Best Of 2016

Political Pig

Cincinnatian

1 / Pete Rose
2 / Jim Obergefell
3 / Jim Tarbell
4 / Bob Herzog
5 / Nick Lachey
6 / Anthony Muñoz
7 / Molly Wellmann
8 / Buddy LaRosa
9 / Chris Seelbach
10 / Thane Maynard

Northern Kentuckian

1 / Nick Clooney
2 / George Clooney
3 / Cris Collinsworth
4 / Jean-Robert de Cavel
5 / Michael Monks
6 / Dan McCabe
7 / Otto M. Budig, Jr.
8 / Allison Hines
9 / Eric Deters
10 / Maryanne Zeleznik

Blog/Twitter (Food)

3 / @513eats

Blog/Twitter (Sports)

1 / The Morning Line (Paul Daugherty)
3 / @LanceMcAlister;
     Cincy on the Prowl (TIE)

Blog/Twitter (Photography/Design)

3 / Queen City Discovery

Blog/Twitter (Local Issues)

3 / @SoapboxCincy

Conservative

1 / Bill Cunningham
2 / John Cranley
3 / Rob Portman

Progressive

1 / P.G. Sittenfeld
2 / Chris Seelbach
3 / Yvette Simpson

Do-Gooder

1 / Freestore Foodbank
2 / Matthew 25: Ministries
3 / Crossroads

Troublemaker

1 / John Cranley
2 / Eric Deters
3 / Tracy Jones

Friend to the Environment

1 / Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
2 / Cincinnati Nature Center
3 / Dan Korman (Park + Vine)

Journalist

1 / Bob Herzog (WKRC)
2 / Paul Daugherty (The Enquirer)
3 / John Matarese (WCPO)

Local Activist

1 / Jim Tarbell
2 / Libby Harrison (Cincinnati Exchange Project)
3 / Dan Korman (Park + Vine)

Local Cause

1 / Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio
2 / Matthew 25: Ministries
3 / ArtWorks

Local Elected Official

1 / Chris Seelbach (City Councilman)
2 / Yvette Simpson (City Councilwoman)
3 / P.G. Sittenfeld (City Councilman)

Local News Story of 2015

1 / Lauren Hill
2 / All-Star Game
3 / Same-Sex Marriage

Philanthropist

1 / Otto M. Budig, Jr.
2 / The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. / U.S. Bank Foundation
3 / Anthony Muñoz

Radio Show

1 / Jeff & Jenn (Q102)
2 / Cincinnati Edition (WVXU)
3 / Around Cincinnati (WVXU)

Radio Station

1 / 91.7 WVXU
2 / 89.7 WNKU
3 / 101.9 WKRQ (Q102)

Radio Talk Show Host

1 / Maryanne Zeleznik (WVXU)
2 / Bill Cunningham (WLW)
3 / Chris & Janeen (WGRR)

Religious Leader

1 / Brian Tome (Crossroads)
2 / Chuck Mingo (Crossroads)
3 / Rabbi Lewis Kamrass (Wise Temple)

Sports Coverage

1 / WLW (700 AM)
2 / WKRC (Channel 12)
3 / WLWT (Channel 5)

TV Anchor

1 / Bob Herzog (WKRC)
2 / Sheree Paolello (WLWT)
3 / Rob Williams (FOX19)

TV Newscast

1 / WKRC (Channel 12)
2 / WLWT (Channel 5)
3 / WCPO (Channel 9)

TV Sportscaster

1 / Brad Johansen (WKRC)
2 / Ken Broo (WCPO)
3 / George Vogel (WLWT)

TV Weathercaster

1 / Frank Marzullo (FOX19)
2 / Randi Rico (WLWT)
3 / Kevin Robinson (WLWT)
2016 Public Eye Staff Picks

BEST HAPPY ENDING TO A CONTENTIOUS HISTORIC CONSERVATION BATTLE

Last year, it looked like efforts to renovate revered Cincinnati landmark Music Hall were stuck. Hamilton County Commissioners scuttled an attempt to include the building, built in 1887, in a countywide tax levy that is currently raising funds for Union Terminal’s big fix. But then Ohio awarded the building $25 million in historic preservation tax credits, and private donors stepped up in a big way, helping get the building closer to a fully funded $123 million renovation. That work will kick off in earnest this summer, and the only bad part is we won’t be able to enjoy its amazing interior while taking in a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra or Pops concert during the process. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-621-2787, cincinnatiarts.org.

BEST WAY TO POORLY FIRE YOUR POLICE CHIEF

Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black and Mayor John Cranley capped a long, contentious summer in the city by unceremoniously canning then-Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell. The chief had just been informed when a news release about his firing was sent out, and Blackwell had yet to see a report compiled by the city manager with allegations about CPD’s hostile work environment and other problems under his leadership. The quick nature of his release set off protests and tense exchanges at City Hall between Cranley, Cincinnati City Council members and community leaders. It also garnered national news coverage at a time when the city was being recognized for its use of community policing, which Blackwell had come to symbolize. 



BEST BIKE PROJECTS THAT STILL HAVEN’T HAPPENED

We wouldn’t be Cincinnati if we didn’t have potential for really cool things and a torturous road ahead for us to get to them. So it is with the daunting project of making the city more bicycle friendly. We’ve come a long way — cyclists who traverse the now-bike-friendly stretch of Central Parkway into downtown will tell you that — but there is much more to be done. Expanding those bike lanes into more neighborhoods like Northside would be a great start. And then there are larger projects like Cincinnati Connects, which seeks to create a “bicycle superhighway” by boosting and linking bike trail-building efforts such as the East Side to Uptown route known as Wasson Way. Achieving all that may look daunting, but it’s well worth the effort.

BEST PROSPECT FOR BIG CHANGE ON THE HAMILTON COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

It’s no secret: Hamilton County and the city of Cincinnati these days are a lot more CeeLo Green (the uh, less polite version of his big hit “Forget You” seems a pretty apt soundtrack for the relationship) than Al Green (officials for the two bodies are definitely not singing “Let’s Stay Together” to each other any time soon). With everything so standoffish, it would be refreshing to see a change of pace for the commission, and the coming election seems like the right time for voters to go that route. Enter Democrat Denise Driehaus, a familiar face in Cincinnati who has made regional cooperation a centerpiece of her campaign. Beyond that, Driehaus could also tip the partisan balance of power on the commission toward Democrats for the first time in years, giving the county’s governing body a much-needed shake-up.

BEST USE OF A POPULAR OLDER BROTHER’S NAME ON THE BALLOT

Everyone knows Joe Deters. Now, not everyone likes the controversial Hamilton County prosecutor, but you’d be hard pressed to get better name recognition in a local election. His brother, Dennis Deters, seems to have recognized this and will borrow the name “Joe” — his middle name — when he appears on the ballot for Hamilton County commissioner in November. Is that weird? A little. Dennis Deters hasn’t used that name on any other official documents or election registrations. Perhaps it’s just an attempt to squeeze a little extra love from voters, who will have to choose between Deters and well-known Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus.

BEST PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING AT A LOCAL MUSEUM

Many museums feel it sufficient to survey the past from the safely removed vantage point of the present day. But the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center takes charged, multi-faceted problems — from human bondage to race relations — and drags them into the here and now. From conferences on modern-day slavery to programs exploring urban violence like the ones around recent art exhibition Kin Killin’ Kin, the Freedom Center has an unblinking eye on the dark issues confronting people here in Cincinnati and around the world. What’s more, the center provides inspiration and information to confront them. National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, 50 E. Freedom Way, Downtown, 513-333-7739, freedomcenter.org.

BEST PARANOID ATTEMPT BY a CITY COUNCIL MEMBER TO KEEP HOMELESS PEOPLE AWAY FROM SCHOOLS

If you blinked, you missed it, but it’s worth recalling Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman’s weird move trying to get panhandling banned outside Cincinnati schools. That in and of itself seems par for the course for poverty-phobic conservatives, but it was Smitherman’s reasoning that raised some eyebrows. The independent conservative councilman cited school shootings and his wish that no strangers approach his kids, even his 17-year-old son, without his permission as he pursued the proposed ordinance. Luckily, it went nowhere, probably because other council members heeded the reams of data showing that the homeless are no more likely than anyone else to pose a threat to the public.

BEST SURVIVAL STORY

Since 2009, lawmakers in Ohio have been chipping away at the legal legs on which the state’s abortion providers stand, passing ever-tighter restrictions designed to cut down the number of clinics that perform abortions here. Those new laws have led to some close calls for Cincinnati’s last remaining clinic, Planned Parenthood’s Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center. But through stubborn legal fights, the organization has been able to keep conservative lawmakers from making Cincinnati the largest metropolitan area in the country without access to a clinic, even as legislative attacks on Planned Parenthood continue. Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center, 2314 Auburn Ave., Mount Auburn, 513-287-6484, plannedparenthood.org.

Cincinnati voted no on Issue 22 - Illustration: L.D. Nehls

BEST BRUISING DEFEAT AT THE LOCAL BALLOT BOX

Mayor John Cranley had a rough go of it this November when he proposed a property tax hike to pay for 16 different parks projects throughout the city, as well as deferred maintenance the Cincinnati Park Board has said is currently out of its reach. Money for parks seems on its face like a noble endeavor, but there were some problems: The tax boost was presented as an amendment to the city’s charter that gave the mayor and the park board he appoints near-total control over the money collected. Then there were questions about big contributions the park board made to the tax boost’s campaign. Voters said “no, thanks” by a two-to-one margin in November, handing Cranley a humbling defeat.

BEST TERRIFYING WEED-HEADED MASCOT FOR A POLITICAL CAUSE

Oh, Buddie, we barely knew ye. The mascot for ResponsibleOhio’s ill-fated bid to make it legal to sell marijuana from 10 grow sites around the state owned by the group’s investors was… unique. Superhero costume, complete with cape? Check. Rippling musculature and skin-tight body suit? Check. Enormous and terrifying marijuana bud for a head? Of course. The reign of his dankness on college campuses and in liberal towns around the state was short lived, and by the end even his allies betrayed him. ResponsibleOhio organizer Ian James called Buddie “a mistake” in interviews after the failure of the group’s bid. But we’ll always remember that giant green face, even if only in nightmares.

BEST HISTORIC SUPREME COURT VICTORY

It finally happened, and it started right here in Cincinnati. This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court extended marriage equality to all 50 states, thanks to plaintiffs against Ohio and other states’ anti-gay marriage laws, including Jim Obergefell, Brittani Henry-Rogers and Brittni Rogers. Based on the order in which his case was filed, Obergefell’s name is in the title of the historic Supreme Court ruling, and the unassuming Over-the-Rhine resident who fought to appear on his late spouse’s death certificate has become a national icon for LGBTQ rights.

BEST ILLUSTRATION OF THE VITAL NEED FOR POLICE BODY CAMERAS

If not for a tiny camera worn by the police officer who shot him, there might be no chance of justice for Samuel DuBose. University of Cincinnati officer Ray Tensing pulled DuBose over in July for a missing front license plate. Shortly afterward, DuBose was dead. Tensing said his arm got stuck in DuBose’s steering wheel and he was being dragged, but the footage shows Tensing shot him with no provocation before his car started moving. Tensing was later dismissed from the force and now faces murder and manslaughter charges. In the aftermath, UC’s police department is undergoing reform, and the Cincinnati Police Department is now phasing in body cameras for all of its officers.

BEST UNFORCED POLITICAL ERROR

The national debate over Syrian refugees coming to the U.S. following horrifying attacks on Paris by extremist group ISIS was a strange thing for a mayor to weigh in on. While a bigwig here, the city’s top guy has little say over national policy around refugee resettlement — even Ohio Gov. John Kasich couldn’t really keep Syrians out of the Ohio if he wanted to. Mayor John Cranley’s press release about refugees might have been just a strange footnote if he hadn’t sided with panic-stricken conservatives freaked out about undercover terrorists infiltrating Cincinnati. In doing so, Cranley mystifyingly alienated fellow Democrats while accomplishing exactly nothing in the process.

BEST IDEA TO EXTEND EDUCATION TO MORE CINCINNATI KIDS

Hey, did you know that Cincinnati has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country? If you didn’t, you do now. What are we going to do about it? There are a few different ideas, but one with a lot of momentum right now is Preschool Promise, an initiative seeking to provide preschool to all Cincinnati Public School students. Studies show that early exposure to quality education helps boost a child’s chances of academic success and ability to climb out of poverty. While there’s much work to be done to help low-income folks suffering right now, extending preschool to all kids could be the start of a generational shift toward a more equitable Cincinnati. Preschool Promise, askpreschoolpromise.org.

BEST CONTINUING POLITICAL DRAMA KEEPING US ON THE EDGE OF OUR SEATS

We’ve already seen the always-controversial Cincinnati streetcar gliding around its three-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown on empty test runs like some space-age ghost ship. And it’s well on its way to ferrying its first riders come September. But that doesn’t mean the issue is settled in the eyes of its opponents. 2015 saw freakouts over contingency funding, whether the streetcar will make enough money from naming rights to shore up operating costs and proxy wars over parking spots and parking meters in Over-the-Rhine tied to the transit project. Will 2016 be the year the streetcar proves opponents wrong? Stay tuned.

BEST WEIRD, DESPERATE GRAB FOR ATTENTION

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has had a heck of a time getting attention in his bid to become the GOP nominee for president. But it’s not like he didn’t try. His weirdest “hey, look at me” moment probably came in November, when he proposed creating a new government agency that would spread Judeo-Christian values in the Middle East. It was meant to be a way to capitalize on Donald Trump’s rampant xenophobia, but it just made Kasich look like he’s stoked on creating propaganda and making government bigger, two things conservatives are always paranoid about.

BEST CONTENTIOUS TOPIC TO DISCUSS (OR AVOID) WHILE EATING FANCY FOOD IN OTR

Over-the-Rhine has definitely changed. There’s little denying it. Other formerly low-income neighborhoods might soon follow suit, which has kept gentrification an ongoing minefield of a topic around town. That makes it a little awkward to eat gourmet pizza in a neighborhood where the median household income is still well below the poverty line, sure, but it also means that it’s past time for those difficult conversations. With upcoming redevelopment in neighborhoods like Walnut Hills, Northside and Price Hill, there is plenty to talk about.

BEST SHADE THROWN BY A U.S. SENATOR AT OHIO’S STATE LAWMAKERS

Admit it, passing a bill allowing concealed carry permit holders to carry their guns on college campuses and day cares in the aftermath of multiple school shootings was a bit much. At least that’s what U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown was thinking when he called Ohio state lawmakers “lunatics” for passing that bill in November. We’re with him on that one.

BEST SORE LOSER

Rowan County, Ky. Clerk Kim Davis was none too happy about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage over the summer. So she exercised her God-given right: refusing to do her job. Except that’s not exactly a right when you’re a county employee taking taxpayer money while refusing to marry anyone until the gays aren’t allowed to wed anymore. Davis’ adherence to her bigotry — err, religious beliefs — landed her in jail for a few days, and Rowan County has since resumed marrying people.

BEST CITY COUNCIL EFFORT IN RESPONSE TO LEELAH ALCORN’S TRAGIC DEATH

The tragic suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn late in 2014 shone new light on the plight of young members of the LGBTQ community, especially those subjected to so-called “conversion therapy.” But a year later, City Councilman Chris Seelbach stepped up and introduced an ordinance to ban practices that try to convert LGBTQ teens to heterosexuality. The practice isn’t part of accepted therapeutic science, and Cincinnati became the first city to ban it when council passed Seelbach’s ordinance in December.
A July 31, 2015 candlelight vigil for Samuel DuBose - Photo: Nick Swartsell

BEST CONTINUED PUSH FOR RACIAL JUSTICE

Cincinnati activists protesting the police shootings of Samuel DuBose, Tamir Rice and many others aren’t only using rallies in the streets to bring to light economic and justice system discrimination against people of color. They’re also holding teach-ins, book clubs, open discussions and even bowling outings. Somehow, in response to one of the most charged and polarizing topics imaginable, Cincinnati Black Lives Matter has managed to create an inclusive, if relentless, local movement. Cincinnati Black Lives Matter, facebook.com/blacklivesmattercincinnati.

BEST TOTAL WASTE OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS

Speaking of Planned Parenthood, your tax dollars paid for something that can only be described as an extended fishing session by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. Following the release of heavily edited video footage by anti-abortion group The Center for Medical Progress purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organ tissue in Texas, DeWine launched an investigation into Ohio’s clinics. He didn’t find any illegal tissue sales, but did claim that the organization was contracting with a company that dumped fetal remains in landfills. Just a few things: The state of Ohio uses the same company, and officials in Kentucky where the landfill is located say investigators never reached out to them and that they dispute the AG’s claim. Oh, and The Center for Medical Progress? A grand jury declined to indict Planned Parenthood and instead indicted the anti-abortion activists on federal records-tampering charges.

BEST SURPRISE EXIT FROM AN ULTRA-POWERFUL PERCH

Turns out it wasn’t all power, extravagant tanning bed trips, emotionally cleansing crying jags and Pope visits for the most powerful man in Congress. House Speaker John Boehner, who represented the suburbs just north of Cincinnati, surprised everyone when he resigned from his post in September, effectively ending his political career. Was it the death threats from his deranged country club bar tender? Did the Pontifex impart some life-changing wisdom for the staunchly Catholic Boehner in a visit immediately preceding the speaker’s exit? Nah, the reason was much more mundane: The tea party forced him out.

BEST TWITTER FLAME WAR

John Kasich GOP primary attention grab take two: The Ohio guv trying to tangle with reality TV star and aggressive hair piece-wearer Donald Trump on Twitter. It didn’t take a political scientist to predict that this one wouldn’t go well for Kasich, but he tried it anyway, enduring pretty awful jabs like this Trump gem: “I want to do negative ads on John Kasich, but he is so irrelevant to the race that I don’t want to waste my money.” Ouch. @realDonaldTrump; @JohnKasich.

BEST NO-BRAINER BALLOT INITIATIVE TO MAKE STATE POLITICS FAIRER

Do you remember when your Nintendo would get some dust in it and everything looked all scrambled? Envision a game of Tetris under such conditions and you’ve pretty much got Ohio’s state legislative districts. They’re crazy looking, and there’s a reason for that. Lawmakers — most recently Republicans — have drawn them that way to give distinct advantages to their party by isolating opposing voters and consolidating their own constituents. The result? Even though the state splits nearly evenly in presidential contests and went to Democrat Barack Obama in the last two elections, our state house is 67-percent Republican. It’s called gerrymandering, but a fix is on the way. Voters passed Issue 1 last November, approving a big change in the way redistricting happens. That should make elections fairer and more representative. Consider it the political version of blowing dust out of that Nintendo cartridge.

BEST EVIDENCE THAT SOMETHING’S AMISS WITH OHIO’S CHARTER SCHOOLS

First, Ohio Department of Education staffer David Hansen got caught excluding online charter schools from the state’s charter school performance measures. Oops. Hansen, husband to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s campaign manager Beth Hansen, subsequently resigned. But not before he fired off a federal grant application that may net the state $71 million to create more charter schools. That application said that the state had only six low-performing charters. But after questions from the feds, the state turned around and admitted that number was actually six times higher. Oops. Meanwhile, state lawmakers and charter boosters are still in the grips of charter-mania, making plans to establish more.

BEST LONGSHOT SENATE CANDIDATE

Everyone loves an underdog. Well, maybe not the Ohio Democratic Party, but most people. So while Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld’s run for U.S. Senate at first seemed quixotic, it was pretty gutsy and admirable. What’s more, Sittenfeld, just 31, made some headway. Sure, he lacked the name recognition and poll numbers of his primary opponent, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, but Sittenfeld made some good policy points, raised some impressive campaign dollars and racked up some real endorsements during his run. In the end, the momentum stayed with the more-connected and experienced Strickland, who will challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman this fall, but Sittenfeld showed himself to be a sharp, committed campaigner and may very well have set himself up for success down the road.
Caesar in a Corvette on Carol Ann's Carousel at Smale Riverfront Park

Cincinnati Neighborhood 
1 / Over-the-Rhine 
2 / Hyde Park 
3 / Northside 
4 / Clifton 
5 / Oakley 
6 / Pleasant Ridge 
7 / Mount Adams 
8 / Mount Lookout 
9 / East Walnut Hills 
10 / College Hill Weekend 

Getaway (Within 100 Miles) 
1 / Hocking Hills 
2 / Red River Gorge 
3 / Louisville, Ky.
4 / Yellow Springs 
5 / Kentucky Bourbon Trail 
6 / Indianapolis, Ind. 
7 / Lexington, Ky. 
8 / Nashville, Ind. 
9 / Hueston Woods (Oxford) 
10 / Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Ky.

Apartment Community 

1 / American Can Lofts 
2 / Harper’s Point 
3 / Current at the Banks 

Local App 
1 / Cincinnati Library; 
     Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden (TIE) 
2 / Roadtrippers 
3 / Cincinnati.com 

Bed and Breakfast 
1 / Clifton House B & B 
2 / Gaslight Bed & Breakfast 
3 / Symphony Hotel 

Builder/Developer 
1 / 3CDC 
2 / Urban Sites 
3 / Fisher Homes 

Building 
1 / Union Terminal 
2 / Music Hall 
3 / Carew Tower 

Church Festival 
1 / Panegyri Greek Festival 
2 / St. Cecilia 
3 / St. Rita Fest 

Northern Kentucky Neighborhood 
1 / Covington 
2 / Newport 
3 / Fort Thomas 

Suburban Neighborhood 
1 / Blue Ash 
2 / Mariemont 
3 / Anderson 

College/University
1 / University of Cincinnati 
2 / Xavier University 
3 / Northern Kentucky University 

MBA Program 
1 / University of Cincinnati 
2 / Xavier University 
3 / Northern Kentucky University 

Charity Festival/Event 
1 / The Rusty Ball 
2 / Cincinnati Pride 
3 / Zoofari 

Music Festival/Event 
1 / Bunbury Music Festival 
2 / Lumenocity 
3 / Midpoint Music Festival 

Running/Biking Event 
1 / Flying Pig Marathon 
2 / Girls on the Run 5k 
3 / Hyde Park Blast 

Fountain Square Event 
1 / Oktoberfest 
2 / Taste of Cincinnati 
3 / MidPoint Indie Summer Series 

Washington Park Event 
1 / Lumenocity 
2 / The City Flea 
3 / MidPoint Music Festival 

Findlay Market Vendor 
1 / Blue Oven Bakery
2 / Pho Lang Thang 
3 / Colonel De Gourmet Herbs & Spices 

Free Attraction 
1 / Cincinnati Art Museum 
2 / Smale Riverfront Park 
3 / WEBN Fireworks 

Kid-Friendly Attraction 
1 / Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden 
2 / Smale Riverfront Park 
3 / Cincinnati Children’s Museum 

Hiking Trail 
1 / Cincinnati Nature Center 
2 / Mount Airy Forest 
3 / Miami Whitewater Forest 

Jogging Route 
1 / Lunken Airfield 
2 / Loveland Bike Trail 
3 / Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum 

Local Start Up 
1 / Roadtrippers 
2 / Butcher Betties 
3 / Frameri 

Local Tour 
1 / American Legacy Tours (Queen City Underground) 
2 / Cincinnati Brewery Tours 
3 / Cincy Brew Bus 

Best New Thing 
1 / Cincinnati Streetcar 
2 / Red Bike 
3 / Braxton Brewing Company 

Best Old Thing 
1 / Union Terminal
2 / Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden 
3 / Music Hall 

Park (City) 
1 / Ault Park; 
    Smale Riverfront Park (TIE) 
2 / Washington Park 
3 / Eden Park 

Park (County) 
1 / Cincinnati Nature Center 
2 / Sharon Woods 
3 / Miami Whitewater Forest 

Place to Take a Visitor 
1 / Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden 
2 / Findlay Market 
3 / Cincinnati Reds Game 

Place to Kill Time While Waiting for a Table in OTR 
1 / Washington Park 
2 / 16-Bit Bar+Arcade 
3 / The Lackman 

Playground 
1 / Smale Riverfront Park 
2 / Washington Park 
3 / Sawyer Point 

Public Artwork 
1 / ArtWorks Murals 
2 / Tyler Davidson Fountain 
3 / Mosaic Murals at the Cincinnati Museum Center 

Private School 
1 / Cincinnati Waldorf School
2 / St. Xavier High School 
3 / The Summit Country Day School 

Public School 
1 / Walnut Hills High School 
2 / Oak Hills High School 
3 / The School for Creative and Performing Arts at the Erich Kunzel Center for Arts and Education 

Summer Camp 
1 / Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden 
2 / Camp Kern 
3 / Camp Joy 

Scenic Overlook 
1 / Eden Park 
2 / Devou Park 
3 / Ault Park 

Charley Harper's "Space Walk" Mural at the Convention Center

BEST CHARLEY HARPER REDISCOVERY
In 1987, someone dry-walled over a 1970s tile mural by famous Cincinnati artist Charley Harper at the Duke Energy Convention Center. Why someone would do that will likely remain a mystery. But thanks to renovations at the convention center in 2014, the colorful mural titled “Space Walk” was re-discovered. The 30,000-tile mural, valued at more than $1 million, breaks the wildlife mold of most of Harper’s work — it was inspired by Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. Its restoration was completed last November. Another public Harper mural, “Space for all Species,” is on display in the John Weld Peck Federal Building, also downtown. Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St., Downtown, 513-419-7300, duke-energycenter.com.


BEST THING NOT TO FORGET YOU RENTED
Now with 50 locations ranging from Northside to Newport, the Red Bike program is available mostly where you need it. At just $8 a day or $80 annually, it’s a very affordable way to have access to a bike at all times — just don’t forget to check it in every 60 minutes, or the late fees start piling up fast. You’ll shell out $4 for each additional 30 minutes past the check-in mark, up to $20 a day. If you somehow lose the bike entirely, it will set you back $1,200. Red Bike, 513-621-2453, cincyredbike.org.

BEST WAY TO DRINK WITH WILD ANIMALS

Open since 1875, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is one of the top zoos in the nation, and it’s not just because we have cute baby gorillas. The zoo has a specific focus on education, sustainability and preservation. In fact, the team at the zoo’s Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Animals (CREW), founded in 1986, birthed the first Sumatran rhino calf bred in captivity in 112 years (there are only about 100 left in the wild). They also work to protect polar bears, small cats, rare plants and other endangered and threatened wildlife. And all that takes money, which is why the zoo’s cleverly titled and sometimes painfully punny fundraising events are some of the best and most exclusive parties in town. You can’t go wrong with the fun of mixing wild animal encounters and alcohol at the almost-always-sold-out Toast to the Wild events like Zootini, Wild About Wine and Zoo Brew. Each features themed drinks, behind-the-scenes tours, lite bites, music and special animal guests, all while raising funds for CREW and other zoo efforts. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, 513-281-4700, cincinnatizoo.org/events.

BEST REASON TO UNPLUG AND SHUT UP FOR A SECOND
In a world where it’s not uncommon to be staring at some type of screen — computer, TV or phone — for at least three-quarters of your waking hours, constantly bombarded by a rapid succession of audio-visual stimuli, it’s easy to forget the universe exists outside of your iPhone. City Silence, a locally based international network, hopes to reconnect people to themselves and their community through barrier-free introductions to meditation and mindfulness practices. The free events have taken place locally at public spaces like Washington Park, the downtown library and the Contemporary Arts Center and ask that people sit for a few minutes (or more) in silence, unplugged from all digital devices. The goal is to notice what you smell, hear, taste and feel and become present in the moment, turning on your human capacity for stillness, wonder, focus, creativity, compassion and awe. City Silence, citysilence.org.

BEST NEW BACKYARD BAR
Last summer, before the All-Star Game, Washington Park opened a new feature: an awesome elevated bar and deck, nestled underneath some shady trees between the dog park and spray ground. The 3,000-square-foot space features comfortable and colorful Adirondack chairs and other lounge seating, plus a full bar: beer, wine, liquor and local drafts, including MadTree, Moerlein, Taft’s Ale House and Rhinegeist. It’s an excellent addition to OTR’s “backyard,” and a great space to grab a beer on weekends. Deck opens April 1. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, washingtonpark.org.

BEST INTERACTIVE QUEEN CITY RADIO HOUR
At 1 p.m. every weekday, Mark Heyne takes over 91.7 WVXU to bring you Cincinnati Edition, an hour-long radio show that covers relevant regional topics ranging from arts and culture to technology, start-ups, health, business and politics. The interviews are more than just sound bites and go in depth on recent topics including the revitalization of Price Hill, water pollution, child sex trafficking, homesteading and more — things relevant to our life here and the world abroad. The show also invites you to join the discussion by calling in or via Facebook and Twitter. WVXU, wvxu.org.

BEST SIGN THAT DOGS ARE NOT SECOND-CLASS CITIZENS

Emotional Support Animal truthers everywhere are up in arms about the lack of organization and federal regulation necessary to turn Chihuahuas into therapy dogs — just because they look cute in a harness with official-looking patches and can fit in a plane seat with you doesn’t necessarily mean they are in any way qualified to offer medical support. But the good news is that local businesses are starting to catch on to the fact that people want to take their dogs everywhere with them. Plenty of bar and restaurant patios are already pup-friendly, including those at MadTree, Braxton, The Littlefield, Dutch’s, Cock & Bull, Keystone Bar & Grill, Hang Over Easy, BrewRiver GastroPub and more. If you have a dog that’s well behaved and on a leash, and the place has a patio, you can probably bring it — just call first to make sure. And many urban boutiques are now OK with canine companions, too. Heck, some, like Article, Hi-Bred Vintage and Grainwell, even have shop dogs.

BEST NEW WAY TO LOVE AN OLD BUILDING
Armed with a grant from People’s Liberty and inspired by their own projects, Cincinnatians John Blatchford (general contractor and board member of the Over the Rhine Museum) and Alyssa McClanahan (a PhD candidate in history at the University of Cincinnati) launched KUNST Magazine, a quarterly print and online publication, last summer. Taking its name from the German word for “art,” KUNST specializes in long-form stories about renovations of the city’s historic buildings, as well as the people who love them, featuring how-to tips from developers, artists, designers and preservationists that are as high-quality as its pages. The magazine also details some of KUNST’s own management and renovation projects, like the Tailor Shop OTR, a three-apartment restoration of a former 1870s tailor shop. The magazine’s April edition will be available at 21c Museum Hotel, Findlay Market’s DIRT, GOODS on Main and the Taft Museum of Art. Kunst, kunst.us.

BEST PEOPLE HELPING EVERYDAY PEOPLE MAKE A CHANGE
Philanthropic lab People’s Liberty is a sort of positive creative urban hub throwing out dollars at everyday people with great ideas to change the city through art, tech, science, history, music and even tiny houses. Their three levels of funding — the Haile Fellowship, two one-year $100,000 civic sabbatical grants; Project Grants, eight bi-annual $10,000 grants for innovative community development projects; and Globe Grants, three $15,000 grants to transform PL’s storefront Globe Gallery into a pop-up exhibit — are improving the city by making funding available to all people, not just nonprofits or established organizations. So far, they’ve funded local music licensing companies, public dance projects, interactive urban history exhibits, mobile art experiences, app developers and everything in between. Powered by a blend of the Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation and the Johnson Foundation, they have five years of funding to change the state of the city and empower you to be part of it. The fall Project Grant application dates will be announced soon. People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-492-2659, peoplesliberty.org.

BEST WAY TO PRETEND YOU’RE RIDING A STREETCAR

While we wait for the streetcar to officially open in September, we can still enjoy its 3.6-mile loop by walking it. Stops on the route, which connects The Banks to northern OTR, include popular attractions and a bevy of bars and restaurants; one could even make a Saturday of it, pretending to be a streetcar by embarking on the following quest:

  • 10 a.m. Start your morning with a cup of coffee at the Collective CAC Café inside the Contemporary Arts Center and explore Passage, Korean artist Do Ho Suh’s delicate fabric installation exhibit (museum admission is now free!).
  • 11:30 a.m. Stop for brunch at Taste of Belgium on the corner of 12th and Vine streets — a McWaffle and frites?
  • 12:30 p.m. Check out the action at Washington Park. Maybe there’s a City Flea or other festival, or grab a MadTree on the new concessions deck.
  • 1:30 p.m. Head to Findlay Market to pick up some late-afternoon picnic supplies. Blue Oven bread, cheese from Gibb’s, cold cuts from Silverglades and deli salads from Fresh Table.
  • 2:30 p.m. Continue down Elm Street to Rhinegeist. Climb up to the new rooftop deck and grab a Cougar from one of the 64 taps.
  • 4 p.m. If there’s a Reds game tonight, you could walk your ass all the way down to Smale Riverfront Park at The Banks and enjoy your packed picnic and swing on the riverfront Rosenberg Swings.
  • 6 p.m. Stop into the Moerlein Lager House for some pre-game tailgating and brews.
  • 7:10 p.m. Reds.
  • 10 p.m. Uber.

BEST WAY TO GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR WILD SIDE
The Wolf Creek Habitat and Rescue in Brookville, Ind. can fulfill your desires of hanging out up close and personal with wolves. The sanctuary, which is only open on weekends, allows visitors to roam and pet all the wolves they want for a suggested donation of $30. If you’re feeling like more of an extended stay, there’s also the option to camp or rent a tipi on the property. Yes, that’s right. You can stay in a tipi on the same grounds as a pack of wolves. Also, if you’re short on engagement photo ideas or just looking to update your LinkedIn profile pic, Wolf Creek offers the option of scheduling a photo op with a wolf. Just throwing it out there. Wolf Creek Habitat and Rescue, 14099 Wolf Creek Road, Brookville, Ind., 513-312-9143, wolfcreekhabitat.org.

BEST WAY TO LEGALLY TRESPASS

For one weekend in June, the East Row Garden Club’s garden walk allows participants to snoop though Newport residents’ private gardens. Outsiders are allowed to spend five hours wandering through gardens most likely much more impressive than their own on the grounds of homes in the East Row Historic District, full of Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival and American Foursquare architecture from the area’s wealthy 19th-century residents. Visitors can use this special time to collect ideas and inspiration (but not actual flowers) for their own gardens. The walk celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. East Row Garden Club, eastrowgardenclub.org.

BEST EXCUSE TO DRINK BEFORE NOON

For those who excel more at drinking than exercising, an early morning 8-mile run might sound terrible. But put beer at the finish line and, well, that’s another story. The annual Hudepohl 14K Brewery Run weaves past some of the city’s oldest breweries, ending with the kickoff to Oktoberfest Zinzinnati. Each participant who crosses the finish line gets two beers, a Skyline cheese coney and the satisfaction of burning some of the mass amount of calories to be consumed during the rest of the day. And if a 14K is really out of reach, there’s also a 7K. Takes place in September. Hudy 14K Brewery Run, hudy14krun.com.

BEST ATTRACTION ANTICIPATED BY EVANGELICALS

Answers in Genesis, the nonprofit group behind the Creation Museum, is building a $34 million dollar ark — Noah-style. The Ark Encounter, located 40 miles south of the controversial museum, will be a 510-foot-long and 50-foot-tall project that is just as much a theme park as it is an attempt by Evangelicals to prove that one man really could build a giant boat and fill it with every type of animal out there. The ark is set to open to the public this coming July. For a sneak peek and details of this odd attraction, check out the ark’s progress through the video updates on its website. Ark Encounter, 1000 Eibeck Lane, Williamstown, Ky., arkencounter.com.

Pieces on display at the Maneki Neko Museum
Photo: Jesse Fox

BEST PLACE TO GET LUCKY
The Lucky Cat Museum, at first glance, looks like paradise for crazy cat ladies. The tiny Walnut Hills museum inside Essex Art Studios is run by Micha Robertson and features nearly a thousand maneki neko cats in all shapes and sizes — traditional Tokoname style, in plush, as Hello Kitty, on key chains, even as nail clippers and telephones. The Japanese beckoning cats or lucky cats, depicted with one paw waving, are symbols of luck in Japan, summoning money and good fortune. Stocking up on a couple of these knick-knacks just in case might not hurt, and there are several available in the gift shop. The museum is open during Essex Art Walks and by appointment. Lucky Cat Museum, 2511 Essex Place, Walnut Hills, 513-633-3923, manekinekomuseum.com.

BEST WAY TO SLEEP AT CITY HALL

Here’s an option for history buffs, political junkies or those who like to sleep in buildings that used to be other things: Last summer, the locally based Salyers Group and Chicago’s Aparium Hotel Group announced that they would be transforming Covington’s old city hall (and former Coppin’s Department Store) into Hotel Covington, to be opened in summer 2016. The project came as a victory against naysayers who didn’t think such a big development on Madison Avenue could be done. The boutique hotel will feature 114 rooms as well as a restaurant, bar and patio — all things most current city halls could surely also benefit from. Hotel Covington, 638 Madison Ave. Covington, Ky., aparium.com/hotels/the-hotel-covington.

Ceasar in a Corvette on Carol Ann's Carousel at Smale Riverfront Park
Photo: Jesse Fox

BEST CAROUSEL TO RIDE IN INCELEMENT WEATHER
Carol Ann’s Carousel at Smale Riverfront Park is a 6,300-square-foot carousel with 42 hand-carved Cincy-centric animal characters on which to ride. The glass-enclosed attraction, which opened last summer, is rain- and snow-resistant, making it a whimsical year-round pleasure… because the joy of riding Martha the last passenger pigeon, a queen bee or the Findlay Market pig around in circles diminishes significantly if you’re being pelted in the face with rain. Smale Riverfront Park, 100 W. Mehring Way, Downtown, 513-357-2621, mysmaleriverfrontpark.org.

BEST HIDDEN SPRAYGROUND

With a view of Cincinnati’s famous bridges and the Serpentine Wall, the Armeleder Memorial Sprayground at the mile-long riverfront Sawyer Point Park is a scenic space filled with fountains tall enough to shower any human from head to toe, with additional tiny fountains spurting from the ground for the little ones. It’s a nice alternative to the crowded scene at Washington Park. Plus, when it’s time to dry off, you can rent a four-wheel Surrey bike for a riverfront ride. Sawyer Point, 705 E. Pete Rose Way, Downtown, 513-352-6180, cincinnatiparks.com.

BEST ALTERNATIVE GUIDED CINCINNATI HISTORY TOUR

The Queen City History Saloon Tour series is Cincinnati’s underground underground tour. Its 90-minute walking tours presented by consulting firm Queen City History and Education Ltd. tend to mix a healthy dose of history with facts about booze. Options include Dr. Morgan’s Hangover Relief Tour and Arnold’s Brothels, Bootleggers and Booze Tour. Tours start at Washington Platform and weave through downtown and OTR as groups discuss immigration, ethnic conflicts during the 1800s and Cincinnati’s alcohol history. Some tours also include visits to the city’s old underground lagering tunnels and malt oven cellars. Queen City History, queencityhistory.com.

Mount Airy Forest’s public treehouse
Photo: Stephanie Mathena

BEST PUBLIC TREE HOUSE
For those who strongly believe treehouses aren’t just for kids, there is a place for you in Mount Airy Forest, and it’s called Everybody’s Treehouse. The wheelchair-accessible structure — the only treehouse like it in Ohio — was built in 2006. It was the vision of then-WCPO reporter Michael Flannery, who worked with the Parks Foundation, Cincinnati Rotary and Forever Young Treehouses to build this childhood nook for all. Bring a book or some friends and enjoy this magical public space year-round. Mount Airy Forest, 5083 Colerain Ave., Mount Airy, 513-541-8176, cincinnatiparks.com.

BEST TRAINING GROUND FOR FUTURE IRON CHEFS

If you’re tired of your kids complaining about your cooking, you might want to send them to the Junior Chef Institute at Gabriel’s Place to learn to make their own damn dinner. The program runs for eight weeks in the summer, teaching kids how to cook awesome dishes out of basic stuff they can find in their own cupboards. It was started in 2013 by chef Kristen St. Clair, who was both frustrated with high schoolers’ lack of culinary competence and inspired by her own childhood in the kitchen. The kids learn to plan, prep and execute full healthy dishes that will, hopefully, end up on your kitchen table. Gabriel’s Place, 3618 Reading Road, Avondale, 513-221-2306, gabrielsplace.diosohio.org.

Cincy Summer Streets
Photo: via Facebook

BEST USE OF LARGE PUBLIC SPACES IN THE SUMMER
Cincy Summer Streets encourages Cincinnatians to get out and enjoy the weather by creating car-free city spaces with what feels like every activity under the sun.During three different days in Walnut Hills, Northside and Over-the-Rhine, you can run, stretch, hula hoop, dance, draw on the pavement, climb a wall, ferment vegetables, play Jenga, throw pots, meditate, skate and so, so much more. It’s really many more activities than one could possibly do in three days, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to knock off as many as possible. Cincy Summer Streets, cincysummerstreets.org.

BEST WALK ON WOODBURN

That headline is a misnomer: There’s only one Walk on Woodburn and it happens almost monthly on East Walnut Hills’ Woodburn Avenue (for some reason there currently isn’t one scheduled in June). The Friday night culture fest keeps shops open late and bars hopping. Stop into Hi-Bred Vintage, Leftcoast Modern or Steinkamp Outfitters for some old/new; check out the latest exhibit at Manifest Gallery; grab dinner at O Pie O, Mardi Gras on Madison or Suzie Wong’s; and then stop in for a drink at Myrtle’s Punch House or The Growler House. East Walnut Hills has been touted as the new Over-the-Rhine; come see why and eat, drink and shop in the process. Woodburn Avenue, East Walnut Hills, facebook.com/walkonwoodburn.

BEST LIBRARY FOR BOTANISTS

The exterior of the Lloyd Library & Museum is misleading. The 1970s square brick building looks boring, but inside it holds a wonderland of archival materials and exhibits on science, art and history. Once home to a popular 19th-century pharmacy run by the local Lloyd brothers, the library still features their rare collection of books on pharmacy, botany, pharmacognosy, alternative medicine and horticulture. In 1949, the Library of Congress named it the No. 6 most important private library in the country, and currently, the museum features rotating art and science exhibits, as well as permanent displays of vintage pharmaceutical instruments, medicine bottles, medical office equipment and other mildly morbid-looking historical medical supplies. Lloyd Library & Museum, 917 Plum St., Downtown, 513-721-3707, lloydlibrary.org.

BEST URBAN ALTERNATIVE TO LAWN MOWERS*
Goatscaping” — literally using goats as landscapers — is one of the more adorable ways local parks have been maintaining urban forests and greenspaces recently. Covington’s Goebel Park enlisted 10 goats last year as mobile groundskeepers to trim their grass and eat invasive plants (they’ve become so popular, they even have their own Facebook page: facebook.com/goebelgoats). And now these hungry ruminants are helping clear ivy and weeds at historic Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum. The herd of seven will be grazing in the Northwest corner of Spring Grove’s woodland preserve until they consume an acre of vegetation — an experiment to see how well this type of permaculture works for the cemetery. And they’re being overseen by Permaculture Guru owner Mike Woeste, whose company now offers goat rental services to the public. Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum, 4521 Spring Grove Ave., Northside, 513-681-7526, springgrove.orgpermacultureguru.com. *since this pick was written, the goats have been removed from Spring Grove after being injured in a dog attack.