Long a hub (and home) for local musicians, Cincinnati’s Northside celebrates the holidays to its own beat.
Spun Bicycles exterior
Credit: Courtesy of Spun Bicycles

Of all the neighborhoods in Cincinnati, Northside might be the coolest. Eschewing the trends and crowds of buzzy areas like downtown and Over-the-Rhine, this community has held on to an "all are welcome" progressivism and edgier rock and roll vibe. Along and near the main drag of Hamilton Avenue, you'll find vintage boutiques, a hip record store and bars that moonlight as music venues.

Take Northside Yacht Club, a restaurant and bar inspired by photos from a 1937 flood. "The pictures had people boating around Northside in the floodwaters, so we figured that represented Northside's hardy, can-do attitude in the face of adversity," says co- owner Stuart MacKenzie. They host pop-ups and special events year-round and go all out for the holidays with Santamania, a three- day fest with more than 80 bands. Visit on Christmas Day for karaoke, when staff don their best holiday apparel.

For a (somewhat) quieter taste of Northside, check out the November lighting ceremony in Jacob Hoffner Park and meet the delightfully kooky Christmas Tree Lady. (Yes, she's dressed as a tree.) Pop into festively decorated shops for gifts like bonbons and beeswax candles from The Chocolate Bee, or warm up with Sidewinder Coffee's candy cane latte. "My favorite part about being a business owner in Northside is serving the community," says MacKenzie—both those who live here, and those who swing through for a visit.

Meet the Neighbors

Stuart MacKenzie, co-owner of Northside Yacht Club bar, shares his favorite local haunts.

Get Caffeinated

I like the house-roasted coffee from Sidewinder so much that we serve it at NSYC too! For craft coffee pour-overs, you can't skip Collective Espresso.

Enjoy a Show

I love seeing shows in the back room of Northside TavernThe sound is great, and the staff is friendly. For intimate shows, The Comet is like Northside's living room. I saw Paul Collins of The Nerves there and could reach out and touch him. (I didn't.) Chameleon hosts local and national comedy shows.

Shake It Records interior
Credit: Courtesy of Shake It Records

Go Shopping

Shake It Records is probably the coolest record store in the country. It's not the type where the staff is too cool or aloof. For vintage clothes and accessories, Emily Buddendeck at NVISION curates the pieces and also does alterations. Spun Bicycles fixes all types of bikes—and fast. During the lockdown they fixed unemployed service industry workers' bikes for free. There's also a free air pump outside.

Urban Artifact real fruit sour beer
Credit: Courtesy of Urban Artifact

Drink Up

The Listing Loon has a great natural wine selection and is owned by a long-term neighborhood bartender. Urban Artifact brewery is making national waves with their Midwest Fruit Tart ales. For late nights, I go dancing at Good Judy'sa tiny LGBTQIA+ dive bar.

Melt Revival pasta dish
Credit: Courtesy of Melt Revival

Eat Well

Hit up Darou Salam for excellent Senegalese food. Melt Revival has always had lots of vegan options, even before it waship to do so. The legendary Bonomini Bakery is an old-school, family-owned bakery serving pastries, cookies and cakes since the 1970s. So good!

Planning a trip to Cincinnati? Don't miss these fun ideas for families with kids and our top ideas for a weekend in the city.