Cincinnati is a city I could possibly relocate to if I decided to sell my home in the Los Angeles area and move to where life is slower paced and more affordable. I’ve often thought positively of the Queen City with its mild climate and a day’s drive to several major cities along the east coast and in the Midwest.
Cincy, I always believed, had a lot going for it. It’s small, but lively.
When I was in grade school, I lived in western Pennsylvania and admired the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cincinnati was a place to hate because of the rivalry that the Bucs had with the Reds in the early ‘70s. And, of course, there’s no love lost between Steelers fans and Bengals diehards.
I had only visited twice before and I was in college during both visits. Once was to attend an event at the university and the other was to travel from the Springfield area to have dinner and see the minor league Cincinnati Tigers of the Central Hockey League play a game.
But I traveled through again on a trip in mid-May that started in Philadelphia, wound through Lancaster, western Pennsylvania and ended outside of Cincinnati at a Residence Inn in northern Kentucky near the airport.
An Easy Drive to The Banks Neighborhood
I wanted to see downtown, or part of downtown, so I put on the GPS and found my way over the Ohio River. Only 20 minutes from the hotel to the parking garage and that included a traffic tie-up on I-71. That certainly beats LA.
After I emerged from the parking garage, next to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, I enjoyed a pleasant surprise. I was in an entertainment area that was easy to walk around. I didn’t know it, but I was in The Banks.
I took in the sight. Great American Ballpark was at one end of the district to my left and Paul Brown Stadium capped off the either side on my right. In front of me was Smale Riverfront Park.
There was a convergence of downtown office buildings and recreation that I found quite impressive. The trail along the river was wide but there were other amenities like swings for adults, kids, and slides.
Feeling Welcome Along the River
Joggers and a pack of skateboarders made their way along the trail while a group of what appeared to be high schooler boys and girls in evening gowns and suits looked like they were heading to the prom. The area was designed to encourage locals and tourists to visit and play downtown.
After wandering along the river and seeing the boats, I headed toward the stadium area and noticed signs for DORA. And, to my shock, I saw a group of men carrying beer in cups. Try that in LA and you’d be hauled in.
I didn’t have any idea where I was going but found my way to the Holy Grail Restaurant. I sat, ordered a beer and asked my server about the cups. She explained DORA as the Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area. I wanted to stroll down the street, Freedom Way, so I asked for a to-go cup.
Feeling Free on Freedom Way
The Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame lined the eastern side and I browsed along the sidewalk, admiring the prominence that the city gave it.
Freedom Way was partitioned off for pedestrian access only and small standing tables filled the area, allowing diners the option to stand and visit with each other outdoors or in the restaurants and pubs.
I meandered through the diners, finishing my little brew and ended up for dessert at Taste of Belgium. I decided it was time for one more stroll along the Ohio before heading back to the hotel.
The Banks is like a miniature version of LA Live, but that’s meant as a compliment and not an insult. Getting to Freedom Way is easy and there are very few cities where you’re within a few blocks of downtown high rises, stadiums, restaurants and a river like the Ohio. I think it can serve as a model for other cities.
Cincinnati has made dining out and walking quite friendly. Since 2011, the city has won three awards from the International Downtown Association. There are 15 DORA areas in greater Cincinnati and they’re centered around specific neighborhoods. The Banks covers about 85 acres while the DORA in Hamilton to the north covers a full 195 acres.
What about relocating in Cincy? Home prices have risen 23% over the previous year, according to the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors. The median sales price reached $235,069 and the median number of days on market is a mere 2. Okay.
That’s still much lower than the median sales price of $973,000 for a home in Pasadena.
Even though I’m not yet ready to sell my house in So Cal and settle somewhere else, I’d recommend Cincinnati as a livable place that’s small but welcoming.