Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Revisiting 1949

 Aerial Photo of Cincinnati [1949].
Photo source: mgsmith.


This is a composite I made of four more images from Michael G. Smith's amazing Flickr (70 Years Later set). These really need to be seen in detail, so make sure you visit each link below.
* Note: If you're new to Flickr, zoom into the image by clicking the "All Sizes" icon on the top of the photo, then click on "Original Size" at the next screen.

Some notable differences from today, in order from W to E:

West End - From top to bottom (left side), the large Roundhouse, Crosley Field, and CUT used for its original purpose (with rear concourse still intact).
Downtown West & Covington - The Fountain Square Esplanade on Fifth Street (just east of the Carew Tower), and the Cincinnati's riverfront warehouse/rail district vs. Covington's barren banks.
Downtown East & Newport - More riverfront railways heading east, Broadway Commons railyards in action, and lower Mt. Adams with houses, but no "Big Mac" bridge, nor a competing Newport-on-the-Levee.
East End - More rail/industry along the river, a full Eden Park Reservoir, and seemingly-unending highly-developed city blocks.

Again, significant differences from today: Cincinnati Union Terminal was still acting as grand entrance to the city, Eden Park reservoir was full, Broadway commons was active, and the Riverfront was still playing host to its industrial foundations... and refreshingly, all without sight of the massive spaghetti highways and large parking lots/garages that cut today's city into disparate wedges.

Incredible what 60 years does to a landscape.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Graphite Mariemont


What a better way to celebrate the new locale than through lead and cellulose.

I wish I had the dates for these sketches, but for now, they'll have to speak for themselves. I'm guessing the 20s, considering Mariemont was planned and partially constructed in that decade. As Anonymous pointed out (in the comments), the first is dated November 1922... and I'm assuming the others are around the same time.

A substantial amount on this locale in the future - our new home.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

70 Years Later

Back in April, I posted the final segment of my "City to Scale" series, The City to Scale: Unbuilt Cincinnati, which sparked some speculation from Drew (of design cincinnati & drew-o-rama fame):

"...it'd be cool to find drawings of projects that were actually built and place them alongside photos of said project to see how the original vision and the end result compare."

I agreed - it would be cool, especially if time wasn't of concern. I really do wish I had an allowance to do these things... but luckily, I've found others who have jumped on these concepts, some of which I submitted later in the post, Oh, I Believe in Yesterday....

But recently, and even more entrancing position was taken by the grandson of Cincinnati photographer Nelson RonSheim, Michael G. Smith...

The 5th St. Viaduct in downtown Cincinnati frames
a steam locomotive on Eggleston Ave.
Original photo by Nelson Ronsheim, (11/16/1940).
  Recent photo by Michael G Smith (2009).
 
What differentiates this series from other before-and-after concepts out there is that everything is "in-house" - his grandfather took the originals (all of which are excellent, by the way) followed with Michael's take from the same location... 70 years later. How cool is that.

Make sure to CHECK OUT THE FULL SET! (+ another reminder to join Michael G. Smith's Flickr, if you haven't already.) 

Previous Ronsheim Posts

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thank You Notes

 Not the original foundry, but production started on Thanksgiving Day (1880).
Source: Cincinnati Views.
 

Thanksgiving has become as much of a birthday celebration as it is for all of the traditional familial gatherings and gratitude. Still, some candid offerings are definitely due this year - a long list of commendations will be handed out to kin and comrades on a silver platter, in one way or another related to these recent events...

Elizabeth is due to deliver child #2 in December.
Amazing to think that: (1) We'll have another wonderful addition to our family - a little girl!, (2) my son is now 2 and will have to deal with some serious Mommy-withdrawal, (3) just when we're getting into a rhythm that's bearable, our nights are most likely going to elongate dramatically again, and (4) the amount of work that Elizabeth currently entails day-in and day-out, and the amount added to that to come, all with the perspective of a full glass, is completely inspiring.

After long and hard searching (studio and soul), our decision to stay awhile longer culminates with a new job downtown.
We thought laboriously on many areas of the country, but this is a good move all-around - for family, friends, and us - and ends the feeling that we're on a never-ending cusp of transition. So, since we'll be here for the foreseeable future, hopefully we can make some long-lasting contributions to the city that have been swept under the rug for far too long.

We moved. Again.
Elizabeth and I have a storied past, but no one could have predicted the number of legs of this trek we've already completed. Actually, maybe a better way of putting it would be: No one would have guessed how many legs this trek was going to be comprised of, and how many markers we've already passed. Heck - any way you put it, moving five times in five years back and forth between two different cities is tiring enough... then add in all of the other fun stuff and you've cooked up an official bowl exhaustion. But, it's good exhaustion... and we're in a new part of the city. Both having grown up and lived a substantial portion of our lives here, neither of us have resided in this particular local, nor have any friends or family members. It's a little reinvigorating in that way - new places to explore, fresh perspectives on old memories, and welcome solace from another one of Cincinnati's great neighborhoods (not proper, but still Cincinnati to me). It's a good compromise... and it's on the bus line.

There's other stuff of which I won't break the code of silence, but is well worth explicit gratitude as anything else. All I can say is that I am completely humbled by the amazingly supportive people near and far that I'm lucky enough to call my family and friends. Hopefully, one day, this perseverance will echo favorably and I'll be able to reciprocate that generosity to those in kind.

Have a good holiday, everyone.

• Now if this would just happen again, I'd be really thankful...

 
Milwaukee Sentinel (p.2) [1958].
Source.
 

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Schmolitics

I've grown to hate politics, mainly because I hate the underhanded, argumentative nature that surrounds most issues (and usually the politicians themselves)... so I bite my tongue, but still manage to get the polls when that time comes around. Though, thanks to COAST and other outside entities trying to shape our local government/society, this year has been a little different...

There are several issues that I personally think are extremely important (as you've seen if you visit some other local blogs, like CAAST or The Phoney Coney), and so, in honor of the big day, here's a quick rundown of what I'll checking my name next to on some of the issues:


Issue 9
If you want a referendum-style government like California has (voting on every single issue, and costing the taxpayers millions of dollars just to vote on them), the Anderson Township-based COAST's Issue 9 takes you down that path. Also, this charter amendment is not just about the streetcar - it states that ANY rail construction will have to be voted on by the citizens, from the miniature Cincinnati Zoo train to the high-speed 3C Corridor train planned for the whole state of Ohio... anything that involves rails.

The logic behind COAST's plan is to basically slow down, and potentially stop any kind of rail construction, because these four guys
think it's a bad investment for the whole of the city. Basically, they like sprawl, they like pollution, they like spending thousands of hours of their life in traffic, they like how much money they spend on their car (and related maintenance), and they like that a substantive portion of their taxes go to road construction/maintenance year after year after year, even if it doesn't solve the aforementioned problems.

Cars are incredible pieces of machinery, no doubt, and the perceived independence you have while in them is worth something. But it's the worst investment you'll ever make with your hard-earned money; immediately nosediving once driven off the lot, and costing you a fortune over it's lifespan. Additionally, with the development of electric vehicles (that the car companies have been holding out on us for 50 years), there will be lessening gas taxes to finance the maintenance of those roads, and who will pay for this in the near future? We all will... heavily.

So, if you agree with them on rail, so be it - but imagine this... voting on every type of construction related to the automobile. I'm not going to get into a long rant here, but one has to recognize that everything related to car transit - from road/bridge infrastructure & maintenance to car manufacturing itself - has been one of the most heavily subsidized (government/taxpayer funded) portions of our society to date. Do you feel good that tens of billions of dollars of our tax money was given to private car companies recently? No? Do you wonder why COAST didn't put up a substantial fight against it, or why they don't construct a charter amendment demanding votes on every extremely-high priced road construction in our city? It makes you wonder, considering that the amounts spent on car-related infrastructure dwarfs the amounts associated with rail.

Additionally, we vote in leaders to our government that we think will lead us in the right direction - if you don't agree with their views, you vote in someone different. But COAST and the supporters of Issue 9 don't agree with this style of government - in fact, COAST has stated this on their official website (as they've also been opposed to giving the state required information about who contributes to their PAC). They want you to pay millions of dollars to hold special elections for every single little issue, essentially killing any forward progress that a city might make.

Thus, this issue has become less about rail, and more about how we want our government to function. Still, I personally am sick and tired of the billions of dollars of government handouts to private corporations (e.g. car companies), the lost time and increased stress facing the heavy traffic everywhere I drive, the high cost of car maintenance & insurance, and the inevitable rise of gas prices... so it's no surprise that I'm all for the expansion of alternative types of transportation. And as we've seen time and time again in other cities, when the proper investments are given to these alternatives, they flourish, along with the surroundings.

Lastly, no one is pretending that rail transit will ever overtake the automobile, but to have multiple transit options not only is smart for the viable movement of a community at large, but aids in a healthier, wealthier, and more vibrant community. I want a better quality of life for all Cincinnatians, which is why I'd urge you to also:

VOTE NO ON ISSUE 9

You can visit any of the other numerous local blogs against Issue 9, but here a couple more interesting posts from outside the state, and conservative...
http://www.stlurbanworkshop.com/2009/09/first-vote-no-on-issue-9-ad-up-in.html
http://thedeuceblog.wordpress.com/2009/09/20/why-you-should-vote-no-on-issue-9/


Issue 3
Basically, I don't like gambling - I don't think it's healthy for individuals or cities at large... but who am I to decide what others do with their earnings. Aside from the fact that we already have a multitude of options in place for those who like to do it, other factors at play here surround the outside entities trying to shape our local community. Like COAST trying to dictate what happens in other peoples' neighborhoods, we have casino owners in another state trying to control the future of Ohio gambling laws. Even if I was a gambling proponent, I wouldn't vote for this issue - I'd want my own city and state to decide upon and have control of these issues and structures. All of this is why I'm voting:

NO ON ISSUE 3

More people all over the state (conservative & liberal) against Issue 3 here...
http://www.truthpac.org/
http://mvred.com/2009/09/28/vote-no-on-ohio-issue-3/
http://www.morningjournal.com/articles/2009/09/27/opinion/mj1665991.txt



Some others:

YES ON ISSUE 5
A renewal to continue funding of issues surrounding MRDD.

YES ON ISSUE 6
Funding for maintenance of the historic Cincinnati Union Terminal.

YES ON ISSUE 7
Funding for local libraries.

• No matter what you decide, just get out and vote!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Autumn Rail

 Fall Train (Cincinnati, Ohio) [1/1/03].
Image © Chuck Madden.
 
Seriously.  How beautiful is that. 
 
• Check out more of Chuck Madden's work at Flickr.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Kilgour Peace Offering

 Kilgour Fountain at Hyde Park Square [1901].
Image source.


In relation to the last post (and the importance of constructing something tall as a central locator and gathering place for the neighborhood), here's a little more info on the history of the Hyde Park Square fountain & esplanade:
"Appeasement rather than gratitude was one reason for the construction of the fountain... The work, designed by Joseph F. Cronin, was a gift in 1900 from the Kilgour family. The Kilgour brothers were part of the syndicate that developed the triangle of land between Madison Road, Observatory Avenue and Edwards Road around the turn of the century.

"Dubbed 'Genevieve' by generations of residents... The Kilgour Fountain was a gesture of good will to calm furor caused by the extension of the trolley tracks from Delta Avenue to Madison Road, disrupting the tranquility of a few bordering streets. In addition, the farsighted syndicate wanted to beautify the shopping district planned to be in walking distance of their developed property." (Source: Cincinnati Magazine [September 1975].)
Amazing. The fountain was a gift to the neighborhood from the Kilgours because of the disruptive nature of construction of the local public trolley line.  A far cry from today's world.

The Kilgours were a major presence in the area of the time: John Kilgour, a wealthy Cincinnati banker & President of the Cincinnati Street Railway, and his brother, Charles Kilgour, a wealthy real estate investor & street railway engineer. They helped to develop Hyde Park into an area strictly for the wealthy, contributing the land for the Cincinnati Observatory (moved from Mt. Adams, which also gave Mt. Lookout its name), and dedicating the "Kilgour Esplanade" (Hyde Park Public Square) to the village of Hyde Park (July 21, 1900). 
Sources: City of Cincinnati - Parks Dept, Cincinnati Enquirer, and "Cincinnati: A Guide to the Queen City and its Inhabitants" by the Federal Writers' Project (p.306, 307).

Read a short history on the development of Hyde Park by the Hyde Park Neighborhood Council, and Mt. Lookout's history at the Mt. Lookout Community Council & P&G.

• Current info on Hyde Park at soapbox!, and a great photo of "Genevieve" here.


• • • • • • • • • • 

Finally, here a couple more recent photos of the fountain getting its Fall bath before closing down for the colder months...or maybe just a good old fashioned soap tagging by those wild and crazy neighborhood kids:



All photos taken 9/25/9.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Square Re-Envisioned

It's probably pretty obvious by now that I love our great city and its history, which is why I hate to see deterioration and neglect (more often than not, caused by the automobile) in once-thriving spaces - especially locales with original "walking Squares" (something rare anymore in today's world)... like Mt. Lookout Square.

I've been so familiar with the area for so long - passing by almost on a daily basis - which is why it
frequently bothers me. So, in an effort to contrive an outlandish solution, I took a couple minutes to overhaul the place with some pens and markers.

• • • • • • • • • •

One can argue that Mt. Lookout is already a hoppin' spot - and I'd concur, having once lived right on the Square - but in reality, it's just a ring of businesses around heavy traffic, which encloses more traffic & parking... a Square for cars. So, just think how much more attractive it would be to remove the (roughly) 30 parking spots in the middle of the mayhem and replace it with some greenery and human beings - a central gathering point for the local inhabitants.


Well, "the board" beat me to the punch. Check out these renderings of the recently-proposed greenspace from Vivian Llambi & Associates:





This is a great treatment - streamlines the space, adds plant life, and pulls in that incredibly-important central gathering point. Still, what if there was a little more money to throw around...

Two things missing in the above renderings that I think are key: (1) It really begs for a central post - a fountain, a statue, a clock tower... something tall to define the square, the history, to mark the spot, for example...



Hyde Park Square has a historical fountain as its central marker.
The fountain receiving its bath before the winter shutdown.
Photo taken on 9/25/9.


...and (2) needs a way for people to access the area safely. The square is the heart of the Linwood/Delta intersection, which makes it crazy busy (via motorists regularly ignoring their speedometer), and thus, sometimes overwhelming for pedestrians...



Crossing the street safely is nearly hit or miss at Mt. Lookout Square.
Photo taken on 9/25/9.

So, in an effort to answer these needs, I thought it'd be fitting to give the square everything listed above... and more!

THE PROCESS

I first scanned through existing online pics of the Square, which were surprisingly few and far between...


So I decided to go down and take some pictures of the surroundings from the angles I needed...






It was a good thing that I scouted out the area firsthand, because I noticed a conflict with my "central clock tower" idea - one already exists on the corner of Delta & Linwood, near Chase Bank and Mount Lookout Tavern...


 ...so in deference to that original structure, but still in keeping with my new plan, I decided to nix the clock and just pay homage to the area's name by making a larger tower with an overlook atop.

Anyway, after doing all of this and conjuring up my incredulous proposal (sans paper), I floated the idea to others, who loved the concept, but balked at the assumed expense involved in actually creating it.

Blindly ignoring that, I started on the development, and built up
a reference database from online sources...


...then did some quick sketches of the central tower & fountain...


...and then moved on to some more detailed sketches of the whole park...


To provide more accuracy, I then used Vivian Llambi's "Final Conceptual" overhead plans as a template for my ideas...


...and wrapped up with a quick draft of the final concept:
Concept for Mt. Lookout Square.
Note: Some changes here from the prior sketches.
I also deliberately skewed the perspective to showcase everything clearly.
And... not my best work, by any means - I ignored the ruler and was pretty
loose with the surroundings - but I think it gets the point across.



I originally thought it would be cool to have all of the things seen above: Catwalks above street-level to provide safe access, leading to a stairway through the middle of the tower - up to the top (a small overlook), and down to the bottom park area.

The south side of the park would be greenspace anchored by a fountain, and the north side would have greenspace anchored by a small stage with canopy. Tiered, permanent seating would also abut the tower's north side (kind of reflecting the Serpentine Wall aesthetic, but faced in brick), to aid in viewing stage performances/events or just act as casual seating.

The monumental central tower - also housing restrooms and storage/office space (for the Parks Dept. or community events) - would have an overlook space for casual pedestrian use or to house lighting/cameras for formal stage events.

Pretty ambitious, huh.

In heed of the cost and lack of space, here, in lesser form, are some other quick drafts...

Other ideas for Mt. Lookout Square.
(1) Solo tower without tiered seating, baths, office, and bridges,
and (2) solo catwalk with tiered seating.


I kept the end anchors (stage and fountain) but just reigned in the tower, which would be the most costly part of the project... but in actuality, maybe not, considering the money in Mt. Lookout these days.

And in retrospect, the design probably should've reflected the original shape of the Square, with half-rounds echoing each other throughout. Something like this...

Concept for Mt. Lookout Square (Overhead-edited).
Anything not in color is ground-level.



Lastly, the overarching concern surrounding all of this is, "Where is everyone going to park?".
Answer: I don't care.

It's a square for pedestrians in that neighborhood - people living there should walk to it, not drive. And if people visit, it's not a big deal to park a couple of blocks away and actually use their feet from there - that's pretty common for other current events that take place in the area anyway. I'm assuming the
Mt. Lookout Community Development Corporation (MLCDC)
and Vivian Llambi feel the same way... or maybe they're hoping for the second coming of a streetcar line to one day aid in their efforts.

Anyway, it's just a thought.
 


• Thanks to the excellent reporter and progressive Cincinnati advocate, Randy Simes, over at UrbanCincy for the news and images. Also check out his corresponding article on soapbox!.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Riverside Rail

 Rail along Riverside Drive
(Pre-Towne Properties development).
Photo source.
 

It was my son's birthday recently, and a heck of a good day it was. After all of the day's expected rigmarole, we decided to cap it off with a cruise around downtown - something he enjoys immensely, even at this young age. Whether it be kid-size or adult-size, tunnels, towers and trains are his favorites, so when near the core, we always visit the Queen City Square tower construction site, and drive to or fro through the 71/3rd Street tunnels (and usually once back and forth over the Roebling Bridge, aka. the "Buzzing Bridge"). Unfortunately, seeing trains of any kind is unusual... which made this birthday trip extra special.

First, the normal routine (with an added bonus)...



The Queen City Square tower, looking NE from 2nd Street...


...and a plane with a flag attached to it!
Planes AND flags = hysteria.

After hitting the business district, we ventured down through beautiful Sawyer Point - an area that seems to be incredibly under-utilized by the population (aside from the formal, scheduled events - from what I've witnessed, anyway). It's surprising, too, considering there's so much to do and see just strolling around the area. No matter how many times I've been down there, it still hits me as a really incredible park...



Looking south from Sawyer Point's "Gateway Sculpture"
toward the "Big Mac Bridge".

Floating sticks down the miniature Ohio River - something I used to love doing
as a kid when it first opened in '88. Can't do it anymore, though,
since they don't keep the water pumping.

Waving flags against a moving sky. Pretty mesmerizing when
you're young...
and they're everywhere at Sawyer Point.

That was our final stop sans car, so after buckling in again for the ride home, I decided to take the scenic route, down Eastern Ave. Riverside Drive, and I'm glad I did because we ended up witnessing a small clip of the past future...

video

It was obviously a Cincinnati Dinner Train excursion, because there were only a few cars, it was moving pretty slow, there were people lounging around inside and on the rails checking out the view, and it was Saturday night. And as simple as this was, it was damn beautiful, and my son loved it.

A great end to a great day.

Aside:
This might not be a big deal to some of you, but like most of the rest of the country, passenger trains are extremely scarce around these parts anymore - especially any place other than Union Terminal, so seeing any train wheeling down the east side of town takes me by surprise. Naturally, I stopped to witness the grandeur, and wheeled up onto a small side street, got out and snagged a few, quick shots. This actually was a good experience, because I had never actually noticed how close the tracks were to the backs of some of those houses perched up off of Riverside Drive, and how little noise the train actually made next to them.

While I don't drool over everything Towne does, I do appreciate their local prominence because they've rebuilt a ton of older areas into attractive hot spots. But in regards to Riverside, I really don't know what the heck Arn is complaining about. Not only did the Cincinnati Dinner Train not seem very disruptive (similar, if not heavier and louder than the modern 3-C cars that would travel here), but having passenger trains travel through the area and stop in the heart of all the city's new construction three times a day seems like a no-brainer in terms of creating prosperity and vitality for our city. Isn't that what developers ultimately want?

Arn is obviously protecting those who have already bought from him down there, but if those residents don't like it, I'm sure there'd be a ton of people itching to buy property in their place if it meant being near a rail stop. Wasn't that always the plan???


Concept drawing of the Riverfront Transit Center (1997).
This was obviously constructed some time ago, but where's the rail?
Or the bus traffic for that matter??

Update: Lunken was approved as Cincinnati's "temporary" depot. Seeing that the Union Terminal was nixed from the get-go (no room with the freight traffic there), and the huge 2nd Street structure foolishly ignored (above image), I guess I don't have a problem with this - it's a cool, old stop that already caters to the transient tourist/business passenger dynamic. But if the streetcar is ever constructed and doesn't have a line passing near there, none of it will make any sense... or cents.

• More on the Cincinnati Dinner Train and other unique rail events at
The Cincinnati Railway Company (more info at Discover Ohio, CincinnatiUSA.com & a nice writeup at Shore Magazine).


• Read an exceptional writeup of the barren Riverfront Transit Center at the always excellent Queen City Discovery


Friday, October 9, 2009

Queen City Printing Ink

 Advertisement [1896].
More info here.
Source.

The Queen City Printing Ink Co., founded by George DeGolyer & John Rychen in 1860, was at one time considered to be "the largest printing ink facility in the United States" (source). Housed at 600 W. 5th Street (map), with additional facilities on Court Street and extensive production on South Street (map), the products were of high quality, wide range, mass volume, and great demand:

 
Source.

Additional info here & here.

• More QCPI Co. images: Poster [1903] & Trade Card [undated].
Related Post
The Sunday Paper

Monday, September 7, 2009

Playing Fetch (Part 2)

Read "Playing Fetch (Part 1)" here.

Wrapping up the the second part of our day, we found out another reason why Warren County does live up to their self-proclaimed title, "Ohio's largest playground".
Upon exiting the tennis tourney, we decided to drive across the street and see what all the ruckus has been about at The Great Wolf Lodge:



I know it's been awhile since first opening (in 2006), already jumping a few hurdles, but now since hitting it's stride, I thought actually visiting the place and scoping out the theming I've heard so much about might be enjoyable.

Coming from the Lindner Family Tennis Center, we drove east down Kings Mills Road, then south on Columbia and entered the complex at the first drive we saw, which put us in this rear lot facing the Conference Center entrance...

 

I suppose if we were actually staying there I would've driven around a bit and tried to find the main entrance (shown in the last picture), but this prominent opening looked adequate at the time. Thus, the following trek through the interior is, I suppose, considered a backward route.

So, after entering through the doors and making our way past the tables set up for a small convention that was starting, we hiked down the long hallway of the hotel wing, past what seemed like hundreds of rooms...


There was the occasional group of guests rushing past us with bathing garb and towels in hand, but overall, it seemed a little vacant. I'm not sure what the visitor trends are for the place - if it was in season, the right day of the week, etc. - so I'll just leave it at that.

We eventually hit the core of the complex, poking our heads inside the boisterous arcade area and a couple of little dining spots, before finally slipping past the "bracelet-checker" and entering the nexus of the Great Wolf universe...




This really is a grand structure, encompassing vast amounts of chlorinated water, bright-colored plastic, dedicated theming, and warm, sticky air. Of course, being a completely enclosed environment, voices echoed without abandon, but it wasn't annoying - it only seemed to exacerbate the excitement of the place. Though I must say, if we had brought our 2-year-old son here, I can only imagine the shock-and-awe that this thing in its totality would've inflicted upon his senses - maybe a little overwhelming, but probably adaptable.




If anyone has noticed, I'm kind of a big fan of theme parks - not necessarily for the thrill rides (though, who doesn't love 'em), but more for the thematic elements. Creating an artificial environment from scratch that accurately portrays the chosen concept, and is believable, is really satisfying - and honestly, not even just viewing the final product, but realizing the process behind it all, is really exciting
to me. That being said, this place didn't represent the cream-of-the-crop in terms of execution or detail, but for a sit-alone hotel/water park in the Midwest (and for parts of the year, vying with the likes of The Beach and Kings Island), it really wasn't a bad job at all - some monies were definitely spent here.



What's really cool about this place is that there's a multitude of options for every age. As we scoped the place out, there seemed to be several paths leading to various, separate swimming locations - pools, slides, and play areas. For instance, here's a "hot springs" wave pool...

 

As we kept moving around the place, there was no denying the many different slides looming extensively overhead, as well as the many different pools at our feet - after that long day of watching tennis in those scorching bleachers, I was ready to dive in! Check it all out in this 360˚ pan of the place as we were deep in it...


(Looking at the photo above) We then made our way over the bridge, past the yellow stairs, and to the far corner of the building (in the center of the picture), past another small dining area, and to my surprise, an outdoor pool area...


I don't know why it surprised me that much, seeing another grand pool outside, with more slides and dining areas... because hey, pools are usually exposed to the elements (and vitamin D is essential). I suppose the indoor section was just that overwhelming, so I didn't expect more.

Anyway, we went back inside the great beast, made our way back under the slides, past an "obstacle course" pool and a huge kiddie pool, over the "lazy river" and under the huge watery tree fort, then exited the pool area and came upon the lobby of the main entrance...

 

This was another grand space, showcasing the three-stories of rooms and setting off the main theme, which I thought was executed... well... a little awkwardly. Checking in at the front desk "lodge" and sitting down for a minute or two in overstuffed chairs by the huge fireplace wasn't the problem, it was that things became it little too kitschy (in my amateur opinion). In others words: Too many wolves...

 


In the fireplace picture alone, I counted six... and why was there a wolf (stuffed animal) in the rafters of the first pic? And why was the camping gear on the roof of the building? I guess I just didn't understand it. It really got to the point where I thought the official hotel staff garb might be Three Wolf Moon t-shirts or something. Sadly though, not.

Those trivialities aside, we explored the rest of the lobby, which included some sort of animatronic Chuck E. Cheese-type setup (which was off at the moment - seen 3 pics above, on the left side), a huge gift shop-slash-Starbucks, and a laid back, full-service restaurant (of which, after nosing through the windows at some family's dinner, looked pretty enticing).

Then we started to wonder if that was it. There was a lot to the place - swimming, eating, video games, and light shopping - but was it enough to keep a family occupied in a $200/night room? Well, we decided to explore the upper levels of the place, taking the glass elevator to the second and third floors, and explored from there. Of course, we found more...

 

Not only were there great seating areas in the common areas of each floor - some of which had flatscreen TVs, game tables, and/or great window views of the main attraction (above photo) - but there was also an elaborate scavenger hunt game with clues built into every area of the hotel. We noticed this because kids were strolling back and forth around us (with their parents) holding these wooden (plastic) "magic wands", that were completely interactive with the surroundings (small treasure chests down various hallways, a small forest with interactive screens, a large dragon sleeping upon a gold coins, etc.). We found the shop selling the the game (MagiQuest), and found out that it took about 2 hours to solve, but could be played sporadically over the course of your stay - pretty cool, especially if you have kids... or not. More on MagiQuest and the rest of Great Wolf's activities here.

So, all in all, Great Wolf Lodge looked like a pretty successful and extremely eventful entertainment option, especially for families - obviously a great draw in the winter. I never checked out any of the rooms, but spending some cool dough for a couple of chillly nights basking in the warm glow of the wet wolf wouldn't seem too bad...

 

Again, a great weekend visiting another one of Cincinnati's many stellar attractions. Not that this was the epitome of greatness, but for all the bitching that goes on around this town, we really do have it pretty darn good.


For
another's quick wrap on Great Wolf Lodge, check out JordanC's review.

• The article title plays on the fact that I've grown up with dogs, and tennis, which means there was lot of slobbery, chewed up yellow balls lying around. Wolves may not "play fetch" but hey, they're related to dogs anyway.

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