Cincinnati is rife with cute, cozy and glowing things to do this weekend. There are 14 drive-thru or walk-thru light displays, plenty of traditional end-of-year productions on local stages and multiple pop-up ice rinks to skate outdoors.
In particular, this weekend boasts the return of two hometown music acts, as well as the Cincinnati Ballet's The Nutcracker, plus at least one ugly-sweater-themed bar crawl.
And if you don't see anything fun to do here, see our full Winter Guide — stuffed with things to do this season — for more ideas.
Friday, Dec. 17Cincinnati 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. Through Dec. 26. $29-$129. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cballet.org.
98 Degrees at Hard Rock Casino
Things will be heating up at Hard Rock Casino this Friday when favorite hometown boy band 98 Degrees takes the stage. The group — brothers Nick and Drew Lachey, Justin Jeffre and Jeff Timmons — will play the casino on Dec. 17. In a tweet, the group said, "We’re excited to be heading back to Cincinnati to play at the Hard Rock Casino." 9 p.m. Dec. 17. The show is sold out. 000 Broadway, Pendleton, hardrockcasinocincinnati.com.
Fifty West Ice Rink
Fifty West Brewing Company has added a quaint winter attraction to its list of ever-growing things to do at its Production Works brewery: an ice rink. The family-friendly rink is 80-feet-by-40-feet, and tickets get you one hour on the ice. Only a small number of people are allowed on the rink at one time, so Fifty West is using a timed reservation system online, with select in-person purchase options if crowds are light. In addition to the ice skating rink, Fifty West has gone full "winter wonderland," per the release, with large, heated tents; small fire pits; a holiday light display; and hot chocolate and cider (with the option to add alcohol to either). $10 (includes skate rental); free for kids under 4. Fifty West Production Works, 7605 Wooster Pike, Columbia Township, fiftywestbrew.com.
Saturday, Dec. 18Christmas with Over the Rhine
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.
Elves on Elder 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.
Covington's Reindeer Games Pub Crawl
The third-annual Reindeer Games Pub Crawl invites attendees to don their tackiest ugly Christmas sweater as their drink their way through Covington. There will be games at each bar on the crawl. First stop is Braxton Brewing Co., where you'll pick up your scorecard before traveling to Rich's Proper Food & Drink, the Hannaford and Parlor on 7th. The event is hosted by Braxton, Sonder Brewing and New Belgium. Turn in your scorecard at any location by the end of the night to enter to win prizes and goodies from the breweries. Check-in is between 6:30 and 7 p.m. Dec. 18. Free. 27 W. Seventh St., Covington, facebook.com.
Sunday, Dec. 19Lumaze at the Duke Energy Convention Center
Holiday light viewing doesn’t have to be cold or seen through your car window. Instead, enjoy the seasonal spectacle at downtown's Duke Energy Convention Center this year. Lumaze, an “all-indoor Christmas light festival and market,” kicks off Nov. 26 and lasts through Jan. 1, 2022. Organizers say the theme for Cincinnati's inaugural Lumaze is “Glow Around the World,” where visitors will find “magnificent world landmarks” rendered in light throughout the indoor winter wonderland. Look for LED hopscotch, a fully stocked bar and 100,000 square feet of lights. Through Jan. 1, 2022. Weekday tickets start at $22.99 for adults and $16.99 for seniors, veterans and kids ages 4-12. Prices go up on weekends. Family bundles are available. 525 Elm St., Downtown, lumazelights.com.
WinterFest at Kings Island
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.
Holiday Junction at the Cincinnati Museum Center
The Duke Energy Holiday Trains are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year. The display first debuted in downtown Cincinnati in 1946, and this year’s iteration at the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Holiday Junction features 60 trains, with more than 300 total railcars, zooming along cozy, miniature winter vignettes. Check out the details at track level, or see an overview from above. Through Jan. 3, 2022. Included with admission. 1301 Western Ave., Queensgate, cincymuseum.org.
Scuba Santa at 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.
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