Where the South Begins, and the Fun Never Ends: Meet Northern Kentucky

Northern Kentucky River Region

By Kate McDermott
Published: January 5, 2024


You’re invited to meet Northern Kentucky.


Here, small-town charm and outdoor adventures beckon, and vibrant Cincinnati calls just north of the Ohio River. Love good bourbon? Northern Kentucky’s got you covered. Arts and culture more your scene? The museums and galleries are sure to impress. From exciting events like Oktoberfest to culinary delights like the sweet and savory taste of Cincy chili, there’s always something to discover in NKY!



MEET Endless Outdoor Activities



Northern Kentucky is packed with outdoor adventure, from biking through public parks to kayaking along rivers. Explore Devou Park, a 700+ acre green space in the hills of Covington with a variety of trails, a lake and gorgeous overlook. Looking to practice your swing? Play 18 holes on the park’s lush golf course that doubles as a wildlife habitat.


Pedal your way around the city with Red Bike. Simply pick up a bike from a designated pickup station and explore Northern Kentucky by bike. All day rentals are only $10 (just make sure to check in at a station every two hours).


Climb aboard a vessel with BB Riverboats for daily sightseeing cruises of the Ohio River and Cincinnati skyline. Or go your own way with a kayaking or canoeing expedition along the gentle Licking River. For a different kind of water fun, splash and slide at the Florence Family Aquatic Center. Float the lazy river, hurtle down two thrilling water slides, and play at two splash zones. 


Natural history buffs won’t want to miss a visit to the Big Bone Lick State Historic Site. Visit a real herd of American bison and follow the Big Bone Creek trail to the Salt Springs that attracted large mammals thousands of years ago. You might even see some of the bones they left behind!


Of course, the outdoor activities don’t stop here, Northern Kentucky is home to boundless adventures, such as fishing, hiking and disc golf (check out the 24-hole championship course at England-Idlewild Park)!



MEET Art Around Every Corner 



Northern Kentucky is proud of its artistic heritage, with offerings from classical and historic to contemporary and cutting-edge.


Discover art on a global scale at the Cincinnati Art Museum. There are over 60,000 works of art here, from African sculptures to East Asian porcelain and European paintings. At the Licking River Greenway Trail, a two-mile riverside walk becomes an outdoor gallery adorned with 17 unique murals inspired by the energy of motion, nature, and community. 


At The Carnegie in Covington, five art galleries and a French opera house-inspired theater create a one-of-a-kind creative destination. Catch plays and musical performances by top local talent and browse artwork by emerging and established NKY artists. 



MEET Unique Attractions for Kids and Kids at Heart



Northern Kentucky features unique experiences you won’t find anywhere else. At the Ark Encounter, a full-sized Noah’s Ark replica is the largest timber-framed structure in the world. Tour exhibits about the Biblical flood inside the 510-foot-long ark. 


Go face-to-fin with marine life at the Newport Aquarium. Cross a rope bridge over the shark tank and explore the Coral Reef Tunnel for 360° views of colorful hippo tangs, angelfish, and butterfly fish. 


Newport was once a den of gaming, gangsters, and ladies of ill repute. On the Newport Gangster Tour, learn about the casinos, brothels, and speakeasies that once put Newport on the map. For a different kind of history, visit the American Sign Museum to browse over 100 years of culture through commercial signs, ranging from paintings to neon. 


Love baseball? Catch a Cincinnati Reds home game at the Great American Ball Park. Peek at the downtown skyline through “Gapper’s Alley,” a break in the stands, during the 7th inning stretch! 



MEET Bourbon & Beer Country

Pouring a bourbon flight.


Northern Kentucky is a gateway to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®, with distillers and bourbon bars around every corner. At modern, sleek New Riff Distilling, tour the barrel warehouse and sample their premium Bottled in Bond bourbons—the highest standard for aged spirits. Or visit The Old Pogue Distillery, dating back to 1876. Sip their flagship bourbon made from the original recipe on their historic grounds with views overlooking the Ohio River. 


To widen your horizons, head for one of the area’s many bourbon bars and bottle shops. Revival Vintage Spirits & Bottle Shop offers hundreds of vintage and rare bourbons and whiskeys to taste and purchase. Or head to Prohibition Bourbon Bar, home to the largest bourbon and rye collection in the world—over 6,000 bottles—in a dimly lit, Prohibition-style speakeasy. Visit many more along The B-Line®, a collection of distilleries, bars, and restaurants devoted to bourbon.


Beer lovers will also find plenty to enjoy in NKY. At circus-inspired microbrewery, Bircus Brewing Company, drinks come with a show. Try one of their lighter styles like wheat, kölsch, or pilsner while trapeze artists, jugglers, and tightrope walkers entertain the crowd. 


If you think darker beer = better beer, you have to visit Darkness Brewing. This cozy, space-themed brewery specializes in dark brews like stouts, brown ales, and dark lagers. Across the river in Cincinnati, tour the historic lagering tunnels, 10,000 square feet of pre-Prohibition aging tunnels that kept lager cool while it fermented. 



MEET Your Next Culinary Craving 



At the crossroads of north and south, Northern Kentucky boasts a one-of-a-kind culinary scene, from classic Southern favorites to German cuisine and goetta. Start with iconic Cincy chili: a plate of spaghetti (or a classic coney dog) smothered in a Mediterranean-spiced meat sauce, topped with your choice of cheddar cheese, onions, and beans. Try Empress Chili—it’s the original! 


For another local favorite, head to nautical-themed diner Anchor Grill, which has been feeding Covington since 1946. Try the GLT—lettuce, tomato, and their beloved goetta (a sausage made from pork, beef, oats, and spices). 


NKY’s strong German heritage is on display at Hofbräuhaus, a German bier hall in Newport. Sip beers based on 400+ year-old Bavarian recipes and feast on savory wurst, spätzle, and giant pretzels. Or head to cozy Wunderbar! for delicious pierogies, pork schnitzel, and hearty German sausages. Both spots feature frequent live music! 


The seasonal menu at The Baker’s Table changes weekly depending on what’s available at local farms. You’ll find a rainbow of fresh produce, delicate handmade pastas, and sustainably sourced meat. And at Southern bistro Purple Poulet, the fried chicken is a must-try. It has a perfect crunchy outside and a tender, juicy inside. And with 500+ bourbons and ryes, the drinks are just as good. 



MEET Events and Festivals Only Found in NKY 



The annual event calendar is packed in NKY! Foodies, don’t miss Taste of Cincinnati, a May food fest with dishes from over 65 restaurants, food trucks, and vendors. Live music lasts all day to keep the energy up!


Celebrate the avant-garde at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. Watch curated performances of dance, storytelling, theater, puppetry, comedy, magic, and more spread across two weeks. You’re guaranteed to see something interesting! 


Can’t get enough goetta? Glier’s Goettafest celebrates this beef, pork, and oat sausage over two tasty weekends. Play games, dance to live music, and ride the Ferris Wheel—in between mouthfuls of creative goetta dishes. 


NKY and the Cincy Region love Oktoberfest so much, the area is actually home to America’s largest Oktoberfest celebration each September. Oktoberfest Zinzinnati celebrates all things German—great beer, savory sausages, and plenty of oompah music. Don’t miss the wiener dog races! 


Every other October, Cincinnati becomes a city-wide canvas at BLINK. This jaw-dropping event illuminates over 30 city blocks with colorful murals, building-sized projection mapping, and interactive light activations. It’s true living art! 

By Kate McDermott

Author Information
Kate McDermott

Kate McDermott is a travel writer based out of Texas who's work has been published in The Splendid Table, Better Homes and Gardens, Frederick News Post and Places.Travel.  

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