Where Historic Meets Hip: Exploring Cincinnati Neighborhoods

HGTV Urban Oasis 2018 rests in the middle of two of Cincinnati’s noteworthy neighborhoods, Hyde Park and Oakley, both chock-full of personality. The lucky grand-prize winner will get to experience everything this part of the city has to offer: shopping, exploring, eating and entertainment—all just minutes from home. Let’s explore a little.

By: Carrie Hamblin

Photo By: Cincinnati Observatory

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Cincinnati Park Board

Photo By: Cincinnati Park Board

Photo By: Ernie Brambert

Photo By: Taste of Belgium

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Hyde Park Square Business Association

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Photo By: Hyde Park Square Business Association

Photo By: Tiffany Tomeo and Mikey Griffen

Photo By: Alex Weatherly

Cincinnati Observatory

“The Lighthouse of the Sky” is the jewel of Hyde Park, moving here from Mt. Adams in 1873. 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 the country’s oldest working telescopes, dating from 1842. The elegant Greek Revival building was designed by Cincinnati Music Hall architect Samuel Hannaford. Fun fact: the Observatory’s original turret rotated on cannonballs! The iconic dome added in 1895 was surely a structural upgrade, but might be missing a little cool factor. Visit most weekday afternoons or weekend evenings, but call or consult the website for hours and specifics.

Hyde Park Square

Hyde Park Square is more than just an island park: It’s the bustling center of the Hyde Park neighborhood and Cincinnati’s destination for upscale shopping and exclusive dining. The Square consists of more than 100 businesses surrounding a small central park that doubles as a community event space. Enjoy the boutiques and galleries, restaurants and bars Hyde Park has to offer; then visit the Square itself to relax at the basin of Kilgour Fountain, a bronze beauty created by Cincinnati sculptor Joseph Cronin, and donated by one of the neighborhood founders, Charles Kilgour, in 1900. A perfect spot to enjoy your scoop of Graeter’s.

Graeter's

A Hyde Park Square original, family-owned Graeter’s is the place to stop for a scoop of delicious French Pot ice cream. Louis Graeter began selling his ice cream at Cincinnati street markets almost 150 years ago. The Hyde Park parlor has offered the same family-friendly atmosphere on an idyllic street for almost a century. With the richness of the flavor, one scoop can be immensely satisfying. The most popular flavor is black raspberry chocolate chip, and Oprah is said to love the butter pecan.

Stone Bowl

With the abundance of restaurants in the Hyde Park and Oakley areas, you don’t have to drag yourself downtown for outstanding meals out. American fare is well represented, not to mention international ambassadors including Continental, Thai, Indian, Chinese and Lebanese. Stone Bowl is a standout. Offering authentic ramen, Korean and Japanese cuisine, the signature dish is its namesake—a stone bowl lined with crunchy rice and topped with a selection of vegetables and meats. Hearty, full of texture and straight-up delicious.

Mushroom House

Hyde Park is well known for its beautiful architecture. The Greek Revival Cincinnati Observatory is nestled in this historic neighborhood alongside homes built in late Victorian, Arts and Crafts and Tutor Revival styles, to name a few. While there isn’t much else representing the Mushroom style, per se, the Mushroom House adds a bit of whimsy to a register of the noteworthy and celebrated architectural designs of their day. And the house was designed by a local professor of architecture, so maybe Mushroom will wind up a celebrated 21st-century style.

Playgrounds and Recreation

In this Cincinnati Urban Oasis cottage there’s no opportunity for cabin fever. The area boasts plentiful sidewalks, neighborhood parks, picturesque squares, two golf courses and large parks and nature preserves nearby. Just a mile from home, Oakley Playground has paths for walking and jogging, a pool, sports fields and courts. The recreation building houses programs for kids and seniors and a class schedule for everyone on topics ranging from fine arts to martial arts. Not enough? Thousands join in the annual Hyde Park Blast for cancer charities. Part competitive race, part block party, this event and its participants are supported by the local community, food vendors and live musicians.

Ault Park

Only a mile from the Observatory sits Ault Park with scenic trails, numerous gardens, a playground and a gorgeous pavilion. This lovely east Cincinnati sanctuary encompasses 224 acres, more than enough space for picnicking, biking, jogging or quiet contemplation. On the subject of contemplation, don’t miss the Heekin Overlook, with its peaceful views of the Little Miami River Valley. Feeling lively? Watch for seasonal events, including summer music festivals.

Oakley After Hours and Hyde Park Holiday Events

During fair-weather months, residents gather on Geier Esplanade on Madison Road for a little music and madness called “Oakley After Hours.” This final-Friday community event features MadTree beer for the adults, activities for the kids and live music for all. Hyde Park Square hosts holiday community events during the fall and winter, such as Halloween on the Square and the annual tree-lighting ceremony. What a great way to get to know the neighbors.

Taste of Belgium

Taste of Belgium (TOB) began a decade ago when a Belgian transplant set up his waffle iron in Findlay Market. Now it’s an immensely popular local eatery with three Cincinnati bistros, including one just minutes from HGTV Urban Oasis 2018. TOB blends Belgian and American cuisine and includes on its menu both the far-flung and local, from tasty Belgian brews to homemade goetta from local Eckerlin Meats. Waffle & Chicken is a favorite. (“The waffle comes first. Respect the waffle!”) TOB offers much more than just waffles, but don’t miss the waffles. This is the official waffle of the Cincinnati Reds.

Blue Manatee Children’s Bookstore

More than a children’s bookstore, Blue Manatee is a reading and gathering space for families. The proprietors pride themselves on providing carefully curated offerings of education and entertainment. The bookstore holds story time five days a week and such regular events as author signings and kids’ classes. The Manatee owners have their own small publishing house, and they make a point to stock other small and independent publishers. A very cool local dig.

Annie Oakley Mural

The Queen City’s longstanding appreciation of the aesthetic is evidenced by the architectural beauty of the homes in Hyde Park, lovely statues gracing local greenspaces and contemporary sculptures found around town. Recently added to the repertoire: murals! The nonprofit ArtWorks bedecks buildings throughout Cincinnati, including here. One mural features Annie Oakley, star attraction for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, a renowned markswoman, keen entertainer and Ohio native. She took the stage name “Oakley” after the Cincinnati neighborhood where she may have spent some time, and Sitting Bull christened her “Little Sure Shot” because he was greatly impressed by her talents. The ArtWorks mural dedicated to her is located at 3211 Madison Road, across from Brazee Street Studios.

Essencha Tea House

Pull up a pillow and enjoy a Zen lunch at Essencha Tea House. This neighborhood establishment offers the visitor both an introduction to tea culture and the opportunity to start one’s own tea ritual. Essencha features a huge selection of specialty tea blends. The menu includes an assortment of lunch choices, but opt for Essencha’s multicourse tea lunch combo, which begins with a delicious scone with clotted crème, just out of the oven. Enjoy a relaxing and restorative hour of fresh flavors in tranquil surrounds.

MadTree Brewing Company

Go no further than MadTree Brewing Company to procure a local brew that is distinctly Cincinnati. MadTree prizes taste over tradition and its recipe must be working, as this local favorite now has national distribution. Offerings include IPAs, ales and stouts, as well as seasonal and specialty beers. The new location in Oakley houses the taproom and brewery and is large enough to be the site of regular events, including concerts and community get-togethers. Resident Catch-a-Fire Café offers patrons yummy wood-fired pizzas. Take an official tour to get behind the kegs (and a complimentary beer).

Hyde Park Square Art Show

Whether you are an artist or aficionado, this neighborhood has you covered. Every year, more than 200 regional artists descend on Hyde Park Square for the annual art show. Participants bring their work in a variety of mediums, including paint, ceramics, glass and wood. This juried show, now in its 52nd year, is free to the public.

Brazee Street Studios

Inspired and ready to pick up your own brushes? Nearby, in the old Oakley Tool and Die factory, Brazee Street Studios is one of a few places in the area to get your art on. The building houses a school of glass, a gallery and a bunch of artists’ studios. Spend enough time here and you may be ready to compete in the next art show.

Aglamesis Brothers

Don’t miss Aglamesis Brothers, a century-old ice cream parlor and sweet shop and community staple. Aglamesis ice cream is considered “French” because of the egg yolk inclusion, creating an incredibly rich flavor. Other indulgences include Italian ice, banana splits and ice cream floats and an entire confectionary of hard candies and chocolates. The sugary treats offered by this local establishment are adored by locals and applauded by the national media, including the The New York Times, Food Network and Bon Appetite.

Gil’s Barber Shop

Gil’s Barber Shop has been sprucing up residents since 1950. This Pleasant Ridge establishment is one of the most popular clippers in Cincinnati. A second-generation family business, Gil’s is a traditional shop specializing in haircuts, beard trims and shaves. It offers patrons professional, no-fuss grooming, and all the friendly staff are good for a chat.

Hyde Park Farmers’ Market

On Sundays, head south to Hyde Park Square and stroll through the Farmers’ Market, filling your basket with organic and sustainable produce, herbs, meats and cheeses from local family farms while you groove out to the live music. Farmers’ Markets are generally held six months a year.

The O.F.F. Market

On Saturdays, head the other direction to craft brewery MadTree for the O.F.F. Market (Oakley Fancy Flea Market), comprising small, independent and mostly local vendors: artists and makers, farmers and foodies, retailers of vintage clothing and home goods, as well as charities. O.F.F. Markets are held several Saturdays during the summer, with a couple more throughout the year. The winter market is a great opportunity to check off people from your gift list while supporting neighborhood merchants.

Red Feather Kitchen

Red Feather Kitchen is a Cincinnati favorite for a delicious meal outside the hubbub of downtown. Carefully concocted and artfully presented farm-to-table feasts are served up gently in an unrushed atmosphere. Beers, cocktails and a massive in-house sommelier-selected wine list accompanies. Visit for brunch to experience the culinary treat that is Red Feather’s warm beignets. Sit at the Chef’s Table to feel as though you’re a part of the kitchen.