Covington, Kentucky. Also known as The Cov. Aka “If Cincinnati was Manhattan then Covington is Brooklyn.”
As you can see from the map on our home page, Covington is the middle city of NKY, in between Florence and Newport. It’s also just a bridge-walk away from downtown Cincinnati.
Covington’s history is rich in firsts. It’s the first city in Northern Kentucky to pass a non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBTQ people. A Covington politician, John G. Carlisle, was one of the co-creators, along with E.H. Taylor, of the Bottled in Bond Act-- guaranteeing high quality bourbon for the first time in U.S. history. And it’s the first city in the U.S. John A. Roebling built the Brooklyn Bridge. Seriously, the Roebling Suspension Bridge spanning from the banks of Covington to Cincinnati was Roebling’s model for the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC.
One of the best things about traveling to Covington is the array of authentic, local as local gets, unique shops, street art, restaurants, walking tours, bourbon bars, and craft breweries to visit.
Neighborhoods of Covington, Ky.
The Roebling Point area is at the foot of the Roebling Suspension Bridge. It’s next door to Covington’s riverfront hotels and the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. In Roebling Point you can enjoy unique ice cream shaped like spaghetti from Germany called “Eis” at Eishaus. Or a boozy slushee next to Eishaus at Frosthaus. Or traditional Irish fare and beer on the other side of the door at Molly Malone’s—owned by an Irish immigrant.
On the other corner of Roebling Point enjoy some of the best wings in the region at Smoke Justis, which is also a stop on our bourbon tour, The B-Line. Next to Smoke Justis you’ll find Keystone Bar & Grill serving up more combinations of homemade mac and cheese than you’ve probably seen. Across the street is Blinker’s Tavern, home to award-winning steak (voted Best Steak in NKY several years running.) Down a cobblestone alley near Blinker’s is Lil’s Bagels where you can get the best bagels found outside of NYC.
The southern side of Roebling Point is the location of the Covington Yard – a neighborhood outdoor gathering space ringed by shipping container restaurants and an excellent full-service bar. Enjoy tacos, sliders, bulgogi or chicken fingers while relaxing on the lawn watching sports or live music.
Mainstrasse Village, or just Mainstrasse as the locals say, is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Covington, just a few blocks from the riverfront hotels and the NKY Convention Center. The entire neighborhood is a Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in part because it’s one of the densest collections of 19th century architecture in the U.S. It gives visitors the feeling of walking into a story book village.
That story book feeling is intensified by the German American details of the Village – the Goose Girl Fountain in the heart of Mainstrasse and the Carroll Chimes Bell Tower, complete with carillon and working glockenspiel. From April through November, at 10:35am, 12:35, 3:35, 5:35 and 7:35pm, mechanical figures of the Pied Piper and the children who follow him emerge from the top of the tower.
Mainstrasse Village is an excellent place to shop with some of Covington’s most unique shops like Haile Dark Aesthetic – home of skulls, taxidermy, and vintage LPs; Earth to Kentucky – as they say on their website “a shop for those who love vintage sci fi, low-brow art, and bootleg toys: and the Creative House of Art and Design – a shop for creatives featuring laser cut art and jewelry, art supplies, an art gallery, a bar serving craft beer and cocktails, and a patio in the back.
If you get hungry and thirsty from your Mainstrasse Village sightseeing, you’re in luck. This Covington neighborhood is home to four stops on The B-Line, our NKY bourbon trail: Wiseguy Lounge at Goodfellas Pizza; Bourbon Haus 1841; Bouquet Restaurant; and Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar.
There are many other local favorite watering holes in Mainstrasse including the LGBTQ friendly spots Bar 32 and Rosie’s Tavern; Larry’s, Up and Over, Green House Bar, and Crafts and Vines. As far as food goes, within just three blocks of Mainstrasse Village you can choose from Chako – a Japanese bakery; Frida 602 – specializing in tacos and tequila; Lisse Steakhuis, serving steaks and Dutch fare; Otto’s – famous for their brunches and southern dishes; Dee Felice Café – a New Orleans inspired jazz restaurant; Mac’s pizza – a local favorite hangout for pizza, beer, and delicious cocktails; Gyros on Main – serving excellent gyros, falafel and more; The Standard – a converted gas station famous for its quirky décor and Asian-inspired menu; and Cedar – a brunch spot that’s so popular you have to get there early on weekends.
The Madison District
The Madison District of Covington, aka downtown Covington, stretches down Madison Avenue all the way to the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, a Catholic cathedral modeled on Notre Dame in Paris. Take the tour to see the stunningly beautiful interior, highlighted by stained glass windows made in Munich, Germany.
Here are some highlights of the many great places to eat, drink and shop in the Madison District:
Wunderbar – A couple blocks west of the Cathedral, Wunderbar serves some of the best pretzels, German food, and craft beer in the region in a homey neighborhood bar setting.
Olla Cov – Just a block away from Wunderbar, enjoy some of the best tacos, nachos, margaritas and more at this local favorite. The birria tacos are especially popular.
Braxton Brewing Company – Braxton was the first craft brewery in today’s NKY and even though they’ve grown to four taprooms in the Cincy/NKY area, the Covington taproom is where they launched. If the weather’s good, have a beer on their rooftop bar for spectacular views of the Cov and Cincy skylines.
Agave & Rye – Like Braxton, Agave & Rye have grown to numerous locations, but their Covington restaurant was the first, or as they call it the OG Agave & Rye. Locals flock here for their delicious “Epic” tacos, chips and queso, elote, impressive tequila selection, and fresh cocktails.
The Hotel Covington – This boutique hotel was voted Best Hotel in Kentucky by U.S. News and World Report and even if you don’t stay here, you have to stop in to enjoy the gorgeous lobby, impressive and welcoming bar, and their restaurant, Coppin’s, which is also a stop on The B-Line.
Speaking of B-Line stops, there are three more in the Madison District – Rich’s Proper Food & Drink, specializing in New Orleans inspired cuisine and serving great cocktails, like the “Best Mint Julep in Kentucky” (chosen at the Kentucky Derby Festival); Libby’s Southern Comfort, home to arguably the best fried chicken in the state as well as some of the best Mac ‘n Cheese; and The Globe, a sleek bourbon bar in the heart of the business district with over 100 bourbons to choose from and a famous bourbon slush.
KungFood Chu’s AmerAsia – Just two blocks from the Hotel Covington, AmerAsia is on the top of every Covingtonian’s favorite restaurants list. Their tasty spin on Asian American food will have you making plans to go back if you’re in town long enough. They also have a full bar, excellent craft beer list, and some of the best murals in town.
The Madison District of Covington also has some not-to-be-missed unique shopping opportunities. Find your new favorite home décor or souvenir from the talented wood artisans at Grainwell. Or snag a truly unique treasure at Hierophany and Hedge, purveyors of eldritch goods like magic wands, limited release tarot decks, and ingredients for spells.
Although Ludlow is a city, not a neighborhood of Covington, it’s on this page because it borders Covington, both physically and in spirit. Ludlow is another Kentucky spot where you can experience authentic NKY in all its quirky glory. Grab a bite at local favorite the Ludlow Tavern, and stroll down the main thoroughfare, Elm Street, aka Route 8, to see the local shops and art galleries.
Along Elm St. you’ll find Second Sight Spirits, a bourbon and rum distillery founded by two childhood best friends who grew up in NKY, left to join the circus, specifically the Cirque du Soleil, then returned to Ludlow to create this unique artisan distillery. The spirit of fortune telling, the circus, and burlesque shows is present in every corner, from the Swami shaped still to the fortune-telling goldfish. We guarantee you’ve never visited a distillery like it. Second Sight is also a stop on our local bourbon tour, The B-Line, as well as one on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour®.
Down the block from Second Sight is a unique Northern Kentucky craft brewery -- Bircus, which also has a circus flavor! You can order from their rotating taps while watching live circus acts. They also offer beer in cans to go, and have artisanal, wood-fired pizza for you to enjoy.