Fortunately, the state has plenty of activities to appease everyone. And that’s nowhere more evident than in Akron and Summit County, where, whatever your climatological preference, there’s always something to see or do.
History by Candlelight
For the Sextons, there’s nothing like vacationing at historic sites, which was easy to do when the family lived in Connecticut (as one of our country’s original 13 colonies, it’s steeped in American history). It was a tradition Peggy and her husband, Dan, wanted to continue with their children Kate, 12, and David, 9, when they moved to Hudson two years ago.
“We hoped there would be places like that in Ohio,” Peggy Sexton explains. “How lucky we are to be living so close to Hale Farm & Village.”
Hale Farm & Village recounts the tale of the fictitious village of Wheatfield, a small Ohio town struggling to cope with the impact of the Civil War on all facets of life. Period crafts, ranging from glass to candles, are made on-site
For Kate Sexton, a Hale Farm & Village volunteer, winter brings its own special enchantment. This is her second year as a participant in the Holiday Lantern Tours, a leisurely candlelit event that mirrors life in 1862 indoors and out.
“I volunteer there because I really like history,” she explains. “I’m interested in how people lived back then, and I like to share that with others.”
Last year, Kate portrayed one of three daughters eagerly awaiting the arrival of Santa.
“What made the scene really cute,” Kate reveals, “is that his beard fell off and we saw that it was our ‘papa.’”
It’s clear that Peggy, a former Hale Farm & Village volunteer who now works there part-time teaching children about pioneer life, is right at home.
“I feel blessed that I can work in such a beautiful setting and I don’t have to spend my days in a cubicle in an office building in air conditioning,” she says.
Holiday Lantern Tours take place December 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22. For more information, call 330/666-3711 or visit www.wrhs.org
At Home With Nature
It’s a dilemma just about every family faces this time of year: where to hold an over-the-river-and-through-the woods get-together that doesn’t involve going to more than one grandmother’s house.
Pastor Dick Williams of Akron and his wife Jil found the solution in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. For the past 15 Thanksgivings, the family has rented out the Stanford Hostel to accommodate their brood, which includes three children and their spouses, in-laws and seven grandchildren.
“Jil and I discovered the hostel while we were hiking in the Cuyahoga Valley,” Williams says. “We can all meet in one place, and the kids don’t have to go to two or three places for Thanksgiving.”
A historic farmhouse built in 1843 by George Stanford, an early European settler in the Western Reserve, the dwelling comfortably accommodates groups of up to 30 guests. Amenities include a modern kitchen in which, Williams says, “six or eight people can prepare a meal without bumping into one another.”
Williams and his wife arrive at 9 a.m. and begin preparing their holiday repast. After a 1 p.m. dinner, they retire to the living room.
“It’s filled with sofas and chairs that are ideal spots from which to gab or nap,” he says.
The more industrious members of the clan hike up the road to the picturesque Brandywine Falls or stroll along the Towpath Trail, which follows the route of the Ohio & Erie Canal.
Although the Williams family makes a day of it, the hostel welcomes overnight guests, with separate dormitory rooms for men and women. (Towel and linen rental is also available.)
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park provides the perfect setting for family gatherings. Outdoor enthusiasts can participate in snowshoe and full-moon hikes or cross-country skiing. Those wishing to stay warm can partake of a variety of activities this season, including “Christmas Traditions Past and Present,” December 8 at the Blue Heron Bookstore in Peninsula, which includes storytelling and hot cocoa and cookies around a roaring fire; contra dancing at the Boston Township School House December 13 and 27, January 10 and 24 and February 7 and 21; and “Light Up the Night,” a celebration of the winter solstice December 21 at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center, with food, history lessons and plenty of lights.
The Stanford Hostel is located at 6093 Stanford Rd. in Peninsula. Call 330/467-8711 or visit www.stanfordhostel.com
for more information. For a schedule of Cuyahoga Valley National Park activities, call 216/524-1497 or log on to www.dayinthevalley.com
“You’re never too old,” Sarah Blake reflects, “to have your picture taken with Santa.”
That’s why, adds her mom, Laura, with a laugh, Akron Zoo’s Snack with Santa is such a “b-i-i-i-i-g-g-g event for us.”
For six years, the Bath Township family has taken time out of a hectic holiday schedule to visit the Akron Zoo for this annual event, which, in addition to a photo op with the big guy, features cookie decorating, crafts and time for feeding the animals.
Although the Blakes enjoy visiting the zoo year-round, Sarah says winter is a magical time, because, the 8-year-old explains, “the snow makes it look just a little bit nicer.”
For Laura, 45, who whiled away many a childhood afternoon there, visiting the zoo with her husband, Robert, and their daughter is a time to reminisce and marvel about the changes she has seen over the years.
“The zoo has really evolved,” Laura says. “When I was a kid, you took a field trip there to see the animals. Period. Now, there are more interactive, educational exhibits.” The Blakes look forward to feeding the outdoor residents of Penguin Point, as well as the deer, goats and llamas that greet visitors no matter what the weather. But Snack with Santa is definitely the highlight of their winter visits. The event is held in the zoo’s two-year-old Komodo Education Center, home to Komodo dragons, the largest lizards in the world.
“The zoo staff works very hard to make the place educational, but also fun for kids,” Robert says appreciatively. “As a result it’s never boring.”
Cases in point are the craft workshops following snacktime, in which participants design a variety of projects, which have ranged from Chinese dragon puppets to penguin ping-pong games.
“Obviously,” says Laura, “the zoo is a very important part of our lives.”
Snack With Santa takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on December 8, 9, 15 and 16. Or make an overnight of it at Snooze at the Zoo: Backyard Habitat, held from 7 p.m. December 1 to 10 a.m. December 2, which includes a night hike, outdoor games, a behind-the-scenes tour, snacks and breakfast. The Akron Zoo is located at 500 Edgewood Ave., in Akron. For more information, call 330/375-2550 or visit www.akronzoo.org
Paul Wischt, his 16-year-old daughter, Rachel, and 14-year-old son, Paul Jr., are a tight-knit trio, especially when it comes to cold-weather sports. That’s why the three can be found spending many a winter’s night at the ice-skating rink that’s a premier attraction at Holidayfest at Lock 3 Park.
“Being the dad of two teen-agers, I understand how hard it can be to get kids interested in family activities,” Wischt says. “But skating is something we all enjoy, and the Lock 3 rink is a wonderful place to do it.”
For four years, Akron has welcomed winter with this celebration that culminates on New Year’s Eve with the city’s spectacular First Night festivities. (The ice rink, Ohio’s largest seasonal skating venue, is open on designated days through February 3.)
For the Wischts, who live in Barberton, and other area families, Holidayfest represents one giant block party not to be missed.
“Groups of friends and families enjoy hanging out there,” says Rachel. “I think the whole park is a nice benefit for the people of Akron.”
But ice is only one component of Holidayfest. The Chriskindl Market is comprised of a dozen cottages filled with wares from Akron’s sister city, Chemnitz, Germany. Wooden toys, candles and holiday decorations make it easy to wrap up holiday shopping.
Holidayfest also spotlights the talents of members of the Chemnitz Skating Club, who demonstrate their precision moves and conduct informal skating lessons; and sounds of the season performed by the Akron Symphony Orchestra. Families are welcome to come in from the cold at Kinderzone, where hands-on crafts are geared toward children ages 4 to 10.
Each year, Paul Jr. makes it a point to stop at the American Toy Marble Museum, located in the park.
“It’s fun to see all the old things on display –– from Goodyear blimp memorabilia to old Coke bottles. It’s a good look at the history of Akron,” he says.
His father makes this promise to those hankering for warm weather: “Even though it’s cold out, come down. You’re going to have fun.”
For more information about Holidayfest at Lock 3 Park, 200 South Main St., call 330/375-2871 or visit www.holidayfest.org