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Celebrating the Season in Southwestern Ohio

The holiday season is a busy time of year – between putting up decorations, attending parties, travelling to see relatives and rushing to complete our holiday shopping, December seems to fly by with hardly a notice. However, I believe this season is about more than simply gift-giving; it is a time to gather together with those in our lives who mean the most to us. Here in southwestern Ohio, there are a number of activities taking place that provide a great way to create lasting memories with family and friends.

For 27 years, the Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo has delighted children and adults alike as millions of lights decorate exhibits and facilities throughout the zoo. Although the weather has turned cold, many of the zoo’s residents, such as polar bears, snow leopards and sea lions enjoy the winter weather and are much more active. The festival also offers visitors the chance to see Santa and his reindeer, travel on the North Pole Express or watch a holiday-themed puppet show. New this year is the Wild Lights Show, which features a 21-foot tall, computer-controlled tree that lights up to the beat of popular holiday songs.

The Festival of Lights takes place nightly at the Cincinnati Zoo from 5-9 p.m. until January 3, although the zoo will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Admission tickets to the festival, as well as tickets for the puppet show and movies in the Special FX 4-D Theater can be purchased at the main entrance or online at
In downtown Cincinnati, Fountain Place is hosting a number of events that can be enjoyed by the entire family. Those with a camera can have their picture taken with Santa Claus at the North Pole. Santa is available Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. and on Sundays from noon-6 p.m. In addition, photo opportunities will be available December 21-24 from noon-6 p.m.
On Saturdays starting at 6 p.m., take your seats for Macy’s Downtown Dazzle, which features strolling entertainers, holiday characters and holiday music. The event is capped off with Santa rappelling down the side of an office building and a spectacular fireworks display. Following the fireworks, you can eat a cookie and hear a story from Mrs. Claus.
At the center of Fountain Square you will find the 7,000 square-foot ice rink that has been the site of many memorable family outings over the years. The rink is open daily now through the end of February, although the rink may close temporarily due to the weather. For hours of operation and the status of the ice rink, please call (513) 9790-4738 or visit Admission to the ice rink is $2.50, and you can also rent skates if you do not have your own.
To help get you to all the fun at Fountain Place, the Holly Jolly Downtown Trolley stops at all major holiday attractions along Fourth and Fifth Streets every 10 minutes on the weekends. Tickets for the trolley, which runs from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. on Sundays are free, and boarding takes place in front of the Westin Hotel across from Fountain Square.

Families wishing to visit Santa can hop aboard The Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad’s North Pole Express, which transports guests in vintage train cars from the 1930s for a visit with Santa and his elves while enjoying a holiday snack. The North Pole Express runs several times each day on Saturdays and Sundays through December 20. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call (513) 933-8022 or visit After your train ride, you can visit Ohio’s oldest hotel – the nearby Golden Lamb – for a snack or a tour.

Finally, if you want to celebrate the winter season without getting cold, Snowland at the Great Wolf Lodge in Mason allows you and your family to celebrate the season while splashing around an indoor waterpark that’s always a toasty 84 degrees. You can also visit with Santa, make holiday crafts and watch it snow in the Grand Lobby each day. In addition, the kids can earn a diploma from the North Pole University for Elves as they learn about animals from the North Pole and practice their chimney-sliding skills. You can make reservations at the Great Wolf Lodge by visiting or by calling (866) 950-9653.

The Beach Waterpark in Mason has also been transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with lights, a skating rink, carriage rides, petting zoo and toboggan slide. Holiday Fest takes place through January 10. For hours of operations and to purchase tickets online, please visit

These are just some of the events taking place in our region, and I hope you and your family and friends are able to get out and enjoy the holidays. As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have questions or concerns about any state-related matter. You can reach my office by phone at (614) 466-9737, by e-mail at or by writing State Senator Shannon Jones, Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215. I look forward to hearing from you.
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