I like traveling. In our old country I did not have a chance to travel a lot; it was different kind of traveling anyway. After years of exploring Cincinnati vicinity on weekend trips I got to like the city and find it enchanting. Traveling around fifty states brought be to some unique attractions and museums. I spent endless hours on vacation planning trying to pick famous sightseeing spots and searching the Internet for traveling ideas. I started saving maps and brochures from my favorite traveling places and I use them every time I or my friends go back there.
Coming to the US changed our lives completely, including the ways we move around the country. Even after so many years I enjoy this wonderful feeling of freedom, of being a master of time and distance! It never seizes to amaze me that you can hop in the car, take off in any direction and drive till you find a hotel to rest overnight and keep going the next morning. Or pick up the phone at 11 o'clock at night and start booking flights and resorts. Come to think about it!
Over years I traveled a lot around the country. One time I figured that I covered 27 states and the score keeps ticking. Naturally, I only scratched the surface and wouldn't even dream of calling myself an Expert Traveler, but I learned a thing or two. I have my favorite places and my dream destinations, as you, probably, do. On this page I'll try to share my traveling experiences and I would be delighted to hear your stories.
I love Cincinnati, I really do. It reminds me of my hometown Kiev with its big river, green hills and lovely parks. When I look down at Ohio river from the Eden park, I can almost imagine that I am back at Piechersk enjoying Dnieper river gently flowing by far down there... Not that I am nostalgic, but the city has it all: it is big enough to offer a lot of first class entertainment, yet quiet and relaxed unlike "Melting Pot" New York or hot Los Angeles.
I never get bored here. When sometimes I hear people complaining that nothing is going on in Cincinnati, I think it is in people's minds. You can always find something interesting, new and fascinating.
My friends sometimes ask me to help them out to see the city and vicinity when they come in town. I rarely run short of neat places for different tastes. And I keep discovering new gems all the time. Please, help me out adding your favorite spots to my list.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Carew Tower, where we do mostly "window shopping" and get up on the observation deck on the 50th floor for $3.
Fountain Square is a great spot to take pictures with its "Genius of the Waters" fountain as a backdrop.
Procter And Gamble's Plaza with P&G Headquarters. You can stroll around a large arbor in the shape of a grid several hundred feet square, covered with vines and flower. The Chiquita building with a pretty modernist sculpture in front of it is right across the street.
Aronoff Center became our main theatrical venue. They have several Broadway shows going every year.
Sawyer Point park is a very nice place on the riverfront to relax, walk along the Serpentine wall and learn about 440 million years of natural history from the pages of the stone book, embedded in the path. The Cincinnatius statue reveals very educational information about city's name. Cute Flying Pigs adorn steamboat stacks at the entrance. I kind of like the huge piece of rock resting on two supports representing People and Law. I'm sure you will enjoy the park!
Museum Center in the Union Terminal is another neat place. I am always fascinated with the OmniMax theater great visual and sound effects. Museums there are O.K. too. And the Terminal itself is extremely impressive, I've read that it is the largest half-dome in the western hemisphere.
One of my favorite areas is Mariemont, a tiny, perfectly planned German village. A couple times a year we stop by there on the way to the city to stroll along quiet shady streets and take a peak at outrageously expensive-looking houses-castles.
Cincinnati is a city of parks. Our favorite is Sharon Woods. You can meat everybody there, walking, jogging or roller skating around the lake.
Eden park is very nice with its hills rolling gently down the Ohio river. I always take my guests to Kronh Conservatory there.
Our other favorite is Ault park. It is a home of very nice manicured English-style gardens. We've never been to a Flower Show in Ault park, people say it is something else... And Ault park is in Hyde park area, very vibrant, stylish and lovely. Cafes, clubs, art galleries...if I only had been a little younger...
Well, I even haven't scratched the surface, there is so much more I'd like to see and learn. I will keep adding stuff to my favorites. Please, come back and share with me.
Everybody around here knows Paramount's Kings Island park, Beach Water park and Newport Aquarium. By the way, I have not had a chance to visit the Aquarium, but heard it is well worth it!
Cowan Lake State park has become our favorite picnicking places. We typically get a big company and occupy 2-3 picnic tables and a couple of grills. The beach is not the best and a little muddy, but we always enjoy that weekend and cannot wait to come back again.
East Fork Lake is O.K. for a day at the "beach", but there is very little shade around there and it is not as nice for the picnicking.
I've heard a lot of good stories about Caesar Creek State Park and will make sure to check it out.
We are not big on shopping, but Jeffersonville Outlet Center is a very nice place and very well worth checking out. I personally like Jeffersonville Outlet I better than Outlet II, it is much more fun and has a lot more nice shops.
The Air Force Museum in Dayton is a must place to visit, especially with the kids. It is fun, it is just an hour drive and admission is free, what else could you wish! And Dayton is the place where Wright brothers built the first aircraft!
A trip to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is awesome adventure! Very well worth 3-1/2 hour drive and the entire day of exploring of allegedly the longest cave system in the world. My favorite tour there is "Frozen Niagara Falls". You can also take a very relaxing boat tour along the Green river or visit Kentucky Down Under, another cave system in the same area.
Next time I go to Mammoth Cave I will try to curve out some time to visit Corvette Museum and Corvette assembly plant. It is located approximately half an hour south from Mammoth Cave and will, probably, make a doable (though intensive) day trip. On the side note, Fort Knox (you know, A LOT of gold!) is in the area too, but they don't offer public tours, go figure why?
A trip to Amish country in Adam county, approximately one hour east of Cincinnati will make a very easy and relaxing excursion. The country is very pretty and you can stop by to visit Serpent Mound, built by the Adena Indians around 2,000 years ago. Combined these two places will fill the entire day with fun, education and a lot of fresh air.
My son keeps telling me stories about how nice the Red River Gorge park is. They go camping there at least once a year. It is definitely in my agenda.
There are quiet a few places around the country I've seen either during my business trips or vacationing. There is much-much-much more I'd like to see!
When I go traveling, the key is in the planning! I try to learn as much as possible about the places I am going to visit and spend a lot of time searching the Web (too much, probably...) But it feels really nice knowing in advance where to go, how to get there and what to see. Over years I gathered a lot of maps, travel booklets and trip notes from various places. Here are some of them:
Funny enough, but even though we
lived in New York for a couple of
years, I don't know too much about it. Well, you don't get to travel a whole lot
when you just entered the country and are trying frantically to learn and
understand what is going on. And even after then, an eight-bucks-per-hour first
job does not necessarily provide for the traveling lifestyle... So, I learned
more about the "Big Apple" later, on a few trips there from Cincinnati. Again, planning
is everything! Otherwise you'll spend hours riding the Subway.
We visited Atlantic City once, it is nice, but nothing compared to Vegas.
A couple of trips to Philadelphia were very nice. We've seen typical tourist attractions and museums, the Liberty Bell, the Independence Hall and the awesome Rodin's Museum. Dupont Longwood Gardens, just half an hour drive south, is absolutely beautiful park with the gigantic conservatory (probably ten times as big as Kronh). On the way back we made a little side trip around Pittsburgh and stopped at Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water House, one of his most famous architectural creations. While it may not be worth a special dedicated trip from Cincinnati, visiting it when you are already in the area may be very enjoyable.
If you have a chance to travel on the East coast, don't miss Newport, Rhode Island. This little coastal town has rich history and is a home of about a dozen of Colonial mansions, which have been turned into private museums. Among them are Vanderbilt's The Breakers, Chateau-sur-Mer, Marble House and Rosecliff. These palaces are absolutely amazing!
If you haven't been to Washington DC yet, try to get there. It is fairly easy drive from Cincinnati (don't take Route 50 all away to DC, big mistake!) It is so nice, so CAPITAL. You get to see so much that the head is spinning from all the museums, monuments and attractions. Try to get there in the beginning of April, the cherry blossom season.
Detroit is not on top of my favorites list, but if you happen to be there, Henry Ford museum and Greenfield Village are two places not to miss.
During one of my business trips I had a chance to visit Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg TN. Yes, it is in the middle of nowhere and you won't plan a special trip there (well, may be you will, if you are a whiskey fan). But you never know...
Las Vegas... It is just a dream! We spent there four days, gambled for probably less than two hours and lost less than $50. All the rest of the time was non-stop sightseeing, walking and shows, shows, shows. Stay right on the Strip (the main street) in one of the cheaper hotels. We stayed in Imperial Palace, very decent and affordable, right in the center of the Strip. It is very conveniently located as you can head north one day and south the other and explore all the casinos on the way. Try not to stay in Downtown or at either end of the Strip, you will be far from everything else. Obviously, you will want to take a trip to the Hoover dam or Grand Canyon. We saw the Hoover dam--absolutely gorgeous. Next time in Vegas we'll tour the Canyons.
Together with Las Vegas we did Los Angeles, what a trip! And again, a lot of up-front planning. That time we decided not to spend time on the Parks (we saw them in Orlando), but hit different things instead. We walked along Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, explored Venice Beach and Third street promenade in Santa Monica, enjoyed Huntington Botanical Gardens and the streets of Pasadena. Famous La Brea Tar Pits were featured in the movie Volcano. Peterson Automotive Museum is very nice. We toured the Paramount Studio, The Queen Mary ocean liner and The Scorpio, a real Soviet submarine boat. And, of course, Beverly Hills... More and more to see for the next time.
Great Smoky Mountains Park is within easy five-hour drive. We've been there three times and never get tired of it. I can help you out finding where to stay and what to see in Gatlinburg or Cherokee, enjoying the beautiful mountain trails of Bryson City or having fun in Dollywood amusement park.
When you vacation in Gatlinburg, make a side trip to Chimney Rock park and Biltmore Estate in Ashville, NC. It is impossible to describe the awe of the 1200-foot vertical rock with the beautiful Lake Lure at the bottom. And Biltmore Estate claims to be the largest private house in the country! Well, Vanderbilt could afford its 250 rooms and 4,500 acres... Chimney Rock and Biltmore Estate are within 45 minutes driving from each other and 3 hour from Gatlinburg. If you get up early, you will even enjoy the mountain sunset on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway on the way back.
We spent a couple of the Fourth of July weekends on Lake Cumberland. We would rent a house boat and live right on it for 3-4 days. It is non-stop fun, swimming in the crystal-clear water, sliding down the boat's water shoot and party, party and party again! Luckily, our friend knows how to drive a house boat (it is a little different than driving a car or even a family van!)
Myrtle Beach is a very nice resort place, a lot of activities and attractions. To me, it is a little too crowded.
And there is always Florida for any season and taste! On the ocean coast we've been to Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach. From there you can make a radial trip to the Kennedy Space Center (an absolutely must!), American oldest city of St. Augustine or beautiful Silver Springs park. Orlando with all the amusement parks is just an hour away too. The gulf coast is a much closer if you decide to drive, but to me it is a little boring. We took a couple of very lazy vacations in Destin and Panama City. Except for a very nice Silver Sands Outlet Mall in Destin, there is not much of anything around, but sometimes it may be is a good thing, ah? Try to get a room in one of the Edgewater condo complexes, they are very nice! And I have a pretty good list of different resorts in the area and would be happy to help.
Not the whole lot of experience here, but I am working on it.
Niagara Falls is a beautiful place and is the best to visit from the Canadian side.
We took a Canada bus tour a few years ago and visited Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec. Boat tour on the St. Lawrence river's Thousand Islands was absolutely awesome, the area is gorgeous. Unfortunately, the trip was a little hectic and covered a lot in short time. I'm planning to return back for a more detailed sightseeing.
Does a cruise count against international traveling? Either way, our Eastern Caribbean cruise on board of the majestic Norway is still the best vacation we ever had.
Cancun is an awesome place for a winter vacation. There is so much to see and do there: very colorful downtown, bargains at the Straw Market, Hotel Zone with its palaces-resorts. And wonderful excursions to the nearby Xcaret and Xel-Ha parks, Tulum Mayan ruins and Isla Mujeres-Women's Island. We'll make sure to return back there.
I learned a lot about Italy and accumulated a wealth of information regarding local hotels, tours and resorts. We had to postpone our upcoming big European vacation, but will get there next time.
If you feel like exchanging traveling ideas and experiences or need help planning the next vacation or a trip, please drop me a line.
Here you'll find a few links related to the places discussed on this page. I did not include everything I use, just the most interesting and non-trivial.