Best of the City: Entertainment

Annual Holiday Kids Event

Polar Express Night at Newport on the Levee

Grab your little ones and your jammies and head to Newport on the Levee throughout December for a Polar Express adventure. Get your train tickets, cocoa, and cookies before a showing of the beloved holiday movie. Bells are handed out after (just like in the movie), and a ride on the Newport Express is included, weather permitting. Tickets are limited and sold out quickly last year. Let’s hope for snow. Newport, newportonthelevee.com

Illustration by Matthew Billington


→ Storytime Fabulosity

Drag Queen Story Hour at Northside Branch Library

One Friday evening in June, a group of about 80 people convened in the Northside branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County for a scheduled storytime event. Not so unusual, except that the person reading was Ms. Amaya, a drag queen. According to Lisa Soper, youth services and programming coordinator for PLCHC, the stories all had messages of “diversity, inclusion, and self-acceptance.” Doesn’t the world need all of that it can get right now? cincinnatilibrary.org


→ Underground Comedy Scene

Myrtle’s Punch House

Comedy invades Myrtle’s basement (they call it the Ratskeller, German for “council’s cellar”) every second and fourth Thursday. Highly Improvable packs the house: We arrived just five minutes late for their show and found only one unoccupied seat. We also laughed the whole time. There’s a mix of performers and troupes, so check them all out—the shows are free. East Walnut Hills, wellmannsbrands.com/myrtles


→ Burlesque

Cin City Burlesque

Banish any judge-y ideas about a strip show from your brain. Cin City’s quarterly shows at Bogart’s are a riotous time geared toward women, far more about the hilarity than the nudity. Emcee Sweett Biscut’s stand-up; the dancers’ elaborate sets and costumes; and the clever, original show themes would each alone be enough to bring you back. But you don’t have to choose—you just need to show up early. Various venues, cincityburlesque.com


→ Reason to Stay Outdoors

Queen City Radio

A little more than a year after opening, it wouldn’t be brash to say Queen City Radio at the corner of 12th and Central Parkway has achieved the outdoor bar experience the now-shuttered Famous Neons Unplugged always strived for. Local brews, boozy slushies, and specialty cocktails are a good start, but there’s more to explore. Sliding glass doors open the bar up to a large beer garden full of cornhole, strung lights, fire pits, and a food truck that serves up burgers and cheese fries worth a visit in their own right. It’s clear QCR has become the go-to bar for those looking for a night on the town al fresco style. Over-the-Rhine, qcrbar.com

Photograph by Wes Battoclette


Best Seats in the House

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

How can you go wrong? Nothing’s more than 20 feet away from the thrust stage. Sitting in the lower gallery puts you right in the action; the upper gallery’s untethered chairs are ideal for anyone who gets squirmy during soliloquies.

Music Hall

We’d kill for a lifetime subscription in the Terrace section, front row center. But really, believe it when the box office boasts there’s not a bad seat in the transformed Springer Auditorium. Grumpy Aunt Dorothy can hear from everywhere, Uncle Abe has room to stretch his arthritic joints, and sight lines are so good you can watch the timpanist tap his foot.

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati

The luxe new ETC seats are way kinder to your keister. And they’re in the same configuration as before, so that’s all good. But the “seats” that really matter are the swanky new loos. More bathrooms! More stalls! Shorter queues! Suddenly the phrase “three-act drama” doesn’t sound quite so terrifying.


→ Way To Live That Harry Potter Life

Quidditch

All evidence to the contrary, these University of Cincinnati students did not come to play. They are, in fact, quite serious about their Quidditch League, which meets on Sigma Sigma Commons, otherwise known as UC’s main campus green. The game itself will look familiar to HP fans: There are three goal rings and brooms (of the hardware store variety), though there are a few alterations to the fictional game for, ya know, real life. The “golden snitch” is a student in a yellow shirt who darts around unpredictably, and they’ve traded in house robes for T-shirts. But the spirit is all there, laid out on the league’s Facebook group page: “The purpose of our organization is to allow an open forum for our fellow Harry Potter closet nerds to express their deep passion and enthusiasm for Harry Potter emotionally, intellectually, and physically through the game of Quidditch (muggle style).” Facebook.com/groups/UCQuidditchLeague

Illustration by Gabriel Cabrera - Folio Art


→ New Racquet

Pickleball

Oft-described as a hybrid of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the U.S. The highly addictive game has been warmly embraced by Queen City residents of all ages: Leagues are populating all over town, finding a particular niche among the older set, with an increasing number of rec centers (Countryside YMCA in Lebanon, Cincinnati Recreation Commission, and more) offering competitive play for “picklers” 45-plus. Various locations, usapa.org/places-to-play-pickleball


Renaissance Festival Alternative

Old West Fest

If jousting in a 16th century English Village doesn’t do much for you, strap on your chaps and travel back to America’s Wild West instead. The Old West Festival has been happening September and October weekends for 10 years now and features activities for bucking broncos and old geezers alike: live music, stunt gunfights, covered wagon rides, gold-panning, lasso lessons, and a daily costume contest—all set in a replica of a late 1800s western town. Yee-haw! Williamsburg (Clermont County), oldwestfestival.com


→ Long Goodbye

WNKU-FM

“In many ways, songs are the food at the dinner table around which we are all gathered.” That was how WNKU Station Manager Aaron Sharpe described the station’s community of listeners a few minutes before it left the radio airwaves for good. It was quite a final stretch for the adored purveyor of local and independent music: a sale was announced by Northern Kentucky University back in February (amid ample protestation), but the last frequency didn’t go silent until September 28, when Sharpe closed the show with the Talking Heads tune “This Must Be the Place.” It certainly was.


→ Old-time Community Gathering Spot

Folk School Coffee Parlor

Cafés are a nice place to grab a quality cup of Joe and chat with friends. But if you’re looking for a bit more, Folk School Coffee Parlor has you covered. With programming ranging from a regular live-recorded Jerry Springer podcast to workshops on compost tumblers and rain barrels to live regional and national music acts, Folk School has situated itself as the go-to gathering place for almost anyone in this riverfront community. Ludlow, folkschoolcoffeeparlor.com


→ Thrilling Slice of History

Secret Cincinnati at Cincinnati Escape Room

Escape rooms have had their moment. But Secret Cincinnati, which touts itself as the most challenging escape room in all of Ohio, is a bit different. Rather than a haunted house or murder scene theme, this room challenges participants’ knowledge of the iconic past of the Queen City. It’s a lot of the same adrenaline-induced fun, but an experience that will also leave you questioning just how well you know the city you call home. Westwood, cincinnatiescaperoom.com


 Yarn-Spinner

Paul Strickland

The Cincy Fringe Festival gives theater fans the chance to see top U.S. fringe groups (and occasional international performers) every spring, but Cincinnati’s own actors, directors, and playwrights measure up well. Take Paul Strickland, whose Balls of Yarn won the critics’ pick for best show at the 2017 Fringe Festival—his shows are a hit each year, and his work is sometimes featured during Know Theatre’s regular season. The 15th annual Fringe Festival is May 29–June 10, 2018.
Various OTR venues, cincyfringe.com


Child’s Play

The Play Library

The website says it best: “Play Library is just like a regular library. But it’s totally different. It’s pretty much the best place in the world.” Created for kids and adults (and stemming from a People’s Liberty-funded temporary storefront), you can play for free on-site or become a member to take the toys home. Different membership levels let you borrow different numbers of toys at a time, and there’s an up-to-date online inventory. The real draw? It saves you money and clutter—and gives you bunches of fun instead. Over-the-Rhine, playlibrary.org

Photograph by Wes Battoclette

Photograph by Wes Battoclette


→ Aerial Workout

Cincinnati Circus

Aerial silk classes, where students contort their bodies in perplexing ways as an artistic means to a mid-air workout, have gained in popularity recently. The acrobatic origins, however, trace back to circus performers, who scaled dangling fabrics upwards of 50 feet high. So who better to learn the trade from than the actual circus? Cincinnati Circus has options for children and adults, but they’re popular, so sign up early and harness your inner Cirque du Soleil. Cincinnaticircus.com

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