Having a Happy (and Safe) Holiday

 Having a Happy (and Safe) Holiday

Scuba Santa at the Newport Aquarium

Local traditions across NKY are finding ways to safely celebrate the season

Events and activities certainly look differently this year with COVID-19, but many of the annual holiday traditions in Northern Kentucky will continue to brighten the holiday season for individuals and families across the region. NKY checked in with some of the top destinations for making holiday memories and we found out more about what’s in store for this year.  

Newport Aquarium 

It’s been 18 years since Scuba Santa first swam into Newport Aquarium. Since then, families looking for a unique take on the holiday tradition of meeting Santa have discovered it doesn’t get any more fun than telling Santa what you want for Christmas while he swims with a tank full of sharks.

From Nov. 27 to Dec. 24, Scuba Santa’s Water Wonderland will include music and festive decorations throughout the aquarium. The highlight is a chance to meet Scuba Santa one on one. 

“There’s just nothing else like Scuba Santa in the region making it a holiday tradition that really stands out. It’s all the magic of the holidays mixed with the wonder of the underwater world as he swims with thousands of animals including sharks and Denver the sea turtle,” says Matt Duda, director of sales and marketing at Newport Aquarium.

In addition to Scuba Santa, guests’ favorite animals are ready to welcome them including the penguins of Penguin Palooza and the chance to touch stingrays and sharks in the tropical Stingray Hideaway and Shark Central.

Precautions will continue to make sure the aquarium is a safe place for families to play. This includes limiting capacity to allow for social distancing so advance ticket or Annual Pass purchase is required.

Ark Encounter

The fourth annual ChristmasTime event at Ark Encounter has quickly become a Christmas tradition for families in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. 

“The life-size ark, which is the main feature at the Ark Encounter is one and a half times the length of a football field, half the width of the football field, and from the ground to the top, it is seven stories, and at the bow it’s 10 stories, and for Christmas, this is going to be lit up in all sorts of different colors, and there will be waves of colors going across the ark, so it’s going to look absolutely stunning … People will be amazed at the lights,” says Ken Ham, CEO and founder of Answers in Genesis, the organization behind the Christian-themed attraction. 

Another standout is the Encounter the Wonder Show, which captures the wonder of Christmas, beginning in Genesis, and it traces Christ through the early pages of the Bible, to his birth, life, death and resurrection. It will be shown in the Answers Center on a state-of-the-art 70-by-22-foot LED screen.

The entire grounds will be lit up with holiday lights. The festivities are free, including the spectacular light display, a petting zoo and Christmas concerts. Plus, there’s a fair-trade market and a gift shop for holiday shopping. 

Those who want to soar over Ark Encounter and get an aerial perspective on the holiday lights may want to check out the Screaming Eagle Zipline experience. Or, for a more traditional experience, visitors can take a camel ride.

ChristmasTime 2020 at Ark Encounter will run from Friday, Nov. 27, through Wednesday, Dec. 30, on select days. Ark Encounter is located at 1 Ark Encounter Drive in Williamstown. 

Behringer-Crawford Museum 

The Behringer-Crawford Museum in Covington will present Holidays@BCM from Saturday, Nov. 21, to Sunday, Jan. 3. The annual festivities will include holiday lights and displays, live music and entertainment, craft activities and more. 

“For the past three decades, we’ve had the holiday toy trains, which is our big holiday exhibit of model trains and interactive features with things for children to look at, but we realized with the pandemic that the kinds of activities we’ve had in the past were not going to be safe right now with the buttons kids would come in and push, and the way they would crowd around to see the display,” says Sharen Kardon, communications manager, Behringer-Crawford Museum.

She says that rather than doing that the museum decided to spread out the holiday trains throughout the museum so they are not all in one room. In addition, there will not be as many hands-on activities.

“People have been coming here for generations. So, a lot of families do make it part of their holiday tradition. It’s an old-fashioned, very kid and family-friendly experience, and it’s something the whole family can enjoy,” Kardon says. 

As part of Holidays@BCM, guests can experience Wahoo’s Winter Wonderland, a reimagined, kid-size, animated display based on a children’s book by Kenton Hills author Diana Grady, along with a Dickens Village display that allows visitors to discover the stories of Charles Dickens. The miniature carnival at BCM is another popular feature that will return. 

New this year, there will be several special Lego exhibits, including an elaborate Christmas exhibit, which will be presented in partnership with the Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana Tri-State Lego Users Group (OKILUG.) Antique toy displays will also be scattered throughout the museum. One floor of the museum will have a vintage Christmas theme and Nature Play will also be lit with holiday lights, so there will be night-time activities for children and families to participate in. 

New Riff Distilling 

Tours, tastings and selections from the New Riff Distilling gift shop are ideal for adults 21 and up who want to spend a few hours ringing in the holidays with friends and family.

Offering the same quality tours, tours are now limited to six people and participants have a chance to get a first-hand look at the distillery. Bonded Tours are offered on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays and advance registration is encouraged because the tours do sell out. 

“We have started doing them only on days when we are not in production so that we keep our distillers safe, but the tours are wonderful and they end with a tasting of our product, which is a lot of fun as well,” says Amy Tobin, director of communications, New Riff Distilling.

“People are hungry for something to do, and I think word of mouth has spread that we make sure people are safe, and that’s why we get so many people coming. We promote the distancing, we don’t allow our spaces to get overfilled, and we have sanitizing stations at every stop in the building. It’s really fun,” Tobin says.

She says community outreach is another important part of the holidays with a coat drive, which benefits St. Vincent de Paul. 

“Specially marked bottles will benefit St. Vincent de Paul and their program, and we will also be a drop-off center for coats,” Tobin said.

As a gateway to bourbon Country in Northern Kentucky, New Riff Distilling is an independently owned distillery at 24 Distillery Way in Newport. New Riff Distilling produces bourbon, rye, and Kentucky Wild Gin.