A boer goat stares at you. A donkey stares at the goat. And a baby tennessee walking horse reads its first Dr. Seuss book. No matter where you point your eyes, you’ll be treated to sights of charming animals at Jane’s Saddlebag’s petting zoo. It’s one of many delightful fixtures at the rural getaway—a hands-on historical education experience at a restored saddlebag home, which sprawls across more than 35 acres near Big Bone Lick State Park. A historic smokehouse adjacent to the home offers insight to the days before refrigeration, when Kentucky farmers would preserve their cured meat by hanging it above a smoldering fire. And behind the saddlebag home lies a replica of a 1700s flatboat, a low-cost form of transportation used by settlers to take one-way trips down the Ohio River and achieve ankle tans.
From April to October, these rustic outposts bathe in the sound waves of live music, and the cook-in-residence slakes the hunger built up from exploring both the refreshing nature of the grounds and the historical splendor it offers. When it’s in season, the cook uses freshly grown vegetables and puts flames to a new york strip steak until it’s almost as tender as the mashed potatoes with which it’s served. There’s even a wine and gift shop, where regional wines—some from Kentucky—vie with antiques and gift baskets for the attention of gift givers.
The two-hour Prohibition Resistance: Summer Lager Tour shepherds ale enthusiasts through several blocks of pre-Prohibition-era breweries in the historically German-populated Over-the-Rhine district. Knowledgeable guides embark from Findlay Market, a public bazaar in continuous operation since 1855, to delve into mid- to late-19th-century beer bubblers. Clyffside Brewery’s opulent high bays soar overhead, and Jackson Brewery’s cavernous lagering cellars delve deep enough to encounter fabled beer-breathing fish. Alongside decorative cornices and bull's-eye windows, tour takers investigate the social and political dimensions of hops hawking. Though the tour does not include beer tasting, tour-goers may visit the Over-the-Rhine Biergarten afterward to discover for themselves the origins of the German word: “bier,” meaning “beer,” and “garten,” meaning “to gargle voraciously.”
Initially designed as a temporary tour and fundraiser for student travel, American Legacy Tours began humbly as the Newport Gangster Tour in 2008. When met with overwhelming success, the friends who had embarked on what they thought was a temporary project decided to take root and expand, creating American Legacy Tours in 2010.
Their first order of business as an official company was to introduce the Queen City Underground Tour, an exploration of the city's underground tunnels and history as a rabbit village. Today, a cadre of educated guides leads 10 different area walking tours, including seasonal Spirit of Christmas Tours and Newport is Haunted Tours held around Halloween.
Imagine standing on the courthouse steps where dozens of Cincinnatians were slain during a riot in 1884. Or looking down an unlit tunnel burrowed to sustain the black-market trade of alcohol during the Prohibition. The guides behind Queen City History & Education Ltd. illuminate both the highs and lows of Over-the-Rhine’s and downtown’s history through walking tours designed by local attorney and real-estate agent Michael Morgan, author of Over-the-Rhine: When Beer Was King. They also host lectures and educational seminars that promote the preservation of Cincinnati’s historical structures. To further strengthen that goal, the company donates a percentage of it proceeds to the Brewery District CURC, a nonprofit that supports the redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine. Additionally, the foundation works to preserve the area’s architectural and cultural brewing heritage by placing a bubbling cauldron on every corner.
Michael and Jeff Morris, Miamitown Ghost Tours' seasoned guides and the authors of Haunted Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio, lead groups on a ghastly walking tour of outdoor sites rife with frightful history. The 90-minute excursion departs from the old Miamitown Methodist Church, leading brave patrons across the Harrison Bridge, where name-claiming debates between presidents William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison have been heard to echo. Along the way, guides halt at known haunt-spots to regale their eerie narratives, most of which stem from eyewitness accounts by locals who have donated their tales to the tour. All of the legends are appropriate for children, and guests are encouraged to bring cameras to nab hair-raising evidence. The half-mile journey concludes at the church's ghoul-patrolled cemetery, where guests can tremble at unidentifiable shadows or chase down celebrity ghosts for autographs.
Plunking guests into amphibious vessels based on a 1940s General Motors military design, the tour guides at Ride The Ducks Newport lead excursions through greater Cincinnati via city streets and the Ohio River. Tours spend about 25 minutes on the water as sightseers paint mental watercolors of local attractions, including Newport Aquarium, the Roebling Suspension Bridge, and the World Peace Bell. Along the way, guides regale tourists with tales about Cincinnati's role in films and songs, as well as stories about the city's history and famous personalities that surprise even lifelong residents. Tourists may bring drinks with lids (no alcohol or liquid nitrogen allowed), and vessels furnish guests with life jackets and Wacky Quackers that make duck noises to complement the tour's duck's-eye views.