The follow-up guide to the rooftop bars guide and DC’s outdoor bars and beer gardens, is now linked on the front page.
Inspired by its placement on the NYT’s 52 Places to Visit in 2018, as well as Mrs. Barred in DC’s last minute trip to Europe with her sisters, I decided to make my first-ever solo trip (including work trips), to Cincinnati, Ohio over the July 4th weekend. After nearly 48 hours of bars, bites, breweries, bridges, and (sort of) baseball (alliteration much) by myself, I had a tremendous time and expect to come back soon.
Expect to spend a lot of time in the Over-the-Rhine district just north of the business district downtown. OTR, as it’s known, has blown up last few years and contains a grid of wonderful historic buildings with narrow streets and tons of spots to eat and drink. If you stay downtown (where several hotels are), you can walk about 20-30 minutes or take the Cincinnati Streetcar (free with ticket stub or $1 with purchase at each station). Friendly people all over.
Spots I went which I all recommend (OTR unless otherwise mentioned)
- Blind Pig/O’Malley’s in the Alley (Downtown) – Gets a lot of Reds fans post and pre-game. Big roof deck with view of bridges and Kentucky
- Lackman Bar – chill corner bar with great cocktails
- Homemaker’s Bar – new women-owned spot with a Spritz Hour every day
- Panino – new spot with paninos but with very cheap HH that I checked out
- Pin’s Mechanical – very fun spot with duckpin bowling, a roof deck, and other games
- Hofbrauhaus Newport (Newport, Kentucky) – an outpost of the original Munich beer garden across the river in Kentucky. Airey bright inside and massive beer garden
- Didn’t make it to, but recommended: Taft’s Ale House, Mecca OTR, Sundry and Vice, 16-Bit Bar+Arcade, Arnold’s Bar & Grill (Downtown), Blind Lemon (Mt. Adams), Incline Public House (not sure where), The Video Archive (not sure where0
- Rhinegeist – Massive warehouse spot with roof deck. Great beer.
- Christian Moerlin – old school spot in a catacomby sort of spot at edge of RTR
- Also try Madtree, Streetside, Urban Artifact (breweries are not close to downtown)
- Sotto – (Downtown) amazing pasta
- The Eagle – mini Midwest chain. Amazing fried chicken and tons of vibe.
- Sleepy Bee Cafe – great spot for breakfast/brunch
- Didn’t make it to but recommended: Pleasantry, Abigail Street, Salazar, Nada (Downtown), Skyline Chili. Also didn’t get Graeter’s Ice Cream and Holtman’s Donut
- Things to Do/Sights
- National Underground Railroad Freedom Center ($15)
- Carew Tower ($5, free if staying in attached Hilton – 49th-floor observatory deck)
- Hilton Netherland Plaza
- Washington Park
- Purple People Bridge – pedestrian bridge to Kentucky
- Murals all over OTR and downtown
- Smale Riverfront Park
- Weston Art Gallery
- 21c Museum Hotel
- Great American Ball Park (they love the Reds in Cincy)
- Stuff I didn’t see/do but recommended: Findlay Market, Queen City Underground Tour ($25), Contemporary Arts Center, American Sign Museum ($15, 10 min Uber away), Taft Historic Site (20 min bus)
Flights from DC are often less than $200 roudtrip-there’s about 14 non-stop flights daily on the big 3 airlines, with half of them from DCA. Once you arrive at CVG, 99% of travelers drive or take Uber/Lyft to/from airport, but there’s a $2 bus (the 2X) that takes 30 minutes downtown (runs mostly every 30 min on weekdays but much less frequent on Sat-Sun). Otherwise an Uber/Lyft is about $20-25. Hotel-wise, check out Hotwire or Priceline for their hidden hotel booking. I stayed at (which is its impressive sight on its own) the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, an Art Deco masterpiece from 1930 for about $110/night.
Bunch of photos below
Yes, the headline is true. Legally speaking, islands in the Potomac River between DC and Arlington/Alexandria are part of the District of Columbia. This includes Columbia Island, where’ll you find the traffic circle opposite the Lincoln Memorial at the end of Memorial Bridge, and about 1.3 miles of George Washington Parkway towards I-395.
Also on this island is the LBJ Memorial Grove as well as the Columbia Island Marina overlooking the Pentagon Lagoon. Part of this marina is one of the more chill and somewhat unknown bars in DC, Island Time Bar and Grill. This seasonal outdoor spot is open from mid-April to late September and, during the Memorial Day – Labor Day period, Noon-7p Wednesday-Sunday (closed Mon-Tuesday). An outdoor bar with a friendly bartender is covered, as is a large patio. Live music is played every week (usually Saturday late afternoons). Drinks include $8 crushes (my Grapefruit Crush was made with Deep Eddy Ruby Red vodka and fresh squeezed fruit) and cocktails, several beers (including a few on draft), and $7 wines. Food is pretty standard fare; I hear the $16 crabcake sandwich is solid. Clientele is a mix of younger couples, cyclists taking a break, and older folks about to get on their boats.
The bar can be reached by car via GW Parkway Southbound or by bike/foot/scooter by taking the Mt Vernon Trail north from I-395 and taking an underpass under GW Parkway after crossing a short bridge.
One reason the spot hasn’t been on my radar: like other spots on National Park Service or Smithsonian properties in DC, no ABRA liquor license is required.