We walk through Washington Park (doesn’t every city seemingly have a park with Washington in its name?), an 8-acre centerpiece where kids and dogs cavort while corporate suits stroll and bearded musician types linger along park bench- es together.

“The story of Cincinnati resides here,” Craig Maness says with a mix of awe and reverence in his voice as he sweeps his arms in a wide gesture around the cav- ernous tunnel we’re now standing in, some 30-feet below the street. Maness is the Director of Business Operations for American Legacy Tour, and he’s now leading us through recently-discovered tunnels that served as underground storage and transport conduits for the 130-plus saloons that once resided within OTR.

“It’s hard to fathom that all these tunnels were completed by hand in 1860,” he continues.

Craig’s staff conducts outings ranging from ghost tours and architectural tours to romps through the city’s storied crime era of the 1920s and ‘30s. Probably the most noted brewer of his day was Christian Moerlein, who was a true lega- cy to his city’s beer-splashed history. It’s no wonder then, that one of Cincy’s most popular restaurants is called Moerlein Lager House - a working microbrewery as much as it is a notable restaurant spe- cializing in hand-crafted sandwiches, smoked and rotisserie meats.

The Lager House, situated next to the Great American Ballpark (home to MLB’s Reds) and just adjacent to Paul Brown Stadium (NFL’s Bengals), and the U.S. Bank Arena (minor league hockey team, The Cyclones) has a stunning glass cube design that provides a jutting view of those parks and on toward the dramatic riverfront.

If there are two impressive takeaways for me pertaining to this thriving city, one would be its burgeoning mural arts pro- gram. I’m seeing tastefully-inspiring murals sprayed across the sides of myri- ad buildings. I even espy several works of art in-progress and, by the next day, they’re fully complete.

Cincinnati is mural crazy! Indeed, for a guy who lives in the mural capital of the world - Philly - The Queen City artists are about to give us a run for our paint-hued palettes.

The other OMG-moment is generated by BLINK, one of the largest light, art and projection mapping events in the nation.

This special weekend-long event, occur- ring in mid-October, is a surreal canvas of lights forming shapes and colors across the fronts, sides, and backs of countless buildings throughout the city. BLINK has brought out over a half a mil- lion people out to view the thematic spectacle. The cafes are packed. The sidewalks become sentient.

On this weekend, Cincinnati has become, if anything, just like Times Square - all lights and life.

We rent a Pedal Wagon (basically a motorized cart that’s a moveable bar) where the hired driver navigates and pro- pels us slowly and carefully as we drink and cavort while taking in the BLINK spectacle and listen to tunes.

When “Safety Dance” comes through the speakers at full blast (“S, A, F, E, T, Y - Safety DANCE!”) scores of people who line the sidewalks cheer at us in unison.

Fountain Square

Yeah, we can dance if we want to, too.

By 11pm, when I’m back in my comfort- able room within the Renaissance hotel high above the city, I spend time simply staring down at the throngs still collect- ing all along the streets below me who, in turn, stare upward at BLINK in an awe all their own…

“It all started with one waffle iron,” Jean- Francois Flechet reminisces about his beginnings - his 120lb. cast iron waffle iron - and how he began making authen- tic Belgium waffles from a stall within Findley Market in 2007. Soon, Flechet moved into the very epicenter of the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood and the rest, as they say, is eaten at brunch, lunch and dinner, plus late-nights, seven-days a week.

A mélange of sweets and savories are offered here amid the aroma of good strong coffee intermingling with heady buckwheat batter. I enjoy the best waffle I’ve ever eaten, which happens to go along perfectly with the best buttermilk- dipped chicken breast jacketed in a heat/sweet batter dip mixture.

If the day were any later, I’d have delved into Jean-Francois’ laudable selection of Belgian beers but, for now, his rich coffee will do just fine.

As the morning ebbs into afternoon, we trek to Walnut Hills, another of the up-and-coming neighborhoods here in Cincy. You know that a city’s section is hitting full-trending stride when you find yourself in a bar that’s dedicated to all things punch.

Yes, Myrtles Punch House is a laid- back eating and drinking establish- ment - very living room-like, and featur- ing creative gin, rum and bourbon- based concoctions.

I’ve been to sour beer bars and cham- pagne bars and - just as recently on this trip - a speakeasy that’s dedicated to the oeuvre of Tarantino, yet, ‘til now, I’ve never been to a place as punch drenched as this one.

Later, after a filling dinner at a fun and festive restaurant called Nada (haute

Mid-Atlantic EVENTS Magazine 93

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