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Amtrak Adventure 🚂: W.hat the K.R.P. Is going on in Cincinnati?

Amtrak Adventure 🚂: W.hat the K.R.P. Is going on in Cincinnati?

Old Jun 16th, 2023, 05:35 AM
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Amtrak Adventure 🚂: W.hat the K.R.P. Is going on in Cincinnati?

Hi Fodors!

I hope the moderators will allow this little play on words on a popular 1970s TV show memorably starring Loni Anderson.

So, although my home is in Canada, I have a teaching job that allows the flexibility to spend the summer aiding in caring for elderly parents in Northern Virginia. I have a friend who lives in Columbus Ohio and this year the idea was to meet up in Cincinnati, the last remaining of the big 3 Ohio cities beginning with the letter C that I had never been to. Combined with a love of long-distance train travel that not everyone relates to , the plan was hatched.

June 14 Amtrak’s the Cardinal: Washington DC- Cincinnati
June 18 Leave Cincinnati for Washington DC

*Amtrak Ride*

I reported on the Cardinal train last year when I took it to Indianapolis. The Appalachian mountains of Virginia and the New River Gorge of West Virginia the Cardinal passes through are indeed gorgeous. Despite this beauty, even a diehard train lover like myself was a bit put off taking the train to Cincinnati from the northeast given the 1:30am arrival time after a 14.5 hour journey. Taking a roomette, I must say, it went much better than I thought. I took naps on the horizontal bed and while I had my doubts, I konked out, with my eyes closing around 9:30 pm and I slept for a few hours until a bit before 1am, admiring the twinkling lights along the Ohio River that the train straddles on the Kentucky side before seeing the handsome skyline of Cincy. The sleeping car attendant and conductor both checked in on me to see I was up around 20 minutes before arrival. Arriving at the gorgeous Union Terminal in Cincinnati, an Uber had me checking in to my hotel before 2am, where I went right back to sleep promptly. The late arrival that I worried would muck up my sleep cycle ended up being not much different than waking up in the middle of the night to do some work that had been nagging your conscience for an hour and then going back to sleep.

However, for those for whom the late arrival is a deterrent but wish to see the gorgeous scenery of this train, the Cardinal gets from the northeast US into Charleston WV around 8pm and for those who like roomettes, Indianapolis and Chicago during daylight the next day.

After this trip, I now will have spent several days each in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. People sometimes ask if they should visit these Ohio cities. If they visit one, which should they prioritize? In addition to a trip report on the city of Cincinnati, I will aim to offer my opinion on these questions from my admittedly limited experience.

Daniel

*Coming up: my first ever visit to Cincinnati*



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Old Jun 16th, 2023, 01:20 PM
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Count me in, Daniel.
"As g is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly." 😁
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Old Jun 17th, 2023, 04:46 AM
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*Cincinnati: Initial Impressions*

One of the reasons I did this trip is I find there is almost a magic of arriving in a new city by train. And Cincinnati was no exception. Curving in along the last stretch of rail before the station, the lit-up twin clock-adorned spires of the Mutter Gottes Kirche (Mother of God church) in Covington KY and the arched wiry appearance of the Great American Insurance building which seemed almost gauze-like with the colourful night lights gave the Cincinnati skyline at 1:10am a unique and beautiful look. The train station, unlike many less-used Amtrak stations in the USA, is a stunning one, that people told me inspired the building of Justice League of America. My Uber driver, an Ethiopian immigrant who had lived in Cincinnati for many years, told me he thought I would have a good time, that he liked the city for its civic pride and unique feel. It was a promising beginning!

My first morning I walked down from the Hampton Inn & Suites for several minutes to Smales Park along the Ohio River. In addition to great river views that take in the stately and handsome Roebling Suspension Bridge (dating from the mid 1800s, which was said to have inspired the Brooklyn Bridge (need to fact-check that)), this park has some lovely gardens, bench swings, a flying pig made of metal with ropes for kids to climb on, as well as a chime piano that you step on to play. A great place for the whole family in my opinion.

As lunchtime was looming, I decided to grab the free streetcar called the Connector to head away from the tall downtown buildings to the historic Over the Rhine (OTR) neighbourhood just to the north. The streetcar runs every 12-15 minutes and seemed pretty reliable. Getting off at the Findlay Market, I enjoyed seeing the murals, periodic 19th century architectural style and Washington Park along the way. Findlay Market has character, with a row of options ranging from pastries to pierogis to Mexican cuisine, offering both indoor and outdoor seating. I also enjoyed Washington Park, with a splash pad, waterfalls and lovingly-tended gardens. I was fascinated to see that the German history of the neighbourhood can still be seen today with German-language inscriptions visible on churches and statues.

*Coming Up: Riverboat ride on the Belle of Cincinnati, Mt Adams, Museums, Chili and more…*

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Old Jun 17th, 2023, 05:54 AM
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Great start Daniel, I always enjoy your reports.
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Old Jun 17th, 2023, 12:27 PM
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Good luck getting on the train at 3:37AM tomorrow morning. Enjoy your trip through the New River Gorge. You should be in White Sulphur Springs WV about noon. WSS is the home of the Greenbrier Hotel if you ever wanted to stay there.
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Old Jun 18th, 2023, 07:14 AM
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Another train fan signing on. Not sure I'm up for that late arrival these days, though.
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Old Jun 18th, 2023, 10:41 AM
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Tdudette,Melnq8, Thursdaysd—Thanks for checking in!

tomfuller—Yes, I had a 3:37am departure this morning fun fun. So what did I do? At my hotel, I konked out early around 8:30pm, slept more or less until 2am. Got an Uber around 2:30am to the train station; my experience is that Ubers are very prompt in downtown Cincinnati, even at late hours. As it turns out, when I booked this trip, all sleepers were sold out for the return. Which brings me to a new Amtrak travel tip. I really only sleep well when horizontal so the thought of doing the whole trip in coach was unappealing—what I ended up doing for the return was this. An Amtrak agent suggested checking regularly on the Amtrak website to see if a roomette would open up for CIN-WAS due to cancellation. One never did. What *did* work out though was going coach from Cincinnati for 3.5 hrs to Huntington WV, then a sleeper to DC, where I had the complimentary breakfast and managed to catch up on my sleep. Just an idea for those who like sleepers and find they’re sold out, that one can switch to a sleeper mid-journey sometimes when it’s not available for the whole trip.
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Old Jun 18th, 2023, 10:50 AM
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Good idea. I, too, need to be horizontal to sleep. Also need dark and quiet.
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Old Jun 18th, 2023, 11:37 AM
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Thursdaysd—Agreed. Amtrak does turn off the lights in coach on overnight trains between 10pm and 6am and advises passengers to keep quiet during these hours. However, a family who boarded at Cincinnati didn’t get the memo and was having a regular conversation as if they were alone in a car together going on a road trip; the lack of consideration for or awareness of people who might have gotten on in Chicago or Indiana who were trying to sleep was incomprehensible to me. I did manage to doze off for an hour max in coach once they quieted down but that’s about as much as I can do in a reclined seat.
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Old Jun 18th, 2023, 12:36 PM
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Some people seem to be constitutionally unable to just SHUT UP! I was talking to a friend about this only yesterday - she's going on a cruise with a woman who can't stop talking and has chosen not to share a room with her. It reminded me of a flight from Riga to Belgrade. The woman behind me, never, not once, stopped talking for the entire flight.

On the other hand, I've done a lot of night trains in Europe and Asia and don't remember having a problem, even though I was mostly in couchettes. (So annoying that Amtrak doesn't cater for singles. Unlike Via Rail.)
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Old Jun 18th, 2023, 12:46 PM
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*BB Riverboats Historic Cincinnati Sightseeing Cruise*

While doing a riverboat ride on the Ohio River had never entered my mind prior to planning this trip, this was a definite highlight of the visit. Inviting some friends who live in the area who were game, we met in Newport, right across the bridge from Cincy, which happened to be the first time I had ever walked on soil in the state of Kentucky.

The commentary was excellent and educational. In addition to the great views of the city skyline with words on the buildings and stadiums we observed, admiring the barges passing by and seeing the views of the 19th century Mt Adams homes and churches up high on a hill created an unforgettable experience. The economic logic of the barges was apparent as the commentator remarked that the barge we saw held the same as 30 railroad cars and 190 tractor trailers worth of oil. One cannot help but realize the importance of the Ohio River economically and in the history of the United States as one moves through its waters and hears its stories. Spanning 985 miles from Pittsburgh and meeting the Mississippi in Cairo (sounded like Kay Roe) Illinois, the value of this waterway for bringing goods from New Orleans as an entry point into the USA to a location as close to the east coast as western Pennsylvania was evident. The river also served as a dividing line between a free state and slave state; one quote was very powerful to me at the excellent nearby Underground Railroad Museum that I visited my last day. Some slaves would be on board boats that would have to pick up supplies in Cincinnati—I don’t remember the exact quote but it was something like “imagine knowing that you are only a gangway plank away from freedom”. Life was treacherous though even if one made it into Ohio in the 19th century with the Fugitive Slave Act set in place. All in all, I would highly recommend a riverboat cruise if life ever brings you to Cincinnati. Unfortunately, the paddle wheel was not operating for the ride but is fun to see.

The Cincinnati History Museum was a definite highlight too at the Union Terminal and I would fully recommend for both adults and a family with young children. The miniature replica of mid 20th century Cincinnati housed there had miniature running trains, streetcars, inclines and cranes operational and the attention to detail on buildings, vehicles and the stadium was phenomenal. Entry to the science & natural history part is included and with the number of interactive exhibits that involve smells, sounds and manual activity, I think children especially will enjoy.

The Taft Museum lodged in the former home of President William Howard Taft’s half-brother Charles is well worth visiting, not only for the exceptional paintings by Dutch and French artists and Chinese vases, to name a few options on display but also for the beauty of the home itself and the insight into the lives of this wealthy family and other families who lived at that address.

*Food, outdoor activities and thoughts on the 3 big Ohio cities coming up*


Last edited by Daniel_Williams; Jun 18th, 2023 at 12:50 PM.
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Old Jun 19th, 2023, 02:33 AM
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Cincinnati skyline with Ohio River and a part of the gorgeous Roebling Bridge

Union Terminal. Site of Amtrak station and also history, science & natural history museums.

Mutter Gottes Kirche Covington, Kentucky

A riverboat seen from Belle of Cincinnati riverboat tour

Mt Adams neighbourhood seen from riverboat.
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Old Jun 19th, 2023, 04:29 AM
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Very cool station!
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Old Jun 19th, 2023, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd
Very cool station!
Looks a lot nicer than the Cleveland station where I slept leaning over my luggage waiting for a train that came at dawn. Good tip on getting a sleeper farther down the line. My wife and I took coach out of Chicago on the Zephyr and moved to a roomette at 11 PM in Omaha. The coach trip was on Amtrak Guest Rewards points.
Where to next Daniel?
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Old Jun 19th, 2023, 11:29 AM
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Great photos and details as usual Daniel -- thanks. I was in Cincinnati on a business trip, must be over forty years ago. I remember having dinner in a German restaurant -- my only taste of sauerbraten so far. We rented a car and drove over to a racetrack ion Kentucky one night. I think I lost money.
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Old Jun 19th, 2023, 12:35 PM
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I am enjoying your TR and love the pictures. Waiting to hear about your comments on the 3 C’s of Oho. Columbus is the only one I have been to yet.

Thanks and keep it up!
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Old Jun 19th, 2023, 03:28 PM
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The one moment I did think “What the KRP, Cincinnati?” was when I went to rent a Red Bike, Cincinnati’s bike share. A few stations weren’t working but I finally found one that was. I had picked my bike, swiped my credit card to pay, agreed to terms and conditions, only to discover that it asked me for my zip code. As a Canadian, I don’t have a zip code and the punch display only allows one to input numbers, with postal codes having letters as well. I so much wanted to bike along the Ohio River that I even called the customer support to see if they had a solution. Alas, they had none and there were no bike rental places downtown, so riverside cycling was not happening. 😞 Come on, Red Bike, don’t you want international customers?

*Dining*

Probably my favourite meal while in Cincinnati was at Nada, a Mexican restaurant downtown where their Baja fish tacos were truly very good.

I did go to Gold Star, which my Ohioan friends had told me was their preference for Cincinnati-style chili over the more omnipresent Skyline chain. The closest Gold Star to downtown was in Covington, Kentucky, which I decided to walk to from my hotel. Crossing the Roebling bridge by foot was an atmospheric way to get there—the first time I think I have ever crossed by foot from one US state to another, although I have bizarrely enough crossed by foot a few international borders (US to Canada at Niagara Falls, Mexico to US at the dos Laredos, to name two). I would recommend walking along W 5th Street rather than 4th Street to do this, for a less industrial, more charming residential ambience. There are some lovely murals depicting historic scenes on the Covington side of the Ohio River by the Roebling bridge that I would recommend taking a few minutes to admire the artistic detail.

So, I learned the lingo associated with Cincinnati chili, getting the 4-way chili with onion, which was my Gold Star waitress’s preference. 3-way is with spaghetti, the chili sauce (I got the original, not the vegetarian) and cheese. 4-way you add either onion or beans and 5-way chili, you add both onion and beans. I thought it was ok rather than amazing but was glad to say that I tried it; be aware that Cincinnati chili is nothing like Texas-style chili.

I did go as well to Mt Adams Bar and Grill for a perfectly fine southwest chicken sandwich. This spot was a former speakeasy, with a charming layout and pictures of many celebrities who had visited. Next door was the Blind Lemon (drinking establishment) which had a lovely outdoor courtyard and an endearing interior that my friend described as being sort of Harry Potter-like. I would definitely recommend dining in Mt Adams somewhere though as this neighbourhood makes you want to linger, with 19th century architecture to appreciate, as well as great views of the city skyline and river from a high point. Alas, the neighbourhood might be tricky by public transit…if without a car, I would recommend catching an Uber to check out this area.

*Final thoughts, including my take on the three big Ohio cities*





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Old Jun 20th, 2023, 01:19 PM
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*Cincinnati, Columbus or Cleveland: Which to Pick?*

If someone said, you have no choice, you must pick one to visit, I think for me the nod would go to Cincinnati. With the charm of some of the neighbourhoods, an especially interesting historic element and what seemed to me to be a more lively central core, I felt the southernmost city had a modest edge on the other two. However, it’s been about 10 years since I visited Cleveland so my thoughts on that city may be a bit dated and it is my opinion that all three have a good bit to offer and all are worth a look-see. And I generally was enjoying myself throughout my visit of all three. I could see, depending on one’s personality, other people picking one of the other two cities as their favourite.

Cleveland differentiates itself from the other two in that it has Lake Erie and all the benefits (such as beaches and views/boat rides on said lake) that being on a Great Lake has to offer. Not to mention a stellar art museum, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, some lovely parks and cemeteries. The area I stayed and travelled frequently between downtown and university circle had a bit of an urban wasteland feel so this maybe affected my view, but there are areas (Ohio City, Little Italy, for example) that have charm.

Columbus has German Village, which might be my favourite neighbourhood I’ve seen so far in the state thanks to preservation efforts and the Statehouse is well worth visiting in the capital. Visiting the markets and biking along the Scioto River was a lot of fun. Despite being apparently the largest city of the three now in population, its growth I think is more recent, giving it a bit of a different, relatively more tranquil feel than the other two cities that grew bigger earlier. I would imagine that in the 19th century and early 20th century being on the Ohio River or Lake Erie was more important economically than being on tributaries like the Scioto and Olentangy rivers.

All in all, having visited all three has made me curious to explore other communities within the state and see what stories they too have to tell, that these three is just scratching the surface of Ohio. Up until recent years, my travel in the Midwest had been very limited and I’ve found correcting that omission to be quite rewarding and look forward to checking out more in the region generally!

Wishing you all happy travels this summer as you discover more about what this planet Earth has to offer! Daniel


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Old Jun 20th, 2023, 04:07 PM
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Thanks for the analysis of the three Cs. Good information here.
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Old Jun 20th, 2023, 06:17 PM
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Thursdaysd—Glad to read the night trains in Europe and Asia have gone well. I’ve only done one night train in Europe—London to Glasgow as a minor.

Tomfuller—Sounds like the Cleveland station is not as attractive as Cincinnati’s and that it might have been delayed for you, arriving at dawn. I am lucky in that the train arrived on time in Cincinnati both ways. Not sure where is next at the moment.

oldemalloy—I hope you make it to the other two Cs. I recollect you might have family in Columbus (although possibly graduated?). Cincy is not too far and would be worth the detour.

FraDiavolo— Good to see your name reading and commenting. I wished I had thought to try a German restaurant while in Cincinnati; next time!
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