Cincinnati in Winter:
A Guide to the Wonderlands

Article by Shannon Tuggle


Photo by Emily Holland

In the early 1980s the family friendly theme park, Kings Island, opened its gates for the first time during the winter months. Transforming its infamous water fountain into a skating rink, the park takes on a whole new feel. Stringing fairy lights from trees, and various structures in the park,  Christmas carols bounce through the crowded wonderland. Even the employees get to be a part of the magic. Dylan Socol, a local Kings Mills teenager, recounts his service hours there as “truly spectacular,” and adds, “When I’m there during Winterfest, it doesn’t even feel like I’ve been hired to come to work. I actually look forward to being surrounded by all of the cheerful people, and it always lifts my mood to hear the children laughing from the ice rink.”  Winterfest has recently been reinstated at Kings Island amusement park after taking a break.

  • Address: 6300 Kings Island Dr, Mason, OH 45040
  • Monday-Sunday: 5pm-10pm
  • Park Closes on December 31st at 1 A.M
  • Admission-$19.99 per person

Photo by Lizzie Hearne

Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

PNC Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo is celebrating its 36th annual Festival of Lights this winter. Accompanied by the many wild aspects of the zoo itself, the plot of land transforms  into a light show consisting of 3 million LED lights. Visitors have the opportunity to ride the ToyLand Express, watch a puppet show, and even visit the popular S’mores-n-More snack shack.

  • 3400 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH 45220

  • Sunday-Thursday until 9pm
    Friday-Saturday until 10pm

  • Visits with Santa begin at 4pm
    Festival of Lights begin at 5pm

  • No additional charge with zoo admission fee


Photo by Betsy Hotchkiss

The Christmas Ranch

Staying in an old-fashioned style, The Christmas Ranch is the ultimate family experience.  After paying a twenty-dollar entrance fee, there are many places to explore such as train and wagon rides, seven Christmas shops, a Santa’s Bakery and Cafe, and there’s even the opportunity to meet Santa himself. But these things are traditionally not what draws people to the Christmas Ranch. Instead, it’s the millions of dancing lights synchronized to holiday music.  

  • Address: 3205 S Waynesville Rd, Morrow, OH 45152
  • Sunday-Thursday: 5pm-9pm
    Friday-Saturday: 5pm-10pm
  • Admission – $20 per car. Parking is free!

Photo by Allison Cooper

Fountain Square Ice Rink

First founded in 1871 Fountain Square in Cincinnati, Ohio has been a source of entertainment for many years. Equipped with many shops, restaurants and hotels, it’s a popular getaway for many families. Opening on Halloween each year and lasting through february 15, Fountain Square gets transformed into an ice rink, where snacks, beverages, and skate rentals are available.

  • 520 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH 45202
  • Mon–Friday: 12pm-10pm
    Saturday: 10am-11pm
    Sunday: 10am-9pm
    Be sure to check online for holiday hours
  • $6.00 entry fee, $4.00 skate rental fee

Photo by Tristan Michael

Holiday Junction Featuring the Duke Energy Holiday Trains
Holiday Junction Featuring the Duke Energy Holiday Trains has been a Cincinnati tradition since 1946. The display of hundreds of trains zip around tracks that feature historic buildings. The trains bring children’s story books alive, settings featuring snowmen and northern lights are on display as well as Thomas The Tank Engine. One display is manufactured completely out of LEGOs. On top of the train action there’s also the option to take a photo with Santa.

  • 1301 Western Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45203
  • Hours: Monday-Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Pricing based on age and membership!

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