Around the Area at HGTV Urban Oasis 2018

Cincinnati, Ohio, home to HGTV Urban Oasis 2018, is a city with large-town attractions and small-town sensibilities. Great food, wonderful museums, pro sports, an active art scene and big-deal amusements on both sides of the river; but also friendly residents, an easy-to-explore downtown and neighborhoods teeming with community spirit.

By: Carrie Hamblin

Photo By: Michelle Curley

Photo By: Kings Island

Photo By: Leigh Taylor

Photo By: Gary Landers

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Taft Museum of Art

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Mark Lyons courtesy of Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Photo By: Liz Dufour

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Cincinnati Park Board

©CincinnatiUSA.com

Photo By: Cincinnati Park Board

Photo By: Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Newport Aquarium

Photo By: Alias Imaging

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is our nation’s second oldest zoo, opening its gates to the public in 1875. Now recognized as one of best in the country, this zoo offers visitors the opportunity to meet and learn about animals from around the globe, including the frequently overlooked insect world. To make the most of a visit, arrive early to avoid crowds and consult the website (or visit the welcome center) to plan your route around such scheduled animal events as feedings, baths and chats. Book an encounter, or plan an overnight stay for a real behind-the-scenes experience. There’s nothing like waking up to the roar of a lion.

Kings Island

The largest amusement and water park in the Midwest, Kings Island is loaded with fun: a huge water park, 16 roller-coasters, numerous other rides, as well as shows and scheduled events. No wonder it’s a regional favorite! Bring swimsuit, towel and sunscreen for the water portion of the visit and rent a locker to stash your stuff before descending (and ascending) on the roller-coasters. Determine your appropriate level of thrill through the park map’s five-tier Ride Rating System: low to aggressive. Join the line for “The Beast” to experience the world’s longest wooden roller-coaster (an aggressive thrill). When your stomach settles, show your Cincinnati spirit with a lunch at on-site Skyline Chili or LaRosa’s.

Great American Ball Park

If baseball is your passion, you undoubtedly know the MLB’s Cincinnati Reds call the Queen City home. See the Reds knock it out of the park at the 42,000+ capacity Great American Ball Park and don’t forget your camera, as the stadium affords great views of the city surrounds. Diehard fans should visit the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum for immersion in Reds history, statistics and memorabilia. Take the guided Ballpark Tour on nongame days to get up close and personal with normally off-limit features like the dugout, home plate and press box.

Paul Brown Stadium

Whichever your game of choice, this town has a team to get wound up over. Baseball and hockey, soccer, basketball and… oh, yes, football. The NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals defend their home turf at Paul Brown Stadium. Don your hat and jersey, grab a foam finger, get out there and support your local team. Who Dey!

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

The Ohio River is the natural barrier that separated the slave states of the South from the free states of the North. Taking its name from the network used by slaves to escape to freedom, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center offers visitors an informative and moving crash course on slavery through permanent and special exhibits, some interactive. Not simply about the past or the United States, exhibits focus also on slavery around the world and into the current day. Allot yourself a few hours for this museum and take one of the guided tours if available on the day of your visit.

Taft Museum of Art

In 1820, Cincinnati’s first millionaire, Martin Baum, built the house that now serves as the Taft Museum of Art. A little more than a century later, owners Anna and Charles Taft bequeathed to the city both their impressive (and extensive) collection of art and the home in which they displayed their treasures. The museum’s permanent collection comprises wonderful American and European master paintings as well as decorative arts, sculpture and furniture. After admiring works by Goya, Rembrandt and Sargent, pay a visit to the Lindner Family Café to discuss the pieces you loved most over a glass of wine on the patio.

Fountain Square and Carew Tower

Surrounded by offices, shops and restaurants, Fountain Square is also a community gathering space. Its centerpiece is the impressive 19th-century Tyler Davidson Fountain by sculptor August von Kreling. Get a bite during one of the midday food fares or groove to live music in the evenings. Don’t forget nearby Carew Tower for dramatic views of the city. The Tower is a great example of the Art Deco architectural style seen elsewhere the city. Check out the Cincinnati original Rookwood Pottery Company tiles in the arcade on your way up to the observation deck.

Contemporary Arts Center

The then-called Modern Art Society used to exhibit the likes of Van Gogh and Picasso on the bottom floors of the Cincinnati Art Museum. They changed their name to the Contemporary Arts Center and got their own digs downtown in the 1960s but in 2003 the Contemporary Arts Center moved to their forever-home. The celebrated building on East 6th, designed by architect Zaha Hadid, is the perfect residence for this important institution focusing on the modern aesthetic. All exhibits are temporary so each visit here is new. Scheduled tours include the exhibits at the 21C Museum Hotel next door.

Skyline Chili

Skyline Chili started serving its now-legendary Cincinnati-style chili to residents in 1949. Known for its signature Ways (chili served over spaghetti) and Coneys, Skyline has served more than a few cheese-smothered meals between then and now, and has fed its way to 130 restaurants across four states. Get a 5-Way for lunch and you may be able to skip dinner.

Taft Theatre

Taft Theatre is the perfect downtown destination to catch big acts in a historical setting. This gorgeous, Neo-Classical and Art Deco theater opened its doors in 1928 and recently upgraded much of the theater to 21st-century standards. Want to tone it down a little? Nearby is Aronoff Center for the Arts, the performing arts center where several city dance companies perform. With the plethora of great restaurants downtown, you are well situated for a fancy dinner before the show. Blow your budget on the tickets? Hop over to Shanghai Mama’s after a weekend gig for authentic but inexpensive late-night Chinese fare.

Cincinnati Music Hall

Cincinnati Music Hall is both a local Cincinnati treasure and a National Historic Landmark. Constructed in 1878 in the High Victorian Gothic Revival architectural style, it is not just a pretty face: notable interior elements include a 21-foot diameter Czechoslovakian crystal chandelier and a 1927 Albee Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. Check out the variety of building tours available, but don’t forget that many of the city’s musical companies perform here, including the Cincinnati Opera. This means visitors have the opportunity to experience this stunning establishment the way it was intended—for live music.

Findlay Market and the Over-the-Rhine Neighborhood

In operation since 1855, Findlay Market is the oldest public market in Ohio and has long been one of the most popular tourist destinations in Cincinnati. Over-the-Rhine, the neighborhood in which it resides, has experienced a recent resurgence and is populated with shops, galleries, restaurants and bars. Roam around the neighborhood or take one of numerous tours of the Market itself, nearby breweries or factories such as the famous Rookwood Pottery Company.

Cincinnati Observatory

Known as the birthplace of American astronomy for good reason, the Cincinnati Observatory is the first public observatory in the U.S. and has one of our oldest working telescopes, which dates from 1842. Its new telescope was purchased in 1904. The Observatory moved to Hyde Park from Mt. Adams in 1873 to avoid pollution from downtown and is housed in an elegant Greek Revival building designed by Cincinnati Music Hall architect Samuel Hannaford. Grab an afternoon tour and note the special events scheduled throughout the year. Visit most weekday afternoons or weekend evenings, but call or consult the website for hours and specifics.

Eden Park

Situated east of downtown and named after the Garden of Eden, this park offers both outdoor splendor and indoor enjoyment. Don’t miss Elsinore Tower and the gorgeous, century-old Spring House Gazebo. For impressive views, visit Mirror Lake, Twin Lakes and the lookout at the corner of Celestial Street and Hill Street in the Mt. Adams neighborhood. Ready to escape the elements? Indulge your aesthetic at the Cincinnati Art Museum or have a meditative meander in Krohn Conservatory. Mt. Adams offers plentiful options for grub—both upscale and casual. For your final act, be entertained by the talented actors at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

Cincinnati Art Museum

One of the first public art museums in America, this Cincinnati treasure was referred to as “the Art Palace of the West” during its early years, and it has called the picturesque Eden Park home since 1886. With paintings and sculpture, design and decoratives, classics and contemporaries, this museum has something for everyone. Its large permanent collection covers 6,000 years of art and includes notables by Chagall, van Gogh, Hopper, Picasso and O’Keefe.

Krohn Conservatory

Leave the asphalt and steel of downtown Cincinnati and visit Eden Park’s Krohn Conservatory for a restorative reprieve by the waterfall or amid the orchids. View the permanent collection of 3,500 plant species from around the world, including the colorful, carnivorous, delicious and diminutive. Special exhibits and seasonal shows are memorable. Need a photo of a butterfly atop your head? Don’t miss the immersive and super popular International Butterfly Show. The Conservatory offers a relaxing afternoon in a beautiful setting.

Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park

Located in the picturesque Eden Park in Mt. Adams, this Tony Award–winning professional theater has been entertaining Cincinnati for more than 50 years with terrific offerings of drama, comedy and musicals. Whether classic or contemporary, of national or local character, the Playhouse promises an enjoyable evening. Begin and end your evening a short walk away, with a meal at Mt. Adams Bar & Grill and a nightcap at the Blind Lemon.

The Blind Lemon

As soon as your feet hit the well-worn steps that lead down into the Blind Lemon, you know this bar is full of history. The small space is a favorite for locals and packed with enough knick-knacks and flair to keep you mesmerized. A juxtaposition of carved canes, intricate stained glass and a platinum copy of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” live harmoniously on the walls. The ’Lemon also boasts a plaque of celebs who have stopped in over the years, including A-list actors, touring musicians and sports figures. On a pleasant night, the open-air courtyard patio with its relaxing fountain is hard to beat as the sounds of live music drift out from the dimly lit interior.

The Riverfront

Feel like most of the popular destinations in Cincinnati are either in a park or near a park? It’s not an illusion: With downtown and neighborhood greenspaces, five nature centers, an arboretum and Krohn Conservatory, 10 percent of city land is parkland! The new riverfront parks boast award-winning design and impressive monuments and sculpture and are often the site of festivals and events. Connected to the Kentucky riverfront via two bridges—the Purple People and the Roebling—we can explore Newport and Covington from here as well. Use the bridges as conduits to attractions on opposite sides of the river or enjoy them for their impressive views.

Newport Aquarium

On the Kentucky side of the river in Newport, this must-see attraction has thousands of water-loving animals, from penguins and gators to sharks and stingrays. The Aquarium is open every day of the year, but weekday visits afford interactive opportunities with the animals, so check the calendar on the website before visiting. Also, it’s a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike, so buy tickets online and arrive early to avoid the lines.

Covington

Escape the bustle of Cincinnati downtown and head across the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge to Covington -- a cool Kentucky town, with stuff to do out and in. If the day is pretty, start at Goebel Park’s Carroll Chimes Clock Tower—a curious clock tower with an on-the-hour puppet show. Venture on to the 700-acre Devou Park, containing trails and paths, playgrounds and golf courses, and the Behringer-Crawford Museum, dedicated to regional history. Stop for a meal and meander at the 19th-century MainStrasse Village—full of food and drink, shops and galleries. This village has a thing for festivals, too, hosting the annual Goettafest, Maifest and Oktoberfest, among others. So, check the village association website to see what’s on during your visit. Before you head back to town, learn the history of Covington from the amazing murals on the riverfront floodwall at the foot of the bridge.

Bouquet Restaurant & Wine Bar

For some of the best in Cincinnati cuisine on the Kentucky side of the river, look no further than farm-to-table Bouquet Restaurant & Wine Bar. Located in Covington’s MainStrasse Village, award-winning Bouquet serves up fresh and flavorful cuisine, but that’s only the half of it; the restaurant’s wine and bourbon offerings are carefully selected, and extensive. The cocktail specials are especially yummy (try the Smoked Old Fashioned) and the friendly staff members are well-trained and more than willing to help select the perfect pairing for a meal. Give yourself over to Bouquet’s four-course tasting menu.