Snaking its way along the southern edge of the Ohio River, Northern Kentucky is a picture-perfect example of how a regional tourism organization can succeed and even thrive when there’s a famous city in its backyard. Cincinnati is perched on the river on the Ohio side, but minutes away, Northern Kentucky extends the metro area by bringing life and culture to its side of the waterway. Should you be curious about all the things to do in Covington and its neighbors, then read on—this play-by-play guide is for you.
This project is in partnership with meetNKY. All opinions are ours exclusively.
Florence, Covington and Newport surround an area lovingly called The Corridor and of course, Cincy itself; meetNKY is a powerhouse that represents over 30 communities that benefit from tourism, conventions and the economic investment that occurs around a major hub of human activity brimming with cool things to do. Every time we travel to a part of the United States that has universities, breweries, distilleries, honest historical reckonings and beautiful topography, our hearts just burn to play within its boundaries.
Related Article: How to Tackle Northern Kentucky’s Bourbon Tour, The B-Line
Day 1 of your weekend in Covington
Heading to Northern Kentucky for a weekend? From drinking bourbon to dining, seeing art to ogling historic homes, here are the best things to do in Covington—and its surrounding towns.
Check into the Pickle Factory
There are several places to stay in Covington, among them Hotel Covington and Hotel North. On past weekends, we’ve holed up on the Cincy side and explored Northern Kentucky from there, but this time we wanted to be in the hum of all the activity and opted to stay in downtown Covington at the Pickle Factory. This luxury option is like a boutique hotel in design but an Airbnb in concept; we were able to check in remotely, then go about our stay without having to interact with a hotel employee (or anyone else for that matter).
Have lunch at Rich’s Proper Food & Drink
After checking into the Pickle Factory, we walked over to Rich’s Proper Food & Drink for our first lunch of the trip and our inaugural stop on The B-Line. Northern Kentucky’s bourbon sampling experience spans restaurants, bars, and distilleries and is self-guided with a digital passport that offers fun swag for completing two distilleries, two bars and two restaurants.
Sample bourbon at Revival Vintage Bottle Shop
This Vintage Spirits Experience at Revival is the brainchild of collector Brad Bonds and is one of the cooler things we’ve done in the realm of distilled spirits “research.” Being able to taste old booze that is made with old ingredients from old bottles that smell like a musty basement is a bit like time travel and surprisingly affordable considering the quality of liquor available to sample in the bottle shop. For example, we tasted a 1954 Old Grand Dad bourbon, a 1944 peach liquor, Heaven Hill from 1982, a 1975 Fitzgerald and then toasted the ancients with a 1940s Galliano herbal. Pricing starts at $5 and full bottles are available for purchase.
Hit up the shops on Mainstrasse
Before the shops on Mainstrasse close for the evening, it’s worth popping into any that you see, like my personal favorite Handzy Shop + Studio. I stocked up on gifts for my niece and nephew in the toy store and children’s apparel section of the shop, as well as puzzles for my mom and cousin and a headband and jewelry for me.
Dine at Lisse Steakhuis
SVV and I met while living in Holland, so we naturally gravitated toward a restaurant with a Dutch slant. And even better that it’s one of the best steakhouses in Covington! We met up with friends for a rooftop dinner along Covington’s Mainstrasse and sampled many of our favorite European dishes like bitterballen at Lisse Steakhuis in addition to fried cheese, onion soup, mac and cheese and of course frites with mayo and curry ketchup.
Have a nightcap on Mainstrasse
Mainstrasse is lined with bars and is the epicenter of the Covington region, with much of the economic activity revolving around the Village, an original German neighborhood. We started at Juniper’s Gin Bar, which boasts more than 180 gins from around the world and plenty of snackable sides. A couple doors down is the Prohibition-era speakeasy Wiseguy Lounge, in the upstairs above Goodfellas, where you can order from more than 800 different bottles of bourbon or try a craft cocktail and lounge on their leather couches.
If you’re still not ready to hit the hay and call it a night, check out these great places to get a drink in Covington:
For a full list of bars on The B-Line, go here.
Day 2 of your weekend in Covington
There are many places to eat in Covington, and our problem was whittling down our list for a long-weekend stay. The solution? Coffee at one place, breakfast at another—we love the ability to try out as many restaurants and cafes as possible.
Grab coffee at Roebling Point Books & Coffee
What’s better than an independent coffee shops that makes fun specialty drinks like a lavender latte? Why, an independent coffee shop that’s inside an independent bookstore, of course! I stopped in for a coffee to go, but there were several patrons (including one pup!) settled in on the couches reading at Roebling Books, which has a great selection of fiction and children’s literature.
Have breakfast at Cedar
Breakfast in Covington at Cedar is a must; the menu is a moving target with interesting mixes of savory and sweet that rotate depending on the chef’s whim and seasonal availability of ingredients. Cozy and swank at the same time, this is a classic and elevated city diner with a bomb brunch. Bubbles, bloodies, spiked coffee and craft cocktails round out the experience.
Take a drive down to Maysville
Just an hour down the river east from Covington is Maysville, Kentucky, a riverside community with striking examples of Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne buildings and a vibrant downtown hosting regular events for tourists and locals that live in the region. Maysville is also famously home to Kentucky Gateway Museum, which you’ll want to plan your entire visit around.
In addition Kathleen Savage Browning’s impressive miniatures collection, the Kentucky Gateway Museum hosts the Genealogical & Historical Research Library, which is an important resource for research dating as far back as 1789. The Old Pogue Experience is also connected to the museum and highlights the history of this rye malted whiskey with tastings available for those 21 and older.
Once you’re finished at the museum, grab a sandwich and bourbon slushie at Kenton Stories with Spirit, a restaurant and bar tucked away at the back of a bookstore, then continue your exploration of Maysville by foot.
Take a tour of Old Pogue Distillery
If you’re able to secure a spot on an Old Pogue tour at this historical location, that’s your next stop. Bookings are by appointment only, but you’ll love the backstory to the third legal distiller in Kentucky and how they keep limited runs that come off the still only once per year.
We adore huge old buildings like these and it was a delight to think about the same family living here since 1876, when Henry Edgar Pogue first bought the distillery. Both tour appointment options include tastings and the potential for cat and dog sightings.
Note: The drive time from downtown Maysville to the distillery is just shy of 10 minutes, but don’t get confused as this is a separate location than the Old Pogue distillery experience attached to the museum.
Visit the town of Augusta
Another 25 minutes up the river from Old Pogue is the quaint and tiny town of Augusta. Home to the distillery of the same name—Augusta Distillery, whose owner’s imminent renovation plans include a major expansion complete with a courtyard, bistro and pickleball courts—Augusta is known for its historic ferry boat that crosses the Ohio River and has been operating since the late 1700’s. In Augusta, you can poke around the artisan shops, as well as browse the memorabilia, antiques and artwork at Nina’s, a well-curated shop owned and operated by Nina Clooney.
Rosemary Clooney’s former home also is located in Augusta. The Rosemary Cooney House Museum has been transformed into an archive and museum featuring memorabilia, costumes and personal artifacts. It’s only open on Friday and Saturday, so if you’re visiting Augusta on a different day, call ahead to see if you can get access.
Speaking of the Clooneys, we met none other than Nick Clooney, retired journalist and George’s father, at the Beehive Augusta Tavern, our dinner destination. This French-inspired Italian restaurant serves upscale dishes and a deep well of wine and bourbon and also features live entertainment, including Nick who frequently shows up in his tux and serenades guests.
Day 3 of your weekend in Covington
Saturday in Covington is a great excuse for sampling bourbon, and many of the Northern Kentucky distilleries are wide awake and ready to welcome visitors on weekends.
Take a distillery tour of Second Sight Spirits
A member of both the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour and The B-Line, Second Sight Spirits in Ludlow is a seriously fun experience complete with circus tricks and props. It’s got some Big Zoltar energy with the fortune teller’s den and other fabricated masterpieces that childhood friends and founders Rick Couch and Carus Waggoner created after successful careers working as designers for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. On weekends, the distillery also offer pastries and craft coffee service.
Experience the Bonded Tour at New Riff Distilling
If you’ve heard of Northern Kentucky’s bourbon scene, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with New Riff Distilling. Like Second Sight Spirits, it’s a member of both The B-Line and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, New Riff in Newport has been distilling since 2014, and even if you’ve been there before, you’ll want to check out the $3.5 million renovation. Even though it leads far more tours than other Northern Kentucky distilleries, New Riff is wildly popular and you’ll want to book your tour well in advance.
Explore Downtown Covington
New Riff is just a two-mile Uber ride to downtown Covington, so we picked a central spot to be dropped off, then nabbed a booth at Agave & Rye to experience their over-the-top tacos—which include fillings like kangaroo, lobster, jackfruit, tater tots and Flaming Hot Cheetos—for ourselves. I wish we could have stayed for another round as my tacos were delightful, but we had a date with a litter of kittens.
Since I’ve morphed into a bona-fide cat lady—four cats in four years definitely qualifies me as such, yes?—I’ve wanted to visit a cat cafe, and Covington has a delightful one right in its downtown core. You’ll need to make a reservation for Purrrfect Day Cafe, which gives you access to 50 minutes of cat play (all of whom are adoptable!).
There’s also a cafe component that serves snacks, coffee and booze, including local bourbon and beer, and you can bring your drink in with you. Forgot to make a ressie? You can still visit the cafe and watch the cats through the glass partition.
Covington has some excellent shopping just blocks away from the cat cafe. There’s Hail Records & Oddities, which has a wonderful collection of weird stuff like taxidermy and spells, there’s Earth to Kentucky, which is full of vintage sci-fi, and there’s Hierophany & Hedge, which is your source for bespoke arcana and magic potions (a fitting place to visit in the height of spooky season!).
There’s also a cool vintage-inspired design shop, BLDG, that we stumbled upon. We picked up some cool retro T-shirts and made friends with the owners, who we found out are also instrumental in the local mural scene.
See the sun set over the Ohio River
The river is shaped with soft easy curves through the center of this area, so it’s a perfect set-up for catching the glancing rays of the sun shining through a bridge or two if you’re a photographer or just a dreamer that loves staring into the light. Our favorite spot for sunset in Covington was on the Purple People Bridge, which is entirely pedestrian and a bike trail, as well as below Clay Wade Bailey Bridge on the Kentucky side, which has a large collection of curated graffiti, and from Courtyard Plaza along Riverside Drive near all the big downtown hotels and convention center. Bring your flowy outfits for silhouette fun.
Have a pre-dinner cocktail at Prohibition Bourbon Bar
From the riverfront, it’s an easy seven-minute drive to Newport. Attached to their Newberry Brothers Coffee shop, the small but incredibly well-stocked Prohibition Bourbon Bar is absolutely bursting at the seams with bourbon and whiskey; it’s also impossible to sneak into without making new friends. Owners Kim and Peter Newberry work the room with bourbon flights while regular patrons tee up jokes and alcohol-forward cocktail orders.
Dine at The Baker’s Table
French bistro food that rotates and celebrates the ingredients of its surroundings, the Baker’s Table—which also has a bakery location across the street—has an extensive wine list, prix-fixe options and a casual vibe in a historical building. This restaurant is a great place for a date night in Northern Kentucky or simply to meet up with your foodie friends who appreciate a place that uses the whole animal on their menu and sources from respectable farmers.
Day 4 of your weekend in Covington
Sunday mornings are when we seek out pubic art because there are no cars (or people for that matter) blocking our view, and there are many murals in Covington that you’ll find once you really start to look down the alleyways. Then, it’s off to brunch, because what better way to celebrate a lazy Sunday?
Brunch at Coppin’s at Hotel Covington
Hotel Covington is a design lover’s dream, so obviously we had to pop in for weekend brunch when we saw they offered one. Coppin’s Restaurant + Bar is named after the original department store building that now houses it and serves up spreads that include brioche French toast with poached pears, goetta omlettes (a type of meat-and-grain sausage) and poached eggs with spicy hollandaise. Pitchers of mimosas or espresso martinis are available if you’d like to kick off the day with an attitude adjustment.
Take a walk through Roebling Point in Covington
On our final day of our weekend in Covington, we also took a morning stroll down by the river. There’s plenty of street parking in the Historic Riverside District of Covington. There, you can walk along the river and see the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge up close and personal, as well as have an excellent vantage point of downtown Cincinnati and the Reds stadium.
Historic Licking Riverside District is also populated by some massive, stately homes, and some were rumored to have been on the Underground Railroad. There’s a quiet little green space, George Rogers Clark Park, as well as a statue and art walk, and it’s just a nice spot to relax and check out the Cincinnati skyline.
Have a pre-departure cocktail at Pensive Distilling Co.
After the art walk, I had some time to kill before my mom arrived to meet me for the second half of my Cincy trip, so I decided to walk around Newport a bit, as well as check out new micro-distillery and restaurant Pensive Distilling Co. in Newport. It was recently added to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour and The B-Line, and I had the bartender whip me up a coffee cocktail concoction with a side of pretzel bites to hold me over till dinner.
From there, it’s off to CVG airport—or hitting the road (provided you have a designated driver)—as you say good-bye to Covington, Newport and the rest of Northern Kentucky. If you’re looking to extend your stay, I’ve got some ideas on even more things to do:
- Sip Your Way Through Northern Kentucky’s Bourbon Tour
- Plan a Long Weekend in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky
- Exploring the Beer Scene in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky
- From Projection Mapping to Murals, the Cincinnati Art Scene Is Red Hot
- 23 Reasons We’re Completely Captivated by Cincinnati