Growing up in the suburbs of Cincinnati, I never really thought much of my city. To me, it was always boring and there was never anything to do.I had the WORST case of wanderlust all throughout high school and I lived for the occasional trips my family would take to New York City and Huntington Beach, California.

Recently, Cincinnati has been named one of the top 50 best places to live in the United States by the U.S. News & World Report. It wasn’t until I started interning at Cincinnati Magazine last summer that I really understood just how much the city has to offer and exactly why it received that ranking. During my time at the magazine, I experienced a completely different side of my city — a side rich in arts, culture and diversity [something I hadn’t previously experienced in suburbia]. Here are my top five favorite hangouts in the “Nasty Nati.”

Favorite place to shop: Handzy Shop + Studio

Okay, so technically Handzy is located in Covington, Kentucky but I’m pretty sure it’s closer to my house than some areas of Cincinnati so … I’m including it. Owned by college friends Brittney Braemer and Suzy Strachan, Handzy specializes in handmade stationary and everything that goes with it [think fun pens, cute stickers, notepads, etc.]. The shop’s exposed whitewashed brick and aesthetically pleasing decor feels like a shop straight out of Dumbo, Brooklyn [aka #trendy as heck]. Braemer and Strachan carefully curate a women’s clothing line for every season, but my favorite items are the ~quirky~ greeting cards. Each card adds a little bit of personality to whatever holiday you’re celebrating. [I promise, I’ll never buy a generic Hallmark card again.]

Favorite place to work: Aroma’s Java & Gelato

Between writing for Backdrop magazine, interning for Cincinnati Magazine and writing for/managing LVNG Limitless, all while working a part-time retail job, a lot of my work takes place outside of your typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. business hours. Aroma’s is my favorite coffee shop to get caught up on everything over the weekend. Just a five minute drive from my house [and one of the only locally owned coffee shops on the west side of Cincinnati], the calming atmosphere of the cafe is the perfect place to get my creative juices flowing. With an assortment of pastries, breakfast foods and lunch foods, I can camp out at the newly installed window countertop or in one of the comfy couches for hours. All with the convenience of the variety of espresso drinks to keep me energized.

Favorite pop-up market: City Flea

If there’s one thing going to school in Athens, Ohio has taught me over the past two years, it’s the importance of supporting local artists, creators and business owners. City Flea is my favorite summer pop-up market simply because of just how many artists and vendors are featured at every market. Seven times a year, tents sprawl across Washington Park in downtown Cincinnati. From textile makers to jewelers to local popsicle trucks, City Flea has virtually anything you could ever ask for from a market!

Favorite weekend activity: Local music

It only takes having, like, one conversation with me to know how much of a #LocalMusic fan I am [insert *I’m not like most girls, I’m ~quirky~* meme here]. But, how can I not be when Cincinnati’s music scene is home to so many talented artists. Spending most of the year in Athens, it’s often hard for me to get to shows now, but when I do, they’re some of my favorite nights. I’ve met so many incredible people through the Cincy music scene and I’ve watched it launch the careers of so many of my friends [not only its musicians but also photographers, journalists and other content creators]. Cincy music is really good. I promise. Check it out if you’re ever in town. [Disclaimer: Not ALL of the bands on that playlist are technically from Cincinnati. Some are from Columbus, some are from Athens, etc. But, I heard about all of them through the same scene. So, I’m counting it.]

Favorite outdoor space: Smale Riverfront Park

Over the years, I’ve realized that there’s no time that I thrive more than in the sunlight [we LOVE that serotonin]. Even if I’m working inside all day, I’ve found that I’m just generally happier if there are large windows filling the room with natural light. My favorite place to soak in the sun [on the off chance that Cincinnati is actually having consistent weather patterns] is Smale Park on the banks of downtown. If I had to describe a perfect day, it would simply be grabbing something to eat from one of the many delicious eateries on the banks and then walking down to the park. Stainless steel swings allow you to relax and overlook the Ohio River [okay, not much of a sight to see but the John A. Roebling bridge looks pretty lit up at night] and the walking pathway at the bottom of the park offers a postcard picturesque view of Cincinnati.

Share with us on Instagram once you check out one of these five Cincinnati hangouts!

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