Head to Lebanon for the annual Horse-Drawn Carriage Parade & Christmas Festival.

On the first Saturday in December, it's hard for residents of Lebanon to harness their holiday spirit.

Locals transform the town, located about 80 miles southwest of Columbus, into a picturesque holiday village that welcomes thousands of visitors for the Lebanon Horse-Drawn Carriage Parade & Christmas Festival. This year's event will take place Dec. 2.

Throughout the day, visitors can shop, sample Christmas treats and visit with strolling elves. But the celebration's “mane” event is the 100-plus unit parade of carriages pulled by miniature horses, Clydesdales, Percherons and other breeds.

Chairman Joe Wilson said he's not aware of any other Ohio parade in which all entries must be horse-drawn. The event is so popular it's held twice. The evening parade is particularly magical because most entrants decorate their carriages with lights and other holiday sparkle, Wilson said. “These people go all out to make this a spectacular parade,” he said. “Everything is decorated.” (Note, though, that the evening parade attracts large crowds, so it may be difficult for young children to see.)

The parade and accompanying festival have become a way for many locals and visitors to mark the start of the holiday season, said Renee Wisser, executive directorof the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the events. “It's really become a family event to kick off the Christmas season,” she said. “People love it. College kids come home to be with their families. People plan big parties on that day.”

While in town, many families also tour the historic Glendower Mansion, a Greek Revival building that is lavishly decorated for the holidays, said Vicky Van Harlingen, executive director of the Warren County Historical Society in Lebanon. Volunteers spend months planning the specifics, including a decorated doll house. “There are just lots and lots of details,” she said. “People love to come in and take photos.”

Another festival favorite is a visit to the Village Green and listening to Christmas stories told by Zachariah Johnson, a fictional Lebanon resident who shares tales of life from the 1800s. “He's in costume and tells fabulous stories,” Van Harlingen said.