Cost Effective (or Evasive) Ways to Experience Cincinnati: Winter Break

Written by Chris Pasion, graduate assistant to The Graduate School.

Staying in Cincinnati for winter break? Here is a list of merry festivities to celebrate the end of a busy semester, keep you occupied during the colder months, and ring in the new year!

SantaCon 2019

A street filled with people dressed as Santa Clause.

Cincinnati’s annual SantaCon is a celebration of the jolly old elf inside us all. This city-wide event will see thousands of Cincinnatians parading the streets dressed up as Santa, reindeer, and other holiday themed characters. This year's SantaCon – which takes place on Saturday, December 14th from noon to midnight – includes over 50 venues throughout Downtown Cincinnati, OTR, the Banks, and, after expanding for this year, Mt. Adams, Covington, and Northside. Organizers anticipate that this event will attract over 10,000 participants out for figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer!

A $10 registration fee – which is recommended, but not required – gives you access to food and drink specials throughout all of the participating venues, an official list of participating venues, and also enters you into a raffle (proceeds from the registration fee and raffle will be donated to The Cure Starts Now, a charity that works to find a cure for currently untreatable cancers). Spread a little cheer, let your beard down, and be sure to check out this tips list to find out how to be the best Santa possible!

Mount Adams Reindog Parade

The 30th annual Mount Adams Reindog Parade is a great family- and dog-friendly way to celebrate the holidays. Taking place at the same time as the SantaCon festivities (registration opens at 12:30pm and the parade starts at 2pm on December 14th), this event is sure to draw a crowd. Peppy pooches will be parading through the streets of Mount Adams dressed as all your favorite reindeer, snowmen, and whatever other creative getups their owners dress them up in. This is a great event to attend whether you’re bringing a dog or simply going to witness the hilarity that will surely ensue. No registration fee is required for this event, but the event organizers will be accepting donations to the SPCA Cincinnati.

Festival of Lights

Each year, the Cincinnati Zoo decks their halls for the Festival of Lights. This event has become a staple in Cincinnati, growing bigger and better each year with a massive Christmas tree, synchronized light shows, and delicious cups of hot chocolate. This is not your everyday zoogoing experience; the lights garner just as much ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as the animals they surround. Ticket prices vary depending on which day you go; they cost between $15-18 and discounted tickets can be purchased at Kroger. 

If you want to see cool lights shows without having to leave the comfort of your heated vehicle, there are many drive-thru lights shows in the area; Coney Island's is $6 and looks especially dazzling and/or blinding!

Krohn Conservatory’s A Zinzinnati Holiday

Cincinnati’s own Art Deco conservatory will be serving up something special during this holiday season. In addition to the thousands of exotic plant species they permanently have on display, Krohn Conservatory will have many German-native plants species, as well as miniature Cincinnati buildings, trains, and trollies weaving throughout the building. 

(Note: If you want even more model trains, visit the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal for the Holiday Junction display. $14.50 will get you into all of the exhibits they currently have on display).

Krohn Conservatory will also have other special, holiday-themed events throughout the month that celebrate the German heritage of Cincinnati, from an ornament craft fair to various adult events. Admissions is $10 and the holiday displays will be up until January 5th, 2020.

Ice Skating at Fountain Square

If you are confident in your balancing abilities, Fountain Square has installed an ice-skating rink that will be open through much of the winter. This is a great spot to have a date on ice – or just shred solo-style – in the heart of the Queen City. Admission (including skate rental) is $10, but bring your own skates for a discounted price.

Visit on December 14th or 21st at 5:30pm for a special firework display, as well as a chance to witness Santa rappel down a building into Fountain Square!

International New Year’s at Union Terminal

Cincinnati’s big New Year’s celebration will take place at the historic Union Terminal. On December 31st from 11am-5pm, a different country will be celebrated by activities, music, and crafts that celebrate and promote their culture and New Year’s festivities. Every hour, on the hour, the event will switch to the next country as they ring in the new year. Union Terminal will draw a large, diverse crowd on this day, so it’s a great way to connect with other communities that call our city home. The best part is that this event is free!