Rising from rolling hills midway along the length of the 981-mile Ohio River, Cincinnati acts as a gateway not just to its home state of Ohio but to neighboring parts of scenic Indiana and Kentucky as well. The region is rich with natural beauty and authentic landmarks from a storied past, juxtaposed with an exciting urban renaissance that reaches from the city’s northern suburbs to its downtown riverfront.

What To Do
Whether the game plan calls for a day of Reds baseball at the Great American Ball Park, a metropolitan getaway or a splendid cruising excursion, there’s always something to do in Cincinnati.

Be sure to schedule time at the redressed downtown entertainment district, The Banks, or the historic neighborhood Over-the-Rhine, as both offer a delightful blend of old and new. Situated between the Reds and Bengals stadiums along the Ohio, The Banks comprises family-friendly restaurants, shops and the new 45-acre Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park. Over-the-Rhine, meanwhile, invites visitors to experience its 19th-century Italianate architecture, chic atmosphere and culinary excellence all housed in The Gateway Quarter beginning near 12th and Vine streets. Wrap up your day with panoramic views from the 49th floor observation deck of the Carew Tower, the city’s highest building.

If you’ve calendared a spring trip, consider one of these mega annual events: The Taste of Cincinnati (May 27-29) is one of the region’s largest street festivals, showcasing more than 40 fine restaurants. Cincinnati’s major music event, the Bunbury Music Festival (June 2-4), plays host to more than 50 alternative and indie acts.

A unique departure from Cincinnati’s bright lights is the Little Miami River, a Class I tributary of the Ohio flowing some 111 miles through five counties in southwestern Ohio. Designated as a National Scenic River, it joins the Ohio just east of Cincinnati and invites boaters to discover its timeless treasures: abundant marine life, lush foliage, historic towns, and several state and county parks dotted with peaceful trails that run beside the shoreline. Exercise caution when traversing the Little Miami, though, due to the river’s immense and frequently hidden power — high water and rapid flow from heavy rains, log jams or submerged trees can create strong forces in the current at lowhead dams.

Other aquatic adventures can be had reeling in your catch-of-the-day while fishing at nearby Winton Woods, Miami Whitewater Forest, Sharon Woods and Lake Isabella.

Where To Dock
Mariner’s Landing, a full-service facility 14 miles west of downtown, provides in-water slips directly on the Ohio River and affords easy access to Cincinnati. Rivertowne Marina at Ohio River Mile 460.5 offers 44 covered and 60 uncovered slips in a sheltered harbor.

East of Cincinnati, the Four Seasons Marina has an array of amenities, accommodates boats up to 70 feet and provides an ideal port for visitors who want to spend time exploring the Little Miami.

Where To Eat
Waterside dining is always a treat, and Montgomery Inn Boathouse sets the table with its world-famous ribs and a distinct vibe that includes a stunning view of the Ohio River and a lively upstairs sports lounge. The Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club and its Lagoon Saloon, across the Ohio River in Bromley, Ky., is a laid-back outdoor bar (cash only) with live music and great views of Cincinnati at sunset.

Other distinctive dining experiences include the scrumptious buffet aboard BB Riverboats Captains Dinner Cruise while taking in the city skyline from the water. Or, venture across the river for an evening at the Hofbrauhaus in the Newport on The Levee area of Newport, Ky. Modeled after the original 400+ old Hofbrauhaus in Munich, this stateside replica serves up authentic German fare, specialty and seasonal beers brewed on site, and live entertainment daily.

And, of course, no trip to Cincinnati would be complete without sampling Skyline Chili on Clifton Avenue, which has been serving up its legendary mix of Mediterranean-spiced meat sauce for spaghetti or hot dogs since 1949.

IF YOU GO
Find more trip ideas, things to do and places to stay at the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau, (800) 543-2613, cincyusa.com

Eat
BB Riverboats Captains Dinner Cruise, (800) 261-8586, bbriverboats.com
Hofbrauhaus, (859) 491-7200, hofbrauhausnewport.com
Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club, (859) 291-8132, ludlowbromleyyachtclub.com
Montgomery Inn Boathouse, (513) 721-7427, montgomeryinn.com

Stay
Four Seasons Marina, (513) 321-3300, fourseasonsmarina.com
Mariner’s Landing, (513) 941-3625, mariners-landing.com
Rivertowne Marina, (513) 533-3000, rivertownemarina.com

Play
The Banks, thebankscincy.com
Bunbury Music Festival, bunburyfestival.com
Little Miami River, rivers.gov/rivers/little-miami.php
Over-the-Rhine, otrchamber.com
Taste of Cincinnati, tasteofcincinnati.com

Author: Bobbye Miller Kenyon is a regular contributor to HeartLand Boating magazine