In the early 1900s, people came to Northern Kentucky to drink and gamble. Today, they come by the thousands to visit a replica of Noah’s Ark and a museum dedicated to the story of Creation. In this colorful region across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, stories of temptation and salvation peacefully coexist.
Begin at the beginning
The Bible’s oldest story is told with holograms and animatronics at the Creation Museum. Ziplines, Eden-like gardens, a planetarium and insectorium, a café and gift shop round out the experience. Some 40 miles south, at the Ark Encounter, a timber frame ark built to Biblical dimensions dominates the rolling hillsides just off I-75. As visitors walk through the massive ship, lifelike exhibits employing animatronics recount the story of Noah, his family and their animal traveling companions. The ark is just the start; a mammoth buffet restaurant feeds the masses and ziplines, a petting zoo, camel rides and, in winter, a skating rink, entertain.
Newport, the first Sin City
Back on the river in Newport, American Legacy Tours’ Newport Gangsters Tour is offered as a walking tour or step-on guided tour. It’s a colorful trek through America’s first Sin City, where Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and other stars rubbed elbows with mobsters who made fortunes on gambling and booze until city fathers ran them and their illicit businesses west and Sin City II–Las Vegas– was born.
New take on bourbon at New Riff
After the tour, toast Newport’s sinful past at a local bourbon bar or learn how bourbon, rye and gin are being made at New Riff Distilling, part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft TourÒ. Fans of less potent brews can break for a beer and brat at Newport’s Hofbrauhaus, the first U.S. location of the iconic Munich beer hall. Long tables, platters of German sausages, frosty mugs and live music make for a convivial atmosphere.
A lineup of real dummies
An audience made up of ventriloquists’ dummies that sits silently but expressively in a theater is one of many unexpected moments at the Vent Haven Museum. The appointment-only museum is home to a collection of 1,000 retired “vents.”
Shop, see sharks and ride a riverboat
Next to the river, Newport on the Levee is a scenic shopping and dining destination. At the adjacent Newport Aquarium, mermaids and Santa swim among sharks depending on the season and visitors can pet a stingray and cross the shark bridge if they dare. For trips up and down the river, BB Riverboats’ sightseeing and dinner cruises depart from its new dock and special events space.
Sights on the Cincy side
Cincinnati is minutes away and packed with promise. See dugouts, the press box and other off-limits areas during a tour of the riverfront Great American Ballpark, home to the Cincinnati Reds. Learn more about baseball’s oldest franchise at the newly remodeled Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, where a collection of uniforms, gloves, bats and player videos is augmented by hands-on fun like making your own baseball card.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center perches above the Ohio River, which was crossed by hundreds of slaves on their journey to freedom via the Underground Railroad. The award-winning museum opens eyes to the devastation wrought by slavery in this country and to the continuing horrors of human trafficking and other forms of enslavement in the world today.
Signs will never seem the same after a visit to the American Sign Museum, where 20,000 square feet of space is filled with signs of every era, from hand-painted to flashy neon. Popular as an event space, the museum also works well for mystery tours because of its off-the-beaten path location in a warehouse district.
For more information:
Erin Hoebbel, group tour manager
859-655-4154 or 513-307-6343 (cell)