15 Exciting Winter Things to Do in Southwest Ohio Cities & Towns

Don’t hibernate when the chilly winter weather arrives in Ohio this year. Instead, join the rest of the state in celebrating some of the best winter things to do in Southwest Ohio.

The fun doesn’t stop when the snow starts to fall. In Southwest Ohio, you will find festivals, art exhibits, and community events — everything from historical reenactments to unique views of nature. Here are all the events in the region that you can’t miss!

Winter Things to Do in Cincinnati

Take Part in an Ugly Sweater Bar Crawl 

A bar crawl in Cincinnati sounds like fun at any time of the year. But around the holidays, things get festive with a special Ugly Sweater Bar Crawl! Participants put on their least attractive sweaters and hit up popular Cincinnati drinking holes like Mr. Pitiful’s, Revel, Below Zero Lounge, and The Drinkery.

Along the way, you can participate in bar trivia and live entertainment. Then, wrap it up with an after-party. Make sure to register beforehand to get your tickets!

Visit the Cincinnati Nature Center 

The Cincinnati Nature Center draws visitors throughout every season, but it provides one-of-a-kind outdoor adventures in the winter. During this season, visitors are welcome to take guided hikes in the woods and learn about conservation.

Also, there are special winter events hosted throughout the season, such as moonlit hikes for the chance to see nocturnal wildlife. In January, you can join the nature center for its Maple Days program to learn how to tap maple trees and make maple syrup. 

Cincinnati Nature Center, Cincinnati - Winter in Southwest Ohio
Cincinnati Nature Center | photo via @jessica_the_purrocious

See the Cincinnati Zoo in a Whole New Way

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is widely considered one of the best zoos in the country, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors every year! Stop by during the winter months to experience the unique Festival of Lights.

During this time, the zoo is lit with festive holiday displays as the sun sets. There are special holiday activities too, including a black light puppet show, a fairyland display, Wild Lights on Swan Lake, and special treats! There’s a North Polar Express train and Santa visits for kids as well.

Winter Things to Do in Dayton 

Ice Skate Beside the River 

Skating outdoors is something that everyone should experience at least once in their lives! In Dayton, visitors flock to Riverscape Ice Skating to enjoy the largest outdoor ice rink in Southwest Ohio!

This rink sits on the shore of the Miami River, offering a breathtaking view as you glide along the ice. Skate rentals are available, and skaters aged 3 and younger get in free. This ice rink is only open for the winter season, so take the chance to enjoy this fun activity when it comes around!

Rink at RiverScape MetroPark, Dayton - Winter SW Ohio
Rink at RiverScape MetroPark | photo via @annaeb29

Eat Some Great Local Food 

Every January, the best restaurants of Dayton come together to celebrate Dayton Winter Restaurant Week. During this time, participating locations will offer special, limited-time menus at reduced prices. This usually includes a three-course meal for $30 or less!

The experience is totally unique at every restaurant, so you never know what you’ll find. Foodies will love the chance to try a new dining experience at all the best locations around Dayton.

This isn’t the only way to experience good eats, though. You can plan your own tour of local restaurants in Dayton Ohio. Additionally, there are a lot of breweries in Dayton!

416 Diner | photo via @chefdanefly

Attend the Dayton Holiday Festival

The Dayton Holiday Festival has been a part of the community for nearly 50 years. This monthlong celebration started in the 1970s as a way to help kids from every socioeconomic background enjoy the holidays.

Today, the festivities get started on Thanksgiving Day with a children’s parade and a festive tree lighting ceremony. Throughout December, you can find other family activities like carol sing-a-longs, a reindeer petting zoo, carnival rides, horse-drawn wagons in the snow, and much more.

If you’re planning to enjoy a festival this winter, you might want to book a hotel, vacation rental, or other lodging in Dayton Ohio early. You could even make plans to discover more Dayton things to do.

Winter Things to Do in Springfield

Attend a Silent Rave — on Ice!

Silent raves and clubs have become increasingly popular in recent years. They offer a neighborhood-friendly alternative to loud music going through the night. But in Springfield during the winter, you can experience an entirely new kind of silent rave.

This event takes place at the outdoor ice skating rink on City Hall Plaza’s esplanade. Hosted by “DJ Chill,” the venue provides headphones to skaters to enjoy one of three channels of music as they skate under the sky.

This isn’t the only thing to do in Springfield though. Check out our Springfield travel guide for more ideas.

Winter Things to Do in Oxford

Celebrate All Things Chocolate

Calling all chocolate lovers! The annual Chocolate Meltdown event takes place every year in January and is an opportunity for local businesses to share chocolate offerings of all kinds. From candy to drinks, cakes, baked goods, and much more, all the offerings are all about chocolate.

While the food is the main event, there are plenty of other activities on offer. You can enjoy sled dog races, a ninja course, snowy carriage rides, and outdoor bonfires to stay warm.

Walk Through an Artisanal Magical Winter Wonderland 

You’ll see outdoor holiday festivals in thousands of towns across the United States but none quite like Oxford’s Enchanted Winter. This event isn’t just your run-of-the-mill winter celebration.

Hosted by the Oxford Community Arts Center, the event centers on the town’s artist community, featuring art from local creators of all kinds.

From light displays to gardens, outdoor soundscapes, and other art pieces, the Enchanted Winter showcases the very best of the local art community for a fresh take on a classic holiday festival.

Cincinnati Nature Center, Cincinnati - Winter in Southwest Ohio
Cincinnati Nature Center | photo via @jessica_the_purrocious

Take a Chilly Storybook Walk

Oxford is full of charming nature trails for visitors to explore, but one of the most unique offerings is the Storybook Walk. This collection of trails offers educational insights into the history, nature, and literature of Ohio.

It features stops along the way with fascinating information about the local landscape and the way that it inspired storytellers from the region. Don’t think that the cold weather is enough to keep the trails clear! These beautiful walks still draw visitors to enjoy the breathtaking surrounding views.

Winter Things to Do in Troy

Attend the Annual Yuletide Gathering

This famous event takes place in the historic neighborhood, completely transforming it into a Christmas celebration. As you walk the streets, you’ll see open shop doors for buying gifts and food, carolers strolling by, and even Santa Claus ready to hear your Christmas wishes.

If you like, you can take a carriage ride before shopping for holiday gifts and enjoying the holiday music and other live entertainment. 

Enjoy Holiday Shopping With Live Models

Holiday shopping is a must as the Christmas season approaches. But most of the time, it doesn’t involve live models! Every year in Troy, the First Friday Live Models event transforms the public square downtown into a storefront display like you’ve never seen before.

The participants will be showing off the holiday decor, gifts, and other goods available for purchase in a fascinating display that combines art, community, and the best parts of the season.

More Winter Things to Do in Southwest Ohio

Stroll Through a Historical Village in Hamilton

The annual German Village Christmas Walk in Hamilton is an amazing display of the town’s history, perfectly on offer for the holiday season. During this event, historical businesses and homes are open for viewing in all their authentic glory.

Visitors are welcome to stroll the streets and enjoy special events, such as face painting, live entertainment, carriage rides, and music. Of course, there are also plenty of goods to buy — from holiday gifts to decor and food. 

German Village Christmas Walk, Hamilton - Winter in Southwest Ohio
German Village Christmas Walk | photo via @akays

Explore Bull’s Run Arboretum in Middletown

Ohioans don’t let ice and snow keep them from exploring nature! Bull’s Run Arboretum in Middletown is open throughout the year. Winter offers some unique experiences that you can’t find at any other time of the year.

This one-of-a-kind nature preserve includes the last free-flowing stretch of Bull’s Run Creek, as well as a short walking trail with labeled tree species. Keep an eye out for some of the rare animals that are protected on the grounds!

Visit a Special Yuletide Village in Waynesville

The Yuletide Village in Waynesville offers a unique experience of the quintessential holiday market and outdoor festival.

Taking place on the grounds of the local Renaissance Fair, this monthlong event features an open-air holiday marketplace where you can buy local art pieces, gifts, decor, delicious food and drink, and live entertainment.

Kids will get the chance to visit Santa and convince the Krampus that they’re on the nice list. There are themed areas throughout the village with their own light displays and live entertainment, so every street features something new. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Winter Things to Do in Southwest Ohio

Are there Christmas villages in Ohio?

Christmas villages and towns are places that completely transform during the holidays, whether through light displays, community events, or other exhibits. There are quite a few that fall under this category in Ohio, including some historical towns!

In Cambridge Ohio, you’ll find the Dickens Victorian Village. Meanwhile, Clifton Mills features an enormous light display from November to January. 

What is there to do in Southwest Ohio in January?

January often feels like a slow time after the hustle and bustle of the holidays. But Southwest Ohio keeps things busy with events throughout January.

There are several food and drink events throughout the month, including Oxford’s Chocolate Meltdown and Dayton’s Restaurant Week. You can also find winter-specific events and activities at many of the community and nature centers throughout the region.

Finding Winter Things to Do in Southwest Ohio

Whether you’re looking in the Cincinnati area, near Dayton, or elsewhere in Southwest Ohio, there are so many amazing experiences to be had during the winter. Foodies, history buffs, families, and more are welcome to celebrate the best events of the season!

However, winter things to do in Southwest Ohio are just the tip of the iceberg in the Buckeye State. There are tons more Ohio winter things to do for all ages and interests.

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