For those of us whose palms get sweaty at the thought of leaving the ground, Cincinnati has adventures in store to explore what lurks below. Whether you want to learn something new or let loose and relax, we found five local experiences that will make you want to drop everything and take a journey down under.
TAKE THE PARTY UNDERGROUND AT GHOST BABY
What would happen if you mashed together a 1920s speakeasy and a 1970s discotheque four stories under Vine Street? The glorious result is Ghost Baby, a subterranean cocktail-lounge-slash-time-machine that might just be the coolest space to emerge from the pandemic. There’s no formal entrance (part of the fun); instead, you enter through an unmarked door before riding an elevator down into the bowels of a cellar that kept beer cool back in the 1850s. These days you’ll find an intimate space that runs on burlesque shows, plush velvet lounges, craft cocktails, and pure, unadulterated swank. Update, June 2022: Esquire named Ghost Baby one of the 25 best bars in America. 1314 Republic St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 381-5333
DEFENDING THE (DELICIOUS) BOTTOM FEEDERS
People earn the label of bottom feeder by demonstrating deplorable character traits, but what about fish? Do good-tasting fish hover near the bottom deck, or do the best always float at the top? “The greatest misconception is that bottom feeders are somehow unclean or not sanitary,” says Allison Simmons, whose father, Jeff, opened Seafood Station fish market in Loveland in 1998. “Lobsters and shrimp and certain species of fish are bottom feeders, but perfectly healthy and delicious to eat.” Many creatures from the lower level are particular about their diets, says Jeff; take halibut, for example. “They will sit on the bottom of the ocean and wait for prey to come by,” he says. “Then they will come up off the bottom and eat it.” “It’s all part of the life cycle,” says Allison. “I’ve always thought there’s something beautiful about that.” 10488 Loveland Madeira Rd., Loveland, (513) 683-5993
GET DOWN AND DIRTY IN MADISONVILLE
Plants know one thing: how to grow and keep growing. The same can be said of Fleurish Grounds, a Madisonville plant and coffee shop offering indoor greenery, original coffee blends, and home goods. Christine Kim started the business as a coffee cart and flower bar in 2019; she morphed it into a plant delivery and pickup service and then a garage shop after steadily gathering Instagram followers with her botanical photos. Now the cozy and inviting brick-and-mortar store thrives by welcoming first-time plant parents, green-thumbed experts, and coffee aficionados alike. 5907 Bramble Ave., Madisonville, (513) 978-0334
REVISIT THE ICE AGE
After five years in hibernation, the Ice Age Gallery has reopened in the Cincinnati Museum Center to transport visitors back 15,000 years to the glacier era. You still enter through the familiar ice cave and trail inhabited by sculpted dire wolves, giant bison, saber-toothed cats, and Jefferson ground sloths, where you also encounter a mastodon skeleton (70 percent original) on display for the first time. The exhibition closed when the Museum Center launched renovations in 2016 and received a complete makeover as part of the Center’s $85 million Champion More Curiosity fund-raising campaign. 1301 Western Ave., Queensgate, (513) 287-7000
STUDYING BLIND MEXICAN CAVEFISH
University of Cincinnati biologist Josh Gross has dedicated his life’s work to a tiny fish whose natural habitat is limited to caves and rivers in northeastern Mexico. It’s commonly called the blind Mexican cavefish, and you’ll find thousands of the species in his lab on UC’s main campus. They evolved to survive in harsh conditions with no light, low oxygen levels, and scarce food, providing lessons to Gross and research colleagues about genetic characteristics that could lead to treatments for diabetes, cranial malformations, and blindness in humans. “It’s such an interesting natural experiment to take an animal and put it into complete darkness and see what happens,” says Gross.