Cincinnati’s biggest light and art event is finally back after a pandemic-induced delay in 2021. The free-to-attend light and art festival BLINK returns for a third go-round and is bigger than ever this year, spanning 30 blocks from OTR all the way down to Covington. Familiar features like murals, light shows, and the Architects of Air luminarium join new installations like drone showcases, roller rinks, and the hotly-anticipated Asianati Night Market. Here’s what you need to know:
When is BLINK? Where will it be?
Thursday through Sunday, October 13–16, from 7 to 11 p.m. The northernmost point is McMicken Avenue near Findlay Market; the southernmost point is Seventh and Pike in Covington. The following streets will be closed:
- Court (between Walnut and Race)
- Vine (between Ninth and Central Parkway)
- Eighth (between Vine and Elm)
- Marian Spencer Way (at Freedom Way)
- Park Place
- Elm (between W. McMicken and W. 12th)
- West Elder (between Central Parkway and Elm)
- Race (between W. McMicken and E. 12th)
- East Elder (between Race and Vine)
- West 14th (between Central Parkway and Vine)
- East 14th (between Vine and Sycamore)
- 13th (between Race and Sycamore)
- Main (between Liberty and Joe Nuxhall Way)
- East Eighth (between Vine and Sycamore)
- Sixth and Madison in Covington
All those streets are closed? How am I supposed to get around?!
Good question. All parking garages in the area will be open, and plenty of areas around the event’s parameters will be offering parking as well. Cincinnati Metro and NKY’s TANK will be suspending all fares on all bus routes during BLINK and will be offering free rides from several park-and-ride locations scattered about the city. The Connector streetcar will be available to take festival attendees everywhere from OTR to The Banks, as well, and attendees can cross the Roebling Suspension Bridge to cross state lines as it’s been in years past.
Is there an app? Are there any tours?
No app this year for BLINK—though there are rogue fan-made apps, like BLONK Cincinnati, that can help get you around. No in-person tours either, although event co-sponsor ArtsWave will have virtual tours accessible on your phone for $10.
So … what’s there to do?
Plenty. As we mentioned at the top, there’s all kinds of light shows, art installations, interactive experiences and live music scattered all across the city. There are 102 different spots this year participating in the festival. You can view a full map on BLINK’s website here. If you want to know what Executive Director Justin Brookhart is looking forward to having people discover, check out our interview with him, and be sure to read our lineup of must-see artists. In terms of major attractions, there’s the luminarium we mentioned earlier, drone shows at the river, a special marketplace at Findlay Market, a ton of installations at Fountain Square and The Banks, and more. On the other side of the river, there’s a huge projection on the outside of Hotel Covington, which will have its courtyard open to guests with a pop-up bar and art installations inside from sundown until 11 p.m. Cincinnati nonprofit ArtWorks will have their largest mural to date outside the Samuel Adams brewery located on Central Parkway—it’ll be lit all weekend long. This year’s new standout seems to be the Asianati Night Market, and there’s going to be a ton of live music, too.
What’s this Night Market I’ve been hearing about?
Night markets are a centuries-old cornerstone of many Asian cultures across the world, and Asianati (the group behind events such as the city’s yearly Asian Food Fest) have joined forces with BLINK to turn Court Street into a traditional night market with lit-up lanterns, food stalls, glow-in-the-dark activities and games, Asian art lining the street, and more in an attempt to fully immerse guests in the lights, smells and flavors of Asia. Vendors include some of Cincinnati’s favorites like Lalo, Boba Cha, Neko Sushi, and several others.
Is the parade coming back?
Yes, with a new route and time this year. The parade will light up Fifth Street from Broadway to Elm Thursday starting at 7:30 p.m., ending with a big finale at Fifth and Elm. This year features 11 local Torchbearers made up of local figures: Will from Make-A-Wish, Kristen Schlotman, Toilynn O’Neal Turner, Lee Turner, Jo Martin, Ian and Jessica Orr, Gary Dangel, Charlotte Reed, Sherry Hughes, and Isaac Wright.
Well, is there anything else kicking off BLINK before the parade?
There seems to be an unofficial event happening outside of Findlay Market on Wednesday night, courtesy of Art on the Streets. Hundreds of bicyclers are coming together for the “largest bike ride in the region” and going all out to decorate their bikes (or themselves) in lights and various costumes. It begins at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the south end of Findlay Market (at Elder exiting onto Race) and makes a loop around OTR before finishing at the north side of the market. You’ll need to sign a waiver to participate.
Where can I go to learn more?
Check out the BLINK website if there are any other details you’re looking for.