SATURdate East Of Cincinnati

This SATURdate spent east of Cincinnati in Clermont County.

East of Cincinnati is a cluster of eclectic attractions in Clermont County. We stopped at four: the world’s only cardboard boat racing museum, a dreamy river town, a vineyard ripe with atmosphere, and the world’s most interesting grocery store. Not a bad way to spend a day.

The Cardboard Boat Museum is an unusual place along the bank of the Ohio River. It’s not a big place, but it’s interesting. Call ahead to make sure they are open because volunteers run everything so hours may vary. Housed in an old service garage, it acts the part.

Big bay doors are often opened wide to create a breezy feel as air travels through from the door leading to the back deck. From the looks of the bar inside, the bar out on the deck, and the garden around the corner, you get the feeling this is clubhouse. And in a sense, it is. A lot happens here.  After all, this is where some of the best sea-worthy vessels made mostly of cardboard, duct tape, and paint are made for competition racing.

Look around at the designs and you’re likely to ooh and ahh. If you start asking questions, pull up a stool because the folks running this joint are enthusiastic and pleased to share everything you ever wanted to know about racing these crazy watercrafts, and more. We had such a wonderful time that we began dreaming about the boat we’d build and race at their next annual regatta. Like I said earlier, the museum is true to its service garage roots. The folks there are eager to provide the material and coaching to float your boat.

Since it was time for lunch and we were already in New Richmond, Ohio, we decided to just cruise the main drag along the river and through downtown to see if any place stood out. Front Street Café did just that. With its pink brick, green awning and purple umbrella sidewalk tables, we knew this was what we were hoping to stumble upon.

There was nothing but a break wall and hill on the other side of the street which allowed a panoramic view of the river. The colorful and spacious interior of the café lent itself nicely to the wall hanging art which was for sale. Each of the dozen or so paintings cost a thousand or more dollars, which was unexpected considering the laid back feel in the place.

After a lunch that hit the spot, we took a walk. A corner shop by the name of Mr. Grim’s Nostalgic Nook lured us inside with some oddities that caught our attention as we passed by the front window. The door was already open to a little world of Yesteryear so we took a walk down memory lane. Across the street, we explored a community park that seemed more like an otherworldly scene in one of those thousand dollar paintings back at the café.

I scratched my head. Maybe it was. A couple sat on a park bench shifting down to their “park gear” without any hint of wanting to move from their perch for quite some time. The painted white gazebo, lush green landscaping, and cool to the glance river view made us consider scrapping our afternoon plans to do the same. But then an Underground Railroad marker caught our attention. And just beyond it, we skipped down the wall of stone steps to skip stones into the Ohio River. The small town’s down home charm and riverscape made it hard to leave, but we still had a winery to see.

Harmony Hill Vineyards is a rural retreat nestled on 72 acres on a nationally certified wildlife refuge farm. The winding and slow drive across the property unveiled a scenic view of wooded and rolling countryside.

As soon as we walked into the winery, Bill and Patti Skvarla engaged us in conversation. Somewhere along the line, Bill and I were laughing and talked about our Italian, no, Sicilian heritage. He was Sicilian on his mother’s side of the family and Slovakian on his dad’s side. I smiled because I was Sicilian on my dad’s side and Slovakian on my mom’s. So, yeah, we hit it off. Later Bill pulled up a chair and talked to us at our table on the covered patio overlooking the vineyard. When he mentioned his love for dogs, his boxer, Tyson, (get it?) appeared on queue.

Bill encouraged us to stroll the grounds along the walking trails so we did. We followed the woodland paths all around the vineyard listening to nothing but the country air and the birds drifting thought it. When we returned, we took a peek at the underground wine cave, which is one of only eight such structures in the country. Back at our seats, where a light breeze and live music picked up, we opened our picnic cooler like so many others to pair our bread, cheese, and other foods with our wine of choice.

We could have stayed at the winery until the stars filled the sky but it was already late. On the road back, we came across Jungle Jim’s International Market.

Although their flagship original store is in Fairfield, Ohio, this major undertaking wasn’t playing second fiddle. It was every bit as impressive. And although it’s themed very much the same, at the same time, it has an identity of its own. There’s six acres of food under one roof! This foody-haven offers thousands of imported and national brand groceries. There’s a full acre of produce (including organic and international), 12,000 wines, 1,200 beers, 1,600 cheeses, and 1,000 kinds of hot sauce.

If it’s edible, you’ll find it here!  So we did some unexpected grocery shopping – good thing we had the cooler because we still had a bit of a drive to get home.

Of course, these are just four stops that we found east of Cincinnati in Clermont County. There are plenty more options for attractions, recreation, shopping, and dining at https://www.visitclermontohio.com/.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun

For more SATURdate ideas to spend with friends, family, or solo, visit https://www.ohiotraveler.com/saturdate/.

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