Local entertainment and venue options are helping companies bring something new to the annual holiday partyCorinne Minard The annual holiday party is a time-honored tradition of many a company. It’s an opportunity to thank your employees for all their hard work with good food, good drink and, hopefully, some good fun. The holiday party is here to stay, but does it have to stay the same? For companies looking to shake things up, there are entertainment and venue options throughout the region to help them bring something new to this annual party.
A simple way to mix things up is to add entertainment. Cincinnati Circus, an event and talent service that specializes in circus entertainment, works with many companies to create the ideal holiday party for their employees. Owner Dave Willacker says his company is able to add something new to parties with activities and entertainment like casino nights, gameshows, murder mysteries, hypnotism or mind reading, and other party entertainment.
“Our performers dress up and sometimes they’re dressing up as elves. Sometimes just holiday light costuming,” he says. “When we get closer to New Year’s, it’s not uncommon to have champagne dress girls or giant martini glasses with girls handing out beads or something at the entrance. We offer aerial acrobats and aerial bartending just to go with the unique thread.”
Lately, however, Willacker has been surprised by how many companies are requesting comedy sideshows for their parties.
“I was shocked the first time we booked a sideshow for a holiday party. But it killed,” he says. These comedy shows are often designed for adults and done in a very tongue-in-cheek way, but Willacker says that companies (and their employees) are enjoying the new energy they bring to parties.
Cincinnati Circus has provided entertainment for parties as small as 20 and as large as 500. Willacker says that he works with companies to provide the entertainment that best fits their company and party.
“If you’re a company that’s doing one every year, they’re working to mix it up. … Now they’re like, ‘What else do we have?’” he says. “We deliver a great show and great evening for people, so we’re just going to chat about it and then we’ll figure it out from there.”
Cincinnati Circus. 513-921-5454, cincinnaticircus.com.
For some, the holidays are an ideal time to get away. While most companies can’t whisk their employees away to another city or state, Tristate businesses can take their staff on a river cruise thanks to BB Riverboats.
“We offer all types of riverboat cruises including lunch, brunch, sightseeing and dinner cruises. We have many specialty events throughout the year as well, from wine and bourbon tastings to all-day adventures through one of the lock and dams on the river,” says Ben Bernstein, captain and chief financial officer for the company.
The family-owned company, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, has two boats available for parties—the Belle of Cincinnati and the River Queen. Events on both ships are fully customizable. “We have arranged and been requested everything in the book. If there is something you want to send your event over the top, our sales managers will be happy to arrange it for you,” says Bernstein.
While the view is certainly spectacular, BB Riverboats also prides itself on the food it’s able to offer. Bernstein says that Executive Chef Jesus Picazo will work with companies to design a menu that best fits their party. BB Riverboats can also help with the party planning itself, entertainment, décor and even party favors.
For those who would like to stay close to land, though, BB Riverboats recently opened a new event center and dock facility called River’s Edge at Newport Landing. It can accommodate more than 200 guests and is located right on the water.
“It is complete with a wraparound deck with unobstructed views of downtown Cincinnati,” says Bernstein.
BB Riverboats, 101 Riverboat Row, Newport, Kentucky. 855-2017-7069, bbriverboats.com.
Another location with a view is Newport Aquarium at Newport on the Levee.
“We have two very unique views. We have the beautiful view of Cincinnati [in the Riverside Room], but then we also have the views of all of our exotic animals that we have on exhibit. Those animals include sharks, stingrays and a giant Pacific octopus. We are the only location where you get both,” says Sheena Minix, general sales manager.
For daytime events (such as a lunch), the aquarium has its Riverside Room. “This is the ballroom that overlooks the Ohio River and Cincinnati skyline,” she says. Companies that choose this option receive tickets to the aquarium, private access to the room and the option of a holiday buffet.
Larger companies looking for an evening event can rent the entire aquarium. “The entire aquarium is theirs to explore privately with their employees and guests. There is no other daytime guest that will have access to any part of the event,” says Minix. “It’s just a completely different vibe. It’s a different way to experience the aquarium.”
Minix says that companies that have chosen this option have hosted both adults-only and family-friendly parties.
No matter the party, each company has access to many of the same perks at the aquarium. “With a rental at the aquarium, every exhibit is open and staffed. So what every daytime guest would encounter the party guest will encounter as well. Those experiences include petting our stingrays in Stingray Hideaway, as well as petting sharks in Shark Central. And then my favorite is crossing our Shark Bridge,” says Minix.
The Newport Aquarium also gives companies many options, including the use of its in-house caterer, up-close animal encounters, a dive show with Scuba Santa, face painting and caricatures, or photos that can be given to employees at the end of the party.
“People are just looking for something different,” adds Minix.
Newport Aquarium, Newport on the Levee, Newport, Kentucky. 859-815-1466, newportaquarium.com.
Up north in West Chester, EnterTRAINment Junction hosts holiday parties that are fun for children and adults alike.
The venue, which is home to both an indoor model train display and escape room challenge, has hosted a variety of different parties. It has hosted intimate private lunches, escape room events and private parties that take over the entire facility.
“We do a lot of the family-oriented Christmas parties for sure, but we do have some unique things that we’ve done for adults-only Christmas parties as well,” says Chrissy Potter, groups and event manager for the facility.
Families can enjoy the train display and walk through the Christmas Journey to visit Santa. EnterTRAINment Junction’s special holiday-themed family escape room is also returning this year. “If you’re looking for a family-friendly corporate Christmas party you can still incorporate the escape room because the puzzles are a little bit easier. It’s definitely geared toward the family being able to solve but Christmas-themed,” says Potter.
Adults-only events can feature extras like cocktail bars, use of all of the escape rooms and even outside entertainment. The facility can host events as small as 30 and as large as 250.
“[One] holiday party that we do every year, it’s for a company out of Middletown, and it’s an adults-only thing. They let everyone play in the escape room, they have a cocktail hour [and] they have a blast,” she says. “It’s one of the most fun parties that we get to host.”
EnterTRAINment Junction, 7379 Squire Court, West Chester. 513-898-8000 x203, entertrainmentjunction.com.