It’s so very good to wrap up the year with your loved ones together at home. We have all kinds of ideas for you to make the most of the most wonderful time of the year!
Every year, my mother and I get together for a day to bake and make candy. And while I’ve been sworn to uphold the family secret that is her sugar cookie recipe, there are a few other faves worth sharing, especially because the kiddos can help with these! – Sherry Hang
- Ritzy PB’s: A perfect combo of sweet and salty, we’ve been making these for years. Just sandwich peanut butter between two Ritz crackers and then dunk the whole thing in some melted chocolate (we prefer white chocolate). Set up a buffet of colored sprinkles and let the little chefs have at it. (Tip: You won’t regret freezing a few!)
- Potato-less Candy: Shortcut: Combine two sticks of softened butter, two pounds powdered sugar, one tbs. plus one tsp. vanilla, then add evaporated milk until you reach a cookie-dough consistency. Chill for 30 minutes, then roll to quarter-inch thickness between two sheets of wax paper. Remove top sheet of wax paper, spread with peanut butter, roll it up, and slice.
- Shortbread: The best thing about shortbread is that it’s essentially a blank canvas, and delicious if you leave it that way. I like mine rolled in a mix of cinnamon and sugar just out of the oven while my mother loves to dip one end in melted chocolate and let the kids decorate with sprinkles. Use two cups softened butter, one cup white sugar, two tbs. vanilla, and four cups of all-purpose flour. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, add vanilla, then the flour a little at a time until mixed. Shape in logs and chill for at least 30 minutes. Slice and bake 8 – 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
I love to sew so I make everyone PJ pants each year (including Dad and the baby) and hand them out on Christmas Eve. They always reflect some fun aspect of the person. Everyone shows up on Christmas morning in their new PJs and we take a family photo in front of the tree. – Bonnie Jean Feldkamp
I feel very fortunate to be able to provide my kiddos gifts and experiences that they want and enjoy. In an effort to teach them how fortunate they are, every holiday season I take them to a Giving/Angel Tree where they look for a tag with a kiddo their same age. They shop with me for the items on the child’s wish list, which are typically clothing and winter gear. We talk about the things that they are asking for are needs versus wants, and then I let each kiddo pick one item that they think the child would want as an extra gift. They then help me wrap and deliver the gifts back to the tree. – Tina Pratt
After we visit my parents or my in-laws for our holiday get-togethers, we have made a tradition of taking the long way home. We love driving and looking at decorations while listening to Christmas music. There are so many families who go all out for the holidays, so it is nice to take the time to enjoy their hard work. – Amanda Ciani
Taft Theatre, 317 East Fifth St.
513-381-3300 or cincinnatisymphony.org
The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and John Morris Russell return to where it all began, in the Taft Theater, with their holiday performance, Home for the Holidays. American Idol alum Melinda Doolittle will join the Pops, along with costumed characters, treats for the kids, and a special visit from St. Nick. Performances take place on Dec. 2 at 8 p.m., Dec. 3 at 2 and 8 p.m., and Dec. 4 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets start at $25. And don’t miss the special family concert, The Snowman with the Pops, on Dec. 23 at 7:30 p.m. The orchestra will perform the live score in conjunction with the holiday film, The Snowman. Tickets are $15 – $20.
The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati
Taft Theatre, 317 East Fifth St.
513-569-8080 or thechildrenstheatre.com
The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati presents Elf The Musical JR., featuring a young orphan who is mistakenly taken to the North Pole. But when he realizes that his real family is somewhere in New York City, he begins a venture to find them and learn about his true identity – hilarity and toe-tapping tunes follow! Performances take place Dec. 10 – 11 and Dec. 16 – 18; tickets start at $10.
Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati
1127 Vine St.
513-421-3555 or ensemblecincinnati.org
Ensemble Theatre presents Cinderella: Ever After – the sequel to last year’s hit that follows the prince and princess for their “happily ever after.” What happens when Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters move into the palace? Performances run Nov. 30 – Dec. 30, tickets are $18 – $44.
Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St.
513-621-5282 or cballet.org
The Cincinnati Ballet and Frisch’s Big Boy Present The Nutcracker, a holiday tradition featuring the magical journey of a young girl. Clara ventures to the wondrous Land of Sweets with her Nutcracker Prince to meet a fantastic cast of characters. Performances run Dec. 9 -18; tickets start at $32.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: The Musical
Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St.
513-621-2787 or cincinnatiarts.org
This one-night only concert is based on the TV classic, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. Enjoy all your favorite characters, including Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, and of course, Rudolph himself. They will lead audiences on an adventure that teaches everyone that the thing that makes you different is what also makes you special. Dec. 2 at 7 p.m.; tickets start at $32.
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park
962 Mt. Adams Circle
513-421-3888 or cincyplay.com
Ebenezer Scrooge has returned for this beloved holiday performance that teaches audiences about what’s most important during the holidays. A Christmas Carol takes place on a cold Christmas Eve, when Scrooge is visited by three spirits, who each intend to show him the error of his miserly ways. Performances run through Dec. 31; tickets start at $40.
UC Clermont’s Calico Children’s Theatre
UC Clermont College, 4200 Clermont College Dr., Batavia
513-558-2787 or ucclermont.edu/community/arts
This popular children’s theatre series welcomes ArtReach: A Division of The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati for a performance of A Christmas Carol. Old miser Scrooge learns a valuable lesson in compassion when the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future visit him on Christmas Eve. Performance takes place on Dec. 9 at 7 p.m.; tickets are $5 per person.
Covedale Center for the Performing Arts
4990 Glenway Ave.
513-241-6550 or cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com
Filled with romance, heartbreak and mystery, The Nights Before Christmas explores the life of Clement C. Moore and the writing of the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas. It’s a love story, a literary mystery and full of beautiful songs, including an inspiring version of “T’was the Night Before Christmas.” Dec. 1 – 23; tickets range from $24 – $27.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
719 Race St.
513-381-2273 or cincyshakes.com
The holiday smash hit, Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) is back to delight audiences with a hilarious look at all of our favorite classics – including everything from Dickens to Dr. Seuss. Dec. 14 – 31; $32.
Christian Moerlein Brewery (1621 Moore St.)
St. Francis Seraph (14 E. Liberty St.)
First Lutheran Church (1208 Race St.)
Over-the-Rhine Community Church (1310 Race St.)
Head to Over-the-Rhine on Dec. 2 and 3 to enjoy 14 local choirs performing holiday classics. 5 – 11 p.m. Dec. 2 – 3; $30 – $60.
Mason Dance Center
Performed at Mason High School, 6100 Mason Montgomery Road
513-398-0353 or masondance.com
The students of the Mason Dance Center will perform their annual benefit production of The Nutcracker with a jazzy twist to support he Mason High School After Prom program. Performances take place Dec. 11 at 1 and 4 p.m.
EXHIBITS & LIGHTS
Holiday Lights on the Hill
Pyramid Hill, 1763 Hamilton-Cleves Road, Hamilton
513-868-8336 or pyramidhill.org
Enjoy a dazzling display of lights from the warmth of your car in this annual exhibit that brings the sculptures of the outdoor museum to life with over a million lights. Exhibit is on display through Jan. 1, 2017; hours are 6 – 9 p.m. Mon – Thu, and 6 – 10 p.m. Fri – Sun. Admission is $20 per carload, Mon – Thu, and $25 per carload, Fri – Sun.
A Victorian Christmas
Hillforest Mansion, 213 Fifth Street, Aurora, IN
812-926-0087 or hillforest.org
A Victorian Christmas returns to Hillforest, where families can explore holidays of the past in a unique setting. Open 1 – 5 p.m. Tue – Sun, Nov. 20 – Dec. 30; admission is $7.50 adults, $3.50 ages 7 – 13, free ages 6 and younger.
Ohio National’s Victorian Holiday Village
Southeast Corner of the Pfeiffer Road and I-71 interchange
It’s a charming exhibit that delights families of all ages every year! Load up the gang to explore a Victorian village decorated for the holidays, complete with holiday scenes, thousands of lights, and the ONtime Express, a whimsical miniature train that takes guests from the parking garage to the Village. Meet with balloon artists elves, enjoy some seasonal treats, and be sure to bring your cameras for some unique photo opportunities. The exhibit is free, but guests are asked to bring a nonperishable food item to be donated to the Freestore Foodbank. Exhibit will remain on display Dec. 2 from 6 – 8:30 p.m., Dec. 3 from 5 – 8:30 p.m., Dec. 8 from 6 – 8:30 p.m., and Dec. 9 from 6 – 8:30 p.m.
PNC Festival of Lights
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St.
513-421-4700 or cincinnatizoo.org
The whole family will enjoy a wild lights show on Swan Lake, the Madcap Puppets, strolling entertainment, train rides, visits with Santa, and more. Festival of Lights is open 5 – 9 p.m. Sun – Thu and 5 – 10 p.m. Fri and Sat, Nov. 19 – Jan. 1, 2017. General admission is $18 adults ($16 online) and $13 children and seniors ($12 online).
Holiday in Lights and Santaland
Sharon Woods, 11450 Lebanon Road
513-769-0393 or holidayinlights.com
Enjoy more than a mile of seasonal lights all from the warmth of your car, as you enjoy scenes of all things holiday, including Santa and the 12 Days of Christmas. While you’re there, head into the Sharon Centre for live entertainment, a visit with Santa, a train display, holiday shopping, and pick up a sweet treat from Mrs. Claus’ Confectioneries. Holiday in Lights is $13 per car, $45 per bus and 15-passenger vans. Santaland remains open 6 – 9 p.m. Sun – Thu and 5:30 – 10 p.m. Fri –Sat, Nov. 18 – 20 and Nov. 25 – Dec. 23. Holiday in Lights is on display from 6 – 9 p.m. Sun – Thu an 5:30 – 10 p.m. Fri – Sat Nov. 18 – Dec. 31.
Heritage Village Museum, 11450 Lebanon Road
513-563-9484 or heritagevillagecincinnati.org
Holly Days will take visitors back in time to the warmth and beauty of a 19th Century holiday. Visit the historical buildings all decked out with traditional decorations from the 1800s, listen to stories, make a craft, enjoy some live music, train displays, holiday treats and more. Holly Days is open from 12 – 4 p.m. Dec. 10 and 11; admission is $10 adults, $6 ages 5 – 11, free ages 4 and younger and museum members.
Taft Museum of Art, 316 Pike St.
Bring the whole family to experience the wonder and joy of Christmases past with beautiful antique ornaments, decorations and toys. Exhibit will remain on display through Jan. 8, 2017. The Taft Museum is open 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tue – Fri, and 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sat and Sun; admission is $12 adults, $10 ages 6 – 18 and seniors, free ages 5 and younger. Discounts for tickets purchased in advance, and admission is free to all on Sundays.
Water Wonderland with Scuba Santa
Newport Aquarium, 1 Aquarium Way, Newport
800-406-3474 or newportaquarium.com
Scuba Santa makes his return to enchant visitors with a Water Wonderland. Lights, bubbles, holiday music and more are all in the works in this unique holiday exhibit, including a chance to meet Scuba Santa in person. Visit with seahorses, the white gators and more! Be sure to visit the web site for special activities throughout the month. Water Wonderland with Scuba Santa is on display from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. through Dec. 31. General admission tickets are $15.99 ages 2 – 12, and $23.99 ages 13 and older.
Krohn Conservatory, 1501 Eden Park Dr.
513-421-5707 or cincinnatiparks.com/krohn
This years show, A Whimsical Wonderland, features poinsettias of every color, including blue, orange and purple! Check out the botanical train and be sure to bring your camera for a great holiday pictures. Enjoy special events throughout the season, and don’t miss the Schmalz Family Display. The holiday show is on display through Jan. 8, 2017. Hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $7 adults, $4 ages 5 – 12, free ages 4 and younger.
Illuminated Pioneer Village
Governor Bebb MetroPark, 1979 Bebb Park Lane, Okeana
513-867-5835 or yourmetroparks.net
Take in the sights, sounds and scents of the season during the Illuminated Pioneer Village. The Village will be decorated with thousands of lights and luminaries. Families can visit the cabins, enjoy tasty treats, crafts and activities, along with live music, pioneer cooking demos, and more. Be sure to bring a camera to take a family photo on an authentic sleigh! The Village is open Dec. 2 from 5 – 9 p.m., Dec. 3 from 5 – 9 p.m., and Dec. 4 from 4 – 8 p.m. Admission is $10 per vehicle.
An Old Kentucky Christmas
First Church of Christ, 6080 Camp Ernst Road, Burlington
859-586-4673 or anoldkentuckychristmas.com
Head to Burlington for An Old Kentucky Christmas, a recreation of a pioneer village where families can visit with candle makers and woodworkers, shop for the holidays, enjoy Grandma’s cookies, play some pioneer games, visit a petting zoo, and take a horse-drawn carriage ride. Head inside for tunes from a local dulcimer group, family portraits, and an inspirational Candlelight Service. Best of all? The whole thing is FREE! An Old Kentucky Christmas is open Dec. 8 from 5 – 8 p.m. (special performance by the Ryle Choir at 7 p.m.), Dec. 9 from 5 – 8 p.m., Dec. 10 from 2 – 8 p.m., and Dec. 11 from 2 – 8 p.m.
Christmas Nights of Lights
Coney Island, 6201 Kellogg Ave.
513-232-8230 or coneyislandpark.com
Christmas Nights of Lights is a brand-new exhibit from a favorite summer spot and features two miles’ worth of holiday light displays. Open dusk – 10 p.m. through Jan. 1; $6 per person, free ages 3 and younger.
Light Up Middletown
Smith Park, 500 Tytus Ave., Middletown
513-649-4506 or lightupmiddletown.org
Light Up Middletown is a drive-able light show covering the park’s 100 acres. Open 6 – 10 p.m. through Dec. 31. Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit every Friday and Saturday night from 7 – 9 p.m. through Dec. 23. Admission is by donation.
The Beach Mountain
2590 Waterpark Dr., Mason
513-398-4356 or thebeachmountain.com
Blow off some steam with snow tubing fun for the whole family! Ride the magic carpet to the top of the hill, then take a slide down the 400-foot long run before heading back up to do it again. Kids will love a special play area just for them ($3, or free when you purchase a snow tubing pass). Pass prices vary, visit the web site to purchase online.
So much to do downtown! Whether you want to get in some shopping, visit with Santa, or enjoy a carriage ride, there’s plenty of opportunities to get into the holiday spirit. Watch Santa and his friends rappel down the side of the Huntington Center to the Macy’s rooftop to kick off a fireworks display on Dec. 3 and 10 at 6:30 p.m. during Macy’s Downtown Dazzle. Enjoy story time with Mrs. Claus at Macy’s Fountain Place on Dec. 3 and 10 at 7:15 p.m. Pick up a carriage ride at the corner of Fifth and Race Streets between 12 and 5 p.m. on Dec. 3, 4, 10 and 11. And bring your cameras for a visit with Santa in a festive North Pole setting (get a complete schedule at the web site).
Newport on the Levee
1 Levee Way, Newport
Enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season each weekend in December at the Levee, which will offer loads of free entertainment from the likes of The Chris Comer Trio, the Cincinnati Circus, Dickens Carolers, princesses, ice-sculpting demonstrations. Special ticketed events like Breakfast with Santa on Dec. 17 are also in the works – get the full scoop at the web site!
6th Street Promenade, Covington
Head to the Village for holiday fun, including a Christmas Tree Lighting on Dec. 2 at 6:30 p.m., the Boy Scout Christmas Tree Sales on Dec. 2 – 4; and the grand arrival of Saint Nicholas on Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. Plus, enjoy front porch caroling at Stoney’s Vilalge Toy Shoppe on Dec. 17 at 4 p.m.!
A Burlington Christmas
Head to Burlington on Dec. 2 – 4 for holiday shopping, live music, vintage toys and train displays, visits with Santa, face painting, a Santa Paws Pet Parade, and tours of the Dinsmore Homestead. Visit the web site for a complete schedule of activities!
Waynesville’s Christmas in the Village
Downtown Waynesville, Ohio
Get a start on holiday shopping with some unique stores that offer crafts, home décor, jewelry and more. Enjoy carriage rides, 1300 luminaries, live entertainment, and grab a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants. Christmas in the Village is held Dec. 2 from 6 – 9 p.m., Dec. 3 from 12 – 9 p.m., and Dec. 4 from 12 – 5 p.m.
Paintsville’s Mountain Homeplace Christmas
Mountain Homeplace, 745 Ky Rt. 2275, Staffordsville, KY
Celebrate a Mountain Homeplace Christmas with a tree lighting, caroling, the story of Christmas, a live nativity scene, and free carriage rides and refreshments with admission ($5 per person, free ages 4 and younger). Festivities take place 5 – 9 p.m. Dec. 9, 10, 16 and 17.
Light Up Fairfield
Village Green Park, Fairfield Community Arts Center, and The Waterford at Fairfield
The City of Fairfield will kick off their holiday festivities with a special tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 3. Activities like the holiday market and visits with Santa, take place from 1 – 6 p.m., with Santa arriving at 5:30 p.m. for the big tree lighting.
Ice Rink at Fountain Square
Fifth and Vine Street
513-381-0782 or myfountainsquare.com
The Ice Rink is open for the season – bring the gang for skating fun and special events like the Turkey Bowl and Skating with Santa. Visit the web site for a complete schedule of hours and events; admission is $6, skate rental is $4.
Nothing beats a live Christmas tree during the holidays – the smell alone is enough to put you in the holiday spirit! Check out these farms for cut-your-own options (and don’t worry, staff is happy to help out)!
4427 Cotton Run Road, Hamilton
513-795-2271 or bartelsfarm.com
Berninger Christmas Trees and Wreaths
1220 Stubbs Mill Road, Lebanon
513-932-2780 or berningertreesandwreaths.com
Big Tree Plantation
2544 S. Waynesville Road, Morrow
513-836-0975 or bigtreeplantation.com
Corsi Tree Farm
1651 Bolender Road, Hamersville
937-379-9200 or corsitreefarm.com
6066 Goshen Road, Goshen
513-625-2000 or dirrnurseries.com
Koch Christmas Trees
6232 Hamilton Scipio Road, Okeana
513-756-1998 or kochchristmastrees.com
John T. Nieman Nursery
3215 Hamilton New London Road, Hamilton
513-738-1012 or johnniemannursery.com
Nieman Nursery and Landscaping
3881 Cinti Brookville Road, Hamilton/Ross
513-738-1332 or niemantreefarm.com
Timberwind Tree Farm
1566 W. Pekin Road, Lebanon
937-746-5027 or timberwindtrees.com
Wertz Family Tree Farm
5682 Union Road, Franklin
937-746-7870 or chooseatree.com
EnterTRAINment Junction’s Christmas at the Junction
7379 Squire Ct., West Chester
513-898-8000 or entertrainmentjunction.com
Enjoy the magic of Christmas at the World’s Largest Indoor Train Display. Take a journey to the North Pole to meet Mrs. Claus and Santa, check out the Main Street Holiday Trains, and more. Christmas at the Junction is open through Jan. 3, 2017. Visit the web site for info on tickets and extended hours.
Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad’s The North Pole Express
127 S. Mechanic St., Lebanon
513-933-8022 or lebanonrr.com
The train depot is ready for the holidays with fun decorations, activities for the kids, hot chocolate and cookies, plus a train ride with Santa and his elves! Train departs Nov. 26 – 27, Dec. 2 – 4, 9 – 11, 15 – 18, and 22 – 24; weekdays at 6 and 8 p.m., weekends at 12, 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m., as well as 10 a.m., 12:30 and 3 p.m. on Dec. 3, 6 and 8. Prices vary from $18 – $32.
Holiday Toy Trains at Behringer-Crawford Museum
1600 Montague Road, Covington
859-491-4003 or bcmuseum.com
Free with admission ($9 adults, $8 seniors, $5 ages 3 – 17)
Check out 250 feet of track and 30-plus guest-activated displays, plus enjoy Polar Express readings, visits with Santa, and more. Exhibit remains on display during museum hours through Jan. 8, 2017.
Whitewater Valley Railroad’s The Polar Express
Grand Central Station, Connersville, IN
765-825-2054 or whitewatervalleyrr.org
The popular train ride returns for a special journey to the North Pole, complete with a reading of the famous tale, hot chocolate and a cookie, plus a visit with Santa. Trains depart Nov. 18 – Dec. 18, please see web site for a complete schedule. Tickets are $29 – $32.50.