One of the most vibrant entertainment districts in Cincinnati is an area located directly on the Ohio River known as The Banks.
Nestled between Paul Brown Stadium (home of the Cincinnati Bengals) and Great American Ball Park (home of the Cincinnati Reds), The Banks is comprised of a variety of bars, restaurants, apartment buildings, and a riverfront park.
Whether you’re looking for a place to go on a date, hang out with the family, or go out with a group of friends, The Banks offers something for everyone.
Because of its proximity to Downtown and the two professional sports stadiums, The Banks is often home to a variety of seasonal city-wide events including:
- Music festivals like Bunbury
- Food & cultural festivals like Oktoberfest and Celtic Fest
- Light festivals like Blink
- Marathons like The Flying Pig
No matter the time of year, there’s almost always something fun going on at The Banks that’s worth checking out.
In this post, we share a complete guide to The Banks, including a brief history of how it became the region it is today along with a list of things to do and places to check out in the area.
A Brief History of The Banks
The riverfront area that is now known as “The Banks” used to be the epicenter of freight rail for the western portion of the United States in the early 1900s.
During the later portion of the century, though, Cincinnati’s Central Business District followed the trend in urban cores that was taking place around the country and experienced a population decline and a slowdown in business growth in general.
However, beginning in 1997, a “Riverfront Master Plan” between Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati was approved to overhaul and redesign the riverfront area. Following the approval of the plan, the area welcomed the new Paul Brown Stadium, Great American Ball Park, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
Next, the 18 acres of undeveloped land between the two sports stadiums received a massive overhaul. New apartment buildings popped up, several bars and restaurants opened, parking garages were created, and the Riverfront Park received a face lift in the form of new landscaping, walking paths, playground areas, and sculptures.
Now, the area that is known as “The Banks” today is nearly unrecognizable compared to two decades ago.
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Things to Do & Places to Check Out
The following map shows the locations of things to do and places to check out around The Banks.
Great American Ball Park: Attend a Cincinnati Reds game from March through September at Great American Ball Park, a stadium that overlooks the Ohio River.
Heritage Bank Center: Catch a Cincinnati Cyclones hockey game. Despite being a mid-level professional team, the Cyclones always offer a fun experience for fans. Nearly every home game has a “theme” such as Superhero night, dollar beer night, weiner dog racing night, and blanket giveaways.Tickets are typically $18 per person on days leading up to games and $20 on game day. Check out their online schedule to see when the Cyclones play next.
Paul Brown Stadium: Attend a Cincinnati Bengals game from August through December at Paul Brown Stadium.
BurgerFi: The obvious place to get a burger at The Banks. Known for their all day breakfast burgers, bacon cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, and several vegetarian / vegan-friendly burgers, BurgerFi offers something for everyone.
Condado Tacos: One of the best places to get tacos in all of Cincinnati. Condado is unique because they allow you to either order pre-built tacos or build your own from the ground up, allowing you to choose exactly which meats, cheeses, and salsas to add to the mix. Prices range from $3 – 5 per taco. They’re also open until 2AM every night of the week.
Galla Park: An upscale restaurant that offers a variety of steaks, burgers, and seafood entrees during the day and caters to more of a bar scene in the evenings and late nights.
Holy Grail: A sports bar known for their burgers, pizza, and sandwiches. With over 30 high-def TVs, this is a popular spot to watch a game.
Jimmy John’s: One of the cheaper places to grab a deli-style sub or sandwich.
Joella’s: The most popular place to get some chicken around The Banks. With six different spice levels, you get to choose how hot your chicken is.
Moerlein Lager House: A restaurant that offers a full line of Christian Moerlein craft beers and a variety of classic entrees like burgers and salads.
Pies & Pints: A great place to get a handcrafted pizza or some grilled wings. They also offer over 30 craft beers on tap.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse: The best place to get a prime steak at The Banks. They also offer a variety of appetizers, several fresh seafood dishes, and homemade desserts.
Smoothie King: A nice place to grab a smoothie.
Street Corner Market: A local fresh market that offers a variety of snack options similar to ones that you’d find in a gas station.
Taste of Belgium: A scratch kitchen known for their waffles and chicken.
Yard House: An upscale casual-eatery known for their classic rock music and their American-style menu that include burgers, salads and sandwiches.
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I’ve worked every Holiday since I was a teenager and I love it. ❤️There’s always someone that needs a place to go out and I’m happy to open for them. Come hang out, we open at 8pm and live music starts at 9pm. Thanks! – DJ SAB @djsabcincy Big shoutout to those that volunteered to work today. Brad & Ben!! ❤️
Fishbowl: A relatively new, small bar known for their fish tank-style interior and their signature mixed drinks served in fishbowls. They also offer craft beers and a small menu of sandwiches and other small-plate items.
Jefferson Social: A spacious bar known for serving “Mexican street food” during the day and catering to more of a bar-scene with live DJs in the evening.
The Stretch: A bar that offers both indoor and outdoor seating along with an impressive menu of craft beer, cocktails, and wine.
Tin Roof: One of the most popular place to check out around The Banks, Tin Roof is known for hosting live musicians and DJs along with a variety of other community events like a New Year’s Eve bash and Santacon.
National Underground Railroad Center: A history museum that offers a variety of exhibits focused on the Underground Railroad. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10.50 for children. Check out their site for more details on hours and admission.
Smale Riverfront Park: Located right along the Ohio River, Smale Riverfront Park is a beautiful, scenic park to check out. Featuring a playground area with climbing walls and slides, this is a great spot for families to visit. There is also a long winding walking trail with several swinging benches to sit on and enjoy the views of the river and the bridges.
The Escape Game: Located in the heart of The Banks, The Escape Game offers five unique escape rooms that you can attempt to complete with a group of friends or family. With themes ranging from breaking out of a prison to solving an art museum heist and more, The Escape Game offers a unique and fun experience that can be enjoyed by all ages.