1) Findlay Market Anchoring the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, Ohio’s oldest continuously running public market brims with reasonably priced finds. Snag take-away crepes, tacos, waffles, sandwiches and more, then help yourself to a seat at an open table. The place gets crazy busy in the mornings and early afternoons on weekends; shoot for a midweek visit if your schedule allows. Bonus: Parking’s free for the first hour. (513) 665-4839; findlaymarket.org
2) MainStrasse Village Crossing the river into Covington, Kentucky, is like stepping back in time to a quaint 1800s German village. Here, you’ll find a charming collection of homes, restaurants, shops and a working glockenspiel. This is the perfect spot to sample some goetta, a distinctive Cincinnati-made sausage. And weekends usually entail some sort of festival. (859) 491-0458; mainstrasse.org
3) Final Fridays Gallery-crawl through the trendy Over-the-Rhine neighborhood from 6 to 10 p.m. on the last Friday of each month, when more than 20 galleries open their doors to host free open houses. Can’t make it on Friday night? No worries. The galleries reopen for free the morning after for Second Look Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (513) 621-4700; pendletonartcenter.com
4) Cincinnati Art Museum Make sure to admire the beautiful, locally produced Rookwood pottery in the area highlighting Cincinnati’s Golden Age from 1830 to 1900. All told, this encyclopedic art museum holds a treasure trove of more than 60,000 objects spanning 6,000 years. The extensive global collection covers everything from ancient Greece and Rome all the way through the 1980s. You’ll pay $4 to park, but admission is free. Closed Mondays. (513) 639-2995; cincinnatiartmuseum.org
5) Blue Ash Chili Fans of cinnamon-laced, Cincinnati-style chili seem to fall into one of two franchise camps—Skyline or Gold Star. We prefer Blue Ash, a cozy local diner with two locations. Since 1969, the same family recipe has been bringing in the crowds to load up on Coneys and classic three-ways—chili-topped spaghetti buried under an avalanche of shredded cheese. Most items on the menu ring up at $5 or less. (513) 984-6107, Blue Ash; (513) 492-9650, Mason; blueashchili.com
6) Purple People Bridge Stretch your legs with a stroll over the Ohio River on this 1886 former railroad bridge, rehabbed with a $4 million restoration. This pedestrian-only pathway connecting two states is the longest of its kind in the country. The Great American Ball Park, Paul Brown Stadium, Fountain Square and Newport on the Levee are all within a 10-minute walk. Don’t forget your camera; the views of the downtown skyline are stunning. (859) 655-7700; purplepeoplebridge.com
7) Krohn Conservatory Wander leafy green trails and see more than 3,500 plant species at this lovely 1933 Art Deco landmark. The springtime butterfly show always draws a crowd, but the rainforest waterfall and orchid house are worth visiting any time of year. Usually closed Mondays; check website for schedule and admission fees. (513) 421-5707; cincinnatiparks.com
8) Eden Park Check out the panoramic views from Mount Adams hilltop park's scenic Ohio River Valley overlooks. Popular landmarks worth a photo op include the Hinkle Magnolia Garden, the Spring House Gazebo and the Bettman Fountain. The Cincinnati Art Museum, Krohn Conservatory and Playhouse in the Park all call these 186-acre grounds home. While you’re exploring, swing by Twin Lakes, a quarry-turned-launch site for model boats. (513) 352-4080, cincinnatiparks.com
9) Cincinnati Observatory This 19th-century observatory brings in stargazers and would-be astronomers to its peaceful Mount Lookout grounds for Astronomy Nights on Thursdays and Fridays. For less than $10, you can catch a presentation and peek through the world’s oldest telescope still in nightly public use. What you’ll see depends on the weather and the season but might include a glimpse of the moon, planets, stars and even the occasional comet. Reservations are required. (513) 321-5186; cincinnatiobservatory.org
10) 21c Museum Hotel Rooms and meals don’t come cheap at this flashy new downtown fixture, but the gallery offerings from 21st-century artists are free to view and open to the public 24/7. Stop by on Wednesday or Friday at 5 p.m. for a guided docent tour, also at no charge, and watch for the hotel’s trademark yellow penguins along the way. (513) 578-6600; 21cmuseumhotels.com
Photo of Findlay Market courtesy of CincinnatiUSA.com; photo of Krohn Conservatory courtesy of Cincinnati Park Board.
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