Best Of 2023

The Reds’ 2022 season admittedly wasn’t the greatest, but sometimes heroes appear right when you need them. During a home game on April 26, Jacob Kingsley caught a pop-up foul ball while holding his infant son Shepherd, who was strapped to Kingsley's chest in a baby sling. The ball blooped backwards on the third-base side, where Kingsley nonchalantly reached up with one hand and plucked it from the air as he fed little Shepherd a bottle. It was the play of the game — and probably even the season at that point. Not to be outdone, another fan at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park caught a ball in his beer cup about a month later. Both men made the national highlight reels and helped dour Reds fans through a major team drought.
When you’re looking for your hike to get some elevation gains, the Bender Mountain trail system in Delhi is one of the best in the Cincinnati area. The trail starts at the bottom of a ravine and climbs a quick yet steep 469 feet in elevation, according to AllTrails. The entire trail loop is around 2.3 miles and includes some strenuous stretches, including steep slopes and rocky, uneven terrain. But it’s all worth it — at the top, you’re rewarded with a gorgeous view of the Ohio River and Kentucky. Throughout the spring and summer, the hillsides are blanketed in wildflowers, and if you wander far enough, you’ll also come upon a spooky little cemetery, where members of the Darby-Lee family rest in peace.
The Beast at Kings Island
Photo: Paige Deglow
The Beast at Kings Island

Forget rain sounds: Kings Island has an anxiety-busting ASMR video that's sure to set you off to sleep (or at least make you want a funnel cake). The hour-long video features a large cranking gear pulling the cars on the Beast up its famous wooden hill. "The video that absolutely no one asked for, yet here it is," the park wrote on YouTube. The steady click of the greasy wheel, the ocean-like waves of screams from thrilled coaster nuts: This is what the Calm app is missing. 
Routine is good, but most people could use a little change every now and then — especially when it comes to style. The Bengals had a taste of that during the 2021 season with the “new stripes” uniforms, but the gear was missing an updated helmet. That finally arrived for the 2022 season, and the white helmet was exactly what fans had been clamoring for. Beginning this season, the NFL lifted its long-held rule that prohibited secondary or alternate helmets, and the team took full advantage. The Bengals paired the white tiger-striped helmet with a new alternate white "Color Rush" jersey and white pants, all with black stripes and lettering. The look debuted during the Sept. 29 home game against the Miami Dolphins before a record-setting attendance, and Bengals fans already were sporting replicas of the new unis.
The Cincinnati Vintage Baseball Club plays baseball in the style of the pastoral game as it was when the Reds became the first professional baseball team in 1869 — before gloves even were used — with faithfully recreated uniforms and equipment. The club features two teams named after the local rivals of the era, the 1869 Red Stockings and the Cincinnati Buckeyes. They both play spring through fall against other regional teams as well as a few games against each other at parks in the Tristate area with a home base (no pun intended) at Heritage Village in Sharon Woods. It’s a nice relaxing day out amongst the preserved historic buildings in Heritage Village with America’s pastime as it was.
Reds fans weren’t happy. Reds players weren’t happy. And many of the 2022 season's woes ultimately could be traced back to team ownership and the front office. The Reds' 2022 payroll was about $114 million, a downgrade (from $135 million in 2021 and $140 million in 2020) that clearly affected the season's record and championship potential. Last season, the Reds racked up 100 losses for just the second time in franchise history. The losing also kept more people away from the ballpark, with the team experiencing its lowest season attendance since 1984. None of this was news to Cincinnati fans, who have long bashed owner Bob Castellini, even banding together before opening day to raise more than $4,000 for a billboard urging Castellini to sell the team to someone who would invest in winning, or at least in a legitimate playoff push. One fan even said he wanted to, um, defecate in a truck the team was giving away as a prize. The I-75 billboard and fans' growing lack of trust elicited a sharp response from Phil Castellini, the Reds' chief operating officer and Bob Castellini's son, who told 700 WLW-AM that Cincinnatians essentially just had to deal with it when the team repeatedly refuses to pay for productive veteran players. “Where are you going to go?” Phil Castellini asked on air. He later walked back his comments, but the damage was done and Reds fans refused to be silent. 
The Ezzard Charles statue in Ezzard Charles Park
Photo: Provided by Cincinnati Parks
The Ezzard Charles statue in Ezzard Charles Park

There's a new spot where Cincinnati boxing fans can go to reminisce about one of the city's greats. In October, officials unveiled a bronze statue of World Heavyweight Champion boxer Ezzard Charles in Ezzard Charles Park — renamed from Laurel Park — in the West End near TQL Stadium. Charles, who grew up in Cincinnati, was known in the boxing world as the Cincinnati Cobra and was considered one of the world's greatest fighters. He finished his career with 95 wins, 25 losses and one draw and was inaugurated into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Charles died in 1975, but thanks to the statue, he remains ready to strike.
Sam Hubbard (left) and Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals
Sam Hubbard (left) and Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals

Queen City native Sam Hubbard is an absolute beast. The Bengals defensive end has been fantastically reliable since being drafted in 2018, but his moves in the AFC Wild Card win over the Baltimore Ravens was one for the history books. Bengals linebackers Germaine Pratt and Logan Wilson knocked the ball loose from Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley, with Hubbard scooping it up and making a beeline for the Bengals' end zone. Ravens tight end Mark Andrews sped forward, nearly catching up to the speedy Hubbard, but Cincinnati linebacker Markus Bailey knocked him to the left, allowing Hubbard to continue powering up the field. Hubbard scored a 98-yard touchdown, and the 66,399 fans in Paycor Stadium went into a disbelieving frenzy.
Sometimes being at an FC Cincinnati game is like watching a buddy movie in the best way. Attacking midfielder Luciano Acosta and forward Brandon Vazquez were included in Major League Soccer’s 2022 Best XI selections, marking the first time that FC Cincy players were celebrated among the top 11 players in the MLS. Acosta tallied 10 goals and an MLS-leading 19 assists for the 2022 regular season. Cincinnati's captain tied for third in the league for goal contributions — 29, a career high — and also led the club in game-winning assists with five. Meanwhile, Vazquez notched 18 goals on the season, a personal career high. He led the league in open-play goals (16), tied for the most header goals (six) and set FC Cincinnati records for goals across all competitions, shots and shots on goal while becoming the first Cincinnati player to score multiple goals in consecutive games. Together, Acosta and Vazquez became the first pair of teammates with at least 25 goal contributions in a single season since 2018. Both were selected for the MLS All-Star Game during the summer. Name a better power duo, we dare you.
Bengals fans have always been loyal — hell, they stuck with the team through years of horribly depressing seasons before coming soooooo close to a Super Bowl win in 2022. That loyalty is growing even more now, it turns out. On Sept. 29, the Bengals clobbered the Miami Dolphins 27-15 in front of 67,260 fans at Paycor Stadium — the team's largest home attendance in history, as of press time. Even better: The full Jungle was rockin’ as part of a national “Thursday Night Football” broadcast, so the entire nation had a front-row seat to the black-and-orange display. “Best fans. Where else would you rather be than Cincinnati, Ohio?” head coach Zac Taylor said after the game. Amen.