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Cincinnati: Recreation


A tour of Cincinnati can begin downtown at Fountain Square, the site of the Tyler Davidson Fountain, one of the city's most revered landmarks, which was made in Munich, Germany, and erected in 1871. Several historic monuments, including statues in honor of three United States presidents—James A. Garfield, William Henry Harrison, and Abraham Lincoln—are also located in the downtown area.

Eden Park in Mt. Adams, one of Cincinnati's oldest hillside neighborhoods and named after President John Quincy Adams, provides a panoramic view of the city and of northern Kentucky across the Ohio River. In Eden Park the Irwin M. Krohn Conservatory maintains several large public greenhouses showcasing more than 3,500 plant species: the Palm House features palm, rubber, and banana trees in a rainforest setting with a 20-foot waterfall; the Tropical House has ferns, bromeliads, begonias, chocolate and papaya trees, and vanilla vine; the Floral House has seasonal floral displays among its permanent collection of orange, kumquat, lemon, and grapefruit trees; the Desert Garden is home to yuccas, agaves, cacti, and aloes; and the Orchid House displays 17 genera of orchids.

The Cincinnati Zoo, opened in 1872, is the second oldest zoo in the United States. Set on 75 acres, the zoo is home to 510 animal species as well as 3,000 plant varieties. The zoo is recognized worldwide for the breeding of animals in captivity; the zoo park introduced the nation's first insect world exhibit. The zoo features such rare animals as the white Bengal tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros, and lowland gorilla, as well as manatees, alligators and crocodiles, orangutans, elephants, giraffes, and polar bears. The zoo's newest permanent exhibit, Wolf Woods, opened in May 2005. Here, visitors can view the rare Mexican gray wolf and other North American animals, including river otters, gray fox, wild turkey, striped skunk, and thickbilled parrots.

Historic houses open for public viewing include the former homes of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin; and William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States. The Harriet Beecher Stowe House displays artifacts of African American history, featuring documents from the Beecher family. The William Howard Taft National Historic Site was Taft's birthplace and boyhood home; several rooms have been restored to reflect Taft's family life. Dayton Street on Cincinnati's West End features restored nineteenth-century architecture. The Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, a national historic landmark, contains 1,000 labeled trees on 733 landscaped acres lined with statuary and sculpture.

Paramount's Kings Island Theme Park, 20 minutes north of Cincinnati, features more than 80 amusement attractions and is known nationally for its daring rollercoasters and water rides, among them The Beast, the world's longest wooden rollercoaster. The nearby Beach Waterpark has nearly 50 waterslides and rides. Sharon Woods Village, in nearby Sharonville, is an outdoor museum of restored nineteenth-century

The home of former president William Howard Taft is open to the public.
The home of former president William Howard Taft is open to the public.
southwestern Ohio buildings. Meier's Wine Cellar, Ohio's oldest and largest winery, offers tours.

Arts and Culture

Many of Cincinnati's cultural institutions date from the mid-nineteenth century, and the city takes particular pride in their longevity and quality. The primary venues for the performing arts are Music Hall which, built in 1878, retains its nineteenth-century elegance and is affectionately known as the city's Grand Dame; and the Aronoff Center for the Arts, opened in 1995, which features three performance spaces as well as the Weston Art Gallery, and presents thousands of exhibits and performances each year. Cincinnati is home to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Ballet, and Cincinnati Opera. The symphony, established in 1895, performs classical and pops concert series. The ballet company, based at the Aronoff Center, offers more than 30 performances annually, presenting both classical and contemporary dance. The opera company, the second oldest in the United States, presents four productions during a summer season. Based at Music Hall, a new four-story opera headquarters is being built in the hall's underutilized north wing, scheduled for completion in October 2005.

Riverbend Music Center, an open-air amphitheater designed by noted architect Michael Graves, is the summer performance quarters for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra, as well as the site for concerts by visiting artists. Popular music traditions in Cincinnati include the Matinee Musicale, founded in 1911, the Cincinnati Chamber Music Series, and the Taft Chamber Concerts.

Music in Cincinnati is not limited to the classical tradition. Cincinnati and nearby Covington, Kentucky, support an active jazz club scene. The Blue Wisp Jazz Club features local and national talent.

Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, a professional regional theater, is housed in a modern facility in Eden Park. Recipient of the 2004 Regional Theatre Tony Award, the Playhouse presents a September-June season of comedies, dramas, classics, and musicals on a main stage and in a smaller theater. The University of Cincinnati's College—Conservatory of Music presents nearly 1,000 events per year and is most noted for its philharmonic orchestra concerts, operas, and musical theater productions; many performances are free. The Showboat Majestic, a restored nineteenth-century showboat on the Ohio River Public Landing, is one of the last original floating theaters still in operation. Performances on the showboat include dramas, comedies, old-fashioned melodramas, and musicals. The Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati presents regional, world, and off-Broadway premiere productions at its theater downtown.

In addition to music and performing arts, the visual arts are an integral part of the city's cultural heritage. The Woman's Art Museum Association was responsible for the construction of the Cincinnati Art Museum in 1871; the museum, which has undergone an extensive renovation, houses nearly 100 galleries. Its permanent collection features an outstanding collection of Asian art and musical instruments, and a Cincinnati Wing with local artworks dating from 1788 through the present. Downtown's Taft Museum, housed in an 1820 mansion and formerly the home of art patrons Charles and Anna Taft, was presented as a gift to the city in 1932. The museum holds paintings, decorative arts, sculpture, furniture, and more. The Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, also located downtown, opened in 2003 and presents changing exhibitions of modernist art in a variety of forms; its "UnMuseum" is designed for children. A number of art galleries occupy converted warehouses near the shopping district.

Union Terminal, a former train station declared a masterpiece of Art Deco construction when it opened in 1933, has been restored and is home to the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. The center includes the Cincinnati History Museum, featuring recreations of historical settings showcasing the city's past; the Museum of Natural History and Science, where visitors can walk through glaciers, explore caves, and learn about the human body; the Cinergy Children's Museum, where kids can climb, crawl, explore, and learn about the world in educational exhibits; and an Omnimax theater. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, opened in 2004, is a 158,000 square-foot facility tracing the 300-year history of slavery in America and highlighting the role of the Underground Railroad. The Cincinnati Fire Museum, located in a 1907 firehouse, exhibits the history of fire fighting in Cincinnati.

Festivals and Holidays

Each year Cincinnati presents a number of festivals that celebrate the city's heritage and institutions. The Celtic Lands Culture Fest in March includes storytelling, dancing, food, music and crafts. The nation's professional baseball season opens in April with the Cincinnati Reds game at Riverfront Stadium. Preceding the game is an Opening Day Parade originating at historic Findlay Market. The Appalachian Festival, held in May, has mountain crafts, live music, dancing, and storytellers; it is said to be the largest craft show in the country. May Festival, a tradition begun in 1873, is the oldest continuing festival of choral and orchestral music in the country. The Taste of Cincinnati celebration held over Memorial Day weekend downtown affords the city's best restaurants an opportunity to feature some of their favorite menu items. Summerfair brings an arts and crafts show to the city's riverfront the second weekend in June. Juneteenth Festival is a celebration of African-American freedom, featuring diverse music and food. The day-long Riverfest celebration on Labor Day honors the area's river heritage and is the city's largest celebration. The festival features water skiing, sky diving and air shows, and riverboat cruises, and is capped by a spectacular fireworks display. The Harvest Home Fair, held the following weekend in nearby Cheviot, features horse, art, and flower shows, a parade, 4-H auction, petting zoo, and more. The Valley Vineyards Wine Festival, also in September, features wine, tours, food, music, camping, arts, crafts and activities. Oktoberfest Zinzinnati features German food, customs, dancing, and beer; downtown streets are blocked off for the festivities. Early December brings Balluminaria at Eden Park, where hot air balloons are lit up at dusk near Mirror Lake.

Popular Christmas-holiday events in Cincinnati include the annual tree-lighting on Fountain Square, the Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo, and the Boar's Head and Yule Log Festival at Christ Church Cathedral downtown, a Cincinnati tradition since 1940.

Events are held throughout the year in nearby Sharon Woods Village and in the MainStrasse Village in Covington, Kentucky, across the Ohio River.

Sports for the Spectator

The Cincinnati Reds, World Series winners in 1975, 1976, and 1990, is America's oldest professional baseball team; they play their home games at the new Great American Ball Park. Opened in 2003, the park has a seating capacity of 42,059 and is praised for its innovative features, breathtaking views, and tributes to the Reds' rich history. The Cincinnati Bengals, who captured the American Football Championship in 1981 and 1988, play home games at Paul Brown Stadium, opened in 2000. The stadium has a seating capacity of 65,535, on three levels; its open-ended design allows for stunning views of the downtown skyline and the riverfront.

The Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the American Hockey League play at the Cincinnati Gardens. The Cincinnati Cyclones are in the International Hockey League and play at the Crown. The University of Cincinnati and Xavier University provide a schedule of college sports teams and cross-town rivalry in basketball, in which both schools enjoy strong traditions and some national prominence.

Thoroughbred racing takes place at River Downs Racetrack in late April through Labor Day, and at Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky, from September through mid-October, and Thanksgiving through mid-April. The Association of Tennis Professionals compete in tournament play each August in nearby Mason.

Sports for the Participant

Cincinnati maintains more than 5,000 acres of park land in attractive urban settings. Alms Park and Eden Park offer dramatic views of the Ohio River and northern Kentucky, and these parks, as well as others, attract joggers because of their natural beauty and challenge for runners. The Cincinnati Nature Center—Rowe Woods is comprised of 1,025 acres with nature trails covering more than 17 miles, and a nature center featuring a bird-viewing area, library, and displays. The 1,466 acres of Mount Airy Forest feature hiking and picnic areas. The city's recreation department sponsors an array of sports from softball to soccer for all age groups and manages neighborhood swimming pools and tennis courts throughout the summer. Sawyer Point on the Ohio River provides facilities for pier fishing, rowboating, skating, tennis, and volleyball.

Shopping and Dining

Cincinnati consists of distinct neighborhoods where shopping districts provide an atmosphere not found in many cities today. The city's revitalization is most evident downtown in the area known as Over-the-Rhine, the old German neighborhood around Vine and Main Streets. There, art galleries, restaurants, and breweries flourish in restored nineteenth-century buildings. Cincinnati's skywalk system connects downtown stores, hotels, and restaurants, allowing visitors to explore the shopping district free of traffic and weather concerns. The downtown Tower Place mixes local and nationally known stores with specialty shops in a compact area. Other downtown Cincinnati shopping highlights include a Lazarus-Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue department stores. Neighborhood and suburban shopping districts and malls abound on both sides of the river, and the region offers endless antique shops, boutiques, arts and crafts shops, and ethnic and fashion collections. Other shopping opportunities include large regional malls, factory outlets, discount houses, and museum stores. The Findlay Market, an open-air marketplace that has been in operation since 1852, offers ethnic foods in an old-world atmosphere.

Cincinnati restaurants have been rated highly by critics and travel guides. The city is home to several restaurants that have received critical acclaim nationally, including Maisonette, a French restaurant that has received Five Stars from Mobil for 40 consecutive years. Both the number and variety of first-rate restaurants are impressive. One of Cincinnati's specialties is moderately priced German cuisine. Cincinnati restaurateurs have been successful in opening establishments in architecturally interesting buildings, such as firehouses, police precincts, or riverboat paddle-wheelers. A locally made ice cream, Graeter's, is widely popular, as is a downtown New York-style deli, Izzy's, known for its corned beef. The city's oldest tavern, opened in 1861, is still in business as a bar and grill. Cincinnati chili, Greek in origin, is flavored with cinnamon and chocolate as the "secret" ingredients and served over spaghetti; 3-way, 4-way, or 5-way chili choices consist of various combinations of grated cheese, onions, beans, and oyster crackers.

Visitor Information: Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, 300 West Sixth Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202; telephone (513)621-2142