· As the weather chills on, escape to The Beach! That's right, our local waterpark is no longer linked solely with sand, surf and summer. The largest HOLIDAY FEST they've ever presented is underway featuring carriage and pony rides, live nativity scenes, strolling characters and storytellers, a "North Pole" petting corral with lambs, piglets, donkeys and more -- there's bound to be something to please even the Grinchiest young ones.
Want something more physical to combat those holiday pounds? Try the Penguin Arctic paddleboats or take your slickest ice-skating moves for a spin on the 7,500-square feet Carroll's Lake.
· Wanna see lights? Lots of them? Look no further than the famous FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS, where for the 24th year the Cincinnati Zoo will flip your switch with 2.5 million lights. Expect a dazzling display of colors and patterns in the new Holiday in Lights show with more than 52,000 dancing lights that twinkle, sparkle and scintillate to a medley of popular holiday tunes. Another new feature this year: Watch for ice carvers with chisels and chainsaws as they transform huge blocks of ice into majestic holiday sculptures each night.
· Where would the holidays be without trains? One must-see, 61-year-strong tradition is the DUKE ENERGY TRAIN DISPLAY. It can be glimpsed through the windows at Fourth and Main streets, but walking through the lobby is a must to experience the full wonderment of more than 300 miniature train cars and engines on 1,000 feet of track. While you're downtown, check out FOUNTAIN SQUARE's new, improved ice skating area with dimensions equal to the Rockefeller Center's celebrated space.
· In a fitting theme for Cincinnati Museum Center, housed in Art Deco train station landmark Union Terminal, it's HOLIDAY JUNCTION time! Marvel at a 2,000-square-foot, O-gauge layout for trains that are 48 times smaller than life presented by local model train clubs and collectors. Some of the earliest vintage trains produced will also be displayed.
· If the model trains feel too, well, miniature, take a ride on SANTA'S NORTH POLE EXPRESS at Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad. (You can also register to win tickets at the Museum Center's Holiday Junction.) Each round trip from Lebanon Station to the "North Pole" lasts 90 minutes: 30 minutes for each scenic leg, with a half-hour stopover to visit Santa and his elves and warm up with hot chocolate. Dress warmly, as the vintage trains aren't heated.
· We know Santa's classic look consists of a red suit, a fluffy white beard and a big belly, but now the Newport Aquarium is adding scuba gear to the list. Check out SANTA'S WATER WONDERLAND -- where the water isn't frozen -- for a unique twist on seeing Saint Nick: Scuba Santa. ©