HOLIDAY: FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
One of the Tristate’s most beloved holiday traditions — the PNC Festival of Lights — is back and brighter than ever. For the 34th year in a row, the Cincinnati Zoo has been transformed into an elaborate and festive “wild wonderland” with the help of 2.5 million LED lights. In addition to the magical light displays, visitors will be able to watch a black-light puppet show, ride the Toyland Express, search for fairies in Fairyland and enjoy festive treats from one of the S’mores-N-More stands. And if you can fit him into your already busy schedule, Santa will be hanging around for some visits, too. Voted best zoo lights in America by USA Today. Through Jan. 1. $18 adults; $13 children. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, cincinnatizoo.org.
HOLIDAY: CHRISTMAS NIGHTS OF LIGHTS
Stay cozy inside the car and buckle up for a two-mile drive through Coney Island. The park’s brand-new Christmas Nights of Lights features more than 1 million lights comprising twinkling trees, dancing candy canes, falling snowflakes and colorful light tunnels, all synchronized to familiar seasonal tunes. It’s the perfect way to find some holiday spirit. Proceeds benefit the Salvation Army and the Ruth Lyons Children’s Fund. Through Jan. 1. $6 per person; free children 3 and under. Coney Island, 6201 Kellogg Ave., California, coneyislandpark.com.
HOLIDAY: WATER WONDERLAND WITH SCUBA SANTA
The man in red is back in the water at the Newport Aquarium for the popular holiday exhibit, Water Wonderland with Scuba Santa. Santa exchanges reindeer for sea creatures in Shark Ray Bay, where magic bubbles and lights dance to holiday tunes as a submerged Santa interacts with visitors and floats around from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. Kids can also drop letters in his mailbox in Penguin Palooza, home to one of the most diverse cold-weather penguin collections in the country. Through Dec. 31. $23.99 adults; $15.99 children. Newport Aquarium, 1 Aquarium Way, Newport, Ky., newportaquarium.com.
EVENT: ONE NIGHT ONE CRAFT: EMBROIDERING FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Join local modern stitch shop The Hoop and Needle at the Contemporary Arts Center for an evening of crafting, cookies and eggnog. During this holiday sew-in, learn to make embroidered ornaments and paper embroidery gift tags, just in time for giving. 6-8 p.m. Wednesday. $15 members; $20 non-members. Contemporary Arts Center, 44 E. Sixth St., Downtown, contemporaryartscenter.org.
ONSTAGE: DARKEST NIGHT AT THE GNARLY STUMP
On the darkest night of the year, residents of a secluded Kentucky town gather at the ol' watering hole, the Gnarly Stump to share ghost stories and songs. When an outside arrives reporting the disappearance of his sister, lines blur between stories and reality. The world premiere commissioned by Know Theatre combines this original piece with music and lyrics from local fringe favorite, Paul Strickland. The Know Theatre's Underground Bar will be transformed into the Gnarly Stump so you can hear some folklore on the darkest night of the year. Read a review here. Through Dec. 17. $25. Know Theatre, 1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine, knowtheatre.com.
ONSTAGE: Cincy Shakes' MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is a fiery and funny romantic romp set in 1780s New York. See review here.
ART: GALLERY 708 GRAND OPENING
Sara Caswell-Pearce, the artist behind the handmade paper goods and upcycled fine-art-objects line Paper With a Past, joined forces with fellow artists Lisa Inglert (glass jeweler) and Phyllis Sadler (fabric artist) this past spring to open Gallery 708 with a mission of fostering and celebrating the city’s and region’s talented visual artists. This Thursday, Gallery 708 will host a grand opening celebration, where visitors can view the work of 30 area artists, including pieces from the three co-owners, plus paintings by Jessie Boone, Cedric Michael Cox and Lisa Molyneux, bronze sculptures by Emily Caito and handmade books by president of the Cincinnati Book Arts Society, Judith Serling-Sturm. 5-9 p.m. Thursday. Free. Gallery 708, 708 Walnut St., Downtown, gallery-708.com.
Memorial Hall has been taken over by elaborate LEGO displays this holiday season. The bricks have been shaped into helicopters, train sets, mini movie theaters, medieval castles, the Batmobile, snow-covered villages and more. Kids can make their own brick masterpieces or write letters to Santa at the interactive children’s work area. New this year, admission includes a screening of a favorite holiday film like The Santa Clause, Polar Express and Elf. If you’re stopping by on a Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m., be sure to head to Washington Park — Santa and his merry elves will be hard at work creating toys, ornaments and taking special requests from the kids on the Nice list. Naughty kids will receive coal; don’t mess with Santa. Through December 30. $10. Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, brickmas.com.
HOLIDAY: COVINGTON NIGHT BAZAAR
Do you prefer to do your holiday shopping at night? Perhaps after a drink or two? Then the second-annual Covington Night Bazaar is for you. Head to Roebling Point in Covington on Friday and Saturday for a weekend of family-friendly shopping with more than 40 local vendors, light bites from the likes of The Gruff, AmerAsia, Piccolo Casa and Lil’s Bagels, and seasonal sips provided by Braxton Brewing Company, Ei8ht Ball, New Riff, Second Sight and Watershed Distillery. For something really warm and cozy, grab a spiked hot chocolate from Crafts & Vines. It’s drinks, dinner and the chance to cross people off your holiday list, all in one stop. 6-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Free admission. Court Street and Park Avenue, Covington, Ky., facebook.com/renaissancecovington.
COMEDY: ROB LITTLE
A few years ago, comedian Rob Little’s life went in a slightly unexpected direction. The Detroit native had been living in Los Angeles for a decade when his mother’s ill health forced him to move back to Michigan. For the last four years he’s been her caregiver, balancing his career and her needs. “It’s not easy, man, especially when you travel for a living,” he says. “I’m always worried when I leave her, ‘Did I put enough food and water down for her?’ ” After Mom went into a professional care facility, Little moved to New York City. “There are so many great comedians out here that it’s very inspiring,” he says. However, Little loves coming to Cincinnati because, as he says, “I feel Midwest audiences are the best and this club is awesome.” Showtimes Thursday-Sunday. $17. Funny Bone Liberty, 7518 Bales St., Liberty Township, liberty.funnybone.com.
As we pile on our winter jackets and huddle for warmth for the next few months, we are quick to forget the summer days spent with our beloved Cincinnati Reds. This weekend, fans have the opportunity to relive all of their favorite memories at Redsfest, the team’s official winter warm-up. This year’s festival has grown to more than 300,000-square-feet of activities at the Duke Energy Convention Center, including autographs and photo booths with more than 80 current players, coaches, Reds Hall of Famers, alumni and broadcasters. The event will also feature an inaugural Redsfest Bingo and celebrity poker, with large cash prizes. Purchase of a ticket comes with Reds socks, a drawstring bag and free tickets to a future Reds game. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Reds Community fund, dedicated to improving the lives of youth through baseball-themed outreach efforts. 3-10:30 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturday. $17 adults single day; $7 children single day; $25 adult two-day pass; $12 children two-day pass. Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St., Downtown, cincinnati.reds.mlb.com.
HOLIDAY: THE NUTCRACKER JAZZED UP!
De la Dance Company’s rendition of the Tchaikovsky classic comes with a jazzy twist, featuring the “Nutcracker Suite” of Jazz legend Duke Ellington along with Tchaikovsky’s original composition. With a large cast of dancers and entertainers (and some Jazz hands), the reinvented yuletide classic is set in 1940s New York City in the first act and the “magic kingdom of the sweets” in the second, when traditional ballet choreography takes over the stage. 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday. $34.75-$40.25. Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Downtown, cincinnatiarts.org.
HOLIDAY: CHRISTMAS SAENGERFEST
Thanks to Christmas Saengerfest, Christmas caroling has never sounded so professional. Listen to award-winning choirs from the World Choir Games while visiting six historic venues throughout OTR. Tour different churches, the Moerlein brewery and the newly renovated Memorial Hall while you fully embrace the holiday spirit. Choirs include the SCPA Primary Select Choir, Queen City Concert Band, Delta Kings and more. Buses will be available to take guests from venue to venue. 5-11 p.m. Friday; 6:30-11 p.m. Saturday. $30 per day. Various locations in Over-the-Rhine, christmassaengerfest.com.
MUSIC: BAD LUCK JONATHAN brings full-bore Psych Rock Blues to MOTR Pub. See Sound Advice here.
HOLIDAY: CINCIDEUTSCH CHRISTKINDLMARKT
Local German culture group Cincideutsch hosts its fifth-annual Christkindlmarkt Christmas market on Fountain Square. An homage to the traditional European holiday markets — charming outdoor craft fairs with wooden stands, old-world sweets and tons of handmade gifts — the Cincinnati version is as close as you can get to Bavaria without the air fare. Expect a range of vendors selling locally made goods, German food and, of course, traditional gluhwein (hot spiced wine). Weekends through Dec. 18. Free admission. Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, cincideutsch.com.
MUSIC: Americana singer/songwriter AMANDA SHIRES supports her latest album, My Piece of Land, at Southgate House Revival. See interview here.
MUSIC: PSYCHIC TWIN brings a brilliant sonic ice palace to MOTR Pub. See Sound Advice here.
MUSIC: Catchy Indie Rocker PETE YORN supports his latest, Arranging Time, at Taft Theatre. See Sound Advice here.
Brooklyn, N.Y. Indie Dance Pop ensemble Rubblebucket has been putting out music since its self-released debut, Rose’s Dream, in 2008. Armed with addictively melodic tunes punctuated with horns and buoyed by irresistible rhythms, the band’s unique sound on its LPs and EPs is instantly compelling. But it is the group’s sweaty, high-energy live show that has helped Rubblebucket build an audience across the country, particularly in the past few years. For example, the band’s packed show in Cincinnati a few years back at the MidPoint Music Festival was a highlight of the fest, making fans out of nearly everyone in attendance; Rubblebucket’s Cincinnati shows since then have been increasingly well attended. The group’s last album, the much-acclaimed Survival Sounds, came out in 2014, but new tracks “Donna” and “If U C My Enemies” have been issued over the past few month as a tease for a new EP that is set for release in January. 8 p.m. Tuesday. $15; $17 day of show. Woodward Theater, 1404 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, woodwardtheater.com.
The Second City’s Holidazed & Confused Revue
Playhouse in the Park, Mount Adams
(through Jan. 8)