During the holidays the Cincinnati area turns into a winter wonderland. Snow blankets the city and downtown is adorned with millions of twinkling lights. Between the festivals, holiday markets, theater performances and light displays, it’s hard to decide how to celebrate.
To make it a little easier, we put together a list of our most anticipated events of the season. There are opportunities to get a little gift shopping done, experience some magical shows and even watch Santa swim with sharks. We guarantee there’s something for everyone in the Queen City this holiday season, so get the family together and hit the town!
Where: Krohn Conservatory
When: November 10-January 6, Open Daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Discover a shimmering frozen landscape at Krohn Conservatory 2018 Holiday Show — A Crystal Holiday! Come out and watch trains chug through a miniature Cincinnati constructed from natural materials. This year, the conservatory will also be featuring National Park Service structures from around the country such as the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore and more!
Where: Sharon Woods
When: November 16-December 31, Sunday-Thursday 6-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5:30-10 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Holiday in Lights
Santa and his elves are once again taking over the Sharon Woods as the Holiday in Lights drive-through display returns. Constructed on over a mile of wooded roadway, the holiday-themed displays will depict all of your favorite holiday characters. There’s no need to even get out of your car to enjoy this special sight!
Where: The Christmas Ranch
When: November 16-December 23, Sunday-Thursday 5-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5-10 p.m. Closed on Thanksgiving
No matter how you decide to spend your holiday — The Christmas Ranch is a must-see Christmas destination! Featured on Good Morning America and HGTV, the light display at The Christmas Ranch is one of the most famous in the country. Come out and experience this magical sight! Then, stop by one of the Christmas shops, Santa’s Bakery and Cafe, get a picture with Santa and take a ride on a train or wagon. You do not want to miss this Ohio holiday tradition!
Where: Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad
When: November 16-December 29, Times Vary
Take a ride with Santa Claus to the North Pole! During an hour-long journey, Santa and his elves will make their way through the train and visit with each family. Every child will receive a bell from Santa’s sleigh along with a cookie and hot chocolate. You don’t want to miss this magical holiday experience! Reservations are required.
Where: Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park
When: November 16-January 1, Monday-Thursday 6-9 p.m., Friday-Sunday 6-10 p.m.
Experience over 2 miles of incredible light displays from the comfort of your own car! This year, the creative directors behind Luminosity and Blink will be partnering with Pyramid Hill to bring you something new and exciting. You won’t want to miss it!
Where: EnterTRAINment Junction
When: November 17-January 1, Sundays 12-6 p.m.
This year, create a new holiday tradition for your family at EnterTRAINment Junction. During Christmas at the Junction, you can see the magic of Christmas at the home of the World’s Largest Indoor Train Display. Afterward, journey to the North Pole to meet Mrs. Claus and Santa!
Where: The Cincinnati Zoo
When: November 17-January 1, Sunday-Thursday 4-9 p.m., Friday & Saturday 4-10 p.m.
Photo courtesy of The Cincinnati Zoo
Voted #1 Zoo Lights in the Country by USA Today, the PNC Festival of Lights is back again for a magical night of festive fun. In addition to admiring over 3 million lights, visitors can also watch a Madcap black-light puppet show, ride the BB&T Toyland Express, search for fairies in Fairyland, experience the spectacular Wild Lights show on Swan Lake and even visit with Santa himself!
Where: Smith Park
When: November 22-December 31, Daily 6-10 p.m.
While this is a free event, donations are welcome at Light Up Middletown this year. This driving tour spans through a 100-acre park, completely adorned in sparkling LED lights. Several themed displays will be featured, including a floating sea serpent, Santa’s workshop, helicopters, Penguin Village and so much more!
Where: Marx Theatre
When: November 21-December 29, Times Vary
A Christmas tradition for the whole family, “A Christmas Carol” is a perfect way to spend a night this holiday season. The faithful storytelling along with spellbinding stage magic makes this show one of the Playhouse’s most popular productions every year!
Where: Cincinnati Museum Center
When: November 23, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Experience Santa’s grand Cincinnati entrance at the Cincinnati Museum Center this season. Before he settles in to visit with children, he’ll be arriving by helicopter while visitors enjoy music from Chris Comer Trio. Afterward, there will be a Santa welcome celebration in the Rotunda!
Where: Carol Ann’s Carousel
When: November 23-24, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Have fun while learning at Carol Ann’s Carousel this holiday season! At this family event, learn the basics of ornithology (the study of birds) and all about penguins and their habitats. There will also be crafts, giveaways and so much more!
Where: Fountain Square
When: November 23-25 and November 30-December 1, 12-5 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt
Come out and experience the seventh annual Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt, an authentic German Christmas market in downtown Cincinnati. Peruse local artisans selling traditional German fare, hot spiced wine and more, all while surrounded by gorgeous Christmas lights!
Where: Newport Aquarium
When: November 23-December 31, Daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Photo courtesy of the Newport Aquarium
In this unique holiday event, you can watch Santa as he swims with sharks at the Newport Aquarium! While you’re there, don’t forget to check out all of the other incredible attractions like Ring of Fire: World of the Octopus, the Amazon Tunnel, The Stingray Hideaway and more. General admission ticket required.
Where: Kings Island Park & Ride
When: November 23-December 31, Times Vary
This holiday season, Kings Island will transform into an enchanting wonderland! With more than 5 million beautiful lights hung throughout the park, as well as festive features such as an ice skating rink, 19 rides including Mystic Timbers, live entertainment and even guest appearances from all of your favorite holiday characters.
Where: The Carnegie
When: November 24, Doors open at 12 p.m.
Kick off your holiday shopping this year at the Holiday Artisan Market. Shop handcrafted gifts and unique finds from local artists! Come out and support independent artmakers and purchase goods you can feel good about giving.
Where: Fountain Square
When: November 24-December 8, Saturdays starting at 5:30 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Downtown Cincinnati
See Santa and his friends rappel down the side of the Huntington Bank Center to the Fountain Place rooftop, followed by a spectacular fireworks display! Each week, they’ll host a different musical guest or ensemble including the Young Professionals Choral Collective, Macy’s Choral Ensemble and more! While you’re there, don’t forget to stop by and visit Mrs. Claus for storytime at Carew Tower, get a picture with Santa and enjoy a free ride on the Cincinnati Bell Connector.
Where: Fountain Square Ice Rink
When: November 24-December 8, Saturdays and Sundays 12-1 p.m.
We bet you didn’t know that in addition to being great at gift giving, Santa is also an accomplished ice skater. So, strap on your skates and come out and see Santa as he takes his turn on the ice this holiday season at the Fountain Square Ice Rink!
Where: Taft Museum of Art
When: November 25, 11:15 a.m.-4 p.m.
Holiday Season Kickoff there will be free activities for the whole family! Enjoy gorgeous decorations, fun take-home crafts, photos with Santa, holiday stories, lunch in the Linder Family Cafe and even meet a penguin from the Newport Aquarium! Reservations are strongly encouraged.
Where: Ohio National Financial Services
When: November 30-December 1 and December 6-7, Times Vary
Photo courtesy of Ohio National Financial Services via Fred Haaser Photography
This memorable event features thousands of twinkling lights, fully decorated miniature Victorian-style homes and buildings, entertainment, free cocoa and cookies, and a complimentary 5×7 photo with Santa! While this family-friendly event is free, bring a non-perishable food item (no glass jars, please) with you to donate to the Freestore Foodbank.
Where: The Jewish Discovery Center
When: December 2-10, 5:30 p.m.
Celebrate Chanukah with the Jewish Discovery Center this year. Enjoy watching the grand Menorah lighting, participating in a Kahoot game night, playing laser tag and so much more! For a full itinerary of events, check out the Jewish Discovery website.
Where: Memorial Hall OTR
When: December 8, 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Everyone’s favorite first grader is back again in a live performance adapted from the extremely popular series by Barbara Park. All of the students in Room One are happily creating the perfect holiday party. Except, how is Junie B. supposed to enjoy anything when she has drawn the name of her arch nemesis, Tattletale May, as her Secret Santa gift recipient? But wait — this is the perfect opportunity to give May exactly what she deserves… or is it? This fun play will be fun for your whole family!
Where: Cincinnati Music Hall
When: December 13-24, Times Vary
Cincinnati Ballet’s holiday triumph returns once again to the Cincinnati Music Hall, complete with gorgeous sets and costumes and set to Tchaikovsky’s beloved score. Embark on a journey with Clara and her Nutcracker Prince during a family tradition that can’t be missed!
Where: The Otto M. Budig Theater
When: December 14-30, Times Vary
The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is back again with tons of festive cheer and a little bit of cynicism. What begins as another annual production of “A Christmas Carol’ soon devolves into a slightly irreverent look at all of our favorite holiday classics including “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Frosty and Snowman”, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and more! Get your tickets now!
Which event are you the most excited for? Let us know in the comments!