One of my favorite December adventures took place on the Spirit of Christmas Tour, presented by American Legacy Tours. The two-hour walk departs from Cincy Haus and takes guests to five historic churches along Race Street and Vine Street in Over The Rhine. Led by jovial guides in period attire, you'll hear stories of the neighborhood, its rich German heritage, and Christmas traditions along the way.

Inside each church, we were welcomed by the pastors and learned about the history, congregation, and involvement in the Over The Rhine community. As church funds go towards community outreach, much of the original architecture is still visible and in some areas you can see the beauty of age through chipped paint and cracks.

Pastor Lorne greeted us at 12th and Race Street, home to First Lutheran Church which has a 170 year old congregation. As the name states, it was the first-ever Lutheran Church in Ohio, built in 1814. The gothic-style facade is reflected on the interior as well, with peaked ceilings, ornate stained glass windows, and a castle-like bell tower.

Speaking of which, Pastor Lorne invited us to ring the bell. Now how could I pass up a chance like that?

Nast Trinity United Methodist Church at 13th and Race Street was the mothership of the German Methodist movement. The congregation was formed in 1838 by Reverend William Nast and soon became the first German Methodist Church in the world. The current building was erected in 1880 with the unique feature of a second floor sanctuary.

St. Paulus Kirche at 14th and Race Street is the oldest German Protestant Church and second oldest church in Cincinnati. Abandoned and falling victim to neglect, the church's roof began sagging and was on the brink of collapse until 3CDC  began revitalizing the structure in 2011. Currently under renovation, St. Paulus Kirche provides a unique look at building salvation in Over The Rhine as the only unoccupied church on the tour.

Original wallpaper from the 1800s.

A doorway to nowhere.
St. Paulus's cross continues to glow in the sunlight.

"A mighty fortress is our god."

The gigantic white steeple of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church at 15th and Race Street is an icon of  the Over The Rhine skyline. What's even more astonishing: the congregation consists of only eight members. The interior European-style architecture has been weathered through the years and is a must-see if you enjoy rustic buildings. The pews are also reminiscent of colonial New England, culminating a wealth of culture under one roof...er, steeple.

St. Francis Seraph is a Roman Catholic Parish that was established by the Franciscan Friars in 1859. Located at Liberty and Vine Street, we not only toured the facility with Brother Tim, but also visited the church's nativity scene with live petting zoo. A petting zoo in Over The Rhine? Who knew!

But wait... there's more! Inside St. Francis Seraph is the priest's Christmas village. Beyond the sanctuary, each room is filled with a different holiday display. Most remarkable is Brother Tim's collection of nativity scenes from around the world. His collection started as a young boy by purchasing a $13.00 set for his mother while she was in the hospital. Since then, he has acquired over 40 unique sets from Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America.


Christmas village, with my favorite scene, the bell ringer!

Giant display of animated Santa Clauses.

An animated nativity scene that fills an entire room.

Whether you're a history buff, architecture fanatic, spiritually faithful, or simply want to experience some holiday cheer, The Spirit of Christmas Tour offers something for everyone. This is one adventure you don't want to miss out on this December!

The Spirit of Christmas Tour is offered on Saturdays through December 22, with departures at 10:30AM and 1:00PM.