If you are new to Cincinnati, this is the FIRST family membership that I would recommend that you buy. We go to the zoo year-round, and even in very inclement weather it is still worth a visit, you just have to plan a bit so you can run from indoor exhibit to indoor exhibit. I wish that the old parking lot was still open, but I do love the new entrance and my kids love the escalator and bridge. The food is also not outrageously priced (although drinks are, in my opinion) especially if you have a membership and use the member discount. Try to go in the early fall once the kids are back in school and tourist season is over, the summer months can be VERY crowded.
Rookwood Commons is a good mix of trendy shopping and good deals. Upscale options like Black and White, Anthropolgie and other clothing stores are balanced by more mid-level choices like Eddie Bauer and the Gap, and on the Joseph-Beth side of the plaza, TJ Maxx and SteinMart for those looking for great steals on brand-name merchandise. We like the convenience of shopping at Whole Foods for our groceries, stopping at Old Navy for kids clothes and then possibly adding a specialty store for mom or dad's shopping needs. Home stores like Pier 1 and HomeGoods make sure that no corner of your credit card is left unexplored. It's a great shopping plaza with someone for everyone.
I had never eaten at a Panera before moving back to Cincinnati and I kind of scoffed thinking "what's the big deal?". Um, ok I was wrong. Everything here is GREAT! The lemonade is really perfect, just the right mix of sweet and sour. The bread bowls filled with soup are the perfect thing for a chilly November lunchtime. I've had several nice experiences booking their community room as well, they offer it for free, you just have to book ahead. A great place to meet with your local group.
Busken has all the usual stuff a good bakery has, but really the most fun about this store is that during elections, they will usually have two kinds of cookies for sale and you can "vote" by buying a cookie. I can say with personal experience that as far as cookies are concerned, the John McCain cookie tasted just as good as the Obama cookie. Why can't we all just get along?
This is our favourite casual date-night location when we want to stay close to home and enjoy some pub-style food. The nachos are great and they actually add cheese to multiple layers not just dumped on top. A nice selection of beers on tap. The parking situation is usually hideous however, I'd recommend not even trying to park in the small shared lot (Starbucks right next door makes things pretty crowded during peak hours). Just park in the Rookwood Pavillion lot and use the brisk walk to work up an appetite for some apps.
Joseph Beth has the feel of one of those "big box" stores yet it really is viewed by native Cincinnatians as "that local bookstore". The selection is of course huge and comparable with the big chains, but I really do like that they often have fundraiser events for local schools, charities, etc. A good secret is to sign up for their rewards club, it's $25 but you get a $25 gift certificate to eat at the attached Bistro, so it's like getting it for free. Also they get in lots of great authors for readings and book signings. The one MAJOR complaint I have with Jo-Beth however is that I take my kids there and there is NO bathroom anywhere near the kids area. In fact you have to drag your kids all the way across the entire large store, past several tables full of breakable trinkets and then into the restaurant, past a glass-front display full of cake and other treats. It's really not fun. Please add a bathroom near the kids section, please!!
This is my favourite "I've got a craving" restaurant especially when I'm pregnant. I absolutely love the turkey bacon melt and sometimes I can taste it in my dreams. The sauce on there is fabulous and I am a fan of the thin shoe-string fries. Ask for extra napkins though. Tip: they have milkshake happy hour every day from 2-4 pm, when milkshakes are half-price.
No annoying salespeople here, thank goodness. Just friendly staff, good selection, and attention to design and style.. this isn't a boring shop with the usual futon stuff. Try here first! My only complaint is that we really needed matching cushion covers for round bolster pillows and weren't able to get them here.
French pot ice cream is really one of the best treats you could possibly want to enjoy. Graeter's makes their ice cream in small batches and adds such touches as using CREAM, that is from farmers who don't use rBST (growth hormone). They also use cane sugar, for those avoiding high fructose corn syrup. I can almost convince myself that this is a healthy treat! :-) If you haven't gone yet, it's time to come and visit. Our family has visited almost every Graeter's location at one time or other and without exception they hire great staff and have a great, consistent product. If you're looking for something other than ice cream, you could try some of their bagged candies too.
What DON'T they have in this store? African drums, collectible kitch, bohemian dresses, new age knick knacks... and a great selection of fabulous kids toys. And don't forget funky jewelry too! You could spend a long time here!