For a spirited slice of the Bluegrass State, visit Northern Kentucky, a string of cities and towns along the Kentucky-Ohio border, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Spirits here take many forms, from religious attractions that tell Biblical stories to distilleries that pour their souls into producing bourbon and other distilled spirits.
Reflect on spiritual stories
The striking Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, inspired by Paris’s Notre Dame, appeals to both the faithful and to fans of fabulous architecture. Its stony Gothic façade stands in contrast to a soaring interior brightened by two 26-foot diameter rose windows and 80 German-made stained glass windows.
The spiritually minded also come to visit sister attractions, located 40 miles apart. Both the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter tell Biblical stories through lifelike animatronic exhibits, but each also offers a host of other things to see and do. Gardens and a café add enjoyment at the Creation Museum. A wooden ark of Biblical proportions is of course the breathtaking star at the Ark Encounter, but there’s also a massive buffet restaurant, camel rides and a petting zoo, a gift shop, a large theater, a skating rink and a zipline.
Savor sippable spirits
For distilled spirits and spirited startup stories, do tours and tastings at three area distilleries. Northern Kentucky is, after all, the northernmost point on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. In Newport, New Riff is hanging more and more awards in its steel and glass distillery near the river. What inspired the “Made by Ghosts” slogan at Boone County Distilling, located a mile from Interstate 75? Owners say their whiskey, bourbon and gin reflect the spirits of men who first made bourbon in these parts in the early 1800s. Farther west, Neely Family Distillery also looks to the past for inspiration. Making moonshine–illegally in those days–kept food on the table for nine generations of this Kentucky family. Now, the 10th and 11th generations are making ‘shine and other spirits with the government’s blessing at their distillery 200 yards from Kentucky Speedway, home to NASCAR’s Quaker State 400. Groups are welcomed to tour the gigantic auto racing facility, and maybe even take a spin in their motorcoach around the 1.5-mile oval.
Experience the spirit of adventure
The Ohio River is not only scenic, its banks are packed with adventures. The best way to see what lies along each side is on a BB Riverboats’ tour. Sightseeing, dinner, themed and other cruises leave from a new dock and adjoining event facility. Tour boats paddle past riverfronts vastly remade, with parks and sports stadiums on the Cincinnati side and the Newport Aquarium, Newport on the Levee and hotels on the Kentucky side. In Newport, learn about the underworld spirits who turned the small city into the nation’s first “Las Vegas,” before city fathers ran the gamblers out of town on a Newport Gangster Tour.
Dig into local specialties
Get into the spirit of the region by sampling two of its iconic foods. Many local restaurants serve its riff on sausage — a mashup of pork, spices and oats called goetta — on burgers, or as a new twist on old favorites like Eggs Benedict or grilled cheese. Popular chains Gold Star and Skyline Chili deliver Cincinnati chili, a meaty concoction laced with cinnamon that locals like over spaghetti or on a hot dog bun. The region’s German heritage is celebrated daily at Hofbrauhaus, where groups rub elbows at long tables and enjoy brauts, sauerkraut and polkas.
For more information:
group tour manager
or 513-307-6343 (cell)