10 Can’t-Miss Holiday Events in Cincinnati

If you’re looking for an authentic “Cincinnati” way to celebrate the holidays, you’ve come to the right place! Cincinnati is a city that’s full of holiday history and tradition. From the Zoo’s Festival of Lights to the Cincinnati Ballet’s Nutcracker, there are so many “holiday musts” in the Queen City.

Here are 10 can’t-miss holiday events in Cincinnati:


The Nutcracker

If we had to pick just one holiday event to attend in Cincinnati, it would absolutely be The Nutcracker. Year after year, the Cincinnati Ballet’s Nutcracker continues to awe audiences of all ages. The story of Clara, the Nutcracker Prince, Snow Queen and King, Sugar Plum Fairies and even the mischievous mice will surely capture your kids’ attentions and hearts. Your family will be enchanted by the delicate-yet-deft Cincinnati Ballet dancers as they perform this dearly beloved holiday classic. Please note this year’s performances, which occur a little earlier than prior years: December 9-18 at the Aronoff Center.
Dates: Dec. 9-18
Location: Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202

PNC Festival of Lights


This magnificent lights display was voted #1 by USA Today! This year, te Cincinnati Zoo will once again be transformed into a “Wild Wonderland” for the 34th annual PNC Festival of Lights! In addition to admiring the beauty of 2.5 million LED lights, visitors can watch a Madcap black-light puppet show, ride the BB&T Toyland Express, search for fairies in Fairyland, marvel at the spectacular Wild Lights show on Swan Lake, or snack at one of two S’mores-n-More stands.
Dates: Nightly through Jan. 1. Closed Christmas Eve (open during the day) and Christmas Day (closed all day).
Location: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St. Cincinnati, Ohio 45220

A Christmas Carol

Playhouse in the Park’s A Christmas Carol is a classic. It doesn’t get much more festive (or beautiful!) than Eden Park during Christmastime. This family friendly play is a fantastic tradition to start with your kids!
Dates: Shows through Dec. 31
Location: Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, 962 Mt. Adams Circle, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Krohn’s Holiday Show


Krohn’s amazing staff and the talented Applied Imagination team have created a space that is equal parts enchanting and festive. The room is filled with a variety of colors – poinsettias in red, white, pink, blue, yellow and purple – and of course the train display is back and intertwined among the foliage. Your family can spend hours in the exhibit and still not pick out every detail in the display. They’ve named it, “A Whimsical Wonderland,” and that is exactly what it is. The first half of the room is filled with whimsy – playful buildings and plants, and the sounds of trains zipping around, making your eyes dart in every direction. The back half of the room shows off the intricately built replicas of Cincinnati landmarks, from the Tyler Davidson fountain to Krohn itself.
Dates: Daily through Jan. 8, 2017
Location: Krohn Conservatory, 950 Eden Park Drive Cincinnati, OH 45202

Santa’s Workshop featuring the Shillito’s Elves

You can’t get more “Cincinnati” than Shillito’s! Shillito’s Department Store, located in downtown Cincinnati, handcrafted a holiday display in 1979 as a Christmas attraction for the city. More than 130 animated figures were created to fill 10 interior vignettes, 7 storefront windows and over 20 other windows throughout the store. The display, which was permanently set up in the downtown store and opened to the public around Christmas, was discontinued when Shillito’s merged with Federated Department Stores and renamed Lazarus. In 1997, the Boy Scouts resurrected the display for the holiday season. Since then, the Elves have moved a few times, and now call Mariemont home.
Dates: Open daily through December 31. Hours are 2-8 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve; and closed Christmas Day.
Location: 6940 Madisonville Rd. in Mariemont

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra


Music is an integral part of our memories — and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is pure magic during the holidays! We are especially partial to the Pops: in his red coat, conductor John Morris Russell is as festive as the Jolly Elf himself! Check out the Holiday Pops Dec. 2-4; Over the Rhine Christmas with the Pops on Dec. 20 and the kid friendly Lollipops concert — The Snowman with the Pops — on Dec. 23.
Dates: See the CSO website for concert dates
Location: Taft Theatre, 317 E. 5th St., Cincinnati OH 45202

LM&M North Pole Express

All aboard! Take a ride to the enchanted world of magic and wonder on Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad’s North Pole Express. This isn’t just a train ride; it’s an experience. The festivities start as you wait to board, with complimentary hot chocolate and cookies available on the platform. Once on the train, you’ll meet Santa and his elves, and your kids will get their very own bell from Santa’s sleigh (a la The Polar Express). Parents, bring your cameras: pictures with Santa are allowed and encouraged! Kids, bring your lists for your visit with Mr. C!
Dates: Nov. 26-27 and Dec. 2-4, 9-11, 15-18 and 22-24
Location: LM&M Railroad, 127 S. Mechanic St. – Lebanon, OH 45036


Holiday In Lights at Sharon Woods


Holiday in Lights at Sharon Woods is set up along a mile of wooded roadway that winds through the park, which has been transformed into a glittery winter wonderland and has some of the most unique displays and little surprises throughout the drive.
Dates: Nightly through Dec. 31
Location: Sharon Woods, 11450 Lebanon Road, Route 42 Sharonville, OH 45241

Clifton Mill

For 28 years, Clifton Mill has celebrated the Christmas season in a very special way. This light display has been featured in Midwest Living and Ohio Magazine, and is one of the country’s finest with over 3.5 million lights illuminating the mill, gorge, riverbanks, trees and bridges. The flip of one switch turns all the lights on at once, transforming night into a fantastical winter wonderland which includes a Miniature Village, a Santa Claus Museum, a Toy Collection and a spectacular synchronized lights and music show that features the old Covered Bridge!
Dates: The light display starts the day after Thanksgiving and is on every night through December 31. On Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the display closes at 8 p.m. Gates open every day at 5 p.m.; the lights come on at 6 p.m. Gates close at 9 p.m. and the lights go off at 9:30 p.m. On Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve the display closes at 8 p.m.
Location: Clifton Mill, 75 Water St., Clifton, OH 45316

Fountain Square Ice Rink


Nothing says “holidays” quite like ice skating — and ice skating at Fountain Square is a beloved Cincinnati tradition!
Dates: Open daily through February 20 (some restrictions apply).
Location: Fountain Square in Downtown Cincinnati

Have a very happy holiday season, Cincinnati Parents!

Photo credits: Cincinnati Ballet | Cincinnati Zoo | Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.



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