For the past two years, travelers have flocked to nature spots for social-distance-style vacations. However, one of the biggest travel trends of 2022 is the return of urban holidays, with New York City reclaiming the top U.S. destination booked by travelers.
If you are craving a big-city adventure but are low on funds, consider Cincinnati, Ohio.
Big City Attractions, Smaller Price Tag
Cincinnati is the largest metro area in Ohio and neighboring Kentucky, and its central Midwest location is within one day's drive for half of all Americans. The airport offers more than 50 non-stop flights on 11 airlines with the lowest airfares in the region.
It's racked up awards such as the 9th Best Metro Area to Visit in Summer and One of the Top Places to Visit in the U.S. by Travel & Leisure magazine. But unlike some of the other destinations on those ‘best of' lists, this urban vacation spot is a fraction of the price of other U.S. cities.
According to Champion Travel, the average price of a week in Cincinnati is $1,577 for a solo traveler, $2,832 for a couple, and $5,310 for a family of four. That's 25 percent less than a trip to New York City and almost half as much as a trip to San Francisco.
Budget From Historic to Utterly Cool Accommodations
With over 150 places to stay, there's something for every budget, including Bed and Breakfasts, large chain hotels, and family-friendly places that often include complimentary breakfast with a stay.
History lovers will appreciate The Cincinnatian Hotel, built in 1882 but renovated in 2018, or The AAA four-diamond National Historic landmark, The Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, straight out of The Great Gatsby.
If you love visiting museums, why not stay in one? Centrally located, 21C Museum Hotel is right next to the Contemporary Art Center, across the street from the Aronoff Center for the Arts, and one block from the city's most coveted dinner spot, Boca. The redeveloped 100-year-old former Metropole Hotel is now a contemporary art museum, boutique hotel, restaurant, and bar.
Popular Cincinnati Attractions
If you've only got a weekend, check out this short list of the most popular things to do in Cincinnati so you can hit the ground running.
Located at Vine St. and 5th, it's considered the epicenter of downtown and the city's prime gathering space. This hub is a can't-miss place for ice skating in the winter or an afternoon hang-out spot during warmer days. Check out their calendar for a long list of free concerts, events, and markets.
The country's most extensive collection of Italianate Renaissance architecture is now the new home to a bustling district of shops, top restaurants, the foodie-haven Findlay Market, and craft bars. Check out the free events scheduled at Washington Park, get tickets to a show or concert at Music Hall, and try one or many of the breweries making Cincinnati a top beer destination once again.
Offering the best historical experience in Cincinnati, American Legacy Tours offers 17 different walking tours and events. Learn about the city's German beer-making history before refrigeration by touring the mind-blowing underground caves used by The Cincinnati Brewing company centuries ago.
Explore the Riverfront
A 10-minute walk from downtown is the redeveloped 45-acre riverfront park district. Check out Smale Riverfront Park, Sawyer Point & Yeatman's Cove's world-class playground and spray park.
Or walk around The Bank's DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area) District. From 11 am to 1 am, enjoy the public green spaces and 18 food and drink options you can carry along the river.
Walk Across the Roebling Bridge to Kentucky
One of the riverfront's showstoppers is the Roebling Bridge, a Brooklyn Bridge prototype built just before New York City's iconic landmark. Don't miss the Q.R. code at the base of the bridge for a free audio tour while walking over the Ohio River. It's a flat, easy, 1/5 mile walk that is wheelchair and stroller accessible.
Attend a Festival
Plan a trip to coincide with one of the city's summer or fall festivals. For example, the Taste of Cincinnati in May is America's longest-running culinary arts festival, and Zinnzinati in September is the second largest Oktoberfest celebration worldwide.
Or enjoy the 2-day Cincinnati Music Festival in July that draws over 80,000 people and superstar headliners like Janet Jackson. End the summer season at the Cincinnati International Jazz Festival at the riverfront.
Enjoy a World Class Sports Game or Event
“If you are a sports fan, Cincinnati has three professional sports teams, the Bengals, the Reds, and F.C. Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Reds play at Great American Ball Park on the riverfront, one of the best MLB ballparks in America yet offers affordable tickets,” said Jason Butler, Founder of Money Chronicles.
Golfers can watch the LPGA tournament at Kenwood Country Club outside the city or catch globally ranked players preparing for New York City's U.S. Open at The Cincinnati Tennis Masters.
Go Out Four Stories Underground
Word on the street is that it cost over $1 million to convert a 150-year-old beer cave into one of the hottest nightlife tickets in town, Ghost Baby. So make sure to make a reservation, especially for a table at the back room jazz performances or even for drinks at the front bar.
Eating Across Cincinnati
From James-Beard-nominated chefs to global cuisine and iconic fast food, one of the best things to do in Cincinnati is eat.
Sample Skyline Chili
Try the iconic Cincinnati chili, sometimes described as Greek meat sauce, at one of Skyline‘s four locations. This regional staple is not served in a bowl but over a hot dog or spaghetti with tons of cheese.
Brunch at Maplewood Kitchen and Bar
It's the weekend go-to brunch spot, and the line is often out the door. The vibe is California casual, and the staff couldn't be more friendly and welcoming. Whatever you pick from the menu, make sure to order a side of refreshing lemon ricotta pancakes.
Splurge at One of Jose Salazar's World-Class Restaurants
Trained at the top restaurants in New York City, enjoy the same caliber of meals at one of his James Beard award-nominated restaurants in Cincinnati. Pick from Salazar, a New American farm-fresh outpost, or Mita's with a tapas-like menu and killer cocktails.
Reserve a Table at Boca
Three years after Salazar became a catalyst for Cincinnati's new chef-driven dining scene, David Falk amplified the city's culinary culture higher. Appling French cooking techniques, diners feel in love with his iconic Brussel sprouts and seared scallops.
Boca is housed in the lovingly renovated space of the city's former, longest-standing fine dining restaurant, Maisonette. The large open two-floored space will wow you just as much as the food.
Don't Overlook Sotto
Italian for below, this casual basement restaurant should not be considered below Boca, even though that's its location. Place this causal David Falk trattoria at the top of your list if Boca is out of your price range.
Master the Art of Exploring Cincinnati
Did you know that Cincinnati was named one of the top 20 most vibrant arts regions in the United States? It has some of the oldest, well-funded cultural institutions in America and over 200 public murals transforming historic architecture that's seen better days into outdoor art galleries that anyone can enjoy.
The Cincinnati Art Museum is one of the free or affordable activities in the city and contains a diverse art collection of more than 67,000 works spanning 6,000 years. In addition, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center includes a mix of permanent and traveling exhibits that spur today's necessary social justice conversations.
It's also one of only 13 cities in the U.S. with professional companies in all the arts – ballet, opera, symphony, theater, and fine & contemporary art museums. Sarah Jessica Parker got her start in The Arts in the city and continues to praise it. The Sex and the City star and long-time New York City resident said, “Cincinnati, and I really mean this, is a great city.”
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Monica Fish helps her fellow adventurers live a financially savvy life so they can travel and explore our beautiful world no matter their budget. She writes about smart timeshare ownership, vacation tips and tricks, NYC Metro Area trips and activities, and frugal, yet rich, living at PlannerAtHeart.com.