At first glance, Ohio's third largest city may seem a little rough around its edges. After all, the city's signature cuisine is its namesake chili, and talk about the leading cultural events frequently turns to Reds baseball and Bengals football. But it's also home to a symphony orchestra, opera company and ballet — not to mention several art museums, the Cincinnati Fire Museum (honoring the fact that Cincinnati was the first American city to employ a professional fire department) and the second oldest zoo in the U.S.

The city was founded at the beginning of the 19th century by German settlers who inspired the name of the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Cincinnati was an early boomtown, thanks in part to its proximity to the Ohio River. It was named for the Order of the Cincinnatus, an 18th century society created to honor George Washington, who — like the Roman dictator Cincinnatus — left his life as a farmer to lead his country. Harriet Beecher Stowe also called it home for a time, and based some of Uncle Tom’s Cabin on what she observed among the city's residents.

More Than Just Chili

The debate over who serves up the best five-way chili is practically a religious war with factions loyal to either the Skyline or Gold Star franchises. But Cincinnati's foodie scene is also known across the country for Graeter's handmade ice cream as well as a wide range of international and contemporary American cuisines that elevate the Midwestern dining experience.

When it comes down to it, Cincinnati is really a classic all-American town. It may be smaller than a major metropolis like Chicago, but it's rich with heritage and plenty of entertainment possibilities that combine the city's inherent kindness and openness with a touch of sophistication.