The American Sign Museum dazzles peepers with its staggering collection of nearly 3,000 signs and sign-related objects. Admission for two (a $20 value; children under 12 are free) grants curious excursionists, postmodern art-lovers, and knowledge-thirsty bounty hunters a personally guided tour through a century’s worth of clearly labeled exhibits, including spinning Sputnik-like signs, opulent gilded specimens, and the samples used by salespeople. Witness scientific signage with a “changeable” neon sign that runs on radio waves, or surf through a sense-sating sea of sign-making tools, photographs, models, and artwork. Founder Tod Swormstedt leads most tours, doling out generous portions of knowledge on various signs’ histories and contributions to the American landscape.
Most cities take pride in their past, preserving their historic triumphs and unusual claims to fame. The more macabre facets of municipal history, however, can take some digging to uncover. American Legacy Tours' Queen City is Haunted walking tours take the work out of supernatural explorations of Cincinnati. During each walk, expert guides expound on the murders and deaths of yesteryear, taking their charges through haunted buildings, spooky burial grounds, and the spot where they finally buried their dream of dancing. Historical episodes of interest include Cincinnati's Murder College, the phantoms that infest Music Hall, and the tale of the Tri-State area's most prolific killer.
More than 80 years ago, the Taft family bequeathed their stately home to the people of Cincinnati?and they also gave them plenty to hang on the walls. Home to the Taft's collection of 690 works of art, the Taft Museum welcomes visitors to view paintings by European and American masters, Chinese porcelains, European decorative arts, and captivating rotating exhibitions throughout the year. As they wander the museum, patrons view Rembrandt van Rijn's Portrait of a Man Rising from His Chair, Whistler's At The Piano, and John Singer Sargent's portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson, among other notable works.
The house itself is equally impressive. William Howard Taft accepted his nomination for President of the United States beneath the portico, and the structure, first built in 1820, is considered one of the country's finest examples of Federal architecture in the Palladian style.
The Drake Planetarium & Science Center captivates young minds with educational shows as well as after-school programs that teach creative problem solving and teamwork. Planetarium shows cover a wide range of topics and teach audiences to recognize seasonally changing constellations, planets, and lunar foliage. Starry Nights at the Cincinnati Astronomical Society invite stargazers to peep into the universe through the facility's powerful telescopes or highly magnified monocles, and laser light shows also grace the planetarium dome with 2D, 3D, and abstract animations choreographed to classic rock and holiday-theme recordings.
The firefighters of Engine Company #45 Firehouse extinguished their last blaze in 1962 after 56 years of fearless public service. Although the team dissipated, the elegant, 1906 firehouse?with Renaissance Revival details and three doors wide enough to accommodate horse-drawn fire engines?remained, languishing as a city storehouse until 1980, when the Fire Museum of Greater Cincinnati moved in. The building was recognized on the National Register of Historic Places and filled with special exhibits. It was also filled with antique firefighting gear that is in excellent condition in spite of years of smoke inhalation.
The collection reveals early 19th-century firefighting tactics with an alarm drum that once warned of fire from the roof of a carpenter shop and was later used to provide rhythm during disco infernos. In the Safe House exhibit, families diagram their homes and create personalized emergency plans while learning tips about fire prevention.
Cincinnati Reds fanatics touring the Great American Ballpark and the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum will get an inside look at the team's storied past and present. A knowledgeable guide captains the park excursion, leading visitors to many of the park's greatest sites during the 90-minute tour, which includes visits to the dugout, the field behind home plate, the press box, and the iconic spittoon where famous players deposit chewed-up swear words. The self-guided museum tour typically lasts 45–60 minutes. This year's additions to its exhibit roster include a 2010 retrospective, a Johnny Bench tribute, and a 50th-anniversary flashback commemorating the Reds' 1961 National League Championship. Pitch a few rounds in the interactive Play Ball! exhibit, and take in a Reds history film while seated in the wooden vintage-style grandstand in the Palace of the Fans Theater. The tour's grand finale is the Reds Hall of Fame, where a panoramic photo of 1912's opening day engulfs visitors, as well as the four-sided plaque towers commemorating the Reds' greatest sports-doers and most spirited cracker-jack vendors.