The Nada restaurant in downtown Cincinnati is packed for a weeknight, but I am in good company with some locals who are also grabbing dinner before catching the Broadway in Cincinnati production down the street.
I grab a seat for one at the bar and make three new friends over some chips and chunky guacamole. The ladies, sisters, who catch a production once a month together, assure me I will love tonight’s performance of If/Then. They encourage me to stop for a nightcap after the show at Igby’s bar , Boca, the Righteous Room or Nicholson’s Pub in Cincinnati’s thriving Backstage District. What a perfect way to kick off my artsy weekend in The Queen City.
I snap a quick photo inside the spectacular Aronoff Center before tonight’s performance. It is a packed house. This is a community that is passionate about the arts and it shows. Cincinnati is unique when it comes to the arts scene because it is one of the only cities of its size in the America that is home so many professional performing arts organizations in every arts discipline from ballet to symphony to theater to classic and modern art.
As an arts appreciator, I theme my weekend to take in most of what Cincinnati has to offer. My lodging is appropriately at the Symphony Hotel, an elegant boutique B&B in the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The nine cozy rooms have plush, 19th Century European décor, each named after a famous classical music composer. Innkeeper Colleen Iles takes pride in the ambiance that pays tribute to the arts from decorations in the guest rooms to the splashy, colorful décor in the hotel’s upscale restaurant.
It is only appropriate that I theme my meals to experience the Cincinnati’s culinary arts scene in restaurants around town. Each morning, I grab a coffee and some out-of-this-world donuts at the famous Holtman’s Donuts. You won’t find Holtman’s listed on the Cincinnati Arts Association website, but I cannot deny the artistic value in the maple bacon donuts, the kaleidoscope of decorations on the donut frosting and the creative genius of the “dossant,” which is a hybrid of a donut and a croissant.
My lunch stop is at the Collective Café in the Contemporary Arts Center with local friends. The elegant ambiance suits the moment with the sun shining through the multi-story glass windows and every bit of the walls, ceiling, staircases and lobby decorated with contemporary art. The CAC offers visitors changing exhibits, public arts programs and even lunch-hour yoga classes. Admission is free.
I take some time to stroll the streets and stumble on impromptu inspiration like the artistic murals that cover the exterior walls of many downtown buildings and the 21c Museum Hotel. The 21c is both a luxury hotel and an art museum complete with traveling exhibits and guided tours.
The arts pulse in Cincinnati is electric. I wish I had several more days to indulge, but it gives me the perfect excuse to return for an encore.