Cincinnati is the best at Christmastime. From ice skating at Fountain Square to the Festival of Lights at the Zoo, Newport Aquarium’s Scuba Santa to the Nutcracker, there’s always so much to do during the holiday season.
In fact, we just wrote about 50 free activities for you and your family to try this holiday season!
Today, however, I’m sharing 10 holiday traditions that you may or may not be aware of. These events, displays and happenings are fun and family friendly — and may not be quite as crowded as their famed counterparts. I stumbled upon many of these in the past few years, and am excited to share them with you today!
Antique Christmas at The Taft
What: The Taft’s annual display of antique ornaments, decorations and toys. Among the special offerings this year will be a grouping of gifts that Santa might have left in the 1880s; a silver tree twinkling with 19th-century silver ornaments; a Noah’s Ark display from Germany with 200 animals; colorful Italian ornaments made just after World War II; and a Frosty the Snowman display.
When: November 6 – January 3. The Taft is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 am – 4 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm. Closed on Mondays and Christmas Day.
Where: The Taft Museum of Art, 316 Pike St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
Holiday Lights on the Hill at Pyramid Hill
What: A gorgeous, drive-thru lights display covering Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park. Grab a hot chocolate, crank the Christmas tunes and enjoy the lights!
When: November 20 – January 3. Open daily, including holidays. Monday – Thursday: 6 – 9 pm ($20/car); Friday – Sunday: 6 – 10 pm ($25/car). Members’ admission is always $15.
Where: Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park, 1763 Hamilton-Cleves Rd., State Route 128, Hamilton, OH 45013
Holiday Toy Trains at Behringer-Crawford Museum
Photo credit: Behringer-Crawford Museum
What: A display of tiny, historically accurate replicas of room scenes and period furniture by the local chapter of the National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts. This intricate and interactive display easily contends with its celebrity cousin, the Duke Energy Holiday Toy Trains exhibit!
When: November 21 – January 17. This is a great one to revisit after the holidays!
Where: Behringer-Crawford Museum, 1600 Montague Rd., Devou Park, Covington, KY 41011
Gingerbread House Display at Warren County Historical Society
What: Get inspired to make your own family gingerbread house! See the imaginative, whimsical and heart-warming creations from the Warren County Historical Society’s Gingerbread House Contest. On December 1, the first-place winners will be moved to Glendower Historic Mansion’s “Christmas at Glendower” exhibit, but the rest of the entries will remain on display at the Warren County History Center through December 30.
When: November 27: 10 am – 4 pm and 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm; November 28: 10 am – 5 pm; November 29: 12-4 pm; December 1 – 30, open Tuesdays through Fridays: 10 am – 4 pm and Saturdays: 10 am – 5 pm.
Where: Warren County History Center, 105 S. Broadway, Lebanon, OH 45036
If this gets you inspired to create your own gingerbread house, there are kits at Target, Trader Joes, Amazon and pretty much any craft store in the area. We like to buy a few and create gigantic gingerbread villages!
North Pole Express at LM&M Railroad
Photo Credit: LM&M Railroad
What: Take a half hour train ride to the decorated LM&M Junction to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus! Each child will receive a small gift from Mr. Claus himself! Stop at the “Holiday Post Express” to color pictures or write letters to be delivered to Santa. Enjoy a holiday cookie and a cup of hot chocolate to keep you warm while you are entertained by Santa’s talented Elves!
When: Rides on November 28 – 29; December 4 – 6, 11 – 13 and 18 – 22. Check website for times and to purchase tickets!
Where: LM&M Railroad, 127 South Mechanic St., Lebanon, OH 45036.
Santa’s Workshop/Shillito’s Elves
What: We discovered the elves last year; and loved them so much, we went back three times! 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.
When: Open November 24 – December 31. Closed on Mondays. Open Tuesday – Friday from 2 – 8 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10 am – 8 pm. Open Christmas Eve from 10 am – 5 pm and closed Christmas Day.
Where: 6940 Madisonville Rd., Mariemont, OH. (Next to the LaRosa’s off Mariemont Square).
Photo Credit: Mt. Adam’s Today.
What: The Annual Reindog Parade has been a Mt. Adams tradition for over 20 years! Admission is free; dog registration depends on size and ranges from $5 – $10 per pooch. Raffle tickets will also be available at the parade: $5 each, $10 for 3 and $20 for 7. Prizes include a extravagant night out in Mt. Adams, and all proceeds benefit the spca.
When: Saturday, December 12. Dog registration is 12 – 1:45 pm and parade begins promptly at 2 pm!
Where: St. Gregory St. in lovely Mt. Adams.
What: 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!
When: 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 pm. Gates open every day at 5 pm; the lights come on at 6 pm. Gates close at 9 pm and the lights go off at 9:30 pm. On Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve the display closes at 8 pm.
Where: Clifton Mill, 75 Water St., Clifton, OH 45316.
Photo Credit: The Christmas Ranch.
What: If you admire The Griswald’s holiday display, you’ve got to check out The Christmas Ranch! This house features more than 1 million dancing Christmas lights spectacularly synchronized to holiday music!
When: Open November 27 – December 31; Sunday – Thursday: 5 – 9 pm; Friday and Saturday: 5 – 10 pm. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Where: 3205 S. Waynesville Rd., Morrow, OH 45152.
Victorian Holiday Village at Ohio Financial
What: A memorable outdoor event for the entire family featuring thousands of twinkling lights; miniature-sized, yet exciting fully decorated Victorian-style homes and buildings; entertainment; free cocoa and cookies; and a complimentary 5 x 7photo with St. Nick.
When: The Village is lit and open daily through December, but its specialty houses, gifts and entertainment will only be provided during the four nights listed below:
- Friday, December 4 from 6-8:30 p.m.
- Saturday, December 5 from 5-8:30 p.m.
- Thursday, December 10 from 6-8:30 p.m.
- Friday, December 11 from 6-8:30 p.m.
Where: The grounds of Ohio National Financial Services, One Financial Way, Cincinnati, OH 45242
So, bundle up, load up the family minivan and crank the Christmas tunes as you head to one of these holiday events! I promise you’ll love them so much, they’re sure to become an annual tradition in your house.