Founded in 1788, Cincinnati, Ohio is considered by many historians to be the “first American City” as it was the first major city to develop after America secured its independence. Located on the Ohio River where Ohio meets Northern Kentucky, the city was dubbed “The Queen City” by proud citizens in 1820. The celebrated poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reinforced her royal moniker when he referred to the city as “Queen of the West” in his poem “Catawba Wine”.
Once a quiet conservative river town, Cincinnati has retained its classical roots. However, in the last decade, it has undergone a contemporary renaissance…it is now a classy city that sings and swings.
THE QUEEN CITY SINGS
As for singing, a treasure trove of music can be enjoyed year round at the Queen City’s majesticMusic Hall. Opened in 1878, this jewel in the Queen’s crown was the largest-and one of the grandest-music halls in the country. Enhanced by a $135 million renovation completed in 2017, this National Historic Landmark is the performance venue for Cincinnati’s Symphony Orchestra (the nation’s sixth-oldest symphony orchestra), the May Festival (the longest-running choral festival in the Western hemisphere), Opera (the nation’s second-oldest opera company) and Ballet. The young, and the young at heart, can play their own song on the giant foot piano at Smale Riverfront Park.
|GIANT FOOT PIANO AT SMALE PARK|
As for swinging, you can literally go full swing on the Great Lawn at the above-mentioned Smale Park, the park that has revitalized Cincinnati’s historic Riverfront. Facing the river, west of the Roebling Suspension Bridge, family-sized porch-like swings will glide you back and forth as you watch the boats sail by.
THE QUEEN CITY SWINGS
Swinging (a bat) continues along the Riverfront at the Great American Ballpark where Major League Baseball's Cincinnati Reds (known as the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869) are marking their 150th Anniversary in 2019. The renowned mascots of the nation’s first professional baseball team (the mustachioed Mr. Redlegs and Rosie Red) welcome baseball fans to season-long celebratory events planned at the stadium and throughout the region.
|MR. REDLEGS AND ROSIE RED|
When you’re tired of swinging, head for Carol Ann's Carousel, a not-to-be missed, Smale Park work of art. Take a ride on one of the 44 hand-carved, whimsical, Cincinnati-centric characters that make up the glass-enclosed carousel. Prance upon a Cincinnati Reds horse, ride atop a Bengal tiger or slip onto a flying pink pig, the symbol of the Queen’s other nickname of “Porkopolis”. As the carousel circles the riverfront, note that the paintings on the panels depict various historic and interesting places around Cincinnati.
CAROL ANN’S CAROUSEL IS HOME TO ONE OF PORKOPOLIS’S MANY FLYING PIGS.
You don’t have to be an architect to appreciate Cincinnati’s magnificent and distinctive architecture. It ranges from the largest collection (943 buildings) of Italianate architecture in America, located in Over-the-Rhine (OTR), Cincinnati’s oldest and most historic neighborhood...to the Art Deco Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel and the glass-walled Krohn Conservatory…to the 1867 John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge (the prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge) that spans the Ohio River adjacent to the Daniel Libeskind 21st century Ascent.
|ROEBLING SUSPENSION BRIDGE ADJACENT TO THE 21st CENTURY LIBESKIND ASCENT|
Cincinnati’s architectural diversity is also reflected in two of the city’s renowned hotels. In stark contrast to the elegant 1931 Art Deco Netherland Plaza is the 21c (21st century) Museum Hotel that rises next to the stark, free-standing Zaha Hadid Contemporary Arts Center.
CONTEMPORARY ARTS CENTER DESIGNED BY THE LATE ZAHA HADID
21c Museum Hotel was founded by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, contemporary art collectors and preservationists who are committed to expanding access to thought-provoking contemporary art. This multi-venue modern museum hotel, rebuilt within the walls of the former 107-year-old Metropole Hotel, pushes the boundaries of both the museum and hotel worlds to create a new kind of travel experience. A waddle of yellow penguins greets visitors throughout the hotel – in the lobby, elevators, restaurant, and guest rooms.
|PENGUINS MAKE STRANGE BEDFELLOWS|
A group of red penguins was originally purchased by Brown and Wilson at the 2005 Venice Biennale. Not knowing what to do with these flightless birds when they returned home, the art collectors scattered them throughout (and on the rooftop of) their first 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. Guests became so enamored with them that those iconic works of art are now the varied-color mascots of the rapidly expanding 21c hotel chain.
When the weather gets hot, cool off at the hotel’s rooftop Cocktail Terrace where even the drinks are whimsical. Pop-taiils are icy boozy drinks on a stick that are a throwback to the kid in all of us. They come in flavors like Strawberry Violet Pop (Vodka or Limoncello) and Peach Mango Pop (Los Monteros Cava).
|POP-TAILS WITH A VIEW AT 21c’s ROOFTOP COCKTAIL TERRACE|
Take time out for lunch at one of Cincinnati’s renowned Skyline Chile parlors. Mid-day, opt for a scoop of Graeter's renowned chunky chocolate chip ice cream. For an ethnic (Colombian) dinner treat, check out Mita’s,where award-winning chef Jose Salazar pays tribute to his mamita (the Spanish word for grandmother). In the tradition of Spanish-style dining, you will feast on “tapas” served in waves and meant for sharing. Be sure to include their signature Jicama and Green Mango salad, and a pitcher of red or white sangria, among your choices. Buen Provecho!
Not-to-be-missed stops should also be at Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest surviving municipal market and the 1933 Art Deco Union Terminal, one of the last great train stations built in the USA. Reborn as the Cincinnati Museum Center, it now is the home of four museums, an OMNIMAX Theater, and the Cincinnati HIstory Library and Archives. Its renowned mosaic murals depict the history of the United States from Native Americans to the modern citizen, and the history of the region from Fort Washington to the modern metropolis.
UNION TERMINAL: THE LARGEST HALF-DOME BUILDING IN WESTERN HEMISPHERE
Much of the city’s history can also be enjoyed from a self-guided street art tour of the murals on the facades of buildings in Downtown Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine (OTR). ArtWorks' youthful apprentices and artists have turned bare walls into public masterpieces. Singer and actress Rosemary Clooney, whose early career was jump-started on Cincinnati’s WLW Radio, was chosen from a field of five remarkable women with connections to Cincinnati for the honor of appearing as an ArtWorks mural. Although the original 'girl singer’ was born in neighboring Maysville, Kentucky, Rosie Clooney will always belong to Cincinnati.
|CINCINNATI, THE QUEEN CITY OF THE WEST, TRULY SINGS!|
Janet Steinberg, winner of 47-travel writing awards, resides in Cincinnati but calls the world her home.