Culture

Where to Find Cincinnati’s Best Cultural Attractions

Music Hall | Shutterstock

Music Hall | Shutterstock

Cincinnati is a hidden destination — packed with things to do and see, but often overlooked as a hotspot for cultural activity in the Midwest. Not only is its food scene bigger and better than you thought, but it’s also host to a swath of artistic and institutions that make the region well worth visiting, plus the lush Northern cultural Kentucky region with distilleries galore. The list is long, so to help you see some of the biggest and best events, museums, and venues, we’ve pulled together a few spots you can’t miss:

Founded in 1920, the Cincinnati Opera is one of the oldest opera groups in America, and partners with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to host exceptional performances. This year marks the company’s return to Music Hall, a gorgeous 3,400-seat theater listed as a National Historical Landmark. (Pandemic-era performances were held outdoors at Summit Park in nearby Blue Ash, Ohio, mirroring the company’s beginning as an outdoor troupe hosted at the Cincinnati Zoo pavilion.) This summer’s schedule includes classics like La Bohème and Pirates of Penzanceplus a lavish production of Aida. Even opera neophytes will find something to be amazed by in these gorgeous stage productions.

The Cincy region is much bigger than just Cincinnati itself, encompassing regions of Northern Kentucky that are famous for their bourbon distilling. This area includes the B-Line, a series of five distilleries, eight bourbon bars, and six restaurants that serve the namesake brown liquor. Stop by any of the locations to pick up a passport, which will track your progress — visit two in each category and they’ll even send you some B-Line merch. Keep an eye out for events, as stops on the line regularly host tastings, social hours, and more.

Courtesy of Cincy Region

The end of summer isn’t always a sad moment — especially when you’re in Cincy. Labor Day weekend means Riverfest, a long day of live music, fireworks, and a waterfront crowded with boats. It also features the Rubber Duck Regatta, a race to benefit a local food bank that involves dropping thousands of rubber ducks into the Ohio River and letting them “race.” (It’s not all just for a good cause, either — if your duck wins, you can walk away with a free car or $1 million in cash.) Crowds line up on both sides of the river in Cincinnati and Newport and Covington, KY, and even compete to who can cheer louder in advance of the fireworks show. Information on this year’s lineup and timing have yet to be announced, so continue to check back.

The best art is cutting-edge and avant garde, which is where the Contemporary Arts Center shines: presenting fresh artists in an immersive and expressive space. Housed in Zaha Hadid’s first American building, the CAC has developed a reputation for spotting emerging talent before they ‘re famous, plus early featured presentations of street art, new media, and modern surrealism. The museum is continuing this tradition with events like This Time Tomorrowa performing arts festival, and exhibitions including Kahlil Robert Irving’s work, which is literally woven into the carpet in the CAC’s lobby.

Courtesy of Cincy Region

Ohio’s oldest public market is a constant celebration of food in all forms. Located in downtown Cincinnati in the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, Findlay Market operates Tuesdays through Sundays as a farmers market, specialty goods store, and merchants’ showcase. As a bustling gastronomic hub, it’s also host to all types of events, including kitchen classes, musical guests, and cultural celebrations like German-American Day. Thanks to their community business accelerator and incubator, it’s a center for emerging businesses, and a great place to support up-and-comers in the food scene.

Courtesy of Cincy Region

The American Sign Museum is an off-the-beaten-path museum option that’s just what it sounds like: a collection of classic signage of all varieties. Visitors are able to see snapshots of history through the diversity of graphic designs and techniques used by storefronts . Exhibitions and events include genre-specific collections, like Spotlight on Main Street: Cincinnati-Style Food Signs, which includes the famous neon Skyline logo. Speaking of neon, don’t forget to check out the Neonworks of Cincinnati, a full-time neon sign studio that works within the museum. The museum even hosts the “Signs and Songs” concert series, bringing in bands to play in front of a glowing neon backdrop.

Courtesy of Cincy Region

BLINK is all about making art on a huge scale. With the focus on “Future City,” BLINK, happening October 13-16, brings together artists who paint murals, perform music, and build light and projection installations on the scale of buildings to create the most awe-inspiring works that bring the city and Northern Kentucky hot spots to life. It’s four nights of events, covering 30 city blocks, making it the nation’s largest light and projection mapping art festival. For everyone looking for a glimpse of how BLINK throws the wildest light show in the country, a quick check on Instagram will give you an idea. It’s a party you won’t want to miss.

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