighborhoods into vibrant living, entertainment and shopping hotspots.

Downtown

The Ohio River and the hills influenced the development of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods. Visually, the skyscrapers of downtown, like Carew Tower and the PNC building toward the west, and the Proctor and Gamble towers to the east, beckon travelers. Like the saying, “All roads lead to Rome,” it does seem that all roads lead to Cincinnati — even those over the river in Northern Kentucky. Inventions of the street car and trolley inclines made living along Cincinnati’s steep hills easier and more desirable. Money, more than ethnic groups, has influenced the look of each neighborhood. The mansions in Clifton reflect its wealthy days in the late 1800s and early 1900s, while Over-the-Rhine’s row houses were working-class homes during the same time period. These days, young, urban professionals and artsy entrepreneurial types are adding their mark, turning once-stagnant neighborhoods into vibrant living, entertainment and shopping hotspots.

Over-the-Rhine (Gateway quarter)

Skip Over-the-Rhine and you’ll miss out on one of the largest National Historic Landmarks in the United States. This whole Cincinnati neighborhood is a landmark, and its Italianate buildings are considered among the finest collections of the kind in the United States. Over-the-Rhine got its name from the German immigrants who settled here in the mid-1800s. They called the Miami and Erie Canal that separated this section of Cincinnati from their downtown workplaces “The Rhine.” At the end of a workday, they crossed “Over-the-Rhine” to go home.  The name stuck. Recently, Over-the-Rhine has been in the midst of change from a neighborhood that had become mostly low-income housing in the 1980s, to an artsy neighborhood where artists and entrepreneurs are gradually changing the tone. Along Vine Street are a number of interesting shops, and on Race Street you’ll find Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest public market. The Music Hall is Over-the-Rhine’s most precious landmark and the 12-day Fringe Festival that begins after Mother’s Day is Over-the-Rhine’s signature arts event and showcases Cincinnatians’ artistic, avant-garde and edgy talents. But don’t head north of Liberty Street. It’s one of Cincinnati’s most dangerous areas.

Mount Adams

Although Mount Adams is mostly an upscale, residential neighborhood to the east of downtown, it’s also home to Eden Park and the best views of downtown Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. For the best vantage point head to the small picnic area above Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park.  Eden Park is also where you’ll find the Cincinnati Museum of Art and the Cincinnati Playhouse. A word of warning: Although Eden Park Drive is a lovely winding road canopied by majestic sycamore and oak trees, it can feel confusing. Don’t be surprised if you unwittingly head back down to the base of Mount Adams before you reach the spectacular views at the top. Of any of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods, this is the one to take time to enjoy for its peace and quiet.

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Mount Lookout

This bustling neighborhood, to the east of Mount Adams and downtown Cincinnati, is home to mostly the young: youngish professionals, young families and singles. The key word here is “affluent.”  Mount Lookout, like Mount Adams, is a lovely area with vistas of the Ohio River, and an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. Mount Lookout’s two prominent features are 224-acre Ault Park (that once was mostly vineyards) and the Cincinnati Observatory Center. Built in 1842, the observatory is open on Thursday and Friday evenings.

Oakley

Mostly a middle-class residential neighborhood to the northeast of downtown, Oakley started out as a wagon drivers’ stop in the mid-1800s. Named for the number of oak trees in the area, Oakley is home to one of Cincinnati’s beloved establishments, Aglamesis Bros., an ice cream parlor and candy shop that opened in 1913.  Boca, one of Cincinnati’s finest restaurants, is also here.

Columbia Tusculum

Seven minutes from downtown near Mount Lookout and Oakley, Columbia Tusculum is Cincinnati’s oldest neighborhood. Settled by early pioneers who arrived in flatboats in 1788, the area developed into a mix of Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Folk and Stick-style Victorian houses by the mid-1800s to early-1900s. Here’s where several houses have been decked out with creative paint jobs called “Painted Ladies.” In recent years the neighborhood has begun to experience revitalization by people who have decided stellar views of the Ohio River and close proximity to downtown have advantages over suburban life. Green Dog Cafe is one of the neighborhood’s favorite places.

Walnut Hills

Located to the north of Mount Adams, Walnut Hills is a residential neighborhood with historic mansions. This is where Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in the mid-1800s, and the neighborhood is known for Xavier University, a Jesuit Catholic institution founded in 1831.

Avondale

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens are the main reasons to come to Avondale, a mostly residential, primarily African-American neighborhood located between Walnut Hills and Clifton. Xavier University is to the east of Avondale and the University of Cincinnati is to the west.

Clifton/Ludlow

Cincinnati’s streetcar system changed the economic and cultural landscape of Clifton at the end of the 1800s. Wealthy Cincinnatians had staked Clifton out as a summer getaway destination, but when the streetcar expanded, Clifton became more accessible and Ludlow Avenue boomed as a place for small businesses. It still is. The National Trust for Historic Preservation established Ludlow Avenue as Cincinnati’s first Main Street Neighborhood. The Main Street Neighborhood program highlights the importance of historic neighborhoods to economic revitalization. Over the years, Clifton has become one of Cincinnati’s most eclectic and interesting neighborhoods. The original gaslight street lamps still work, as they always have, earning Ludlow the “Gaslight District” distinction. The close proximity of the University of Cincinnati influences Clifton’s restaurant and shopping scene. The range includes a vintage Skyline Chili parlor (shown in Sarah Jessica Parker’s episode of "Who Do You Think You Are”) and several ethnic restaurants. Boutique and bohemian-style stores are also in abundance.

Northside

Northside is an economically and racially diverse neighborhood with a new beginning and a name change. Originally called Cumminsville, Northside got its start after the American Revolution, when the federal government gave people incentives to settle in Ohio. After World War II, as paved roads, more cars and a desire for life away from urban areas made suburban life more appealing, Northside declined dramatically, especially in the 1950s-‘60s. In the 1980s, cheap property and economic potential brought people back. These days Northside is hopping with nightlife, unique shops and restaurants that specialize in healthy and contemporary cuisine. Honey, Melt and Northside Tavern are three neighborhood favorites. On Wednesday evenings, May-October, the Northside Farmers Market turns Hoffner Park into a community festival of farmers, food makers and specialty businesses owners who sell their goods.

Northern Kentucky

Newport and Covington in Kentucky are two contiguous Ohio River towns with histories closely linked to Cincinnati’s. Even today people commonly live on one side of the river and work on the other. A trip to Cincinnati without checking out the Kentucky side of the river would be a shame, since the view of Cincinnati from the Kentucky side is stunning. Almost all of Cincinnati’s river recreation is from the Kentucky side, and BB Riverboats operates from Riverboat Row in Newport. Newport also has Newport on the Levee, a complex of eateries, shops and the Newport Aquarium, with views of the Ohio and the Cincinnati skyline. In Covington, you’ll find MainStrasse Village, an area of historic painted brick buildings that have been grouped together into a destination. While in MainStrasse, notice the historic markers that pay tribute to former residents and events.


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Northern Cincinnati

Like any other city, Cincinnati’s outlying areas are part of the reasons to visit. Although Kings Island amusement park is in Mason, 20 miles north of downtown on Interstate 71, it’s very much a Cincinnati destination and is consistently voted as Cincinnati’s best attraction.  Opened in 1972, Kings Island has expanded over the years to include a water park and an array of thrill rides. The best is The Beast, the world’s longest roller coaster.  Last year, the Diamondback debuted. It’s a 230-foot tall steel roller coaster with cars that can reach a speed of 80 miles per hour. Two other destinations are EnterTRAINment Junction and Wake Nation. EnterTRAINment Junction houses the American Railroad Museum, the most amazing G-scale train exhibits and three seasonal attractions. Wake Nation is a wake-boarding park where you can wake-board, water-ski and kneeboard without a boat. Pretty awesome. Jungle Jim’s International Market is another Northern Cincinnati hotspot.

Mariemont

Just 10 miles northeast from downtown, Mariemont is its own town and a community where many who work in Cincinnati live. If you’re looking to combine Cincinnati’s urban experience with a picturesque small town, consider staying here. Because of its collection of Tudor, Greek Revival, Colonial, Norman Revival and Georgian Revival properties, the entire village is on the National Historic Register.

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