Graeter (Greater) Cincinnati, Ohio/Northern Kentucky on A President’s Day Weekend! by Saul Schwartz

With a population of about 300,000 in the city proper and about 2 million in the metropolitan area, Cincinnati is known as the Queen City. Generally a queen city has a larger population than the state capital.  During its 19th century population growth, Cincinnati became known as the Queen City of the West.  Fern and I enjoyed our President’s Weekend 2018 in the Greater Cincinnati area, which provides many activities and great food (including Graeter’s Ice Cream) without traveling far from the heart of the city.

Day One – Covington, Kentucky

While part of the metropolitan Cincinnati area, Covington has the charm of an independent neighborhood. Three bridges spanning the Ohio River connect Covington to Cincinnati.

Main – Strasse Village – The restored nineteenth century German village comprises a six block area, with a clock bell tower, cute shops and restaurants housed in renovated buildings. A unique sculpture, the Goose Girl fountain, is a life size bronze replica of a German maid carrying two geese to market.  We had an excellent lunch at the Cock and Bull Public House, a pub on Main Street directly across from the fountain and spent a cozy hour at the quaint Roebling Point Books and Coffee Shop.

St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption – The cathedral’s exterior façade was designed to look like Notre Dame in Paris. Modeled after the Abbey Church of St. Dennis in Paris, the building interior is simply spectacular.  We spent the majority of our time admiring the eighty two stained glass windows, the fourteen elegant mosaic stations reproducing the life and death of Christ in tiny porcelain ceramic tiles and mother of pearl, and two large murals by Frank Duveneck in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  By the entrance, one of the beautiful stained glass windows, measuring 67 by 24 feet, is among the largest in the world.  A friendly greeter answered our questions about the 1895 structure.

Day 2 – Downtown Cincinnati

National Underground Freedom Center – We spent most of one day within the Center. The galleries feature interactive videos, films and displays focusing on slavery in America, including the role of the Underground Railroad in leading to freedom of slaves.  Of particular interest, we were able to enter within an actual 1830 two – story slave pen which was moved from Kentucky.  The gallery featuring invisible slavery today was particularly eye opening.  The docents provided a wealth of specific information during tours and in spontaneous interactions throughout the Center.  The brief virtual reality Rosa Parks simulation puts you on the bus itself with Ms. Parks on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, as if you were being approached by the bus driver and police to give up your seat to a white passenger.  Outside the Center is a piece of the Berlin Wall.

Netherland Plaza and Carew Tower – Not only centrally located, the Netherland Plaza Hotel features an extensive fitness center with a pool, restaurants and over twenty adjoining shops. Built in 1930, the grandeur of the hotel features many ornate features inlcuding a beautiful French Art Deco palm court, with ceiling murals and a lovely fountain.   The Carew Tower is the highest elevated building in the city. After taking the elevator to the 49th floor of the Carew Tower, Fern and I were able to with 360 degree panoramic view of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky on the outdoor observation tower.

Day 3 – Greater Cincinnati

Cincinnati Art Museum – With no admission charge, we were particularly impressed with the diverse collection of art works. Fern and I particularly enjoyed the one hour tour with a very entertaining, energetic and knowledgeable docent.  Founded in 1881, the collection showcases sculpture, paintings, prints and photographs roughly in a chronological order.  We particularly enjoyed the impressionist masterpieces and works of art by and about Cincinnati.  We also had a delicious lunch of salads in the tranquil atmosphere of the Terrace Café, with art inspired decor.

Eden Park – Bordering the Cincinnati Art Museum, we explored parts of Eden Park, a lovely green space featuring paths with numerous overlooks with majestic views of the Ohio River and Northern Kentucky.

Skirball Museum – Located within the Hebrew Union College campus in the Clifton neighborhood, this small museum, founded in 1913, displays Jewish artifacts and art from around the world. The permanent collection focuses on the cultural, historical and religious heritage of the Jewish people and a Holocaust display with a remembrance wall.  In a neighboring campus building, we were able to view portraits of the various graduating classes of rabbis, including one from our congregation in Virginia.

Graeters Ice Cream – Founded in Cincinnati in 1870, now with eighteen locations, this family owned chain (now in its fourth generation) arguably sells the tastiest ice cream. Their very yummy ice cream is made using the French pot method, where flavors are added to an egg custard base combined with other ingredients into flavor vats.

Day 4 – Our Final Day in Cincinnati

Contemporary Arts Center – In the heart of downtown, housed in a large modern building, this free museum focuses on contemporary art. The visual and interactive arts, including paintings, sculpture, performance art and photography, explore the relationship between art and the environment.  Exhibits change frequently.  The impressive Swoon exhibit presented a site-specific installation re-staging a colorful archive of her landmark projects of socially driven work in numerous countries as well as with transitional communities in Braddock and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

We Olive and Wine Bar – In the business district, we enjoyed lunch with an olive oil experience. Along with healthy salads, we enjoyed tasting various olive oils with flat breads.

Holocaust and Humanity Center – Currently on the campus of Rockwern Academy, the small Holocaust and Humanity Center provides education about the Holocaust to remember its victims and act on its lessons. The permanent exhibit focuses on survivors, liberators and resistors with a connection to Cincinnati.  In addition to displays, the Center contains many videos with testimony from these individuals.  The Center also includes many Jewish objects obtained from synagogues, Jewish homes and institutions.

Even in the winter, we were never bored during our weekend in Greater Cincinnati. Had the weather been better, we most likely would have explored more outdoor activities, such as the Findlay Market.  Traveling around was stress free, with a good system of roads and much more enjoyable than many other metropolitan areas.