Staff Picks

Immerse yourself in the urban experience as CityBeat staffers tip you to the best street art, best cause on the river, best new look for Metro, best incentive to get outside, best conversations about cheese and much more.

Best Street Art:
As part of his exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center, Supply and Demand, artist Shepard Fairey put up murals on the exterior of seven buildings in Downtown, Over-the-Rhine and Northside. The CAC worked for months to secure a range of sites around the city for sanctioned, permitted paper murals to be glued to the walls using wheat paste; the murals aren’t permanent but are expected to wash away slowly as rain and wind interact with them. Portions of each mural could remain on view as long as a year, so check them out while you can: Metropole Apartments (adjacent to the CAC on Walnut Street), Downtown; Arnold’s Bar and Grill, Downtown; 1301 Main St., Over-the-Rhine; Lightborne Video, Over-the-Rhine; HighStreet, Over-the-Rhine/Mount Auburn (pictured); Shop Therapy, Northside; and Shake It Records, Northside.

Best Gardening Classes:
The Civic Garden Center enriches lives through education, community beautification and environmental stewardship … and a ton of classes. Ever wanted to learn how to grow mushrooms or make a sustainable garden with native herbs? The Civic Garden Center pairs the public with trained instructors and horticulturists for a variety of gardening, composting and other environmentally friendly lessons at an affordable cost. They even have interactive programs for children to get their green thumbs and green attitudes started early. 2715 Reading Road, Avondale,

Best Way to Explore and Chat About the City Sights:
Hey, it’s hard to talk while riding your bike or running. If only there were a way to be immersed in the beauty of Cincinnati locations like Eden Park while retaining your normal breathing and speaking patterns while mobile! Wait, there is. Segway of Cincinnati rents their people-moving electric robot machines for guided scenic tours of Eden Park, or you can just take it for a spin down Central Parkway. 1150 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-225-1583

Best of Cincinnati on Two Wheels:
Queen City Bike is the hub (pun intended) of Cincinnati bicycle culture and news. The bicycle advocacy organization provides an excellent calendar of two-wheel events and news of the region’s evolving bike infrastructure. QCB also organizes hip events such as the Bike Dine, a rolling progressive dinner in which participants ride from one local restaurant to another a 10-15 mile ride.

Best Park to Let Your Dog Run Free:
At the Mt. Airy Dog Park, located at Westwood Northern Boulevard between Montana and North Bend Road, you’ll need to have a leash with you at all times, but in the designated “dog park” he or she can run free. Cincinnati Parks has developed two acres in Mt. Airy Forest to let your K9 friend move around a bit and/or meet other dogs. Of course, some rules apply: Like you’ll need to clean up after your dog, and if your female dog is in heat it’s better to keep her at home. or 513-352-4080

Best Use of Turntables in the Classroom:
In order to help his sixth grade Princeton students understand and retain information in science class, Dave Whitehead encouraged them to present what they learned by writing a rap song and singing it in front of the class. A former DJ (and former CityBeat staffer), Whitehead even brought his old turntables to school to help spin the jams. Hats off to an inspiring teacher. It’s like a 21st century Dead Poets Society.

Best Nonprofit That Most Cincinnatians Have Forgotten:
While AIDS is no longer a young white man’s death sentence, after 28 years in operation Stop AIDS — formerly known as AVOC — remains dedicated to the fight. Now considered a mostly African-American illness with AIDS being the leading cause of death for black women ages 24-34, Stop AIDS continues to educate the community on the risk of HIV infection and still provides services to those already suffering from it. 220 Findlay St., Over-the-Rhine, 513) 421-2437,

Best Community Building Project:
The Emanuel Community Center is organizing The Community Quilt Project, with a goal of connecting the many diverse populations and people in Over-the-Rhine. The center (1308 Race St.) was founded in 1871, and under Executive Director Karyl Cunningham great things are happening, especially an effort masterminded by silk artist Angela Morrow and quilter Deborah Arnold. The resulting quilt will be a whimsical map of Over-the-Rhine made of smaller pieces created by people and organizations from across the community. It’ll be displayed at agencies throughout the city. That covers it.

Best Way to Get Jean-Robert to Serve You a Drink:
The tastiest fundraiser in town is hosted by Jean-Robert and Annette de Cavel. Better still, Jean-Robert will pour the champagne and whip up a mean mimosa. There are silent and live auctions, hands-on kids activities and food from Daveed’s, Cumin, The Summit, Taste of Belgium, Jean Philippe Chocolatier and more. It all happens again June 13 at the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State.

Best Cause on the River:

The PA Denny River Education Center is the ecology classroom Mark Twain would have loved. Since 2004, the historic paddleboat has ferried students on voyages along the Ohio River, scooping up water samples and studying the aquatic organisms that call the Ohio home. For many of the young passengers, a PA Denny cruise was their first time on the water and the first time they recognized the importance of the river in their lives. During a Coast Guard inspection earlier this year, the boat was found to have significant wear to its hull and is now in drydock. Repairs will cost around $225,000, and it’ll be at least a year before the Denny is operational again. In the meantime, the crew continues to teach area kids about the region’s most important waterway at land-based educational events. Details: or 513-231-7719 ext. 115

Best Used Book Sale:
Friends of the Public Library offers ongoing bargain prices throughout the year on used books in every genre — hardback and paperback — at the Friends Warehouse located at 8456 Vine Street in Hartwell. You’ll also find special deals on CDs, DVDs and audio and video tapes. Sales “events” also occur periodically at various library branches, with the year’s first scheduled for the Pleasant Ridge Branch
(6233 Montgomery Road) April 16-17. The annual downtown sale at the Main Library (800 Vine St.) will be June 6-11.

Best Natural Sculpture:
Check out the patio behind Iris BookCafe (1331 Main Street, Over-the-Rhine) for a remarkable sculpture by the Thin Air artist group. It looks like it grew there, but some fine artistic hands shaped it into an intriguing space.

Best Chance to Be Moved by Moving Sculpture:

Downtown is graced with a soaring, fine example of kinetic sculptor George Rickey’s wind-propelled, moving outdoor sculptures. Local filmmaker Paul M. Kreft sought out a special opportunity to visit Rickey’s estate in upstate New York after the artist passed away in 2002. Filming throughout several seasons, Kreft put together the ambient George Rickey Works, an unconventional documentary with no narration apart from a recorded quote here and there from the artist. Beyond that, it’s simply an hour-long journey with acoustic guitar accompaniment through the lives of an array of Rickey’s moving sculptures in situ through autumn, winter blizzards and pleasantly pastoral days with glinting sunlight and rippling ponds.

Best Swap Meet:
Up for Grabs Day, held annually in late January at North Presbyterian Church in Northside, promotes recycling on a massive level. Just bring in two items you no longer want, and you can take home as much as your heart desires. You’ll find everything from clothing and furniture to bikes, electronics, housewares and more. And everything that’s left over is donated to charity. Bravo!

Best Afternoon Getaway:
Yellow Springs’ slogan is “Find Yourself Here,” and you could in fact find yourself there in less than an hour. This quaint, quiet village is full of “hippie” charm. Without the typical chain restaurants and stores, you’ll encounter fresh, casual, organic and vegetarian dining as well as unique import and antique stores. Or skip the town entirely and get in touch with nature at the Glen Helen Nature Preserve, with 25 miles of green footpaths and waterfalls. And make a stop by Young’s Jersey Dairy for family farm fun and homemade ice cream.

Best Place to Spend an Entire Afternoon in Many Places Without Leaving the Building:
You can easily get lost at Union Terminal and enjoy every minute. Down in the various facilities under the Cincinnati Museum Center umbrella you can explore wet, cramped caves (one for beginners, one for more advanced hikers); a glacier featuring icy runoff and a wooly mammoth stuck in the mud; a forest full of screaming kids climbing up hollow logs; a 19th century public landing where you can wander in and out of shops and a docked riverboat; and a Cincinnati streetcar making its run up to Ludlow Avenue in Clifton. Or just stand in the amazing rotunda and imagine what it was like when thousands of train passengers swarmed through it back in the day.

Best Neighborhood Arts Revival:
At any given time, some part of Cincinnati is pushing for an all-out renaissance. In the past year, the 17-year-old Semantics Gallery residing in Brighton on the edge of the West End has been joined by a number of new arts ventures. U.turn Art Space keeps dishing up smart group and solo exhibitions of contemporary artists from this region and abroad. The Brush Factory is now open for business, featuring handmade fashions by local designers, many of whom are recent Fashion graduates from UC. Along with Synthetica Gallery and the window-gallery Freeman-Central, the neighborhood has recently become the new home of Bunk Spot, the arts and music venue, now located inside the historic Mockbee Building. If this keeps up, Cincinnati has found its Soho.

Best New Look for the Metro:

Late last year Metro added five articulated “accordion” buses to its fleet — or, as some call them, “slinky” buses. They’re about 60 feet in length and can carry up to 50 percent more riders at about the same operational cost as a regular bus. Described as workhorses, they’ve expanded Metro’s capacity on heavily used bus routes. The cost of a regular bus is approximately $380,000 while the new articulated buses — which aren’t hybrid but run on diesel or biodiesel fuel and were paid for primarily by federal funds — cost just over $611,000 each. Drivers find them easier to drive than regular buses, Metro spokeswoman Sallie Hilvers says, and the agency plans to purchase more. “We want to open the eyes of the community to something different,” she says.

Best Incentive to Get Outside
Local writer and outdoors enthusiast Tamara York probably went through a few pairs of walking shoes during her research for 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati, published last year by Menasha Ridge Press, a sister company of Covington-based Clerisy Press. While many of her featured hikes focus on nearby state parks and lakes, quite a few take you through urban spaces like Eden Park, Ault Park, Fort Thomas, Spring Grove Cemetery and Winton Woods. Each hike in the book comes with a map, a detailed narrative of the trail and even GPS coordinates of the trailhead.

Best City Neighborhood With the Most Misconceptions:
To a lot of outsiders, Cincinnati’s largest neighborhood, Westwood, is considered a somewhat low-income, high-crime “ghetto” type area. Yet residents take pride in the diversity of their neighborhood and get behind programs to help improve it, assigning a blight prosecutor who addresses neighborhood issues such as trash, graffiti, loitering and crime. Residents also recently protested the possible tearing down of the historic Gamble estate on Werk Road. The Westwood Civic Association regularly encourages residents to take pride in their property by sponsoring “best lawn” and “flag” contests.

Best Fake Windows in Over-the-Rhine:
The simple, reductive paintings in Easter-egg hues popping up around Over-the-Rhine are the result of the Bloom Studio on Main Street, an appendage of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful. Derelict buildings and drab corners of the city are getting brighter and more interesting, without getting needlessly complicated or overly pictorial. All of the paintings are highly designed, cartoon images of windows, window boxes of plants and doors, painted onto the boarded out areas of defunct spaces.

Best Conversations About Cheese:
Silverglade’s in Findlay Market is where you’ll find a handful of folks who are more passionate about their cheeses than you are. Show them the interest, and they’ll have you tasting this and that, ready and willing to help you outfit whatever cheese course or reception you’ve got in the works.

Best Proof That Some State Budgets Need Cutting:
More than five years after the Ohio Department of Transportation announced a $600,000 project to install traffic signals on entrance ramps to Interstate 74 on Cincinnati’s West Side and several months after the devices were installed, the lights finally became operational during rush hours. Whether they’ve had an impact is anyone’s guess, as traffic remains just as clogged there as ever. With the state of Ohio facing a massive deficit, surely this money could have been put to better use or maybe not used at all.

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