Steve Stevens knows well the types of people who identify themselves as Northern Kentuckians.

After all, Stevens is one himself. The president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce was born in Cold Spring, moved to Lakeside Park after college, bought a home in Florence and now lives in Taylor Mill

“People will say, ‘I’m a Northern Kentuckian,’ in a way you don’t find on the Cincinnati side,” Stevens says. “You really don’t hear anybody say, ‘I’m a Hamilton Countian’ or ‘I’m a Clermont Countian.’ I think that’s really unique to our area.”

But really, what it comes down to is the people who call Northern Kentucky home are interested in the same things that many folks are:

• Safe, attractive communities with abundant housing options

• Strong schools and respected higher education

• A vibrant, successful business community

• Plentiful options for dining and entertainment, shopping and recreation.

What Northern Kentuckians have found is that all of the above can be readily found right in the region.

Communities and Housing

Whether your idea of home is an urban condo with river and city views, an old colonial in the heart of a walkable, vibrant village or a generous floor plan with all of today’s amenities, you can find it in Northern Kentucky.

Waterfront communities like Covington, Newport and Bellevue provide south-side sightlines to downtown Cincinnati’s splendor. Iconic suburbs like Fort Mitchell and Fort Thomas offer good schools and local merchants and eateries within walking distance of traditional colonial and Cape Cod homes, with some newer housing stock mixed in. Edgewood is valued for upscale neighborhoods and proximity to St. Elizabeth, the regional healthcare giant.

Newer neighborhoods have sprouted throughout the region. In areas like Independence, Union, Hebron and Wilder – all of which are featured in the Home Builders Association of Northern Kentucky’s 2013 Cavalcade of Homes – developers offer modern, expansive floor plans.

“One great thing is the tremendous variety available,” Stevens says. “In an urban setting, you can find first-class places to live, and if you prefer the suburbs, there are tremendous communities all around the primary urban core, with homes available at all different price ranges. And you’re not that far from the country, too. There’s still land available. If you wanted a farm, or a house on a couple acres, you can still find that as well.”

Schools

Families consider strong schools to be a vital component of strong communities, which is a major reason Fort Thomas in Campbell County and Fort Mitchell in Kenton County have been coveted through the years, and why Walton-Verona in Boone County continues to grow in size and prestige.

All three boast independent public school districts that placed among the top six in the new, more stringent Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) testing.

Growth in size and prestige also describes Northern Kentucky University, the largest institution of higher learning on this side of the river. NKU has swelled to an enrollment of nearly 16,000, instructed by some 550 full-time faculty, and this school year began competing in NCAA Division I athletics, the highest level.

Business

Northern Kentucky helps spur more than its share of job creation to bolster the region’s economy

According to the Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corporation (Tri-Ed), Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties comprise about 17 percent of the region’s population but account for 22 percent of job growth. Last year, more than 3,700 jobs were created in Northern Kentucky, nearly three times 2011’s job growth, by some two dozen companies.

Shopping

If you’re after that perfect gift, you can start with Florence Mall, anchor of the busy Mall Road retail district, and find most other big-box stores nearby. The Crestview Hills Town Center is an outdoor “lifestyle” shopping center anchored by Dillard’s and Bed Bath & Beyond. The riverfront entertainment complex Newport on the Levee also features shopping, anchored by Barnes & Noble Booksellers. You’ll also find smaller shopping districts throughout the region.

Dining

From pizza to pub fare, steaks to sushi, the reliability of your favorite chains to the charm of your new favorite local joints, Northern Kentucky has a lot to offer every palate.

Florence features just about every major chain you know and some others you’ll be pleased to get to know, like Chuy’s, the Austin-based Tex-Mex restaurant whose only area location is on Houston Road.

You won’t find as many eateries in Fort Thomas, but two (Cobblestone Café and Vito’s Cafe) just made NKY’s Best Restaurants list. Ditto Fort Mitchell, with the iconic Greyhound Tavern and popular Grandview Tavern.  Newport on the Levee has more than a dozen dining options, and if you venture a bit further, you’ll find the original Pompilios, the Italian eatery cast as a breakfast joint in the movie “Rain Man.”

Two venerable favorites are making a comeback. Walt’s Hitching Post, revered for ribs for more than 50 years, has reopened in Fort Wright. And Jeff Ruby recently signed a lease to reopen The Waterfront, the floating steakhouse empire, at Covington Landing.

Entertainment and Recreation

As dinner gives way to a nightcap, there’s another NKY “Best of” in the rooftop bar at Chez Nora, the jazz-infused mainstay of Covington’s MainStrasse neighborhood, with its dozen pubs and clubs. Another nod to the region’s German roots, Hofbrauhaus in Newport is the first of its kind in America and modeled after the fabled Hofbrauhaus in Munich

On-the-waterfront options include the Ludlow Bromley Yacht Club in Ludlow – you can dock there, but you can drive as well – and Newport’s Hooters and Beer Sellar, where you can catch a water taxi to a Reds game for $5.

There’s comedy, movies, video games, bowling, music and more under one roof at Newport on the Levee, next door to thousands of gallons of fish and fun at Newport Aquarium.

If spectator sports are your thing, you’ll find professional baseball with the Florence Freedom of the independent Frontier League, and live thoroughbred racing at Turfway Park. Down the road in Gallatin County, NASCAR’s top-tier Sprint Cup Series (and its offshoots) race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.

If you prefer to participate, there’s top-flight golf across the region, including Lassing Pointe in Union, Fox Run (one of three Kenton County courses) in Independence, Hickory Sticks in California and A.J. Jolly in Alexandria.

There’s golf as well at Covington’s Devou Park, where you can also bone up on area history at the Behringer-Crawford Museum, book a reunion or reception at Drees Pavilion or catch the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Series at the amphitheater.

And the three primary counties of Northern Kentucky put residents in easy reach of downtown Cincinnati’s considerable dining, sports and entertainment options as well.

“What I’ve always loved about living here is across the three counties, you’re no further than 20 minutes from a core of lots and lots of great entertainment options,” Stevens says. “There’s such a tremendous variety and a lot of unique things to see and do.”