Queer Girl City Guide: Cincinnati, Ohio

Sports Galore


Baseball: the Cincinnati Reds
The nation’s first professional baseball team, the Reds have been doing well for the past few years. They play in Great American Ballpark, down near the river, and the fireworks after every game can be heard around downtown. Going to at least one Reds game a year is a must — even if you don’t like the sport, just people-watching is entertainment enough.

Football: the Cincinnati Bengals
Welcome to the jungle! The Bengals, our orange and black heroes under the guidance of coach Marvin Lewis, have remained competitive the last few seasons as well, and even beat our arch-enemies the Pittsburgh Steelers a few times. Bengals’ tickets are expensive, but if you’re a football fan it isn’t hard to find a sports bar or chips-and-dip-equipped house party on game day.

Hockey: the Cincinnati Cyclones
Around since 1990, this successful team plays at the Cincinnati Gardens.

Some of the Cincinnati Rollergirls at Cincinnati Pride 2015.

Some of the Cincinnati Rollergirls at Cincinnati Pride 2015.

Roller derby: the Cincinnati Rollergirls
Also playing at the Cincinnati Gardens, the Rollergirls are owned and operated by the players, and are members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. They have several teams, but “the Black Sheep” are rated most highly in Cincy and are consistently in the top 10 of WFTDA’s North Central Region. This sport has a high energy crowd and is very exciting to watch. Claire: I love the atmosphere more than basically any other sports atmosphere, because there are tons of families with kids who don’t even blink at the crazy derby names or the tons of queers both on the rink and amongst the crowd. It’s pure fun – but be careful not to miss it — they only have 5 home matches each season

Besides professional and semi-professional sports, there are oodles of community leagues to join (see: Rivercity Softball above, under “The Quest For Queers”), and plenty of exciting events a year (including the Flying Pig Marathon, which goes through downtown, and the Cincinnati Masters Tournament, which brings worldwide tennis stars right before your eyes).

Books, Animals and Other Things that Ladies Love

Public Library - Pleasant Ridge Branch

Public Library – Pleasant Ridge Branch

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (multiple locations, Main Library: 800 Vine St.)
Cincinnati’s public library system is one of the best in the nation serving such a large population. Claire: I absolutely love the library and use it all the time — once you get a library card, you can order tons of books, music, dvds, etc., on the online catalog and pick your items up after a few days at your location of choice. The library website also has plenty of downloadable ebooks, audiobooks, and music, in addition to research databases very helpful for academic work. Each library location has free internet access on their computers, free Wifi, helpful staff, and a host of free programs any given week. The downtown Main Library has many quiet places to read near a window, and huge collections to browse — whether you’re interested in gender studies, queering the theater, your genealogy, or basically any other subject categorized on the Dewey decimal system. The Main Library also has an incredible Maker Space, where you can use vinyl printers, button makers, 3D printers and more for free or very cheap.

Ohio Lesbian Archives (3416 Clifton Avenue)
By Appointment: OLArchives [at] gmail [dot] com
Primarily a reference library and research archive, the Ohio Lesbian Archives holds hundreds of unique items by and about lesbians: books, cds, dvds, magazines and photographs. The organizers of OLA welcome all visitors wanting to learn some herstory and hope they leave with a kick-ass sense of empowerment. The OLA is currently working on an online catalog so folks can see what they have, and they love volunteers and student interns. You can follow their blog and Facebook page to keep up to date on them.

Cincinnati Zoo (3400 Vine St.)
One of the oldest zoos in the country, the Cincinnati Zoo is consistently ranked one of the best in the country, because of its size and its outstanding efforts for conservation and education. It has a huge collection of endangered species — both plants and animals — and many successful breeding programs. A day at the zoo is a ball of fun — there’s lots of ground to cover, and all of it interesting; my favorites are Manatee Springs and the new Giraffe Ridge. Don’t forget the sunblock. Around the winter holidays, parts of the Zoo are decked out in the Festival of Lights, a must-see evening wonder and a great family-time or date opportunity.


Shake It Records (4156 Hamilton Ave, #1)
Opened in 1978, record label and store Shake It Records is another awesome local spot in the Northside Neighborhood. With walls covered from floor to ceiling with band t-shirts and posters, Shake It sells new and used vinyl, CDs, DVDs and books. Fun fact: In 2010, Tegan and Sara played an intimate acoustic show at Shake It. Caroline: I’m glad I missed it, or I may have died from extreme fangirling.


The Esquire (320 Ludlow Ave)
A small six-theater art house/independent movie theater, the Esquire is the only movie theatre in the immediate Clifton Area. I don’t think you can be more queer-friendly than an independent movie theatre. The Esquire also hosts midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show every other Saturday night, accompanied by the enthusiastic young cast of “the Denton Affair.”

Rock Paper Scissors_01

Rock, Paper, Scissors (1301 Main St.)
The endeavor of some recent UC grads, Rock Paper Scissors is a sustainable art supply and local music retail store located on Main Street among the hip other happenings in OTR. With locally-crafted art supplies, swag and merch from local Cincinnati bands, and hosting “a diverse menu of creative in-store workshops,” Rock Paper Scissors is a great place to grab a souvenir or dive into the local art community.

Have you made it this far, dear reader? If you’re a visitor or transplant to Cincinnati, or a queermo who’s from here and trying to branch out, hopefully you found this guide helpful. If there are things we left out, tell us in the comments! And if you’re far away and never thought of it before…come on out and try the Nati. We’ll show you a good ol’ queer Midwestern time.

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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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