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The Queen City: Discover Cincinnati

It’s early April, and my wife, Wendy, and I are thinking about doing something fun for our 20th wedding anniversary. Hawaii seems like a good choice, but the Covid travel restrictions are a bit onerous. How about Santa Monica—the place where a lot of our courtship took place, and a piece of the world we love? “No, I’ve got it! Let’s go to Ohio—Cincinnati to be exact!” Wendy turns, looks at me, and with a big smile says: “Yes! That's perfect.”

Though we’ve been fortunate to visit many places throughout the world, there’s always something new and interesting to be found in the thousands of cities and towns here in the U.S.—and in this new (almost) post-COVID time, it's a great time to explore them.

First up, we checked out Cincinnati's Tourism Bureau, which lead us to The Cincinnati Experience (, where we found a ton of ideas on must sees and dos, where to eat and where to stay, along with a plethora of helpful information and history about the city.

Getting to Cincinnati proved to be effortless, even with the airlines’ reduced schedules making travel more difficult. Both Southwest and United offered good options.

21c Museum Hotel; photo by Terry Carroll and Wendy Sipple © and wholly owned by Style Media Group


21c Museum Hotel; photo by Terry Carroll and Wendy Sipple © and wholly owned by Style Media Group


Of course, choosing the right hotel to stay at was the most important choice. We were looking for something comfortable, centrally located, and more “boutique” than business.After some research, we zeroed in on a hotel that checked all the boxes: 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati ( Situated in the heart of the city, this boutique hotel is a multi-venue contemporary art museum, has an award-winning restaurant and is an easy walk to almost anywhere, including a tram stop around the corner. Speaking of the city’s streetcar (the “Cincinnati Bell Connector”), it takes you through most of downtown in around 20 minutes, is comfortable, and free.

The Great American Ballpark entrance


After an easy check-in and quick look around the hotel’s exquisite art collection, we were off to the Great American Ball Park ( to see the Reds host the Pirates: our first in-person ballgame in almost two years! Watching the Reds—baseball’s first professional franchise— win 14-1 from great seats in a beautiful park made for an ideal introduction to the city.

Nada, Mexican/South American cuisine; photo by Terry Carroll and Wendy Sipple © and wholly owned by Style Media Group


Walking back to the hotel, we stopped at a trendy Mexican/South American cantina called Nada ( for some small bites and a glass of wine. There’s something about outdoor café dining in a small “big” city (a little smaller than Sacramento) that I’ve always loved, and this fit the bill perfectly.

Day two meant a visit to one of the main attractions on our agenda: the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden ( This wonderful zoo—the second oldest in the U.S.—is consistently voted as one of the best in the nation and houses more than 500 animals and 3,000 plant species. It holds a special place in many people’s hearts, because of the January 2017 premature birth of Fiona the hippo who became an Internet sensation. At 29 pounds, Fiona was born at less than half the size of a normal baby hippo, and that’s where the story begins with the staff going to extreme measures—along with the zoo team, local hospitals, NICU nurses, and all kinds of specialists—to keep this little girl alive. Fiona is now four-and-a-half and close to 2,000 pounds. She and her mom, Bibi, are one of the zoo’s highlights. Plan on spending the day here, because, along with the hippos, there are giraffes (which you can feed!) gorillas, lions, rhinos (another baby!), cheetahs, manatees, and and so more.

Gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo; photo by Terry Carroll and Wendy Sipple © and wholly owned by Style Media Group


Fiona the hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo; photo by Terry Carroll and Wendy Sipple
© and wholly owned by Style Media Group


After, it was back to the hotel where we were given a private tour of their art exhibition by the Museum Manager (and artist in his own right) Michael Hurst—one of the many things that makes this property, and all the hotel’s other locations, so special. The founders of 21c, Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, are contemporary art collectors and preservationists, specifically 21st century art (hence the hotel's name). Hurst guided us through the current exhibition, Dress Up, Speak Up ( which takes up the first two floors of the hotel. This specially comissioned curated collection features works from renowned artists such as Fahamu Pecou, Jody Paulsen, Firelei Báez, Carlos Gamez de Francisco and many others, and is a marvel to behold. One of the unique features of the hotel is not only their rotating exhibitions, but art is everywhere within the hotel; the walls of the elevator, the landing on every floor, pieces in every guest room—including the bathroom which featured custom body-part (think nose, lips) tiles by Cincinnati-based Rookwood Pottery Company—even the lobby desk is a work of art. You could spend your entire trip just gazing at this massive collection throughout the property. Even cooler is one of the missions behind the hotel: “the belief that art can be a vital part of daily life and a spark to ignite new energy and ideas.” To that end, the museum’s exhibition is open 24/7/365 and free to the public (though during COVID, reservations are required, and times are limited).

Wendy Sipple and Terry Carroll celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary at Metropole; photo by Terry Carroll and Wendy Sipple © and wholly owned by Style Media Group


That evening we dined at the hotel restaurant: Metropole ( This is a hotel restaurant whose design would be fitting in any great city—from NYC to London or Berlin. It’s open and airy with the kitchen and staff in full view. After ordering our usual glasses of pinot noir, our knowledgable and convivial server, Jeremy, brought us a taste of a South African red blend: Lubanzi. He said if we were predisposed to pinot, we might find this wine interesting. He nailed it, and we ordered a bottle. We had the Crispy Deviled Eggs to start that were deliciously indulgent. Then something on the menu caught my eye: Jam and Cheese Toast featuring grilled sourdough with fresh blueberry jam and Gouda cheese. We ordered it...but here is where I made a mistake: I offered my wife a bite. The fight was on, and I think I got half, but with forks and knives moving fast and raised and pointed in perilous ways, I can’t be sure. This was one of those dishes I will be making till the day I die—though it’ll never be as good as Executive Chef Vanessa Miller’s rendition. Dinner was Tagliatelle Carbonara (for me) and Tomato and Saffron Risotto (for Wendy). Both were full of flavor, cooked to perfection, and served impeccably. Of course, we had no room for dessert, but Jeremy said we couldn’t leave before trying the Citrus Olive Oil Cake, and yet again, he nailed it. We left with full bellies to be sure.

Tagliatelle Carbonara at Metropole; photo by Terry Carroll and Wendy Sipple © and wholly owned by Style Media Group


The next day took us to an area named more than 150 years ago by those who had immigrated to the region from Europe, a great many of them German and developed the area. Many of these immigrants walked to work crossing bridges over a now-filled in canal they nicknamed “the Rhine” and was subsequently dubbed “Over-the-Rhine” (OTR). The OTR is one of the largest, most intact urban historic districts and reminded me of a neighborhood found in many cities throughout our country—hip, urban, and amid a renewal with cafés, eateries, bars, and boutiques, along with craft breweries, peppering the area.

Mr. Dynamite mural in OTR; designed by Jenny Ustick part of ArtWorks (


Tunnels under the defunct Kauffmann Brewery; photo by Terry Carroll and Wendy Sipple © and wholly owned by Style Media Group


Our first tour of the day was enlightening, to say the least. Craig Maness of American Legacy Tours ( met us in the OTR and started us on a two-hour private Queen City Underground Tour. Jam-packed with great stories and historical data, we journeyed through Washington Park; into the bowels of  St. Francis Seraph Church where headstones and remains of 41 early Cincinnati citizens can be found in their crypt; and through the recently rediscovered and excavated chilly underground tunnels of the defunct Kauffmann Brewery to see where beer was made by countless brewers before and during prohibition in the ’20s and ’30s. While they haven’t produced for decades, the smell of hops and yeast still hung in the air. It’s always nice to be with a guide who loves what they do, has endless knowledge about local history and Maness personified this.

Preserved Headstones discovered in the renovation of Washington Park; photo by Terry Carroll and Wendy Sipple © and wholly owned by Style Media Group


Craig then handed us off to Barbara Cooper, from Cincinnati Food Tours (, who gave us the lowdown on Findlay Market (, a wonderful area that combines a continuously-operating market dating back to 1855 and surrounding area that features shops of all kinds including pop-up retail buildings on the perimeter where Cincinnatians come to shop for produce, meats, desserts, specialty items, and more.

The Arepa Place; photo by Terry Carroll and Wendy Sipple © and wholly owned by Style Media Group


First up, we stopped The Arepa Place (—a small eatery specializing in Colombian and Venezuelan dishes—started by Isis Arrieta-Dennis and her mother (also Isis) as a pop-up and so successful that they were able to move to a shop on the market perimeter. We were served the namesake arepa, which is a dough made from boiled and ground corn that’s grilled then filled with your choice of mozzarella cheese, black beans, fried plantains, shredded beef, chorizo, and/or chicken. This was our first arepa but not our last—muy sobroso!

Churchill's Fine Teas; photo by Terry Carroll and Wendy Sipple © and wholly owned by Style Media Group


Next up was Churchill’s Fine Teas (, which looked and felt like something you would find on a side street in London’s Notting Hill. We were treated to tea and simply in awe of all the different types—and their curated collection of teas can be purchased online too.

Dean's Mediterranean Imports; photo by Terry Carroll and Wendy Sipple © and wholly owned by Style Media Group


Just a couple of doors down, we came to Dean’s Mediterranean Imports (, a combination of deli, market, and rare spice shop where you can buy as little or as much as you want and need. This place oozed history, with old-world spices filling the air and selections of cooking items that would appeal to the best chefs in the world. Tip: try their falafel wrap.
Around the corner we came upon another staple business of the market, Eckerlin Meats (, founded in 1852 and now managed by Josh Lillis, a sixth generation family member. Impressed by the overall selection, we enjoyed their specialty product called goetta—a mixture of pork, beef, oatmeal, onions, and spices, formed into a loaf, and cooked slowly. It s been a part of Cincinnati cuisine since the first German immigrants arrived. Sweet, smoky, and served fried, I think it would settle in next to eggs over easy and hash browns quite well.

Eckerlin Meats; photo by Terry Carroll and Wendy Sipple © and wholly owned by Style Media Group


Next up, Taste of Belgium (—Cincinnati’s favorite waffle shop started by Jean-François Flechet in 2007. Though pretty full at this point, after listening to team member Michael Polk explain the company's philosophy, and watching him prepare the original waffle topped with strawberries and whipped cream for us, how could we possibly resist? Yeah, we devoured the delicious treat in a matter of seconds—we couldn’t help ourselves! We left Barbara and the market, thanking her for a delightful tour that really opened our eyes to the city, its culture, history, and culinary treats.

The Spa at 21c Museum Hotel


Our last day started with some spa therapy at The Spa at 21c, which was exactly what we needed. After two days of walking practically non-stop, our bodies were ready for some pampering. I opted for a facial and Wendy opted for a massage, which she described as “one of the best massages I’ve ever had!” While we were then thoroughly relaxed and wanted to go back to our room for a nap, we hunkered down and continued to explore, heading first for a quick bite at Wahlburgers ( and a little shopping at the storied hat shop adjacent to the hotel, Batsakes, which opened in 1907 and offers off-the-rack or custom-made caps. At this point, we couldn’t walk another step, so we took advantage of the free Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar taking the 3.6-mile round trip journey through The Banks, downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

Taste of Belgium; photo by Terry Carroll and Wendy Sipple © and wholly owned by Style Media Group


As we packed our bags to head home, I couldn’t help but think what a terrific time we had in Cincinnati—our only regret is that we couldn’t stay longer and enjoy even more of this grand city’s delights. Cincinnati is picturesque and steeped in rich history, but the real takeaway was the people—some of the nicest I’ve encountered in all my travels around the world. I asked Wendy if she would want to come back, and her answer put our entire trip into perspective. “Come back? Heck, I’d move here!” I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

by Terry Carroll

Main Great American Ballpark photo by Louis Rideout. Photo of 21c Museum Hotel courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel. Barbara Cooper photo courtesy of Cincinnati Food Tours. Photo of The Spa at 21c Museum Hotel courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel. Other photos by Terry Carroll and Wendy Sipple.