One hundred and fifty years ago, Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood was the bustling center of German life and culture. Beer halls were bursting with hard-working craftsmen taking a break to raise a stein of beer—brewed locally by one of three dozen neighborhood breweries. Families strolled through Washington Park, gathering around the bandstand to enjoy an afternoon concert. Farmers, bakers and butchers brought their goods to Findlay Market, where shoppers would come to gather groceries for that evening’s supper. And plans were soon to be underway for Music Hall, one of the grandest concert theaters in the world.
The old neighborhood didn’t fare as well in the 20th century, however. Prohibition shut down the brewing industry, then social changes and advances in transportation sent most of the residents out to the Cincinnati suburbs. But the buildings remained, and because they represented the largest collection of 19th century Italianate architecture in the country, the area earned the distinction of being named an historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.
Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine
Thanks to a decade-long revitalization effort, OTR is once again a cultural center. Hundreds of historic buildings have been restored to their former glory, and many are home to trendy new shops and some of the city’s hottest new restaurants. With exposed brick and an artful blend of contemporary fixtures, they all have a warm, neighborhood vibe. Here are some places to include in your visit to get a real taste and feel of the neighborhood.
Music Hall has long been an integral part of Over-the-Rhine for over a centure and is still considered one of the best and most beautiful concert theaters in the world. Directly in front of Music Hall is Washington Park where families come to splash in the water fountain, bring their dogs to romp around the dog park, join their neighbors around the bandstand for a concert, and even lighten their spirits in a community yoga class. There’s a parking garage under the park accessible via Elm Street and Race Street.
Washington Park fountains, Music Hall
Findlay Market never left the area; it’s the oldest continuously operating public market in Ohio. You can start your visit with a simmering bowl of Vietnamese noodles at Pho Lang Thang, then stroll the market aisles for handmade organic soaps, seasonal local produce, fragrant custom spice blends and the freshest cuts of meat (bring a cooler!). Parking lots and meters surround the market. Just a block north of the market is Rhinegeist, one of Cincinnati's craft breweries. The whole family is welcome and will enjoy this colossal space with ample seating and games for all ages.
The stretch of shops and restaurants on Vine Street starting at 12th Street (known as the Gateway Quarter) are popular during the day or evening. Park your vehicle at one of the lots or garages on Vine, then get out and explore! A range of cuisines are available from gourmet hot dogs at Senate, mexican street food at Bakersfield OTR, wood-fired pizza at A Tavola, sushi and other Japanese fare at Kaze plus several more options. Top off your visit with a sweet treat at Holtman's Donuts or Graeter's or a cocktail at The Lackman.
Sundry and Vice
If you want to stay out later in the evening, there is no shortage of options in OTR. Spanning the several blocks of the neighborhood you'll find popular bars like Rhinehaus
, Below Zero Lounge
, and Sundry and Vice
to name a few. For a late night snack, try a taco or turtle from Gomez Salsa
on 12th St. or get a slice of pizza at Goodfellas or Lucy Blue
, both located on Main St.
Second Sunday on Main
Main Street is also home to Second Sunday on Main
– a multi-block street fair held the second Sunday of each month spring through fall and Final Friday
with mutliple art galleries open along Main Street and at Pendleton Art Center
the last Friday of each month. While on Main Street, stop by Park + Vine
, an earth-friendly general store with a vegan lunch counter.
Queen City Underground Tour
To learn more about the history of the area try a walking tour offered by American Legacy Tours
or Cincinnati Brewery Tours
. Your adventure just might end with sipping freshly-brewed beer at Christian Moerlein Brewing Company
This list is just a starter to experiencing the renaissance first-hand in one of the region’s most historic neighborhoods. Click here for a map
of Over-the-Rhine and happy exploring!