Cincinnati: Yep! Take Another Look at, ahem, Queen City

By @ 06/21/17 in Cincinnati, Gay travel, Miles Griffis, Travel

Cincinnati, OhioCincinnati, also known as “Queen City,” is the jewel of the midwest. In just over 10 years the area has flipped homeless parks and crumbling architecture into modish neighborhoods while simultaneously becoming one of the most inclusive cities in America with a score of 100 in the Human Rights Campaign municipal equality index.

The city has a peppy food, craft beer, and cocktail scene that compliments their vivid arts sphere which hosts three museums and over one hundred murals scattered amongst the historic brick buildings. Most surprising is the city’s role in the LGBTQ historical frontier with its controversial Mapplethorpe obscenity trial in 1990 that bushwhacked the way for Jim Obergefell, a local, to lead us to marriage equality in the landmark Supreme Court case in 2015. If you’re not impressed in your first hours in Cincinnati wait until you meet the locals, they’ll persuade you.

Where we stay

Look into two locations: Downtown and Over-the-Rhine. Both are close to major attractions and are lively, walking friendly neighborhoods.

Cincinnati’s most unique downtown hotel is the 21c Museum Hotel. The entire hotel is a provocative modern art gallery dedicated solely to works of the 21rst century. The lobby has lofted white walls with art displays of multiple mediums. Exhibits change every sixth months and have featured works by artists John Waters, Kara Walker, and Nick Brandt. The four-star hotel rooms contain quirky features like 3D shower tiles of body parts, purple telephones, and donkey graphic pillows.

Over-the-Rhine hosts a wide array of apartments and townhouses available on Airbnb. The transforming neighborhood looks like old Brooklyn complete with four to five story brick buildings with beautiful fire escapes which locals lounge on during warm mid-summer evenings while others amble to quality restaurants and bars below them. Airbnbs are a steal in the area and most have been freshly renovated in the past five years.

Where we eat

Serious gourmands should visit Cincinnati in May for the annual Tastes of Cincinnati festival that usually falls on Memorial Day weekend. But no matter when you visit, the city offers premium restaurants. Try a Cincinnati breakfast classic, goetta, sausage patties mixed with steel-cut oats.

Boca is considered the top-notch restaurant by locals and features a solid French and Italian menu as well as a full and separate vegetarian menu. Service is incredible and so is the tropical pavlova for dessert, with coconut tapioca, compressed pineapple, lychee cream, meringue, passionfruit-yuzu-coconut sorbet.

Cincinnati, Ohio in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazineFor a date of classic Italian try Sotto where rapper Drake and tennis player Serena Williams are rumored to have canoodled in the space’s sexy and intimate atmosphere.

If you’re on the go, walk by Gomez Salsa, an actual hole in the wall and order ‘The Turtle,” a filling quesadilla-burrito combo with the ingredients of your choice. It’s better but as quick as any Chipotle.

Where we play/meet

Although a growing craft beer scene exists, Cincinnati is specializing in the revitalization and experience of the cocktail. There are four formal gay bars, though, it seems because of Cincinnati’s acceptance of LGBTQ people that locals feel comfortable at any location. You can meet people anywhere.

Start the evening at Sundry and Vice. The apothecary styled lounge is an intimate and masculine space free of distractions and full of conversations. They have innovative cocktails on draught to speed up busy weekend nights but still shake and mix handsome flavors with fresh fruit juices. They make homemade syrups and their own spicy ginger beer. Their space is a favorite among the queer community because of its sophistication and welcoming community. The Morning Song is a must try- a blend of craft gin, lillet rosé, lime, cucumber, egg white, and black pepper. Refreshing in mid-western humidity.

End the night at Below Zero Lounge. Although not well decorated or sophisticated, the bar is the main hangout for the LGBTQ community and many of their allies. Drinks are dog cheap, strong, and ensure for revelry on their dance floor. Penny Tration from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5 hosts a weekly drag show in the Cabaret, the second floor show-bar space.

Cincinnati, Ohio in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazineWhat to see/do

Cincinnati is art, food, and drink, and of course baseball when the Reds are in season and opening day shuts the city down for a parade.

The Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) hosts innovative modern art galleries that turnover frequently so no visit is ever the same. The museum will always be linked to Mapplethorpe which in 2015 celebrated with a 25 year anniversary of their famous exhibit premiering his work. The museum continues to push boundaries and ideas with exhibits by Tomás Seraceno who combines aeroscience, physics, architecture, in larger than life installations that propose futuristic cities in the sky.

A guided tour of the city’s one hundred plus murals by Artworks will take walkers around to changing parts of the city and through Washington Park where weekend farmer’s markets and fountains spraying in summer cool the community’s smiling children. On the tour, stop at a variety of restaurants like Salazar’s for a farm-to-fork twist on American burgers or at Findlay Market where any world cuisine of food is a ma-and-pop stall away.

Visit the locally owned Esquire Theatre where you can see a live cast perform the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show every other Saturday night at midnight. The event relies heavily on audience participation and dressing up is encouraged! Drink heavy craft porters and hearty red wines while you’re entertained.

Get Smart

Forget the rivalry between Uber and Lyft and download Drivr , a new app developed in Cincinnati and now spreading to Seattle. Drivr offers a fleet of four Tesla Model S cars that are not only environmentally friendly, but incredibly efficient and stylish. The startup prides themselves on “affordable, executive, transportation.”

This, Not That

Most baseball games are the same. Although Reds games are a city-wide event, instead see your first Opera at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. The opera features a talented and attractive cast full of emotion, tasteful male-male love scenes, and a breathtaking finale.

When to Go

Although Cincinatti is best visited in spring and fall when the humidity rests and gives way to clear warm days, the holiday seasons presents exciting and bright opportunities. From Thanksgiving Day to New Years the Festival of Lights takes place at the Cincinnati Zoo, a cherished local yearly event. Nearly 2 million LED lights brighten the darkest days of winter.

An evening at the City of Lights Festival is coupled well with a half day of skiing or snowboarding at the homely Perfect North Slopes ski resort winter only 30 miles west of downtown Cincinnati. The perfect day trip.

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