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Oompah! Oktoberfest Zinzinnati (Sept 17–19, 2021), the country’s largest, is a showcase of southwestern Ohio’s rich German heritage. And after a 2020 pause, it is back for even more Gemütlichkeit! Most importantly, it will return with all the bratwurst, strudel, sauerkraut and, of course, beer on tap that fans have come to expect.

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But if you can’t make it to Zinzinnati during the fall beer bash, that’s just fine. Cincinnati’s plethora of attractions make it a desirable place to drink in any time of year. And there are reasonably-priced hotels to be found all around the city. (Just check out for the latest deals.)

Let’s start with the food scene. Cincinnati is synonymous with chili (say that three times fast). Try a “three-way,” a dish combining chili, spaghetti and cheese. Have a more daring palette? Do a five-way (beans and onions added). While the city has countless cafes serving up the hot stuff, one of the most personable is Camp Washington Chili. The retro diner, which opened in 1940, is a James Beard Award All-American Eats selection.

Fried pork chop and vegetable salad on wooden table

If you have a hankering for German ale and aliment, check out Hofbräuhaus Newport Brewery & Restaurant, right across the river in Northern Kentucky. Modeled after its centuries-old namesake in Munich, Hofbräuhaus serves up German favorites like kartoffelpfannkuchen and wiener schnitzel. Beer is brewed on-site under the direction of a Bavarian brewmaster. There’s a traditional Bier Hall, featuring live entertainment, along with the area’s largest beer garden, complete with a view of Cincinnati’s skyline.

Image of Cincinnati and John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge at twilight.

A fine way to view the real skyline is by roaming over to the Cincinnati Observatory at night. Known as “The Birthplace of American Astronomy,”  the Observatory, located in the historic Hyde Park neighborhood, sits, appropriately, on Mount Lookout. It houses the oldest telescope in the country, circa 1845. The site also hosts educational programs and lectures, and has a small museum filled with interesting tidbits.

Northern Kentucky’s Vent Haven is the only museum in the world dedicated to ventriloquism. Sure, having 900 puppets housed side-by-side in bleacher-style seating may be a bit creepy to some (likely those who imbibe in too many horror movies). But most will find the figures, ranging from cowboys and sailors to presidents to eccentric characters, quite amusing. To give the art a louder voice, there’s also a library with vent-centric books and historic photos.

Another whimsical Cincinnati attraction is the American Sign Museum, the country’s largest public museum dedicated to the art and history of signs. But we aren’t talking boring stop signs here. Rather, there’s more than a century of sign history here, including nostalgic roadside signs (Burma Shave, anyone?) and huge neon sculptures, including a welcoming Holiday Inn sign out front. Inside the museum, winding paths of colorful signage lead to a mocked-up Main Street with double-faced 1950s-era neon signs from the likes of Howard Johnson and McDonald’s.

lucky cat museum

Flickr CC: 5chw4r7z

Then there’s the Lucky Cat Museum. You’ve likely walked into a Chinese or Japanese restaurant and been greeted by small figurines of cats waving a paw. These Japanese good luck charms are called Maneki Neko. In Japanese, maneki means to beckon and neko means cat. A local Cincinnatian (who has never been to Japan, by the way) has collected more than one thousand of the crazy cats, many of which are on display waving maniacally at visitors. The museum is located in Essex Studios, a facility filled with resident artists, including painters, photographers, sculptors, designers, jewelers, and luxury soap producers. Visit both the cats and the artists during one of the studio’s regular open houses.

Art is all over Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Art Museum features a surprisingly diverse and deep collection of pieces from around the world. Don’t miss the Cincinnati Section, though, which showcases the city’s world-renowned pottery. Meanwhile, the Taft Museum is a historic house filled with Chinese porcelain and classic European art. But perhaps the city’s biggest art showcase is outside. For more than a decade, ArtWorks Cincinnati has employed local youth and creatives to design murals on the exterior of city buildings. Imagery is largely whimsical, but there are some serious themes addressed as well. Take a self-guided tour, or go on an ArtWorks walking tour, which takes in about a dozen murals at a time.

Next, if you have time, swing by The Swing House, located back in the Camp Washington neighborhood (near the chili place). Artist Mark de Jong has transformed a three-level abode into a large-scale art installation. The main feature is a 30-foot-long rope swing, and yes, visitors are welcome to take a ride.

Keeping with the unique theme, top choices to stay in the area include Hotel Covington, a modern hotel inside the bones of an old department store; the 21C Museum Hotel, which doubles as an art gallery; and The Cincinnatian Hotel, which dates back to 1882, and is part of Hilton’s Curio Collection,

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