If you’re heading to Cincinnati: Holiday options plus pirates

Of all the Ohio cities, I think Cincinnati is the prettiest. Even Winston Churchill thought so. He once talked about its loveliness.

Each Christmas, I have plans to head to Cincinnati to take in some sights, but normally have just enough time to swing by Krohn Conservatory to see Paul Busee’s train music box before heading to my aunts’ craft show in northern Kentucky. Perhaps, you’ll have more time to see more of the city’s offerings. Here are some places I recommend based on what I’ve done myself in the past.

The Cincinnati Museum at Union Terminal have a special event happenings. The holiday offering, Holiday Junction is magical if you’re traveling with the younger crowd. We took my daughter here when she was five. There are model train displays that are over the top with their elaborateness. There’s also a train kids can ride that winds through a display set up to capture the feel of a winter wonderland.

Also at the center, not holiday related, is Real Pirates, a special exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. This is the real pirate ship Whyduh that sunk in 1717. I’ve been meaning to get here since it opened. The exhibit is closing on January 6, so I have to hustle my son down here. I’m thinking about Saturday–although we may head here after January 1 to avoid a holiday crowd. There are other regular exhibits that are worth seeing. One is a simulated cave.

For a look at a marvelous art decco hotel, stop in the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel. Once, I sat in the lobby writing the next great American novel, drinking wine and snacking on the complimentary bowl of party mix type fare. I had to leave before the novel was finished. It’s still not done.

Another place dear to my heart is Fountain Square. The aesthetics have been partly ruined by a build up of modern buildings in downtown Cincinnati, but the fountain is the loveliest in all the world–in my opinion. These days, you can go ice-skating for some holiday cheer. If you’re near here, don’t miss the Cinergy Train Display. Model train buffs put together quite the collection. The trains wind through creative displays where some of the features move. I remember dancers that “skated” and twirled on a mirror lake. My son loved the free cookies, as well.

I haven’t been here for years, but I’ve written about it a few times. The Cincinnati Zoo is one of the first zoos to do holiday lights kind of events in order to boost up winter attendance. They’ve perfected it for sure.

The Cincinnati Ballet’s “Nutcracker” performance is another holiday treat. Once when I was in high school, my grandparents bought tickets for my whole family (aunts, uncles, cousins included) to see the show one Christmas. We took up more than 20 seats in orchestra seating.

And, one of my all time favorites, since I remember it from when I was a child is the Live Nativity outside Krohn Conversatory in Eden Park. Here you’ll find live animals in a manger scene set up. The same family has been involved with this display since the 1930s. It’s the oldest nativity display in Ohio.

400 Pound Plus Pumpkins and a Carving Knife

Gus Smithhisler carves pumpkins like nobody’s business. I saw him at work this past Saturday at Jack Hanna’s Fall Fest at the Columbus Zoo where Gus was turning the most enormous pumpkins into animal art. Being ever so on my toes, I grabbed his card and contact information.

Gus has emailed me back to let me know of his upcoming engagements. If you get a chance to see him at work, don’t miss it. Since fall is officially here, consider this a fall festival kick off. Gus is appearing at a few festivals in addition to his Las Vegas gig. By the way, if you go to his Web site, you’ll see his handy work. He started out a few years ago at the Indiana State Fair and his business keeps growing.

If you do see Gus, he may give you some pumpkin seeds so you can grow your own monsters at home. The photo is from last year’s zoo event. Gus’s daughter helps him from time to time.