Special Events

The Queen’s Gems | Cincinnati Music Hall, Downtown Cincy, Mecklenburg Gardens, Cincinnati Observatory | Tuesday, September 18

Cost (includes bus, lunch, tour fees): Member $55 | Non-Member $68

For nearly two centuries, Cincinnati has been referred to as The Queen City or The Queen of the West. Its grand stature and beauty can be tied to one of the most admired architects in Cincinnati history, Samuel Hannaford, who designed some of the best-known landmarks in our city, such as Music Hall and City Hall. The bulk of his life’s work, over 300 buildings, was in the tristate region. His reputation has endured along with his buildings, and we’re proud to show off a few of his gems interspersed with those of his peers.

Built in 1878 and designated a National Historic Landmark, Cincinnati’s Music Hall is among the city’s most recognizable buildings. Impressive from the outside for its variously labeled Victorian Gothic or Romanesque architecture, it’s arguably more remarkable on the inside. Following a lengthy closure for extensive renovations during 2016-17, Music Hall reopened last October and has reestablished itself as Cincinnati’s premiere concert venue and an integral part of the vibrant Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Our tour goes backstage and beyond with a trip through a variety of private and public spaces and a walk through Cincinnati history.

Back in the comfort of our motor coach, Jean Rolfes of the Cincinnati Preservation Association will provide a rolling narrated tour of many other iconic downtown landmarks. We’ll disembark to walk through the lobbies of the Netherland Plaza (Hall of Mirrors was inspired by the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles) and Carew Tower (used as the model for the Empire State Building), both fine examples of French art deco architecture. We’ll then stroll across the street for an up-close look at The Genius of Water—The Tyler Davidson Fountain—known as one of the most beautiful fountains in the world.

Lunch finds us at one of the treasures of historic Cincinnati, Mecklenburg Restaurant and Bier Garten, established in 1865. Mecklenburg Gardens stays true to its roots, providing delectable German cuisine along with traditional German brews. A hearty buffet of German fare will set our mood for Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, being held the weekend following our tour. NOTE: Please contact the ILR office if you require a vegetarian or gluten-free option.

Tucked away at the end of a picturesque cul-de-sac in a residential neighborhood sit two buildings from a different era. When you drive up the narrow, tree-lined street past grand Victorian homes, you’ll feel the history in your bones. At the end of the street stands another Samuel Hannaford icon—a picturesque jewel-box of a building, capped by a silver dome.

The Cincinnati Observatory, known as The Birthplace of American Astronomy, houses one of the oldest working telescopes and was the first public observatory in the western hemisphere. Recently restored to its original beauty, The Observatory is a fully functioning 19th-century observatory used daily by the public and amateur astronomers. The main telescopes are an 11-inch Merz and Mahler refractor purchased in 1842 and a 16-inch Alvan Clark and Sons refractor from 1904. The historic buildings are designated as a National Historic Landmark, and the grounds provide a serene, park-like setting while still being centrally located in the city of Cincinnati.

This tour will prove to be a shutterbug’s delight.

NOTE: This tour involves periods of standing and walking at a leisurely pace through museums. Walking between buildings will occur at a moderate pace for a distance of roughly one city block (from Netherland Plaza to Fountain Square). All areas are handicap accessible with the exception of the domes in both of The Observatory buildings. One has five steps, the other has 26 steps. You’ll be asked to bring a few dollars cash for guide and driver tips.

*ILR events/classes involving walking/hiking/exercise may be strenuous for some. Please use discretion when registering

**Non-members may participate in special events for an additional fee.


8:00am | Assemble at NW corner of Millett Hall parking lot for first pick-up

8:15am | Depart Oxford

8:45am | Assemble at VOALC in West Chester for second pick-up

9:00am |  Depart VOALC

9:30am |  Music Hall

11:15am | Downtown Cincy touring

1:00pm | Lunch @ Mecklenburg Gardens

2:45pm | Cincinnati Observatory

5:00pm | Return to VOALC

6:00pm | Return to Oxford

Journey to Freedom & the Tin Lizzy | Levi & Catharine Coffin State Historic Site, Kitchen at the Loft, Model T Ford Museum | Tuesday, September 25

Cost (includes bus, lunch, tour fees): $55 Member | $68 Non-Member

Fleeing slaves used three main routes to cross the Ohio River: Madison and Jeffersonville, Indiana, and Cincinnati, Ohio. From these points, the fugitives were guided toward Newport (now Fountain City), Indiana, and the home of Levi and Catharine Coffin. Legendary for aiding such a large number of former slaves in their escape to freedom, their home came to be known as the Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad. So successful was the Coffin sanctuary that, while in Newport, not a single slave failed to reach freedom. Because of his outstanding role in the operation of the Underground Railroad, Coffin has often been termed its “president.” One of the many slaves who hid in the Coffin home was “Eliza,” whose story is told in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

From the outside, this National Historic Landmark looks like a normal, beautifully restored, Federal-style brick home built in 1839. On the inside, however, its walls hold countless secrets and hide some unusual features that served an important purpose in American history. So impressive is this site and its recently built Interpretive Center, it has been included in the list of the top 25 history sites in the nation by The History Channel!

The Coffins built and lived in this house for the last eight of their 20 years in Newport. While there, Levi ran a general merchandise store carrying only free labor goods, lamenting that purchasing goods made by slaves encouraged slavery. In 1847, the Coffins moved to Cincinnati so Levi could operate a wholesale warehouse that supplied goods to other free labor stores. In Cincinnati, the Coffins continued their antislavery movement activities. Levi and Catharine Coffin are buried in Spring Grove Cemetery. NOTE: For more on the Underground Railroad, see Spring Grove Tram Tour: Civil War and the Underground Railroad in Pre/Post-Semester Courses, The Underground Railroad: The First Civil Rights Movement in West Chester Courses, and the Jonathan Wright House tour, part of Fridays Not-So-Far Afield in West Chester Courses.

Rambling on down the road, we’ll come upon Richmond’s Historic Depot District. Once the transportation mecca of the 19th century, it is now a must-see destination filled with notable architecture, unique shops and eateries, stunning murals, and more. Nestled there in an old warehouse, our lunchtime refueling stop likely holds a few secrets of its own. The family-owned Kitchen at the Loft focuses on using farm-to-table fresh, locally sourced products to make gourmet comfort food. The restaurant makes all of its own breads, salad dressings and even the graham crackers for its pie crusts. NOTE: Please contact the ILR office if you require a vegetarian or gluten-free option.

Just a stone’s throw away is the Model T Museum—ranked #1 attraction in Richmond by Trip Advisor—and yet another opportunity to step back in time. Ford Motor Company produced the Model T, colloquially known as the Tin Lizzy, from 1908 to 1927. Generally regarded as the first affordable automobile, it opened travel to the common middle-class American, thanks to Ford’s efficient fabrication and use of assembly-line production instead of individual handcrafting. The museum and its annex feature an impressive collection of 36 vehicles including one of the first and last Ts, a Pietenpol airplane, a vintage garage, and more. The Ford Model T was named the most influential car of the 20th century. Successful not only because it provided inexpensive transportation on a massive scale, but also because the car signified innovation for the rising middle class and became a powerful symbol of America’s age of modernization. With 16.5 million sold, it stands eighth on the top ten list of most sold cars of all time as of 2012.

NOTE: This tour involves periods of standing and walking at a leisurely pace. All areas are handicap accessible with the exception of the basement and second floor of the Levi Coffin House. These areas are only accessible via a narrow, winding staircase of 12 steps each, one with very low clearance (bending required). You’ll be asked to bring a couple dollars cash for bus driver’s tip.


8:00am | Assemble at VOALC in West Chester for first pick up

8:15am | Depart VOALC

8:45am | Assemble at NW corner of Millett Hall parking lot for second pick up

9:00am | Depart Oxford

10:00am | Levi Coffin State Historic Site

12:45pm |  Lunch @ Kitchen at the Loft

2:15pm |  The Model T Museum

5:00pm | Return to Oxford

6:00pm |  Return to West Chester

Lunch (choose one):

  • Chicken Salad Croissant w/potato soup
  • BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwich w/cole slaw
  • Ham & Broccoli Quiche w/side salad
  • Chicken Pot Pie w/side salad
  • Chef Salad

Kick-Off Party | Friday, September 28; 12:00–2:00pm

Location: Auditorium, Knolls of Oxford Commons
Cost: $10 Member; $12 Non-Member

Join familiar friends and meet new ones as we enjoy a catered lunch and kick off another exciting year of becoming engaged, enriched, and enlightened with ILR.

We’re honored to have as our guest speaker Kyle Timmerman, Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Health, who will enlighten us on Aging and Inflammation: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Explore Watercolor Painting in West Chester…and Italy? | Friday, October 5; 1:00–3:00pm

Location: Room 100, Voice of America Learning Center
Cost: Free for both Members and Non-Members

A short demonstration by Scott Johnston, who has taught beginning watercolor courses for over 20 years, will be followed by a hands-on watercolor exercise that will give participants an appreciation for how accessible and intimidating the medium can be once you understand a few basic principles and the many ways pigments can be applied to paper. He will also discuss the Artist Immersion Program (AIP), which offers a range of classes for all levels of artists. This coming year AIP will travel to Italy, France, Japan, Hawaii, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. No supplies are necessary for the planned exercise; but if you already have watercolor brushes, paint, and other supplies, please bring them. For more information on AIP classes, visit their website.

BioDex Better Balance | Friday, October 12; 1:00–3:00pm

Location: Chesterwood Village
Cost: Free for both Members and Non-Members

Do you notice weakness in your lower extremities? Do you have a fear of falling or have you experienced a fall? The BioDex Fall Risk Screening and Balance unit is designed to raise participants’ fall prevention knowledge and awareness as well as their individual condition status. In this class you will learn more about the BioDex Balance system and the complex combination of visual, muscular, and neurological testing. In addition, participants will receive a two-minute fall risk test that compares patient balance to a database of age-matched “normal” results. Participants will receive printed test results along with a recommended course of action by a physical therapist.


ILR events/classes involving walking/hiking/exercise may be strenuous for some. Please use discretion when registering.

Non-members may participate in special events for an additional fee.