Artsy Weekend in Cincinnati
By Anietra Hamper

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.

Just steps away from the Symphony Hotel is the Cincinnati Music Hall, home to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and the Cincinnati Opera.

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.  

My visit Cincinnati is not complete without a stop at the incredible Cincinnati Art Museum in Eden Park, home to more than 65,000 works and the Taft Museum of Art.

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.

About the Author

For Anietra Hamper, writing is a passion. Anietra spent nearly 20 years as a top-rated television news Anchor telling thousands of stories that impact people's lives. Now, away from the spotlight, Anietra is a published travel writer. In fall 2013, Anietra was honored to be selected as a member of the prestigious Society of American Travel Writers. Anietra's zest for exploration and photography has taken her to untouched regions of Vietnam and tribal territories of the Philippines, sharing those journeys along the way through articles and blogs. Anietra is also a correspondent for Child Fund International; one of the largest non-Government Organizations in the world. Anietra graduated Cum Laude from Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio and studied journalism at American University in Washington D.C. She enjoys fishing, photography, fitness and playing with her rescued dog Sunny. You can follow Anietra online at