Holiday cheer is in full swing with shopping pop-ups, ice skating, walk-thru light displays and more.
This weekend, check out the return of the Shillito's Elves, an ugly sweater pub crawl and ice skating below the Eiffel Tower.
Friday, Dec. 3
The Cincinnati Nature Center is once again doing a holiday glow-up this winter with their Light in the Forest woods walk. Now in its second year, this event takes over the grounds of the nature center and Rowe Woods with unique light displays and new installations "certain to capture the imaginations of all ages" from Brave Berlin (the team behind BLINK and Lumenocity), according to a release. 5-9 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday through Jan. 2. Light in the Forest will be closed Dec. 24 and 25. $12 adults; $7 children; $2 discount for members. 4949 Tealtown Road, Milford, cincynature.org.
Get in the festive mood by visiting WinterFest at Kings Island, where the amusement park has transformed into 11 different “winter wonderlands.” There is ice skating on the Royal Fountain and the 314-foot Eiffel Tower has turned into a festive Christmas tree, shrouded in over 5 million lights. Up to 20 rides remain open, including the park’s 3,265-foot-long wooden coaster, Mystic Timbers. Expect live entertainment throughout the park and tons of activities like carriage rides, ice carvers and Jack Frost’s Igloo Village, plus themed food and drink. Through Dec. 31. $29.99. Kings Island, 6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason visitkingsisland.com.
Holly Dazed at Visionaries + Voices
Visionaries+Voices’ annual end-of-year art show Holly Dazed features an exhibit and the sale of original, deeply discounted holiday art. Pieces from V+V artists will be available, along with the opportunity to "hobnob with the V+V gallery crowd." The holiday art show runs through Jan. 14. V+V's mission is to be "an inclusive arts organization is to provide creative, professional, and educational opportunities." 5-8 p.m. Dec. 3. Free admission. 3841 Spring Grove Ave., Northside, facebook.com.
Saturday, Dec. 4
Dark Charge Day at Braxton Brewing Co.
Braxton Brewing Co.'s seventh-annual celebration of bourbon-barrel-aged stout is back. Dark Charge Day is ‘hoppening’ on Dec. 4. According to a release from the brewery, there will be four variants introduced this year: a barrel-aged Chocolate Hazelnut Coffee brew from Braxton Builder, Coconut Cream Puff and Barrel House Orange Curacao developed by Braxton Labs, and the Barrel-Aged Dark Charge. Organizers say they have planned extra surprises to make up for last year’s virtual Dark Charge Day. Graeter's Ice Cream has also collaborated with brewery on a special Brown Butter Bourbon Pecan variant. Expect live music all day. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Dec. 4. Braxton Brewing Co., 27 W. Seventh St., Covington, darkchargeday.com.
Don your tackiest knitted wares this Saturday for the Over-the-Rhine ugly sweater bar crawl. For their fifth annual crawl, event producer Bar Crawl USA is sending you festive hooligans to seven different bars around the neighborhood. All the bars have drink specials and some will have food for those who need to eat up before they drink up. For $19.99, participants will get a T-shirt, an ugly sweater crawl koozie, a lanyard with holiday bingo and discounted drinks. You will get access to the crawl kick-off party, livestreamed Christmas movie trivia (with prizes available) and the after-party. Noon-6 p.m. Dec. 4. $19.99. Check-in at Mr. Pitiful 1323 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, barcrawlusa.com/ugly-sweater.
This holiday season Findlay Market is featuring a classic Cincinnati Christmas tradition, the Shillito’s Elves. These mechanical elf dolls from Shillito’s downtown department store windows have been around the Queen City since the 1950s, and this year six magical vignettes will be on display at the Leader Furniture Store. The space has transformed into the thematic “Elves on Elder” pop-up, with special Saturday programming. There will be rotating family-friendly events inside the store, including storytelling and crafts. In the evenings after the kiddos have had their fun, the space will change into a “cozy cocktail and musical experience” with specialty cocktails and food from the market. Through Dec. 31; Shillito’s Elves are on display daily and animated on weekends. Free. Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, findlaymarket.org.
Instead of landing on a rooftop with his reindeer-drawn sleigh, Santa will literally be rappelling from a Cincinnati skyscraper at this weekend celebration. Music and other holiday activities at Fountain Square lead up to the big Santa show at 7 p.m., which is followed by a festive fireworks display. Enjoy ice skating, hot chocolate and boozy drinks for the adults while you wait for the main event. Santa will make his appearance rain or shine, unless the weather is extreme. 6:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 4. Free admission. Fountain Square 520 Vine St., Downtown, myfountainsquare.com.
Market Bleu is a curated artisan market held quarterly at the Contemporary Arts Center. The twist? It's in the evening. The market showcases elevated handmade products and fine arts from vendors across the region, ranging from Greater Cincinnati makers to those from Cleveland, Columbus and Louisville as well as Lexington, Philadelphia and Virginia. The more streamlined approach to a modern market means there is a focus on high-quality works from working artists — think an upscale flea with vetted vendors. And the evening hours means it’s a perfect place to pop by before or after dinner or cocktails. 6-10 p.m. Dec. 4. Free admission. 44 E. Sixth St., Downtown, marketbleu.com.
Sunday, Dec. 5
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is transforming into an illuminated wonderland once again this year for the 39th-annual Festival 0f Lights, ranked the No. 1 zoo light show in America by USA Today for three years in a row. This year's display features 4 million LED lights spread throughout the park, as well as 27 glowing animal lanterns and the fan-favorite synchronized Wild Lights show at Swan Lake. A new "Under the Sea" area at Cat Canyon offers some immersive fun and a new photo op. If you need something to warm you up, stop by one of the s'mores stations to roast your own treat or grab a bag of freshly roasted nuts. For an extra boost, add a shot of schnapps to your steamy hot chocolate. The Festival of Lights runs 4-9 p.m. daily through Jan. 9, 2022. The Cincinnati Zoo itself still opens at 10 a.m. daily during that time. The Festival of Lights is included with zoo admission. 3440 Vine St., Avondale, cincinnatizoo.org.
Ebenezer Scrooge — and actor Bruce Cromer — are back onstage for this family favorite in 2021. This is Cromer's 17th time playing the Christmas-hating curmudgeon, who finally remembers the reason for the season after being visited by three holiday apparitions. (Although the full version of A Christmas Carol was put on hold last year, Cromer still played Scrooge in a one-man radio play on Cincinnati Public Radio.) Charles Dickens' tale is brought to life on the Playhouse stage this year with full costuming, characters and special effects. Through Dec. 30. $30-$98. Playhouse in the Park, 962 Mount Adams Circle, Mount Adams, cincyplay.com.
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