January is a time to take stock of the past and look to the future, which I did recently during my visit to Cincinnati, Ohio,( http://www.CincinnatiUSA.com ). I attended the University of Cincinnati some decades ago while attaining my Masters Degree in Theatre. Recently the University had a gala event honoring Jack Rouse the founder of the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) (www.uc.edu ). It made an enjoyable excuse to return to a city of my youth. Of course, the University has grown not only in buildings and reputation but also in the success of their Bearcats football team and their performing arts students. I took in an extraordinary showing of the classical musical “Hair” by CCM which was the highlight of this trip’s theatrical experiences.
Other theater offerings of top quality were the traveling show, “White Christmas” at the Aronoff Center for the Performing Arts – Procter & Gamble Hall (www.cincinnatiarts.org), along with Cincinnati’s community theatre production of “Guys and Dolls.” I was pleased to be able to arrange a ticket to the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra concert (www.cincinnatipops.org) and hear the orchestra accompany two Broadway stars. This was also a chance to return to the impressive Music Hall, where as a university student I heard the symphony’s performance Tchaikovsky’s IV, with great satisfaction. I had a few classes back then in the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (www.cincyplay.com) where this time I took in “The Three Sisters” in a most memorable afternoon performance.
Without the time constraints of a student, there was time to take in the extensive (and free except for parking) Cincinnati Art Museum (www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org) with its world-class masters along with a gallery dedicated to Cincinnati artists and the Rookwood Pottery collection (www.rookwood.com) called the Cincinnati Wing.
The Cincinnati Museum Center, (www.cincymuseum.org) is a must with its museum complex, including an extensive visual history of Cincinnati in dioramas and models. The concrete domed converted train station is a marvel in itself, and the second largest structure of its kind in the world. It is life-affirming to see such an historic structure of its time, being used and preserved through its new use as a venue for museums and an IMAX theatre.
A pleasant surprise was a visit to the Taft Museum (www.taftmuseum.org) with its collection of enamels and well-known classical paintings collected by Anna Sinton Taft. And yes, she married the half brother of President Taft. Taft accepted his presidential nomination from the front steps of the house. Walking through the restored 1820 house, one can’t help but pick up the echoes of times from a grand era of Cincinnati life.
On a more humble note, I revisited the apartment house and my basement apartment where I eked out my existence while in school. It was a far cry from the grandeur I lived this time at the downtown Hilton Netherland Plaza hotel (www.cincinnatihilton.com). The hotel recently renovated has surpassed in beauty the 1931 opening, when the world gasped at its art deco opulence. Always the flagship hotel of Cincinnati, it boasts a prime spot on the cities skyline, right downtown, with the connection of the Carew Tower. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carew_Tower) Even before New York’s Rockefeller Plaza was completed to be a city with in a city, offering shops, dining and accommodations, the 49 story Carew Tower was up and running.
The art décor authenticity of the hotel’s interior is overwhelming and drives Art Deco aficionados wild, especially in the public spaces, ball rooms and the opulent Orchids Restaurant with adjoining bar (www.orchidsatpalmcourt.com). Cocktails and an upscale dinner at Orchids with their impeccable service and gourmet creations by Executive Chef Todd Kelly is a must. You can check out their current menu from the online link above. Make time to take a self-guided tour of the hotel with a handy travel guide, provide to all who enter the hotel. Travel is about absorbing unique time and space locales. Orchids and the Hilton Netherland Plaza is just such a suspension of an era and lifestyle.
A surprisingly delicious noon-time dining experience is Palomino adjoining Macy’s on the second floor and overlooking iconic Cincinnati’s Fountain Square. Also a Sunday brunch or other meals should be devoured at the Rookwood Restaurant on Mount Adams near the Art Museum and Playhouse (www.therookwood.com). In this building most of the classic Rookwood Pottery was created, and today satisfaction is produced though inventive cocktails and menu selections. (www.mtadamstoday.com/restaurants/rookwood.php)