cincinnati road trip, or that time i went to covington, ky

I like road trips.

The liberation of hours of highway ahead of you, the anonymity of a hotel and city in which no one knows you, the excitement drawn out by searching for the best dive bars and the triumph when you find the perfect little place with low lighting and music that makes you feel as though you are right where you're supposed to be.

The promise of adventure when you ask yourself, "Where do I want to go this weekend?"

Make a mixtape. Pack your bags. Go.

I went to Cincinnati with my sister about a couple of months ago, and thought I'd share our trip with you. It was a last-minute decision that led to some great fun and memorable times.

We set off at 11 am on a Saturday, iPhones charged and bags packed. We jumped in the Volvo and drove through mini snowstorms, clouds and sun for four hours. We finally made it to the city after winding around two-lane highways and driving across industrial bridges. Exhausted, yet excited, we made our first stop, which happened to be the best liquor store I've ever been in. Rows upon rows and shelves upon shelves of liquor, beer, and wine filled the store. I picked up a gin that looked pretty delicious, Uncle Val's Botanical Gin.

uncle val's botanical gin and fever tree tonic

Uncle Val's is a nice little small-batch gin made in Oregon. And guys, I can safely say it was the best gin I've ever had. Super herbaceous, infused with juniper. lavender, sage, lemon and a couple of other tasty things, it's wonderful with tonic, but even better without. On the rocks is the best way to consume this beautiful gin.

After browsing the shop for a bit too long, our next stop was the hotel. This Marriott, located in Covington, KY (which is right across the river from Cincinnati) was amazing. You walk into an enormous atrium, complete with an indoor gazebo and water wall. Pop up the elevator to your floor, and walk into a lovely, cozy room with this view:

cincinnati view over the ohio river

I think it goes without saying that it was an incredible view.

My sister and I relaxed in our comfy beds and chatted about what we wanted to do that evening over a couple of gin and tonics.

uncle val's gin

We scoured Yelp and the visitor guidebook available at the hotel. Eventually, though, we just ended up grabbing a taxi and asked our driver to take us to a fun neighborhood. That happened to be Mainstrasse in Covington.

This lovely little street has an assortment of restaurants and bars, ranging from an English pub to coffeehouses to sports bars. We were craving comfort food, so we stopped into Cock & Bull, an English pub that really had some of the best fish and chips I've had in a while. This place was really great. A proper English style pub, albeit less dirty and old. This is America, after all.

We started off with some local beer flights:

pub menu, local beer flights

local beer flights at cock & bull, covington, kentucky

 My sister went with the seasonal, and I went with the local. When in Rome, as they say.

Then I continued on to my phenomenal fish and chips:

fish and chips, cock & bull, covington, kentucky
(Is it gross that I'm getting hungry looking at it?)

It was the perfect start to our night. Full and happy and ready to hit the town, we took a stroll down the street to scope out the scene and came upon this mysterious little sign.

old kentucky bourbon bar, covington, kentucky

Now, those of you who know me are well aware that Bourbon is my jam. On the rocks, in an old fashioned, whatever. I love it. Lucky for us, we came across a bar devoted purely to the stuff. Must have had something to do with the fact that we were in the heart of Bourbon country.

local whiskey, old kentucky bourbon bar, covington, ky

Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar has a huge assortment of bourbons, from the run-of-the-mill stuff you can pick up at corner stores in Michigan, to local distillations that I knew at the time I wasn't about to find anywhere else. I was a little lost, to be frank. This selection was out of my league.

So I went with my tried and true method.

Now, I'm not a scientist, but I am of the belief that if you don't know what to order, pick something with a fun label. Genius, right? Regardless of your choice, your chances of liking a drink with a pretty bottle are on par with a drink with an ugly label. I really should sell my advice.

I picked out Watershed Distillery Bourbon (due to its distinctly pink neon label, of course), which actually happened to be distilled about 30 miles from where we were staying. It turned out to be an exceptional bourbon. In fact, I may have had a few of them. Don't tell.

Pick some up here, if you're interested in giving it a go.

watershed distillery bourbon, covington, ky, gina aylward

The atmosphere at OKBB is great, the bartenders fun and knowledgable, and the people friendly. I highly recommend going here if you ever head to Cincinnati. You really shouldn't miss it.

We stopped off at a few forgettable bars, called our new taxi-driver friend to pick us up, and managed to make it back and pass out in our extra-cozy beds.

I'm a morning person, and woke up with the sunrise the next morning. I couldn't resist taking a picture of the view yet again.

river center marriott, covington, ky

That stillness is something you can only find in the morning before everyone wakes up and makes it out and about, and I love it. It's really the best time of the day.

My sister and I got up and around, and stopped in a coffee shop in Newport, just a few miles from Covington. I wish I would have taken more pictures--the houses were beautiful! The area was settled by Germans in the 1800's, and there was a lot of money in the area when steel was produced there. You can see evidence of that lost (and recently recaptured) affluence in the big, beautiful brick row houses that line the streets. We went to Cincinnati in November when the trees were imbued with yellow and orange hues that only made the place more beautiful than it already is.

If you're ever looking for a weekend trip, I highly recommend making your way down to Cincinnati. We didn't even begin to touch on all of the things there are to do in that town (seeing as we basically did a bar tour--oops), but the places we did go were pretty phenomenal and the city offers a variety of things to do and see. From an exceptional art museum to Cincinnati Union Terminal, there's loads of culture in this town.

What are you waiting for? It's Tuesday--that gives you more than enough time to do a bit of research and get ready for your weekend trip. Go for it.

And tell me all about it, will you? x



  1. hello darling, I really like your blog and your photos!!! would u like to follow each other on gfc and facebook???I always follow back
    PS: I have a giveaway on my blog right now!!!

    1. thanks, lady! yes, of course i'd like to follow--i really enjoyed checking out your blog. thanks for reading!