Speakeasies and Breweries: How to Find the Best Nightlife in Cincinnati

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Cincinnati Nightlife - The Queen City, looking across the Ohio River.
The Queen City, looking across the Ohio River. Photo credit: Judy Antell

‌Nightlife in Cincinnati is thriving. The city has a rich beer history, thanks to the many German immigrants who settled here. But the cocktail scene is worth checking out too. You’ll find the best nightlife in four neighborhoods: downtown Cincinnati, Over-the-Rhine, Mount Adams, and across the Ohio River in northern Kentucky. Here’s where to go for a good time in the Queen City.

Cincinnati nightlife can include traveling in style in a white stretch limo.
Traveling in style in downtown Cincinnati. Photo credit: Judy Antell

‌Cincinnati Bars in Over-the-Rhine

Over-the-Rhine, as its name suggests, was once the German enclave in Cincinnati. It was where most of the breweries were located. Now, the OTR neighborhood, on the National Register of Historic Places, is known for its restaurants, Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest public market, and its bars.

Cincinnati nightlife can include checking out the cocktails at Ghost Baby.
The bartenders make well-crafted cocktails at Ghost Baby. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Ghost Baby

This speakeasy, in Over-the-Rhine, has live music, with up to five shows a night. We were surprised at how hard reservations are to get for Ghost Baby, but you can have a drink at the bar without one.

Cincinnati nightlife can include checking out the Ghost Baby stage.
The Ghost Baby stage. Photo credit: Judy Antell

If you are claustrophobic, note that Ghost Baby is deep underground. In the 1800s it was a beer tunnel, designed to keep beer cold. I couldn’t take the scary elevator, so my friend and I were allowed to walk down the many, many steps. [My husband and her husband emerged from the elevator unscathed. This didn’t convince me to use the elevator on the way out, despite the liquid courage I should have acquired].

There is no dance floor; you sit at tables.

Sundry and Vice

Another OTR speakeasy, Sundry and Vice, has draft cocktails, and special house cocktails with unusual ingredients like chipotle and ube. This is for serious drinking only; no food is served. But in Over-the-Rhine, you’re never far from a great restaurant.

There is outdoor seating on the sidewalk, but the vibe inside is cooler; tin ceiling, exposed brick, tile floor. This is occasional live music.

And Sundry and Vice is dog-friendly!

Cincinnati nightlife can include checking out historical markers in Over-the-Rhine.
Historical marker in Over-the-Rhine. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Rhinegeist Brewery

Rhinegeist Brewery is a great place to start a beer crawl. Show up for an early evening brewery tour, which includes a pint of the craft beer brewed on the premises. There is a huge taproom and a large rooftop bar. The rooftop bar has plenty of outdoor seating but it is closed from late fall to early spring. There is a full bar if beer is not your thing. But you’re in Cincy – have a beer!

16-Bit Bar + Arcade

The OTR 16-Bit Bar + Arcade combines a cocktail bar with over 50 vintage arcade games. It is part of a regional chain, with Ohio outposts in Cleveland and Columbus, plus one in Indianapolis, IN.

SheBuysTravel Tip: One thing to keep in mind when exploring the cocktail bars and craft breweries in Cincinnati is transportation. You can take the free Cincinnati streetcar from The Banks to OTR, but it only runs until 11:30 pm. After that, or if you plan on drinking, or exploring nightlife outside the streetcar route, you have to rely on rideshares or taxis.

Cincy Bars in Mount Adams

In addition to its nickname the Queen City, Cincinnati is called the City of Seven Hills. One of these hills, Mount Adams, offers views of downtown. The area is known for its large Eden Park and the free Cincinnati Museum of Art.

And its bars.

The Blind Lemon

A classic in Mount Adams, The Blind Lemon is where my husband used to go in high school to drink 3.2 beer. This was the low-alcohol beer allowed to be sold to those not yet old enough to drink.

The Blind Lemon has live music six nights a week (The Blind Lemon is closed on Mondays) and a beautiful patio with tons of outdoor seating. Your best bet to drink is the Bartender’s Choice; the other cocktails tend towards the sweet. Though if that’s your jam, this is the spot.

Monk’s Cove

This dive bar has cheap beer, particularly at happy hour, and outdoor seating.

Downtown Cincinnati

Downtown Cincinnati has sports arenas, a convention center, museums, theaters, and hotels. It’s a great home base for exploring Cincinnati by day and night.

The 21C Museum Hotel has a new ‘Nightcap at the Museum ‘ program. When you stay the night, you get a free glass of Angel’s Envy bourbon after 8 pm. The Metropole bar, open to hotel guests and the public, has a great selection of Kentucky bourbon and a full bar, plus late-night snacks. There are beers from local craft breweries.

Right across an alley from Metropole, Nicholson’s Pub specializes in whiskey. The Scottish pub has an extensive happy hour menu with ‘wee bites’ and low prices on cocktails, beer and wine. There is an outdoor patio in the back.

Cincinnati nightlife can include ice skating at Fountain Square.
Fountain Square ice skating has music playing, and you can get a drink and hang out in the warming tent. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Fountain Square

Fountain Square, a big outdoor space in downtown Cincinnati, is THE place downtown for nightlife. It draws locals and tourists coming from other bars and breweries, or just looking for a cheap place to hang out. In summer, it draws crowds, but even in winter, with an outdoor ice skating rink, it is a popular destination.

Cincinnati Nightlife - Early morning at the pedestrian area at The Banks, lined with places to eat and drink.
Early morning at the pedestrian area at The Banks, lined with places to eat and drink. Photo credit: Judy Antell

The Banks

Between Paycor Stadium, where the Bengals, and the Great American Ballpark where the Red play, The Banks entertainment district has bars, restaurants, and The Tin Roof, with live music.

Moerlein Lager House

Across the street from The Great American Ball Park, the Moerlein Lager House has a great happy hour before Reds night games or after a day game. Or skip the Reds‌ game altogether and enjoy the German beers, full bar, and riverfront views. The sports bar has food you would expect, like burgers, short ribs, and fries covered with Cincinnati chili, plus things you wouldn’t expect, like cauliflower wings and vegetarian Squash Wellington.

Other Places Near Cincinnati

Anjou Crafts+Spirits+Wines

This hidden gem, in Walnut Hills, is technically in Cincinnati, and in fact is where my husband went to high school (Walnut Hills, not the bar). The cocktail bar is perfect for date night. There is a happy hour with half-priced drinks.

Madtree Brewing Co

One of the craft beer innovators in Cincinnati, Madtree Brewing Co, in Oakley, has a huge beer garden where kids and dogs are welcome. If the outdoor seating area is full, there is a nice indoor space, but dogs aren’t allowed (kids are). Madtree has live music some nights. The solar and wind-powered craft brewery offers free electric vehicle charging.

The Madtree owners have a farm-to-table restaurant, Alcove Kitchen + Bar, in Over-the-Rhine. If you are an IPA lover, try the PsycHOPathy on tap.

Over the Ohio River

If you fly into Cincinnati, well, you don’t. In fact, you don’t even fly into Ohio. The region’s airport is in Kentucky. Newport, KY is where the Newport Aquarium is, and the entertainment complex, Newport on the Levee.

From downtown Cincinnati, you can walk to Newport or Covington. I like the idea of going there for bourbon since Kentucky is the bourbon capital.

Cincinnati nightlife can include walking from downtown Cincinnati over the Ohio River to Covington or Newport, KY.
You can walk from downtown Cincinnati over the Ohio River to Covington or Newport, KY. Photo Credit: Judy Antell

Crafts & Vines

The wine bar Crafts & Vines in Covington, KY, also has local craft beers on tap.

Covington Yard

Covington Yard, also in Covington, has a huge outdoor patio, with heat in winter and fans in summer, plus indoor seating. There is a full bar, plus local draft beer.

Judy Antell is an empty-nester mother of 3 who spends a lot of time visiting her daughters. Why don’t they live in Brooklyn? Judy and her husband love to travel, by bike, car, or plane, whether to see their kids or have friend or couple adventures, mostly centered around vegetarian food.
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