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Downtown Cincinnati prepares for the holidays

An unadorned holiday tree stands at the corner of 5th and Vine Streets.
Bill Rinehart
The Fountain Square holiday tree will be lit up during ceremonies on the night of Black Friday, November 24, 2023.

Businesses are getting ready for the holiday season. Downtown Cincinnati has a slew of events and activities, both traditional and brand new. Emily Stowe with 3CDC says the city's center is competing with the suburbs, and entertainment is a way to draw people in.

"Downtown just has so much to offer. In the last five to 10 years, it's changed immensely. I think that we really can compete with the suburbs when it comes to the holidays especially."

3CDC's event marketing manager says they want holiday shopping to be an experience, not just a chore. Stowe says that's one way merchants in the city's core are competing with the suburbs. She says options like the Fountain Square ice skating rink and the Christkindlmarket are a way to draw people away from malls and suburban shopping centers.

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Stowe says another advantage they have is parking.

"I don't know if you've been to Kenwood [mall] lately or over the holidays, but parking is just a nightmare," she says. "I think there's this misconception that parking Downtown is difficult and hard to find."

Stowe says there are plenty of parking lots and garages that are clean and secure, and there's the free streetcar.

A wooden ramp on metal scaffolding is surrounded by colorful trees under a bright blue sky.
Bill Rinehart
An ice slide is under construction at the Schmidlapp Event Lawn for the Christkindlmarket.

The holidays in downtown Cincinnati will see new events and familiar traditions. Stowe says the new include the Black Art on Black Friday at Findlay Market, and a light show at the Fountain Square ice rink, while the familiar include the Hot Chocolate version of The Nutcracker, and the Shillito elves.

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"The Shillito elves are returning to The Foundry, which is the building adjacent to Fountain Square," Stowe says. "Those will be back in action on Black Friday, which is November 24. They'll always be on display, but they won't always be turned on and operating, so if you want to see them sorting the mail and wrapping gifts, make sure to check out our hours online. We also have weekday hours." (As of this article's publish date, those hours had not yet been posted.)

Another new feature is an ice slide, at the Christkindlmarket at The Banks. It joins the igloos and the market stalls.

Most events in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine begin the day after Thanksgiving.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.