It's amazing how poorly we know our own cities and towns.
I've lived in northern Kentucky for, oh, 3 decades now, but downtown Cincinnati, a mere 20 minutes away, is almost as unexplored to me as, say, New York City. That's sad, really.
In our search for a family holiday tradition that we can realistically follow every year, we ventured downtown the day after Thanksgiving. And we had a terrific time. We rode a bus from a nearby Park and Ride, took in the Duke Energy train exhibit, ate lunch at Benihana (Ainsley thinks it's so cool that they make her fried rice on the table, and she picked almost every bite of hibachi shrimp from our plates), watched the ice skaters at Fountain Square, and took a horse-drawn carriage ride. It's the most fun I've ever had on Black Friday. There were no crowds, everything felt festive and laid-back, and every dime we spent we spent on ourselves. Not a bad way to kick off the stress of the rest of the holidays.
I learned a lot during the carriage ride. When I do visit downtown Cincinnati, I always have a specific destination in mind and never wander much further than the fountain or the Aronoff Center. Our horseman strolled us into the oldest part of the city, where Taft built his mansion and where classy granite and brick German architecture gets dwarfed by the glass and metal of the contemporary office towers. I know so little of the history of my own surroundings; it was nice to sip coffee and hot chocolate, cover up with a blanket, and get a history lesson accompanied by the clip-clop of horseshoes on asphalt.
All in all, a pleasant afternoon, and the start of what I hope will be a Cranky holiday tradition.