(Photos by A Curious Introvert)
There is a saying about finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and after a weekend trip to Cincinnati to watch Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals play the Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ball Park, there should be a saying about finding baseball paradise along the Ohio River. My team, the Nationals, may have had a rough weekend against the Reds, but baseball paradise was found in a wonderful kaleidoscope of Bryce, baseball, bridges, and beautiful towns and cities on the Ohio River.
Upon arriving in Cincinnati, the first area we explored was the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood just north of downtown Cincinnati. My husband and I originally heard about this area while watching one of our favorite shows, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, hosted by Guy Fieri and originally had planned on having lunch at one of the restaurants visited on his show, Senate, for a gourmet hot dog, but unfortunately we arrived after they closed for the afternoon. We spent some time walking around Vine St., which has seen a revitalization over the last few years, and passed Taste of Belgium and Bakersfield OTR which were two other restaurants visited by Guy Fieri, but as we were trying to decide which restaurant to choose,
we received a sign of where we should go when we came across the donut shop, Holtman’s, with a wonderful sign out front containing a great quote from one of my favorite authors, Janet Evanovich.
The donuts were absolutely delicious and while my husband did not enjoy the sign as much as I did, he definitely enjoyed the donuts.
The baseball paradise covers Covington and Newport, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio all located on the banks of the Ohio River and our wonderful Covington, Kentucky hotel room with a balcony had an exceptional view overlooking the Ohio River, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge and downtown Cincinnati.
A magical part of the baseball paradise was being able to leave our vehicle in the car park for the entire weekend and explore Covington, Newport and Cincinnati on foot. We had tickets for Friday and Saturday’s games and went to the ballpark early for both games to hopefully get pictures of Bryce Harper at batting practice. We never saw Harper during batting practice, but thankfully with the last-minute purchase of Friday nights tickets I was able to take hundreds of pictures of Bryce Harper and the Nationals on Friday night since Harper was scratched from Saturday’s game. The plan for dinner Friday night was hot dogs, peanuts and pizza at the ball park.
The hot dogs and pizza were great and on a future visit to the ballpark I would definitely plan on trying Mr. Red’s Smokehouse or the concession stand selling a Cincinnati Reds helmet filled with nachos that looked heavenly in this baseball paradise.
The beautiful Great American Ball Park is set along the Ohio River and the seating in the lower level provides a very intimate feel to the game. The players and action feel accessible and the exceptionally friendly staff and fans provide a feeling of being a part of a community watching a ball game together. At ball games we tend to spend some time walking around the stadium to either stay out of the heat or find different views for photos of the players. While walking around the Great American Ball Park my favorite spot soon became Bootleggers, a speakeasy style bar with 13 drafts/imports on tap including one of my favorites, Angry Orchard Hard Cider.
As a result of the late afternoon heat and Bryce being scratched from Saturday’s game, it was very cool (literally) hanging around Bootleggers for a few innings on Saturday.
Proof of baseball paradise rests in the fact that although the Washington Nationals arrived in town after tying a franchise record for winning 9 straight series this season before they lost three straight games to the Cincinnati Reds, their poor play did not distract from the outstanding baseball atmosphere, great food, perfect seats for photos, wonderful relief from the heat provided by the river breeze, fireworks, and the enjoyment my husband and I shared watching ball games at the Great American Ball Park.
Not all of the paradise was found inside the ball park and many other magical moments were found along the Ohio River.
After Friday night’s game, we had the opportunity to watch the post-game fireworks from the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge as we walked back to our hotel. It was a beautiful display of fireworks, with the stadium and downtown in the background and a river of floating boats enjoying the show.
We had a chance to wander around Covington, Newport and Cincinnati prior to Saturday’s game and in this baseball paradise there is a wonderful shuttle service that will take you throughout the three areas if you become tired of walking, which at one point became necessary, and we took a shuttle full of friendly people talking and laughing with everyone as they enjoyed their day.
Mid-morning Saturday we took a walk to the MainStrasse Village in Covington and, as a fan of Main Streets, we had a wonderful stroll through the area enjoying the storefronts, bars and neighborhood and were a little disappointed it was too early to stop in a bar for a shot of bourbon to toast one of our favorite TV characters, Raylan Givens, from the Kentucky based show Justified that recently finished its final season.
After our visit to MainStrausse in Covington, we visited Newport, Kentucky with a fantastic outdoor area called Newport On The Levee. We only had the time for a quick tour, but what a wonderful atmosphere for a day of enjoyment at the Newport Aquarium, AMC Theatre, shopping, dining and other entertainment venues. A little further up the street is a wonderful Bavarian restaurant, Hofbrauhaus Newport, that I enjoyed with family on a previous visit.
Pretty soon it was time to cross the river again to find a place for lunch prior to the game and from Newport you can cross over into Cincinnati by several bridges, one being the pedestrian only “Purple People Bridge.” This time we were looking for a sports bar by the stadium and found the perfect spot, Holy Grail Tavern & Grille, across from the Great American Ball Park. What a perfect name for a sports bar located in baseball paradise and the atmosphere, food (loved the Goebel’s Reuben Wontons) and Angry Orchard Hard Cider provided the perfect place to relax while waiting for the game to start.
The 2015 MLB All-Star Game is being held at the Great American Ball Park on July 14th and if you have a chance to attend the game hopefully you will find the baseball paradise I discovered with Bryce in attendance, great company, laughter, a room with a ballpark view and fireworks on the banks of the Ohio River.