A funny thing happened on my way into my 30s: I developed a fear of heights.
It started innocuously enough, and easy enough to explain away: when driving up Waimea Canyon in Hawaii, the precipitous drops on either side of the two-lane road up the mountain caused an intense desire to study the fabric on the back headrest of the seat in front of me. And then again, driving on the peaks of canyons on the way to Escalante, Utah, my palms mysteriously sprung a leak while looking down to the bottoms of the ravines.
But then it got a little harder to explain. A few weeks ago, riding up to the top of the Eiffel Tower at Kings Island, the elevator attendant languorously explained that the reason the carriage was going so slow to the top of the tower was because the winds were topping 25 mph so it was in slow mode, and if gusts were just a little bit faster, they’d have to shut the attraction down completely.
At the top of the tower, I made sure to maintain three points of contact with the enclosed observation deck at all times.
So, when the Courier needed someone to test out the new 150-foot-tall SkyStar observation wheel on Cincinnati’s riverfront to celebrate the decennial anniversary of the Banks development, I was an obvious choice.
The SkyStar consists of 36 enclosed gondolas that can house up to six people per ride. Each $12.50 per person ride lasts four rotations and 12 minutes. Gondolas are private, so passengers are not paired with strangers.
The SkyStar boasts itself as America’s largest portable observation wheel. It is lit by more than 1 million colored LED lights. To get a closer look, click through the attached photos.
I decided to make an event of riding the wheel. Delays to the planned Friday media preview and public opening caused me to miss that event, so my fiancee and I went Sunday afternoon. To make a good and proper go of it, we stopped at Condado first for tacos and margaritas. Because I knew I’d need some liquid courage to get through.
Turns out, tequila and a bunch of queso are not the best contents for your stomach when you are afraid of heights and are in a small capsule, swaying in the wind 150 feet in the air as the SkyStar stops to load on more passengers. While my fiancee stood up in the capsule to get good pictures (the view at the apex of the wheel is phenomenal – you feel like you could be one of those photographers who gets grand panoramas of the Roebling that people frame in their offices), I made sure to remain firmly seated with one hand on a handle.
But as the ride got underway and we started rotating uninterrupted, my grip on the handle unwound. I pulled my camera out. And you know what, you do kinda have to stand to get the best pictures. Did I mention the views are phenomenal?
The SkyStar is a spectacle. It’s one of the highest fixtures at the Banks. People sat in the shade and watched it rotate, even if they had no intention of riding. It’ll stay open through Dec. 2, meaning you’ll be able to see some incredible views of Oktoberfest Zinzinnati and other events while they’re happening in town.
SkyStar hours will be 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. It will be open noon to midnight Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.