The holiday season is in full swing here in Cincinnati, and that means out-of-town family members are spending time in the Queen City. The perfect way to show them our wonderful city? Taking them on the best arts adventures possible this December, with a little help from our handy guide below. 

1. Frisch’s Presents The Nutcracker| Cincinnati Ballet | December 19 - December 27
From Misty Copeland breaking racial barriers to pro athletes praising ballet’s cross-over technique, ballet is cool these days. It’s always been cool in Cincinnati, thanks to our own Cincinnati Ballet, and its version of The Nutcracker is unparalleled. The Technicolor scenery and costumes will entrance your artistic relatives, the exciting choreography and humorous vignettes can hold even the tiniest family member’s attention span, and the epic Tchaikovsky soundtrack (as performed by another venerable Cincinnati arts institution, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra) seamlessly ties the whole production—and in turn, your family—together. 

(Frisch's Presents The Nutcracker, from Cincinnati Ballet. Photography: Aaron M. Conway) 

2. Tree of Life | Cincinnati Art Museum | November 17 - January 10 
Step into Cincinnati Art Museum for the annual Tree of Life exhibit and savor the connections your family shares while admiring this sculptural piece of art that serves as a unifying symbol of hope for the Greater Cincinnati community. Visitors are encouraged to leave their own wishes for the new year on the tree. Those wishes will later be burned, and the ashes will be used to plant a new tree at the Art Museum in a symbolic commemoration of renewal and regeneration. 

3. Mary Poppins | Covedale Center for the Performing Arts | November 27 - December 27 
Age doesn’t matter when enjoying this heartwarming story of the practically perfect nanny who infuses supercalifragilisticexpialidocious magic into every adventure. Grandparents, parents, young adults, teens and kids alike are sure to be charmed. 

4. Holiday Junction featuring the Duke Energy Holiday Trains | Cincinnati Museum Center | November 6 - January 3 
The Duke Energy Holiday Trains have been a Cincinnati family tradition since 1946. Generations of Cincinnatians are enchanted every holiday season by the authentic “O” gauge trains (a quarter inch on a model equals one foot on a real train) that travel more than 100,000 scale miles. Moved to Cincinnati Museum Center in 2011, the display also incorporates other bits of holiday nostalgia, including a few Shillito’s elves! 

5. Charles Dickens’ Village: Christmas in Victorian England | Behringer-Crawford Museum | November 21 - January 17


6. A Christmas Carol | Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park | November 25 - December 30
Pair a visit to Charles Dickens’ Village at the Behringer-Crawford Museum with a trip to see A Christmas Carol at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and your relatives will swear they’ve been transported to 1840s England. Charles Dickens’ Village is an homage to all things Dickens—scenes and characters from his books and his life are arranged in great detail, including Ebenezer Scrooge’s flat and the Cratchit’s cottage. Head to Playhouse in the Park to see the miniatures in real scale: the incredible set design of A Christmas Carol is transformative, as is the acting, bringing the heartwarming Christmas tale to life. 

holiday lights on the hill
(Holiday Lights on the Hill at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park) 

7. The Naughty List | The Know Theatre at Arnold’s Bar and Grill | December 14 - December 28
Treat yourselves this December with an improvised holiday show that relies on audience participation and the performers’ own razor-sharp wits. Dinner is available before the performance on Arnold’s covered and heated courtyard, so make an adult night of it with dinner, drinks and lots of laughs. 

8. Cinderella | Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati | December 2 - January 3
Bring the family for a refreshingly different holiday experience as title character Cinderella, here a nearsighted, bookworm heroine, challenges her diva stepmother and spoiled stepsisters, with help from the self-empowering Well-Wisher. A missing sneaker is the modernized version of the glass slipper. 

9. Holiday Lights on the Hill | Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park | through January 3
Take a scenic road trip with your extended family just up north a bit to Hamilton and experience the annual Holiday Lights on the Hill exhibit at Cincinnati’s only sculpture park, Pyramid Hill. The sculptures and trees are decked in their finest, glittery holiday light glory and you can cruise through the two-mile loop of computer-controlled lighting displays that utilize every inch of the grounds. 

10. Fly Me To The Moon: New Year’s Eve 2015 | Cincinnati Pops Orchestra | December 31
On the last day of 2015, send off the adult relatives with a spectacular ringing-in of the New Year. The Cincinnati Pops welcome guest jazz vocalist Tony DeSare to fill Music Hall with the sounds of the original jazz crooner himself, Frank Sinatra, in celebration of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ 100th birthday and to usher in 2016 in true style.