Bourbon, Bison, & Ball Games: A Weekend in Northern Kentucky

By Kate McDermott 

 

There’s no right way to spend a weekend in Northern Kentucky. Whether you’re sipping your way across The B-Line® (the area’s self-guided bourbon tour) or seeing the sights by riverboat, you’ll find plenty of adventures just across the river from Cincinnati.

 

From shopping charming boutiques to historical sites, here’s your guide to a picture-perfect weekend in Northern Kentucky.

 

Where to Stay

 

Rustic campgrounds, charming bed and breakfasts, comfortable chains and beautiful boutiques, when it comes to accommodations, there’s room for everyone in Northern Kentucky. Find the perfect home base for your trip in Florence, Covington, or Newport. 

 

Day 1: Covington & Newport Area

 

Morning

 

Rub elbows with the locals at nautical Anchor Grill for a classic diner breakfast. Whether you choose simple eggs and toast or biscuits smothered in sausage gravy, add some goetta to your meal. This German-inspired sausage is a local favorite made from ground pork, beef, and steel-cut oats. Cash only!

 

Anchor Grill in Northern Kentucky

 

If you prefer a swanky morning meal, head to Coppin’s Restaurant & Bar in downtown’s Hotel Covington. Soak up the morning sun in the glass-wrapped side room while you savor buttermilk pancakes or fruit and yogurt made from local ingredients whenever possible. And bibliophiles can breakfast and browse at Roebling Books & Coffee. Get a breakfast sandwich on a local challah roll or a smoothie made with tahini, banana, and dates. Or just grab a Spicy Mocha and hunt for your next read—it’s an independent bookstore, too. 

 

After breakfast, grab a rideshare or walk to the Licking Riverside Historic District for stunning views across the river to the Cincinnati skyline. Check out statues like James Bradley, a 19th-century freeman and abolitionist. You’ll also get the best view of the Roebling Suspension Bridge, an 1867 marvel that served as a prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge.

 

Newport on the Levee in Northern Kentucky

 

Next, head to entertainment destination Newport on the Levee. Shop at boutiques like Sweet Dreams Candy Co. for sweets and chocolate, and take in the views from Bridgeview Box Park. Then head to Newport Aquarium, where you’ll traverse over 200 feet of underwater tunnels for an immersive view of colorful reef fish and stingrays. Don’t miss the Shark Bridge, a suspended rope bridge across the shark tanks. 

 

Afternoon

 

For lunch, try Cincinnati chili made fresh daily at the Dixie Chili & Deli’s original Newport location. This Mediterranean-spiced meat sauce is served over spaghetti with your choice of onions, beans, cheese, and fresh garlic. Dixie’s has been whipping up Cincy chili since 1929! If bourbon is on your agenda, visit Rich’s Proper, a stop on The B-Line. This welcoming neighborhood spot will make you feel right at home. Enjoy Southern fusion and seafood—like garlicky broiled oysters and Kentucky Bluegrass “Jambalaya”—along with a bourbon slush. 

 

Pouring a drink at Rich's Proper in Northern Kentucky

 

Continue your bourbon adventure at another gem on The B-Line, New Riff Distilling. Modern glass and chrome on the outside, inside, they’re committed to old-school 1897 “Bottled in Bond” standards for ultra-high quality. Tour the barrel warehouse and sample their Kentucky Bourbon at cask strength.

 

Or climb aboard a paddlewheel-powered BB Riverboat Cruise. Their sightseeing trips up the Ohio River offer gorgeous views of the Cincinnati skyline. Choose from over two dozen themes, like a Historic Sightseeing Cruise packed with fascinating facts about the city. 

 

Evening

 

At Opal Rooftop, magnificent 360° views and a special Grillworks Grill create a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Everything from the bread (with cherry goat cheese) to the dry-aged bone-in prime ribeye gets the live-fire treatment. 

 

Menus change weekly at upscale-yet-cozy The Baker’s Table to highlight the freshest local ingredients. That means colorful veggies, handmade pastas, and meat from local ranchers—the best of the Ohio River Valley. Don’t miss live jazz on Mondays and Thursdays!

 

A street in Mainstrasse Village in Northern Kentucky

 

End your day with one more stop on The B-Line: Prohibition Bourbon Bar, a hidden speakeasy tucked inside Newberry Bros. Coffee. You’ll find the largest bourbon selection in the world—plus a friendly staff to guide you through. Reservations recommended! Or wander the storybook scene of Mainstrasse Village, a charming 19th-century German neighborhood. Stop when you find a bar with the right vibe—there are options for local craft beer and wine, masterful mixology, and, of course, plenty of bourbon. 

 

Day 2: Florence/Corridor Area

 

Morning

 

For great comfort food, look no further than Maple Street Biscuit Company. This laid-back brunch spot makes biscuits from scratch daily and loads them up with hearty fixins’ like fried chicken, bacon, eggs, cheddar, and sausage gravy. Or head to The Hive, a buzzy East Coast-style café inside a converted 1876 Victorian home. Savor breakfast bowls and sandwiches on brioche buns, or start the day sweet with Bourbon-Spiked French Toast or Sweet Cream Pancakes. 

 

After breakfast, head to Big Bone Lick State Historic Site, where prehistoric bison gathered—and sometimes got stuck in the salty marsh, making this an important archaeological site. Spot an active herd of American bison, Ice Age bison fossils from local digs, and more.

 

The entrance to Big Bone Lick State Historic Site

 

For something truly unique, schedule a stop at the Vent Haven Ventriloquist Museum. Wander rooms packed with over 1,100 dummies from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, plus ventriloquism memorabilia. Check out the Bergen & McCarthy exhibit dedicated to the famed 1930s dummy-ventriloquist duo. The museum will reopen on May 1, 2024. Tours are by appointment only.

 

Afternoon 

 

For lunch, La Torta Loca takes you south to Mexico and Venezuela. Feast on authentic tortas, arepas, empanadas, and tacos under the watchful eye of colorful luchadors painted on the walls. Don’t skip their extravagant margaritas loaded with fun garnishes. 

 

Or lunch in historic splendor at Tousey House Tavern, a stop on The B-Line. Inside a red brick federalist-style home dating back to 1822, you can enjoy Kentucky classics like their Hot Brown along with a bourbon flight. 

 

Outside of the Tousey House Tavern.

 

Explore the world’s largest timber-framed structure at the Ark Encounter, a 510-foot-long recreation of Noah’s Ark. Inside, you’ll find exhibits on the animals and the flood, while outside, you can speed through a zip-line course or ride real camels. 

 

For another stop on The B-Line, visit Boone County Distilling Co, the first distillery in Boone County since Prohibition. Inspired by the area’s bourbon-centric past, the distillery uses a classic 500-gallon pot still for full, complex flavor. Tour their “grain-to-glass” operations or sample a wide selection with their guided tastings. 

 

Evening

 

Treat yourself to a dinner of artisan pizza at Camporosso in Ft. Mitchell. Watch the cooks build your Sopressata Hot Honey pizza in the open kitchen before feeding it into the wood-fired dome oven for the perfect bake. Pair it with a glass of fine Italian wine. Or, traditional red lanterns, Chinese statues, and four koi fish ponds set the scene at Oriental Wok, an upscale Chinese restaurant. Try authentic Chinese-style steamed fish with black bean garlic sauce or faan ke beef, a classic comfort food made with tomatoes, eggs, and scallions. 

 

In the summer, head to Thomas More Stadium for that favorite American pastime—baseball. The Florence Y’alls are a Frontier League team offering affordable, family-friendly fun with tickets starting at just $12. No bad seats here!

 

 

Get in on the action at Turfway Park Racing & Gaming, where hundreds of slot machines and sports betting kiosks wait for you to test your luck. With live horse racing, great bands, and two tasty restaurants, you could stay here all night long.

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