To avoid getting stressed out during holiday shopping sprints, enjoy these restaurants and events. You can also purchase gift certificates at many of these dining establishments either for people on your list or for yourself to return to later.
Aglamesis boasts delicious desserts, scrumptious sundaes and ice cream carry-out cups. My favorite treat is the Bourbon Street sundae ($5.45): French vanilla, Dutch chocolate and coffee ice cream topped with bittersweet chocolate, marshmallow and caramel sauces. Or recall warm summer breezes with the fresh fruit freeze ($3.50), a lush combination of sorbet, fruit sauce, crushed ice and soda water. For the nutty giftees on your list, try 1 lb. of dark chocolate almond bark ($16.95) or 1 lb. of Pecandes ($17.75), pecans covered in homemade caramel and milk or dark chocolate.
Oakley Square: 3046 Madison Road., 513-531-5196; Montgomery Square: 9899 Montgomery Road, 513-791-7082; www.aglamesis.com
Aronoff Center for the Arts
Visit the Aronoff this season for some classic Christmas traditions and classic shows. For instance, Once Upon a Mattress graces the Jarson-Kaplan stage Dec. 11-19 (tickets are $25 adult, $20 student/senior). For a more holiday feel, visit Finbar Wright, Anthony Kearns and Karl Scully, the renowned Irish Tenors, for their Christmas show Dec. 12 (tickets are $35-$70).
650 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-721-3344, www.cincinnatiarts.org
Art Academy of Cincinnati
Inspire your inner artist — or a friend’s —with non-refundable gift certificates to classes at the Art Academy. Purchase certificates for the exact amount of a Community Education class. The school offers courses in ceramics, photography and many other disciplines. Contact them to learn more and for exact prices.
1212 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-562-6262, www.artacademy.edu
A stop at BonBonerie is a must during the over-indulgent holiday season. Relax in their tea room, sipping on a warm beverage and taste-testing their signature Opera cream cake or any one of their other desserts; their seasonal favorite is a Christmas Yule log (small $30, large $50). For gift-exchange parties, you’ll be the star with cookie gift boxes ($9.75) full of pizza-shaped cookies and other unusual styles and flavors.
2030 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-321-3399, www.thebonbon.com
For a Cincinnati favorite, take the entire family to see The Nutcracker, presented by Frisch’s.
This childhood fable once again comes to life Dec. 17-27 at the Aronoff Center (tickets are $30-$70). Follow the Nutcracker Prince and young Marie as they adventure through a fairyland, accompanied by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s famous score and Val Caniparoli’s enthralling choreography.
650 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-621-5282, www.cincinnatiballet.com
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
Give your Bard-loving friend the gift of flexibility: Cincinnati Shakespeare offers a four-pack of tickets for $90 that can be cashed in for any of their shows this season. The current production is The Taming of the Shrew (through Jan. 3), with upcoming shows including Shakespeare’s Othello, August Strindberg’s Miss Julie and Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband.
719 Race St., Downtown, 513- 381-2273, www.cincyshakes.com
The Coffee Shop on Madison
Stop by this community coffee shop to check up on the latest O’Bryonville news — this eatery doubles as a depot for pamphlets galore advertising fun upcoming community events. Their hot drinks are quite delicious, but I also enjoy their fruit smoothies ($3.25). Or try one of their packed sandwich creations with chips and a drink ($7.25).
2030 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-321-3745, www.coffeeshoponmadison.com
Downtown Cincinnati Inc.
Per usual, DCI is hosting a variety of festive holiday events downtown. For the first three Saturdays in December (5, 12 and 19) Santa will rappel down the side of the 525 Vine office building to welcome guests to the local Christmas celebrations. After all the commotion, bring the little ones to story time with Mrs. Claus at Macy’s Fountain Place. She’ll start reading after the Downtown Dazzle fireworks and will have plenty of warm cookies on hand. Santa himself makes an appearance Fridays and Saturdays (Dec. 4-5, 11-12 and 18-19 at 11 a.m.-8 p.m.), Sundays (Dec. 6, 13, 20 at 12-6 p.m.), and Dec. 21-24 at 12-6 p.m. Get details at www.downtowncincinnati.com.
While shopping around Over-the-Rhine, enjoy a bite to eat and a tasty beverage while being surrounded by books and local art. Choose from hot drinks, including Coffee Emporium coffee and Essencha teas, or grab a sandwich to go for a lunch that won’t slow you down during your holiday shopping.
1331 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-260-8434
Keystone Bar & Grill
Part of a family of high-end, must-visit spots including Mount Adams Pavilion, AliveOne and The Sandbar, Keystone is a great place to stop by for a lazy Sunday meal or an after-hours beverage to take off some holiday edge. They host a legendary happy hour on Wednesday from 11 p.m. to close that boasts $2 well cocktails and domestic beers and $1 off all drafts. Earlier on Wednesdays, from 5-8 p.m., you can also enjoy bourbon and classic malt tastings.Their restaurant is open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily, regularly serving up made-from-scratch spinach and artichoke dip ($7.99), The Duveneck sandwich (an open face pastrami and corned beef sandwich with sauerkraut, potato salad and whole grain mustard on marble rye, $8.99) and fish and chips ($14.99).
313 Greenup St., Covington, 859-261-6777, www.keystonebar.com
Newport on the Levee
The Levee is offering free $10 gift cards (while supplies last) with the purchase of every $50 Newport on the Levee gift card. The gift cards are redeemable at all Levee venues, including the Newport Aquarium and AMC Newport movie theaters. Purchase your gift cards at the Levee Welcome Center located outside on Riverwalk Level near the Aquarium. www.newportonthelevee.com
For a tasty drink on the edge of Oakley, stop in the Red Tree for a white chocolate mocha ($3.25). This coffee shop/art gallery also sells a variety of quirky gifts and stunning art work. For the Cincinnati hometowner on your list, find an Eastside or Westside tee ($28 each). For trendy friends who don’t like the cold, pick up knitted fingerless gloves in multiple colors ($23). The store also features plenty of eye-popping art work, such as Greg Bruening’s Carnival ($100) or the multi-colored take on Fountain Square ($480) by Ashley Dawn Lentz.
3210 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-321-8733, www.redtreegallery.net
Once again, Shadowbox is hosting its Holiday Hoopla extravaganza through Jan. 9. Ticket prices are $30 (adult) and $20 (for students and seniors). Or try the lunchtime version, Holiday Lunchbox, shown at noon Dec. 10-23 for $10.
Newport on the Levee, Newport, 859-957-7625, www.shadowboxcabaret.com
Singletary Center for the Arts
Boyz II Men bops back into the area at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Singletary Center for the Arts in Lexington, Ky. Get tickets to the best-selling Motown group for $30-$40 and take your friends for a musical mid-season break from holiday shopping.
University of Kentucky campus, 859-257-5030, www.singletarytickets.com