“Humidity notwithstanding, summer seems to bring out the best of Cincinnati.”–Bill Dedman
I love all three of the states that make up our Tri-state area: Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia. In fact, even though I was technically born and raised in Ohio, due to the fact that I live in its most southern section, I feel like a resident of all three states. I have family in all three states, I have worked as an educator in all three states, and my husband, John, and I absolutely love to travel, visit, and explore all three states.
Therefore, when the school for which John and I worked chose to resume the pre-pandemic tradition of the 8th grade trip–this year to Cincinnati–I was stoked. Ok, so maybe stoked isn’t the right word. After all, we would be two of the chaperones of 8th grade students, which meant little sleep and a steady stream of focused vigilance, but what a great place to take students! Professional demands notwithstanding, we would still get to see some sights and soak up the ambiance of this vibrant river city.
Ohio’s Queen City, Cincinnati, is known for many things, one of which is its professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, and this was our first stop on our grand, post-pandemic adventure. I would later learn that the Reds were the first professional baseball team to play under electric lights, with President Franklin Roosevelt flipping on the switch in 1935. However, no special lighting was needed for a mid-day 12:35 first pitch start against the Milwaukee Brewers that our group attended. Little did we know we would also be witness to a piece of baseball history in the making.
According to AP news, Brewer’s Chris Yelich tied the record for completing his 3rd cycle, all of which have occurred against the Reds. This means Yelich hit a single, double, triple, and homerun all in the same game. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for the Reds, his efforts were unable to help the Brewers as Cincinnati won 14-11. Nonetheless, it made for an exciting game for the students to attend.
Another stop in our three day, two night adventure, was Cincinnati Museum Center, once known as the train station icon, Union Terminal. It is considered one of the last great American train stations to be built, and it is known for its art deco style, including the largest half-dome in the western hemisphere. With its so-called magical whispering fountains and the Winold Reiss mosaics, this once former grand station of transportation (trains, buses, and taxis) now features three museums, an Omnimax theater, and the Cincinnati History Library and Archives. While there, our students were able to view the Cincinnati History Museum, with its contemporary addition of 15 hidden Marvel movie characters for visitors to spy, and the Museum of Natural History and Science, with its interactive physical science lab, Dinosaur hall, Neil Armstrong Space Exploration Gallery, and Ice Age Gallery.
BB Riverboats, at the Port of Cincinnati, was a first-time visit for not only the students, but also for John and I. However, it will not be our last! Our students enjoyed a delicious buffet of freshly prepared food, three decks of sight seeing featuring one of Mother Nature’s spectacular sunsets, along with a DJ and dancing on the top deck. Sipping on Shirley Temple’s, the students enjoyed a wonderful evening of cruising on the mighty Ohio River with scenic views of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Personally, I have to give a shout-out to the May 12 evening crew and kitchen, not only for the specially prepared, and oh-so-tasty gluten-free, plant based meal for me, but even more so, for the way in which they treated our students and staff. They were courteous, attentive, and very helpful–especially when we had one student become sick. Thank you, BB Riverboats! It was an evening our students will long remember.
Newport on the Levee and the Newport Aquarium were also fantastic stops on our whirlwind Cincinnati visit. The Levee offered plenty of dining options for the students to explore and savor. There were also options for retail and entertainment, but our focus, after eating, was the Aquarium. Students and chaperones were able to view all forms of aquatic creatures such as the dwarf seahorse, albino alligators, upside down jellyfish, stingrays, eels, cuttlefish, penguins, and so much more. Plus, we were able to test our bravery by crossing a rope bridge over shark infested waters! Well, maybe it wasn’t so much bravery that we tested as much balance. Regardless, the Newport Aquarium is always a great place to visit, especially on a hot day!
Our final Cincinnati highlight was the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. This expansive zoo is the second oldest zoo in the United States, opening in 1875. Currently, its Reptile House is now the oldest zoo building in the country, and it is one of three buildings on site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, none of these bits of trivia were why the students were there, they wanted to see the animals! Featuring 21 different animal habitats, there were plenty of creatures for all of the varied students’ interests. Our group spent five hours there, and even with that much time, there was no way to see all of the animals. However, it was time to head home as we were all worn out.
A great trip to Cincinnati must include a great place to stay, and our group certainly drew the lottery ticket for that. Embassy Suites Cincinnati Rivercenter, located in Covington, Kentucky, was the ideal location for a large group, but would also meet the needs of traveling families and individuals. It is located on the south bank of the Ohio River, and it offered our group spectacular views into Cincinnati proper, especially at night. The hotel served a daily breakfast buffet featuring made-to-order foods which was perfect for our group. Additionally, it offered a fitness center, pool–both of which our students loved– as well as pet-friendly rooms, on-site restaurant, business center, and so much more. The staff, featuring Danyelle Doherty, Sales Manager; Trish Buda, Reservation Coordinator; Kris Bridge, Front Desk; and the Food Beverage Crew for our stay–Ali, Tasha, and Al–offered outstanding, attentive service. In fact, having chaperoned several of these trips in previous years, they offered, by far, the most helpful, thoughtful, and courteous service I’ve experienced with a school group. If you’re in the area, we certainly recommend you consider staying with them.
On a final note, our trip would not have been possible without A Goff Limousine and Bus Company out of Charlottesville, NC. Driver, Jackie Young, was not only an excellent, safe driver–exactly what you would expect when traveling with a school group–but she was incredibly flexible when it came to our schedule. If something needed to be adjusted at the last minute, she was always amenable. A former school bus driver, Jackie was relaxed and comfortable with students while still remaining professional. Thank you, Jackie!
In the end, overnight school adventures, such as the one described here, are never easy and take teamwork to plan and execute. John and I were/are fortunate enough to be part of such a team effort. From those who went on the trip, to those who were part of the planning, it would not have been possible without their support and planning. Additionally, our students made us proud as they behaved well and even remembered to tip. I believe they returned home with many special memories for years to come.