Monday, October 26, 2009

Storm the shores of Cincinnati with Capt. Bill and the "Ride the Ducks" tour!

- (Left) "Duck 53" outside of Newport on the Levee. (Right) An original DUKW vehicle being used by the U.S. military.

On June 6, 1944 some of the bravest men this world has ever known, members of the American Allied Expeditionary Force, stormed the beaches of Normandy in pursuit of freeing mainland Europe from the grip of the Axis powers. Many of those men rode ashore in "DUKW" (nicknamed "duck") vehicles. These amphibious vehicles were designed by the General Motors Corporation and used primarily by the U.S. Army for transporting troops and supplies from the sea to land during maritime assaults in the Korean War and World War Two. 24 years after the Korean War ended, the first "Ride the Ducks" tour would open in Branson, Missouri in 1977. The "Duck" tours used these amphibious vehicles to transport sightseeing tourists on land and sea. For years they've been a common attraction in cities throughout the nation leaving many Cincinnatian's on vacation to say "Hey, why don't we have that in the Queen City?" Well, "Ride the Ducks" finally came here in the Spring of 2008

While to many this may seem like some sort of "toursity gimmick" and it differs from the usual exploration we do around the area, I couldn't wait to try the "Duck tours" after having seen similar operations in cities like Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. I had just never gotten around to it until last week when Sherman suggested we go check it out since it was such a beautiful day out. Some guys would go spend such a beautiful evening taking out a lovely girl or reading in the park, studying for school. I just wanted to do the "duck tour." Priorities?

-"Duck 53," the Newport Duck Tour flagship waiting on the city streets.

I shunned the levee's expensive parking charges and left my vehicle at the public landing, taking the Purple People Bridge over to meet Sherman for the 6:00 P.M. tour. We got our tickets and waited for the tour to begin. Here on the street where "Duck 53" was parked, we met the crew lead by "Captain Bill," our tour guide. As you board the boat you're given a plastic "duck whistle," which when you blow into it makes one of the most annoying sounds known to man. This whistle can be used to great advantage during the tour as you pass by people on the streets.

The tour begins with good music, safety instructions, a very friendly staff and some corny, yet very clever jokes that no one else but me seemed to appreciate. Before you know it you're up and away across the Taylor-Southgate bridge and over to Cincinnati.

- Crossing the Taylor-Southgate Bridge.

Next comes the really fun part, one of many, where you enter the water. The driver releases the brakes of the "duck" and you go crashing into the Ohio River at 25 m.p.h. Trying to take a photograph of this was tricky as if you don't follow the instructions to "hold on," it really will throw you out of your seat.

- Entering the Ohio River.

Your "duck" then heads out onto the river offering beautiful views of the Ohio and Kentucky shores. We really lucked out with the setting sun and great temperature. It really was a beautiful evening. Capt. Bill tells you all kinds of interesting history and facts, many of which even I didn't know, about the cities on both sides of the river and the river itself. I won't reveal any of them though, you'll have to take the tour for yourself.

- The Cincinnati shore as seen from the Ohio River.

- The "Belle of Cincinnati."

- Heading under the Roebling Suspension Bridge.

- Capt. Bill spouting some interesting facts about Cincinnati. Note the duck whistle around his neck.

One of the really neat things during the tour was that the crew of the "duck" allow the younger visitors to pilot the boat/car:

- A young tourist gets his chance to pilot the "duck."

And if you're lucky enough they'll even let "adults" like myself do it to:

- Photo taken while I got my chance to pilot the "duck." Yep, no hands.

- We took the tour in October, wouldn't the "duck tour" be better if the Reds were still using the stadium at this point in the season (aka making the playoffs for once)?

- The U.S. Bank Arena is home to the ECHL Cincinnati Cyclones.

After hanging out on the mighty Ohio River for awhile, your amphibious assault/tour vehicle heads up Pete Rose Way and over Ft. Washington Way.

- Cincinnati's new tallest building, Great American Tower at Queen City Square, currently under construction.

The tour takes you into the city center and up to Fountain Square. Here is where the duck whistle they gave you comes in handy as you can use it to "quack" at the people walking around downtown who are not spending their evening on the "duck tour."

- Passing through Fountain Square.

You do a few more laps around famous landmarks in the Queen City before heading back over the Taylor-Southgate bridge into Newport, Kentucky.

- The sights to be seen in Newport include the "World Peace Bell" and this Goodyear store.

- A shot of the "Roebling Suspension Bridge" taken during the tour.

I highly recommend the "Ride the Ducks" tour to anyone; whether you're bringing in folks from out of town, not familiar with the area, just visiting or if you've lived here you're entire life. It really is a cool experience and you'll learn some stuff you never knew before all for a reasonable price. The staff and tour guides are also very friendly and do a great job. Hopefully the "Newport Duck Tours" will continue to be a successful venture.

The tour's season ends soon, but they are currently still offering the traditional tour for a limited time and a "haunted" tour for the halloween season that is apparently really good. Check out their website here.

Special thanks to "Capt. Bill" and "Capt. Jeff" on the tour for being so awesome!

Update | Oct. 7, 2017:
  • Sadly, all "Ride the Ducks" operations across the world have ceased operation except for one: Brandon, Missouri. 


  1. Yo Templin! It is only $2 to park at the Levee. It is a great deal. I prefer to park there and walk to GABP and the Bank Arena. Nice shot of the Goodyear shop. Is that a regular landmark on the tour? Can wait to ride the ducks. Maybe even take the Streetcar to get down there!

  2. "The sights to be seen in Newport include the "World Peace Bell" and this Goodyear store."

    Classic. You got some really great shots here. I love the photos you took of the Great American Tower and Roebling Suspension Bridge. The splash down shot also turned out really well.