Best of the City 2021 Winners: Entertainment


These 2021 Best of the City winners are pure fun, whether you want to go to the movies, take a spin class, or visit a new bar. You can even discover a new podcast or camping experience.

Karaoke: Disney Karaoke at Tiki Tiki Bang Bang

Embrace your inner Elsa. Or Ariel. Or any other beloved Disney princess/hero/villain your heart desires. Tiki Tiki Bang Bang (formerly known as Video Archive), one of the latest projects from Gorilla Cinema, offers monthly Disney-themed karaoke sessions. Look out for drink specials like the Heffalump shot or the Little Mermaid–themed “Look at This Stuff.” Dinglehopper included. • 965 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills, (513) 559-9500,

Arcade: Wondercade

For a while, it seemed like new video game arcades were only opened in the “cooler” neighborhoods in the city (looking at you, Over-the-Rhine and Northside). But this summer, Wondercade brought some of that cool to Westwood. Opened by Westwooders Bill and Leslie Rich, the arcade showcases retro cabinet games, pinball machines, and contemporary consoles for all-ages gameplay. Play all you want for $8 (minors have to hit the bricks after 9 p.m.) or rent the space for a private party and have the games all to yourself. Either way, you’ll have a great time. • 3143 Harrison Ave., Westwood, (513) 389-0000,

Art Gallery: V2 Gallery at ArtWorks

When ArtWorks moved its offices to Walnut Hills in the spring, the 25-year-old nonprofit took the opportunity to expand its summer mural-painting apprentice program into year-round youth training. The V2 Gallery, visible in the ground floor windows at Gilbert Avenue and McMillan Street in the Peebles’ Corner redevelopment, allows emerging artists to participate in a residency program that culminates in gallery shows of their work. V2 is currently displaying Cut the Bias through December 18, a collection of Mexican folk art inspired wall hangings. • 901 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills, (513) 333-3618,

Bar: Bar Saeso

Tucked away in Pendleton, this new addition to the local bar scene feels like an Italian getaway right here in Cincinnati. Guilfoil & Wilson, the team behind The Carriage House, opened the bar this year in an intimate Sycamore Street space “designed to deliver a high-end experience in a casual setting.” Pick your poison from Saeso’s ever-changing wine, bourbon, and cocktail menu while kicking back to relaxing tunes inside this perfect urban getaway. • 1208 Sycamore St., Pendleton,

Boutique Hotel: The Pickle Factory Boutique Hotel

Fancy a stay in a pickle factory? In a past life, this towering brick structure was the Wenzel Building, used in its heyday as a soda bottling plant, then as a pickle factory that shared space with the African American Odd Fellows organization. It changed hands for years until local rental company Neat Suites rescued the crumbling building, transforming it into The Pickle Factory Boutique Hotel. Today, you can book a stay in one of eight rooms with themes like “Neon Lights,” “Cigars & Bourbon,” and “Odd Fellows Hall,” a nod to the building’s storied history. • 13 Tobacco Alley, Covington,

Video Store: Free Blockbusters

The video rental shop of the ’90s is seeing a big resurgence—and this time, without pesky late fees. Similar to free library boxes you may have spotted around Cincinnati’s neighborhoods, Free Blockbuster boxes have arrived in the Queen City thanks to toymaker Shadow V. Woolf of Valashard Toys N’ Tapes. He’s placed three boxes already in Northside, Clifton, and Covington to delight local movie lovers. Gone are the days of “be kind, rewind”—now, it’s “take a movie, leave a movie.” • 3929 Spring Grove Ave., Northside; 320 Ludlow Ave., Clifton; 836 Main St., Covington;

Bike Trail: Salem Road to Sutton Avenue Connector

The Salem Road to Sutton Avenue section of the Ohio River Trail opened last May, connecting Mt. Washington and Anderson Township for Cincinnati’s bikers. The new route, part of which utilizes bike lanes along Riverside Drive and Kellogg Avenue, also connects Anderson Township to the planned 34-mile CROWN bike trail project. That means riders could start their trek at downtown’s Smale Riverfront Park and take the trail as far as New Richmond.

Concert Venue: PromoWest Pavilion at Ovation

With Riverbend, the ICON Music Center, and others, our region is becoming a crowded field for concert venues. This indoor-outdoor facility in Newport is a big win for the Northern Kentucky music scene and in its first season has already attracted big-name acts like Kesha, The Killers, Lady A, The Avett Brothers, and more. The venue boasts an outdoor capacity of 7,000 and indoor capacity of 2,700, hosts ample parking, and is located within walking distance of dining options at Newport on the Levee and near upcoming Ovation development. PromoWest Pavilion at Ovation is sure to become a favorite for summer concerts and big-name acts. • 101 W. Fourth St., Newport, (859) 900-2294,

Cycle Studio: Society Cycle House

SoulCycle? Old news. Say hello to Society Cycle House, your new destination for all that sweaty spin class goodness. The Over-the-Rhine studio offers a variety of membership tiers and classes—known at the studio as “Jam Sessions”—for cyclists of every level. Sign up for an early “Morning Heat” ride to get the blood flowing first thing in the a.m. or put your fate into the hands of the studio with the house ride, an  instructor’s choice workout. The classes are high-energy and powered by music carefully curated by the instructor or a local DJ. The best part? Your first ride is free. • 15 W. 14th St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 394-6578,

Esports Venue: The Sandbox at Northern Kentucky University

In spring 2020, NKU Esports was awarded $75,000 by the Success by Design Innovation Challenge to construct this new gaming arena. After pandemic delays, the arena opened in fall 2021 as the home of the NKU Esports Club, which welcomes gamers of all experience levels and consoles, and its varsity team, which faces some of the best competitive players in the country. • Second floor of Founders Hall, 1 Louie B. Nunn Dr., Highland Heights,

Home for The Showboat Majestic: New Richmond

The historic Showboat Majestic is now docked at New Richmond with hopes of serving as an entertainment destination there for at least the next 10 years. The riverboat was built in 1923 and bought by the city of Cincinnati in 1967, offering floating theater and concerts for decades on downtown’s riverfront. Joe and Cortnee Brumley bought the boat in 2019 and moved it briefly to Adams County, but now have a 10-year agreement to moor it at New Richmond, Joe’s childhood home. •

Kayak Launch: Voice of America MetroPark

The bustling West Chester park opened an ADA-compliant kayak launch this fall to help those with mobility issues put canoes and kayaks into VOA Lake. The facility has a series of ramps, handrails, and platforms to help launch hand-powered watercraft, which is all that’s allowed on the 35-acre stocked lake. MetroParks of Butler County paid for the new facility with a $75,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. During outdoors seasons, the adjacent Wheelhouse Rental Area offers watercraft, bicycle, and fishing equipment rentals for use on and around the lake. •

Movie Theater: City Base Cinema

While the COVID-19 crisis has changed certain aspects of the moviegoing experience, those who enjoy the sensory overload of watching a film on the big screen got a new option this year—City Base Cinemas. Part of the mixed-used development known as The Kenwood Collection, City Base offers 12 screens of the latest releases as well as two virtual reality rooms and a bar. Kick back in one of the heated recliner seats and enjoy a draft beer or glass of wine with your flick. • 5901 E. Galbraith Rd., Suite 200, Kenwood, (513) 743-7159,

Podcast: Urban Roots

Launched this summer by Deqah Hussein-Wetzel, a local historic preservationist and urban planner, and New York–based journalist Vanessa Quirk, Urban Roots unearthed Queen City Black history in every captivating episode. “We are strong believers that podcasts are a powerful public history tool that has started to change the game for both historic and cultural preservation,” Hussein-Wetzel says. The duo is currently working on more stories about people of color from around the world, so be on the lookout for season two soon. •

Sports Award: Bengals Ring of Honor

The Bengals’ innovative founder and original head coach Paul Brown and legendary offensive tackle Anthony Muñoz were the first Bengals announced as members of the new Ring of Honor. Fans later voted to include Super Bowl XIV quarterback Ken Anderson and record-holding cornerback Ken Riley, who is tied for the fifth-most interceptions in NFL history, as part of the inaugural class. On September 30, the Bengals presented each man and their families with a tiger-stripe-lined Ring of Honor jacket and unveiled their names emblazoned across the east facade of Paul Brown Stadium before a nearly-sold-out Thursday night crowd. •

Camping Experience: Camp Cedar at Kings Island

Jumping on the pandemic era popularity of RV sales and rentals, Camp Cedar opened this summer to provide RV parking spots and glamping cottages a mile north of Kings Island. More than 160 RV spaces feature electricity/water/sewer hookups, firepits, grills, tables, and WiFi, while the cottages include a kitchen and shower. The 52-acre property has two pools and several restaurants and food trucks, as well as a coffee shop, fitness center, dog park, camp store, and free shuttles to Kings Island. Camp Cedar also offers discounted KI tickets with site reservations. •

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