Queer Girl City Guide: Cincinnati, Ohio

Hip Hair & Tight Tattoos 


Beelistic Tattoo & Piercing (2510 West Clifton Ave. and other locations)
Trusted by college students and the broader community, the Beelistic artists create a safe and fun and atmosphere, and they can do just about anything you like in the world of tattoos and piercings. In a three-story house right next to the UC campus, you’ll find the tattoo parlor on the first floor, decked out in popular patterns. Head to the back to take the stairs up for all your piercing needs. Claire: I had the top of my ear cartilage pierced there a few years back, and the whole experience was very personalized and friendly.

Babylon (226 W. McMillan St)
Babylon Salon, located in Clifton Heights, is definitely on the list of good places a girl can get an alternative lifestyle haircut. From personal experience I highly recommend Toshia, who cuts the hair of at least 15 queers I know in town. As a curly-haired girl with complicated hair history, it always feels like winning the lotto when I find someone who can cut curly hair well.

Chop Shop (1609 Hoffner St)
Many people in our survey and other personal friends swear by Chop Shop for their awesome alternative lifestyle haircuts. Voted “Best of the City” two years in a row, Chop Shop is the place to go if you’re anywhere near the Northside area. Stylist Jen Knarr believes “that your hair should be a reflection of who you are. Your hair is the accessory you carry everyday, it should make a statement.” Claire: The first time I went there and was telling my man Charles what style I wanted, he asked me if he could “butch it up”…. no compulsory cishet norms here! Seriously, Charles is the best, hit him up.

Culture and Arts for the Queer at Heart

At the theater

Queen City Queer Theatre Collective
A group of young actors and directors have come together in this budding theater company, which is dedicated to performing shows that speak to the queer experience. Coordinating with Below Zero and sponsor Absolut Vodka, the Collective hosts free play readings about once a month on the top floor of BZ (usually home to the Cabaret). For young actors, this is a great opportunity to take on more work and hone their craft, but it’s also a huge thing for the Cincinnati queer community to have access to – many of us have never seen our stories on stage before. Claire: I’ve attended five or six of these readings and each one has been incredible – the skill and passion of these actors, the intimate and relaxed setting where you can be absorbed in the story, and the intensity of emotion I’ve felt, just seeing queerness reflected in the narratives around me. If you have no other theater experiences in Cincinnati, I recommend the Queen City Queer Theatre Collective.

Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (962 Mt Adams Cir)
Claire: The Playhouse was the first place I ever saw professional theater, and each new show I see there continues to impress me. The building, on top of a hill in Eden Park (not far from the Art Museum), contains two performances spaces and has a comfortable, modern feel to it. A slew of shows with varying subjects are offered each year, always including at least one world premiere. With acting and production values consistently a cut above a typical local theater, the Playhouse still has decent prices and offers student matinee performances as well. Around the holidays, the perennial favorite is the always-lively production of “A Christmas Carol.”


Aronoff Center For the Arts (650 Walnut St.)
The Aronoff, just around the corner from Fountain Square downtown, is a gorgeous building that plays host to Broadway shows, the biggest of the Cincinnati Ballet’s productions, and a number of other performances in its three theater spaces. Tickets tend to be expensive, but worth it for what you see. Comfortable seating, good acoustics, and decent sightlines even from the highest and farthest seats make it a great “big city theater” experience.

Music Hall & Washington Park_02

Cincinnati Music Hall (1241 Elm St.)
Music Hall faces Washington Park in Over-The-Rhine and is the home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, and the Cincinnati Opera — all with a long history of impressive professional performances. The building itself has a grand facade and a beautiful ornate inside complete with enormous chandelier. Attending a show there will make you feel super classy and cultured (the opera has student rush tickets), but one word to the wise: if you were thinking about wearing a shorter skirt, don’t do it, just because the seat fabric is the most irritating surface I’ve ever endured for a three hour opera.

College Conservatory of Music (Corry St and Jefferson Ave)
A college within the University of Cincinnati, the College Conservatory of Music (CCM) provides year round performances in the performing arts and electronic media for the Cincinnati area. Nationally and internationally recognized, CCM is known for being starting point for many future opera and musical theater stars. With extremely high production values, seeing almost any performance at CCM is definitely worthwhile.

Know Theatre (1120 Jackson Street)
Home to the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, the Know Theatre of Cincinnati brings cutting edge, social-norm-challenging alternative theater to their home performance venue located in the OTR area. I saw an incredible stage adaptation of “The Handmaid’s Tale” there and highly recommend the Know.

Ensemble Theatre (1127 Vine Street)
The Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (ETC) is another theater located in the heart of the OTR area of Cincinnati. A professional theater company with a focus on presenting primarily new works which tackle “compelling social issues,” ETC is definitely a spot I would recommend checking out for a night of theatre that really leaves you thinking.


Covedale Center for the Performing Arts (4990 Glenway Ave.)
The Covedale is a charming place in the heart of the West Side with several shows and musicals a year, generally of excellent quality (and in a large, nice facility) for a community theater. In addition to typical adult-casted shows, it is home to the Cincinnati Young People’s Theater (CYPT), which draws high-school age actors from all over the city. For aspiring thespians out there, keep in mind that the Covedale is one theater that pays its amateur actors!

Warsaw Federal Incline Theater
Run by the same folks who run the Covedale, this brand new facility is promising some awesome shows and musicals, as well, though we haven’t had a chance to check it out yet!

Falcon Theater (636 Monmouth St., Newport, KY 41071)
The Falcon Theater is a small community theater just across the river in Newport that’s been putting on shows since 1989. With a bit of a black-box feel to it, it nevertheless delivers great acting and doesn’t feel too cramped.

OutReels Cincinnati Film Festival
Though it is only an annual event, we would be much amiss to mention all these cultural  opportunities and not mention Cincinnati’s own LGBT film festival. Over the course of three days, this entirely volunteer-run event showcases over 20 short feature films from around the world. Look for it in November – location to be announced!

Museum Madness

Cincinnati Art Museum (953 Eden Park Dr)
Art is rad, and so are art museums. Located in Eden Park, the Cincinnati Art Museum is one of the oldest art museums in the country. The Art Museum is definitely another awesome date spot, because the Art Museum has free admission year round, and is full of conversation starters! Wouldn’t you love to talk to your lady about the deeper meanings of ancient sculptures? From mummies to European church paintings to Pop Art, it’s got it all.

 Cincy Straddlers sometimes visit the CAC and comfort the poor Shark Girl.

Cincy Straddlers sometimes visit the CAC and comfort the poor Shark Girl.

Contemporary Arts Center (44 E. 6th St.)
Whether or not you know the first thing about contemporary art, the CAC is an amazing place to visit. The mission of the Center is to connect art to your life and “provide a place for reflection and dialogue,” and that’s just what it does. It’s a non-collecting museum, which means that while there are a few permanent exhibits (including the top-floor UnMuseum, which is great for kids), the rest of the space in the beautiful modern building is dedicated to presenting contemporary art from around the world. Some of my favorite art exhibits ever have been presented there, including the work of Shepard Fairey (that’s the OBEY guy) and an exhibit exploring the art of the music video.

Cincy Museum Center_01

Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal (1301 Western Ave.)
One of Cincinnati’s most beautiful buildings, the enormous 1930s art deco Union Terminal train station (its design inspired the look of DC Comics’ Hall of Justice!) was converted to the Museum Center in the 1990s. Now it houses the Museum of Natural History and Science, the Cincinnati History Museum, and the Duke Energy Children’s Museum, as well as an OMNIMAX theater, rotating special exhibits, the Cincinnati Historical Society Library, and an Amtrak station (trains to DC and Chicago stop here in the middle of the night). Claire: As an employee of the CMC for four years, I could write whole paragraphs about any one of these attractions, but it’d be just as easy for you to come check it out for yourself. I encourage everybody to come visit – there’s much more than can be explored in a single day.

Freedom Center_01

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (50 E Freedom Way)
An internationally recognized and excellently collated museum, this isn’t just a historic look at slavery in the American South and the heroes of the Underground Railroad, but also includes informative exhibits about modern slavery and how freedom fighters all over the world are combatting it. Check the website to find out about a number of thought-provoking events and lectures throughout the year, many of them free. On the fourth floor, you can also find the John Parker Library, a genealogy center where volunteers will help you trace your family history for free.

Taft Museum of Art (316 Pike St.)
In an early-1800s house that has been named a National Historic landmark, the world-renowned Taft Museum of Art was begun after the Taft family (yes, that Taft family… relatives to William Howard Taft) bequeathed their home and 690 works of art to the people of Cincinnati in 1927. In addition to the original Taft collections, which include European old master painting and 19th-century American paintings, there are usually two themed changing exhibits to check out.

Next: Sports Galore and Books, Animals and Other Things Ladies Love

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Nyles Claire

Nyles has written 1 article for us.


  1. Two things: 1. This made me never want to leave Cincinnati 2. The link for the Outreels film festival is broken

  2. I recently bought a copy of “Cincinnati: the Queen City and Its Neighbors,” a guidebook written under a WPA program during the Depression. In the introduction, Cincinnati is described as being “…gay, but conservatively gay, in the manner of old Vienna.”

    It’s been a long time since I’ve laughed so hard at an unintentional funny like that. The meaning of the word “gay” has changed somewhat since that intro was written, but it still makes a certain amount of sense as a description of Cincinnati!

  3. Angela with Tess

    I’m reading this article with Laura Wooley’s dog in her room…possibly while sneaking some of her mama’s amazing popcorn. Further proof that not only are the Cincy Straddlers great, but the group has led to some amazing friendships and in this case, the closest thing to family I’ve got!

    Now lets see if I posted this puppy photo correctly…if not, I promise Laura has the cutest dog ever.

  4. way cute! is caroline the dark-haired one? love your curls!

    Never really been through Ohio, but makes me wanna visit!

    • It’s amazing. Actually that pic got switched around so that’s a pic of the Blind Lemon’s patio— but Rosie’s is just as cute :)

  5. I love this so much……I’m moving to Columbus in three months but you basically just sold me on visiting Cincy like every other weekend. And I’m slightly jealous that you all seem to be such amazing friends, but that is so awesome

  6. Northside! I lived in Cincy for grad school, and I miss it. Even after living all over the east and west and south of the U.S., no one has opened doors for me as frequently as in Cincy. I love the friendliness. I remember being parched on a hot day and going into a fast food joint to use the bathroom, and the woman behind the counter gave me a mega cup with ice and told me to get any drink I want on the house <3

  7. I wish I’d found a guide like this when I moved to Cincy/NKY almost 4 years ago. Now I live in the gayborhood. Whee! My fiancee was a Cincinnati Rollergirl for a little while last year (and we were both NKY rollergirls–Black-n-Bluegrass–before that). Pictured L-R are Wheezy, Kitten Kicker, Jas Hubbard, and Sailor Scary.

    Thanks for the shout-outs (shouts-out?) for the library and the archive! So many lesbrarians, ya’ll.

    • Nice article. Just to add to your observations, historically Cincinnati has had quite the progression in welcoming the LGBTQIA community. From a very unfriendly past including restrictive laws and attitudes (Maplethorpe, etc.) To progression (Obergefell) Cincy had come a long way.

      Thanks for mentioning Crossport. We’ve been around since 1983, and most other trans groups in the area trace history back to the group. For a trans group, that’s a pretty long lived organization.

  8. *screams* ahhh I’m so happy there’s a Cincy guide up here! Grew up in the Nasti since 2000 and recently moved to LA for my job and damn do I miss the queen city. I am only regretting that I never knew about the cincy straddlers until now!

    heads up to anyone in the area this weekend, especially if you’re a new transplant (because if you’re not new you’re probably already going): Zinzinnati Oktoberfest is this weekend! If you like beer or lederhosen or dachshunds or accordions or listening to your high school teachers sing in a Bier Band (does this last one only apply to me?), you should definitely go. One of the largest Oktoberfests in the world, y’all!!

    • oh hell yeah! We’re proud of Oktoberfest. :D

      Sidenote, when you inevitably come back to visit, you should jump into one of our meetups! :)

  9. Thanks so much for this guys! And HI right back at you! There are so many places on this list that I didn’t know about and I can’t wait to try them when I visit for Christmas.

    I wanna echo your love for the library because it’s the best library system of any city I’ve ever lived in.

    One thing I’ll add: Jungle Jims! If you’re the kind of person who loves grocery stores as much as restaurants, it’s the best place to go.

    • BEST library ever. My prodigious music collection is mostly just cd’s I’ve burned from there (it’s legal and encouraged!).

      And hell yeah, check out Jungle Jim’s, I’ve never seen a place like it. A field trip in a “grocery” store. My buddy @mchammer09 just spent two hours there yesterday because she got lost in the goodness :)

  10. Love me some Cincy. The vibe in the city is just really relaxed and I can’t even tell you how much a love all the breweries!
    Got some lovely friends there who don’t mind showing my mouthy German butt around every time we are there.

  11. It’s not that Cincinnati is now finally struggling to create LGBT life. It’s actually fading away. Cincinnati had a more visible and organized LGBT live 15 years ago with bars, clubs, a community center, and public events. Except for pride, that’s all gone. LGBT visibility is in retreat in Cincinnati. Anyone have any idea why Cincinnati can’t sustain gay life?

  12. thank you so for this post! I will let you know that some of the hyperlinks are dead. <3

  13. This is more of an general guide to Cincinnati than a “Queer” guide to Cincinnati. Only a couple of these places are queer owned or for queer people. Sure you can be queer and go to any of these places just like you can go anywhere and be queer but you’re not going to see a ton of other queer people there just want random day to befriend. The other guides on here I’ve used have also been more to direct you to places specifically for queer people or queer owned businesses. I wouldn’t use this as a guide for that at all really minus the couple things. Plus this was written in 2015 and is outdated because of some closures.

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