Best of the City Winners 2022: Things to Do

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Pet a shark, make your own candles, take a hike to see some fossils, pick up the newest sporting craze, sip gin cocktails, experience an outdoor holiday extravaganza, and round up the whole gang for a trip to an old-school mini golf destination.


Gin Bar: The Fifty Fifty Gin Club

Photograph by HATSUE

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, you’ll be happy you walked into this one. This intimate, 22-seat bar named for Ruth Lyons’s trailblazing 50-50 Club talk show, is the first in Cincinnati to specialize in gin cocktails. The Fifty-Fifty Cocktail is a delicious half-and-half mix of gin and house vermouth blend. Along with refreshing G&Ts, FFGC also stirs the tastiest Dirty Martini in the city—the house-made giardiniera brine adds a wonderful spice. You have more than 65 gins to choose from at the bar, which is separated from the much-celebrated Homemaker’s Bar by sleek partitions. If you’ve had enough gin, try a Lyons Den, a warm whiskey-based cocktail with coffee-infused cherry Heering. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid. • 35 E. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine, fiftyfiftyginclub.com


DIY Candle Spot: Nova Candle

Remember going to the mall and visiting Yankee Candle or Bath and Body Works just for the smells? (Was that just me?) Either way, if you’re the type who always has something delicious burning (this is one instance where that’s a good thing!), Nova Candle will be your happy place. In addition to an impressive inventory of hand-poured soy wax candles infused with ah-mazing essential oils, Nova Candle also offers candle making workshops and take-home DIY kits, if you’re the stay-at-home type. Combinations like sandalwood and ocean rose, white sage and lavender, and peppermint mocha guarantee your creation will smell like the real deal, way better than those ’90s mall stores ever did. • 9895 Montgomery Rd., Montgomery, (513) 891-1100, novacandleco.com

Natural Oasis: Cincinnati Nature Center

This wild wonderland doesn’t get nearly the love it deserves. Within the Cincinnati Nature Center is Rowe Woods, one of Ohio’s most amazing treasures. Spanning more than 1,000 acres, its 14 miles of trails traverse deciduous woodlands, fields, streams, ponds, wetlands, and even old-growth forest. The CNC is home to 65 acres of old-growth forest, in fact, and the Upland Trail takes explorers straight through it. This trail offers big payoffs with minimal effort. It meanders around the center of Rowe Woods, showcasing the myriad ecosystems and wildlife of southwest Ohio. The star of the show—the wondrous old-growth forest—is one of only a dozen in the entire state. The opportunity to walk among ancient, real-life giants right here in Cincinnati is something you shouldn’t pass up. • 4949 Tealtown Rd., Milford, (513) 831-1711, cincynature.org

Old-School Mini Golf: The Acres

The Acres is a “new” mini golf course in Evendale that’s pretty darn cool. Formerly Etter’s Golf Center, it features a full driving range, pro shop, restaurant (and bar!) led by Leroy Ansley, founding chef of Pearlstar, and two mini golf courses, making it a fun destination for folks of all ages. Admission gets you unlimited play at the mini golf courses, which, with an adult beverage in hand, is basically the perfect family outing. • 9941 Reading Rd., Evendale, (513) 733-1100, acrescincinnati.com

Outdoor Holiday Venue: Yuletide Village

For those who just can’t get enough of the Ohio Renaissance Festival venue during faire season, wrap yourself up in your winter gear and head back out to Waynesville for Yuletide Village. This themed wonderland is a throwback to holidays of yore, featuring Victorian carolers, live music, and more hot chocolate and apple cider than you could ever need. Peruse the Yuletide Market for gifts before strolling the lanes under thousands of twinkling Christmas lights. Don’t forget to snag a commemorative photo with Santa—or a selfie with Krampus if you’ve been naughty. • 10542 OH-73, Waynesville, (513) 897-7000, yuletidevillage.com

Place to Bust a Move: Alice

This modern-industrial bar and weekend discotheque opened this summer to much acclaim, and it’s easy to understand why. The brightly colored bar is littered with pop culture nods and psychedelic decor. Dancing in the new Four Seasons room is like spinning through a trippy planetarium. Heart-pumping weekend DJ sets ensure the beat doesn’t stop and the crowds keep dancing every weekend for years to come. • 1432 Main St., Over-The-Rhine, (513) 480-8118, aliceotr.com


Hidden Car Museum: Salty Dog Museum

Illustration by Carlie Burton

There’s something undeniably charming about classic old cars, and if you don’t consider yourself a “car” person, a visit to Salty Dog Museum in Shandon will surely change your mind. Salty Dog houses dozens of vintage vehicles dating from 1911 to the 1970s, all restored to spotless, shiny splendor. Admission to this hidden gem is free; however, it’s open by appointment only, as owner Ron Miller is often busy working at his eponymous body shop next door. Salty Dog Museum is Miller’s homage to the American automobile—a classic car museum that’s (pardon the pun) worth the drive. • 4995 Cincinnati Brookville Rd., Shandon, (513) 738-7353, saltydogmuseum.com


Place to Pet a Shark: Newport Aquarium

The Aquarium’s massive Surrounded by Sharks exhibition provides lots of ways to see the scary sea creatures up close, from crossing a rope bridge over its 385,000-gallon open-top shark tank to peering through glass walls to witness underwater activity to petting certain shark breeds and ray-like skates in a 5,000-gallon shallow-water tank. How do you pet a shark? Very carefully! • Newport on the Levee, Newport, (800) 406-3474, newportaquarium.com

Prehistoric Hike: Sharon Gorge Trail

Sharon Woods is one of Hamilton County’s Great Parks, and the hiking is truly extraordinary. Sharon Woods features a 2.6-mile paved walking and biking loop around the lake, a mile-long fitness trail through the woods, and the 0.7-mile, out-and-back Gorge Trail which features…fossils. Yes, fossils! Once wholly underwater, Cincinnati is littered with rocks holding marine deposits from the Ordovician Period, a time more than 450 million years ago when ancient ocean covered most of the United States. Today, intrepid explorers (i.e., curious kids) can follow these ancient breadcrumbs in local creeks and rock beds, making for an all-around awesome hiking experience. • 11450 Lebanon Rd., Sharonville, (513) 521-7275, greatparks.org/parks/sharon-woods

Sporting Craze: Pickleball

With athletes like LeBron James investing in Major League Pickleball teams and thousands of courts being built every day, it’s safe to say pickleball (a cross between tennis, badminton, and ping-pong) is sweeping the nation. Cincinnati happens to be one of the biggest hubs, with two of the biggest major tournaments hosted here (in September 2022 and May 2023, respectively) and Sawyer Point now boasting 20 different pickleball courts. Pick up a paddle and give it a try! • Sawyer Point Courts, 705 E. Pete Rose Way, downtown

Unexpectedly Good DORA District: Milford

Ah, Milford. Land of quaint storefronts, a meandering river, and…a fantastic DORA district? Stretching a full mile through the heart of downtown Milford, this DORA (designated outdoor refreshment area, for the uninitiated) lets you enjoy your beverages out in the open, provided they’re in an approved cup. A few recommendations along the way: The Governor, for a rotating selection of boozy slushies; 20 Brix, for a glass of wine on the charming patio; Little Miami Brewing Company, for a craft beer by the river; and Cincinnati Distilling Co., for spirits on the rooftop bar. The best part? You can finish your drink from the last stop as you head to the next.


HEAD-TO-HEAD: LIVE JAZZ VENUE

 Caffe Vivace

Years in Business: 4.5

Signature Style: Jazz with a capital J

Location: Walnut Hills

Bottom Line: Vivace is for those who study jazz like they’re getting a degree in it (no talking!).

975 E. McMillan St., (513) 601-9897, caffevivace.com

 Nostalgia Wine & Jazz Lounge

Years in Business: 2

Signature Style: Laidback environment for mood setting

Location: Over-the-Rhine

Bottom Line: Nostalgia is where the music enhances the conversation.

1432 Vine St., (513) 381-1300, nostalgiaotr.com

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