25 Ways to Celebrate the Holiday Season in Ohio
From illuminated evenings to imaginative attractions, our state is full of ways to make the most of the season together.
Yuletide Village • Waynesville
Beneath drooping eaves, towering steeples and branches wrapped in twinkling lights, a storybook Christmas unfolds within Renaissance Park’s 15-acre Yuletide Village in Warren County.
Since the event began in 2020, visitors who enjoy the fantasy and medieval atmosphere of the Ohio Renaissance Festival each fall have been eager to bring their families along to see the venue decorated in a more festive manner.
“We decided that everyone needed something a little different,” says Yuletide Village entertainment director David Smith on the creation of the holiday attraction. “[We wanted] something that took a little bit of a step back and had a more relaxed approach but a more magical approach at the same time.”
With a mix of festive performances, a marketplace stocked with handcrafted wares and fantasy characters to meet such as a woodland Santa Claus and Krampus, a different brand of holiday magic is alive at Yuletide Village.
While cozying up by the outdoor firepits with a mug of hot chocolate or warm spiced cider, keep an ear open for the tunes of the Toy Box Brass band or the cheerful melodies of carolers ringing through the old-world village. Yuletide Village runs Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 3 to 9 p.m., Nov. 24 through Dec. 16. 10542 St. Rte. 73, Waynesville 45068, 513/897-7000, yuletidevillage.com
Old West Christmas Fest at Dogwood Pass • Beaver
Saddle up for a holiday celebration that combines the thrill of the Wild West with the joy of an old-fashioned family Christmas. With over 30 reenactors wandering the town, tending shops and participating in lively shows, visitors can immerse themselves in a western town turned winter wonderland. While adults peruse the holiday gift offerings from on-site craft vendors, kids can take in performances that run three times each day and feature beloved holiday characters like Santa Claus and the Grinch, who can be spotted slinking through crowds, dancing with kids or fighting off a gang of cowboys. Visit Facebook page for dates and times. facebook.com/dogwoodpassoldwesttown
A Christmas Story House and Museum • Cleveland
For those who love “A Christmas Story,” a trip to the home where exterior scenes for the famous film were shot is a must. After Brian Jones purchased the home in 2004, he restored it to its on-screen glory and artfully crafted its interior to resemble the Parker home as it appeared in the film. Tourists visit to reenact their favorite movie moments, like hiding under the kitchen sink or posing with a bar of soap in the bathroom. Check out the small museum across the street and the gift shop that sells replicas of props from the film, including the iconic leg lamp. Visit website for hours. achristmasstoryhouse.com
Castle Noel • Medina
This downtown Medina attraction serves as one big, interactive love letter to our holiday memories. Castle Noel has been bringing year-round joy to kids and adults alike since 2013, thanks to Christmas enthusiast and artist Mark Klaus, who has assembled an impressive collection of holiday movie memorabilia. The museum contains hundreds of props, costumes and set pieces from beloved holiday films and even pays tribute to the art of department-store-window displays. The grand finale is a trip down a sliding board like the one Ralphie Parker encountered in “A Christmas Story.” The latest addition to Klaus’ whimsical world is a fun, winter-themed entertainment bar called the Polar Bear Club. Reservations required. Visit website for hours. castlenoel.com
Christmas Candelighting at Roscoe Village • Coshocton
Embrace the warmth of the season by participating in the Christmas Candelighting ceremony at Roscoe Village. For over 50 years, this tradition has brought visitors back to a simpler time and allows the chance for them to share in peace and togetherness. Participants gather around the outdoor tree to light candles in honor of a specific group in the community and join in a reading and song. Earlier in the day, attendees can take part in Christmas crafts like holiday card-making and candle-dipping while enjoying hot cider and cookies. This year’s celebrations will take place Dec. 2 and 9. Visit website for more information. roscoevillage.com
Lights Before Christmas • Toledo
The Toledo Zoo & Aquarium is once again brightening the darkness of winter with its 38th annual Lights Before Christmas, a six-week event that has historically drawn 175,000 visitors to its 72-acre destination each holiday season.
When the event began in 1986, there were around just 50,000 lights on display. Today, zoo workers begin setting up five to six months in advance to ensure that the over 1 million lights are ready for the event’s Nov. 17 kickoff. The tree-lighting ceremony and the 35,000 lights strung upon the zoo’s 75-foot Norway Spruce, marks the beginning of the festivities. Visitors can marvel at the ever-changing patterns and designs in its branches throughout the season, which runs through Dec. 31.
The perennial winter village in the zoo’s historic 4,000-seat amphitheater has been upgraded this year. Visitors can enjoy concessions provided by Mrs. Claus, ride the three-lane ice slide, get a photo with Santa and enjoy ice-carving demonstrations Thursdays in December.
“It’s a fun tradition and a busy six weeks for us,” says Chris Martin, vice president of park operations. “But we’re getting ready and doing everything we can to make as many memories as possible for our guests this season.” Visit website for hours. 2 Hippo Way, Toledo 43609, 419/385-5721, toledozoo.org/lights
PNC Festival of Lights • Cincinnati
Celebrate this classic wintertime tradition with a visit to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden between Nov. 17 and Jan. 7. For over 40 years, the PNC Festival of Lights has transformed the grounds with over 4 million LED lights, 30 animal-shaped lanterns and a variety of other illuminated displays. Visitors can take a ride through the zoo’s light tunnel on the North Polar Express Train and enjoy nightly performances in the amphitheater while cozying up with a cup of hot chocolate. Returning this year is the 24-foot-tall Fiona nutcracker statue, which welcomes visitors to the zoo’s front entrance. Visit website for hours. cincinnatizoo.org
Guernsey County Courthouse Light Show • Cambridge
From early November until the end of the year, more than 80,000 lights and 60 animated displays illuminate the Guernsey County Courthouse in Cambridge during its annual holiday light show. The mix of LED, strobe and laser lights are synchronized to music in a presentation that runs continuously throughout the evening. Now in its 18th year, the impressive, community-funded display draws thousands of people each season for the free light shows. While visiting Cambridge, be sure to check out Dickens Victorian Village, which features more than 90 scenes of 180 life-size figures from author Charles Dickens’ era displayed downtown. Visit website for hours. visitguernseycounty.com
Conservatory Aglow • Columbus
With over 400,000 individual lights, this immersive experience at Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Garden in Columbus enchants new and returning visitors year after year. The 13-acre space is seasonally decorated with festive light displays, illuminated topiaries and visitor favorites like the colorful Rainbow Tunnel. Spend an evening strolling the outdoor gardens or visit the conservatory’s interior spaces for a cozy candlelit walk. From Nov. 18 through Jan. 7, Holiday Blooms runs during the day, while Conservatory Aglow arrives each evening. (Holiday Blooms is included with general admission. Conservatory Aglow requires a separate ticket.) Visit website for dates and times. fpconservatory.org
Pyramid Hill Lights • Hamilton
For over 20 years, the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum in Hamilton has dazzled visitors with its seasonal drive-through display of holiday lights. The 2-mile route features over a million lights and draws approximately 50,000 people each year, with some traveling from Kentucky and Indiana to see the favorite regional display. This year’s new installations include artist-created light projections inspired by the surrounding environment and a stained-glass feature on one of the buildings at Pyramid Hill. Families can also take part in a fun bingo game as they peacefully drive through the festive display, which runs from Nov. 17 through Dec. 31. Visit website for hours. pyramidhill.org
“Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)” • Cincinnati
In 2006, members of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company put together the first showing of “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!),” a production that begins with the first lines of “A Christmas Carol” before quickly devolving into a hilariously twisted retelling of other beloved holiday classics.
Since its first iteration, the production has added new elements each season. From moments of audience participation in which some theater goers are invited on-stage to play characters like Cindy-Lou Who to up-to-date pop-culture references, the show remains original and increasingly imaginative year after year and offers repeat viewers an inventive and high-energy experience each holiday season.
“I love the cast,” says Candice Hardy, a Cincinnati Shakespeare Company cast member and education director. “It’s quite a silly show, but it is very much an artistic, creative, collaborative process.”
This collaboration has led to the creation of fan-favorite touches like the tipsy Santa Claus character who welcomes showgoers prior to each performance and entertains them during intermission by reading letters submitted by audience members.
The show runs Dec. 7 through 30 at The Otto M. Budig Theatre in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. It is considered family-friendly but not recommended for little ones who believe in Santa Claus. Visit website for show dates and times. 1195 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202, 513/381-2273, cincyshakes.com
“The Christmas Tree Ship” • Sugarcreek
For over three decades, Captain Herman Schuenemann, affectionately known as Captain Santa, spent the holiday season ferrying Christmas trees across Lake Michigan to sell at the docks of Chicago Harbor. In late November 1912, a fateful voyage on the tempestuous waves threatened to bring the tradition to an abrupt end. The inspiring true story of the schooner captain and the family that worked to carry on his legacy takes the stage at the Ohio Star Theater in Sugarcreek Nov. 9 through Dec. 30, reminding us of the importance of kindness, perseverance and the Christmas spirit. Visit website for show dates and times. dhgroup.com
Great Lakes Theater’s “A Christmas Carol” • Cleveland
Cleveland’s Great Lakes Theater has been warming hearts and lifting spirits with its annual production of Charles Dickens’ enduring classic “A Christmas Carol” for more than 30 years. Adapted by original director Gerald Freedman, the production features an artful wardrobe and striking visual effects. From the opening scene of a mother reciting the book’s iconic opening lines to her children to the curtain falling on the smiling face of a now-redeemed Scrooge, audiences are captivated by the family-friendly, 1-hour-45-minute-show (including intermission). It plays at Cleveland’s Mimi Ohio Theatre Nov. 24 through Dec. 23. Visit website for show dates and times. greatlakestheater.org
BalletMet’s “The Nutcracker” • Columbus
Tchaikovsky’s impassioned and familiar melodies fill the air as BalletMet’s professional and student dancers bring the timeless tale of “The Nutcracker” to life on the Ohio Theatre stage Dec. 7 through 23. The story of Clara and her adventures through the court of the Sugar Plum Fairy is presented through the choreography of Gerard Charles and has become a capital-city holiday tradition over the years. The performance’s dreamlike music and entrancing visuals whisk audience members away to a toy-inspired wonderland, while the show’s elegant simplicity also makes the production a treat for younger theatergoers. Visit website for show dates and times. balletmet.org
Jim Brickman: A Joyful Christmas • Multiple Locations
This December, Ohio native Jim Brickman brings the songs and sounds of his 2017 release, “A Joyful Christmas,” to stages in Cleveland, Columbus and Youngstown. The holiday show features Brickman’s signature piano renditions of familiar favorites like “Joy to the World” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” as well as original works such as “The Gift” and “If You Believe.” (Chrissy Metz, star of the television series “This Is Us,” joins Brickman for two performances at Playhouse Square in Cleveland.) Brickman’s holiday shows offer a kinder, gentler way to celebrate the season, and he has plenty of Christmas joy to share. For more information, visit jimbrickman.com.
HOMES & ESTATES
Rutherford B. Hayes Home • Fremont
Relive the Victorian-inspired holidays of 19th century America as you learn about and celebrate the traditions of President Rutherford B. Hayes and his family through a variety of events scheduled at the Hayes Presidential Library and Museums in Fremont from late November through December.
A visit during Hayes Home Holidays on Dec. 21 and 22 immerses guests in the 19th U.S. president’s era with traditional decorations adorning the rooms. Reenactors throughout the home share stories and play out scenes of Christmases past. From Dec. 26 through 31, visitors can enjoy a favorite pastime of the former president by traversing the 25-acre grounds in a horse-drawn sleigh.
A highlight for generations has been the multilevel miniature train display in the museum’s auditorium that is free to view all season long. Visitors can marvel at the tiny, whimsical world and even activate elements such as dancing ice skaters or the turning of the Ferris wheel with the push of a button.
“You don’t have to have kids to enjoy the trains,” says Christie Weininger, executive director of Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums. “Trains have this way of bringing out the kid in everybody … and that’s what we like to do — unlock memories and help you connect with warm memories from your childhood.” Visit website for hours. Spiegel Grove, Fremont 43420, 419/332-2081, rbhayes.org
Deck the Hall at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens • Akron
Since the early 2000s, Stan Hywet Hall and Garden’s Deck the Hall event has been bringing people together to celebrate the season with decorations, dazzling light shows, music and more. On select evenings from Nov. 24 through Dec. 30, the 65-room manor is adorned with decorations evoking the feeling of the type of traditional Christmas that original homeowner F.A. Seiberling and his family once enjoyed there. Visitors can look forward to exploring the beautifully decorated garden, encountering amusing scenes throughout the home (like Mr. and Mrs. Claus’ date night or a mermaid’s party) and take in the 1.2 million lights that illuminate the exterior of the manor. Visit website hours. stanhywet.org
Christmas at Kingwood • Mansfield
Charles Kelley King, who loved Christmas, built the regal Kingwood Hall on his 47-acre Mansfield estate in 1926. His joy for the season lives on through Christmas at Kingwood, one of the longest-standing traditions at Kingwood Center Gardens. The event that runs between Nov. 26 and Dec. 27 sees the historic mansion decorated with an 18-foot-tall tree in the foyer, a display of original handmade Christmas ornaments and an assortment of themed decorations in each room of the home. Families can wander through the elaborate tree walk, visit with Santa, meet the reindeer resting in the garden and more. Visit website for dates and times. kingwoodcenter.org
Victorian Christmas Tours at The Castle • Marietta
The Castle in Marietta opened as a historic house museum in 1994 with guided tours showcasing the background and furnishings of the nearly 170-year-old home. During the holidays, it tells the story of a Victorian Christmas with tours running Dec. 7, 14 and 16 that seek to educate visitors on the origins of some of our holiday practices. Alongside traditional decorations, tours feature displays of artwork that reflect the feasting and gifting customs that were popular during the Victorian era. These include figgy pudding on the dining table or the animals of Noah’s Ark underneath the tree. Visit website for times. mariettacastle.org
Memories of Christmas Past at Arms Family Museum • Youngstown
The Mahoning Valley Historical Society rekindles Memories of Christmas Past at Youngstown’s Arms Family Museum. This season will mark the exhibition’s 15th year showcasing toys and other holiday items that spark feelings of nostalgia for those who visit the home each year. Seven rooms are thematically decorated with familiar pieces like the fan-favorite crystal tree as well as new items not seen in previous years that have been supplied by collectors. Memories of Christmas Past runs Nov. 18 through Dec. 31. Visit website for hours. mahoninghistory.org
Sandusky Winter Wonderland • Sandusky
The warm and sunny days of a lakeside summer may be over for this year, but Sandusky Winter Wonderland is bringing the holiday spirit to this community along the Lake Erie shore for a third consecutive season. This family-friendly winter festival at the Jackson Street Pier on Dec. 8 and 9 promises an array of fun activities.
Live music, a Christmas market featuring handcrafted items from local artisans and small businesses, an ice-skating rink and even a visit from Santa Claus and his reindeer will take over the pier during the event.
“In Sandusky, there are four seasons to love, and we want folks to enjoy the uniqueness of each one,” says McKenzie Spriggs, executive director of Destination Sandusky.
The event kicks off Friday at 5 p.m. with live music, festive drink offerings, such as Christmas ales and a boozy hot chocolate bar, and a visit from Santa’s reindeer.
From noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, visitors can enjoy local high school and colligate choir performances, DJs, watch Christmas movies on a big screen and visit with Santa Claus. The ice-skating rink, holiday market and food trucks will be available to enjoy throughout the weekend. 233 W. Shoreline Dr., Sandusky 44870, shoresandislands.com
Steubenville Nutcracker Village & Advent Market • Steubenville
The friendly faces of over 200 life-sized nutcrackers greet those who visit downtown Steubenville between Nov. 21 and Jan. 6. The collection began in 2015 when business owners and residents worked together to inspire a sense of pride for their downtown. Dreamt up by father-daughter duo Mark Nelson and Therese Fedoryka and crafted by Brodie Stutzman, the holiday attraction features nutcrackers inspired by famous figures and characters with a few new ones added each year. This year’s additions are Mrs. Claus, a Fiesta Tableware-inspired nutcracker and a West Virginia University Mountaineer. steubenvillenutcrackervillage.com
Holiday Junction • Cincinnati
This longstanding holiday favorite in Cincinnati sparks childlike fantasy and imagination with music, lights and toy trains in a tradition that started back in 1946. From Nov. 10 through Jan. 8 the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Union Terminal transforms into Holiday Junction Featuring the Duke Energy Holiday Trains. More than 1,000 feet of model railroad track winds through a miniature city. Visitors are invited to stroll through the whimsical scenes, take part in a holiday scavenger hunt, marvel at the LEGO-made city of Brickopolis and even pay a visit to Santa beginning on Nov. 24. Visit website for hours. cincymuseum.org
Winterblast at Lock 3 • Akron
Outdoor fun returns to Lock 3 in downtown Akron for the city’s 19th year of Winterblast. Join in the frosty festivities with a ride on the ice bumper cars or ice bikes, a game of miniature golf on the outdoor course or a glide on the 10,000-square-foot ice rink. The season kicks off on Nov. 24 with a nighttime lighted parade that features Santa Claus rolling through downtown and ends near West Bowery Street for a tree lighting and fireworks. Attendees can check out the animated window displays or pay a visit to Archie, a 22-foot-tall talking snowman. The wintertime activities continue at Lock 3 through Feb. 19. Visit website for hours. lock3live.com
A Carillon Christmas • Dayton
From Nov. 21 through Dec. 30, Carillon Historical Park’s 65-acre campus in Dayton celebrates the season with a bit of history. Dayton’s iconic bell tower is draped in glittering strands to become the Carillon Tree of Light, and the park’s historical buildings host a Christmas puppet show, a hearth cooking demonstration with chestnuts roasting over a fire, and an antique 1930s printing press that makes cards visitors can take home with them. Christmas lights, model train displays and train rides are also part of the seasonal fun. Visit website for hours. daytonhistory.org
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