The Cincinnati cultural scene thrives during the holiday months. So how about putting a new spin on a holiday tradition and base your office Christmas party around a beloved festival? Or, if you’re stumped about what to get your employees as door prizes at your company bash, consider giving tickets to one of the following shows or special events.
You’d have to be a dim bulb not to enjoy the Cincinnati Zoo’s “Festival of Lights,” which features 2.5 million Christmas lights as well as carolers, ice skating and light sculptures. Plus the regular lions, tigers and polar bears, oh my! This is the 25th anniversary year for the event, named by USA TODAY as one of the “10 Best Holiday Events” in the nation. New this year: The 4-D Special FX Theater, showing The Polar Express in a blend of 3-D visual effects and with a fourth dimension, adding wind, scents and other sensory surprises. (There is an additional cost for the film, still to be determined.)  Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale. 5 to 9 p.m. Thurs.-Sun. (open nightly after Dec. 13), Nov. 16 through Jan. 1. Closed Thanksgiving Day. $12.95 adults, $10.95 senior citizens and $7.95 children ages 2 to 12. 513/475-6124 or www.cincinnatizoo.org.

Check out the Sharon Woods outdoor Christmas light display, "Holiday in Lights." You don't even have to bundle your little elves up — you can view the more than 500,000 lights strung along a mile's worth of park from the comfort of your car. A special FM channel plays holiday music as you view illuminated, moving characters that range from Santa to Godzilla, Toy Soldiers to the inhabitants of Holiday Castle. Sharon Woods Park, 11450 Lebanon Pike, Sharonville. 6 to 11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 6 to 10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., Nov. 16-Dec. 31. $10 per car. 513/769-0393 or www.holidayinlights.com.

“Holiday Fest” features carriage and pony rides, outdoor ice skating, the Cool Runnings Toboggan Slide, and an outdoor holiday model train display. The Beach Waterpark, 2590 Waterpark Dr., Mason. 5 to 10 p.m. Fri., 3 to 10 p.m. Sat.-Sun., late November through early January. $10, children 5-12 and military $7.50. 513/398-SWIM or www.HolidayFestAtTheBeach.com.

“Holiday Junction” chugs back into town inside the city’s Amtrak terminal, with train rides for children, model train displays, toy and craft activities, games and more. Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, 1301 Western Ave., Queensgate. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays), late November through January. $7.25, seniors $6.25, children ages 3-12 $5.25. 513/287-7000 or www.cincymuseum.com.

“Holiday Lights on the Hill” features more than one million lights illuminating this sculpture park. Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum, 1763 Hamilton-Cleves Rd (Ohio 128), just outside the Hamilton city limits. 6 to 10 p.m. nightly, late November through early January. $12 per carload, $14 on weekends. 513/868-8336 or www.pyramidhill.org.

A Christmas Carol is a loyal rendition of Charles Dickens’ familiar holiday chestnut, with actor Bruce Cromer starring as Scrooge. A ghost story with heart for all the humbugs among us, the lavish production includes extravagant scenery, hundreds of costume changes, and special effects: rolling fog, scenery that rises and falls on elevators, ghostly apparitions, the works. The Playhouse in the Park, Eden Park Circle, Mt. Adams. 7 p.m. Fri., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sat.-Sun., and 7 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., Dec. 1-30. $41.50 to $54.50 for adults, $15 to $20 for children 5 to 12 (children under 5 not admitted). 513/421-3888 or www.cincyplay.com.

A “Victorian Holiday Village” is one of Cincinnati’s newest holiday traditions. The village features 90,000 lights, elf-sized houses, free hot chocolate and cookies, gifts and live entertainment, and free photos with Santa. Ohio National Financial Services Headquarters, One Financial Way at the Pfeiffer Road exit off I-71, Blue Ash. 6 to 8:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Dec. 7-8 and 14-15.  Free. 513/794-6100 or www.ohionational.com.

The annual “Santa’s Water Wonderland” includes “Scuba Santa.” Newport Aquarium, Newport on the Levee, 1 Levee Way, Newport, Ky. 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, December through Jan. 1 (including Christmas Day). $17.95 adults, $10.95 children 3-12, children 2 and under free. 859/261-7444 or www.newportaquarium.com.

The Winter Wonderland poinsettia display includes a nativity scene (with live animals), a frozen pond and train display of Cincinnati landmarks. Krohn Conservatory, 1501 Eden Park Dr., Mt. Adams. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m daily, December through early January. Free. 513/421-4086.

An Antique Christmas dresses up the Taft Museum of Art, adorning the halls with antique Christmas decorations and festive greenery, with the dining room table set for a holiday party with china, crystal and silver. Featured are Belsnickles (papier-mache Santas), Kugels (blown-glass ornaments with decorative metal tops), Dresdens (embossed paper ornaments), paper dolls and many other rare ornaments on loan from private collections. Taft Museum of Art, 316 Pike St., downtown. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tues.-Sun., through Jan. 6. $8, $6 for seniors and students, free to those 18 and under. (Free to all on Wednesdays.) 513/241-0343 or www.taftmuseum.org.

They call it the “Miracle on Fourth Street.” The Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival is celebrating 68 years of Medieval pageantry and the Nativity story. A cast and crew of hundreds, many who return year after year, dress up in elaborate costumes, while a full chorus and orchestra provide the music (a blend of traditional folk music and Christmas carols). Look for a colorful procession of Magi (wearing robes originally created in 1943), Beefeater soldiers on the march, yule sprites, huntsmen complete with live hawks courtesy of Raptor Inc., minstrels, shepherds, even good King Wenceslaus and 'natch, a wild boar's head. Sorry: The steaming plum pudding and mince pies used in the procession are consumed by the cast at pageant's end. Christ Church Cathedral, 4th and Sycamore Sts., downtown. 2 and 5 p.m. Sat., 2:30 and 5 p.m. Sun., Dec. 29 and 30. Free tickets are available by calling ahead, then seating is first come, first served (traditionally, the pageant has never turned anyone away, even if there is standing room only).  513/621-2627 or www.boarsheadfestival.com