Fresh. New. Meaningful. Those three words are perfect descriptors for today's Greater Cincinnati. As new developments "” Horseshoe Casino, the 21c Museum Hotel and new phases of the Banks "” continue to come online, the region and its myriad entertainment offerings are generating a lot of buzz locally, nationally and globally.

The Queen City is breaking out of her shell. And her humble citizens are beginning to brag.

"This is a renaissance," says Linda Antus, president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network.

This All-Star City packs a lot of surprises. The successes and accomplishments so readily apparent today began in 1996. That's when Hamilton County voters passed a one-half percent sales tax to fund the construction of new stadiums for the Bengals and the Reds. Paul Brown Stadium opened in 2000; Great American Ball Park followed in 2003.

A development lull made worse by an economic downtown followed. But in the last seven years, activity has flooded over the banks of the Ohio River.

making good impression

Downtown Cincinnati's core has been reborn with $2 billion in new infrastructure. A stylish Fountain Square is at the heart of it, surrounded by a host of new eateries, retail shops and nightlife, a revitalized Washington Park and a hip new strip in Over-the-Rhine, a riverfront park that shows off the region's natural assets, and the mixed-use district between the stadiums known as the Banks. Not to mention new museums, accommodations and a casino that lined up partnerships with existing restaurants and hotels.

"We have something to really talk about," says Dan Lincoln, president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We are on the national radar. People have heard of us and they are intrigued."

The buzz is definitely building. The 21c Museum Hotel group chose Cincinnati for its newest and largest location. And Major League Baseball awarded the Reds the 2015 All-Star Game.

What's making everything come together now? Timing, cooperation and a community-wide will to succeed are part of it. Combine those qualities with a compact topography and you get success.

"The hills and the river force us to be a mini Chicago," says Lincoln. "There is a real condensation of everything from restaurants, to museums to shopping."

Cincinnati offers as much variety as its larger siblings of Chicago and St. Louis, yet it is easier to access. And it feels "fresh and new," which is the big trend in tourism these days, says Antus.

The 2012 World Choir Games couldn't have come to Cincinnati at a better time. It delivered 1.4 billion positive global impressions of the region and a $7.5 million economic impact.

Models for volunteer deployment and an international translator corps created for the event prove that Greater Cincinnati can take on, fund and execute major events, says Lincoln.

And the region is landing new business because of it. Convention wins include the 2013 National Fraternal Order of Police gathering, the 2014 National Urban League meeting and the 2017 National Baptist Convention.


All of the goings-on are certainly turning heads "” from the blogosphere to conversations among neighbors. Southern blogger Tori Taff wrote about the top 10 things she didn't know about the region after a visit last fall, noting the ease with which people converge across the Ohio River.

She highlighted the arts scene, museums and festivals, the love of beer and beer tunnels, and the region's neighborhoods.

"This interesting fusion of Midwestern urban center with small Southern river towns is just one of the unique features of this captivating city," Taff says.

Global Gumshoe travel writer and blogger Ron Stern, in a video posted on YouTube, appears smitten with the American Sign Museum and the region's architecture. He writes, "Most of the time I didn't know what state I was in and it hardly mattered."

Lonely Planet, the travel guide publisher, named Cincinnati one of its Top Travel Destinations in 2012, ahead of Hawaii and Yellowstone. That prompted Lonely Planet author Karla Zimmerman (a Queen City native) to do a double take.

"The selling points may not be beaches or sky-high geysers, but Cincy does have the mojo," Zimmerman writes.

And in March, Forbes magazine featured Cincinnati among its 15 U.S. cities with emerging downtowns (Cleveland made the cut as well).

The region's 2 million residents are talking things up, too.

"People are really starting to see their city though the eyes of the visitor," says Lincoln.

With the lion's share of visitors to the region coming to visit family and friends, word of mouth is key. It's a chance for residents to share their pride by engaging themselves and others in their new city.


There is more than $2.6 billion in investment underway on both sides of the Ohio River. That amounts to about $1,200 per person living in the region. It means vibrancy in the urban core, job growth and a sense of place that is grabbing the hearts and minds of many.

The region's destination narrative can only accelerate. For example, Greater Cincinnati has a long history of a rich arts and cultural landscape. Additions like the 21c Museum Hotel "broaden what is a legacy of cultural tourism by adding a new dimension," Antus says.

As more developments come online and investments continue, Antus says it sends the message that "we want to always be a better version of ourselves."

"I would describe the Cincinnati experience as surprise and delight," says Kevin Kline, general manager of Horseshoe Casino.

Kline, who has opened casinos in other cities, says Cincinnati's amenities, convenience and accessibility make it a highly competitive player as a convention and meeting destination and for the discretionary income of tourists who have lots of choices in where they spend their entertainment dollars.

He believes Cincinnati will keep evolving its urban core and the destination appeal needed "to attract more visitors, create more jobs, and provide the total live, work, and play experience."

It's time to proudly be a tourist at home.