Things To Do In Cincinnati This Winter From Ice Skating to Light Shows and More
By CityBeat Staff
From Ebenezer Scrooge’s return on the Playhouse mainstage and a dozen drive-thru light displays to heated igloos and a giant collection of glowing vintage blow molds, there’s enough holiday cheer in the following pages to warm even the coldest Grinch heart.
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1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine 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.
1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine 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. cballet.org.
520 Vine St., Downtown 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. 6:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 and 18. Free admission. myfountainsquare.com.
1225 Elm St. 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. memorialhallotr.com.
962 Mount Adams Circle, Mount Adams 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. cincyplay.com.
1 Levee Way, Newport 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. newportaquarium.com.
2541 Old Union Church Road, Bowling Green The Reindeer Farm in Bowling Green — located about three hours away — has many activities that last throughout the holiday season, including outdoor games, meeting with and learning about reindeer (aka caribou) and seeing Mrs. Claus and the big man himself. For grown-ups, there is wine available from locally owned Kentucky winery Carriage House Vineyards, with tastings offered Fridays and Saturdays. General admission tickets are $12 and include a visit to the reindeer barn, hot chocolate and access to the indoor playground, petting zoo and more. thereindeerfarm.com.
6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason 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. visitkingsisland.com.
5963 Harrison Ave., Dent 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. frightsite.com.
3400 Vine St., Avondale The PNC Festival of Lights has been named the No. 1 zoo light display in the nation by USA Today three years in a row. This year's fest will feature 4 million LED lights, a North Polar Express train, the fan-favorite light show on Swan Lake, s'mores stands and more. Through Jan. 9, 2022. Included with zoo admission. cincinnatizoo.org.