We get it. It can be tough for a 3-year-old to make it all the way through a performance of The Nutcracker, no matter how wonderful it is. Thankfully, there’s plenty happening this holiday season that’s perfect for the youngest members of the family! These venues offer fun for little ones that your family can enjoy at your own pace, whether you want to linger and watch little jaws drop at amazing sights, or you need to scoot home to meet an early bedtime!
PNC Festival of Lights
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s PNC Festival of Lights (3400 Vine St., 513-281-4700 or cincinnatizoo.org; pictured top of page) is a great way to get the littlest ones excited for the holidays. With plenty of space to move around, and a range of activities including Madcap Puppet shows, the Wild Lights Show on Swan Lake, the North Polar Express train ride and more, you can explore the zoo at night at your own pace and in whatever order you choose. PNC Festival of Lights is open Nov. 22 – Jan. 3; hours are 5 – 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 5 – 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). General admission is $15 ages 13 – 61, $11 ages 2 – 12 and 62 and older, and $9 for parking.
Holiday in Lights
Holiday in Lights at Sharon Woods (11450 Lebanon Road, 513-769-0393 or holidayinlights.com) lets you experience the wonder of seasonal lights from your car as you drive through a mile’s worth of displays (making it perfectly OK if your child needs a nap!). If you’re up to it, head inside the Sharon Centre for some holiday magic at Santaland (open through Dec. 23), including a visit with Santa (photos start at $6.75). Holiday in Lights is open 6 – 9 p.m. Thursday and 6 – 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 21 – Dec. 31. Admission is $13 per car, $45 for buses and passenger vans. Visit the website to print off a $2 coupon.
Holiday Lights on the Hill
Holiday Lights on the Hill at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum (1763 Hamilton Cleves Road, 513-868-1234 or pyramidhill.org) offers another drive-through opportunity for families, who can gaze upon the park’s giant outdoor sculptures that have been all gussied up for the holidays. Open Nov. 21 – Jan. 4; hours are 6 – 9 p.m. Monday – Thursday, and 6 – 10 p.m. Friday – Sunday. Admission is $20 per carload Monday – Thursday, $25 per carload Friday – Sunday.
Macy’s Downtown Dazzle
Nothing beats heading downtown during the holidays, so bring the kids for Macy’s Downtown Dazzle (downtowncincinnati.com)! Catch Santa rappelling down the side of the 525 Vine Building to kick off a fireworks display on Nov. 29, and Dec. 6 and 13 at 6:30 p.m., then head inside Macy’s for a story time with Mrs. Claus. Stop by the corner of Fifth and Race to catch a carriage ride between 12 – 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 28 through Dec. 14. Or, take a ride on the Metro’s Holly Jolly Trolley, departing at Fourth, Fifth, Pike and Elm Streets on Nov. 28 – 29, and Dec. 6 and 13. Santa greets little ones at Macy’s from 12 – 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 28 – Dec. 20; 12 – 6 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 30 – Dec. 21; and 12 – 5 p.m. Monday – Wednesday, Dec. 22 – 24.
Take a walk around the historical buildings of the Heritage Village Museum during Holly Days (inside Sharon Woods, 11450 Lebanon Road, 513-563-9484 or heritagevillagecincinnati.org). Between 12 and 4 p.m. on Dec. 13 and 14, families can enjoy traditional decorations from the 1800s, storytelling, crafts, model train displays, music and holiday treats. Admission is $7 adults, $4 ages 5 – 11, free ages 4 and younger.
Holiday Show: Magic and Mistletoe
The Krohn Conservatory’s Holiday Show: Magic and Mistletoe (1501 Eden Park Drive, 513-421-5707 or cincinnatiparks.com) features colorful flowers sure to attract the attention of little eyes — it’s a great place to snap a family photo before enjoying local music, an interactive train display and special family events. Exhibit remains open Nov. 15 – Jan. 4; hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily with special evening hours until 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 9, 11, 16 and 18. Admission is $7 adults, $4 ages 5 – 12, free ages 4 and younger.
Antique Christmas at the Taft Museum of Art (316 Pike St., 513-241-0343 or taftmuseum.org) kicks off on Nov. 7 and runs through Jan. 4. Explore antique ornaments, holiday decorations and toys of the past, including a special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer display. Be sure to swing by on Nov. 30 for the Holiday Kickoff that includes visits with Santa, crafts and more. Hours are 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Wednesday – Friday, and 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $10 adults, $8 seniors, students and teachers, $4 ages 12 – 17, and free ages 11 and younger. Admission is free on Sundays.
Holiday Toy Trains
The Behringer-Crawford Museum (1600 Montague Road, Covington, 859-491-4003 or bcmuseum.org) celebrates its 23rd annual display of Holiday Toy Trains. Little ones will be able to get up close and personal with toy trains whizzing along the track. Sign up for a short Polar Express story time with a children’s librarian, and every Wednesday is Grandparents’ Day, during which one child is admitted free with each paying grandparent. Exhibit remains open Nov. 15 – Jan. 18; hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday, and 1 – 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $7 adults, $6 seniors, and $4 ages 3 – 17.
Christmas in Historic Springboro
Christmas in Historic Springboro (North Street to Lower Springboro Road, Springboro, springborofestivals.org) is an annual celebration that includes three days of festivities, so there’s plenty to keep your tot occupied. A Children’s Tent will be in operation throughout the festival, and offers crafts, face painting and live performances from the likes of Mike Hemmelgarn and the Stevens Puppets. The festival runs 6 – 10 p.m. Nov. 21, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Nov. 22, and 12 – 5 p.m. Nov. 23.
Lebanon Christmas Festival
The Lebanon Christmas Festival (N Broadway St., 513-932-1100 or lebanonchamber.org) takes place the first Saturday in December from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. with Horse-Drawn Carriages Parades at 1 and 7 p.m. Families can stroll the historic downtown area and enjoy gift and food vendors, storytelling, live entertainment, street characters and more.
The Beach Waterpark (2590 Waterpark Drive, Mason, 513-398-4356 or thebeachmountain.com) introduces Beach Mountain, where even little kids can get in on the snow tubing action — no experience or special equipment necessary! Two-hour time slots start at $17 for ages 3 years and younger and $20 for those taller than 42” on Thursdays and Fridays; and $22 for ages 3 years and younger and $25 for those taller than 42” on weekends and holidays. Tubing fun begins on Nov. 21!
Holiday Junction at Cincinnati Museum Center (1301 Western Ave., 513-287-7000 or cincymuseum.org), featuring the Duke Energy Holiday Trains, opens Nov. 7 and runs through Jan. 4. This classic Cincinnati holiday tradition is a welcome sight to old and young eyes alike, and includes plenty of special events and fun.
Hillforest’s Victorian Christmas
Hillforest’s Victorian Christmas (213 Fifth St., Aurora, 812-926-0087 or hillforest.org) offers a quiet respite from the chaos of holidays — families can tour the museum all decked out in Victorian splendor and learn how holidays of yesteryear were spent. Exhibit is open Nov. 20 – Dec. 30; hours are 1 – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday. Admission is $6 adults, $3 ages 7 – 13, and free ages 6 and younger.
Big Tree Plantation (2544 South Waynesville Road, Morrow, 513-836-0975 or bigtreeplantation.com) invites families to cut their own Christmas tree, or just enjoy the Winter Wonderland, wagon rides, bonfires and kids activities. Open 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday – Saturday and 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday from Nov. 28 – Dec. 23. Open until 9 p.m. on Dec. 4, 5, 11 and 12 for Night Time Christmas Tree Cutting Adventures!
It’s nothing but wide-open spaces at the Christmas Ranch (3205 Waynesville Road, Morrow, thechristmasranch.com). With a million dancing lights, holiday music, train and wagon rides, the whole family will enjoy this holiday wonderland. The walk-through park includes an animated Toy Factory, a 100-foot walk-through tunnel, a Christmas Village and plenty more. Hours are 5 – 9 p.m. Sunday – Thursday and 5 – 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday from Nov. 28 – Dec. 31. Admission is $15 per vehicle, $4 per person on a van or bus. Parking is free.
The Newport Aquarium (1 Aquarium Way, Newport, 800-406-3474 or newportaquarium.com) welcomes back Scuba Santa, who will talk to kids from his dive underwater, and as well as lead them in a special story time. Kids can also stop by the Post Office to write Santa a letter or draw him a picture. Scuba Santa is in town from Nov. 28 – Jan. 1, visit the site for a complete schedule of his appearances. Admission is $23 adults, $15 ages 2 – 12, free ages younger than 2.
13th Annual Victorian Holiday Village
Ohio National Financial Services presents their 13th Annual Victorian Holiday Village (intersection of I-71 and Pfeiffer Road), featuring a glittering Victorian Holiday Village decorated with thousands of lights and child-sized houses, including an Ohio National post office and St. Nick’s workshop. Get a free photo with St. Nick (one per family) and enjoy free cocoa and cookies during your stroll. All guests are asked to bring a non-perishable food item to be donated to the Freestore Foodbank. Hours are 6 – 8:30 p.m. Dec. 5, 11 and 12, and 5 – 8:30 p.m. Dec. 6.
Washington Park (1230 Elm St., washingtonpark.org) is where kids can run around and play then make crafts with Santa, along with photo opportunities, from 1 – 3 p.m. on Saturdays through Dec. 20.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
Enjoy a nostalgic holiday with a day trip to Louisville for the Slugger Museum’s Coca-Cola Christmas (800 W. Main St., Louisville, 877-775-8443 or sluggermuseum.com). The exhibit runs Nov. 15 – Jan. 5, and don’t forget that admission includes a free souvenir mini-bat after the factory tour! Admission is $12 ages 13 – 59, $11 ages 60 and older, $7 ages 6 – 12, free ages 5 and younger.