Season Opener: Spring in Cincinnati
A focus on the past
Once the Reds pull out a victory and cars honk in the streets, visitors can't help but notice that many big attractions focus on the past. In the 1800s, Cincinnati was the biggest boat-building city in the nation, and 125 steamboats stopped here every day. That commerce funded an impressive arts community that thrives at the hilltop Cincinnati Art Museum and downtown's smaller but stunning Taft Museum of Art.
The Civil War also changed Cincinnati's trajectory. Boats could no longer travel safely between North and South. The unrest spurred slaves to dream, thinking if they could just make it from Kentucky across the Ohio River's 175 watery yards, they might live in freedom. At the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Novella Slaughter helps people understand that geography. "If you're a slave and you want to run away, you want to go in the fall and winter, when the days are short and the river water freezes," she tells a group of kids. "Are there going to be people to help you? Yes. They're going to give you food, water, shelter.
"Is it underground? No. Are there railroad tracks? No. What is the Underground Railroad? It's people helping people," she says.
Pictured: Murals at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center recall slavery's injustices.