December 23, 2020

101 Cincinnati Things We Can (Hopefully) Look Forward to Enjoying in 2021

It's been a tough year — there's no denying it. A ravaging pandemic and international social unrest opened a lot of eyes, and weighed heavily on our hearts and minds. And as we make our way into 2021, we will bring with us heaps of hope and positive affirmations for a year of health, growth and experiencing all the things we love about our Queen City. Not only do we all need (and deserve) some things to look forward to, this collection also serves the list-lovers in life. So in the spirit of dreaming and systematic ASMR, here are 101 things to do — quintessential classics, outdoor adventures, oddball attractions — for those both visiting the Queen City and those who call Cincinnati home, that we can (hopefully) look forward to enjoying in 2021.  We won’t call this a “bucket list,” because your aspirations should extend beyond eating late-night chili, or a “must do list,” because nothing will happen to you if you don’t complete all 101. It’s more like a “fun list” — dozens of inspired insider prompts to help you explore the city and celebrate everything this great Midwestern metropolis has to offer (or at least 101 parts of it).  This hefty list does not contain any current coronavirus updates to the write-ups , but some events and locations may be impacted by changing health and safety guidelines, capacity limits, required tickets or reservations, cancellations, etc. It’s always a good idea to check websites or call to confirm details before you show up anywhere in case information has changed. So, armed with a slew of indoor, outdoor and year-round ideas for every vibe — and every age group — this curated collection is for those ready to conquer the Queen City. (Or, again, at least 101 parts of it*.) *There are obviously more than 101 things to do in Greater Cincinnati.
Scroll down to view images
101 Cincinnati Things We Can (Hopefully) Look Forward to Enjoying in 2021
Climb to the Top of Carew Tower
For $6 and a 48-floor elevator ride — plus one flight of stairs — you can stand on the top of the city’s second-tallest building (the tallest is the nearby Great American Tower) and get a bird’s-eye view of the skyline, Ohio River and Northern Kentucky from the Carew Tower Observation Deck. Completed in 1930, this Art Deco skyscraper was reportedly used as a model for New York City’s world-famous Empire State Building. Entry is cash only, and the mounted binoculars at the top take quarters. Carew Tower, 441 Vine St., Downtown, 513-579-9735.
Photo: Jesse Fox

Climb to the Top of Carew Tower

For $6 and a 48-floor elevator ride — plus one flight of stairs — you can stand on the top of the city’s second-tallest building (the tallest is the nearby Great American Tower) and get a bird’s-eye view of the skyline, Ohio River and Northern Kentucky from the Carew Tower Observation Deck. Completed in 1930, this Art Deco skyscraper was reportedly used as a model for New York City’s world-famous Empire State Building. Entry is cash only, and the mounted binoculars at the top take quarters. Carew Tower, 441 Vine St., Downtown, 513-579-9735.
Photo: Jesse Fox
Or Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream 
Family-run for 150 years, this local French pot ice cream chain is iconic for its giant chocolate chips — chocolate chunks more than chips, really. They pour gourmet chocolate over churning cream to form a shell that their artisans then break up. It’s totally unique and perfect in flavors like Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip — their all-time best-seller (and Oprah’s favorite) made with black raspberries from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Local Braxton Brewing Co. also collaborated with Graeter’s on a flavored beer, so dessert stans can drink their ice cream, too, via a Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip milk stout. Multiple locations, graeters.com.
Photo: Jesse Fox

Or Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Family-run for 150 years, this local French pot ice cream chain is iconic for its giant chocolate chips — chocolate chunks more than chips, really. They pour gourmet chocolate over churning cream to form a shell that their artisans then break up. It’s totally unique and perfect in flavors like Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip — their all-time best-seller (and Oprah’s favorite) made with black raspberries from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Local Braxton Brewing Co. also collaborated with Graeter’s on a flavored beer, so dessert stans can drink their ice cream, too, via a Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip milk stout. Multiple locations, graeters.com.
Photo: Jesse Fox
Make Your Way Through
Cincinnati’s “Chili Trail”
There really isn’t an official Cincinnati Chili Trail, but there should be... so we made one up. You can’t visit (or live in) Cincinnati without eating Cincinnati-style chili, available at mom-and-pop parlors, local chains and even veganized. The combo of spaghetti, chili and bright-orange cheese is good any time of day, but especially after a night of drinking. Luckily, plenty of parlors are open late, if not 24 hours, including Camp Washington Chili (3005 Colerain Ave., Camp Washington, campwashingtonchili.com). A James Beard Award winner, Camp opened its doors in 1940, and Johnny Johnson — the patriarch of the ownership family — has been working at the parlor since 1951. Other unique parlors with a rich history and even richer steam tables include Price Hill Chili (4290 Glenway Ave., Price Hill, pricehillchili.com); Dixie Chili (733 Monmouth St., Newport, dixiechili.com); Chili Time (4727 Vine St., Saint Bernard, searchable on Facebook); Pleasant Ridge Chili (6032 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, pleasantridgechili.com) and Empress Chili (7934 Alexandria Pike, Alexandria, empresschilialexandria.com). Most have at least some link to family immigrants from Greece — and to each other.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Make Your Way Through Cincinnati’s “Chili Trail”

There really isn’t an official Cincinnati Chili Trail, but there should be... so we made one up. You can’t visit (or live in) Cincinnati without eating Cincinnati-style chili, available at mom-and-pop parlors, local chains and even veganized. The combo of spaghetti, chili and bright-orange cheese is good any time of day, but especially after a night of drinking. Luckily, plenty of parlors are open late, if not 24 hours, including Camp Washington Chili (3005 Colerain Ave., Camp Washington, campwashingtonchili.com). A James Beard Award winner, Camp opened its doors in 1940, and Johnny Johnson — the patriarch of the ownership family — has been working at the parlor since 1951. Other unique parlors with a rich history and even richer steam tables include Price Hill Chili (4290 Glenway Ave., Price Hill, pricehillchili.com); Dixie Chili (733 Monmouth St., Newport, dixiechili.com); Chili Time (4727 Vine St., Saint Bernard, searchable on Facebook); Pleasant Ridge Chili (6032 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, pleasantridgechili.com) and Empress Chili (7934 Alexandria Pike, Alexandria, empresschilialexandria.com). Most have at least some link to family immigrants from Greece — and to each other.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Take a Tour of Rookwood Pottery  
Founded by artist Maria Longworth Storer in 1880, Rookwood Pottery was the first female-owned large manufacturing company in the United States. Each piece of tile and pottery is molded, hand-glazed and fired by a team of in-house artists. Tours of the 88,000-square-foot working ceramics factory are offered at the flagship warehouse in Over-the-Rhine, led by a Rookwood historian. And each tour comes with a credit to use toward purchases in the showroom. Celebrating its 140th anniversary in 2020, iconic  — and timeless — Rookwood pieces include the 1930s Grove Bunny figurine (designed by artist Louise Abel), the 1920 Kataro Shirayamadani candlesticks and, in a nod to Cincinnati’s rich German history, a ceramic beer stein. You also can’t pass up any of their annual Fiona the hippo ornaments, which benefit the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. 
Rookwood Pottery, 1920 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, rookwood.com. 
Photo via Facebook.com/rookwoodco

Take a Tour of Rookwood Pottery

Founded by artist Maria Longworth Storer in 1880, Rookwood Pottery was the first female-owned large manufacturing company in the United States. Each piece of tile and pottery is molded, hand-glazed and fired by a team of in-house artists. Tours of the 88,000-square-foot working ceramics factory are offered at the flagship warehouse in Over-the-Rhine, led by a Rookwood historian. And each tour comes with a credit to use toward purchases in the showroom. Celebrating its 140th anniversary in 2020, iconic — and timeless — Rookwood pieces include the 1930s Grove Bunny figurine (designed by artist Louise Abel), the 1920 Kataro Shirayamadani candlesticks and, in a nod to Cincinnati’s rich German history, a ceramic beer stein. You also can’t pass up any of their annual Fiona the hippo ornaments, which benefit the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. Rookwood Pottery, 1920 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, rookwood.com.
Photo via Facebook.com/rookwoodco
Stargaze at the Cincinnati Observatory  
Known as “The Birthplace of American Astronomy,” the Cincinnati Observatory is the first public observatory in the Western Hemisphere and home to one of the oldest working telescopes in the world. The 19th-century scopes — an 11-inch Merz and Mahler refractor from 1845 and a 16-inch Alvan Clark and Sons refractor from 1904 — are still used to give visitors an up-close look at the stars. The observatory is open certain hours for public exploration, astronomy presentations and guided stargazes, as well as special events (like Late Night Date Nights) and online classes. 
Cincinnati Observatory, 3489 Observatory Place, Hyde Park, Cincinnatiobservatory.org.
Photo: Jesse Fox

Stargaze at the Cincinnati Observatory

Known as “The Birthplace of American Astronomy,” the Cincinnati Observatory is the first public observatory in the Western Hemisphere and home to one of the oldest working telescopes in the world. The 19th-century scopes — an 11-inch Merz and Mahler refractor from 1845 and a 16-inch Alvan Clark and Sons refractor from 1904 — are still used to give visitors an up-close look at the stars. The observatory is open certain hours for public exploration, astronomy presentations and guided stargazes, as well as special events (like Late Night Date Nights) and online classes. Cincinnati Observatory, 3489 Observatory Place, Hyde Park, Cincinnatiobservatory.org.
Photo: Jesse Fox
Explore Local History and Global Cuisine at Findlay Market
We have always known Findlay Market is great. But one of the best in the world? OK, we kinda knew that, too. In 2019, Newsweek caught on and affirmed our love for the 165-year-old outdoor market — the oldest continually operated public market in Ohio — by declaring it one of the top 10 food markets in the world. The article has some odd moments — it calls our beloved goetta “haggis-like” — but we can definitely attest to the accuracy of the accolade otherwise. Newsweek puts Findlay rightfully alongside food markets like Torvehallerne Market in Copenhagen, Or Tor Kor Market in Bangkok, La Merced in Mexico City and La Boqueria in Barcelona. The highest praise of all? Findlay was the only market in the United States to make the list. The more-than-50 full-time merchants at the 19th-century landmark sell everything from meat, cheese and fresh-baked bread to produce, flowers and international eats. Stop by on weekends for a pint at the biergarten, a local farmers market and plenty of arts and crafts vendors.  
Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, findlaymarket.org.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Explore Local History and Global Cuisine at Findlay Market

We have always known Findlay Market is great. But one of the best in the world? OK, we kinda knew that, too. In 2019, Newsweek caught on and affirmed our love for the 165-year-old outdoor market — the oldest continually operated public market in Ohio — by declaring it one of the top 10 food markets in the world. The article has some odd moments — it calls our beloved goetta “haggis-like” — but we can definitely attest to the accuracy of the accolade otherwise. Newsweek puts Findlay rightfully alongside food markets like Torvehallerne Market in Copenhagen, Or Tor Kor Market in Bangkok, La Merced in Mexico City and La Boqueria in Barcelona. The highest praise of all? Findlay was the only market in the United States to make the list. The more-than-50 full-time merchants at the 19th-century landmark sell everything from meat, cheese and fresh-baked bread to produce, flowers and international eats. Stop by on weekends for a pint at the biergarten, a local farmers market and plenty of arts and crafts vendors. Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, findlaymarket.org.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Ride the Beast at Kings Island 
Kings Island’s The Beast turned 41 in 2020, and while it may be getting on in years, the world’s longest wooden roller coaster hasn’t slowed down at all: the ride’s 7,300-plus feet of track includes 135-foot vertical drops, a 540-degree helix tunnel and speeds up to 64 miles per hour. It’s given more than 54 million rides in its four decades and Popular Mechanics magazine recently named it the best roller coaster in Ohio. But it may have some competition: 2020 saw the park unveil Orion, Kings Island’s tallest, fastest and longest coaster. One of only seven giga coasters in the world, Orion boasts a 300-foot first drop and soars across 5,321 feet of track at speeds up to 91 miles per hour.  
Kings Island, 6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason, visitkingsisland.com. 
Photo: Paige Deglow

Ride the Beast at Kings Island

Kings Island’s The Beast turned 41 in 2020, and while it may be getting on in years, the world’s longest wooden roller coaster hasn’t slowed down at all: the ride’s 7,300-plus feet of track includes 135-foot vertical drops, a 540-degree helix tunnel and speeds up to 64 miles per hour. It’s given more than 54 million rides in its four decades and Popular Mechanics magazine recently named it the best roller coaster in Ohio. But it may have some competition: 2020 saw the park unveil Orion, Kings Island’s tallest, fastest and longest coaster. One of only seven giga coasters in the world, Orion boasts a 300-foot first drop and soars across 5,321 feet of track at speeds up to 91 miles per hour. Kings Island, 6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason, visitkingsisland.com.
Photo: Paige Deglow
Ride Carol Ann’s Carousel at Smale Riverfront Park
Carol Ann’s Carousel at Smale Riverfront Park features 44 hand-carved Cincy-centric characters on which to ride (plus 16 hand-painted, stylized landscape murals from local artist Jonathan Queen). The glass-enclosed attraction is rain- and snow-resistant, making it a whimsical year-round pleasure… because the joy of riding Martha the last passenger pigeon or the Findlay Market pig around in circles diminishes significantly if you’re being pelted in the face with sleet. In addition to the carousel, the park’s other interactive features include the Fath Fountain’s dancing water jets, a walking labyrinth, a foot piano (like in Big), bench swings with river views, a monument to the Civil War’s Black Brigade, an elevated metal pig sculpture into which you can climb and a novel “Portland Loo,” a private, freestanding outdoor public potty.   
Smale Riverfront Park, 100 W. Mehring Way, Downtown, cincinnatiparks.com.
Photo: Jesse Fox

Ride Carol Ann’s Carousel at Smale Riverfront Park

Carol Ann’s Carousel at Smale Riverfront Park features 44 hand-carved Cincy-centric characters on which to ride (plus 16 hand-painted, stylized landscape murals from local artist Jonathan Queen). The glass-enclosed attraction is rain- and snow-resistant, making it a whimsical year-round pleasure… because the joy of riding Martha the last passenger pigeon or the Findlay Market pig around in circles diminishes significantly if you’re being pelted in the face with sleet. In addition to the carousel, the park’s other interactive features include the Fath Fountain’s dancing water jets, a walking labyrinth, a foot piano (like in Big), bench swings with river views, a monument to the Civil War’s Black Brigade, an elevated metal pig sculpture into which you can climb and a novel “Portland Loo,” a private, freestanding outdoor public potty. Smale Riverfront Park, 100 W. Mehring Way, Downtown, cincinnatiparks.com.
Photo: Jesse Fox
Walk with a Kangaroo at the Cincinnati Zoo
The Cincinnati Zoo’s new Roo Valley habitat is an interactive experience that allows visitors to enter a kangaroo walkabout, a 15,000-square-foot green space where red and grey roos roam as you wander by. Yes, you will be in the same enclosure as the kangaroos. Some adorable marsupials in this tiny land down under (it is technically down under — located where the zoo’s Wildlife Canyon used to be and currently below the local-beer-serving Hops Beer Garden) may even come up and interact with you, and each other. Another zoo superstar to check out? Fiona the hippo, the Queen City’s perfectly plump princess. Since being born six weeks early in January 2017, Fiona has become a bona fide celebrity. Initially weighing just 29 pounds, she inspired the hashtag #TeamFiona as well as plenty of international media coverage, children’s books and mountains of themed merchandise. The former itty, bitty baby is now a sassy and playful thousand-pound hippo. Visit her and her mom Bibi in the zoo’s Africa exhibit. Or check out any one of the many other animal tots who steal our hearts on the regular, especially during Zoo Babies month in May.    
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, cincinnatizoo.org.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Walk with a Kangaroo at the Cincinnati Zoo

The Cincinnati Zoo’s new Roo Valley habitat is an interactive experience that allows visitors to enter a kangaroo walkabout, a 15,000-square-foot green space where red and grey roos roam as you wander by. Yes, you will be in the same enclosure as the kangaroos. Some adorable marsupials in this tiny land down under (it is technically down under — located where the zoo’s Wildlife Canyon used to be and currently below the local-beer-serving Hops Beer Garden) may even come up and interact with you, and each other. Another zoo superstar to check out? Fiona the hippo, the Queen City’s perfectly plump princess. Since being born six weeks early in January 2017, Fiona has become a bona fide celebrity. Initially weighing just 29 pounds, she inspired the hashtag #TeamFiona as well as plenty of international media coverage, children’s books and mountains of themed merchandise. The former itty, bitty baby is now a sassy and playful thousand-pound hippo. Visit her and her mom Bibi in the zoo’s Africa exhibit. Or check out any one of the many other animal tots who steal our hearts on the regular, especially during Zoo Babies month in May. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, cincinnatizoo.org.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger