This Thanksgiving weekend in Cincinnati is as packed as ever. Winterfest opens at Kings Island, Santa arrives at the museum center, a new era begins for “A Christmas Carol” with preview performances at Playhouse in the Park and the Shillito’s Elves are back! Here’s a look at the top 15 events in and around town this weekend.
Kings Island transforms into an enchanting winter wonderland for the season. Enjoy millions of twinkling lights, ice skating on the Royal Fountain, the nightly Wonderland Parade, live entertainment and 20 rides – including Mystic Timbers – open.
Details: 5-10 p.m. Friday, 4-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Kings Island, 6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason. Runs select nights Nov. 24-Dec. 31. $29.99-up. visitkingsisland.com.
2. Santa Arrives at CMC
Gather around Union Terminal’s historic fountain to cheer on Santa Claus as he makes his grand arrival at the Cincinnati Museum Center by helicopter. He’s flying in at noon, but prior to his arrival, families can enjoy live music and activities in the rotunda. Kids can visit with Santa next to the fireplace on the Mezzanine in the Ruthven Gallery throughout the holiday season.
Details: 11 a.m. Friday, Cincinnati Museum Center, 1301 Western Ave., Queensgate. Runs Nov. 24-Dec. 23. Museum is closed Tuesday-Wednesday. cincymuseum.org.
3. Cincinnati Christkindlmarkt
This outdoor holiday-themed festival features holiday lights, merchandise, food, beverages and musical entertainment, all with a European feel. New this year is a four-lane innertube ice slide, private igloo rentals and themed days. This weekend, kids can meet “Frozen” characters from noon-3 p.m. Friday, and from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. Santa will visit from 1-3 p.m. Saturday.
Details: noon-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, noon-7 p.m. Sunday, Schmidlapp Event Lawn at Smale Riverfront Park, 115 Joe Nuxhall Way, Downtown. Runs Nov. 22-Dec. 31. Closed Thanksgiving. Free admission. Ice slide is $20 for two hours. cincinnatichristkindlmarkt.com.
4. Prolink Light Up the Square & Downtown Dazzle
On Friday, kick off the holiday season downtown with a full hour of dazzling performances, fireworks and the official tree lighting, featuring special guests Sheree Paolello and Mike Dardis from Channel 5 and Natalie Jones from Q102 host. Light Up the Square includes live music, dance performances, and visit from Santa Claus.
On Saturday, Downtown Dazzle finds Santa Claus rappelling from a Cincinnati skyrise, followed by fireworks. Be sure to check out Winter Wonderlights, which occur at the top of every hour starting at 5 p.m.
Details: Light Up the Square: 6-10 p.m. Friday, Downtown Dazzle: 6-10 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 16, Fountain Square, 520 Vine St., Downtown. Free. myfountainsquare.com.
5. The Shillito’s Elves Workshop (Mariemont)
Sure to bring back fond memories for generations of Cincinnatians, this large, walk-through experience is similar to the original SantaLand at Shillito’s Department Store in the 1980s. Kids can mail letters to Santa and see more than 60 restored, animated elves in 14 original scenes. The exhibit is wheelchair accessible.
Details: 2-7:30 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 6940 Madisonville Road, Mariemont. Runs Nov. 24-Dec. 30. Closed Monday-Wednesday. $5, free parking. Thesantaworkshop.com.
6. The Shillito’s Elves (Downtown)
This decades-old collection of mechanized figures depicting various Christmas scenes will be on view throughout the holiday season. See the Mail Sorter, Little Woodshop, Pete the Painter, Lazzie Bear and Gift Wrap, and elves at home, including Ralph the Piano Player, Ned the Newspaper Reader and the four-stack of Bunkbed Elves.
Details: 11 a.m.-9 p.m., The Foundry, Fifth St., Downtown. Runs Nov. 24-Dec. 30. Free. downtowncincinnati.com/elves.
7. Holidays on the Farm
Families can learn about winter life at Parky’s Farm under the glow of twinkling lights while enjoying hayrides, pony rides, carolers, farm animals (including Santa’s reindeer), an interactive train display, beer garden, food trucks, the sport of curling and holiday movies. Santa and other friends from the North Pole will be available for photos, and Mrs. Claus will hold storytime.
Details: 5-9 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Parky’s Farm, 10073 Daly Road, Springfield Township. Runs Friday-Sunday Nov. 24-Dec. 17, plus Dec. 21-23 and Dec. 26-31. $15-$17, free ages 2-under. Greatparks.org.
8. Scuba Santa’s Water Wonderland
Families are sure to enjoy seeing Scuba Santa swim with all his marine life friends, and he’ll be talking to the kids from underneath the water. Meet cheerful elves, see playful penguins, colorful holiday lights and lots of magic bubbles.
Details: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Newport Aquarium, 1 Levee Way, Newport. Runs Nov. 24-Dec. 24. $22.99-up. newportaquarium.com.
9. Deck the Y’alls Lightfest
This interactive, walk-through light show features over 2.5 million lights, themed areas and photo opportunities inside the ballpark, plus ice skating. Santa visits on Fridays and Saturdays. A special fireworks show takes place on opening night.
Details: 5:30-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 5:30-9 p.m. Sunday, Thomas More Stadium, 7950 Freedom Way, Florence. Runs Nov. 24-Jan. 1. Admission: $16, $12 ages 12-under Friday-Saturday; $13, $9 ages 12-under Sunday-Thursday. Ice skating costs extra and includes skate rental: $5 weekdays, $7 Friday-Saturday. decktheyalls.com.
10. Christmas Glow
Enjoy more than 3.8 million lights in this 2-mile Christmas Around the World drive-thru experience. You can also exit your vehicle to meet and get photos with Santa at his workshop in Christmas Village, shop gifts from around the world, enjoy the 45-foot Christmas tree, petting zoo and warm yourself by the fire pits.
Details: 6-10 p.m. nightly, Land of Illusion, 8762 Thomas Road, Middletown. Runs Nov. 22-Dec. 30. $12. Photos with Santa cost extra. landofillusion.com.
11. ChristmasTime at Ark Encounter and ChristmasTown at Creation Museum
ChristmasTime features a sea of lights, illuminations, live family-friendly programming, carousel rides, camel rides, zip line experiences and more at a life-size Noah’s Ark.
At ChristmasTown at the Creation Museum, you can enjoy the Garden of Lights, indoor nativity and dramas, Eden animal experience, kids playground and special effects show.
Details: 5-8:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, Ark Encounter, 1 Ark Encounter Drive, Williamstown; Creation Museum, 2800 Bullittsburg Church Road, Petersburg. Both attractions run Nov. 24-Dec. 30. Free, parking is $10. Some attractions cost extra. arkencounter.com; creationmuseum.org.
12. Crafty Supermarket
Shop more than 100 makers, including popular local and out-of-town favorites, at this beloved craft fair. Now in it’s 14th year, you’ll find unique, handmade items like jewelry, clothing, bags, chocolates, ceramics, plants, soap, tea and much more.
Details: 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Music Hall Ballroom, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. Free admission. Craftysupermarket.com.
13. ‘A Christmas Carol’
Ebenezer Scrooge, a greedy curmudgeon, has a change of heart after visits from three spirits and the ghost of a long-lost friend show him the error of his ways. Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday story unfolds in spectacular fashion in a brand new production specifically designed for the Rouse Theatre and showcasing a dazzling new set, costumes and lighting designs.
Details: 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Playhouse in the Park, Rouse Theatre, 962 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams. Preview performances Nov. 24-26, opening night Nov. 30. Runs Nov. 24-Dec. 30. $33.50-up. Cincyplay.com.
14. Black Art on Black Friday
Shop artwork and goods from local Black artists, including Gee Horton, Erin M. Smith, Zuri Ali, Romain Mayambi, Gift Mayambi, Asa Featherstone, Javarri Lewis, Cedric Michael Cox, Hannah Jones, Soapbox Tees and James Brown. Enjoy on-site custom framing and gift wrapping stations, meet new artists and discover unique holiday gifts.
Details: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Kiwavi, 1805 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. Free admission. eventbrite.com.
15. Inspired: Indie Music Fest
Celebrating Cincinnati’s exciting, ever-evolving music scene, Inspired: Indie Music Fest showcases 16 area bands over two nights performing originals as well as covers of songs by the influential figures who inspire them. Browse local vendors, enter the gift basket raffle and dress up as your favorite inspiration. The event is a fundraiser for local internet station Inhailer Radio.
Friday’s lineup: Coastal Club, Moonbeau, Multimagic, Mosant, This Pine Box, Sungaze, Boy Bandicoot and James Dapper. Saturday: The Yugos, Physco, Coast Off, TasteFull, Turboslacker, Annie D, Computersad and Barleaux.
Details: 6:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Woodward Theater, 1404 Main St., Over-the-Rhine. $35 both days, $25 single day. VIP upgrade additional $20. cincyticket.com.