Where to live in Cincinnati?
February 17, 2016 6:56 AM   Subscribe

I am headed in Cincinnati early next month. The Mr. will be interviewing for a job, while I spend the day with a relocation specialist figuring out where we will want to live should the interview go well. The relocation specialist wants to know which neighborhoods I want to visit. Ideal living situation details below the fold.

We lived in Lexington, KY 20+ years ago and we would go to Cincy to visit the "big city." We haven't been back since.

We have two kids under 7. Their education is most important to us. What are our best public school options? (Best = quality academics without a structure that eliminates the arts and recess) Wyoming? Glendale? Oakley?

Outdoor access and activities are also really important too and we would LOVE to live in a neighborhood where we could walk to some services. I will be working from home so I really would like a neighborhood coffee shop and also a decent area to run without having to cross six lanes of suburban traffic. The Mr. would prefer a commute to downtown of less than 20 minutes. We have never lived in the suburbs, but it looks like Cincy's suburbs are kinda urban?

Our kids currently attend private Montessori schools and we live very close to our current downtown. The private school tuition in Cincy seems much higher than we currently pay, but we are willing to explore living in a smaller place near the city center and paying higher tuition. Any experience with private Montessori schools in Cincy among mefites? Is the private school tuition worth it given the quality of the more suburban schools?

Our monthly Budget for housing (assuming we use public schools) is $1500-$2200.

Given the above, which neighborhoods do I tell the relocation specialist that I would like to visit?

Thanks for the help.
posted by songs_about_rainbows to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Cincinnati Public Schools can sometimes be a crapshoot, in the elementary department. The good ones are Hyde Park Elementary, Kilgour, Sands Montessori, and Fairview German. I know Sands has a lottery and it's really hard to get into. People camp outside for like two weeks leading up to the lottery. I'm not sure if Fairview German is the same. Hyde Park Elementary and Kilgour are both in the "suburbs" of Hyde Park and Mt. Lookout. You're right that a lot of the Cincy burbs are more urban than suburban, and Hyde Park, Oakley, and Mt. Lookout certainly fit that bill. Hyde Park is the most tony of them all, with housing prices to match. All three are walkable and awesome. Really good "suburb" school districts include Wyoming (very walkable, super charming, really really high taxes and housing prices), Indian Hill (not walkable, estates, high prices), Kenwood (in the Indian Hill district but not Indian Hill housing prices), Madeira, Forest Hills (Anderson Township and Newtown are the neighborhoods), and I'm sure I'm forgetting something.

I'm going to suggest you not try the west side. People who live there have always lived there, their parents have always lived there, their grandparents have always lived there, etc. It's nice enough but it's really, really hard to make adult friends when you live on that side of town because when you meet someone cool, you find out that her sister lives next door, her brother lives down the street, all of her cousins live around the block, and she just doesn't have time in her life (what with the birthday parties and the recitals of all the nieces and nephews and don't even get started on the football games) for people she isn't related to.

Depending on where you live in relation to highways, etc., you can be downtown in 20 minutes from almost everywhere. I live in a more suburban suburb but I can be downtown using US-50 in 15-20 minutes depending on traffic. I would really, really steer you way away from anything north of Kenwood, and it seems a LOT of realtors are trying to get people to move that way. That's Mason, West Chester, Liberty Township, etc. If your husband is interviewing with P&G, this is even more likely. I don't know why, but it's true! We have several friends who moved from out of state for P&G and their relocation specialists really don't steer people toward the more urban core. It makes no sense.

I can't speak to private Montessori schools because I have no experience in them. I can speak to private schools in general, as one of my kids graduated from one of them and I still have one attending. Happy to answer any questions regarding those by MeMail.

Actually, I'm happy to go into super more detail if you want to MeMail me. I'm happy to answer questions as they come along, as well. I'm not a native Cincinnatian, but I've lived here almost 20 years and I LOVE IT. Seriously, I'm like a Cincinnati evangelist.
posted by cooker girl at 8:26 AM on February 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

I lived in Glendale growing up, but moved away 15 years ago. My parents still live there.

My understanding from them is that the school district (Princeton) isn't as good as it was when I was in school, but is not terrible. They just built a gorgeous jr high/high school. I don't know how Glendale elementary is, though.

I don't think you'll find what you're looking for in a coffee shop around there, certainly not in the village proper.

You should be able to run throughout the village without encountering much if any traffic if you stay away from the obviously high traffic roads. It's not hard to plan a route where you'll see a dozen cars at most. My mom has been doing it for nearly 40 years and hasn't ever had any problems.

Glendale to downtown may be doable in 20 minutes, if you push it, but certainly not during rush hour.

Housing prices are going to vary greatly. The houses in the older parts of the village are easily in the multi-million dollar range, but some of the other parts are more reasonable.

Hope this helps. Feel free to MeFi mail me if you have any more specific questions.
posted by paulus andronicus at 9:29 AM on February 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't have kids but cooker girl's analysis is pretty spot on. Another neighborhood you might consider is Pleasant Ridge (you can think of it as Oakley's neighbor across I-71). There is a very well regarded Catholic school in the neighborhood as well as a Montessori school in a very new building (but I can't speak to its academics).

I know the 71 corridor best and can say that if you live at or South of Ridge Avenue/Norwood Lateral exits you can have very easy and short commutes into Downtown. Morning commutes seem faster and less eventful than afternoon commutes. In evening, the traffic north of Ridge seems to have a tendency to slow to a crawl during heavy usage as everyone climbs the hill into Kenwood.
posted by mmascolino at 1:35 PM on February 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you do end up in Cincy, Walnut Hills High School (7-12th) is fantastic. My dad went there a million years ago and counts it as more intrumental to his success in life than college or anything else he ever did. It is a public college preparatory school that pulls from all of Cincinnati's school districts, but requires an entrance exam for admittance.
posted by cecic at 3:53 PM on February 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh right! I forgot about middle/high schools! Cecic is correct that Walnut Hills is very highly regarded. It's a great school and it's in the Cincinnati Public Schools district. It is very, very large, just so you know. Another really good CPS middle/high school is Clark Montessori. It too requires an entrance exam (last I checked) and interviews to get in. If your child hasn't been in a Montessori program prior to Clark, it won't be as easy to get in if they've been in Montessori all along.

The suburban school districts I mentioned are good from k-12.
posted by cooker girl at 4:20 PM on February 17, 2016

Fairview German used to have the camping thing going on, though I think they've actually changed that process. Anyhow, Fairview is in Clifton, which is a really family-friendly neighborhood, walkable, runnable, full of dogs, close to parks, fairly safe, has sort of a village feel.

Other areas you might try are Mariemont, which is its own town about 25-30 mins away: also walkable and safe, with its own little arthouse movie theatre (its sister theater is in Clifton); East Walnut Hills is gradually becoming a more family-friendly area, as is Northside (which is still a little rough around the edges, but maybe the youngest/hippest of the neighborhoods mentioned here). Oakley would be ideal for kids. And Columbia-Tusculum has beautiful houses and a neighborhoody feel, though I don't know about schools there.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 8:12 PM on February 17, 2016

Late to the party here but will confirm what others have said. I went to Walnut Hills (very good school), am familiar with Pleasant Ridge and Kenwood (fine areas to live.) Pleasant Ridge is less affluent in general than Kenwood. Nearby is Amberley, which is affluent but not walkable. Kenwood (or at least part of it) is in the Indian Hill school district and the children of friends went through that system and have received excellent educations. But, not very walkable, as previously mentioned.
posted by CincyBlues at 3:58 AM on February 18, 2016

Thank you for all the help everyone. Based on your information I have been able to communicate effectively with the relo folks. Cooker girl was right - they really want us to look waaaaayyyyy north. Based on your help, I've been able to limit the search to areas where I think we will be happy. Thanks to all.
posted by songs_about_rainbows at 8:21 AM on February 18, 2016

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