Cincinnati: Surprisingly Hip and Delightful
The last time we visited Cincinnati was over ten years ago, as part of our family baseball tour. Recently we traveled to Cincinnati twice on business and were surprised at the changes. We think it is truly under-rated! Cincinnati’s visually striking mix of bridges over the winding Ohio River, combined with the unique urban architecture downtown, offers up a winning combination of the old and new. We found a wide variety of historic parks and art museums nestled among very hip restaurants and hotels. And don’t forget the Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds, which will be the site of 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
Our family has driven to Cincinnati from the New York metropolitan area and found that this makes for a fun road trip, especially if you hit all the major ballparks through Pennsylvania and the Ohio River Valley, as we did (more details about this in a future post). Flying to Cincinnati, however, necessitates booking your ticket as far as possible in advance (and avoiding peak holiday periods), as it is the headquarters of many major corporations and thus one of the more expensive American destinations.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport is about 30 minutes from the city and located in Hebron, Kentucky, so those with a bucket list get the treat of visiting multiple states in one visit. The brand new Club at CVG is very similar in feel and offerings to the new American Express Centurion Lounge at La Guardia Airport, which we visited prior to our outbound flight. Although slightly smaller than the Club at CVG, the Centurion Lounge also offers tasty dining and complimentary beverages, with comfy seating and plenty of room to work and charge all your devices prior to take-off. Access to the club costs $35 and is available to all passengers, regardless of carrier, class of ticket or affinity membership. Admission is free to members of Priority Pass, Priority Pass Select and Lounge Club. The extraordinary service is the best feature of both of these lounges, where the staff in each takes very good care of you. The high-end bath products for a quick fresh-up also rank quite high!
American Express Centurion Lounge at LaGuardia
If you are cabbing it into Cincinnati and want to save time when heading back to the airport, consider buying a round-trip cab ride at the taxi counter. (The $35 fare is comparable to Uber, but we went with the taxi because we’ve never tried Uber after dark in a strange city. Have you? We would love to hear about your experiences.)
Lodging and Attractions
On our first recent visit, we stayed at the Residence Inn Cincinnati Downtown, which is located in the historic Phelps Building across from the beautiful Taft Museum next to the Ohio River. We found that this hotel provides every important need for both family and business travelers. The functional kitchens, grocery delivery, 24-hour markets and complimentary breakfast help guests maintain a healthy balance while on the road. We really enjoyed the extensive breakfast buffet after we worked out in the gym. Cincinnati locals rave about the hotel’s incredible roof bar, which is open during the warmer weather. (In fact, a friend held her rehearsal dinner on the rooftop with all her family staying in the hotel the night before her wedding at the Taft Museum next door.) More importantly for us on this visit, the hotel is only a four-minute walk to Procter & Gamble and the downtown business center.
For parents, a new benefit of staying at any of the Residence Inns by Marriott is that the chain recently partnered with Apple to introduce Story Bug by Cricket. Just launched this summer, Story Bug is an iPhone and iPad collaborative app that can help travelers stay connected to their kids while they are on the road. Story Bug offers a wide selection of digital books and interactive features (such as video chat) that help parents, grandparents and other loved ones read stories together even though miles and time zones apart. Residence Inn understands that sometimes it’s difficult to stay connected to family on the road, so to make it easier on their business travelers, from now through March 2015, the brand is offering guests two travel-themed books, I Left My Sock in San Francisco and We’re on our Way, created especially for Residence Inn customers, and a free one-month subscription to the app (for more details, click here www.RuleStorytime.com). We love that geographic distance no longer means having to compromise sacred bedtime rituals with your children.
If you have time, be sure to sample the local art scene by touring the the Taft Museum of Art, regarded as one of the country’s finest small art museums. The building in which it is housed was built around 1820 and was the home of Cincinnati’s first banker and Cincinnati’s first millionaire before becoming the home of Anna and Charles Taft. In 1908, Charles’s half-brother, William Howard Taft, accepted the nomination for President of the United States on the portico of the house. The Tafts were avid art collectors who donated both their home and their private collection of 690 works of art to the people of Cincinnati in 1927.
After checking out the Taft Museum, stroll through Lytle Park and enjoy the water views. You can’t miss the 11-foot statue of Abraham Lincoln, a gift from Charles Phelps Taft to commemorate the centenary of Lincoln’s birth. Lytle Park Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places and contains numerous historical markers with information and stories of the neighborhood. Lytle Park is also the only park in the United States to be built over an interstate (I-71).
The Beautiful Lobby of the Renaissance Hotel
During our second visit to Cincinnati we tried another Marriott property, the Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown Hotel. This boutique hotel is in the Bartlett Building, a gilded and elegant former bank building, which also houses the hip and cool D. Burnham’s restaurant.
D. Burnham’s, the Hip Restaurant in the Renaissance Cincinnati
The hotel blends old-world splendor with modern amenities. Our sixth-floor room featured black and white murals, luxurious carpet, chic silver furniture and every modern luxury you can imagine. The soft sheets and comfortable bed made for the best sleep away from home that we’ve had in years. Our room also boasted gorgeous river views.
Our Elegant Room in the Renaissance Cincinnati
After working out in the state-of-the-art gym, we really enjoyed the bountiful breakfast buffet in the glamorous Marriott Member Lounge. Check-out was easy, and we found that the hotel is only a two-minute walk to Procter & Gamble.
Metropole in the 21C Hotel
During our visits, we had the chance to enjoy some of the local cuisine. Metropole, a swanky restaurant in the 21C Museum Hotel, focuses on local farmers and sustainable food and offers a surprisingly delicious “down home” lunch. We started with cauliflower fritters (I need that recipe so I can get the kids to eat cauliflower), followed by a gorgeous and sumptuous salmon with crispy beets. After the festive lunch, we toured the unique modern art exhibit in the lobby and on the second floor. Almost every part of the hotel is a reference to a work of art, even the neon hallways, which reminded us of those in the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.
The Art Hallway at 21C Museum Hotel
Our favorite work in 21C’s exhibition was Alice Young’s “Will You Miss Me?,” which is a video piece in a mirror. We hear from friends and colleagues who have stayed there that the rooms at 21C are fantastic, and all of them feature the whimsical furniture and art. This boutique hotel also has locations in Bentonville and Louisville and plans to open a new location in Durham, North Carolina, soon. Next visit, we hope to stay there!
Alice Young’s “Will You Miss Me?”
We tried another great restaurant that is also near another important landmark, the Contemporary Arts Center. McCormick & Schmick’s is an upscale place with a clubby atmosphere and a menu of yummy seafood and steak. The Contemporary Arts Center is known for its rotating arts experiences that challenge, entertain and educate. We hope to come back soon with our children to visit the family exhibits of the UnMuseum, which was voted best in the city for family entertainment.
Whether you’re looking for a fun baseball trip, a family history lesson or innovative displays of contemporary art, we highly recommend Cincinnati: Surprisingly Hip and Delightful
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