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How to Plan a Tennis Vacation to Cincinnati for the Cincy Open

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How to plan a trip to the Cincy Open tennis tournament
If you’ve been following along awhile, you’ll know my mom and I are on a quest to check off all the major tennis tournaments in the world. We’ve done Indian Wells in Palm Springs, the U.S. Open multiple times, and, most recently, the Cincy Open tennis tournament. We’re also tackling our first international Slams: Roland-Garros next month and the Australian Open in January. And if you’re planning your own tennis trip this summer, here’s how to do just that in Cincinnati. FYI: Tickets going on sale today, so hop to it!

Going on a tennis vacation to the Cincy Open

About the Cincy Open​


Formerly known as the Western & Southern Open, the Cincinnati Open has been around since 1899 and is U.S. tennis’ longest-running tournament that’s still played in its home city. Held every August, it’s also one of the largest tournaments that men and women play at the same time.

Going on a tennis vacation to the Cincy Open

Unlike the Grand Slams, it’s just a week long (technically, eight days), meaning you hit the ground running with tennis all day, every day starting at 11am and often until the very early hours of the morning. We’ve been wanting to attend the Cincy Open tennis for years, especially given it’s just a six-hour drive from where we live in Tennessee, and the experience lived up to our expectations.

This is a 1000 level hard court event, and it’s usually the last major tournament many players will enter prior to the U.S. Open, meaning everyone is there. We saw so many favorites play multiple times throughout the week: eventual champion Coco Gauff, Jess Pegula, Novak Djokovic, Sascha Zverev, Jannik Sinner, France Tiafoe, Venus Williams, Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, Sloane Stephens, Peyton Stearns, Danielle Collins, Ben Shelton, Chris Eubanks, Maria Sakkari, the list goes on and on and on.

How to see Coco Gauff play at the Cincy Open

The compactness of this 16-court tennis facility compared to others like Indian Wells also made hopping around among courts much easier, but I’d still recommend stopping at the info booth the moment you get there and picking up a printed map, as there are still many courts and the numbering doesn’t always make sense when you’re rushing to get to a particular match.

How to plan a trip to the Cincy Open tennis tournament

How to get tickets for the Cincy Open​


As far as tennis tournaments go, the Cincy Open was one of the more seamless ticket-buying experiences. I say that as I’m fresh off the trauma of panic-buying overpriced VIP packages for next month’s Roland-Garros, which makes me doubly appreciate how easy it was to get tickets for Cincinnati. The 12,000 seats at Center Court were also just replaced this year as part of an ongoing renovation in celebration of the tournament’s 125th anniversary.

Single sessions at the Cincy Open​


This event is a week-long tournament, which means there really aren’t any lag days where you won’t have matches all afternoon and evening. You do, however, have to purchase separate tickets for Day Session (11am to 6pm) and Night Session (7pm start time). Single Session tickets start as low as $40 for the Day Session, but I’d say spending $100 to $200 per session is more realistic.

Buying Tickets at the Cincy Open

The Cincy Open makes it easy: You buy one ticket per session and choose your seat at Center Court and that gives you access to all the other courts, as well, in non-reserved seats. There is no grounds pass here like there are at bigger tournaments, and I appreciated the simplicity of not having to figure out an unnecessarily complex ticketing experience.

We went to seven sessions of the first four days of the tournament, which is always my favorite strategy as you get to see the first couple rounds of men’s and women’s tennis, meaning all your favorite players are bound to take the court at some point. Originally, we had only bought the day session passes, but each day we were there, we were having such a good time that I’d log on the app and get resale tickets for the night session, too.

How to plan a trip to the Cincy Open tennis tournament

This was particularly easy to do during the first half of the week as many fans buy the full book of tickets and sell off the sessions they can’t attend. Download the Cincinnati Open app before you go; it makes it easy to purchase after-market tickets on site, especially as there is WiFi at the center (even though it’s spotty at times).

So if you miss out on this initial sale, don’t worry: Check the app and see what people are getting rid of closer to the actual tournament time.

And if your session is rained out—which means less than 90 minutes of a Center Court match was completed that session—you get an automatic ticket to that same session the following year. I received this email this week, so you never know—we might be going back to Cincinnati in August!

Buying Tickets at the Cincy Open

Full series package at the Cincy Open​


Single session tickets go on sale today for this August’s tournament, but if you decide to attend in future years, it’s worth signing up for the tournament’s newsletter and being alerted to when the Full Series Package of tickets goes on sale earlier in the year if you want to attend the entire week. We met many members of tennis clubs who do this every year and claim it’s the more economical choice, then they sell whatever sessions they can’t attend via the Cincy Open app, which connects directly to Ticketmaster.

Where to sit at Center Court​


Over the seven sessions we attended, we sat in just about every part of Center Court. It is much smaller than the main court at Indian Wells or the U.S. Open, so really anywhere you choose to sit, you’ll have a good view.

How to plan a trip to the Cincy Open tennis tournament

My favorite seats were the sessions where we sat opposite the player’s boxes (107-109), whereas my mom liked being directly behind their benches (117-119). We got to meet Frances Tiafoe’s twin and even say hi to coaching icons like David Witt. Honestly, though, there’s no bad seat in the house. If it’s in your budget, though, I’d pick the 100 or 200 level seats on either the side of the court.

Where to sit at the Cincy Open tennis tournament

The food and drink at the Cincy Open​


I really loved how they do the food and drink at this tennis tournament. There’s about everything you could want: salads, Greek food, street tacos, burgers, pretzels, coffee. They also incorporate so many beloved local brands to Ohio like Skyline Chili, Sonder Brewery and Graeter’s ice cream, in addition to other known names like Chicken Salad Chick.

What to eat at the Cincy Open tennis tournament

Alcohol is allowed in the seating areas, so we imbibed in several margaritas, as well as beer and also a glass of bubbly or two. Love a bougie sport that has premium spirits and wine (Moet, Kim Crawford) available!

Cincy-Open-4.jpg

And there’s plenty of covered picnic seating in the dining area, as well as a massive lawn that shows the Center Court action for those taking a break in between matches.

What to expect at the Cincy Open

Where to stay in Cincinnati for the Cincy Open​


Mason is 25 miles north of Cincinnati, so you’ll want to stay as close to possible as the grounds because that drive can feel like a haul at the end of a long, hot day. Even though we booked months out, the closest Airbnb we could find to Mason was in Madeira, which was still 15 miles from the tournament site. It was lovely and such a nice retreat after sweating all day long, but if we could stay closer next time, we definitely would. Driving the 25 minutes back each night was tiring, especially the evenings that went past midnight, and the traffic getting into Lindner Family Tennis Center every day was an absolute nightmare.

Where to stay in Mason, Ohio for the Cincy Open

Where to stay in Mason, Ohio for the Cincy Open

Where to stay in Mason, Ohio for the Cincy Open


Due to the tennis tournament and the fact that Kings Island amusement park is just across the street, there are plenty of hotels in Mason at the exit of the Cincy Open that I would consider booking instead:


The Mason area also has several larger homes and vacation rentals available, but many of them sell out pretty far ahead of the tournament dates, so again, get on it if you’re going this year.

Staying closer will also give you the ability to take an Uber or Lyft to the grounds each day and not have to deal with parking, which is free but a hassle. We did so much walking back and forth from the far lot, and on the first night, it took us over an hour just to get out of the parking lot, which was often extremely muddy.

Parking area at the Cincy Open

What to pack for the Cincy Open​


Wear a T-shirt, shorts or skirt and comfortable walking shoes, but take a long-sleeved shirt or sweatshirt, and keep a rain jacket or poncho and umbrella in the car. It rained a lot during the last Cincy Open and got pretty chilly at night.

What to pack for the Cincy Open tennis tournament

For that reason, I’d also throw a pair of back-up shoes (sneakers or wellies) that you don’t mind trashing for those days it does rain. The walkway to the Cincy Open is all gravel, and we completely wrecked our shoes on the walk back and forth every day, many of which were muddy.

There is a free shuttle from the parking lot to the main gate, but oftentimes the line was so long, we’d just walk the 15 minutes instead of wait.

You’ll need a hat. Most of the seats at Center Court are in direct sun all day; you will get sunburned, so slap on that SPF and your visor.

What to pack for the Cincy Open tennis tournament

Unlike concerts and other sporting events, you can bring a tote bag, cinch bag or purse that isn’t clear, so long as it fits under the seat in front of you (max size: 12″ x 18″ x 15″). My mom and I each brought one of these Lululemon shoulder bags that met the criteria and had plenty of space for us to throw in a long-sleeved T-shirt, this Supergoop sunscreen stick that won’t spill in your bag, water and our phones. Backpacks are technically prohibited, though I did see more than a few people get by with them.

If all you need is a fanny pack of belt bag, this one is my favorite for traveling and sports events. There’s also a clear version if you want one you can also use for concerts. You can bring in a clear water drinking container or an unopened bottle of water, which I recommend doing to avoid the price-gouging of water in the event center.

And, if you’re like me, and tend to sweat a lot when you’re sitting on those plastic stadium seats, I cannot recommend this Megababe anti-chafing stick more. I keep it with me in my toiletries bag no matter where I’m going!

I also highly recommend taking a back-up charger—I like the Clutch charger for its size and portability—because your phone will quickly drain with the lack of data and how slow the WiFi in the park is. I’d also turn it on Airplane Mode when you aren’t using it to further preserve batteries. One cool thing the Cincy Open has is charging lockers that are free, but you have to leave your phone there for hours to get the juice back, and they are often full of others doing the same thing so it’s sometimes a wait.

You can’t bring in professional cameras or selfie sticks, but you can take personal cameras smaller than 4″ x 14″ x 8.″ I didn’t even bother with my handheld, though; I just used my iPhone, so apologies for the quality of these images.

How to plan a trip to the Cincy Open tennis tournament

Other things to know as you plan your tennis trip​


Like most tournament, the merch starts to dwindle at the end of the week. So if you want your Cincy Open memorabilia, get it on the first day you’re there! The store is large and also sells a good variety of tennis outfits that the starts sport on court.

Cincy Open tennis tournament

As of last year, you couldn’t enter any of the courts except during a changeover, but given that they’re changing that policy at the Slams now, I’m not sure how that will affect the Cincy Open.

The volunteers who staff the tournament are so kind and helpful (hey, we’re in the Midwest after all!). Use them for anything you don’t know.

We truly loved this tournament and the grounds. Now if only they could clean up the parking lot and walkway situation as part of the multi-million-dollar renovation, they’d be in great shape!

Parking area at the Cincy Open

Extending your trip in Ohio and Northern Kentucky​


One of the greatest parts of traveling to Cincinnati is the central location, as well as the fact that it’s a metropolis that spans two states: Ohio and Kentucky. And while, yes, you should absolutely book a room at the 21c downtown and explore downtown Cincy, you’ll also want to plan some time on the other side of the river in Kentucky.


We stayed a full eight days in the Cincinnati area and between tennis and bourbon, did not run out of things to do. Prior to the tournament, my husband and I spent three days staying in Covington, which was a great base for exploring the B-Line, Northern Kentucky’s own bourbon trail. Then, my mom flew into Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), and I swapped him for her.

Where to sip bourbon on the Northern Kentucky bourbon trail in Covington and Newport
 
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