Lately, you may find yourself wondering why we at CaddieTravels are discussing Cincinnati so much. In the past month, Kevin has reviewed two different hotels in the area and we did a tour of the local chili parlors. One reason is I live close, about 15 minutes south in Northern Kentucky. More importantly, Cincinnati is recently getting a lot of respect as a tourist stop, as well as a great place to live. Quiet buzz has been building over the last few years due to an explosion of good breweries and restaurants, which is always a good barometer–or magnet–for a city’s attractiveness, but the Queen City reach full-fledged destination status recently. Lonely Planet named it #5 of the 10 Best in the US for 2018. The New York Times recognized it in December as one of 10 bargain destinations for 2018 and in January as #8 of 52 Places to Go in 2018. Not in the Midwest. Not in the US. In the world. That’s some serious hype and hotel groups are taking notice. Some are completing big renovation projects on existing properties, while others are buying old buildings and converting them into beautiful new spaces. Here is a rundown of the noteworthy changes happening in the Cincinnati hotel scene.
In late 2017, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants announced they would be opening a 153-room boutique hotel in one of Cincinnati’s most historic buildings. The Traction Building sits mostly vacant at 5th and Walnut adjacent to Fountain Square, the heart and soul of Downtown. It would be hard to put a hotel in a better location in the city. Recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building dates to 1903 and was designed by Daniel Burnham, a famous architect for whom a restaurant is named in the Renaissance Hotel just down the street. Kimpton, one of InterContinental Hotel Group’s luxury brands, operates 68 properties, predominantly in the US. They are dropping a cool $44 million to renovate but intend to keep much of the structure’s history and architecture intact. Plans include a restaurant, fitness center, meeting space, and a rooftop bar (be still, my heart!). The Traction is slated to open in 2019.
AC Hotel Cincinnati; The Banks
A few blocks southeast of the Kimpton, AC Hotel Cincinnati at The Banks opened in the fall of 2017. Across the street from Great American Ballpark, the AC has rooms overlooking various other Cincinnati landmarks such as Smale Park, the Roebling Suspension Bridge, and the Ohio River. There are 171 rooms, “marrying sophisticated European design with a distinctly modern feel,” according to The Banks’ website. The description makes sense, as the Marriott-owned brand was founded in Spain and has much of its footprint in Europe. This particular property set them back $35 million. Geared toward business travelers, there is a lounge intended for collaborating by day and cocktail sipping by night. There is also a restaurant for continental breakfast and rooftop bar aptly named Upper Deck. You’ll pay a premium for the location, but the AC offers travelers a quality stay at an affordable price.
Lytle Park Hotel; Downtown
Marriott is also adding a luxury property in the city, an Autograph Collection scheduled to open later this year. The building was formerly the Anna Louise Inn, a home for women escaping abuse or prostitution, struggling with addiction, or transitioning out of foster care. The Inn is now in a different location, and Marriott will connect the building to the adjacent one. The hotel will comprise 106 rooms, 18,000 sq ft of meeting space, at least one restaurant, and plenty of outdoor terrace/patio space for dining and drinking. It figures to rival Kimpton as the nicest hotel in town, and I can’t wait to check it out. If the Lytle Park Hotel ends up looking anything like the renderings, it will be seriously impressive.
Other additions and renovations
While those are the notable openings happening right now, and their quality certainly sends a message to travelers whom they want Cincinnati to be a desirable destination for seasoned travelers, there are many other changes in the last few years that paved the way.
Back in 2011, Residence Inn opened on East 4th Street with 134 rooms and one of Cincinnati premier rooftop bar destinations, Top of the Park at the Phelps.
In 2012, 21c Museum Hotel opened, offering art lovers a free museum in the lobby and one of the city’s best restaurants. It has since been regarded as the best hotel in the city and even received #1 Hotel in the US accolades from Conde Naste Traveler Readers’ Choice. I think Kimpton and Autograph Collection will have something to say about this.
In 2013, the Hilton Netherland Plaza, Cincinnati’s third largest hotel, completed a $10 million renovation. Once a favorite of Bing Crosby and other celebrities, this 561-room property sits Downtown at 5th and Race Streets and is home to Cincinnati top restaurant, the AAA Five Diamond Award winner Orchids at Palm Court.
The Renaissance Hotel I briefly mentioned earlier opened in 2014, after a $32.2 million overhaul of the Bartlett Building. With 323 rooms, it’s one of the larger hotels in the area. It’s also one of the best hotels throughout the city, with a modern luxury woven into the old-school feel of the structure.
In the spring of 2015, Hilton brands Homewood Suites and Hampton Inn & Suites poured $29 million into the old home of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The former has one part of the building with 105 units, while the latter has 144 rooms in the other part.
Across the Ohio River from Downtown, Hotel Covington opened in Northern Kentucky in the second half of 2016. Guests have their choice of 114 beautifully appointed rooms and suites, a beautiful bar space, and a high-quality restaurant serving three meals a day.
In late 2016, a brand-new Holiday Inn opened Downtown. With 117 rooms, it gives travelers another affordable option in the heart of the city.
Last year, Hyatt Regency Downtown complete the second of its two-phase renovation project. Each and every one of the 491 rooms were updated to a more contemporary style, to the tune of $23 million.
One of Cincinnati’s oldest, most historic hotels, The Cincinnatian, is getting a much-needed facelift. It sits along the old 1900’s streetcar route and visitors from all over would come to stay at this posh hotel. As you can imagine, it feels a bit dated so the updates figure to put this property back in the spotlight. It will reopen as a Curio Collection by Hilton, their first location in Ohio.
Marriott has also recently put $30 million into three existing properties around the outskirts of the city, including a renovation at their Courtyard by Marriott Airport location just around the corner from my house. It’s been fun to watch that develop over the last few months.
As you can see, hotel companies have been taking notice of Cincinnati’s charm and are dumping loads of money into the city to get a piece of the action. It’s a hospitality arms race that only serves to benefit travelers–and locals, too, really. As someone who lives nearby, I can tell you it’s a fun time for the area. If you’ve never been here, now is as good a time as any to look into it. Hopefully, the constantly improve hotel scene means we’re talking about Cincinnati’s destination status for years to come.
What is your favorite hotel in Cincinnati?