Head to the Buckeye State of Ohio for a bit of food, sports and plenty of Hall-of-Fame fun.
Ohio’s place in the midwest has been something of a blessing and a curse for the buckeye state â€” its position is a day’s drive from two-thirds of the American population and the lion’s share of its industrial and corporate power. It’s hard to transit the nation’s largest hubs without heading through, or over, this state, but many don’t stop.
But a movement is rising in the stateâ€” urban revival, especially among its three major metros. Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, termed the “Three Cs,” are rapidly evolving as longstanding cultural centerpieces brimming with new, experimental development. And the state is catching national attention for its amenities. Cincinnati is gearing up for this year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game, while Cleveland will host next year’s Republican National Convention.
The thriving culture of the state and its three majorâ€”sometimes competingâ€”urban centers are well worth the exploration. And for the uninitiated, there is more than a little to see.
Cincinnati is home to a novel concept in the 21c Museum Hotel (21cmuseumhotels.com)â€”a 156-room luxury establishment that doubles as a museum of contemporary art and a cultural center. And if you feel like a drink, it also hosts a rooftop cocktail bar overlooking the city’s downtown arts district. For a quieter experience, the Mariemont Inn (mariemontinn.com) in Cincy’s upscale Mariemont neighborhood is a classy, low-key historic hotel, while its National Exemplar restaurant (nationalexemplar.com) is just one of several steakhouse and classic American dining experiences in the area.
Cleveland hosts the iconic Metropolitan at the 9 (metropolitancleveland.com), a centrally located jewel of downtown. A short walk from many of the city’s best attractions, and yet, with its own hidden gems, such as the Vault (vault9cle.com)â€”a cocktail lounge in what was once the vaults of the old Cleveland Trust Building. The sleek and contemporary Aloft Cleveland Downtown (starwoodhotels.com/alofthotels) brings a beautiful view of the city’s lakefront.
Ohioans are notorious for their quirky comfort foodsâ€”Cincinnati chili rules the roost in the Queen City, while Cleveland’s love affair with the pierogi is a nod to Eastern European ethnic roots. Don’t let that fool you, though. There’s a reason many of the world’s best-known chefs have picked this state for their experimental concepts. Each urban center has a fast-growing bar and nightlife district. For Cleveland, you’d hit East Fourth Street; Columbus’ Arena District continues to develop, and the revival of Cincinnati’s Over-~ e-Rhine has repeatedly brought it into the national culinary spotlight.
Cleveland’s vibrant dining scene sports the likes of Chef Michael Symon, whose restaurant group spans several styles, with Lola (lolabistro.com) as it flagship, sporting a top-notch surf and turf menu. Lolita (lolitarestaurant.com) brings a more modern take, while his “B Spot” (bspotburgers.com) brings a down-to-earth burger to the city’s neighborhoods. Chef Brad Friedlander and his Red Restaurant Group have a hold on Cleveland’s finest turf dining, with Red, the Steakhouse (redthesteakhouse.com) regularly landing toward the top of lists citing the finest steakhouses in the country. Not to be shown up by out-of-state competition, his Moxie, the Restaurant (moxietherestaurant.com) blends New York’s modern dining scene with more comforting tones of the Midwest in an experimental concept. Th e Zach Burrell Restaurants bring fine international flair to the city’s suburbs, particularly the popular L’Albatros (albatrosbrasserie.com), which packs an extensive traditional French menu set among pairing with dozens of wines. Chinato (chinatocleveland. com) downtown is a play off of the many regional specialties of Italy, while Parallax (parallaxtremont.com), near Tremont, focuses on fusion seafood and sushi.
Not to be outdone, Cincinnati sports the well-known Jeff Ruby, whose Precinct (jeffruby.com) steakhouse sparked a group of concepts that dominate its finer dining scene. Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse top-notch seafood and steaks to downtown Cincinnati, and a revived concept, Waterfront, will bring back fine dining and a grand ballroom to the Ohio riverfront. Individual concepts shine in this city as well, with the friendly atmosphere of Bella Luna (bellalunacincy.com), east of downtown, housing one of the town’s best-loved Italian restaurants with creative flair.
And Columbus focuses some of its best fine dining concepts downtown, where Barcelona (barcelonacolumbus.com) touts well-loved Spanish classics, while Due Amici (due-amici.com) takes a new twist on Italian pasta classics. Farther east of town, Mitchell’s Ocean Club (ocean-prime.com), a loved and respected seafood and wine bar, boasts some of the best cuts of fish to be found in the city.
Ohio’s rising craft beer scene has made quite a buzz in the Midwest in recent years, and indeed, many of its best-known brands have branched into the national conversation. The state is home to close to 100 breweries, with The New Yorker putting the state near the top for production numbers. Among the most austere names in the state, Great Lakes Brewing Co. (greatlakesbrewing.com) in Cleveland maintains a classy taproom welcoming to the upscale traveler, while Elevator Brewing Co. (elevatorbrewing.com) in downtown Cleveland continues to bring home accolades.
The state is no less serious about its wine. There are more than 150 wineries in the state, from the more stylish and popular Via Vecchia Winery (viavecchiawinery.com) and the Brothers Drake Meadery (brothers-drake.com), both of which are found near downtown Columbus, to the more peaceful appeal of a spot like Vinoklet Winery (vinokletwines.com) on Cincinnati’s West Side.
There are no fewer wine and cocktail bars in the state, with such spots as Velvet Tango Room (velvettangoroom.com), near Cleveland, with its classic cocktails, to 1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab (1215vine.com) in Cincinnati’s vibrant Over-The-Rhine. Enormous selection can be found at such places as Wine on High Bar & Retail (wineonhigh.com), which is along Columbus’ High Street corridor, and W.G. Kitchen and Bar (wgkitchen.com), which has several locations around Cincinnati.
The thriving arts scene in Cleveland has University Circle at its focal point, home to the widely respected Cleveland Orchestra (clevelandorchestra.com). It’s also home to some of the state’s best-known arts centers, like Cleveland Art Museum (clevelandart.org) and the botanical gardens (cbgarden.org).
Downtown Cincinnati boasts world-class venues in Cincinnati Music Hall (cincinnatiarts.org)â€”home of Cincinnati Symphony Orchestraâ€”while Arnoff Center hosts Cincinnati Ballet and many of its best theatrical performances.
But the lakefront in Cleveland hosts one of Ohio’s most famous attractions: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (rockhall.com). It’s a full-day experience as you study the history of rock, its many inductees over the years and numerous exhibits that feature individual bands that have brought something special to the genre.
Ohio sports bring a high profile boost to the state’s economy. Cincinnati has the Reds and the Bengals, Columbus the Blue Jackets and the Crew, while Cleveland fields the Browns and the Cavaliers.
The Reds Hall of Fame, set inside Great American Ball Park, tells the story of the first professional baseball team. Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame (clevelandsportshall.com) pays homage to the many varied sports that have brought Clevelanders to fame over the decades. The Ohio State Buckeyes are a major draw to Columbusâ€”tens of thousands flood “The Shoe” every year to watch Buckeye football. Speaking of football, Pro Football Hall of Fame (profootballhof.com) in Canton gives you all the football history you crave, as well as the storied careers of many of its best players.
Looking for a truly unique getaway? The small island of Put-In-Bay (putinbay. com), on Lake Erie, is a well-known adult playground boasting bars, seafood, a winery and more than a few chances to go boating. This well-known island is famously enjoyed with a golf cart as your primary mode of transportation.