I must admit: Cincinnati is rarely on my mind. Even during the 15 or so years I lived 100 miles down the road in Louisville, I didn't give much pause to Cincy. For the four – could have very easily turned into five – years I attended Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, I passed through the Queen City on my way back and forth for breaks and summer vacations. Later, some buddies and I would occasionally drive up to attend a home Reds game. We would even make the trek to spend a Saturday at the Kings Island amusement park, which is actually north of Cincy, primarily to scare ourselves silly on the Red and Blue Coasters. Otherwise, the city has had about as much impact on me as Davenport, Iowa.
When shooting video for the TV series “Discover America,” I spent three days in Cincinnati for a 10-minute segment on one of the shows. I don't remember much about that trip. Like all things “Cincinnati” for me, it just didn't register. It's always been sort of nondescript – simply a place between where I was and where I wanted to go. It was a snarl of traffic that always added an extra 30 minutes to trips that necessitated my driving through it.
Buick recently staged its media introduction of the 2014 Regal in Cincinnati. Imagine my surprise at discovering a much more vibrant city than I remembered.
Sort of annexing Northern Kentucky for tourism purposes – the Cincy airport is actually in Northern Kentucky – Cincinnati has embraced its location on the Ohio River. The money and energy the city has poured into its riverfront has reaped amazing rewards.
Buick put us up at the 21c Museum Hotel. Owned by the Brown family that also honchos the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, where Buick hosted an event last year, it is an upscale, funky joint. Like the Louisville version, this hotel is brimming with artwork ranging from traditional to exhibits worthy of a Ripley's Believe It or Not museum.
|Yep, this is art.|
With the hotel just blocks from the river, I embarked on a stroll to check things out. I confirmed rumors of a microbrew pub nearby with the hotel concierge. When out of town, I never pass up the opportunity to sample local brews.
|In Louisville's 21c, red penguins are everywhere. In the Cincy 21c, the penguins are yellow.|
The verbal directions the concierge provided were probably much less ambiguous than my recollection of them. By the time I was a couple of blocks from the hotel, I had no clue where I was going. This was an excellent excuse to stop into Jefferson Social – a yuppified restaurant/bar where I ordered a Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout. Being lost is thirsty work, don't you know. I secured directions to the Moerlein Lager House about a block away.
If your dream was to open a bar and you had your choice of any location, you might very well choose exactly where Moerlein sits. It is right on the Ohio River squarely between the stadiums where the Reds and Bengals play.
I ordered a Barbarossa draft, which is a red lager with a sort of chocolate finish. Mmmm...beer.
Dinner that evening was at the American Sign Museum. This is a privately owned exhibit of historic signs, some staged on recreations of the original storefronts where they were displayed. Buick took the opportunity to pull a few of its antique cars out of storage to dress up the displays.
A really well-executed presentation, this museum is reason enough for a little Cincinnati side trip when wandering around Ohio.
The next morning we paired up and headed south into Northern Kentucky to drive the Regal and Regal GS.
No more than a glance is required to appreciate Regal's stunning exterior lines. It is drop-dead gorgeous. And, it's cabin is nothing short of elegant.
Regal is Buick's sporty driver. Armed with a 259-horsepower 2.4-liter turbocharged four, it delivers all the get-up-and-go most of us require on our daily commutes. But it's also a blast when hitting the twisties. Not only does this turbo deliver more ponies than last years turbo, but it gets better EPA-estimated fuel economy, too: 30 mpg on the highway. A six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission ushers the go to the front wheels. AWD is available.
Global-warming drum beaters might want to opt for the no-extra-cost light hybrid engine available with the Premium I trim. It generates 182 horsepower and delivers an EPA-estimated 36 mpg on the highway.
With the GS comes Buick's Interactive Drive Control, moderating steering resistance, stiffening the damping and altering the shift points. Unlike some similar systems, you can actually feel the difference as you scroll through the choices.
Although the drive routes weren't overly challenging, Regal performed well, living up to its sporty mission within Buick's stable.
|The gate area for my Delta flight wasn't a bad spot to kill some time.|
After lunch, we made our way back to the airport for flights home. The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is one of the better airports I've been in. The gate area for my Delta flight home looked more like a WiFi cafe than an airport gate. It was loaded with tables and stations equipped with built-in iPads for anyone to use. I'm not easily impressed with airports, but this one is worth mentioning.
I certainly see Cincinnati in a different light.