Got four hours to spare at the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport?
Other than sitting around at the Gold Star trying to figure out what the airport code CVG stands for (got a guess?), why not make the 20-minutes trip into the Queen City to find out (in a whirlwind) why Lonely Planet rated it one of the top 10 places to visit in 2012!
Jump in a taxi (or a limo!) or if you’re feeling green, find the TANK bus, which will drop you off at 4th and Main, smack in the middle of Cincinnati. Or do what we did and locate someone you know in the city who’s willing to go along with your crazy plan.
We immediately headed north (or “toward the river” for locals, which saves the time of figuring out in which direction you need to go) to the Riverfront, where we marveled at the Red’s ballpark while eating pretzels with beer cheese and spicy mustard at the Christian Moerlein Lager House, a new building for an old (and recently revived) Cincy institution.
The Lager House offers standard pub food (hence the beer cheese) as well as more refined plates (try the Angry Mac and Cheese, the paella or one of their flatbreads), but people really come for the beer. They make great beer. They’ve been making it since 1853 (with some decades off for Prohibition), so they’ve had time to perfect the recipes. In fact, they were the first American brewery to have a brew officially certified by the Reinheitsgebot Bavarian Purity Law of 1516. True to regulation, their beer is made with only four ingredients: malted barley, water, hops, and yeast.
The House is ALWAYS crowded, and if you only have a four-hour layover on a game day, don’t expect to be in and out on time. But it’s doable on regular days. If the place is packed, head up to Fountain Square, where you can explore one of the many bars and restaurants on the square. I recommend Palomino (with it’s all-day happy hour) or Via Vite (for a more cosmopolitan feel). A few blocks down is Nicholson’s Pub, my personal favorite hangout in Downtown Cincinnati. It’s a clever Scottish pub with LOTS of Scotch, good bartenders and British beers on tap. They just had the honor of hosting the first keg of the newly returned Tennent’s Lager, the famous Scottish beer that disappeared from the United States more than three years ago.
If you’ve got a little more time, I would definitely recommend heading into Over-the-Rhine, once the neighborhood of nightmares, now turned into one of the hippest and grittiest neighborhoods in the city. You can take a fantastic walking tour that explores the seedier (and sexier) history of OTR and then stop by The Senate, Bakersfield or The Famous Neon’s Unplugged (recently voted by Travel & Leisure as one of the best outdoor bars in the country) for a stuff drink.
Cincinnati is doing so many incredible things with its Downtown neighborhoods. It’s becoming a Mid-Western Mecca of good food, boutique shops and chef-owned restaurants, quirky theater and more recreation than most people know what to do with. This summer, the World Choir Games is making their United States premier in the Queen City (as a testament to how far this once crumbling metropolis has become), and even Washington Park — not-so-long-ago a place not even my urban savvy parents would visit and the creepy hangout of the homeless and the drug dealers that prayed on them — has received an awesome (in the truest sense of the word) facelift. Definitely a city to check out, even if only for a layover (who knows; you may want to start planning your next vacation!).
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