The advent of long winter nights (and the approaching holidays) means it’s time for elaborate light displays — both drive-through and walkable — to bring a little glow-worm cheer to kids, cozy couples and those with encroaching seasonal affective disorder.
Cincinnati Zoo’s Festival of Lights — The 35th annual Festival of Lights is a “Wild Wonderland” featuring a staggering 3 million LED bulbs and 19 new gigantic animal lanterns (including hippos) on display throughout the zoo. Classic attractions return: an elaborate synchronized light display on Swan Lake, thematic train rides, roast-your-own s’mores and plenty of holiday cheer… like peppermint schnapps- or Irish cream-spiked hot chocolate. Through Jan. 1. $18 adults; $12 children and seniors. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, cincinnatizoo.org.
Christmas Nights of Lights at Coney Island — Watch from the comfort of your car as more than 1 million LED lights illuminate animated Christmas characters and scenes, synchronized to holiday radio music. Now with more light tunnels. Through Jan. 1. $6 per person; free children 3 and under. Coney Island, 6201 Kellogg Ave., California, coneyislandpark.com.
Christmas Glow at Land of Illusion — This haunted Halloween attraction transforms for the season. Instead of ghosts and ghouls, find a glowing drive-through light display commemorating “Christmas Around the World,” with a twinkling Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal and Big Ben. 6-11 p.m. daily through Dec. 30. $16 per vehicle; $14 with canned good donation. Land of Illusion, 8762 Thomas Road, Middletown, landofillusion.com.
Holiday Lights on the Hill at Pyramid Hill — Snuggle in your cozy car and drive through a two-mile wonderland of lights adorning this Hamilton sculpture park. Through Dec 31. $20 per carload Monday-Thursday; $25 per carload Friday-Sunday; $15 members. Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum, 1763 Hamilton Cleves Road, Hamilton, pyramidhill.org.
Holiday in Lights at Sharon Woods — This drive-through woodsy display features more than a mile of colorful lights depicting everything from nutcrackers, snow men and trains to elves and animals on the ark. Tune the radio to WARM 98 for some holiday music while you cruise. Through Dec. 31. $13 per car. Sharon Woods, 11450 Lebanon Road, Sharonville, holidayinlights.com.
Neil Gaiman’s novel Neverwhere, as staged by Know Theatre using a theatrical adaptation by Robert Kauzlaric, is a nearly three-hour-long epic fantasy that follows the misadventures of a Scotsman named Richard Mayhew. He is an unremarkable financier who plunges into the illusory world of London’s underground — here called “London Below.” In Neverwhere there are two Londons: the everyday London of reality, London Above; and London Below, a treacherous, anachronistic fantasy world beneath London inhabited by those who have “fallen through the cracks.” A simple act of kindness kicks off Richard’s adventures into London Below. After finding a mysterious and seriously injured young woman named Door on the street, Richard resists being a bystander and comes to her aid. He is subsequently hurled into a lengthy convoluted quest for truth in Door’s world, London Below. What follows is a hero’s journey that includes the staples of the fantasy genre — a quirky cast of nearly 30 characters, lies, deceit and, of course, self-discovery. Neverwhere is presented by Know Theatre in Over-the-Rhine through Dec. 17. Tickets/more info: knowtheatre.com. — JACKIE MULAY
ONSTAGE: The Dancing Princesses
For this year’s holiday season, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is debuting yet another family-friendly musical. From a German fairy tale sometimes called “The Worn-Out Dancing Shoes,” this show is about five sisters who somehow dance their shoes to tatters every night but keep their overprotective father, the King, in the dark. As usual, ETC gives a classic fairy tale an imaginative modern spin including a meaningful moral that’s heartfelt and enjoyable. The show is peppered with contemporary references to keep kids laughing and adults entertained. Through Dec. 30. $55 adult; $31 student; $27 child. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, 1127 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, ensemblecincinnati.org. — RICK PENDER
HOLIDAY: Water Wonderland with Scuba Santa
Santa’s coming to town. Well, to the Newport Aquarium at least. Celebrate the holidays with Scuba Santa as he trades in his reindeer for a herd of seahorses and a school of fish. The man in red will be visiting a variety of aquarium exhibits throughout the day, such as Shark Ray Bay and Stingray Hideaway. Other exhibits will be decorated for the holidays, with a special magic-bubble mailbox in Penguin Palooza to send wishes to Santa. There will also be an opportunity to meet Scuba Santa one-on-one as he plunges into the tanks. Through Dec 31. $24.99 adult; $16.99 child. Newport Aquarium, 1 Levee Way, Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky., newportaquarium.com. — KENNEDY PONDER
EVENT: Blank Range
Nashville rockers hold down the opening slot for Country/Roots sensation Tyler Childers' sold-out two-night stand at Southgate House Revival. Nashville continues to be a hotbed of Indie Rock invention, and Blank Range is just the latest example of Music City’s sonic expansion in recent years. The quartet is a particularly fascinating example of the scene’s hybridization, partly because the band represents the city’s acceptance and absorption of talent beyond the city limits — Blank Range’s membership hails from St. Louis and Northern Illinois — and partly because the group has risen so quickly to “Band to Watch” status. Read more here. 8 p.m. Thursday; 9 p.m. Friday. Sold out. Southgate House Revival, 111 E. Sixth St., Newport, Ky., southgatehouse.com. — BRIAN BAKER
ART: Photographing Kenyon Barr Panel Discussion
Anne Delano Steinert, historian, preservationist, educator and curator of the exhibit Finding Kenyon Barr: Exploring Photographs of Cincinnati’s Lost Lower West End, will join the Cincinnati Museum Center’s curator of audio-visual collection, Jim DaMico, and CityBeat staff writer Nick Swartsell, to participate in a panel talk. Finding Kenyon Barr, on view until Jan. 2, documents the devastating destruction of more than 2,600 structures in Cincinnati’s West End during the late 1950s, when federal urban renewal dollars were readily available. The second in a series of three panel talks, this one will address the ways in which the aforementioned photo collection has inspired the work of the three panelists. 6:30 p.m. doors; 7 p.m. panel Thursday. Free admission. 1202 Linn St., West End, facebook.com/findingkenyonbarr. — MARIA SEDA-REEDER
EVENT: Brain Candy Live!
What do you get when you take a seasoned MythBuster, a YouTube star turned educator and a whole lot of science? You get Adam Savage’s and Michael Stevens’ interactive science show, Brain Candy Live!. Marketed as a cross between Blue Man Group and a TED Talk, the curiosity-fueled show features mind-boggling experiments and demonstrations, like a wild presentation about the air pressure in ping-pong balls. Audience members will have a chance to interact with the dynamic duo with activities like tweeting in questions during intermission and, if you’re lucky, you might even be selected to come onstage. 7:30 p.m. Thursday. $45-$150. Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Downtown, braincandylive.com. — ERIN COUCH
Comedy: Jim Gaffigan
Pale observational comic/author/actor Jim Gaffigan brings his Noble Ape stand-up tour to U.S. Bank Arena. Expect jokes about fatherhood (see: his book Dad is Fat), food (see: his book Food: A Love Story) and his characteristic deadpan delivery. 7:30 p.m. Thursday. $39.75-$69.75. U.S. Bank Arena, 100 Broadway St., Downtown, usbankarena.com. — MAIJA ZUMMO
ART: Sanctuary: Kathy Y. Wilson Living in a Colored Museum
Even in an apartment whose four rooms and long, narrow hallway are chock-full of art and affirmations, Kathy Y. Wilson stands out as a work of art herself. Still frank, profane and hilarious after coming close to death last year, she remains Your Negro Tour Guide, as was the name of her popular CityBeat column as well as the title of a resultant book and stage adaptation. And now your guide is leading you through a gallery. Sanctuary: Kathy Y. Wilson Living in a Colored Museum opens Friday at the Weston Art Gallery downtown. Curated by Emily Buddendeck of Northside’s NVISION vintage shop, the exhibit recreates the salon-style feeling of Wilson’s apartment in East Walnut Hills, where the longtime writer and educator has amassed a floor-to-ceiling array of racist objects, locally made art, family photos and other black memorabilia. With its mammy figurines and grinning watermelon eaters, the exhibit could create a backlash. But rather than calling attention to Wilson’s provocative art, Buddendeck’s mission is to showcase the provocative woman she calls an artist. Sanctuary: Kathy Y. Wilson Living in a Colored Museum opens Friday with a 6-8 p.m. reception at Weston Art Gallery, 650 Walnut St., Downtown. On view through Jan. 28. Free. More info: westonartgallery.com. — KATHY SCHWARTZ
MUSIC: Dustin Thomas
If you bemoan the fact that there aren’t enough protest singers these days — especially during a period in world history when they seem most needed — you probably should give singer/songwriter Dustin Thomas a listen. Thomas’ modernized Folk songs often go straight to the heart of political and societal issues, rallying against injustice with surgical focus, yet also infusing the message with a peace-and-love perspective. He is certainly a spiritual relative of ’60s icons like Richie Havens and Joan Baez, but also Bob Marley, Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean. His musical and ideological palates are much more expansive, a reflection of his generation, his background and his experiences. Read more here. 9 p.m. Friday. $10. Octave, 611 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky., theoctavebar.com. — MIKE BREEN
ART: Winter Greens at the Lloyd Library
Early Romans marked the winter solstice with evergreen boughs. Druids decorated temples with winter greens to symbolize everlasting life. Today, plants that thrive in the coldest months — pines, mistletoe and more — still signify hope. The Lloyd Library celebrates those plants’ science and folklore in Winter Greens, an exhibit of botanical illustrations from old American and European tree and forestry books. This rare collection features vivid artwork and detailed line drawings, complemented by a series of programs that pay tribute to evergreens as symbols of enduring optimism. Opening reception 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday. On view through March 17. Free. Lloyd Library and Museum, 917 Plum St., Downtown, lloydlibrary.org. — JUDY GEORGE
HOLIDAY: Christmas Saengerfest
Saengerfest is a choral tradition that was brought to America by German immigrants; the first American Saengerfest actually took place in Cincinnati in 1849. And after years of silence, American Legacy Tours has been presenting a reinvigorated Christmas Saengerfest event for the past five years. Board a shuttle bus that stops at six venues throughout Over-the-Rhine to hear more than 20 award-winning local choirs like the Young Professionals Choral Collective, May Festival Youth Chorus and the Cincinnati Sound Chorus, among others. Expect holiday tunes in historic and sacred spaces. 7-11 p.m. Friday; 6:30-11 p.m. Saturday. $30 per day. Multiple venues, christmassaengerfest.com. — KENNEDY PONDER
Batter up! The annual Redsfest returns to the Duke Energy Convention Center for a two-day event featuring Reds players past and present on hand for assorted appearances, photographs and autographs. While the list is subject to change, Major Leaguers slated to appear include Joey Votto, Devin Mesoraco and Homer Bailey, with alumni and others like Marty Brennaman, Corky Miller and Eric Davis. If you’re a fan, this is the place to find autographed goods, unique memorabilia and other merchandise for sale. Other activities include bingo, batting cages, mascot meet-and-greets and a kid-friendly fun zone. Opens 3 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday. $17 adults; $7 kids; $25 adult two-day pass; $12 kids two-day pass. Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St., Downtown, mlb.com/reds. — ALISON BAXTER
EVENT: Ugly Christmas Sweater Bar Crawl
PSA: Just because the name has “Christmas sweater” in it does not mean you want to bring your grandma. Join the fun at The Banks and participate in a bar crawl with drink specials while donning your most hideous holiday wear. The Ugly Christmas Sweater Bar Crawl includes six bars offering draft deals on Braxton, New Belgium and Oskar Blues beers. There will be prizes for the ugliest, naughtiest and best team Christmas sweaters. Benefits Toys for Tots. 5:30 p.m.-midnight Friday. Free admission. Kicks off at the Blind Pig, 24 W. Third St., Downtown, braxtonbrewing.com. — ALISON BAXTER
A rolling stone gathers no moss, and neither does nine-piece Funk/Rock collective Turkuaz. Between its frenetic live presentation and rigorous coast-to-coast touring, the Brooklyn band is constantly in motion. After forming in 2008, Turkuaz hit stages with a vengeance, amassing a fervent local following for a solid three years before dropping a debut album, 2011’s Zerbert. But it was the unit’s sophomore album, 2012’s Live at Southpaw, that proved to be the most potent evidence of its incredible live extravaganza. The absolute beauty of Turkuaz is that the band’s nine members, dressed in colors bright enough to have been chosen from The Muppets’ Pantone palette, incorporate elements from an encyclopedic array of influences, from New Wave, Disco, Gospel and R&B to Classic Rock and Pop of the Psychedelic, Afro and Latin varieties. The band cooks those ingredients up into a bubbling gumbo that could raise the dead without a voodoo incantation. Read more here. 9:30 p.m. Saturday. $16. Madison Theater, 730 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky., madisontheateronline.com. — BRIAN BAKER
MUSIC: Moon Hooch
Popular music is filled with triumphant stories of successful artists or bands that cut their teeth busking for change on the street. But Brooklyn-spawned trio Moon Hooch holds the distinction of being the only two-saxophones-and-drums trio to ever go from being subway-busking stars (attracting so many revelers that cops banned them from certain locations) to becoming an internationally acclaimed ensemble that consistently sells out concerts all over the U.S. and Europe. Despite their initial success on the road, the breathtakingly unique and primarily instrumental group hasn’t rested on its well-earned laurels. It endlessly explores new musical territory and deftly blends Funk, Jazz and Electronic/Dance sounds, which are given a textural richness with the incorporation of effects, vocals and other instruments (like synths and clarinet). This year, the band released the concert film and double live album Live at the Cathedral. 9 p.m. Saturday. $12; $15 day of. Octave, 611 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky., theoctavebar.com. — MIKE BREEN
COMEDY: Cedric the Entertainer
Cedric the Entertainer first burst onto the national comedy scene way back in 1992 when he appeared on It’s Showtime at The Apollo. From there, he went on to HBO’s Def Comedy Jam and BET’s ComicView, which he eventually wound up hosting for one season. He began acting in 1996 when he was cast in The Steve Harvey Show as Cedric Jackie Robinson. He has since acted in several films, including Barbershop 1 and 2, and the TV series The Soul Man. Onstage he talks quite a bit about the African-American experience in America today. 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $45. Liberty Funny Bone, 7518 Bales St., Liberty Township, liberty.funnybone.com. — P.F. WILSON
EVENT: Crafty Supermarket
If you think the mass-produced ugly Christmas sweater you’re gifting is as authentic as your mom’s glorious shoulder-padded, light-up cardi circa 1984, you’re sorely mistaken. Head over to the Crafty Supermarket instead and score some truly unique gifts from more than 90 vendors and makers hand-selected from Ohio and beyond, including a few local favorites like Northside’s honey and beeswax craftsmen, Bee Haven, and Covington’s gift-centric design studio and shop, Handzy. Arrive early to enjoy tasty eats and vintage arcade games, and you might be one of the first 100 out of the expected 5,000 visitors to get your mits on a free swag bag. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. Free. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, craftysupermarket.com. — ERIN COUCH
EVENT: Ohio Explored Holiday Maker Mart
Ohio Explored is a social media site dedicated to inspiring people to explore Ohio and shop local. As an extension of this mission, its Holiday Maker Mart will feature more than 100 local makers selling their wares on Sunday at two venues in Northside — Urban Artifact and Chase School. Expect to see some of the best and most reputable artisans, crafters and small businesses in the area, including The Northern Market, Rock Salt Vintage, Smartfish, Eliza Dot Design, Fern, Cincy Shirts and more. 1-6 p.m. Sunday; early bird noon-1 p.m. Free general admission; $10 early bird. Urban Artifact, 1660 Blue Rock St., Northside; Chase School, 4151 Turrill St., Northside, ohioexplored.com. — MAIJA ZUMMO
EVENT: The O.F.F. Market
Get a double-dose of holiday shopping done by also stopping by the O.F.F. Market at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley. Check out the handmade and found goods from plenty of makers, bakers, thrifters, artists and more. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Free admission. 20th Century Theater, 3021 Madison Road, Oakley, theoffmarket.org. — MAIJA ZUMMO
FILM: Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present
John Rich and Jon Lorenz, the creators of the No Response music festival, have a mission: To bring as many of the giants, the elders, of the avant-garde to Cincinnati as they can. As Rich explains it, it’s an honor for the city to be able to host them while it can — not unlike hosting an Olympics or World Series if you really care about arts and culture. On Tuesday at the Mini Microcinema, they are honoring one who got away — Tony Conrad, who died last year at age 76. They’re presenting a recent documentary by Tyler Hubby called Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present. Conrad was one of the creators of musical Minimalism as well as an avant-garde filmmaker and a conceptual artist with an impish wit. And on Dec. 7, the microcinema is showing a program of Conrad’s own short films and videos. As a filmmaker, Conrad challenged our notions about the structure of a movie. His groundbreaking 1966 The Flicker, which will be screened at the Mini Microcinema on Dec. 7, alternates all-black and all-white frames in a way that, over the course of 30 minutes, can cause a viewer’s brain to perceive hallucinatory images. Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present screens 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Mini Microcinema (1329 Main St., OTR), and short films and videos by Tony Conrad screens there 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7. More info: mini-cinema.org. — STEVEN ROSEN