Cincinnati After Dark: Our Favorite Reasons To Stay Out Late

We scoured the metro area for fun things to do after the sun goes down and found more than a few. Send the kids to an underwater sleepover in a shark tank? Hit a bucket of balls until 1 a.m.? Bring a stack of bills to a drag show? Take your pick.

Photograph by Mike Poggioli

Fun & Games

The Rook OTR’s Board Game Night > Whether you’re a hardened settler of Catan or you’re just looking to try out a new game, The Rook OTR has a night for you. On Monday, gamers of all skill levels can hang out and casually compete. Tuesday, things get real with a tournament featuring a different game each week. Want to be on the cutting edge of tabletop entertainment? The Rook holds a monthly play-test night where you can try out local game designers’ latest creations. 1115 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 954-8191,

The Rook OTR’s Board Game Night

Photograph by Wes Battoclette

Overlook Lodge Trivia Night > We’ve raved about Overlook Lodge’s Tuesday night movie trivia before, but it bears repeating. They have all the trivia staples—interesting questions, boozy prizes, running gags—but the real draw is the atmosphere. Rob Weidle and Christian Glass are excellent hosts; from the first second you walk into this trivia night, you’re part of the gang. It’s like getting invited to the cool kids’ table, if the cool kids all knew obscure movie facts. 6083 Montgomery Rd., Pleasant Ridge, (513) 351-0035,

Arcade Legacy: Bar Edition > Arcade Legacy in Northside is a grown-up gamer’s dream. Designed by and for people who grew up loving video games, this spot is a must-go for anyone longing to drive the Crazy Taxi. You can hit up their classic console lounge to play almost any game made for the NES, Super NES, Nintendo 64, and Sega Genesis, and you can also find PS4, PS3, WiiU, and XBOX 360 games at their current console bar. Finger warm ups are optional, but recommended. 3929 Spring Grove Ave., Northside, (513) 429-3180,

Arcade Legacy: Bar Edition

Photograph by Wes Battoclette

Communing with Nature

Wolf Creek Habitat’s Howlin’ at the Habitat > Harness your inner Kevin Costner and take an evening dance with the wolves. On the second Friday of every month, Wolf Creek Habitat in Brookville, Indiana, hosts Howlin’ at the Habitat, a chance to interact with the animals at night. Wolves aren’t big fans of high temperatures, so when the sun goes down, they become more active and playful. Plus, the name of the event is hardly a bluff; it’s worth the $35 price tag just to hear more than two dozen wolves literally howl at the moon in unison. 10499 Wolf Creek Rd., Brookville, IN, (513) 312-9143,

Overnight Adventures at Newport Aquarium > If you’ve ever longed to get up-close and personal with aquatic life, then spend the night at the aquarium. Groups of 20 or more get a guide who will answer any question you may have about the animals. You’ll also go behind-the-scenes for a feeding experience, and enjoy snacks and a light breakfast. (Don’t have 20 people? There’s usually one overnight a month open to smaller groups—check the aquarium website for details.) 1 Aquarium Way, Newport, (800) 406-3474,

Overnight Adventures at Newport Aquarium

Photograph by Wes Battoclette

Cincinnati Observatory Stargazing > Make a reservation for a very different kind of night out. Most every Thursday and Friday evening, the Cincinnati Observatory trains the oldest telescope in the United States on the heavens and shows you what’s really out there. There are special events throughout the summer, including Jupiter Night on May 6. See the largest planet in the solar system, and explore its cloud tops, shrinking red spot, and the four largest of its 67 moons. 3489 Observatory Place, Hyde Park, (513) 321-5186,


Pearl’s Diner > The first thing you should know about Pearl’s is that the Google Hours are all wrong. The place is, in fact, open 24 hours. The second thing you should know is that you can get breakfast any time during those 24 hours, just as the diner gods intended. Of course you’re welcome to try the turkey club double-decker, or the Freedom Fries, which are still on the menu (eye roll emoji). But you’ll never go wrong with goetta and a short stack. 4696 Dixie Hwy., Fairfield, (513) 829-7013,

Anchor Grill > If you can’t deal with smoke near your waffles, go elsewhere—because Anchor Grill is located in the Commonwealth, where smoking inside restaurants remains (amazingly) a thing. Hop a seat at the wavy white counter near the groovy seaside mural and throw down on a midnight BLT. You gotta respect a place where you can order fried oysters and a breakfast burrito. Heads up: Cash only. 438 W. Pike St., Covington, (859) 431-9498,

Pepper Pod > Order the fried chicken, which comes in half-chicken increments and has deep brown, crunchy skin. The soup is homemade, the burger Frisch’s-esque, and a slice of carrot cake weighs about three pounds.(Ahem: The nonsmoking area was behind a locked gate during our last visit.) 703 Monmouth St., Newport, (859) 431-7455,


Chili Time > A St. Bernard staple since the ’70s, don’t be fooled by Chili Time’s bare bones decor or insanely affordable menu. This kitchen cranks out coneys, double-deckers, and tuna salad with the same loving care as fancier joints downtown, and they’re open until 4 a.m. Score! 4727 Vine St., St. Bernard, (513) 641-1130,

Pleasant Ridge Chili > Late night revelers can get their grease on at this cash-only chili parlor until 4:30 am. Singles snag stools at the counter and those who don’t want to sit in silence should bring quarters for the juke box. 6032 Montgomery Rd., Pleasant Ridge, (513) 531-2365,

Camp Washington Chili > With sassy red, white, and black decor and walls plastered with local chili swag, this 24-hour institution (going on 75 years and counting) naturally nails coneys and chili fries but also makes a mean Greek salad with sliced gyro meat. Because nothing beats a salad at 4 a.m., right? 3005 Colerain Ave., Camp Washington, (513) 541-0061,

Camp Washington Chili

Photograph by Wes Battoclette

Camp Washington Chili

Photograph by Wes Battoclette


Gomez Salsa > Man is this place a hole in the wall. No really: Sidle up to the window facing 12th Street and place your order for some of the best tacos in town. The salsas are premium, and then there’s the Turtle: a crispy hybrid of burrito and taco that will keep you going all night.

Goodfellas Pizzeria > It’s all about the slice at Goodfellas—a New York type wedge that is fresh and simple and big as a surfboard. Both the Covington and OTR spots are fast and loud at midnight on a Saturday and a show unto themselves. Note the goombah trappings: Take the cannoli.

Shanghai Mama’s > Been there so long you may have forgotten about it, but remember your Mama! Open until 2:30 a.m. on weekends, this is where to go when you need to slurp down some Singapore noodles before bed. The service is expert and forgiving, just like mama.


Busken Bakery > There are two kinds of late night snackers on the east side: The Skyliners and the Buskeners. If you want something savory, you know your move. But if it’s a sweet thing you’re after, just follow the glow of the Busken street sign. They always have dozens of varieties of doughnuts and Danish on hand, and if you have your wits about you, you’ll pick up a dozen for the next morning. 2675 Madison Rd., Hyde Park, (513) 871-2114,

Busken Bakery

Photograph by Aaron M. Conway

Sitwell’s Coffee House > Named after literary eccentric Dame Edith Sitwell, this eclectic coffee and sandwich shop also slings Bloody Marys and pink lemonade with Stoli vodka. Open until midnight, it’s an ideal stop after a Bergman revival at the Esquire or to just cultivate a bit more existential angst. 324 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, (513) 281-7487,

Highland Coffee House > This vintage-inspired gem is ground zero for Irish coffee consumption well into the wee hours. Students pack the patio in warmer weather but patrons feel right at home settling in with a board game or a book and the staff goes above and beyond. 2839 Highland Ave., Corryville, (513) 861-4151,


Night Fishing at FOLZ Lakes > Beginning at the first real sign of spring, FOLZ Lakes in Bridgetown are open for business 24 hours a day. The two fishing lakes, totaling about three and a half acres, have been stocked with various species of fish over the last 50 years. Today, those waters boast an impressive array of catches, including freshwater eel, crappy, bass, at least one 50-pound spoonbill, and, particularly at night, toddler-sized catfish. “We base ourselves on catch and release,” says Jack L. Murphy, who manages the pay lakes at night. That means you’ll have too look elsewhere for fish fry fodder. 7312 Bridgetown Rd., Bridgetown, (513) 941-4765,

Night Golf at TopGolf > Golf is a beautiful game, with tall trees lining freshly mown fairways. The only problem: You need sunlight to play. Enter TopGolf. The West Chester golfing facility is part driving range, part neon-laced playground, with bright landing zones and a variety of gameplay options. You can now launch golf balls and drink beer until 1 a.m. on weekends, just as God intended. 9568 Water Front Dr., West Chester, (513) 342-6249,

Spring Grove Cemetery’s Full Moon Tour > Once a year, visitors can explore the glories of Spring Grove by the light of the full moon. This year, the guided walking tours—covering highlights of the cemetery’s architecture and monuments, its history, and the stories of some of its “residents”—take place on August 5. Registration is required, and you can get your spot starting at noon on July 7. Don’t forget to bring your flashlight and wear comfortable shoes. 4521 Spring Grove Ave., Northside, (513) 681-7526,


Myrtle’s Punch House > Risky move naming a bar “punch house,” but Molly Wellmann’s crafty cocktails should help to keep the mood light. 2733 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills, (513) 834-8589,

Dean’s Hops and Vines > The hidden gem of the west side: 100-plus craft beer options, 40-plus bourbons, and a wine list that will have even the snootiest palates aflutter. 3722 Harrison Ave., Cheviot, (513) 515-3215,

Wise Owl Wine Bar > It fills a major void—the list of upscale bars open after 11 p.m. outside the I-275 loop is a short one. Winos can glug from a list of 150-plus bottles and nearly 30 pours. 6206 Muhlhauser Rd., West Chester, (513) 860-9463,

The St. Clair > It’s the go-to Clifton destination when trying to impress on a first date. Since it is still a college bar, buy them a Trash Can—Long Island iced tea, peach Blue Curacao, and Red Bull. 245 Calhoun St., Clifton, (513) 281-5397,

Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar > More! Than! 250! BOURBONS! Served how you like it: neat, on the rocks, flights—even in a cocktail (try the hot toddy). 629 Main St., Covington, (859) 581-1777,

Low Spark > Yes, there’s a giant fish tank, but it’s a classy fish tank, befitting the tastefully retro vibe (mirrored walls) and cocktail ingredients (bitters, egg whites, Vermouth). Peace and love. 15 W. 14th St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 371-5722,


Edge Inn Tavern > For those nights when you just want to wear sweatpants, chug bottled domestics, and sing along a bit too loud while “Cherry Pie” plays on the jukebox. 3935 Edwards Rd., Oakley, (513) 841-9030,

JD’s Honky Tonk & Emporium > The pool tables, stiff pours, and $2.50 domestics are great, but what puts this biker bar a cut above are the 5:30 a.m.–2:30 a.m. hours…except on Sunday, when it’s noon–1 a.m. Remember the Sabbath. 2406 Spring Grove Ave., Camp Washington, (513) 721-6867

Elbo Room > Definitely on the short list for cheapest drinks in town, and you’ll quickly feel like a regular. Plus, that mini bowling alley is pretty dope. 1115 Magie Ave., Fairfield, (513) 858-1117

Comet > Live music. Kitchen open til 1 a.m. Massive beer fridge. Lots of tequila. Not all heroes wear capes. 4579 Hamilton Ave., Northside, (513) 541-8900,

Coach’s Corner > At some places, the beer just tastes colder. Coach’s checks that box, with 10 rotating taps—including local classics like Wiedemann—and plenty more in the fridge. 317 E. Sixth St., Newport, (859) 261-2800,

Knockback Nats > Looking to escape the post-ballgame crowd at The Banks or post-dinner crowd in OTR? Nats is the optimal in-between space. Plus, no one will judge you for ordering those tall boys. 10 W. Seventh St., downtown, (513) 621-1000,


Holiday Auto Theater > You don’t need a flux capacitor to go back in time. Just park your car at the Holiday Auto Theatre in Hamilton and watch movies the way they were supposed to be watched: while you spill mustard and root beer on your car’s upholstery. The drive-in runs blockbuster double features that stretch past midnight, and on a hot summer evening the place is a family picnic, a clandestine booty call, and a journey to Kong Island all at the same time. 1816 Old Oxford Rd., Hamilton, (513) 929-2999,

Holiday Auto Theater

Photograph by Mike Poggioli

The Cabaret > People talk about “the underground” like it’s the place to be. But on Walnut Street, you’re gonna want to head upstairs. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, The Cabaret above Below Zero Lounge is drag queen central. Founder and RuPaul’s Drag Race alumna Penny Tration, who made The Cabaret’s drag shows an institution, has retired, but the cast still rocks. Arrive fashionably late for the 11 p.m. shows—and don’t forget a stack of singles. 1120 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 421-9376,

Chastity, photographed on March 20, 2017.

Photograph by Annette Navarro

Quasi, photographed on March 20, 2017.

Photograph by Annette Navarro

Chelsea Pearl, photographed on March 20, 2017.

Photograph by Annette Navarro

Jessica, photographed on March 20, 2017.

Photograph by Annette Navarro

Salsa Tuesdays at The 86 > If ever there’s been a time and place to try your foot at salsa, this is it. It’s laid-back; everyone is friendly; you don’t need a partner; and there’s a free lesson beforehand—all for a $5 cash cover (totally worth it for the people-watching). The DJ and dancing heat up around 9 p.m. Nota bene: The 86 is a coffee shop—helpful, since dancing lasts until midnight—but if you need a little liquid courage, the bars of Short Vine will not let you down. 2820 Vine St., Corryville, (513) 341-8686,

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