Expert Tips


Best Nightlife in Cincinnati

Cincinnati's Nightlife Offers Creative Cocktails, Craft Breweries and Plenty of Fun

Cincinnati supplies a diverse offering of nightlife options, with something for everyone.

The city’s 19th-century German immigrants brought with them a beer-brewing heritage which remains today. Many local breweries offer taprooms. An excellent choice is MadTree Brewing which is known for their high quality beer.

The influence of nearby Kentucky Bourbon Country is felt in Cincinnati, especially on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River. Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar (OKBB) has an excellent Bourbon selection and knowledgeable bartenders.

Many Cincinnati bars are known for their creative cocktails, including The Famous Neons Unplugged, the Cocktail Terrace at 21c and 16-Bit Bar + Arcade.

Live music is found at Neons, Arnold’s, Mount Adams Pavilion, Fountain Square and Horseshoe Casino. 16-Bit has vintage video games. Horseshoe Casino offers slot machines and table games.

Ready to put on your dancing shoes and dance the night away? Try Mount Adams Pavilion. Fountain Square and Horseshoe Casino both offer salsa dancing nights.

Holy Grail is the perfect spot for sports fans wanting to catch Reds and Bengals fever.

Many establishments offer sublime outdoor spaces. Gorgeous city views can be found at the Cocktail Terrace at 21c, Mount Adams Pavilion and the Horseshoe Casino’s Terrace Rooftop Bar. Fountain Square is the city’s favorite outdoor venue. Neons has the largest enclosed patio, but you’ll also find outdoor patios at Arnold’s, MadTree, and OKBB. Holy Grail and 16-Bit both roll up the garage doors when the weather is nice.


Holy Grail Tavern & Grille
Photo courtesy of Terri Weeks

The Holy Grail is a locally-owned sports bar and grill that enthusiastically supports local sports teams. It is ideally situated at The Banks, across the street from Great American Ball Park and just a few blocks from Paul Brown Stadium and U.S. Bank Arena. It is a popular spot for a pre- or post-game drink. When the weather is nice, three garage-style doors can be opened to the seating areas outside. Professional athletes visit often and the bar proudly displays autographed baseball bats and other sports memorabilia. The large facility has 31 televisions for sports viewing. A variety of beers, including seasonal brews, and other spirits are served. The menu has typical bar food: appetizers, sandwiches, salads and pizza. The kitchen is open until midnight. An outdoor bar serves a smaller selection, plus frozen drinks. On weekends, a DJ plays music from 10 p.m.--2 a.m.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Looking for a great hometown sports bar close to the city's sporting venues? This is it.

Terri's expert tip: The Holy Grail attracts different crowds at different times. It's filled with Reds fans when the Reds are in town and attracts a college crowd during weekend late nights.

Read more about Holy Grail Tavern & Grille →

Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati
Photo courtesy of Horseshoe Cincinnati

Horseshoe Casino is a popular downtown Cincinnati destination that has been open since 2013. The casino features nearly 2,000 slot machines, over 90 table games and a poker room--everything from penny machines to separate high limit rooms. In addition to gaming, there are several bars and restaurants--both sit-down and counter service. Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville offers salsa dancing on Wednesdays and live music on Fridays and Saturdays. Rock Bar and Lounge features cocktails, DJs and live bands on weekends. The Shoe is an outdoor concert venue. The newest addition to Horseshoe Casino is the Terrace Rooftop Bar which offers specialty drinks, cigars and entertainment with a view of the city.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati is a popular nightlife spot that offers gaming, dining, bars and entertainment.

Terri's expert tip: Horse Casino Cincinnati offers more than just gambling--many customers go just for the bars and restaurants.

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Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar
Photo courtesy of Stuart MacKenzie

Greater Cincinnati definitely feels the influence of Kentucky's Bourbon Country - just a two-hour drive away - especially in Cincinnati's Northern Kentucky suburbs. Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar, or OKBB, is located in the heart of Covington's Mainstrasse Village neighborhood. This small bar boasts a very large collection (400+) of whiskeys, with over 250 varieties of Kentucky Bourbon. The collection includes many hard-to-get types, including some from orphaned barrels. The bartenders are very highly trained, knowledgeable about Bourbon and other whiskeys, and are skilled in making cocktails. Non-whiskey drinkers will find a small selection of draft beer (some aged in Bourbon barrels) and wine. OKBB offers an outdoor patio in addition to the bar.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar (OKBB) is a small bar that offers over 250 types of Kentucky Bourbon, including many hard-to-get varieties, with highly trained bartenders.

Terri's expert tip: Before ordering your drink, have a conversation with the bartender. OKBB's bartenders are very knowledgeable about their Bourbon collection and craft their own specialty cocktails. They're happy to help you select something you'll like.

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Cocktail Terrace at 21c
Photo courtesy of 21c Museum Hotels

The Cocktail Terrace at 21c is a hidden gem in Cincinnati's nightlife scene. Perched atop the 21c Museum Hotel, it provides a bird's eye view of the city. Comfortable seating groupings provide a relaxing spot to enjoy a cocktail and conversation. The menu features classic cocktails, frozen cocktails, plus a selection of beer and wine. The menu also includes a selection of small plates that are prepared by Metropole, the hotel's restaurant. The cocktail terrace is open seasonally, weather permitting. The terrace is not large, so expect a wait during peak times. Patrons tend to dress up and prices are higher than at most of the other bars in town.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: The Cocktail Terrace at 21c provides a classy setting to sip a delicious cocktail with a view of the city.

Terri's expert tip: The entrance to the Cocktail Terrace at 21c is located down the alley to the right of the 21c Museum Hotel. An elevator takes you to the terrace.

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MadTree Brewing Company
Photo courtesy of Terri Weeks

MadTree Brewing's Taproom is a popular hangout for beer connoisseurs. They offer 16 different beers on tap, many of which are small batches that aren't sold elsewhere. One tap is always reserved for soda such as cream soda or root beer. MadTree previously relied on food trucks to supply the nosh. They liked one of the food trucks so well that they invited them to move in; Catch-a-Fire Café now serves wood-fired craft pizzas onsite. Catch-a-Fire is typically closed on Tuesdays for Hop Up Dinners when local restaurants are invited to provide dinner. The taproom has plenty of high top tables and chairs. Outside, there's a patio with picnic tables. Unlike many of the bars on this list, MadTree is busiest during happy hour and dinner; it becomes less crowded later.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: The comet has great burritos, great prices, and live music five nights a week (including bluegrass on Sundays).

Terri's expert tip: MadTree's best-known beers can be found in many restaurants and stores around the city. When visiting the taproom, try one of the small batches of seasonal brews that aren't available elsewhere. Can't decide which one? Try a flight with four 4-oz. tasters.

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Mount Adams Pavilion
Photo courtesy of Terri Weeks

Looking for a drink with a view? Or how about a fun place to dance the night away? Mount Adams Pavilion has both. This popular nightclub is located in the heart of the lively Mount Adams nightlife scene. It is best known for the four outdoor decks that have a delightful view of the Cincinnati skyline. The view - and the drink specials - attract people for happy hour. The view is also spectacular at night when the city is all lit up. Mount Adams Pavilion has three floors that are each a little different. One of them is a popular place to dance, especially on weekends - the dance floor starts filling up around midnight. Live bands play on weekends. The drink menu features craft cocktails and frozen cocktails. The kitchen serves appetizers, salads and sandwiches until 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Mount Adams Pavilion is a lively nightclub with DJs, bands, and four patio decks that have a fantastic view of the city.

Terri's expert tip: Be aware that Mount Adams Pavilion has a dress code: baggy clothing, hats, works boots and sleeveless shirts are not permitted.

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Looking for free entertainment? Check out what's going on at Fountain Square. Surrounding the 1871 Tyler Davidson Fountain, the square is the heart of downtown Cincinnati. It features a music stage and a large high-definition LED board. A wide variety of concerts and other events are held here. During the summer, events are held almost nightly: concerts, trivia and salsa dancing, to name a few. A full bar is offered during all events and food vendors are often on hand. In the fall, football fans gather to watch the Bengals play on the big screen. In the winter, an outdoor ice rink is installed on the square. The rink is lit for nighttime skating. Fountain Square offers restrooms and free Wi-Fi.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Fountain Square is at the heart of downtown Cincinnati and offers many free events and concerts.

Terri's expert tip: Check the calendar at to find the schedule of events.

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Arnold's Bar and Grill
Photo courtesy of Chris Breden

No list of the best nightlife in Cincinnati would be complete without Arnold's Bar and Grill. They've been in operation since 1861, so they know how to keep the customers coming back. Arnold's has an old-fashioned saloon ambience and serves food as well as drinks. The second floor holds more seating along with the infamous bathtub that held gin during prohibition, according to legend. The outdoor patio is surrounded by a brick wall and has plenty of tables. The music stage looks like a front porch and is decorated with vintage signs. During the winter, the patio is covered and has space heaters. Live music is played Tuesdays through Saturdays. Arnold's Bar has 22 craft beers and sangria on tap, plus offers a selection of cocktails. The kitchen stays open until 11 pm.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Arnold's Bar and Grill is Cincinnati's oldest tavern and has been in continuous operation since 1861.

Amber's expert tip: Be sure to visit the upstairs and take a look at the legendary bathtub that is believed to have held gin during the prohibition years.

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16-Bit Bar + Arcade
Photo courtesy of Terri Weeks

16-Bit Bar + Arcade offers something new to the Cincinnati nightlife scene: vintage arcade games. The games are free as long as you buy drinks (either alcoholic or non-alcoholic). The 5,000 square-foot facility has over 50 old-school video game machines that rotate monthly. A console wall features older game systems like PlayStation, Nintendo and Super Nintendo plus newer systems like Xbox. The only games that have a fee are the pinball machines which cost 50 cents. 16-Bit offers 23 different craft beers on tap, plus several more in cans. The bar features old school and new wave cocktails named after celebrities like Kevin Bacon, Bill Nye and Cyndi Lauper. Several types of Kentucky Bourbon and whiskey are offered. Draft root beer, soda and mocktails are available for non-drinkers. 16-Bit doesn't have a kitchen, but customers are welcome to bring in food or order from one of the local restaurants that deliver.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: This unique bar and arcade has become very popular in the few months it's been open and attracts a diverse crowd.

Terri's expert tip: 16-Bit starts getting crowded around 9-10 p.m., so arrive early if you want to have your choice of arcade games.

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The Famous Neons Unplugged
Photo courtesy of Terri Weeks

The Famous Neons Unplugged is located in Over-the-Rhine, a neighborhood with a thriving nightlife scene. One of the big draws is the outdoor patio which is enclosed by a brick wall that was constructed from reclaimed building materials. Ornate architectural details, lights strung overhead and a large tree create an enchanting nighttime setting. Outside restaurants serve food from the patio grill. Several giant Jenga games, live bands four nights a week, and Tuesday movie nights provide the entertainment. Fire pits extend the season of the patio into the colder months. Inside, exposed brick walls are adorned with artwork created by Neons' own employees. Upstairs you'll find a pool table and living-room-like area with a TV and couches. A visit to Neons would not be complete without trying one of their cocktails. Neons makes their own infusions that can be served straight or crafted into a cocktail.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: The Famous Neons Unplugged offers great cocktails, a large outdoor patio and live music in the lively OTR neighborhood.

Terri's expert tip: Neons has a reputation for excellent cocktails; be sure to try one.

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Meet Terri Weeks

Terri Weeks, a Cincinnati mother of three, is a former mechanical engineer who became a travel writer quite accidentally. She and a friend started intentionally exploring attractions around...  More About Terri