The Northern Kentucky and Cincy Region's Purple People Bridge

A bright purple bridge connecting two markedly different states? Only in Northern Kentucky. Follow this series to learn more about the hidden treasures found Only in NKY

Image is of the Purple People Bridge during the day with the Ohio River below it.

When it comes to exploring Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati, the Purple People Bridge is an almost unavoidable landmark. Strikingly purple and an icon of the tri-state area, the bridge serves as a charming handshake between the north and south, connecting Newport, KY with Cincinnati. A journey across the Purple People Bridge reveals rich history, scenic views, and array of exciting experiences for locals and visitors alike. Grab your walking shoes and embark on an adventure you can only find in NKY. 

A Stroll with a View:

Image is of the Purple People Bridge with the view of Cincinnati behind it.

On a beautiful afternoon, my fiance and I decided to venture out to the Purple People Bridge, enticed by the idea of a leisurely walk with gorgeous views. We packed a bag with some snacks and hit the road for Newport on the Levee, where I knew I would be able to find ample parking. The garage at the Levee is massive and affordable, and it almost always has spots available—even when there’s a Reds (or Bengals) game happening. The bridge is connected to Newport on the Levee, so while street parking is an option, the garage is a little more convenient. 

We grabbed our backpack and made our way to the bridge. With only a half-mile walk each way, the Purple People Bridge offers the perfect opportunity for immersing yourself in the stunning views of the Ohio River without being too daunting. As we set foot on the bridge, we were delighted to see families and enthusiastic Cincinnati Reds fans celebrating the team’s winning streak. One of the best parts about the bridge is how accessible it is, accommodating people from all walks of life, including wheelchair users, strollers, and everyone in between. A few bicyclists whizzed by us, but not without a friendly heads up that they were approaching. 

Unearthing the History:

This is an old historic image of the Purple People Bridge from the late 19th century.

Curiosity got the best of me as we settled down on a park bench to enjoy some snacks and continue people-watching. Despite being a lifelong resident of the area, I realized I didn’t know anything about the history of this iconic piece of the NKY/Cincinnati skyline. Google and I have a very close relationship, so I started researching. I uncovered some fascinating facts about the Purple People Bridge that surprised me, like the fact that it has not always been purple. 

purple people bridge

The bridge was constructed in the late 19th century, just a few years after the Civil War ended. It initially served as the first railroad bridge spanning the Ohio River, closing the gap between Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. It was originally owned by the Little Miami Railroad and then became the L&N Railroad Bridge (L&N for Louisville and Nashville). Over time, it opened its gates to automobiles, pedestrians, and even a streetcar. While the railroad and streetcar operations ceased, the bridge remained steadfast, albeit lacking cosmetic upkeep. Actually, after the railroad was dismantled and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet took over, only half of the bridge was being painted on a regular basis. The result was a half-blue, half rusty duotone structure tying the states together. Eventually, in the early 2000s, the bridge closed to automobile traffic altogether, and the roadway became the current walking path used today. 

Gateway to Adventure:

View of Newport on the Levee from a drone with the Aquarium and Bridgeview Box Park in the foregroundThe Purple People Bridge offers much more than a scenic stroll—it is a connection between two of the most popular spots in the tri-state area. On the Newport, KY side, visitors have access to Newport on the Levee, with its great dining options, unique shopping, and exciting event spaces. From the famous Hofbräuhaus to the authentic Cuban cuisine at Amador, there are food options to keep everyone happy. Visitors can grab dessert at Cold Stone Creamery, or stop by the Bridgeview Box Park for a fancy cocktail or savory snack. Head inside the gallery for some friendly competition at Rotolo Bowling or Velocity Esports. Shoppers will find delight in the pop up vendors at TRADE, while those looking for a taste of local flavors will be happy to indulge in some local craft beers. A bonus? Newport on the Levee is now a DORA district, allowing visitors to sip and stroll with their adult beverages. Although alcoholic beverages are not permitted on the Purple People Bridge, except during special events held on the bridge. More on that later. 

Image of the Serpent mound on the Ohio River at Sawyer Point and Yeatman's Cove.

Crossing the bridge to Cincinnati, you’ll find yourself in Sawyer Point and Yeatman's Cove, an expansive and picturesque park running along the banks of the Ohio River. The idyllic spot plays host to tons of events throughout the year, from Cincinnati’s Pride Festival to Cincy Brew Ha-Ha. Visitors can enjoy live music, play some pickleball, take in local art, or simply revel in the park’s natural beauty. 

An Event Space Like No Other:

Several orange bursts of fireworks over Cincinnati seen from the Northern Kentucky riverbank on the Ohio

As our evening on the bridge unfolded, we witnessed the Cincinnati Reds score a couple of home runs, followed by their celebratory fireworks display. On Friday nights after home games, the Reds have a full fireworks show that can be seen from the bridge. 

band playing and woman singing on the purple people bridge in newport kyAside from being a connection between two major attractions, the Purple People Bridge itself often serves as an event space, hosting festivities throughout the year. In the summer, you can catch live music, cookouts, bourbon bashes and more. In the winter, the bridge is lit up with festive light displays and twirling snowflakes. Occasionally the bridge will be host to private events like weddings and birthday parties, so it’s a good idea to check their calendar before journeying across. 

A Symbolic Handshake:

Bourbon and Beer Cheers

Beyond its physical connection, the Purple People Bridge embodies the warm and harmonious relationship between the northern and southern regions. This bridge serves as a delightful symbolic handshake, showcasing the Midwestern charm and unity that defines the region. Furthermore, the bridge serves as an ideal venue for hosting various events that fuse the best of both Kentucky and Ohio cultures. Even the color of the bridge, chosen by focus groups, shows off the friendly and cooperative spirit of Midwesterners. 

From its stunning views and accessible nature to the multitude of nearby attractions, this iconic bridge offers a remarkable experience that truly captures the essence of the region. So, whether you're looking for a scenic stroll, a taste of local flavors, or a front-row seat to unique events, the Purple People Bridge should be at the top of your "must-visit" list when exploring the area. Come and embrace the unique charm found only in NKY on a bridge that unites two worlds.