Look for traditions both old and new during the holidays this year, from a decades-old festival to a Santaland adventure.
1. Festival of LightsNow in its 30th year, the PNC Festival of Lights at The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is one of Cincinnati’s most beloved holiday events. This year, don’t miss the lights show on Swan Lake and the Madcap Black-Light Puppet Show—or just grab a s’more and a hot chocolate and hop on the North Polar Express Train. Nov 23–Jan 1 at The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, cincinnatizoo.org
2. SantalandAnyone who's been to Sharon Woods around the holidays knows all about Holiday in Lights, that beloved drive-through Christmas light extravaganza. This year, actually park the car and venture into Santaland for hot chocolate, carolers, an elf show, and of course, photos with the man himself. Thru Dec. 23 at Sharon Woods, holidayinlights.com
3. Holiday Junction: Featuring the Duke Energy Holiday TrainsCincinnatians have been enjoying the Duke Energy Holiday Trains in some form or other since 1946. The tradition lives on at the Cincinnati Museum Center, where you can also attend a North Pole Pajama Party, have pancakes with Santa, view antique toys and trains at the Toys Through Time exhibit, and hear holiday carolers in the Grand Rotunda. The echoes alone are worth the visit. Nov 2–Jan 6 at Cincinnati Museum Center, cincymuseum.org/holiday-junction
4. Macy’s Light Up the Square and Downtown DazzleFountain Square is where Cincinnati goes to celebrate the holidays. On the day after Thanksgiving is Macy’s Light Up the Square, when Mayor Mark Mallory will plug in the Holiday Tree. The next day kicks off Downtown Dazzle, a festival of live choir music, the famous rappelling Santa, and Story Time with Mrs. Claus. Nov 23 and 24, myfountainsquare.com
5. Scuba Santa’s Water WonderlandOne of the city’s campier traditions, Scuba Santa’s Water Wonderland is the Newport Aquarium’s take on holiday fun. Santa scuba dives in the aquarium’s tanks and reads an underwater version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Nov 23–Jan 1 at Newport Aquarium
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