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Batty for Cincinnati

Direct flights now make this historic, up-and-coming Midwest city all the more alluring says Sean Thomas

There are many beautiful, majestic tombs, from the Taj Mahal in Agra, to the Pantheon in Paris, to the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt. Then there's the tomb of Fredric J. Baur.

Mr Baur was the proud inventor of the Pringles can and his ashes are buried in one in the suburban cemetery of Springfield, Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Pringles mini-mausoleum of Mr Baur (1918-2008) tells you something about his home town.

The tomb of Fredric J Baur

It's a quirky, diverting place. It's also a brawny, historic, sometimes handsome, deeply American city of 2.2million friendly people. What's more, it's just become super-accessible thanks to a new direct British Airways route.

The first thing a traveller should learn is that the city is divided, physically, emotionally and politically, by the grand Ohio River. On the south you're actually in Kentucky, even if it feels like you're in a suburb.

In the early 19th century, this gulf twixt Ohio and Kentucky was huge, because Kentucky was a slave state and Ohio 'free'.

Slaves would sometimes flee across the river — a drama reimagined via impassioned murals on the southshore riverside by the prettily antique iron Roebling bridge. Check out the excellent Freedom Museum. Hugely sobering, seriously moving.

The statue of John Roebling by his marvellous bridge

Otherwise, southside is great for sightseeing — and fun. It harbours some of Cincinnati's loveliest 'burbs, like Covington, where you'll find a refurbed Victorian pleasure zone.

Called Mainstrasse, in honour of the first impoverished German migrants, it is now chocka with beer gardens, restaurants, ice cream cafes, tattoo parlours and a bar — Cedar — that does the world's most satisfying Bloody Marys, which come complete with a king prawn garnish. You're meant to have them with brunch. Some might conclude they actually are brunch.
Southside is also where you'll find the best bourbon (for which Kentucky is famous, along with bluegrass and horses).

An example is the New Riff distillery. Take a tour, sit down for a tasting and finish by filling your own bottle of the good stuff.

Then retire to a great southside hotel, like the Covington (a restored 1900s department store) and have dinner at Bouquet, a block away with its succulent wagyu meatballs and pink-perfect Maple Farm duck.

Now it's time to head north, between the soaring stadiums that oversee the river like mighty fortresses: here are the homes of the famous Cincinnati Reds in baseball and the almost-as-famous Bengals for football.

If you want an authentic Cincinnati experience, buy a ticket for a game — the entire riverfront throbs with life, laughter and excellent craft lager (the city has 50 breweries) when the teams are in town.

The very quaint Symphony Hotel

Chunks of central Cincinnati are your standard American downtown, but there are still multiple gems. Head to Over-the-Rhine, another historic, boozy, gritty yet up-and-coming quarter named for German migrants. It's like Shoreditch meets boho Berlin with more hot dogs and some fine boutique hotels, such as Symphony, whose name denotes the grandiose music hall next door.

Not far away you'll find Findlay, a pretty, engaging, iron-roofed Victorian food market. This is a good place to try the famous, or infamous, Cincinnati chilli, which is spaghetti covered with chilli covered with cold shreds of cheddar with added cumin, vinegar, chocolate and perhaps several frankfurters. Go on, give it a go.

Findlay food market

Where next? If you want, after your weekend in surprising Cincinnati, you could tour the rest of America — being so central, it's an ideal base for American road trips.

Alternatively, if you desire something eccentric yet entertaining, go to the American Sign Museum — a seven-buck Uber ride from downtown. It sounds boring but it's brilliant in a pure Americana-in-neon way. And it's unique, as befits the town that buried the Pringles guy in a Pringles tin.

First published in the Daily Mail -  October 2023

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