The Northern Kentucky region is quintessential Southern hospitality.
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The glint of sunbeams piercing the Ohio River at dawn. The waft of bourbon drawing passersby to take a deeper inhale. The stately historic German buildings from the 1800s nodding to past generations. The dramatic suspension bridge that frames it all. Yes, there’s more to Kentucky than horse farms and the Derby.
Tucked away in the northernmost point of the Bluegrass State, Northern Kentucky is a collection of 36 cities sprinkled throughout three counties.
Part of the Cincy Region, Northern Kentucky shines as a destination that fuses cultural heritage and the great outdoors with a burgeoning food and spirits scene.
And with widespread airlift, thanks to the presence of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), just 10 minutes from Covington and Newport, it has never been easier to plan a trip to this Southern region with Midwestern spice.
The Kentucky-Ohio border sits square in the middle of the Ohio River, so if you’re staying in Northern Kentucky, you can make your base in Florence or Covington and day-trip into Cincinnati to check another state off your travel list.
In Cincinnati proper, you’ll want to allot plenty of time for National Underground Railroad Freedom Center that teaches important lessons about slavery and human trafficking through powerful exhibits and visual aids. Also plan to visit the massive Cincinnati Museum Center, which is housed in the old art deco-style Union Terminal.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky corridor has abundant green space, with more than 20,000 acres that span 80 parks and 40 nature preserves. The Ohio River Recreational Trail alone consumes 274 miles along the river between Ohio and Louisville, with hundreds of miles of paths for cyclists, mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners.
With 45 acres of urban green, you can use Smale Riverfront Park to get to both Great American Ball Park, home to the Cincinnati Reds, and the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium, as well as enjoy the permanent art installations like interactive fountains and a giant foot piano.
One of the most attractive parts of visiting this region is the walkability. If you’re up for a little bit of a hike, you can travel by foot from Covington or Newport to Cincinnati’s most culturally significant neighborhood, Over-the-Rhine, have a few beers at Christian Moerlein Brewing Company and Rhinegeist Brewery, then walk back again via the Banks Riverfront Entertainment District.
Don’t Miss These Signature Events
Mardi Gras (February)
Bring your beads and your highest level of energy to Covington’s big Mainstrasse Mardi Gras parade, which kicks off at Ninth and Main and runs to Fifth Street, ending with music, dancing and drink specials all night long. Each Fat Tuesday, the Northern Kentucky Restaurant Association (NKRA) also hosts an annual Mardi Gras for Homeless Children event benefitting a trio of local shelters.
Pride Festival (June)
Every June in conjunction with the nationwide observation of Pride, Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky gear up to host festivities on both sides of the Ohio River that include parades, educational lectures, a film series, a makers’ market of LGBTQ-owned vendors and more.
Covington Night Bazaar (July-October)
One of the area’s most anticipated summer series, Covington Night Bazaar takes place one evening every month in July, August, September and October with live entertainment and dozens of artisans, restaurants, bars and breweries peddling their wares.
Cincinnati Riverfest (Labor Day)
One of the area’s most popular annual events, Cincinnati Riverfest takes place on both sides of the river each Labor Day weekend and culminates with one giant fireworks display viewable from Covington’s Devou Park.
The Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati metro area raised a glass to its German heritage each fall with a bevy of Oktoberfest happenings across the area scattered throughout the month of September. The festivities kick off with Mainstrasse Village Oktoberfest in Covington the first weekend of the month, followed by the country’s biggest Oktoberfest celebration, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, in mid-September and wraps with Newport Oktoberfest at the end of the month. Pröst!