Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have a fun-filled season in store, and it won’t cost you a lot of money! Check out some of the best free holiday events that are fun for the whole family.  

Take a photo with Santa on the Levee

The holiday season is merry and bright at Newport on the Levee! The outdoor area overlooking the Ohio River is filled with lights and decorations, including a 50-foot tree–and in the heart of it sits Santa Claus. Take pictures with Santa for free through December 23, from 12-5 p.m. or 6 p.m., depending on the day. While at the Levee, shop locally at Trade and grab a pint of Christmas Ale at West Sixth.

Walk across the decked-out Purple People Bridge

Winter Nights, River Lights at Purple People Bridge (photo: @newportonthelevee)Winter Nights, River Lights at Purple People Bridge (photo: @newportonthelevee)

Every holiday the Purple People Bridge is decorated in festive holiday trim for Winter Lights and River Lights with thousands of purple lights, wreaths, holiday light projections, and a festive soundtrack that delights visitors. Don’t forget to stop by the 25-foot Christmas Wish Tree and donate a gift for those in need. Visiting the bridge is not only a good way to get some exercise, but also to get into the holiday spirit.

Test your film knowledge at holiday trivia

Everyone has a favorite holiday film, whether it’s Elf, Christmas Vacation, Hallmark movies, or Die Hard. (Yes, Die Hard is a Christmas film.) Sharpen your skills before these upcoming trivia nights.

16 Lots’ Southern Outpost at the Levee has a few trivia dates coming up. For teams of six or fewer it’s free to play, and the top teams win prizes. On Dec. 1 at 7 p.m., challenge yourself with Elf trivia. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the beloved classic. On Dec. 8 at 7 p.m., answer fun questions about the McCallister clan during Home Alone trivia night.

On Dec. 13 at 7 p.m., Grainworks Brewing Company in West Chester hosts Die Hard trivia. On Dec. 20 at 7 p.m., Christmas Vacation trivia night occurs.

On Dec. 12 from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. stop by The Pub in Crestview Hills, Kentucky, and play holiday movie trivia, which encompasses all things holiday movies and music. Make sure to compete in their ugly sweater contest.

Shop at a holiday market in Cincy

Crafty Supermarket, Music Hall Ballroom (photo: Crafty Supermarket)

Why buy gifts from Amazon when you can shop hand-made gifts from local artisans? Shop locally this year at one of Cincy’s festive holiday markets. 

On Dec. 2-3 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Findlay Market hosts its annual Holiday Market featuring more than 50 businesses, ranging from Daniel’s Dog Treat to That Dam Jam. Purchase a Christmas tree; get your face painted; and listen to Young Professionals Choral Collective perform carols.

Dec. 3 is jam-packed with holiday markets. From 11 a.m.-4 p.m., visit the Woodward Theater’s Market on Main: Holiday Edition to shop from over 30 artisans from all over Ohio and Northern KY. Find books, vintage clothes, photography, and candles. Food trucks, coffee, and cocktails will be available. 

ArtisanFest513’s Holiday Market takes place Dec. 3 at Memorial Hall from noon- 4 p.m. The first 50 customers will receive a free gift.

Also on Dec. 3 from 12-4 p.m., Sam Adams’ taproom has a winter market. They’ll have craft vendors, seasonal food specials, and of course beer.

Rhinegeist Brewery hosts Art on Vine market two weekends in a row in Over-the-Rhine. On Dec. 10 from noon- 6 p.m. and Dec. 17 at the same time, check out more than 80 artists, food vendors, and craft beer. 

Like Art on Vine, City Flea will also be hosting back-to-back weekends of holiday markets. First, on Dec. 9-10 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., more than 50 vendors will set up shop at Norwood’s Factory 52, which includes Gatherall Food Hall.  Then on Dec. 16-17, City Flea hits Over-the-Rhine’s Washington Park. On the 16th, visit from 3 p.m.-8 p.m. and experience their night market. On Sunday, hours are from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

For more holiday markets and holiday craft shows, check our guide to Cincy’s best Christmas markets.

Attend a festive dog parade

Reindog Parade, Mt Adams

Reindog Parade, Mt Adams

You have two chances to see cute dogs dressed up in their best yuletide attire. Mt. Adams’ annual Reindog Parade occurs on Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. Registration is free. Prizes will be awarded to the best-dressed pups. 

On Dec. 16 at 4 p.m., attend the 11th annual OTR Raildog Parade; OTR Kennel Club sponsors the event. The procession begins at Queen City Radio

Experience one of Cincy’s authentic Christkindlmarkts

Christmas%20Ornament_Michael%20C

You don’t have to go to Germany to experience an authentic Christkindlmarkt. Mainstrasse Village’s Christkindlmarkt takes place Dec. 3 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Eat, drink, and be merry, and participate in free kids’ activities, including ornament decorating and face painting.

You have until Dec. 31 to stop by Moerlein Lager House’s German-American Servatii Christkindlmarkt. It takes place outside at Smale Park, which is transformed into a magical winter wonderland of igloos, ice slides, raclette sandwiches, German meatballs, beer steins, gluhwein, and nutcrackers.

Enjoy live holiday music at the Taft Museum of Art

For three weekend afternoons in December, from 2:30-3:30 p.m., musicians will perform three different genres of holiday music with a free holiday music series. On Dec. 3, Vereins Musikanten: Cincy German Band will play, well, German Christmas music. Dec. 10 will see Jake Speed & The Freddies get into a bluegrass holiday, and on Dec. 17, Sergio Pamies Quartet will give a jazzy holiday performance. On Sundays, admission is free all day. The museum will have a few holiday-themed exhibits on display. Registration to Taft’s music series isn’t required but recommended. Get the free tickets here.

Witness Santa rappelling at Fountain Square

On Dec. 3, 10, and 17, spend time at Fountain Square. UDF’s Downtown Dazzle features Santa rappelling from a skyscraper and a fireworks show. The Square also has hot cocoa, an ice-skating rink, and a festive tree.

In the 1950s, Shillito’s, Cincy’s first department store,  had mechanical elves on display in their windows. The tradition continues at the Foundry, across the street from Fountain Square. Watch Shillito’s elves Pete the Painter, Lazzie Bear, Bunkbed Elves, and the Mail Sorter do various tasks like wrapping gifts and dreaming of toys. Visit the elves Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Jan. 2.

Whether it’s listening to a jazz band play holiday classics, perusing local goods, winning Christmas Vacation trivia, or watching magical elves perform tasks, Cincy has something for everyone this holiday season—even Grinches.