Chuck's Lovely Adventure: Cincinnati

Chuck Lofton

CINCINNATI, Ohio (WTHR) — We hot-footed it from Gatlinburg to our next stop and more than four hours later, we arrived in Cincinnati!

American Sign Museum

One of the streets inside the Sign Museum. (WTHR)

Our adventure through the "Queen City" began at the American Sign Museum, which is a wonderful place for a date. It's the largest public museum dedicated to signs in the country. Covering 100 years of history, it's housed in 20,000 square feet of space and for me, seeing these old signs was a wondrous trip back to my childhood.

Swing House

Swing House in Cincinnati. (WTHR)

We still needed a touch of the romantic side, but we were able to find it in the nearby Swing House. Mark DeJong met us at the door of this renovated 1880s, three-story brick home. If you are looking for a couple’s retreat celebrating the offbeat and immersive, this is the place. A swing tethered to the roof is the star of this home, but furniture mounted high on the walls appears to be floating, giving the house a feel of floating in space. Downstairs, Marks's art is featured, giving guests a one-of-a-kind romantic but ethereal visit.

Queen City Underground Tours

We then met our guide Miranda in the Over The Rhine neighborhood. This area — once considered one of the country's most dangerous — is now a wonderful place full of restaurants, brew pubs and shops. We took a trip underneath the streets as part of the Queen City Underground Tours to a crypt in a Catholic church and a fascinating newly-discovered area that was the vital underground tunnel system to Cincy's brewing heritage. This would be a perfect couple’s afternoon. The walking isn't strenuous and despite the weather above, it’s a very nice 58 degrees underground.

Carew Tower Observation Deck

View from the Carew Tower Observation Deck. (WTHR)

The tired feeling began creeping in after being on the road and shooting several stories, so we went downtown fora spectacular view of the city from the 48-story Carew Tower. The observation deck view was magnificent, allowing us to see and take pictures of the downtown ballparks, Northern Kentucky and the Ohio River.

SkyStar Wheel

Later, we bopped on down to the riverfront where the SkyStar Wheel allowed for a slow ride high over downtown. The ride is so popular that even though it's temporary, city leaders have plans to build their own. The giant wheel is open daily and is equipped with 36 gondolas that give you a spectacular view 15 stories up over Riverfront Park. I thought this was the kind of lovely ride that could make forever romantic memories.

Taste of Belgium

Our next morning in Cincinnati began with a wonderful Belgian breakfast on the riverfront at the Banks. The Taste of Belgium is a small chain of five Belgian-inspired restaurants in the city. Our breakfast was scrumptious with that French/Belgian flair. I had a waffle and some eggs, but this is a place you can go if you are into the unusual. For instance, on Tuesdays, they offer all-you-can-eat mussels and frites.

Waffle & Chicken (WTHR/Steve Rhodes)
Chicken, Biscuit & Gravy (WTHR/Steve Rhodes)
Ham & Brie Signature Waffle (WTHR/Steve Rhodes)
Waffle Packs (WTHR/Steve Rhodes)
Desserts (WTHR/Steve Rhodes)
Belgian Macarons (WTHR/Steve Rhodes)

Jungle Jim's International Market

After a quick trip across the river to shoot promos and get shots of the skyline from Northern Kentucky, we were back in Ohio and on the way to the legendary Jungle Jim’s. The international market — now in two facilities — is a must-visit and has more than a HALF MILLION square feet in floor space! Over 70 countries are represented, and it goes without saying that this bizarre, quirky, fun store is a destination for tourists, food aficionados and regular shoppers alike. Owner Jim Bonaminio constantly changes the look of the store, and as you are wandering through the huge international produce section or the French food mini-store, don't be surprised if you run across a replica of the Gilligan’s Island SS Minnow or a singing animal dressed like Elvis. You can buy a candy bar or a $6,000 bottle of wine...a hot dog or a rare cut of steak — valued at $200 a pound. Steve found the place a real challenge to shoot, so at one point, we were perched at the top of the facility with a wide view of this massive food emporium. Engagement is key at Jungle Jim's, and you'll find cooking classes, activities for kids and a brand-new event center for weddings or conferences. Here's an example of the vast inventory: our producer Megan found a root beer AISLE — nothing but root beer, and she bought a case of various brands for our soft drink-addicted boss. It's a place that changes every time you visit, and I can't wait to go again!

The View at Shires' Garden

The View at Shires’ Garden in Cincinnati. (WTHR)

We had a wonderful night of dining in Cincinnati on our last evening. As a Southern Illinois University grad, I am thrilled every time I see a geodesic dome. The great Buckminister Fuller fashioned those odd structures at my alma mater decades ago, and our crew had the time of our lives as we dined atop the City Club Apartments at The View at Shires’ Garden. The restaurant calls them igloos, but they really aren't: they are geodesic domes that are heated and are wonderful. Speaking of wonderful, it was a chilly night as producer Megan, photojournalist Steve and I dined in a nice, cozy space with a marvelous view of the Ohio River, and while savoring my steak I thought, what a wonderful romantic evening this would make for couples. There are only two of these structures on the property, so make reservations early!