15 Christmas things to do in Southwest Ohio

On various dates throughout the month of December, visitors to the LM&M Railroad can experience the North Pole Express.
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On various dates throughout the month of December, visitors to the LM&M Railroad can experience the North Pole Express.

People have different ideas about when to start celebrating Christmas. December. Right after Thanksgiving. Right before Thanksgiving. July. Fortunately, Cincinnati and Butler County are throwing Christmas events for all types. Whether you’re an early celebrator or procrastinator, we’ve got you covered.

North Pole Express

All aboard for an hour-long festive train ride with Santa and his elves. The train will be outfitted with lights and decorations, and every child will receive a souvenir bell and cookie. (Nov. 19-Dec. 26. 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. weekdays, noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad, 127 S. Mechanic St., Lebanon. $22-$39. $5 for infants 2 and younger. For more information, call 513-933-8022 or visit www.lebanonrr.com.)

“Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)”

This annual favorite mashes up Christmas movies and TV shows and sends them up in hilarious fashion. On the comedic chopping block per usual are “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “The Grinch,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Rudolph,” and many more. Nov. 19-Dec. 26. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Friday, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, 719 Race St., Cincinnati. $14-$60. For more information, call 513-381-BARD or visit www.cincyshakes.com.)

Scuba Santa’s Winter Wonderland

Newport Aquarium contributes to the holiday spirits with its annual Scuba Santa. Ask Scuba Santa what you want for Christmas while he’s in the tank, surrounded by sharks. The Winter Wonderland also includes elves, magical bubbles, penguins, and lights. (Nov. 26-Dec. 24. Newport Aquarium, 1 Aquarium Way, Newport, Kentucky. $22.99-$34.99 for adults, $14.99-$26.99 for kids aged 2-12. For more information, including meet-and-greet times, call 859-261-7444 or visit www.newportaquarium.com.

Downtown Dazzle

Chicago and New York are famous for their festive downtown vibes, but Cincinnati is no slouch. Come to Fountain Square and see Santa rappel down a high-rise, followed by fireworks. The ice-skating rink will be open and cocktails and hot coco will be available as well. (Nov. 27-Dec. 18. 6:30 p.m. Saturdays. Fountain Square, 520 Vine St., Cincinnati. There is no admission cost. For more information, visit www.myfountainsquare.com.

A Christmas Carol”

The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park stages this Dickens Christmas classic every year, spicing it up with state-of-the-art special effects. (Nov. 27-Dec. 30. Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, 962 Mt. Adams Circle, Cincinnati. For more information, including times and ticket prices, call 800-582-3208 or visit www.cincyplay.com.)

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

TSO stops in Cincinnati every Christmas season for a multi-sensory rock opera extravaganza. This year, they will be commemorating the 25th anniversary of their breakthrough album, “Christmas Eve and Other Stories,” which features their iconic hit, “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24.” (Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m. Heritage Bank Center, 100 Broadway St., Cincinnati. Tickets are $49.50-$89.50. For more information, call 513-421-4111 or visit www.usbankarena.com.)

Waynesville’s Christmas in the Village

This small-town Christmas event with a Dickensian feel includes strolling entertainment, carolers, lights, cocoa and other treats, and lots of shopping. (Dec. 3-5. 6-9 p.m. Friday, noon-8 p.m. Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Main Street, Waynesville. There is no admission cost. For more information, visit the Waynesville Christmas in the Village Facebook page.)

Yuletide Village (Season of Lights)

Come to the Ohio Renaissance Festival grounds for a 16th-century Christmas village. You’ll see a winter fairly land, a scenic village, live music, food and drink, and a lot of lights. (Dec. 3-18. 6-9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. Renaissance Park, 10542 East State Route 72, Waynesville. Tickets are $15-$35. For more information, visit www.yuletidevillage.com.)

Oxford Holiday Festival

This college town is throwing its annual holiday festival for the first time since COVID-19. It includes live musicians every hour, carriage rides, visits with Santa, hot chocolate, kids’ activities, a crafts market, an ice skating rink, and more. (Dec. 4, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Downtown Oxford. There is no admission cost. For more information, visit www.enjoyoxford.org.)

Breakfast at the North Pole

Get the kiddies up and bring them and their Santa wish lists to Liberty Center for a morning of holiday fun. There will be performances by the Cincinnati Circus and Cincinnati Christmas carolers, and visits with Santa. Kids will receive a free donut and other treats. Coffee, hot chocolate, and breakfast sandwiches will be available for purchase. (Dec. 4, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. Liberty Center, 7100 Foundry Row, Liberty Township. There is no admission cost. For more information, call 513-644-0900 visit www.liberty-center.com.)

Annual German Village Christmas Walk

This historic village nestled inside Hamilton invites you to tour its historic porches and businesses, and/or take a horse-drawn carriage ride. There will also be live music, crafts, and visits with Santa. (Dec. 5, noon-5 p.m. North 2nd St., Hamilton. There is no admission cost. For more information, visit the Hamilton German Village Historic District Facebook page.)

Stocking Up Sip & Shop

Shopping is always a little more fun with cocktails. Pick up a libation from the DORA booth and carry it around as you pick up gift items from downtown Hamilton boutiques and specialty shops. (Dec. 10, 5-9 p.m. High Street, Hamilton. There is no admission cost. For more information, visit www.hamilton-ohio.com.)

Amy Grant + Michael W. Smith Christmas

These longtime collaborators will perform a holiday show filled with songs from their many holiday albums. (Dec. 10. 7:30 p.m. Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati. $45-$150. For more information, call 513-621-2787 or visit www.cincinnatiarts.org.

Magical Cirque Christmas

Lucy Darling, acclaimed international magician, will host this holiday show where cirque acrobats will perform to a holiday music soundtrack. (Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati. $39-$91. For more information, call 513-621-2787 or visit www.cincinnatiarts.org.

“The Nutcracker”

Tchaikovsky’s nearly universal holiday classic will be performed by the Cincinnati Ballet and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Local performers will join the dancers onstage as Clara is whisked away into the Land of Sweets. (Dec. 16-26. Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati. $29-$126. For more information, including times, call 513-621-2787 or visit www.cincinnatiarts.org.