It’s July. You haven’t planned a summer vacation, but you need to get away, don’t you?
You don’t have to go far to have a complete change of scenery. Cincinnati is in a prime location; you have big cities, mountains, tiny towns, forests, and beaches all within a few hours’ drive.
Less than two hours from Cincinnati is a small Kentucky town with a beautiful river, wooded hills, charm, and plenty to do during an overnight trip. I'm talking about Maysville, Kentucky.
You may know Maysville as the birthplace of Rosemary Clooney, Heather French Henry (Miss America 2000), or even the first black mayor of Cincinnati, Ted Berry. Beyond being the hometown of notables, it is an amazing place to take a quick overnight trip to get out of the city and into beautiful new surroundings.
Getting to Maysville
First, take the long way. Drive Route 52 to get there, which takes you over the Simon Kenton Scenic Bridge. That's a gorgeous way to start your trip. It’s only 63 miles from Cincinnati, making it a quick hour and a half drive. Taking 52 only adds seven minutes to the trip. You've got seven extra minutes if you're going on vacation.
Staying in Maysville
While there are major hotel chains in the area, try staying at the French Quarter Inn, which is just a short walk from museums, parks, and plenty of other things to do. Request a room on the Ohio River side so you can enjoy a beautiful view during your stay. Parking is free, and each individually-decorated room is quaint and nicely appointed. There’s a restaurant for breakfast and a lounge for a nightcap, too.
Or, try Moon River B&B in downtown Maysville on Cox Row (a row of historic houses, each named after a day of the week). Every weekend, there's a full breakfast for guests of the four unique rooms. Though the house and its interiors are historic (down to a clawfoot tub in one room!), there are still modern amenities like WiFi and cable.
Eating in Maysville
Parc Café: This French-inspired café, with a cobblestone terrace, is a great place to grab coffee and a pastry, eat lunch, or take a break from sightseeing. It’s vegetarian and vegan-friendly, too, with plenty of local beer and bourbon.
Chandler’s on Market: Chandler’s serves lunch and dinner, including Kentucky favorites like pimento cheese sandwiches, fried green tomatoes, fried country ham, cheese grits, and chicken livers.
Caproni’s on the River: Italian with a river view? It’s not quite Venice, but you also didn’t have to pay for airfare to get there. This is a great place to celebrate something special, like a birthday or anniversary, or just celebrating that you’re out of town for a night. Jed Lavinder’s Italian-style menu includes classics like lasagna and fettuccine Alfredo. There are also Lavinder’s own twists, like Chicken Caproni—a take on chicken Marsala and Kentucky favorites like liver and onions, Hot Brown, a Kentucky Catfish platter, and grilled thick-cut bacon served with Kentucky tomatoes.
College Café: If you happen to go on a Friday while Maysville Institute of Culinary Arts is in session, you can visit their restaurant, College Café, for lunch between 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM. Menus vary based on what the students are learning, but you could very well have your meal prepared by the next Jean-Robert or Jose Salazar.
There’s a lot to do in Maysville (you really need more than one night!) but here are a few ideas to get started that you can accomplish during an overnight trip.
Kentucky Gateway Museum: This unique museum features the Kathleen Savage Browning Miniatures collection—a 1/12 inch collection of intricately detailed miniatures created by master artisans. It also features a Kentucky research library and the Old Pogue Experience. The Pogue Family runs one of the oldest distilleries in Kentucky, and you can learn all about their story and their bourbon at the museum.
Underground Railroad History Museum & Underground Railroad Tour: Being on the river, Maysville was an important stop on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. The Underground Railroad History Museum is located in the Bierbower Home, which served as a safe house for runaway slaves.
You can also go on a guided all-day tour that takes you from the Old Washington, KY Visitor’s Center to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Slavery to Freedom Museum. From there, the tour heads to the home of Marshall Key and the Underground Railroad History Museum before going to Ripley, Ohio.
Russell Theatre: A National Historic Register site, this theatre, which was built by Colonel J. Barbour Russell, a local businessman, dates to 1930. It’s most famous for Rosemary Clooney’s red carpet event in 1953 where she premiered “Stars are Singing”. Today, after being restored following years of neglect, the Russell is now open for tours ($5 per person) and shows movies on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Movies range from Game Night to Disney’s Robin Hood to The Maltese Falcon.
Downtown Maysville Galleries & Ohio River Valley Art Guild: Maysville loves visual arts, and art is around every corner. From the variety of murals on the flood walls to the presence of the Ohio River Valley Art Guild. Whether you’re walking in and out of the galleries or visiting First Friday, which shows off the ORVAG’s members and artists from around Kentucky or the country at the Cox Museum, there is always art to see in Maysville. Every month has a different exhibit (so you’ll need to come back more than once).
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