Across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Covington is Kentucky’s fifth most populous city, home to more than 40,000.
Covington has a character all of its own, as you’ll see at the impossibly quaint MainStrasse Village, with its little alleys and painted low-rise brick buildings going back to the mid-19th century.
The Ohio River is also an asset for Covington, crossed by the historic Roebling Suspension Bridge, with a fast-expanding riverside trail and views to cherish from the hilltop in Devou Park.
Since you’re in Kentucky, you may be in the mood for some bourbon, in which case the bourbon-themed B-Line Trail has you covered, with a long list of bourbon bars, distilleries and eateries across Northern Kentucky.
1. MainStrasse Village
Covington’s 19th-century German heritage comes to the fore at this cute but bustling district on the old west side.
In the mid-19th century this was the destination for a big influx of German and Irish immigrants, and that flavor lingers in the revitalized, walkable district that greets you today.
Against a quaint, historic backdrop you’ve got bourbon bars on the B-Line Trail, nightspots, restaurants, live music venues and a slew of historical markers that you can seek out on a self-guided visit.
Those German roots are also on show during the GoettaFest in late July/early August, celebrating the old-time Cincinnati breakfast dish, similar to scrapple or livermush.
2. Devou Park
Covington’s premier park sits on high ground in the west of the city and was donated to the city by the Devou family in 1910.
The best reason to make the trip is for the sweeping view from the Memorial Overlook, encompassing Cincinnati, Covington, the Ohio River and historic crossings like the Roebling Bridge. Devou Park is on 700 acres and has much more happening.
You’ve got the Behringer-Crawford Museum, eight miles of mountain biking trails, an 18-hole golf course and the fine Devou Park Bandshell, Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, hosting the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra’s summer concert series.
3. The B-Line
Specific to the Northern Kentucky River Region, there’s a curated lineup of bourbon-oriented distilleries, bars and restaurants to check out.
There’s no better way to tap into one of Kentucky’s signatures. You can begin your bourbon odyssey right here in downtown Covington, sampling flights at Bourbon Haus 1841, choosing from a selection of 450 bourbons at the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar or sipping stylish cocktails at The Globe.
The closest distillery is the family-owned New Riff, just next door in Newport, with a mash bill of 65% corn, 30% rye, and 5% malted barley, all non-GMO.
4. Riverfront Commons Trail
One of a couple of long-term trail projects in Covington, the Riverfront Commons Trail is taking shape along the south bank of the Ohio River.
Eventually, this path will serve as a continuous pedestrian and bicycling route for about 12 miles between the northern KY cities of Ludlow in the west and Fort Thomas in the east, and linking with Cincinnati.
In Covington there’s a big chunk of pre-existing trail, and you can amble along the waterfront, soaking up the views of the Cincinnati silhouette, riverside parks and the Floodwall Murals, which we’ll talk about below.
5. John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge
A treasured landmark with a span of 1,057 feet, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge was the world’s longest suspension bridge when it opened in 1866.
The bridge held onto that record until it was surpassed by the Brooklyn Bridge, also designed by Roebling (1806-1869) and completed posthumously in 1883.
The famous crossing on the Ohio River is an enduring marvel of engineering, with plenty of innovations, most notably in its main cables, which were purposely imported from Manchester, England for their high tensile strength.
This is a grand way to make the walk to Cincinnati, serving the big riverfront sports venues like the Great American Ball Park, Paul Brown Stadium and U.S. Bank Arena.
6. Behringer-Crawford Museum (BCM)
Since 1950, the Devou family’s mid-19th century residence in the namesake park has been home to a museum documenting 450 million years of Northern Kentucky history.
The BCM is named for the museum’s first curator, archeologist Ellis Crawford, and William Behringer, the international traveler who acquired many of the curiosities that are still on show today.
The wide-ranging collections are mostly focussed on anthropology, archeology, cultural history and industry. Some memorable exhibits include a restored streetcar from 1892 and extremely detailed Ray Faragher Train set from the 1940s.
Elsewhere look out for fossils from Big Bone Springs, regional art, minerals, decorative arts, recreated old shop interiors and much more.
7. St. Mary’s Basilica of the Assumption
One monument of startling beauty in Covington is this Roman Catholic church, completed in 1910 and elevated to the status of Minor Basilica by Pope Pius XII in 1953.
Built from Indiana Limestone, St. Mary’s is in a Late Gothic Revival style and is praised for the ornate moldings on the western facade, inspired by Notre-Dame de Paris.
After seeing the facade, head in to savor the interior, which was modeled after the Basilica of St. Denis, the famed burial place of French kings.
You can take a free self-guided tour to appreciate the 82 stained glass windows, produced in Munich, Germany. These include the two rose windows and a mammoth 24 foot by 67 foot window in the north transept.
Among the other sublime details are the Stations of the Cross mosaics, the high altar carved from Italian Carrara marble and paintings by the Covington artist Frank Duveneck (1848-1919).
8. The Carnegie
A multidisciplinary arts center, The Carnegie is housed in Covington’s sumptuous former Carnegie Library, built in the Beaux-Arts style at the turn of the 20th century.
The library was unique for being one of the first public facilities south of the Ohio River to be fully integrated, and also because it housed a full-scale theater, which continues to be a cornerstone of the arts center.
The building was threatened with demolition after the library moved out in the 1970s, but was saved by the formation of the North Kentucky Arts Foundation.
With modern architectural additions added in the 2000s, the Carnegie is a fantastic place to catch an exhibition, concert or play, or bring children for rich educational programs.
9. George Rogers Clark Park
On a single block, the joy of this little park in the Historic Licking Riverside Neighborhood is its unbroken views over the Ohio River to the Cincinnati skyline.
George Rogers Clark Park is scattered with mature hardwood trees that offer a lot of shade during the summer.
So you can while away an hour or two with a picnic, reading a book or watching the barges glide along the river.
Two of the seven statues placed along the riverwalk can be found here: steamboat captain Mary Becker Greene (1867-1949) and frontiersman Simon Kenton (1755-1836).
10. Roebling Murals
In the shadow of that great suspension bridge, there’s a mini history lesson painted onto the floodwall that borders the riverfront trail.
Painted in the 2000s by a team led by the noted muralist, Robert Dafford, these works depict events and scenes going back to 8000 BCE.
In the timeline, you’ll see buffalo crossing a wild Ohio River, the Meeting at the Point by Clark, Boone and Kenton in 1782, the old Kennedy’s Ferry, the important African-American community leader Jacob Price and compelling images of Covington and the Roebling Bridge in development.
The murals are part of a growing collection of public art around Covington, from mosaics to four-story paintings.
11. Licking River Greenway Trails
When we compiled this list, a long-term project was underway to build a trail along the Licking River corridor, connecting Covington with other cities in Kenton and Campbell counties, including Taylor Mill, Wilder and Newport.
When completed the Licking River Greenway Trails will add up to 14 miles. One phase already completed is a two-mile stretch down the east side of Covington, starting by Randolph Park in the north and near Holmes High School in the south.
Here you can navigate a paved trail atop the levee, as well as a natural path by the riverside, and check out a sequence of 17 murals celebrating the river, its habitats and the community.
12. Goebel Park
Bounded to the west by the I-71, this park is named for Covington-native William Goebel (1856-1900), who is still the only person from the city to be elected Governor of Kentucky.
The election results were heavily disputed, and Goebel was assassinated after just four days, and he remains the only state governor to be assassinated while in office.
The property for Goebel Park was purchased by the city in 1909, and the defining feature here is a traditional German-style clock tower, built in 1979.
This even has automatons that perform a Pied Piper show on the hour, accompanied by a working carillon.
Amenities at Goebel Park include a public pool, a playground, picnic shelters, a gazebo and a walking trail that links this space with Kenny Shields Park to the south.
13. Covington Farmers’ Market
Covington is blessed with a year-round farmers’ market, taking place on Saturday mornings at Park & Court.
You’ve also got a second location on Tuesday afternoons in the Westside neighborhood at MLK & Holman, June through mid-November.
As you would expect, the lineup of vendors and selection changes throughout the year, but the market is the local go-to for seasonal fresh produce, meats, fish, honey, cut flowers, eggs, spice rubs, baked goods, soaps and natural cosmetics, fresh roasted coffee, craft beer, tea, wine, beer, jams, pickles, preserves and CBD products.
Added to all that are prepared foods, from soups to granola, with something new to check out each week.
14. Braxton Brewing Company
Covington is the headquarters for a fast-growing craft beer brand that also has locations in Cincinnati and Fort Mitchell.
Braxton Brewing Company was founded by a hobby brewer who started out at the age of just 16, and has a hip taproom in the middle of downtown Covington.
There were more than 20 beers on tap at the time of writing, and a few standouts are the Haven (Wheat Beer), Switch (IPA), Dead Blow (Stout), Storm (Cream Ale), Ignitor (Bockbier) and the various innovations with the “Braxton Labs” label.
There’s also a wine & cocktail menu, while contemporary bites are available from Parlor on Seventh, which serves as the taproom’s kitchen.
15. Doe Run Lake Park
The city is a lot sparser in the south of Covington, and you can escape to spots like this scenic lake, fed by Bullock Pen Creek and Doe Run Creek.
The lake covers more than 50 acres, and is within almost 200 acres of wooded parkland, traversed by the Bluebird Trail and Doe Run Nature Trail.
Hiding in the woods are some remote picnic areas, while the lake supports good numbers of flathead catfish, channel catfish and largemouth bass (limits apply).