Does your holiday mood need a jumpstart? There’s nothing like a visit to a holiday lights show or seasonal display to bounce away the bah humbugs!
Holiday Lights and Displays in Central Ohio
DICKENS OF A CHRISTMAS
ADDRESS: Ohio Village, 1982 Velma Ave., Columbus
PRICE: $12 ages 13+ ($10 if an Ohio Historical Society member), $9 ages 6-12 ($7 if an OHS member), free for ages 0-5; free parking
DATES/TIMES: 6-9 p.m. on Dec. 9, 10, 16, 17; 12 noon-5 p.m. on Dec. 18
DISTANCE: 4 miles north from downtown Columbus
DESCRIPTION: Experience a Victorian-era Christmas with characters from Charles Dickens’ novels, crafts, cooking demonstrations, caroling and more.
TIP: You can also enjoy a “Dickens of a Dinner” on the grounds of the Ohio Village from 6-7:30 p.m. on Dec. 9, 10, 16, 17 for $60 per person ($50 if an OHS member).
FANTASY OF LIGHTS
ADDRESS: Alum Creek State Park, 2911 S. Old State Road, Delaware
PRICE: Starts at $10 per car, depending on night of the week and size of the vehicle
DATES: Nov.18-Jan. 1
TIMES: 5:30-9:30 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 5:30-10:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday
DISTANCE: 20 miles north from downtown Columbus
DESCRIPTION: Considered one of Ohio's premiere drive-thru light shows, the 12th Annual Fantasy of Lights stretches for nearly two miles and includes more than a million lights and more than 130 lighted holiday displays. There’s also a Santa House (which is NOT a drive-thru feature!). Enjoy free cookies and hot chocolate.
TIP: While the kids are getting their picture taken with Santa, you can knock a couple of things off their list at the gift shop. Some of the proceeds benefit Recreation Unlimited.
HOLIDAYS AT THE CONSERVATORY
ADDRESS: Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus
PRICE: regular admission rates ($11 adults to age 59, $9 ages 60+ and college students with ID, $6 ages 3-17, free for ages 0-2)
DATE: Nov. 19-Jan. 4, closed Thanksgiving and Christmas
TIME: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, and open until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays
DISTANCE: 3 miles east from downtown Columbus
DESCRIPTION: Experience the color and spirit of the season while staying warm within the beautiful botanical gardens of the Franklin Park Conservatory. See the 10-foot poinsettia tree or follow the garden model railway. Check their website for information about special programs throughout the season.
TIP: Candlelight Night is held each Wednesday. Tiptoe along paths lit by hundreds of votive candles and enjoy a special menu and snacks at The Conservatory Garden Cafe or make reservations (as early as possible) for an intimate candlelight dinner at the Palm House.
OHIO STATEHOUSE TREE
ADDRESS: The Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square, Downtown
DATE: Nov. 30 for the tree lighting; the tree remains up and lit each day inside the Statehouse Atrium through Jan. 2.
TIME: The Statehouse is open 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 11 a.m-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, closed on Christmas Day. The Statehouse Museum is open 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 12 noon-4:30 p.m. weekends.
DESCRIPTION: The Statehouse Tree is lit Nov. 30 (it’s a nearly century-old tradition) and the holiday spirit continues throughout the month of December with Victorian-era decorations throughout the building. Free tours (no reservations needed) take place at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. each weekday and at 12 noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on weekends. The tours begin in the Map Room (accessible from the Third Street entrance). At 12 noon each weekday from Dec. 5-22, there will be a different musical concert in the Statehouse Crypt.
TIP: Visit the Museum Shop between Dec. 5-10 and you can draw a candy cane that will tell you if you receive 10, 20, 30 or 40 percent off any purchase.
OLDE HILLIARD CHRISTMAS
ADDRESS: Historical Village at Weaver Park, 4100 Columbia St., Hilliard
DATES/TIMES: The Christmas season opens on Dec. 1 with a tree-lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. The village will be adorned with lights and decorations through Dec. 31.
DISTANCE: 14 miles west from downtown Columbus
DESCRIPTION: The Historical Village in Olde Hilliard’s Weaver Park will be adorned in holiday decorations and lights all month. Each weekend, events like kids’ activities, trolley rides, visits from Santa, music and plays will take place. Consult their website for specific times and activities.
TIP: Santa visits the Red Caboose on Sunday, Dec. 11, from 2:30-6 p.m. Bring your own camera for photos. Horse-drawn wagon rides also are offered — $2 for adults, $1 for kids.
STATE AUTO CHRISTMAS DISPLAY
ADDRESS: 518 E. Broad St., Downtown (northeast corner of Washington and Broad streets)
DATES/TIMES: The lights will be turned on and the display officially opens on Dec. 7. The display can be toured any time through Jan. 1. The lights are turned on every day from 6-8 a.m. and 5:30-11 p.m. and until 12:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The display also will be lit until 4:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve.
DESCRIPTION: This outdoor Nativity display — filled with nearly 80 life-sized plaster and polymer-coated figures, 7,000 LED lights, 1,200 feet of garland, five 12-foot lighted wreaths and six towering Nutcrackers — has been a downtown tradition for 80 years. Local choral groups will perform, for free, on weekend evenings.
TIP: You can park in the State Auto parking lot at the southeast corner of Broad and Washington streets. Be sure to follow the instructions for a cell-phone tour of the Nativity display. Nativity guides (State Farm employees) also are on hand to answer questions during peak hours.
ADDRESS: Historic German Village
DATE: 6 p.m.-10 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 4 for the Village Lights event; enjoy the seasonal decorations throughout the month
DISTANCE: 1 mile south from downtown Columbus
DESCRIPTION: From twinkling white lights in the trees to more than 11,000 luminaries lining the walkways, Village Lights in Historic German Village is always a magical evening. Shops and restaurants will stay open to welcome you in. Also enjoy live music and carolers if you simply want to stroll the streets.
TIP: German Village restaurants will offer special treats and discounts on Village Lights night, and throughout the month.
ADDRESS: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, 4850 W. Powell Road, Powell
PRICE: regular admission rates ($14 ages 10-59, $9 ages 2-9, $10 ages 60+, free for ages 0-2); parking is $5 per car; members receive free admission and parking.
DATES: Nov. 18-Jan. 1, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, Christmas Eve
TIMES: 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
DISTANCE: 17 miles northwest from downtown Columbus
DESCRIPTION: Every year at Wildlights, you will find millions of lights on everything but the animals! This long-standing family tradition is in its 23rd year. Enjoy special displays from the polar bears to the koala bears and every exhibit in between. Listen to music, visit with Santa and his reindeer, and even decorate cookies with Mrs. Claus!
TIP: Check out our Hot Topic story in this issue about the people who make the Wildlights magic happen!
WINTER WONDERLAND AT CREEKSIDE PARK
ADDRESS: Creekside Park & Plaza, 123 Mill St., Gahanna
PRICE: free and open to the public
DATES: Nov. 12-Jan. 2
TIME: Monday-Sunday, any time
DISTANCE: 10 miles east from downtown Columbus
DESCRIPTION: The 5-acre Creekside Park along Gahanna's Big Walnut Creek is the setting for this dazzling holiday light display. Enjoy a walk along the beautiful creek and then warm up in one of the many restaurants along the waterway and plaza.
TIP: Don’t miss out on an opportunity to have breakfast with your favorite holiday characters! They’re visiting the Winter Wonderland on Saturday, Dec. 10 from 8 a.m.-12 noon. Tickets are $6 for those 4+, and free for kids 0-3.
NEW THIS YEAR!
THE GRAND ILLUMINATION OF DOWNTOWN COLUMBUS
ADDRESS: Bicentennial Park (233 Civic Center Drive), City Hall (90 W. Broad St.) and Columbus Commons (160 S. High St.)
DATES: through Jan. 15
DESCRIPTION: Downtown Columbus will be decked out with thousands of lights, including a light show in the Scioto Mile Fountain of Bicentennial Park and a 15-foot fountain of light at the High Street entrance to the Columbus Commons. City Hall’s 20-foot balsam fir, located on the southeast corner of City Hall, also will be decorated.
Holiday Lights and Displays Outside Central Ohio
BYESVILLE SCENIC RAILWAY “SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS” EXCURSION
ADDRESS: 100 Tolliver Trail, Byesville
PHONE: 740-685-0614 or 800-933-5480
PRICE: $12 ages 13+, $9 ages 3-12, free for ages 0-2; no reservations taken, tickets are sold first-come, first-serve starting one hour before the train departs
DATES/TIMES: 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. departures on Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11
DISTANCE: 84 miles east from downtown Columbus
DESCRIPTION: Learn how coal miners and their families celebrated the holiday season through a dramatic presentation performed while riding a vintage train in the Appalachian foothills for a one-hour, 10-mile ride. The train will be trimmed throughout with Christmas lights, decorations and music. A traditional Christmas story will be read and everyone is invited to sing a Christmas carol or two. Through special arrangement, Santa Claus will be on board to hear what good boys and girls want for Christmas. Refreshments available for a donation.
TIP: Byesville is located 7 miles south of Cambridge where you can see the Dickens Victorian Village display.
CHRISTMAS AT HISTORIC ROSCOE VILLAGE
ADDRESS: 600 N. Whitewoman St., Coshocton
PHONE: 740-622-2218 or 800-877-1830
PHONE: 740-622-2218 or 800-877-1830
PRICE: free for admission and parking
DATES/TIMES: Guided Tours: 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Dec. 3, 10, 17, and at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Dec. 4, 11, 18; Christmas Candlelightings: 6 p.m. on Dec. 3, 10, 17
DISTANCE: 77 miles northeast from downtown Columbus
DESCRIPTION: “A Roscoe Christmas” guided tour through this living historic community (which is designed to recreate an 1830s canal town) offers a glimpse into a 19th century holiday season. At the Saturday evening Christmas Candlelighting Ceremonies, everyone carries a candle and sings "Silent Night" while the big tree also is lit. During the day, guests can enjoy art with Santa, strolling carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides, complimentary hot-mulled cider and cookies, and many other holiday festivities.
TIP: Groups of 8 or more can be scheduled for private tours by calling and asking for “Group Sales.”
A CHRISTMAS STORY HOUSE AND MUSEUM
ADDRESS: 3159 W. 11th St., Cleveland
PRICE: $10 ages 13-59, $8 ages 60+, $6 ages 7-12, free for ages 0-6; on-street parking is free.
DATES/TIMES: open all year but in December, dates and times vary. It’s open most days from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Check the website for times on specific dates.
DISTANCE: 141 miles northeast from downtown Columbus
DESCRIPTION: For die-hard fans of the now-classic 1983 film “A Christmas Story,” this Cleveland house is probably worth a pilgrimage journey at least once in your lifetime. A museum and gift shop (where the infamous leg lamp is on sale for $120 this year and Ralphie’s bunny suit is a mere $60) are located across the street from the house.
TIP: The Lolly Trolley runs between the Christmas Story House and downtown Cleveland on Dec. 2, 9, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23 and 30 this year. You will need to make pre-paid reservations. Fares range from $5.50 for ages 0-6, $14.25 for ages 7-12, and $22 for ages 13+. For more info, call 800-848-0173 or go to lollytrolley.com/holiday.htm.
DICKENS VICTORIAN VILLAGE
ADDRESS: historic downtown Cambridge, Ohio, on Wheeling Avenue between 6th and 11th streets.
DATES: Nov. 1 through Jan. 7
TIMES: any time; a light show synchronized to holiday music takes place every night at the Guernsey County Courthouse from 5:30-9 p.m., and until 11 p.m. on Dec. 24-26 and Dec. 31-Jan. 1
DISTANCE: 80 miles east from downtown Columbus
DESCRIPTION: Take a trip back in time and experience old-world England as historic downtown Cambridge, Ohio, is charmingly transformed into a Dickens Victorian Village. Visitors are invited to stroll amidst 60 vignettes of 180 life-sized, lifelike figures representing classic scenes from Victorian society Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, the town crier, groups of carolers (that actually “sing” classic carols!), a bucket brigade, lamplighters, school children, street peddlers and Father Christmas. A self-guided walking tour brochure of the Dickens Victorian Village display and downtown Cambridge is available at downtown retailers, area hotels and Ye Ole Curiosity Shoppe and Dickens Welcome Centerat 643 Wheeling Ave.
HOCKING HILLS SCENIC RAILWAY HOLIDAY TRAINS
ADDRESS: Nelsonville Depot, 33 E. Canal St., Nelsonville
PHONE: 800-967-7834 (messages only), 740-753-9531 (11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays)
PRICE: Santa Train: $16 ages 13-59; $14 ages 60+; $12 ages 3-12; free for ages 0-2; North Pole Express: $25 ages 13-59; $20 ages 60+; $17 ages 3-12; free for ages 0-2; New Year’s Eve Celebration Train: $25 ages 13-59, $20 ages 60+, $15 ages 3-12, free for ages 0-2 (this is for the train cars where pizza and pop — and no alcohol — are served)
DATES/TIMES: Santa Train: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18 — ride lasts about 2 hours; North Pole Express: 7 p.m. on Dec. 3, 10, 16, 17 — ride lasts about 2 hours; New Year’s Eve Celebration Train: 10:30 p.m., Dec. 31 (reservations must be made by Dec. 29).
DISTANCE: Approximately 60 miles south from downtown Columbus
DESCRIPTION: Enjoy the magic of the season from comfort of a heated and decorated railway car. On the daytime “Santa Train,” you’ll ride with Santa himself and each child receives a special candy treat. During the evening “North Pole Express,” you can don your pajamas and robes and you’ll meet Santa after the trip at the North Pole Nelsonville display; you’ll receive hot chocolate, cookies and a souvenir bell on the ride.
TIP: Reservations are highly recommended. Bring skates or rent a pair ($2) and enjoy outdoor ice skating at North Pole Nelsonville afterwards.
HOLIDAY TRAIL OF LIGHTS
ADDRESS: Lake Hope State Park, 27331 State Route 278, McArthur
DATE: 6 p.m.-10 p.m. every night from Dec. 1-31, with extra events planned for several Friday and Saturday nights.
DISTANCE: 56 miles southeast from downtown Columbus
DESCRIPTION: Now in its seventh year, you can hike through the forest to view the 100,000+ light display including animated scenes, decorated trees, and landscape lighting. Start at the Nature Center where the 0.8-mile trail begins. The staff there says the best dates to visit are Dec. 9, 10, 16 and 17 when Santa visits, and the Nature Center is open with their regular animal displays plus a Lionel train display, hot chocolate and a bonfire with the makings for s’mores. On Dec. 10 and 17, there are also horse-drawn wagon rides. The park also boasts 67 fully-equipped cottages, where families can stay and enjoy the holiday trail for a weekend. Call 1-866-OHIO-PARKS to make a reservation.
TIP: The light display uses motion-sensor lights, and the staffers says that kids love to run backwards through the short trail and reactivate the display.
LEBANON MASON & MONROE RAILROAD NORTH POLE EXPRESS
ADDRESS: 127 S. Mechanic St., Lebanon
PHONE: 513-933-8022, ext. 101
PRICE: $20.50 ages 17-61, $15.50 ages 5-16 and 62+, $8.50 ages 2-4, free for ages 0-1
DATES/TIMES: 10 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4:45 p.m. on Dec. 10, 11, 17, 18; also 7 p.m. on Dec. 10 and 17
DISTANCE: 79 miles southwest from downtown Columbus
DESCRIPTION: The ride, which lasts nearly 2 hours, takes you to and from the Lebanon Mason & Monroe Junction. You’ll receive hot chocolate and cookies at the Junction, plus children will receive a small gift from Santa and can write letters or draw pictures for the big guy.
TIP: Because some of the activities at the Junction are outdoors, you’ll need to dress for the weather (but the train itself is heated).
THE LEGENDARY LIGHTS AT CLIFTON MILL
ADDRESS: Clifton Mill, 75 Water St., Clifton
PRICE: $10 ages 7+, free for ages 0-6
DATE: Nov. 25-Jan. 1
TIME: Gates are open from 5 p.m.-9 p.m.; lights are on from 6 p.m.-9:30 p.m.; closes at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year's Eve.
DISTANCE: 40 miles southwest from downtown Columbus
DESCRIPTION: Every year the historic Clifton Mill provides a beautiful and unique backdrop for this holiday light display. Organizers drape the mill, trees, riverbank and bridges in more than 3.5 million lights. Visitors will enjoy the Santa Claus Museum and can even get a peek in Santa’s workshop!
TIP: Week days are MUCH less crowded. Saturday is the Mill's busiest night.