Cincinnati

A look at the Cincinnati Zoo: What does the next ten years hold…

“10 years ago we wrote our first review of the zoo in CincinnatiThis year we decided to return and see how the Cincinnati Zoo has changed over the years… So what does the next ten years hold?…”

Plenty. According to plans recently announced the zoo is expanding many exhibits, adding to them, and giving the overall visitor experience an improved wow factor.

The parking will be expanded and changed going from a lot to a garage. The entrance will be more grand and inviting. Almost immediately visitors will see the animals. The Elephants are planned to move across the zoo and into a new open area, like the Africa section, that is five times as large. The Rhinos also will move in to this area.

Like the continent of Africa before it, Australia is getting a home in the Zoo. Wildlife Canyon will be transformed in to a two-story home for kangaroos and other animals of the land down under. The little penguins, which are native to Australia, are also getting an expanded home in the new section. Above the animals will be a new ropes course. This course will give visitors a chance to challenge themselves as the climb and swing high up in the air.

All of the changes and expansions are expected to be completed by 2025.

Beyond the cosmetic changes coming the Zoo is using the improvements to help enrich the lives of the animals they take care of. As has been seen in zoo across the world, happy animals breed better. The new expansions will be designed to both enrich the visitors experience and the lives of the animals. By using evidence based understandings of animal behaviors the Zoo hopes to be able to expand its world famous husbandry program. Their commitment is to animal care has grown over the years and will expand along with the coming years:

“We will transform the Zoo’s physical landscape by renewing facilities, habitats and gardens so that the Zoo setting matches our growing expertise in animal care, education, conservation and horticulture. We strive to lead in the ever-progressing world of zoos and aquariums, learning from the latest in evidence-based understanding of how animals behave, and implementing changes to promote animal excellence. We’ll advance behavior-based husbandry, increase complexity of habitats, and introduce pioneering animal health techniques and reproductive strategies in the pursuit of outstanding animal care.”

Over the past ten years the Cincinnati Zoo has become one the “Greenest Zoo’s” in America. The Zoo was transformed with the addition of a rainwater collection system. The current system collects over 25% of the water used in the Zoo. The plan is to use this system to supply 100% of the non-potable water needs. As mentioned in the previous post the Zoo also has one of the largest (the largest at time of installation) publicly accessible solar arrays in the nation. With future expansions expect the array to expand too. This array currently creates almost 25% of the zoo energy. Along with the solar, wind, and geothermal the Zoo is exploring Biomass energy options. Biomass is the “leftover waste products” from the plants and animals around the zoo. As they state on their website, the Zoo has a commitment to net zero waste facility.

As part of this ambitious capital campaign, the Zoo is taking their groundbreaking, robust storm water management program to the next level to drive down non-potable water use to zero.  By capturing 100% of the storm water and reusing it in the habitats, the Zoo can divert the water out of the city’s combined sewer system.  The Zoo will also focus on being net zero energy by driving efficiencies throughout the existing systems and pursuing advanced energy options including solar, wind and biomass.  And, with proper organic waste management, the Zoo will strive to become a net zero waste facility.

 

 

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A look at the Cincinnati Zoo: Ten years later

3400 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH 45220

http://www.cincinnatizoo.org

10 years ago we wrote our first review of the zoo in Cincinnati. Over the past decade we have been to almost all the other major zoos in Ohio (sorry Akron). This year we decided to return and see how the Cincinnati Zoo has changed over the years.

The Cincinnati Zoo opened in 1874. Over the years it has changed with the times. In the early days it was not as conservation minded as it is now, but neither were most zoos. Now the zoo seems very conservation minded and animal focused. It’s not just the animals that are the focus of the new mind-set. The visitors too play a big part in it. Everything the zoo does is now more focused on producing less waste and proper use of the waste that is produced, such as recycling. While this was the case 10 years ago, it seems more so now.

The first thing we noticed is that parking has expanded and moved across the street. The new space was covered, a welcomed relief in on a hot spring day. Like the Toledo Art Museum the zoo did not waste the covering either. On top were solar panels converting the sun’s rays from car heating annoyance to power that could be used to cool the buildings instead.

Most of the attractions at the zoo seemed the same as we saw in the past. This was too be expected as a few of the buildings are on the National Historic Landmark list. The Reptile House still being the oldest zoo building in America. Even with the same exterior nothing looked run down. Everything had gotten a fresh coat of paint and been up kept. The world of wings still having wet paint signs up.

The zoo seems to have focused on a more of the same but better expansion plan over the last decade. The major change was to the African animals. The entire section of the zoo has been expanded and reworked into a modern open exhibit area with each exhibit not being a focus, but part of a whole. The animals are still semi separated, as the predators cannot be kept with their prey, but are less single species exhibit. The overall openness makes it feel as if one is transported from the southern Ohio to the open savannas of Africa. This section is also where Fiona, Cincinnati’s most famous resident, is housed.

The zoo also built and opened an indoor Gorilla viewing area so that they can be seen in their winter enclosure. We went in the spring and did not see this in use.

The last ten years have been good to the Cincinnati Zoo. It hit a record attendance in 2013. If our visit was any indication it is still as popular as ever. With a long and varied history the zoo has changed a lot since opening day and will be forever changing as time goes on.
So what does the next ten years hold?…

 

Fountain Square

520 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH 45202

https://myfountainsquare.com

In the heart of downtown Cincinnati is a large fountain. Surrounded by buildings and the hustle and bustle of business life this fountain could easily be forgotten by the people outside of Cincinnati. But even if the people outside the city forgot it, the people of the city never would. Fountain Square has become the heart of Cincinnati and as famous an icon as the riverfront and the bridges.

The fountain was commissioned by Tyler Davidson, and made at the Royal Bronze Foundry of Bavaria, to honor his late brother-in-law and businesses partner. August von Kreling had the design, but had found no one to sponsor its creation. The fountain stands 43 feet tall. On top is a statue of a lady called The Genius of Water. Around here are four figures representing the human uses of water. Around them at the edges are four figures that represent the pleasures of water. These figures were originally added to the design as drinking fountains and can still be used to this day. The fountain was dedicated on October 6th, 1871 and has been renovated 3 times over the years. In 1971, for its centennial celebration, the fountain was moved and the entire square was redesigned. This was the design and configuration made famous by the WKRP in Cincinnati opening. In 2006 it was moved again as the entire square was revitalized hopping to make it the heart of the city once more.

The original model on view at the Cincinnati Art Museum

It did become the focal point that organizers were hoping for. The square is surrounded by shops and restaurants. The variety of food, from local upscale venues to national fast casual chains, is large enough to make it a daily destination. Many workers simply walk to the square instead of hunting around town. Food trucks park in and around the square on occasion too.

As the heart of the city, the square should be near many other things. 3 art galleries, the library, The Aronoff Center, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Great American Ballpark, and so many other arractions are within walking distance, or a short ride on the Streetcar. Throughout the week the square host trivia nights, themed food nights, concerts, a Farmers Market (harking back to the sites original uses as a butchers market), and much much more. During the colder months it hosts a skating rink.

We went after a visit to the Cincinnati Public Library Main Branch on a warm spring day. It was lunch time and we found the square busy. Many people were visiting the local food trucks that had parked nearby. Seating seemed to not be a problem as the square had many tables set up. Music was playing from a dj booth located next to the stage. Over all the atmosphere was festive and lively despite the crowds. We were full from eating earlier but found this would be a great place to stop for lunch while exploring the city.

Tip: The fountain is turned off when the weather becomes freezing on a constant basis and is turned on before the first game of the MLB season.

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Main Branch

http://www.cincinnatilibrary.org

Just blocks from the heart of downtown is a large building housing some of the greatest works of art of mankind. No, not the Art museum, most of these works of can actually be held by the public, it’s the The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. The Main branch is split between two buildings with a walk way over 9th Street connecting them. Outside is a bustling city. Inside is a calm relaxing place to study, read, get information, and create.

The south building houses the more traditional and quite sections of the library. In it is the popular library, a place to easily find fiction, films, and audio recordings. This is great way to be in and out with a new title. For more in depth studies the upper floors contain the non-fiction books. On the Third floor is the genealogy and local history rooms. This building is also where most of the computers for Internet access are located. By the front doors are main checkout and the Library Friends Shop.

The shop is small but well stocked. Used books and media no longer needed by the Library are sold at this location. Besides books the shop has plenty of other merchandise too. Think of this as any other book store, but with a heavy Library and Cincinnati theme. This is probably one of the best hidden stores in the entire city.

The more noisy departments are housed in the North building. This allows for some activity to happen in these sections without disturbing the patrons looking for a more quite setting. In this building are the children’s section with a children’s garden, the teen space, homework station, and the MakerSpace. The MakerSpace is one of the best free makers spaces in the state. The space houses more than the 3d printers most libraries offer. As their website states “3D printers, audio and visual equipment, laser cutters and engravers, sewing machines, cameras and other hardware and software tools that they can use for free to create pretty much anything they can imagine.” The traditional audio visual stations can be used to make almost anything need in modern digital society. The printers, cutters, and sewing machines can be used to create almost anything else. Want to work on something but have no knowledge on how to start? The very well informed and super helpful staff will be glad to assist. Note that materials may cost extra for some of the MakerSpace equipment, but it is way less than buying the equipment oneself.

To connect the two buildings is a walk way. Along the walk way and throughout the two buildings are art work and galleries. These displays change regularly and enhance the overall fell of the space. The Main branch of The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is more than just a place to get a book to read. It is a welcoming, innovative space to relax, enjoy, and create. Always worth a visit when in the area.

 

Cincinnati Observatory

3489 Observatory Place, Cincinnati, Ohio 45208

https://www.cincinnatiobservatory.org

We went to the Cincinnati Observatory on a sunny weekday afternoon, probably not the best day to go to an observatory, but we did get a laid back uncrowded personal experience. The Cincinnati Observatory is located on top of the hills of Mt. Lookout in Cincinnati. This Observatory is the oldest, still in use, in the United States. The observatory consists of two buildings. The two buildings house the main 11-inch Merz and Mahler refractor and the 16-inch Alvan Clark and Sons refactor. We visited the main building that house the 16-inch Clark telescope. The building was designed by the famous architect Samuel Hannaford. One can visit this observatory most afternoons during weekdays. These afternoons are reservation free.  There are many special events and astronomy nights on Thursdays and Fridays. These are the nights to look through the telescopes. There are also events on the weekends. Check out their website for these events and to make reservations.

The main building has a rotunda and two levels. The first level is a museum type of room. One can walk around the room at their leisure and look at the astronomy related artifacts. There are also daily tours (small cost) of both buildings. We did not take the tour, but lucked out and had a sort-of  guide tour of the Clark telescope. After finishing on the first floor, one can go to the second floor and look at the telescope. When we visited the friendly and knowledgeable staff gave us a tour of the telescope. Not sure if this is standard practice, but it was much appreciated. 

This museum/observatory does not take long to visit, but is packed with many interesting artifacts. It would be good to visit the telescope during the day, then return for one of the night time viewing. This would be a great place for kids, because it is highly education and just long enough to keep their attention. Kids would probably really enjoy the night time viewings. The place is not hard to find and access or out of the way. One major tip is to visit their website to find out about special events and open hours. A visit to the observatory can easily be added to a visit to another great Cincinnati attraction.

A day or night visit to the Cincinnati observatory is well worth it, even if you have little interest in astronomy or space.

 

Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum

https://www.pyramidhill.org

Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum is a 300 plus acre outdoor sculpture park in Hamilton. The park is open all year and can be experienced differently during each season. There are many special events during the year and at times the park can be busy. The holiday lights, for example, are a very popular event.

This park was started by Harry T. Wilks, a philanthropist who was big in the Hamilton community. He purchased the land to build his home. Over the years he added sculptures, hiking trails, roads, and small lakes. Soon he also started purchasing the land next to his property. Wilks was a big donor too local arts and education organizations. In 1997 he created a nonprofit to protect the park from private developers who might break up the land and spoil the beauty.

The park is open during the daylight hours and the museum is open in the afternoons. It does cost to visit the park. One can stop at the front gate or visitor’s center to pay for entrance.  Using the map provided one can travel by car throughout the park seeing all the sculptures. This is the low activity way to see it. The medium activity level way is to drive around, park at the many parking lots, and then walk around. The higher activity level way is to park at one of the lots and walk the nature trails and road around the park. This park is accessible to just about anyone. The park also does rent Art Carts (golf carts) to tour the park. The length of time it takes to see the whole park depends on the mode of transportation and activity level. What is nice is the park can be done in a long or short amount of time.

What one will see when touring the park is over 60 modern outdoor sculptures. These are very large sculptures. Some are colorful and some are made of natural materials. Each one is impressive. Even if modern art is not to your liking, it is nice to see them and explore them from all angles. Each different side is like seeing a new piece of artwork.

The park houses an Ancient Sculpture Museum. The museum is open in the afternoons and included in the cost of admission. This museum house many ancient sculptures from Greek, Roman, Etruscan, Syrian and Egyptian cultures. If you’re a first timer to the park, a timing to stop at the museum is a must.

It must be mentioned, that the park can also be reserved for events and weddings. There are event venues throughout the park. The gardens are so popular that most good weather weekends have an event going on. From Butler Philharmonic concerts to fishing derbies to food festivals there is something for everyone.

No matter your ability level, this park will have something to see. So spend an afternoon this year visiting this park, you will not be disappointed.

Krohn Conservatory

1501 Eden Park Dr, Cincinnati, OH 45202

http://www.cincinnatiparks.com/krohn/

Down by the river in Cincinnati is  Eden Park. The land is beautiful and the hills rolling. The park it self is quite large. So large it house two of Cincinnati’s hidden gems. The first is The Cincinnati Art Museum. The second is not quite as large or well known but is just as amazing: Krohn Conservatory.

In the 1880’s the first greenhouse at Eden Park were used for growing plants for the park. at the turn of the 20th century a greenhouse was built for public displays. The following year the first plant show was started. Shortly after the park decided to keep the plants in the greenhouses in rotation to keep visitors coming back. About 30 years later the crowds had grown and the park needed a new green house. The Eden Park Greenhouse opened its doors in 1933. four years later it was renamed The Khron Conservatory in honor of Irwin M. Krohn.

A conservatory is a room with a glass roof and walls, attached to a house at one side and used as a greenhouse or a sun parlor. Krohn is more than just a glass room attached to a building. The conservatory is broken up into 4 main rooms with smaller rooms off to the sides. The rooms each encompass an environment for the plants inside. The desert room houses the Cacti and succulent collection.  The tropical room showcases plants from the warmer climates, including ferns and begonias. The palm house is the tallest with palm trees towering above.  This room also includes a waterfall the flows into a river full of fish, turtles, and frogs. Behind the waterfall is a hidden cave. Each of these rooms includes edible plants too. The conservatory is a great place to see where some common, but exotic, food comes from including bananas, vanilla, and cacao.  Off too the sides of these rooms is the bonsai collection. With plants owned by the park and plants on loan from the Bonsai Society of Greater Cincinnati . The other room is a large selection from the conservatories collection of orchids.

The final room of the Krohn is the smallest but grandest. The seasonal flower show room is the where 6 different shows are put on through out the year. During the spring the Krohn Conservatory holds its most famous event, a butterfly show. The room comes alive with the flutter of wings. While the flowers may repeat from time to time, each of the six shows are themed differently. The room becomes whatever the theme is. If the idea is flowers of the bayou, the room is a slice of New Orleans. Visitors are transported not just by the flowers on display but by the music, the decorations, and even the structures and walkways. The theming is not only limited to the seasonal show room. Every time the shows theme changes the Krohn is almost born anew with little hidden gems popping up in the other rooms as well. The changing shows are what make every visit a treat to enjoy with new things to find and sites to see.

TIP: The Cincinnati Art museum is open late on Thursdays and can be fit into a day trip to Eden Park and the Krohn Conservatory.

 

Gift Basket Ideas from Ohio

This is the time of year that the stores are filled with simple stocking stuffers and easy to grab gifts for friends and family.  For loved ones near-by this is fine. For friends or family that have moved out of Ohio, or who live in another state and wonder what’s so great about the great state of Ohio, a little more is needed. Here are a few suggestions (not a complete list add your own in comments below) for perfect way to wrap up Ohio.

We have organized our ideas into regional baskets. Pick and choose or add your own. These are just suggestions. If you have any more suggestions you can add them in the comments below.

Northeast:

Northwest:

Southwest:

  • Cincinnati Style Chili – A little bit thinner than the “other” styles of chili, this classic is known for its ability to turn spaghetti into a regional favorite. Everyone has their favorite place, and all are good.
  • Grippos – if they want barbecue chips they probably crave these.
    Mike-Sells – if they are from a little closer to Dayton these are the choice
  • Ester Price – Chocolates from Dayton
  • Boston Stoker Coffee – Don’t let the name fool you, it’s locally roasted coffee.

Central:

Amish Country:

 

 

Warren County History Center

105 S. Broadway, Lebanon, OH 45036

http://www.wchsmuseum.org/planvisit/warren_county_history_center-2

While not as big as the Cleveland History Center, Carillion Historical Park, or the former Cincinnati Museum of History, the Warren County History Center Museum is large enough to tell the story of a town that once was on track to be larger than Dayton, Ohio.

The museum is more of a collection of historical artifacts than a straight story of the region. This works out well. A straight story would be interesting to some people but not much more than a few founders’ names. The collection of artifacts works to envelope the visitor in the era. The artifacts are so well arranged that they blend together into a theme more than stand out on a pedestal. The overall feeling is walking through rooms and lives from the early settlers to the roaring 20’s.

 

The basement houses the older collections. The first room is filled with early inhabitants’ artifacts and rocks from before any human was in the area. From there one steps forward into the cabin of the Butterworths, early settlers to the area. The cabin is on par with any living history museum in the state. The artifacts so well arranged and taken care of that it felt as if the father of the house was about to come back at any moment for dinner. Outside of the cabin room is a large collection of equipment that the settlers and early farmers would have used to conquer the land and turn Warren County into the agricultural treasure it has become. Surrounding the farm equipment are window displays that house artifacts from the time period. They are themed to every aspect of life from the mundane grooming to the occupational, like journalism, finance, and funeral arts. The lower level also contains the transportation wing with a collection of a few vehicles used to move people around throughout the history of Warren County. On the way out of the basement is the dark and forbidding Underground Railroad exhibit. The dark room only has the sounds of the night time creatures and the light of a distant house. Slowly the lights rise to reveal a display on the work done by Warren county residents to help slaves from the south escape to freedom. Included are maps of stops on the Underground Railroad and displays telling about how Warren County and Ohio dealt with the issues leading to the Civil War. This room is a must see.

The first floor is the one of the largest rooms and is the “Village Green.” This room is set up with display windows around the outside that resemble a town center. Each display recreates a shop that would be found, with real artifacts of the citizens of the time. This is where the theming and curation of the museum really takes off. Each display is surrounded by a facade and filled with artifacts that make it feel like looking into a shop window. The back room of the first floor is the temporary exhibit space with an ever changing collection of exhibits.

Upstairs is a balcony that surrounds the “Village Green” with two main rooms on each side. The main balcony feels like an overflow for not yet used items, but the 2 side rooms are some of the best of the Museum. The front room contains the 1920’s era “house.” The “house” is just a collection of rooms with items from the era. Included are mannequins with period clothing. While the rooms could feel like just a spattering of items, as with the rest of the museum they are so well themed that one is transported to the era and location of a 1920 warren county big wigs estate. The back room is the Shaker exhibit. The exhibit is one of the best exhibits on shaker life outside of a dedicated museum. Each artifact tells the story of Union Village that was just 4 miles outside of Lebanon. “There is great beauty in harmony” was a saying of the Shakers and the exhibit’s simple but well documented form helps to recreate this simple way of life.

One of the greatest parts of the museum was hidden throughout it like a treasure hunt. The “Gruesome but Truesome” exhibit are small placards in the windows that tell the more macabre details of the items inside. The information is well placed and parents with small children do not have to worry about items scaring them. Teens and the more adventurous will love to read about the larger story behind the museum’s collection.

Over all the Warren County Historic Center is a medium sized county museum with nothing extreme or major to set it apart from the larger city museums. As we say “A museum must tell a story, not just be a collection of artifacts.” The center shines with what it does with what it has. Every artifact is carefully placed, maybe not to tell a story, but to transport the visitor back in time to a different era.

See part 2 of this post with the Glendower Historic Mansion.

Memorial Day Road Trips

On the final Monday in May America takes the time to honor those who died in service to its armed forces. This tradition started in 1868 when former Civil War soldiers decided to decorate the graves of fallen veterans. While the custom is a long held tradition around the world, this time was different. So many soldiers had died in the recent Civil War, and so many families effected, that having a single day to do this helped to bring larger importance to the act. It wasn’t until 1971 with the enactment of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that the day created a yearly 3 day weekend.

To honor the veterans who gave it all here are some road trip ideas that have a military background. Some can be completed in one day some might take two. A great site to learn more about Ohio historical places and come up with you own trips is http://touringohio.com

Northwest Ohio and the War of 1812:

Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis National Historic Site  – Fallen Timbers was the site of a major battle between American Indians and the newly formed United States of America. At the treaty of Paris in 1783 Britain gave the USA all of the land east of the Mississippi River. This include the Ohio Country. The American Indian tribes living in the area felt that they had no representation in the matter and that the land was still theirs. This led to the Battle of Fallen Timbers. At this battle American Soldiers fought the natives who were supplied by British from Fort Miamis. The defeat of the American Indians led to the Treaty of Greenville (see Garst Museum Below).

Fort Meigs – This fort with stood 2 attacks from the British and defended the Ohio country during the War of 1812. This is a full standing fort with a visitors center.

Rutherford B Hayes Presidential Library and Museum: The home and Museum of The former Civil War General and 19th President. For more information see our review.

Southwest and the Civil War

William Henry Harrison Tomb – The resting place of the 9th President and Ohio Indian Wars Veteran. He was the first president to die in office and is still the short serving person to have held the office. See our review here

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center – This museum is dedicated not only to the Underground Railroad and the struggle of American Slaves, but the struggle of all people for equality, even in modern times. The museum is a powerful testament to the struggles that lead to the Civil War.

William Howard Taft National Historic Site: The birthplace and boyhood home of the 27th President. Governor of the Philippines following the Spanish American war, Secretary of War, and Commander in Chief gives this site some great military background.  See our review here

Land of Grant Grant Birthplace and Grant Boyhood home and School House – The 18th President and commander of the Union armies during the civil war. Visit where he was born, grew up and learned. See our review here.

West

Fort Jefferson – The site where St. Clair retreated after his defeat.

Garst Museum – Dedicated to the history of Darke county this museum tells the story of the Treaty of Greenville and the role it played in shaping Ohio. A nice large museum with lots of artifacts from the area. See our review here.

Fort Recovery – The site of the two largest and most important American Indian battles, The Defeat of St. Clair and the Battle of Fort Recovery. St. Clair had 900 of his 1200 men killed, about 1/4 of the US army. It is also the site of the fort that was built after the battle. It was this fort that allowed the US to win the next battle and led to the signing of the Treaty of Greenville.

Northeast

Fort Steuben – Built to protect the surveyors of the northwest Territory. The Fort has a visitor center, full wood fort and large grounds surrounding it.

Fort Laurens – Site of the only Revolutionary War battle in the state.

McCook house – Home of the “Fighting McCooks.” Major Daniel McCook and his 9 sons and 6 nephews fought before and mostly during the Civil War.

The McKinley Presidential Library & Museum – The Tomb of William McKinley, the 25th President, and commander and chief during the Spanish-American War. Next to the tomb is the Library and Museum which house exhibits on the natural world, Stark County, and the life of the president. See our review here.