It’s a tale as old as 1970, when the Bengals and the Steelers faced off for the first time in the NFL. Not at all surprising is the fact that our boys in black and gold won that first match up, just as they have prevailed for the most recent eight. While there is an indisputable winner on the football field, the Queen City and the City of Bridges are, as cities, true contenders. With my bestie as my guide, and now yours, here is how to spend two days in Cincinnati.
Two Days in Cincinnati: Where to Stay
We spent our weekend sleeping in at the lavish Hotel Covington, located just across the river in Covington, Kentucky. The Hotel Covington is simply gorgeous. From the posh, totally Instagrammable lobby to the comfortably sized rooms, I can promise that you won’t want to return to the real world.
Spend your morning in the hotel lobby or courtyard, sipping coffee from the hotel’s artisan coffee bar, which features beans from a local roaster. You could also walk around Covington and explore its offerings. This neighborhood reminds me of a mash-up of our East End and Highland Park neighborhoods, with its mix of nightlife, shopping, and dining interspersed with historical homes and green areas.
Before you head out for an evening, be sure to explore the craft cocktails at the Coppin’s Restaurant And Bar. My weekend drink of choice was the Spring Sangria, which was refreshing and easy to drink. The Bourbon lover will have plenty of options as well. The bar doubles as the spot for three charcuterie loving ladies looking for a late night snack.
During your weekend, brunch at Coppin’s is an absolute must. For a taste of Cincinnati, I recommend the Roebling Benedict, which features a food called Goetta covered with delicious and creamy hollandaise and sautéed spinach. I won’t deter you with a description of Goetta (you can Google, should you so desire), but let me just say this- it’s a food that sounds gross but is actually amazing, in the same way that Primanti’s Sandwiches sound weird, but are actually magical.
Two Days in Cincinnati: Visit OTR
If you love the vibrancy and eclectic offerings of Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville, you’ll have a great time in bustling OTR, also known as “Over-The-Rhine”. You will quickly catch on to the German roots of this hip neighborhood. There is no evidence of the fact that this neighborhood has undergone quite the resurgence. Whether you are visiting for a sporting event or in town for a girls’ weekend, you will want to spend plenty of time eating and drinking in OTR.
Take a quick Uber from the hotel to Lou Vino OTR for Happy Hour on Friday night. Be sure to arrive between 5-6:30 for $2 off any wine from their expansive list, plus all the shareable plates from duck fat frites to a delicious Brussels sprouts salad. Get the fried chicken tacos, thank me later. Kristin and I had spent the day traveling; Emily had been running around like crazy. Immediately after, we had to rush around to get ready for our photoshoot, since this was technically a working weekend! We were ravenous, and Lou Vino OTR hit the spot.
After you fill up on Happy Hour snacks, head down the street to Pins Mechanical Co., which is, after 8pm, an adults-only place to drink and play. Order from the fun cocktail menu, play pinball, try your hand at duck pin bowling, or simply enjoy life on the rooftop. This multi level bar is a fun time.
OTR is such a hopping area that it’s worth a return trip the following morning. Start your day at Taste of Belgium OTR. It is Belgian fare that has taken some creative liberties with dishes like the Nati Crepe, filled with, you guessed it, Goetta. You’ll also want to try the McWaffle- a waffle sandwich, which marries egg, gruyere, and bacon with maple syrup straight from Ohio. If you’re with a group, order Mimosas by the pitcher. We recommend the Bellini mimosa. Pro-tip: Take home a pack of their Belgian waffles for the kids at home.
After brunch, slip into 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab for the vanilla lavender latte. It is heaven in a cup. Then, put your feet up at Spruce Nail Shop for an all-natural pedicure experience. Once your toes are dry, continue with your day-drinking and eating, by visiting Rhinegeist Brewery, the Lackman, and Krueger’s Tavern. I’ve got it on good authority that the Findlay Market is the place to go if you’d typically spend your Saturday pursuing the Strip District. I have never been, but it’s on my must-do list for my next visit.
Two Days in Cincinnati: Visit Downtown
Downtown Cincinnati rivals Downtown Pittsburgh in many ways. Like Downtown Pittsburgh on any given weekend evening, people from all stretches of the metro area spanning from young children to retirees are in town for some reason or another. It’s a great place to walk around and view the eclectic mix of architecture. Much like Pittsburgh, you’ll find a mix of modern, art-deco, and gothic architectural styles. Unlike Pittsburgh, Cincinnati feels more Midwestern with a less compact downtown and shorter skyscrapers.
If you love Mexican food, you must visit Nada, which is kitty-corner (I don’t even think they say that there) to the Contemporary Arts Center in the Downtown area of Cincinnati. This is actually my second visit to this lively haunt. Since our last visit, they’ve revamped the menu from top to bottom bringing their unique and fresh take on Mexican food.
You’ll love the variety of color, texture, and flavor on each plate. Go with a group and an empty stomach to get the full experience. Start with Nada’s margarita menu. The Summer Sabbatical was my favorite, but the Froloma (a frozen grapefruit marg) and the classic Nadarita are certainly worth an order!
Next up- shareable plates! Take your chips for a dip in the guac, the salsa trio, and the queso loaded. Follow up with a skirted quesadilla, which was the best thing I ate in Cincinnati. It’s called “skirted” because this dish features a ring of crispy burnt cheese- like the best part of a grilled cheese sandwich, where the cheese touched the hot pan a bit… yum. We loved the Kale, Caesar salad and the Baja fish tacos. The Street Corn and the Glazed Potatoes were just a few stars of the evening, but the expertly cooked steak fajitas stole the show. Just when we thought we couldn’t take another bite, a plate full of slightly crunchy, melt in your mouth churros tossed in cinnamon and sugar showed up. Save room!
If you’re looking for a place to grab a drink while you wait for your table, consider visiting the cocktail terrace at 21c Cincinnati, featuring pop-tails, cocktails, and boozy slushies. It is located within walking distance to Nada, as well as several other bars and restaurants. Stop for a quick picture in front of the painted mural outside of the entrance.
Two Days in Cincinnati: What Else To See and Do
If you want to do more than eat and drink, consider the following:
Visit Fiona the Hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo
Visit the many, many breweries. This town loves its beer as much as Pittsburgh does. Our recs: Braxton, Madtree, Rheingeist, Taft’s Ale House.
Take in a baseball game, especially if the Reds are matched up against the Pirates!
Stroll Across the Roebling Suspension Bridge (I know we have a lot of bridges, but this is a good one!)
Heckle some Bengals fans, jkjk
Have a cone at Graeter’s Ice Cream
Of course, you can’t leave without a trip to Skyline. My favorite is the coney dog with onions and mustard. (Chili doesn’t belong on spaghetti, but you’re welcome to try it. Order a 3, 4, or 5-way)
Take in Washington Park, a beautiful and architecturally interesting urban park in the heart of OTR
Ride the Skystar Wheel, located in Downtown
Two Days in Cincinnati: Parting Thoughts
Two days in Cincinnati could never uncover all the jewels this Queen has in her purse, but this guide is a great start for your next trip. Last fall, I attended a Steelers-Bengals game (that one we pulled out in the last few minutes) with Emily, a die-hard Bengals fan. If you want a real taste of what it’s like to be a Pittsburgher in enemy territory- do exactly that. Go to a game or visit The Banks dressed in full black and gold. You’ll be right at home with a nearly 50/50 mix of Steelers fans. The people in orange and black? They’re not so bad. Actually, they’re really nice. They’re a humble and kind bunch- the kind that hold doors and apologize profusely when you bump into them.
Just like Pittsburghers, they are passionate about four things: Sports, food, beer, and mostly their beloved city. They might tease you for a minute, all the while knowing that you hold the ultimate comeback: “How many rings yinz got?”
A special thank you to Nada and Lou Vino OTR for treating us to dinner, and Hotel Covington for brunch and accommodations.