Ohio Nightlife Bars and Entertainment

Ohio. Home to the aviation industry, thanks to the Wright brothers, the underground railroad, legendary sharpshooter Annie Oakley, and more US presidents than any other state, Ohio is part of the Great Lakes region of America. This Midwestern state has a rich cultural history and was the first state to be admitted to the Union under the Northwest Ordinance. Initially home to Native American tribes including the Shawnee, Iroquois, Wyandots and Miamis, Ohio’s attraction came from its beaver population and resulting fur trade which drew settlers from near and far. In the 18th century Ohio was under the control of the French, who conceded the state to Great Britain – who in turn gave it up to the US. Boundary wars followed with Michigan over the Toledo Strip (Ohio won) and the state played an important role during the Civil War; the Ohio River and the railroads both vital for moving troops and supplies. Three famous generals came from Ohio: Sheridan, Grant and Sherman.

Linking the Northeast to the Midwest, Ohio is bordered by Pennyslvania, Michigan, Ontario (Canada), Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia. The state has 312 miles of coastline and seaports thanks to Lake Eerie in the north, and the Ohio River to the south (although this is mostly owned by Kentucky and W Virginia). Ohio’s central location has played a major role in its growth and expansion. Today it has an expanding 11.5m population with ancestry that includes German, Irish, African American and English – as well as a fair share of Hispanic and Asian residents. There has been plenty to attract them.

Ohio is a major manufacturer of steel, tyres and rubber products, processed foods, and cars. It is home to the Jeep (Toledo), and several major automobile manufacturers have plants here. The Wright Brothers started here in Dayton and, although not an aircraft production state today, the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is an important development facility. Agriculture is important and, thanks to Lake Eerie, expect plenty of Yellow Perch on menus. Last, but by no means least, its history and culture (as the site of many Indian massacres, some are a bit morbid), Amish county, plus numerous outdoor recreation possibilities and two big amusement parks, means Ohio has a thriving – and growing tourism industry. It’s also a mecca for sports fans with several professional teams calling Ohio home, including the Cincinnati Red Stockings of major baseball league, and a passion for college and high school football.

The capital is Columbus and other major cities include Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo. Home to many universities, Ohio consequently has a large young population and this, plus the growing number of visitors annually, has helped to develop a wide, varied and often boisterous nightlife scene.
Southwest Ohio is where you’ll find Cincinnati, a historic city offering a wealth of culture and home to the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Zoo. Situated on the Ohio River, looking towards Kentucky, Cincinnati has grown from a trading post to a vibrant city popular with visitors.

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Opera and Ballet may be your choice for evening entertainment – and an excellent choice it would be – but if you’re looking for something a bit more relaxed and easy going, head down to the vibrant riverfront district, or Over-the-Rhine area, rich with bars, casual restaurants and microbreweries. Cincinnati and jazz go together like hand and glove. Downtown, on E 8th St, is where you’ll find Arnold’s Bar and Grill, Cincinnati’s oldest saloon dating back to 1861. Apart from excellent live jazz, bluegrass and Celtic music, the American-Italian menu is good value. Wander further down the same route for another great jazz spot: Blue Wisp.

The Mount Adams district, with its narrow cobbled streets, has an authentic atmosphere and brilliant views over the city. Jazz again at The Blind Lemon on Hatch Street, along with blues and acoustic live music every night, or The Incline Bar on Celestial Street. College students tend to hang out in Mount Lookout on Linwood Ave, where music here leans more towards rock and top 40. Tuesday is karoke night and always attracts a good crowd.

The Comet on Hamilton Street is open from 4.00pm to 2.30am and, apart from over 200 beers, mouth watering burritos and an excellent jukebox, also features regular live music.
For late night clubbing, try The Metropolis night club, located behind Cincinnati Mills Mall, is one of Cincinnati’s favourites with its multiple stories attracting the city’s young and single. It’s a massive venue, maybe too big for some. Other good options include The Mad Frog on E Mcmillian St; Spy Club and Fathom, both on W 5th St (Fathom is also an art gallery); Club Ritz on Seymour St, and If salsa is your thing, then try the Havana Martini club in the historic Carew Tower on Vine Street,
which offers regular free lessons.

And if at the end of all this, you just need a laugh (don’t we all), Go Bananas in Market Place is the place to go. This comedy club has been popular for almost 30 years and, apart from much needed grins, offers an appetiser menu and a good range of drinks. You need to reserve here.

Head into Central Ohio and you’ll find the state capital of Columbus, on the banks of the Scioto River. The 15th largest city in the country, Columbus is rapidly on the up with a vibrant art and culture scene, and annual events such as the Ohio State Fair. With its fast growing economy, Columbus is building a growing tourism industry with attractions such as the Columbus Zoo, replica of the Santa Maria.

It’s also home to the Ohio State University so, as you’d expect, it’s less than a hop from college grounds to drinking ones. Grille 27, for example, is on South Campus; a sports bar with tv sets everywhere and not far off 30 beers on tap. The menu is extensive and recommended are the National Champion nachos, which will feed an army.

If you’re staying in Columbus you’ll find that the city really gets going when the lights go down with best nightlife found around the German Village (Club 185, an institution for the past 50 years; the Barcelona tapas bar with live music, the Thurman Cafe and Michael’s Italian-American Bistro & Bar are all must do’s ), Brewery district (Handke’s has possibly the best Black Angus tenderloin for miles) and Short North (try Martini’s Italian Bistro, with a choice of 18 martinis – the chocolate version made with Godiva liqueur is to die for; Union Bar & Food; Barley’s Brewing Company; Basi Italia for superb Italian food and the Benevolence Cafe is you’re a vegetarian).

For the best in blues, head for Blues Station on W Vine St which showcases top musicians from Tuesday to Saturday (and is also known for its excellent food) or for jazz then fine your way to The Lounge at Brownstone on E Main Street. Oldfield’s on High on N High St is a bar by day, club by night with live music most nights. Other recommended live music spots include Tommy Keegans on South Front St, High Five Bar and Grill on N High St, the Thirsty Ear Tavern on W 3rd Ave and Whiskey Dicks on E Dublin Granville Rd.
Sports bars are popular in Columbus. EJ’s Canyon Cafe on W Third Ave, complete with moose head and a general Western ski lodge feel, has plenty of satellite TVs showing a wide range of sports plus good homestyle food, or head for Gallo’s Tap Room on Olentangy River Rd with its 16 tvs, pool tables and big wraparound bar.There’s an impressive array of beers and lagers here along with Italian style pastas, paninis and grilled sandwiches.
Just want to dance. Havana’s on N High Street is the ‘in’ club for gays (and Wallstreet on North Wall Street the largest lesbian bar in the country); further up the road you’ll find Axis, where djs spin house, R&B, dance divas and anthems. Others include Lobaro’s on Barnett Rd and Fabric on E Long Street. Just want a drink at a decent bar or pub? The Round Bar in S High Street, in the Clarmont hotel, is a Columbus institution, while for a good Irish pint head for O’Reilly’s in N High St, Fado’s on Townsfair Way or Byrne’s pub in W 3rd Ave
Go North and eventually you’ll end up in Lake Eerie, hopefully stopping off in Cleveland before you do. Cleveland used to be a pretty dead end city, but it has been cleaned up and modernised greatly and the city is working hard to attract visitors and become a tourist destination in its own right. Attractions include the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Great Lakes Science Center, plus national sports teams Cleveland Browns (NFL), Indians (baseball) and Cavaliers (basketball). It also has America’s second largest performing arts centre – Playhouse Square Center – and is home to the Ohio Balet, Cleveland Opera, and world renowned Cleveland Orchestra.

The Cuyahoga River, once polluted and pretty nasty, is now at the heart of a thriving nightclub district, while cruises on the Goodtime III and Nautica Queen offer visitors fabulous views of Lake Eerie . Around here, on the west bank of the Flats as it’s called, you’ll find the Powerhouse, a four storey warehouse which is home to various clubs and bars. These include Shooters, which has a dining area, bar, and big deck with waterfront views; Silk nightclub; and Improv comedy club. Howl at the Moon on Sycamore is a good choice if you’re up for a sing song at this fun piano bar or the Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery for local microbrews such as The Catcher in the Rye. The east bank of the Flats is a little tired but there are a couple of good bars here including The Basement with its college bar young crowd.

Some superb restaurants, bars and clubs can be found in the rejuvenated Warehouse District , mostly on W 6th St/W 9th St. Spy Bar, Tramp, Funky Buddha and Velvet Dog are good nightclub bets (try the martinis at Velvet Dog), or the Liquid Cafe/Fusion, where you get two bars for the price of one! Fusion is a posh martini bar, while at Liquid the music is pretty loud. Wish on Johnson Ave, offers more techno and alternative dance music. But, if you’re looking for class, head to Blue Pointe Grill on West Saint Clair Ave, or Piccolo Mondo.

Not surprisingly, venues near the sports stadiums fill up fast after games. If watching the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field works up a thirst, try Flannery’s Irish pub (splendid selection of single malts) on Prospect Ave or Fishbones (more loud music and packed during happy hour on Friday). Head on down this road to Fat Fish Blue if you’re after live blues (and Cajun food) or a short walk downtown to The Winking Lizard in Huron Rd with over 100 beers on offer, a better than average menu and loads of tvs.

The Barking Spider on Juniper Rd, Downtown, is one of Cleveland’s better live music venues with blues, jazz, bluegrass, rock and reggae all featured, thus attracting a wide age range, or try the House of Blues on Euclid Ave for blues and Sunday gospel. Great jazz, too, at Club Isabella on University Hospital Drive or Nighttown on Cedar Rd.

A Cleveland must is the Great Lakes Brewing Company in Mark Street in the Ohio City district. If beer is not your choice, Market Avenue Wine Bar might be a nice alternative
Also on Lake Eerie is Toledo, named after the Spanish city and boasting similarly beautiful architecture. Also known as Glass City, Toledo is hq for a number of major glass manufacturers including Pilkington North America, Corning, and Libbey Glass. It’s also automobile territory and Ford, Daimler Chrysler, and General Motors are all here. The Maumee River runs through the middle of the city and this, plus lake Eerie, makes Toledo a welcoming destination for visitors. There’s plenty to do here during the day, if you’re into fishing, boating and walking, and equally so at night …

Toledo enjoys a growing nightlife scene and , like its fellow Ohio cities, offers a wide choice to suit all ages and tastes. There are some great bars here. Try the Bronze Boar on S Huron St, Doc Watson’s on S Byrne Rd, Biere Stube on Monroe St, and The Brew House, featuring a huge array of beers, on Airport Hwy.

As you’ve already gathered, Ohio is a true jazz state and Toledo is no exception with world class music to be found at Rusty’s on Tedrow Rd, the third oldest jazz club in the US, and Murphy’s Place on Water Street. Livemusic is everywhere in Toledo, but mostly only from Thursday to Saturday . The Distillery on Heatherdowns Blvd is a popular sports bar and restaurant with pop, rock and dance music ; youngsters tend to head for Fieldhouse on S Byrne Road or The Village Idiot on Conant St , while Steven Jays on Secor Rd appeals to a more mature audience.

Main Street is where you’ll find the heart of Toledo nightlife and you can spend the whole evening in this one road. The Main Event (137 Main St) features lives rock with a blend of cover and original bands, while Frankie’s Inner City Lounge (308) features only original acts. Plenty of happy hour bars along here too, including Gumbo’s Bayou Grille (18) offering $1 off domestic beers from 4-9pm; Tango’s Mexican Cantina (30), 50% off margaritas for women from Wed-Fri; Zia’s (20), 50% off appetizers, $2 off Italian beers and $3 off margaritas, highballs etc throughout the week, plus free pizza for parties of six or more in the bar. Cousino’s Navy Bistro, down at the Docks, has an extensive wine list and upscale American menu. Put your glad rags on if you’re going to eat here.

Head to Monroe Street for some more excellent eating choices (as well as the Blarney Irish Pub, a fairly new addition to the Toledo scene). Kotobuki is a superb Japanese restaurant with probably the best sushi in the city or go Italian at Mancy’s or Ciao! Ristorante and ‘European’ at Poco Piatti, where you can enjoy sangria, stuffed vine leaves, paella and all sorts of other delicious delicacies.

Within the club section, Eclipse (N Superior St) tops the upscale bill. Open only on Thursday, this swanky joint demands proper dress. One of the only clubs to stay open til 3.30am, Bretz on Adams St is gay friendly and popular for its techno dance music and club 80s nights; others include Club 128 on Main St, 101 Club on E Bancroft St, and Mickey Finn’s on Lagrange at Huron.

Ohio banned smoking in all restaurants, bars and workplaces in 2006