12 Days of Festive Things To Do Before Christmas in Greater Cincinnati

We’ve made a list of 12 festive things to do before Santa comes to town.

click to enlarge The Shillito's Elves are back on display at Findlay Market - Photo: Provided by Findlay Market
Photo: Provided by Findlay Market
The Shillito's Elves are back on display at Findlay Market

While the 12 days of Christmas are traditionally the 12 days following the holiday, most people today like to do their Christmas celebrations in the days leading up to Dec. 25. So to give our readers some holiday inspiration, we’ve made a list of 12 festive things to do before Santa comes to town. (And check out the other attractions listed in the Winter Guide for more ideas.)

Day 1: Go See Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!) at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s annual send-up of Christmas classics is back onstage. Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!) transforms a production of A Christmas Carol into an irreverent and fast-paced skewering of other holiday favorites ranging from It’s a Wonderful Life to How the Grinch Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Three actors (and a Drunk Santa, played by Miranda McGee) spend 90-plus minutes of “high octane jollity and frivolity” making merry this season in an adult-friendly romp through both kitschy and nostalgic Christmas favorites. Through Dec. 26. Tickets start at $14. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, 1195 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincyshakes.com.

Day 2: Catch the Holiday Pops at Music Hall
Get into the holiday spirit with a little help from the Cincinnati Pops and conductor John Morris Russell. The Pops perform a variety of holiday favorites with help from vocalist Michael Preacely and singers from the Classical Roots Community Mass Choir and May Festival Chorus, as well as dancers from the Studio for Dance. The program is full of Christmas classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Silent Night.” You can also watch a livestream of the show on Dec. 11. Remaining shows Dec. 10-12. $25 adults; $20 students; $15 under 17. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincinnatisymphony.org.

Day 3: Participate In or Avoid Cincinnati Santacon
The annual hibernal holiday pub crawl (or horror show, depending on whether or not you appreciate 10,000 drunk Santas on the streets) known as Cincinnati Santacon returns on Dec. 11. Don your best Christmas character costume and meet at the "North Pole"(aka Hard Rock Casino) to embark on a group drinking adventure to 50 venues around downtown Cincinnati, Over-the-Rhine and Northern Kentucky. Registration includes a wristband, itinerary with official bar stops, access to food and drink deals and a donation to The Cure Starts Now. There’s a lyric sheet online for songs to sing. Noon-midnight Dec. 11. $10 advance; $15 day-of. Hard Rock Casino, 1000 Broadway St., Pendleton, cincinnatisantacon.com.

Day 4: Shop Local at the City Flea Holiday Market
Knock everyone off your list in one place during the City Flea’s Holiday Market at Washington Park — a two-day event with both daytime and evening hours. Stroll and shop local makers offering everything from stuff for kids and pets to apothecary items, artisan eats and vintage goodies. The holiday market is set to have different vendors for each day, so stop by both days if you want to see all that Cincy has to offer. 4-9 p.m. Dec. 11; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 12. Free. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, thecityflea.com.

Day 5: Get Slightly Freaked Out During A Christmas Nightmare at Dent Schoolhouse
The spirits of Dent Schoolhouse get in the holiday spirit with a Christmas Nightmare event at the popular haunted house. For two nights only, Charlie the Janitor is Santa Charlie in a scary attraction full of garlands, lights and twisted holiday monsters. Think Krampus, killer elves and really bad fruitcake. 6-10 p.m. Dec. 10 and 11. $25-$55. Dent Schoolhouse, 5963 Harrison Ave., Dent, frightsite.com.

Day 6: Ice Skate Below the Eiffel Tower at Kings Island’s WinterFest
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.

Day 7: Visit Scuba Santa at the Newport Aquarium
Scuba Santa has returned to the Newport Aquarium for the 19th year of this “one-of-a-kind” Cincinnati tradition. Every day through Dec. 24, Scuba Santa will be swimming in a tank of sharks, ready and happy to hear what any young guests want for Christmas. Father Christmas will, of course, have his team of elves helping him out — and making sure he’s not eaten. The entire aquarium is decked out for the holiday with festive lights and music. Through Dec. 24. $22.99-34.99 adults; $14.99-26.99 children 2-12. The Newport Aquarium, 1 Levee Way, Newport, newportaquarium.com.

Day 8: See the Spirits of Christmas in A Christmas Carol at Playhouse in the Park
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. 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.

Day 9: Listen to Over the Rhine’s Annual Christmas Concert
Cincinnati favorite Folk duo Over the Rhine is having a live, in-person show at Memorial Hall this holiday season. The two are touring the country from December to May 2022, but will be making a special stop in Cincinnati for a Christmas celebration. After performing their annual and highly anticipated holiday special virtually last year, the group is bringing the spirit of Christmas back to fans with a live performance. They will be performing a mix of classic holiday music and their own folksy tunes. 8 p.m. Dec. 17 and 18; 2 p.m. Dec. 19. $45-$75. Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St. Over-the-Rhine, memorialhallotr.com.

Day 10: Watch Santa Rappel Down a Building During Downtown Dazzle
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. 11 and 18. Free admission. Fountain Square 520 Vine St., Downtown, myfountainsquare.com.

Day 11: Visit the Land of Sweets with Cincinnati Ballet’s The Nutcracker
A favorite family tradition is back onstage at Music Hall as the Cincinnati Ballet presents their annual rendition of The Nutcracker. It’s Christmas Eve, and Clara and her nutcracker prince must wage war against an evil mouse king and journey to the Land of Sweets, where a Sugar Plum Fairy and dancing delicacies from around the globe celebrate Clara’s bravery. Choreographed by the ballet’s artistic director, Victoria Morgan, the imaginative two-act event features swirling snowflakes and Tchaikovsky’s iconic score played by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Dec. 16-26. $29-$129. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cballet.org.

Day 12: Visit the Classic Shillito’s Elves at Findlay Market
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. 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.

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