Best Of 2023

Boys, keep out! Explorer Chick has women-only tours all over the world, but they call Cincinnati their home. With trips ranging from backpacking in the Grand Canyon to glamping in Belize, the tours focus on exploring new places and getting your heart and blood pumping for adventure. The website makes it easy to book  — sort tours by where you want to go and what kind of experience you want to have. Up for hiking? Rappelling? Surfing? All three? Click on those options and see where Explorer Chick can take you. And if none of your gal pals can go with you, don’t worry; it’s super-easy to bond with and befriend the other badass ladies on your trip.

Covington’s Conveyor Belt Books opened its doors in 2022, and since then, the used bookstore’s shelves have been full of eclectic, curated finds that feel hand-selected with care. Co-owned by Brandon DiSabatino and Shelbi Schindler, Conveyer Belt has everything from first or rare editions and French literature to horror paperbacks and a robust arts and poetry selection. With a pot of coffee often brewing, groovy 1970s-esque wallpaper and several cozy seating options, including an outdoor patio, Conveyor Belt’s space also encourages visitors to kick back and leaf through their finds. This hidden gem deserves its flowers.

Crystal Grace launched Grace + Grit Spa after a message from God changed her life. Dealing with depression, anxiety and PTSD after a personal tragedy, she decided to get a facial as an act of self-care. The rest, as they say, is history. Grace + Grit aims to serve by offering affordable services — massages, facials, craniosacral therapy, reiki, waxing — to fortify and embolden people to be able to live their best, healthiest and happiest lives. The entire team of therapists and estheticians is dedicated to providing healing and restorative treatments, including for those undergoing cancer treatment as well as their caregivers. Grace + Grit’s “What Love Does” initiative provides spa services at no charge to those navigating the cancer journey. The spa’s website offers several ways to participate: Warriors can request services, people can nominate others, and the public and professionals can donate dollars or time to the cause.

Despite Gen Z’s attempt to bring back the over-plucked, 1990s thin-brow aesthetic, healthy, thick brows will always be in style. And the estheticians at 501 Salon & Spa are experts in beautifying your eyebrow hair. Being dyed, waxed, plucked and chemically fluffed is not always a super pleasant experience — especially the plucking and waxing part — but this Aveda salon makes it as enjoyable as it can be. Services are performed in the upstairs spa, where you also can get a massage, facial and even lash extensions. It’s warm, quiet, calm and smells amazing. The highly trained staff will give you the brows of your dreams — especially if you aren’t quite sure what that looks like. They’ll help shape and color them to best fit your face, all while you lay back and relax.

If you’re looking for a low-impact, high-intensity workout, the bungee classes at Fly Bungee Fitness in Loveland can help you soar to new heights. Fly Bungee Fitness reps say their workouts offer 70% lower impact than traditional workouts do and are designed for people of all abilities. Beginners will start with the SimpliFLY class and can graduate to the intermediate ModiFLY or level-three IntensiFLY when ready. Fly Bungee Fitness also offers Bungee Blast, aerial and dance classes, and their bungees and harnesses are professional and high quality to ensure your safety throughout the workout.

If you want to hide from the world amongst nature without actually being, you know, in the elements, A.J. Rahn Greenhouses in Spring Grove Village is the way to go. In the ’60s, the Rahn family became known for their high-quality flowering plants   —and still carry on that legacy today with rows and rows of flowers and hanging plants no matter the season. It’s easy to spend a leisurely weekend morning or afternoon wandering among all the flora and mentally calculating if you possibly have more space for yet another hanging basket (or seven). Don’t forget to say hello to Cali the greenhouse cat, who often can be spotted snoozing by the flowers.

Covington’s Sole by Style is a sneakerhead’s paradise. The streetwear boutique is stacked with floor-to-ceiling shelves showcasing the best and rarest shoes. Find sought-after styles like Travis Scott x Air Jordan Black Phantoms, a New Balance collaboration with JJJJound, a pair of Cactus Plant Flea Market Nike Dunks decked out in Swarovski crystals and a $12,000 pair of Jordan 1 Fragments. Every color combo, texture and taste are represented. Need a pair of furry Grateful Dead Bear Nikes? Sole by Style has them in orange, green or yellow. Want some Imran Potato Caveman Slippers? Head here. And you don’t just have to stop at your feet; cover the rest of your body with clothing from brands like Chrome Hearts, Supreme, Off-White and Louis Vuitton. Every item is authenticated, and the shop itself is like a premiere shoe shop in New York or LA (minus the around-the-block lines). And while Sole by Style is always selling, they also buy, trade and consign.

Yvonne (L) and Eric Boltz launched Boltz to Nutz Farm.
Photo: Provided by Market Wagon
Yvonne (L) and Eric Boltz launched Boltz to Nutz Farm.

Eric Boltz was paralyzed from the chest down after he was struck by a car in 2015. Boltz’s wife, Yvonne, decided to take her husband’s recovery diet into her own hands and source nutritious food and herbal medicines herself. Seven years of farm work later, the Boltz family now owns and operates Boltz to Nutz Farm, a wheelchair-accessible, raised-bed market garden in Loveland. The couple sells their products through an online service that connects customers with more than 80 local farmers, artisans and chefs and delivers the farmers’ products twice weekly. And now the Boltzes are moving into their next phase — offering adaptive cooking classes and retreats.

If you want to explore beyond mall makeup stores or are looking to up your shelfie game with some new, independent and ethical beauty brands, Launch Party is a perfect one-stop shop in Over-the-Rhine. The coral-colored shelves are lined with everything from makeup, skin care and genderless fragrances to 10-free nail polish, cold-processed scalp systems and fun accessories, all from small businesses — including local ones. Items are hand-picked by owner Brit Cochran, a globe-trotting professional makeup artist with a passion for thoughtful and unique beauty products. Visit the store for in-person education and guidance, or shop online; each product features icons that indicate traits like whether it is vegan, eco-friendly, women owned, cruelty free or has a social impact. The store also provides full ingredient lists and brand info. With a goal of representing and celebrating the beauty of people of “every race, gender identity and age,” Launch Party’s products reflect the same ethos: to create a feel-good — and look-good — experience.

Friends of the Public Library bookstore
Friends of the Public Library bookstore

The Friends of the Public Library  — a nonprofit arm of Cincinnati Public Library  — has used paperbacks galore for just $1 at the organization’s used bookstore and warehouse. The selection, especially when you’re on the hunt for mass-market paperbacks, is outstanding and covers every fiction genre. Whether you’re looking for a few of those ’80s romance novels with a bare-chested Fabio on the cover or you’re trying to make your way through Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen mysteries (with recipes!), chances are you’ll find what you’re looking for  — along with a few other books you’ll probably have to make room for on your reading list.