Cincinnati hosts the MLB All-Star Game this month. What better excuse for a road trip to the Queen City?
This year's Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played July 14 in Cincinnati, home of America's first professional baseball team-and my hometown. While I've been a full-fledged Columbus resident for close to a decade, Cincinnati still holds a piece of my heart, especially because it's such a vibrant and up-and-coming city (much different than when I was growing up). The city will be even livelier in the days leading up to the game; this is a great time to visit, whether you're an avid baseball fan or don't know the difference between the bullpen and the dugout. Try this suggested itinerary from a native.First stop: breakfast. Sleepy Bee Cafe in the Oakley neighborhood serves superb, health-conscious breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends), with plenty of thoughtful options for the vegan, paleo and gluten-free crowd. Bonus: Enjoy a complimentary cup of locally roasted, fair-trade coffee while you wait for a table. As you head southwest toward Downtown, stop at the Cincinnati Art Museum for an experience that marries baseball and art. Up at Bat: Warhol, Rose and Baseball Cards features proofs of Andy Warhol's limited-edition print of former Reds player-manager Pete Rose, offering a glimpse into the artist's process. (Helpful hints: Admission is free, parking is $4 and the museum is closed Mondays.) If you're into the baseball scene, check out the All-Star FanFest ($35 per ticket) at the Duke Energy Convention Center for interactive games, lessons in baseball history and appearances by the pros. Rumor has it MLB pariah and hometown hero Pete Rose will be among them. The event begins Friday, July 10 and runs through Tuesday, July 14. The less interested might enjoy a walk along the river instead. Scenic Smale Riverfront Park, with its new public carousel, is a good place to start. Then follow the Ohio River Trail to the Purple People Bridge-a pedestrians-only bridge that's painted, you guessed it, purple-for one of the best views of the city. At lunchtime, head to the uber-hip Over-the-Rhine neighborhood for a slew of standout food choices, like Senate's gourmet hotdogs, Pontiac's sweet-and-heat pork barbecue or The Eagle's crispy, spicy fried chicken. Treat yourself at beloved Holtman's Donuts for dessert. If the bakery hasn't already sold out of Maple Bacon doughnuts, don't think twice-just order one. While you're in the neighborhood, head north to Rhinegeist Brewery for a cold one in the taproom, which is basically a glorified warehouse. Try the Hustle, a rye pale ale named for none other than Pete Rose. (See a theme here?) Nearby brewery Taft's Ale House has a wide selection of flavor-forward beers. Make like a regular and ask for a mix of the toasty Culebra Cut Coconut Brown and the subtly sweet Nellie's Keylime Caribbean Ale. As you explore the city, keep an eye out for art collaborative ArtWorks CincyInk's "Seven Hills and a Queen to Name Them," a series of public art installations ranging from murals to light projections designed to celebrate love for the Queen City. If you plan to stay the night-after those brewery visits, you probably should-book a room in Downtown's funky 21c Museum Hotel, which has its own contemporary art museum. Stop into attached restaurant and bar Metropole for a nightcap and some house-spun lemon cotton candy that even cotton candy haters (myself included) will love.