(Blogger’s note: I definitely meant to post this, like, two weeks ago when I was on that big Cincinnati kick, before classes started, but I just realized that I totally forgot to schedule the post. So, please give me some grace on this one and just bear with me.)
In keeping with the past days’ Cincinnati series, are a few helpful tips when moving to (or just visiting) our fabulous city.
If you’ve done any sort of research or talked to anyone, Cincinnati is sprawling and very hilly, which means we have some pretty weird street connections, and you are likely to get lost if you haven’t figured out your way around yet. Thankfully, there are a few larger roads that, if you learn well, you can usually find what you need. Here’s a basic list:
Madison (East, major neighborhoods: Hyde Park, O’Bryonville, Oakley)
Erie, Delta (East, major neighborhoods: Hyde Park, Mt. Lookout)
Martin Luther King, Clifton Ave., Ludlow (Center, major neighborhoods: Clifton, CUF)
Taft (Center-East, major neighborhoods: Clifton, CUF, North Avondale)
Ridge (East, major neighborhoods: Pleasant Ridge, Amberley Village)
Central Parkway (Center, major neighborhoods: Downtown, Clifton, CUF)
Westwood Northern, Harrison, Glenway (West, major neighborhoods: Westwood, Mt. Airy, Price Hill)
Colrain (West, major neighborhoods: Northside, Colrain, Northgate)
Galbraith (North, major neighborhoods: College Hill, Finneytown)
Winton (North, major neighborhoods: Finneytown, Winton Woods)
Norwood Lateral (East, major neighborhoods: Norwood)
Ronald Reagan (North, major neighborhoods: Groesbeck, Finneytown, College Hill, Blue Ash)
Reading (Center-East, major neighborhoods: Downtown, CUF, North Avondale, Bond Hill, Sharonville)
Montgomery (East, major neighborhoods: Pleasant Ridge, Kenwood, Indian Hill)
Obviously there a ton more in the greater city, but for now these’ll do.
2. I-71=good, I-75=bad
Piggybacking on the roads, if you ever need to use the highway, try to avoid I-75. There is construction on it that is actually hell, and it’s not just regular, tolerable traffic. It’s usually fine once you get out of the city, but within it, take 71, if possible. I-74 is also acceptable if you’re going west, and I-275 if you’re near the edge of the city. Trust me on this one.
3. “Please” means two different things
In Cincinnati, the word “please” can mean two different things: the standard “please” or “can you repeat that?” It actually comes from our German heritage, in which the word for “please” (bitte) is included in the phrase to repeat yourself (wie bitte?).
This might seem obvious or easy to pick up on, but my friend once told me a story of when someone in an airport asked her a question and she didn’t hear. Naturally she said “please?”, to which he responded, offended and exasperated, “Can you please tell me where the bathroom is?” I thought it was funny, but, of course, she felt really bad about it.
4. Skyline is better than Gold Star
Cincinnati is well-known for it’s unique, soupy chili, and there are two restaurants constantly battling for their position as the official chili brand. Well, more so, Gold Star is always trying to validate itself as a beloved pastime, while Skyline is widely acknowledged as the winner here. So if you want the real Cincinnati chili experience, go to Skyline, not Gold Star.
Alternatively, there are a few local places that are equally good, such as Camp Washington Chili, Price Hill Chili, and Pleasant Ridge Chili, the remnants of when each neighborhood had its own individual chili parlor.
5. In terms of ice cream, you can’t really go wrong anywhere.
Similarly, there is a rivalry between the two main ice cream companies in Cincinnati, Graeter’s and Aglamese’s. In this department, though, you can’t really go wrong either way. There is also United Dairy Farmers, which has killer milkshakes, and countless Whippy Dips, especially on the west side (Putz’s is my favorite). No one in Cincinnati will stand for bad ice cream, so none exists. Just don’t turn into one of those Eastsiders who is supporting the frozen yogurt takeover of America.
Also, if you’re an Oprah fan, she declared Graeter’s as her favorite ice cream in the world. Tons of companies tried to buy it, but they are still a homegrown, homerun Cincinnati business. But don’t worry, you can still have it shipped anywhere in the world online (it is expensive to order, though, so you should really just come visit).
6. Findlay Market
It still amazes me how few Cincinnatians take advantage of this fabulous place. Findlay is an outdoor farmers’ market with an indoor section open year-round. Inside, there are refrigerated meat and seafood stands, soul food restaurants, fudge shops, and the best Belgian waffles you will ever eat. Outside in the spring, summer, and fall, there is fresh produce, musicians, kettle corn, yummy smelling soaps, and anything else you could want at a market. The best days to go are Saturdays and Wednesday mornings, keep that in mind.
Even more so than most other cities of its size, Cincinnati has pretty distinct dividing lines between many of its respective neighborhoods. This began because of the infamous hills, and has kind of grown exponentially since. Here are the biggies, their attractions and main qualities:
Downtown: main business district, one way streets, Fountain Square, most gorgeous Art Deco interior ever (Hilton in the Carew tower)
OTR: stands for “Over the Rhine”, hella German heritage, homeless people, gentrification, Findlay Market, largest collection of Italianate architecture in the U.S.
Clifton (CUF, Heights, University): rowdy parties, coffee shops, University of Cincinnati, little distinction between rich areas and poor areas, many but tiny parks, best neighborhoods in the history of time
Clifton (proper): rich gaslight district who won’t acknowledge the above areas
Northside: hipsters, Hamilton Avenue, record stores, center of local music scene
North Avondale, Walnut Hills, Evanston: massive and gorgeous but inexpensive houses because of poor neighborhood
O’Bryonville: cool business district the size of a football field
Hyde Park: rich, pretentious white people
Mt. Lookout: Lookout Joe’s Coffee in a cooler, less pretentious version of Hyde Park
*Norwood: a city within a city, Cincinnati’s parasite
College Hill: College Hill Coffee Co., Presbyterians
Westwood: definition of west side
Price Hill: ghetto-er Westwood
Mt. Airy: forests, dog parks
Mt. Adams: beautiful churches visible from hills, bars
*Newport: big movie theater, better legislation
*Florence: minor league baseball, gets the brunt of Kentucky jokes
*Mason: rich white people who left in the early ’00s because they were too scared of the city
Amberley Village: Jews
Pleasant Ridge: basic east siders, Everybody’s Records, teachers
*Finneytown: Cincinnati but not Cincinnati
*Indian Hill: rich white people (again), Frank Lloyd Wright, public school that’s actually private
*indicates neighborhood not part of city
A great source of controversy over the past few years, construction for the Cincinnati Streetcar project is currently underway and is expected to be done in late 2016. You’re either for it or against it, but it’s happening either way.
9. We’re actually just a big small-town.
Trust me, just because we’re in a city does not mean we’re all jaded and individualistic. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Midwest friendliness is not a stereotype here, it’s reality. This is amplified even more on the west side. And piggy-backing off of that:
10. Everyone is related to everyone.
Want to hear a story? We went to Canada and found someone from Cincinnati. And guess what? They were our third cousins. A lot of this comes from the west side’s strong Catholic families, who all had a gazillion kids each (my grandma growing up had eleven sisters and two brothers). Another part of this is that the longer you live in Cincinnati, the less you want to leave. It really is the greatest place on Earth. Having grown up here, even if I one day decide to leave for my career or some other reason, I guarantee you that I will come back one day and raise my family here. It’s that addictive.
By the same token, if you’re from Cincinnati, when people ask you what school you went to, it never means college. High schools are a source of great pride in Cincy, plus everyone naturally assumes that they’ll know where yours is. But don’t worry, that same friendliness means that even if you aren’t from around here, you will be more than accepted and welcomed into our fabulous city. But, depending on where you live, it might take a bit of effort. You can’t really just sit back and expect a new group of best friends to immediately surround you, no matter where you are.
When you come here, you will be naturally expected to absolve all loyalties to Pittsburgh and St. Louis and accept your fate as only a semi-pro sports fan. Occasionally, some Steelers fans survive, but they become so obvious and obnoxious about it that no one will respect or take them seriously. But friends don’t let friends be Cardinals fans.
12. Cars are a must.
Because Cincinnati is so sprawling and subdivided, you pretty much need a car to get anywhere outside of your own neighborhood. Our bus system is actually pretty good, but only within the central areas like downtown and OTR. And unfortunately, because of the hills, Cincinnati’s not very conducive to biking. Don’t worry about it if you’re a student, though, there’s plenty around the University to take care of you. But if you decide to stick around, a vehicle of some sort is a good investment.
13. No water filter needed!
Believe it or not, Cincinnati has some of the cleanest tap water in the world. It has to do with some carbon-filtering contraption or something science-y like that. Unless your home pipes themselves are dirty, you are more likely to get junk from your add-on filter than from what comes from the Water Works. And even though the Ohio River has been called “the big muddy” in the past, it’s actually exceptionally clean in and of itself. It just looks muddy because it is a silt-bottomed river. (I still wouldn’t advise swimming in it, though.)
This one is very important: Cincinnati has pretty jank weather. It’s actually one of the few things I would change about our city in a heartbeat. Never ever ever put away your winter clothes for the summer, or vice versa. It snowed in July several years ago, and we’ve had days in the winter with a high of 75. Ohio very famously goes by the creed “all four seasons in a week.” Well, that can easily be amplified ten-fold in Cincy.
The ever-changing weather aside, though, here is what typical summers and winters are like (it’s actually worse than the unpredictable side):
Summer—Heat and humidity, special emphasis on the humidity. Being in a river valley with hella hills means that nothing gets blown away, especially moisture. It’s actually awful. It might be only 75 degrees, but it feels like 102 because it literally just sits there and never goes away. You will sweat profusely, and it will never do any good because there is no more room for your own moisture to evaporate into the already overly saturated air. (Read: why Jillian hates summer.)
Winter—Cold and dry, emphasis on the cold. Winters are essentially the opposite of summer, the other extreme end of the spectrum. In grade and high school, we never really got snow days, we got ice days. Again, because of the crazy mixture of seasons, we get a lot of freeze and thaw. So it can rain one day, and before the roads dry up, the temperature will hit below freezing. Thus, icy roads. On hills. Not a good combination. Make sure you have a car that runs well in cold, and be extremely careful when driving through slick intersections.
15. Beer Beer BEER
Between our mix of German and Irish heritage, and especially now with the new resurgence of entrepreneurial opportunities, Cincinnati has a pretty great collection of microbreweries. There are also, like, forty different festivals each year that give rise to new beer drinking excuses.
16. It ain’t “soda.”
It’s pop. Pop pop pop POP. I get on my boyfriend’s case (who lives in P. Ridge) all the time about calling fizzy beverages “soda.” We are in the Midwest, son. We say “pop.”
17. BBQ Grippo’s will destroy your stomach lining.
Back when every city used to have it’s own potato chip distributor, Cincinnati had Grippo’s. Thankfully, they’re still around, because you haven’t eaten real barbecue flavored chips until you’ve eaten Grippo’s. No joke, there is literally more seasoning than chip. And if you eat too many of them, not only will your mouth be set on fire, but you might give yourself an ulcer, too.
It’s soooo worth it, though. You can even buy the seasoning separate, and put it on everything (or give your chips another douse).
18. At P&G, all roads lead to the ‘Nati.
If you aren’t a transplant due to college or some other entrepreneurial endeavor, you’re probably a Procter & Gamble employee. So much of the city centers around our biggest Fortune 500 company, and you can spot a P&G-er from a mile away.
19. We like to be first.
First sky scraper.
First MLB team.
First Ohio newspaper.
First public television station.
First man on the moon.
First Jewish hospital.
First paid municipal fire department.
First air mail delivery.
First woman to own and operate a large manufacturing company.
First organized cornhole organization.
Need I go on?
20. We actually aren’t named after Cincinnatus.
Well, technically yes, but why would a random American city pay homage to a Roman dude who had nothing to do with us? It’s because Cincinnati is really named for George Washington, the farmer who became emperor and then humbly returned to farming. He’s the American version of the Roman Cincinnatus.
Another fun fact: We have the only official copy of the famous She-Wolf, Romulus and Remus statue in Eden park, a gift from Rome: from the city of seven hills on a bend in the river to the other city of seven hills on a bend in the river.
21. This is the best city ever.
And I’ll end with that.