When the Cincy staff started to list our favorite things about Cincinnati, we filled the display board and boundless amounts of paper. It's clear, we love this town. A lot. These are the places we use to impress our out-of-town guests, the spots we wind down with family, and return to as shoppers or for a bite to eat. It's a collection of the "gems" of the place we call home. Now, if only we had more room.
 

Best Reason to Peel an Onion
Red Onion's fresh and fabulous menu is born of a simple philosophy: the love of food. 214 S. Main St., Monroe. (513) 360-0180. www.redonioncafe.biz.

Best Deli in a Barn
A garden center with home-cooked specials? Describing Kremer's Market is just too hard. You have to go. Deli sandwiches, the freshest local vegetables, healthy bedding plants, gift baskets, and, now BonBonerie bakery goods. 755 Buttermilk Pike, Crescent Springs, Ky. (859)341-7008. www.kremersmarket.com.

Best "Don't Miss" Murals
In a region blessed with incredible murals, don't miss the ones on the Covington Floodwall (pictured) at the foot of the Roebling Bridge. Eighteen murals depict, in artistic detail, the city's history of frontiersmen, buffalo crossing the Ohio River, and the Latonia racetrack. Greenup Street to Madison Avenue, Covington, Ky. www.robertdaffordmurals.com.

Best Family-Owned Florist
The third generation at H.J. Benken Florist, Michael and Kathleen Benken added a greenhouse and workshops. Still, at the core, it's about fabulous flowers, gorgeous arrangements and customer service. 6000 Plainfield Road, Silverton. (513) 891-1040. www.benkens.com.

Best Local Coffee Shop
With a casual, artsy atmosphere and free wi-fi, Lookout Joe serves incredible brew from beans roasted right in the front window. 3181 Linwood Ave., Mount Lookout and 15 W. Seventh St., downtown. (513) 871-8626. www.lookoutjoe.com.

Best Reason to Act Like a Kid Again
Next time you feel like returning to childish ways, put the call in to Big Brothers/Big Sisters (pictured) and volunteer to mentor and spend time with a child one-to-one. Help with homework, go for pizza or throw a baseball. It's solid. 2400 Reading Road. (513) 421-4120. www.bigsforkids.org.

Best Gelato
With Mom and Dad dishing out son's locally-crafted gelato, Madisono's Gelato (Madison's "Italian name") is another excellent reason to visit Findlay Market. Amid the array of gelato and sorbet, don't miss Dark Chocolate Orange, Black Raspberry, and especially Caramello Sea Salt. Madison's at Findlay Market. 110 W. Elder St., downtown. (513) 723-0590. www.madisonogelato.com.

Best Weekend Getaway
Within sight of the Appalachian mountain foothills, Murphin Ridge Inn bed & breakfast is the perfect place to get cozy and watch the sun set over a glass of homebrewed raspberry tea. 750 Murphin Ridge Road, West Union. (877) 687-7446 or (937) 544-2263. www.murphinridgeinn.com.

Best Sparkle at the Podium
Channel 5's Sheree Paolello (pictured) brings much-needed sparkle to awards dinners "” she's got the humor and the smarts to handle those emcee duties with flair.

Best Vintage Store
Okay, we don't get the name, but Chicken Lays an Egg in Northside has incredible vintage clothing, jewelry and accessories, many handmade by local artists. 1608 Chase Ave., Northside. (513) 834-9268. www.chickenlaysanegg.com.

Best Excuse To Linger
A prime people watching location and homemade chicken salad on baguettes make Café de Paris a perfect place for coffee, a bite to eat and a chair at an outdoor table. 17 Garfield Place, downtown. (513) 651-1919.

Best Cascade of Color
Sue Schneider and her son Bret are the secret behind those incredible flowing flower baskets and window boxes. WOW Windowboxes (pictured) creates blooming cascades of color. (513) 519-5131. www.wowwindowboxes.com.

Best Place To Buy Baseball Socks This Minute
You are late leaving the office, your kid's game is in 20 minutes, and he can't find his baseball socks. Koch's Sporting Goods will have the color and the size. And, hurry. 131 W. Fourth St., downtown. (513) 621-2352. www.kochsports.com.

Best Place to Climb The Wall
The Blue Ash Rec Center
opens its climbing wall to the public throughout the week. There's safety in belaying, friends. 4433 Cooper Road, Blue Ash. (513) 745-8550. www.blueash.com.

Best On-air Chemistry
Meet Q102's Brian Douglas and Laura Powell (pictured) on WKRQ-FM. The dynamic DJ duo is very funny and their back-and-forth banter works. Catch them in the 3 to 7 p.m. slot. www.wkrq.com.
 
Best Place to Pull a Wrench
Sam Smyth Imported Car Service works magic on anything with four wheels and is a specialist in restorations and rehabilitation of exotic sports cars and LBCs (Little British Cars). 8773 Remington Road, Loveland. (513) 793-0434 or (513) 616-6846.

Best Way To Re-Tool
"Soaring ceilings and collaborative spaces" mark the transformation at 660 Lincoln Ave. from shuttered car plant to offices. It's the old Ford Model-T Building seen from I-71 across from Children's Hospital near the Taft Road exit. In a nod to the past, historical car parts are displayed in the lobby of the building, which is now home to offices including Fisher Design and Children's Hospital. Fisher, first in, has its name on the water tower. 660 Lincoln Ave, Walnut Hills.

Best Place To Identify a Fossil
Wondering how to identify those fossils you found or enjoy a really nice hike? Try the Cincinnati Nature Center (pictured). Sign kids up for programs and camps or just go explore. Rowe Woods in Milford and Long Branch Farm & Trails in Goshen. www.cincynature.org.

Best Way To Get on Your Feet
The guys at Bob Roncker's Running Spot want to hear about your feet. They watch you walk and measure you so you leave with the best shoe type and fit for walking, running and working out. Clinics, walking groups and marathon training for beginners and those hardcore folks in the funny shorts. Multiple locations. www.runningspot.com.

Best Place to Stock Up on Pita
The Lebanese/American menu at Aladdin's Eatery has you covered from pita to tabouli, Louble Bzeit to lentil, curry chicken to vegan dishes. Sahtain! 9344 Union Centre Blvd., West Chester. (513) 874-1302. www.aladdinseatery.com.

Best Boutique Brew
Savor the hops with Mt. Carmel Brewing Company's India Pale Ale or Nut Brown. Mike and Kathleen Dewey's brewery in Clermont County sells direct, but it's just as easy to catch at local stores including Kroger and Biggs, or better yet, on draft at Dewey's Pizza. 4362 Mt. Carmel-Tobasco Road, Union Township. (513) 240-2739. www.mtcarmelbrewingcompany.com.

Best Customer Service Start to Finish
The Kenwood Apple Store shows how easy shopping should be, even if you thought the "AirPort" was CVG. The staff knows everything about the products, what plug goes where, and how to make it do what you need. Even the technology-intimidated are welcome. 7875 Montgomery Road, Kenwood. (513) 791-9866. www.apple.com/retail/kenwood.

Best Guerilla Marketing
I LOVE CINCINNATI "” and we loved the bumper stickers that proclaimed that. But from where did they come? Turns out they're a product of Crossroads. Nice. 3500 Madison Road, Oakley. (513) 731-7400. www.crossroads.net.

Best Boutique Store
There is no such thing as a blank piece of paper at Poême. The stationary shop is stocked with with cards, journals, albums and gifts of all styles. Don't see your ideal design on the shelves? Let the store's in-house designers create your perfectly papered product. 3446 Michigan Ave., Hyde Park. (513) 321-4999. www.poeme-online.com.

Best Pampering
Because quality spoiling in a glamorous setting is essential, head to JFH at the Grandin Spa. By the time you've slipped into the soft robe and taken a seat, you have a cold drink in your hand and your stylist is working the magic. 2101 Grandin Road, O'Bryonville. (513) 321-9916. www.grandinspa.com.

Best Ice-Age Playground
Skip, jump and squeal while getting doused with water at the wet playground at Sharon Woods Park. Paddle a kayak, go fishing, hike a trail, check out the snack bar and, when the kids are good and tired, head home. 11450 Lebanon Road, Sharonville. www.hamiltoncountyparks.org.

Best Place To Chill
The bartender greets you before you slide into a seat at the polished wooden bar at Bella Luna's, a very talented trio plays the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, and the Berrytini is perfect. The prosciutto-wrapped asparagus arrives warm, and you know this is the first place you will take out-of-town guests to show them we know how to relax "” and eat. 4632 Eastern Ave., Columbia-Tusculum. (513) 871-5862 or www.bellalunacincy.com.

Best Basilica View
Sit quietly in St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption and take in every detail. The North transept window, 67 feet by 24 feet, is claimed to be the largest church stained glass window. It's an awe-inspiring testament to art and faith. Madison Avenue at 12th Street, Covington, Ky. www.covcathedral.com.

Best Firehouse in a Tower
Glancing up at the monstrous orbs of water towers, we assume they hold "” well "” water. Usually that's the case, except for Union Township's Fire Station 51. (pictured), a two million-gallon, 130-foot tall steel water tower complete with sleeping quarters, offices, meeting spaces and fire-fighting gear. 860 Clough Pike, Union Township. (513) 528-4446.

Best Way To Cross the River
We couldn't decide between paddling a kayak at Paddlefest, walking across the Purple People Bridge, boarding the Anderson Ferry (a memory-maker for kids), or driving over the 471 bridge, with its view of the lush green shores of the Ohio River.

Best Way to Top It Off
Ray St. Clair Roofing can fix what other contractors mess up. Most of the sales folks started as roofers and three generations stand behind the work. www.raystclair.com.