CINCINNATI — In the arts world, they say a bad dress rehearsal leads to a great performance.
The forces putting together Reds Opening Day celebrations may be hoping that's true.
If you’ve wiped the memory from your brain, last year the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade wasn’t even on Opening Day, the game was postponed by rain and, when it was finally played, the Reds lost.
But that was just for season 149 and parade 99.
This year is the real deal. The Reds are pulling out the stops to celebrate their sesquicentennial, and Findlay Market is doing the same to mark a century of parading to the ballpark. The weather is even looking like it’ll cooperate.
That means a great time – and a big turnout.
If you’re planning to join the party, you'll need to do a little recon work to find the best viewing and parking spots. Consider this your intelligence briefing.
What about the car?
Finding parking will likely be the biggest frustration of your day. Opening Day may be the city’s unofficial holiday, but it’s just Thursday for most Downtown workers. That means you’ll be competing with them for spaces.
Heading for Over-the-Rhine might sound like a good alternative, but keep these caveats in mind: The people taking part in the parade will be trying to park around Findlay Market (and they’ll be there earlier than you), and, at least south of Liberty Street, you’ll also be contending with OTR’s new residential parking program. Through that program, residents who buy a permit have street spaces – about 500 spots, or a third of the total – set aside for them. That means those spots are off-limits to you.
Parking meter rates vary from $1.25 to $2.75 per hour, depending on the district. (This interactive map has details.) If you snag a street space, note its number and take advantage of Cincinnati’s secret weapon: Cincy EZPark. The app, available for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, lets users track and add time to their meters from their phones. No more hiking back to the car to feed in quarters.
If you prefer to go off-street, there are theoretically many garage and surface lot options, but expect lines, special event rates and more than a few “full” signs.
There’s some good news, though. The Court and Walnut Garage, at the site of the future downtown Kroger store, is now open, adding 560 spaces to the mix.
There also are a couple of online tools that can make your search less stressful. The handy site Best Parking offers a guide to and estimated cost of many downtown parking sites, particularly surface lots. There are deals if you’re willing to walk several blocks. There’s also Parkopedia, which you can program with your planned arrival and departure times to get availability and rates.
Just say no
As complicated as all of the above is, the obvious conclusion is pretty simple: Don’t drive.
Since it’s a weekday, Metro is operating its full schedule. If you know what route is close to you, you can look up its schedule here; if you don’t, use the trip planner on the main page. Yes, it will take longer to get there, but it’ll drop you off in the heart of Downtown without waiting for parking and, at $3.50 to $5.30 per round trip, it’s a whole lot cheaper than the $20 gas and a garage would cost you. (If you think you might have to take a couple trips, you can even buy a day pass.)
At this point, many readers are saying, “Whatever, I’ll just Uber it.” Well, maybe. There are only so many ride-hailing drivers in town, and, if you think normal rush-hour surge pricing is bad, this day will be a special experience. You might want to think old-school.
No, not the car. You.
The parade boasts more than 180 units this year, from the grand marshal, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, to Johnny Bench to the crew of the U.S.S. Cincinnati (in a float resembling the ship) to the Budweiser Clydesdales. So you will want to scout out a vantage point to see them all.
Once again, the two biggest public spaces along the route are best bets. Both Fountain Square and Washington Park are hosting events beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday to keep you occupied before the parade kicks off at noon. They’ll include live entertainment, food and, because it’s Cincinnati, beer.
Washington Park’s Opening Day Celebration is sponsored by Taft’s Brewing Co., but there will be taps from Christian Moerlein, MadTree and Rhinegeist, too. At the parade route’s south end, Fountain Square will host MadTree Opening Day at the Square. Besides being a great time, it’s also the biggest annual fundraiser for Give Back Cincinnati, whose members support more than two dozen volunteer activities through the year.
MadTree also will run a shuttle from its Oakley taproom to Vine Street, starting at 10 a.m. Thursday.
There are no festivities, but Piatt Park also will give you a little room to spread out and let the parade pass you by.
While you wait, you might want a snack … or need a bathroom or to reload your wallet. We’ve got you covered with our interactive map.
It offers lists of helpful sites to make your Opening Day experience as smooth as possible. It’s not meant to be encyclopedic: Hardly any sit-down restaurants are included, for example. (You’ll have more fun discovering those on your own -- especially along Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine, where you can find everything from sushi and gourmet hot dogs to barbecue and Belgian waffles.)
There are road closures (scroll down for a list) and parking options you might not have known about. There also are easy-access retailers that can supply your parade-watching needs and quick-service eateries to quiet a rumbling belly.
The two big public spaces along the route, Fountain Square and Washington Park, have public restrooms. And don’t forget: There will be plenty of street vendors out, too, with bottles of water and snacks at the ready.
Bring on the Pirates.
Map instructions: Click on the gray, square legend button in the top left corner to select what information you would like to display. Use the +/- buttons in the bottom right to zoom. There will be a lot of folks clicking Thursday morning; if you have trouble getting it to load, try refreshing your page or clicking here.
The following streets will close at 8 a.m. Thursday:
• Race Street: between Liberty and McMicken streets.
• Elm Street: between Liberty and McMicken streets.
• Findlay Street: between Central Parkway and Vine Street.
• Elder Street: between Central Parkway and Vine Street.
• Green Street: between Vine and Logan streets.
• Henry Street: between Race and Dunlap streets.
• Dunlap Street: between Findlay and McMicken streets.
• Logan Street: between Liberty and Findlay streets.
The following streets will close at 11:15 a.m. Thursday:
• Liberty Street: between Vine Street and Central Parkway.
• Central Parkway: between Vine and Elm streets.
• Race Street: between Liberty and Fourth streets.
• Fifth Street: between Elm and Sentinel streets.
• Fifteenth Street: between Republic and Elm streets.
• Fourteenth Street: between Elm and Republic streets.
• Thirteenth Street: between Race and Vine streets.
• Twelfth Street: between Elm and Vine streets.
• Court Street: between Elm and Vine streets.
• Ninth Street: between Elm and Vine streets.
• Eighth Street: between Elm and Vine streets.
• Seventh Street: between Elm and Vine streets.
• Sixth Street: between Elm and Vine streets.
• Vine Street: between Fourth and Sixth streets.
• Walnut Street: between Fourth and Sixth streets.
• Main Street: between Fourth and Sixth streets.
• Sycamore Street: between Fourth and Sixth streets.
• Broadway Street: between Fourth and Sixth streets.
• Freedom Way: between Rosa Parks Street and Joe Nuxhall Way.
Follow Thomas Consolo on Twitter: @tconsolo_news.