Settled in 1788, Cincinnati became a boom town in the early 19th century and attracted a large number of ethnic German immigrants, first from Pennsylvania, later from Europe, who founded many of the city's cultural institutions. The Cincinnati Zoo guidebook, published only in German during the years 1876-1893, is evidence of their influence. Irish immigrants also arrived, along with African American former slaves from the southern states. A major branch of the Underground Railroad passed through this area, and films and exhibits on the subject may be seen at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
The third-largest city in Ohio today, Cincinnati is known as the “Queen City.” This relatively conservative part of Ohio is home to a vibrant gay community with an annual June Pride parade through Downtown, and festival celebrations by the river at Sawyer Point. In September Pride Night takes place at Kings Island amusement park, to the northeast of the city. The traditional gay business district is Downtown, but many people live up in the heights of Northside, the University area, and beyond.
Downtown is also home to the Aronoff Center for the Arts, the Contemporary Arts Center, the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company Theater, the Taft Theatre, and the Taft Museum of Art. The Cincinnati Museum Center is located a bit to the west, at Union Terminal, and the Cincinnati Art Museum is to the northeast, in Johnston Park.
The Know Theatre (1120 Jackson St), in Over The Rhine, is home to the Cincy Fringe Festival in May, and the OutReels Cincinnati Film Festival, with LGBT screenings, each November. The Cincinnati Music Hall is nearby, home to the city's Symphony Orchestra and Opera company. For more museums & galleries, plus theaters & performance venues, see our map & listings pages.
If you’re a sports lover, you’ll fit in here. Many locals cheer for their home teams, the Cincinnati Reds playing baseball at the Great American Ball Park, and the Cincinnati Bengals with football games at Paul Brown Stadium - both situated between Downtown and the Ohio River banks.
Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport is about 13 miles south of downtown Cincinnati in northern Kentucky. Taxis to the center of the city cost about $34. Some hotels in Downtown Cincinnati or in Covington, just across the river, offer free airport shuttle services. The TANK Airporter has shuttle buses connecting the airport to downtown Cincinnati and downtown Covington for just $2.
A rental car or a taxi are the best ways to get around Cincinnati if you're venturing beyond the very walkable Central Business District. For city bus information see the GoMetro website of SORTA, The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority. Standard fares are $1.75 within City of Cincinnati Zone 1. Day passes are $4.50, good for unlimited rides until 3am the next day --on sale on the bus or at their sales office (120 E 4th St, across from Government Square).
Northside was until recently one of Cincinnati's most active gay neighborhoods, with classic homes, businesses, entertainment venues, and a long tradition of community activism. But the cluster of gay bars is now gone. The Greater Cincinnati's GLBT Community Center was also here, but became a "virtual" on-line Center after closing their physical location in 2013.
Downtown is home to several gay bars, clubs and restaurants. Fountain Square is at the center, dominated by the bronze fountain named The Genius of Water. Intended as the cultural and recreational hub of the city it's used for lunch-breaks, rallies, and other gatherings.
Over-the-Rhine, just north of downtown, boasts a large, 19th-century urban neighborhood of historic architecture. A center of the local arts community, it's been re-emerging as a trendy shopping and dining district, after some false starts in efforts to restore the old buildings. See their chamber of commerce and OTR Brewery District websites.
The Ludlow Strip in Clifton has a cluster of interesting shops, restaurants, and cafes near the University of Cincinnati. If a good movie is what you crave, the Esquire Theatre (320 Ludlow) has all the best current art-house films, before or after dinner. The Clifton Performance Theatre (404 Ludlow) features challenging, little-seen plays with local talent.
If Cinncinnati seems conservative, Northern Kentucky is even more so, but the city is the longtime home to several neighborhood gay bars.
The Word, an Indianapolis gay paper with regional coverage, became The Midwest Eagle, which now links to Kwir, a national LGBTQ media company.
CityBeat is the local alternative weekly paper for area news, plus dining, arts and entertainment listings.
Rainbow Cincinnati published GLBT News, the Cincinnati gay paper with online listings and news - but the website hasn't been updated since December 2014.
The Gay People’s Chronicle, a longtime GLBT newspaper with news and listings for all of Ohio and a website, ceased publication in December 2015. Their archives continue to be available online.
For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Cincinnati listings pages.
Popular with gay visitors to Cincinnati, especially this year during Pride events, the Millenium Hotel (150 W. 5th; 866-866-8086) has downtown convenience , full amenities, and reasonable rates.
The Westin Cincinnati (21 E 5th St; ), has been the official host hotel for Cincinnati Pride, rooms and suites overlooking Fountain Square, indoor pool and exercise room, two restaurants and lobby bar.
Just across the river the Weller Haus (319 Poplar St, Belleview; 800-431-4287) is a five room gay-friendly guesthouse in a pair of 1880's era Victorian Gothic homes. All rooms have private baths and modern amenities.
See more hotel options at our hotel map and listings page.
Bars and restaurants
Below Zero (1120 Walnut St), nightly up-market downtown lounge, mixed gay ambience, piano, cabaret, drag divas, karaoke and show tunes sing-alongs.
The Cabaret (1122 Walnut St), no-cover 100 seat theatre, drag cabaret show bar, two sows nightly, full martini menu, mixed crowd.
Cafe de Vine (41 E 4th St), American diner breakfast, lunch and burgers; plans to re-open in May 2016, after moving from their old Vine Street location to where Paula's Cafe had been.
The Dock (603 Pete Rose Way W), high-energy 18+ gay/alternative dance club, throbbing lights, two rooms, industrial/goth nights; Saturday Night Live urban nights with two DJ music areas, Hip Hop and RnB, sexy male dancers, smoking patio, foam nights, entertainers and theme events.
Home Base Tavern (2401 Vine St), Clifton neighborhood bar, former Little Bit, relaxed and mixed crowd, pool games, karaoke, TV sports, jukebox, WiFi and bar munchies.
Main Event (835 Main St), by the folks from the old Subway Bar, has dancing for a mixed crowd, plus munchies including pizza and sandwiches.
Parkside Cafe (1026 E. McMillan St), popular for breakfast, lunch or just coffee; also with Sunday brunch and free Wi-Fi internet access.
Sidewinder Coffee (4181 Hamilton Ave), Northside cocktails, fresh-roasted coffees, espresso drinks, tea varieties, vegan lunch, bagels, sandwiches, soups, cakes and cookies. Cozy inside, courtyard patio, free WiFi.
Sitwell's Coffeehouse (324 Ludlow Ave), laid-back cafe/bar, all-ages and types college-town hipster crowd; rec-room ambience, burritos, sandwiches, baked goodies, coffee and milkshakes, free WiFi. Two doors from Esquire art-house cinema.
Tillie's Lounge (4042 Hamilton Ave), mixed crowd locals' Northside neighborhood video bar/lounge; live music, patio deck, karaoke, trivia.
CLOSED: On Broadway (817 Broadway), mixed crowd, videos, patio; drag, bear/ leather events; Serpent (4042 Hamilton Ave), Northside men's leather bar/ shop, patio, pool; Shooters (927 Race St), C-W dancing, much wood, mostly men; Simon Says (428 Walnut St) downtown locals' dive bar for men, strong drinks, long/ colorful history.
See another 40 restaurants at our map and listings page.
Old Street Saloon (13 Old St, Monroe), "Cheers for Queers" between Cincinnati and Dayton; Saturday floor shows, Thursday karaoke and taco bar. Annual bike run and Miss Old Street annual drag pageant --each September.
Newport & Covington KY
Across the river in Kentucky, there are several places of interest. For more information on the district, including their Mardi Gras, Maifest and Oktoberfest celebrations, see the website of the MainStrasse Village Association.
Bar 32 (701 Bakewell St, Covington), mixed neighborhood karaoke and party bar; martinis, cocktails, shots, imported beers and ciders. Formerly the 701 Bar.
Crazy Fox (901 Washington Ave, Newport), a mixed gay/straight andTransgender crowd, live music and games.
Rosie's Tavern ( 643 Bakewell St, Covington), gay/straight, men/women mix, neighborhood sports bar, games, pool table, jukebox, pub grub, live music first Saturdays.