BEST REASON TO VISIT THE ZOO THIS SPRING
Born in late 2013, Santos the baby ocelot is the newest, most adorable addition to the Cincinnati Zoo. He’s pounced into the hearts of the international media through the zoo’s Twitter and Facebook posts showing videos and photos of him playing with Blakely, a doggie that lives in the nursery — Santos even made it to E! online and the Daily Mail U.K.’s sites. If Gladys the gorilla somehow wasn’t cute enough to lure you to the zoo (what’s wrong with you?), then Santos should be enough of a reason to visit the second oldest zoo in America this spring. Cincinnati Zoo, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, 513-281-4700, cincinnatizoo.org.
BEST LOCAL SIGHTS BLOG
Queen City Discovery lets anyone venture through old and new Cincinnati via well-written articles and equally well-shot pictures of the city. Started in 2007 by photographer Ronny Salerno (who was joined by photographer Cameron Knight in 2013), one of the blog’s focuses is on “urban exploration,” which takes readers through old, abandoned parts of the Cincinnati area — like Surf Cincinnati and Seymour Plaza in Roselawn — to provide a look into the city that was. queencitydiscovery.blogspot.com.
BEST REASON TO RUN THROUGH A GRAVEYARD ON HALLOWEEN
Being chased by ghosts would be a valid reason, but so is Run Like Hell — a 5k where locals dress up in costumes and race for charity. All the money raised from the race, which travels from Woodburn Avenue through the Walnut Hills German cemetery, goes to cystic fibrosis research. Whether someone wants to be creepy and dress up like an axe murderer alone or go to the event as a group of zombies, anyone is welcome to eat, drink and run like hell. cincyrunlikehell.com.
BEST CELEBRITY REPPING THE REGION SINCE GEORGE CLOONEY
Mostly known for his role as Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games, actor and Union, Ky.-native Josh Hutcherson is proving to the world that the Tristate wasn’t just a one-hit celebrity-making wonder when we produced George Clooney … or Sarah Jessica Parker … or Nick Lachey … or Doris Day … or Carmen Electra. Ok. So we’ve made a few. But none as adorable as the down-to-earth Hutcherson, who frequently pops back into town for visits. Anyone else catch him at the Cyclone’s Josh Hutcherson bobblehead night?
BEST ONE-STOP SHOP FOR CONCERT TOUR VISUALS
The successful local video house Lightborne has done lots of big time work in commercials and music videos, but lately the company has become a beacon for artists looking to implement large-scale visual flair during their concert tours and TV appearances — aka all the digital animation/live action graphics moving around on a giant screen behind a musician while they perform. Lightborne has created stunning video backdrops for many big names, including Usher, One Direction, Jay-Z, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. Lightborne, 212 E. 14th St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-721-2272, light-borne.com.
BEST SPOKESPIGEON FOR CINCINNATI
Martha, the last passenger pigeon, died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. Immediately following her death, she was packed in a 300-pound block of ice at the Cincinnati Ice Company and shipped to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., where she was photographed, stuffed and displayed in the museum’s Birds of the World exhibit until 1999. She’s currently kept in the museum’s collection but is not on view. However, you can view images of her locally at the zoo’s Martha/passenger pigeon memorial (by the Night Hunters exhibit) or on the side of the building on Eighth Street (15 E. Eighth St., Downtown). Last summer, as the centennial of her death approached, wildlife artist John Ruthven and ArtWorks reproduced his “Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon” painting as a wall mural. Cincinnati Zoo, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, 513-281-4700, cincinnatizoo.org.
BEST SAD MOMENT FOR DEVELOPMENT IN CLIFTON
Progress sometimes demands sacrifice, but that doesn’t make the loss of Lenhardt’s and Christy’s, both housed inside a piece of Cincinnati’s brewing history (the Goetz house was the single-family home of John Goetz, Jr. and his wife Lizzie, one of the daughter’s of Christian Moerlein) any less sad. Developers said the demolition was necessary to build a mixed-use development that will include student apartments, some retail space and parking. The neighborhood association CUF and the Historic Conservation Board both wanted to prevent the destruction of the mansion by getting it historic landmark status, but the family who owned the building wanted to sell and their choice was supported by the Cincinnati Planning Commission. Christy’s and Lenhardt’s, formerly at 151 W. McMillan Ave., University Heights.
BEST CELEBRATION OF BEER AND OTR AND SPRING AND GOATS
Bockfest signals the coming of spring, celebrates Over-the-Rhine and serves up beer from area breweries to thousands of eager locals during the first full weekend of March. This past 22nd annual event kicked off like the rest: with a parade beginning at Arnold’s Bar & Grill, the city’s oldest bar, and continuing to Bockfest Hall, where beer, food and live entertainment awaited the masses. Where else can you see a parade of goats, witness old people and yuppies discover OTR and meet a dignitary known as the Sausage Queen? Next year’s fest kicks off March 6, 2015. Bockfest, 513-604-9812, bockfest.com.
BEST LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH GRAFFITI
Covington, Ky., seems to have a mixed relationship with graffiti. After the city’s Cork ’N Bottle apologized for scrubbing a mural made by renowned British street art group The London Police, Covington officials, in conjunction with Vision 2015 and ArtWorks, dedicated a space near a floodwall by the Licking River for community use. That gives artists some space to freely tag at their pleasure, which Covington officials hope will deter graffiti in other locations in the future.
BEST GUIDE TO LOCAL CULTURE
The Cincinnati DIY Calendar, compiled by Robert Inhuman from Soapbox Books & Zines, is a fantastic guide to finding do-it-yourself events, arts, music, social activism, farmers markets and more in Cincinnati. All-ages, independently organized and free events take precedence over those at traditional venues. The calendar, which is designed by a different artist each month, often pops up in hipster hubs like Northside, but it’s a great tool for anyone who wants to know what’s going on in the Queen City. SoapBox Books & Zines, 1415 Knowlton St., Northside, soapboxbooks.org.
BEST COMMUNITY GARDEN
Bellevue, Ky., has an amazing community garden, featuring the extra bonus of a program that educates children on where food comes from. Started in 2011 and located at the end of “Blossom Alley” between the 400 blocks of Foote and Ward avenues, the garden allows people of all ages to share in the calming joys of harvesting and growing food. bna-ky.com.
BEST 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF A MOVIE FILMED HERE
Our city doesn’t appear on the big screen often, but as one of the few examples of Cincinnati on film, the now-20-year-old Airborne does a somewhat OK job of capturing the spirit of the city during the early 1990s. The story follows a surfy California teenager who unwillingly moves in with his aunt and uncle and cousin Wiley (played by Seth Green) in snowy Cincinnati. Pretty soon, he finds himself in a ridiculous love story that involves hockey rivalries (featuring Jack Black), awesome Baja sweatshirts, costume montages, friendship and Rollerblading around some of the city’s famous hills. The movie gained such a local cult following that some Airborne aficionados set up a screening and ’90s-style party to celebrate the film’s birthday last year. Event organizers insisted to CityBeat that their love of the movie is not purposely ironic. And all other Cincinnatians agree, because that movie is awesome.
BEST REASON TO TACKLE TRAFFIC IN CLIFTON
With the redevelopment between Calhoun and W. McMillian streets near the University of Cincinnati — also known as U-Square — students now have a nearby spot to eat, drink, study and think about their futures (or weekend plans, more likely). Of course, it’s also a great place for anyone else to just fill an empty stomach and have fun. A ton of new restaurants have popped in the mixed-use development, from the Waffle House to the Keystone Bar & Grill and the Brass Tap, plus yoga studios, waxing salons, a bigger Starbucks, every single sub shop in the world and more. But UC students must be particularly happy with the great location; makes finding something other than Indian food in Clifton a bit easier. usquareattheloop.com.
BEST CINCINNATI CHILI LOVERS’ CALL TO ARMS
Nothing rallies Cincinnatians like someone hating on our chili, as Deadspin learned all too well when it ran a story calling Cincinnati chili “a horrifying diarrhea sludge … that Ohioans slop across plain spaghetti noodles and hot dogs as a way to make the rest of us feel grateful that our own shit-eating is (mostly) figurative.” The insult to Cincinnati’s most important heritage even got Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, a Skyline Chili fanboy, involved before everyone realized no one reads Deadspin for food reviews, anyway.
BEST NEW FEATURE IN A PUBLIC PARK
The Rosenberg Swings at Smale Riverfront Park have a great view of and across the river, making it one of the best places to relax when it’s not so cold out. The location is also near all the awesome nightlife and food at The Banks and Newport on the Levee (if you cross the Purple People Bridge), which lets visitors grab a bite to eat before or after spending a little time swinging by the riverside. Smale Riverfront Park, W. Mehring Way, Downtown, 513-357-2621, mysmaleriverfrontpark.org.
BEST ART EXHIBIT IN THE STREETS
When French street artist JR came to the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) for his first solo U.S. exhibition in September 2013, it was only fitting that his work not be confined to the inside of a museum. Known internationally for his giant photographic-portrait posters that pop up in unusual public places, JR took his art to where it belongs — the streets. In addition to wrapping the outside of the CAC with posters of faces, he also travelled in his photo van to sites around the Tristate where he took free portraits and printed them on 36-by-53-inch posters for folks to create their own street art. The exhibit, Inside Out, closed in February, but traces of his work remain throughout the city. Contemporary Arts Center, 44 E. Sixth St., Downtown, 513-345-8400, contemporaryartscenter.org.
BEST PLACE TO PUT ON A SHOW IN OUR OWN VERSION OF CENTRAL PARK
Washington Park provides great acoustics from the bandstand and a wonderfully diverse crowd of people. The park has hosted concerts, Shakespeare plays and movie nights, among other events. Following LumenoCity, a visual and musical architectural mapping experience featuring live music by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, there really should be no question that Washington Park — and Over-the-Rhine as a whole — have seen a spectacular renaissance. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, washingtonpark.org.
BEST CAKE IN A CEMETERY
We’re all going to die. That’s a reality. But sitting around talking about it makes you seem a bit morbid. Unless you’re at a “Death Café,” a new, international movement meant to bring awareness to the subject and create a dialogue via pop-up parties in cemeteries and the like. The local Arlington Memorial Gardens hosts a monthly Death Café meeting where individuals can come, eat cake, drink tea and talk about death in a safe environment. Arlington Memorial Gardens, 2145 Compton Road, Finneytown, amgardens.org, deathcafe.com.
BEST CAMP FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
Stepping Stones provides a normal summer camp environment for children, teenagers and adults with disabilities. The camp has more than 100 staffers, 600 volunteers and on-site nurses to ensure a fun, safe experience for kids and offer families a respite from constant care over the summer. Staff members are extensively screened and trained to handle any special need, with the goal of helping establish a path toward independence. Stepping Stones, 5650 Given Road, Norwood, 513-831-4660, steppingstonesohio.org.
BEST ARCHITECTURAL SAVE
Local preservationists have some victories to be proud of, including the recent restoration of the 1938 International Style Rauh House. The property gained some traction in local media after the nationally recognized building opened up to visitors for the first time since it was abandoned in 2005 during a last year’s Cincinnati Preservation Association tour. Although the house looks just like it did more than seven decades ago, it’s now outfitted with modern technology to pay respect to a truly beautiful location. The Rauh House, 10068 Leacrest Road, Woodlawn, cincinnatipreservation.org.
BEST ARTISTIC STREET REVIVAL
Artbeat on Short Vine is a cooperative monthly culture walk and event that takes people through the art scene in Corryville. Organizers hope to encourage visitors to “gather, experience art, socialize, eat and shop,” align the artistic community with local businesses, and just generally show off the revitalization going on in the neighborhood. Wander into exhibit openings, bars with drink specials or stores offering discounts. facebook.com/artbeatonshortvine.
BEST (AND ONLY) BIERGARTEN AT FINDLAY MARKET
Quench your thirst with locally brewed beer while buying groceries and fresh produce from your favorite market vendors at the OTR Biergarten at Findlay Market. After you’ve shopped for your groceries at the market, store them in the refrigerated Veggie Valet while taking a break to eat lunch and sip on a cold one. The atmosphere is perfect to walk around, enjoy the fresh air and support Cincinnati brewers and vendors. Live music performances every Sunday. Findlay Market, 1801 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-604-9812, facebook.com/otrbiergarten.
BEST PLACE TO NOT BLINK, DON’T EVEN BLINK
Formed by the Cincinnati Horticultural Association in 1844 and inspired by magnificent urban cemeteries like Père Lachaise in Paris, Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum is the final resting place of notable Cincinnatians and features remarkable Gothic Revival architecture. Memorable tombstones include a collection of weeping angels — enough to strike fear into the heart of any Doctor Who fan. There’s a collection of angel statues throughout the grounds that appear to be crying, as a result of wear-and-tear from years of outdoor exposure. But they also look remarkably similar to the BBC’s time traveling hero’s enemies, The Weeping Angels — the ones who displace strangers, enemies and beloved companions in time. A must-see for any Whovian — just don’t blink. Spring Grove Cemetery, 4521 Spring Grove Ave., Northside, springgrove.org.
BEST LAME CAMPAIGN
Despite good intentions, sometimes Cincinnati promoters clearly have no idea what is going on. Case in point: Last year, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber released a “hip” ad for “Cincinnati USA” that featured some annoying guy in capri pants walking around claiming that in Cincinnati “we do what we love.” No one had any idea what the hell this dude was going on about — do people in other cities actively seek out things they hate? — and the video caught social media fire for the ridiculous representation of Cincinnati as a city of obnoxious hipsters. cincinnatichamber.com.
BEST LOCATION TO FILM A 1950s LESBIAN DRAMA
Cincinnati. Duh. Director Todd Haynes brought a stellar line-up of leading ladies — Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara and Sarah Paulson — to the Queen City to film his latest, Carol. In the film, based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, a young department store clerk (Mara) falls for a married older woman (Blanchett). Although it will be represented on film as New York and parts of New Jersey, filming will take place entirely in Cincinnati during a seven-week span that started March 12. This will be the first film shot entirely in the region under Ohio’s new motion picture tax incentive, which seems to be working.
BEST WAY TO TRANSFORM OFTEN-OVERLOOKED STRUCTURES INTO ART
In September of last year, after a ban on advertising on public right-of-ways, advertisements were removed from bus shelters across the city and replaced by literary posters for the Metro Art Shelters project. ArtWorks, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, the Main Library and Downtown Cincinnati Inc., banded together to transform 24 shelters into works of art based on graphics created by ArtWorks apprentices and inspired by classic works of literature. Take a stroll through downtown and see innovative posters representing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Scarlet Letter, The Grapes of Wrath, Moby Dick and more. ArtWorks, 20 E. Central Parkway, 513-333-0388, artworkscincinnati.org.
BEST WAY TO KICK YOUR ANTISOCIAL WEEKEND RUT
We’ve all been there: It’s late on a Friday night, dining options are sparse and the only human interaction you’re interested in is with the pizza guy, then it’s back to wine-fueled online shopping. You need help, and Night Owl Market is here to rescue you. This late-night pop-up party features food trucks and booths, artisan vendors and, often, live music. It’s the perfect way to shake the homebody routine and a great alternative to fried pub grub and a tightly packed bar crowd. Night Owl Market, launched in July 2012, sets up at the corner of Main Street and Central Parkway in Over-the-Rhine on Final Fridays and Saturdays (except during cold months) and at various other area events. Night Owl Market, 1107 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, cincynom.com.
BEST LITTLE BOOZE TOUR
With Cincinnati’s brewery renaissance in full swing, there’s a new public interest in the city’s booze-drenched history. There are a variety of nostalgic tours focusing on the city’s past, but Tonic Tours highlights local microbreweries and cocktail purveyors that are active today. The tours are intimate — perfect for those who like to ask questions — and feature wine and beer tastings. tonictours.com.
BEST PLACE TO LEARN ART FOR REALS
The Art Academy of Cincinnati, a private college of art and design, is one of the best schools in Cincinnati, making artists since 1869 and featuring intelligent teachers who are amazing, experienced artists in their own right. Notable alumni and faculty include Frank Duveneck, Charley and Edie Harper, Elizabeth Nourse, Tom Wesselmann and more. Students often report coming out of the school with a feeling of inspiration and a thorough understanding of what they’ll need to hopefully make a big break. Plus they offer community studio art classes for all ages in topics ranging from traditional media to makeup effects to woodworking. Art Academy of Cincinnati, 1212 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-562-6262, artacademy.edu.
BEST OKTOBERFEST TREKKIE DANCE
It’s not every day a former original cast member of Star Trek visits Cincinnati, and it’s even more rare they take up the chicken dance during their stay. Yet that’s exactly what George Takei (aka Sulu) did for last year’s Oktoberfest, when he led the world’s largest chicken dance. We appreciate Takei shining some positive light on our city, but hopefully he can visit without wearing a chicken hat next time. Or not. It was cute. oktoberfestzinzinnati.com