Man, we Cincinnatians love lists — especially when we’re on them. Ever since mega travel site Lonely Planet picked the Queen City as a top-10 US travel destination for 2012, my Facebook and Twitter feeds have been blowing up with the news. The TV stations all had a bit on the announcement, as did the Business Courier.
“Is Cincinnati suddenly chic?” the Enquirer asked. “Lonely Planet thinks so.”
Lest this Cincy parade get too out-of-hand, I’m here with a fire hose.
Can I just say what we’re all thinking as we look at a list that includes the US Virgin Islands, Hawaii and Yellowstone National Park?
Cincinnati — really?
I let loose my cynicism on the guy who wrote the article, Lonely Planet US travel editor Robert Reid, and he came back with a response so smart and cheerful that I found myself nodding my head.
Top 10 lists are so subjective, and…the crew of editors in the publishing department butted heads over this one. The idea came from one who talked about how much Cincy has done in recent years to improve itself — the Underground Railroad museum etc — and the fact that the place is much more than a bowl of chili. He talked me into having it in there, and I was all for it: I always want to reward places off the main radar that quietly are changing things. I mean, that’s sort of what Lonely Planet is supposed to do! (A couple years ago we gave props to Pittsburgh and Oklahoma City, similarly.)
Yes, yes. This makes sense. This is good stuff. I cannot argue with this without sounding like a total jerk. And still, my inner Andy Rooney kept whining. Why did this bug me so much? I continued reading Reid’s e-mail.
Cincinnati works in this because it’s off the main cross-country interstates and more people should think of detouring an hour or two to spend a weekend there. It’ll never rival New York or San Francisco, but it can be a very pleasing, surprising weekend — skip at your own peril!
…and suddenly I figured out what was bothering me. Reid gives this story the perspective it needs.
Cincinnati is a surprise. I remember this from the day I flew here for an interview. I stayed at the gorgeous Hilton downtown and walked down to a river I’d only read about. I saw the expanse of bridges, the hills speckled with buildings, the bookend stadiums and I said to myself, “Wow. I never knew.” There’s plenty to love about this place. I live here and I’m happy. But I’d never recommend a person vacation here instead of Puerto Rico. Cincinnati is not New York or San Francisco, nor the Virgin Islands or Hawaii. It belongs on that list with an asterisk. And that’s fine.
It’s OK — in fact, it’s responsible — to admit that the Lonely Planet thing is, well, ironic.
Problem is, so few people are doing that. The earnest enthusiasm that’s greeted this list has almost been embarrassing. No other city freaked out about the Lonely Planet list the way Cincinnati did. No other city wondered aloud whether it was finally “chic.” I can’t even find a news item about it from Boulder, Colo., which was No. 7 on the list. We are the Sally Field of metropolitan cities!
Cincinnati needs to find its own inner confidence. It needs self-esteem. It needs to leave middle school for good and care a little less about what other people think about it. It needs to continue to work on itself and be proud of what it’s done. Accept the praise, accept the criticism, push forward.
I think Cincinnati will be in a great place if one day it shows up on a top 10 list and people shrug and say, “Cool. Now where are we going to dinner tonight?”