Nightlife in Cincinnati: Best Bars, Clubs, & More

Cincinnati skyline - stock photo

If you love nightlife, great news! Cincinnati offers plenty of fun ways to explore the city after the sun goes down.

Craft beer breweries, trendy lounges, arcade bars, and other experiential watering holes exist all throughout town, but certain pockets offer multiple hotspots for those who want to focus on exploring one specific neighborhood at a time. The downtown business district, for instance, brims with chic bars sure to impress a date, while the Banks mixed-use development on the riverfront is a major draw for lively drinking sessions before or after a big game at the adjacent Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium. Meanwhile, the historic Over-the-Rhine area shelters a diverse collection of character-rich eateries and watering holes.

The greater Cincinnati metro area also claims the northern Kentucky communities of Newport and Covington, extending the options with even more restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues to discover. So if Cincinnati’s on your travel radar, here’s how to make the most of the nightlife while you’re in town.


With strong German roots, it’s no surprise that Cincinnati makes a big deal about its craft beer heritage. Raise a pint glass, propose a toast, and sample the local wares at these local taprooms.

  • Rhinegeist: The big daddy of the local craft beer renaissance, Rhinegeist ushered in a whole new generation of brewing when it launched in 2013, settling nicely into the 250,000 square-foot former Christian Moerlein packaging facility. The friendly Over-the-Rhine digs continue to lure in legions of new and experienced beer drinkers with indoor cornhole, picnic tables, ping-pong, yoga classes, and a buzzy rooftop beer garden.
  • Moerlein Lager House: Christian Moerlein Brewing Company was one of the first companies to put Cincinnati on the beer map back in the 1800s, and although Rhinegeist has since taken over the operation’s old OTR digs, the legacy lives on at the popular Moerlein Lager House. The house beer collection includes German-style lagers, marzens, and hefeweizens to complement a nicely elevated menu of gastropub cuisine.
  • Taft's Ale House: Named for Cincinnati native and U.S. President William Howard Taft, Taft's Ale House is worth visiting just for the architecture alone. Located in the renovated 1850 St. Paul’s Evangelical Church, the interior preserves many of the structure’s handsome original trims and details to make a showy first impression. The Gavel Banger American IPA, the Berry Vibes Sour Ale and the Gustav Vienna-style lager stand out amid the selection of permanent and rotating seasonal beer offerings.
  • Fifty West Brewing Company: This brewery keeps loyal customers coming back with top-quality beer and appealing outdoor activities like sand volleyball, running groups, and futsal. Order up a pint of American Lager, Coast to Coast IPA, or hard lemonade to wash down some wings or a burger at an outdoor picnic table.

Bars and Lounges

Is your idea of nightlife getting dressed up and sipping a martini in a sophisticated setting? Cincinnati’s got some swanky lounges and bars that fit the bill.

  • Sundry and Vice: Whether your tastes lean more toward traditional Manhattans and highballs or hyper-creative modern elixirs, the savvy bartenders at the apothecary-themed Sundry and Vice in OTR stand ready to shake up the cure to whatever’s ailing you.
  • Cocktail Terrace at 21c Museum Hotel: The intimate rooftop Cocktail Terrace on top of 21c Museum Hotel provides guests intoxicating views to drink in along with their spiked slushies, cocktails, and raw-bar small plates.
  • The Bar at Palm Court: The classics never go out of style. For retro glamour, visit the Bar at Palm Court inside the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza hotel to sip a retro cocktail amid the gorgeous Art Deco ambiance.
  • Ghost Baby: Mystery is the buzzword. Guests should expect the unexpected at Ghost Baby, a plush ultra-lounge in an underground tunnel. It's hard to distinguish whether the mysterious noises you hear wafting around in the background are merely a coincidence, or something truly supernatural.

Fun and Games

Cincinnati is home to several spots where guests can partake of games and activities while sipping the boozy beverage of their choice.

The adults-only arcade bar trend is alive and well in Cincinnati. Grab a joystick for some old-school video gaming at 16-Bit Bar+Arcade, Arcade Legacy, or GameWorks. Or, reserve a lane at Pins Mechanical Company and try your hand at duckpin bowling, an East Coast variation of the sport featuring smaller balls and pins. The venue shifts from family friendly to 21 and over after 8 p.m. To get in on the axe-throwing trend, make like a lumberjack with a target session at Cincinnati’s recreation centers like Class Axe Throwing or Urban Axes. Alcohol policies vary by location; do a little homework before you go to find out what’s allowed and available.

Meanwhile, the 85-acre Banks Riverfront Entertainment District is a one-stop shop if you’re in the mood for happy hour followed by a good meal and partying on into the night. And because it's sandwiched between the city's professional baseball and football sport venues, the Banks is the ideal pre- or post-game destination if you're in town to see the Cincinnati Bengals or the Cincinnati Reds in action. Customers can even feel free to tote an adult beverage along while walking through the district’s green spaces, as long as it’s in an official DORA cup.

Across the water in Kentucky, the Newport on the Levee complex maintains multiple levels of restaurants, brewers, and retailers, in addition to the famed Newport Aquarium, a GameWorks location, bowling and bocce facilities, and a 20-screen AMC IMAX theater. The open-air Bridgeview Box Park introduces even more local-concept food and drink vendors to check out, all nestled into cleverly repurposed shipping containers.

Tips for Going Out in Cincinnati

  • It’s easy to find parking throughout the city in paid garages and lots, or at metered street spaces. Just be sure to pay close attention to signage regarding hours and restrictions.
  • For those who prefer to leave the driving to someone else, ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are available. The Cincinnati Metro fixed-route bus system also operates transit lines to get you pretty much anywhere you want to go, and the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) runs from downtown Cincinnati stops into Newport and Covington. The Cincinnati Bell Connector electric streetcar presents another option for quick zips between the downtown business district, the Banks, and Over-the-Rhine.
  • If the weather’s nice and you want to burn off a few calories between stops, grab a set of wheels from one of nearly 60 Cincinnati Red Bike stations, pedal to your destination, and drop it off at any other station in town.
  • It's illegal to carry open containers in public places except within the Banks Entertainment District limits.
  • For spectacular views of downtown Cincy, make a reservation to roll on a scenic riverboat cruise. A handful of ventures depart from docks on the north and south sides of the river, and most operations host dinner and sunset wine/cocktail options. You can’t get any closer to the water than this unless you jump in.