The 3 Best Neighborhoods in Cincinnati

Leyla Shokoohe
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So you’re moving to the Queen City.

Do you want to live in the heart of the city? Maybe have a yard but only a fifteen-minute commute? Do you want to be where the nightlife is? Close to a beloved arts district?

The great thing about living in Cincinnati is that no matter what experiences you’re trying to have in town, there’s a neighborhood well-suited for you. Here, we narrow it down to the top three contenders.

Mount Auburn

If you want: all the charm and convenience of living downtown without the price tag.

Over-the-Rhine gets all the recognition as the hottest part of Cincinnati for millennials and hipsters of all ages, and Walnut Hills—both the East and West designations—is poised to be OTR’s heir apparent in terms of cool boutiques and restaurants, but it’s Mount Auburn that is the neighborhood savvy buyers and renters should really be looking at.

Positioned northeast of Over-the-Rhine, Mount Auburn is an historic district, named to the National Register in 1973. The neighborhood historically served as a fresh-air respite from the dirty pollution of downtown proper, and still boasts some of the best views in the city.

The official website for the neighborhood of Mount Auburn puts a resident count at more than 7,000. (One particularly famous resident was President William Howard Taft himself.) Landmark claims to fame include The William Howard Taft Birthplace & National Historic Site and The Christ Hospital.

Part of Mount Auburn’s charm is that it is primarily residential, yet retains an urban atmosphere of excitement. The housing market is abundant – a quick look at Zillow shows the median home value in Mount Auburn has increased by 13% since 2017, and is positioned to increase nearly 5% this year. The neighborhood is home to few retail spots, instead boasting proximity to many other neighborhoods that specialize in different shopping opportunities.

Mount Auburn is adjacent to many neighborhoods, including Over-the-Rhine, CUF (Clifton Heights, University Heights, and Fairview), the Heights, Corryville, Walnut Hills, Pendleton and part of the Central Business District.

“I love living in Mount Auburn,” said Heather Vogt, a resident since 2015. “As a young person, it’s conveniently located to everything I need, but still affordable and accessible. It’s a neighborhood with a lot of history that is on the verge of booming again, and it’s exciting to be a part of that.”

Oakley

If you want: a backyard and a thriving suburban community without the drive.

Founded in the mid-1800s, Oakley boasts a vibrant retail district with residential pockets interspersed throughout. The abundance of festivals, events, local businesses, and shopping opportunities all contribute to a distinctive community atmosphere.

Located on the eastern border of the city of Cincinnati, Oakley is adjacent to Madisonville, Norwood, Pleasant Ridge, and Hyde Park, and clocks in under ten miles from downtown Cincinnati. The neighborhood had more than 10,000 residents at the time of the 2010 census, and is largely a young professionals and commuter town, with a large host of the population under 40, according to City-Data.

The median housing value has risen more than six percent in the last year, and is projected to rise another three percent over 2018. Oakley has been in the local news lately; the young FC Cincinnati soccer team management leaders have been eyeing a plot of land in Oakley to potentially build a new soccer stadium, should they get MLS officiation.

Oakley Square, positioned in the center of the region, is home to a host of local specialized boutiques, shops and restaurants, both old and new, including: Sleepy Bee Cafe, King Arthur’s Toys, Aglamesis Brothers (an ice cream and candy shop established in 1913,) Blue Manatee children’s bookstore, Deeper Roots Coffee and more.

The juxtaposition of old and new gives Oakley a unique vibe. The world’s second-largest Kroger opened in Oakley, close to the Crossroads Church and local brewery MadTree Brewing’s new, larger location, expands Oakley’s footprint, while the historic Twentieth Century Theater and cluster of local favorite watering holes like Oakley Pub & Grill and Animations Lounge remain largely unchanged in the central district of the neighborhood.

Northside

If you want: an urban-adjacent zip code and eclectic arts community.

Situated northwest of the city center of Cincinnati, Northside is a largely walkable, eclectic neighborhood that serves as an oasis for all sorts, including artists and creatives. Originally known as Cumminsville, Northside has a population of just over 7,000 at the time of the 2010 U.S. Census, a large swath of which is under 50 years old. The median housing value has grown over 8% in the last year, and is projected to increase another 3% in 2018.

Northside is centrally-located among many other Cincinnati neighborhoods (serving as an advantageous commuter region) including Clifton, College Hill, Mt. Airy, Winton Place, South Cumminsville, and a tiny region known as Fay Apartments. The neighborhood has a strong sense of community, hosting the Northside Farmer’s Market and the annual Northside Fourth of July Parade, and is home to two highly-regarded Montessori schools, as well.

The hub of action in Northside is largely centered on Hamilton Avenue, which runs north to south through the neighborhood and adjoins it to the south side of neighboring Clifton. Many a retail and restaurant location alike has found success on Hamilton, and is home to a vibrant nightlife scene.

Restaurants include vegan-friendly bakery Happy Chicks, Nepalese restaurant Bridges, and hidden-away diner Ruth’s Parkside Cafe. Bars include the Northside Tavern (where local live music is performed nearly every night of the week,) the Listing Loon and The Comet (also plays host to an abundance of live music performances), among many others.

Vintage shops such as Chicken Lays An Egg and coffee shops like Sidewinder and Collective Espresso dot Hamilton, too. Chase Public is a literary and cultural center on the corner of Hamilton and Chase, regularly holding free events and welcoming visiting authors, poets, and singers/songwriters. Visionaries and Voices, located on Spring Grove Avenue, is a non-profit gallery and studio space for visual artists with disabilities. Shake-It Records is a revered local record store, hosting in-store performances and helping keep the local scene alive.

Wherever you lay roots in Cincinnati, you’re selecting a region that has something for everyone.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 12, 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Leyla Shokoohe

Leyla Shokoohe is a freelance writer based in Cincinnati. She is an avid arts advocate, and covers cultural and societal stories for many local publications, including Cincinnati CityBeat and WCPO.
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