Ohio’s major cities host a variety of signature holiday events. Some are old favorites as nostalgic and treasured as a childhood Christmas stocking. Others are as shiny and exciting as a new toy.
But all are sure to delight this Christmas and kindle memories for Christmases yet to come.
Fountain Square’s Festivities
As the heart of downtown, Fountain Square is Cincinnati’s holly-jolly hub. Its ice rink hosts Santa Skates, and during Macy’s Downtown Dazzle, Mrs. Claus reads stories while Santa forgets about chimneys and rappels from an office tower to herald Saturday night fireworks. Channeling Cincinnati’s German heritage, Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt captures the pleasures of Germany’s Advent markets with roasted almonds, mulled wine, and jagdhorn concerts.
Taft Museum of Art’s Antique Christmas
The mansion where William Howard Taft accepted his presidential nomination provides a handsome and historic setting for a gem of a museum with outstanding decorative arts collections. Its antique decorations and toys exhibit contains Lionel trains, hosts of angels, and exquisite ornaments that convey erstwhile Christmas artistry.
A Christmas Story House & Museum
No wonder the house where A Christmas Story was filmed ranks among Cleveland’s top attractions. From the front window’s leg lamp to a Red Rider rifle, it’s chock-full of props, costumes, and memorabilia. Movie fans can even spend the night in Ralphie’s and Randy’s twin beds.
Cleveland Play House’s A Christmas Story and Great Lakes Theater’s A Christmas Carol
Cleveland’s Playhouse Square theater district delivers a double Yuletide treat. The Cleveland Play House’s A Christmas Story presents a heart-warming production about one boy’s wish, and audiences get a bedazzling bonus: the Allen Theatre’s Festival of Trees. Great Lakes Theater stages A Christmas Carol at the Ohio Theatre. Its one-of-a-kind adaptation has ghostly special effects, and the Cleaveland family’s cantankerous servant conjures Scrooge.
Nela Park’s Holiday Lighting Showcase
Started in 1925, the holiday spectaculars at GE Lighting’s campus-like headquarters in Nela Park are an iconic Cleveland tradition. This year’s “Melodies & Memories” theme features vignettes inspired by Christmas songs along Noble Road, and for the first time since 1959, Friday evening visitors can enter Nela Park to enjoy a retrospective of past displays.
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s Polar Express
It’s okay to wear pajamas on this enchanting journey based on the book The Polar Express. Santa boards the train at Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s “North Pole,” and pint-sized passengers receive sleigh bells. Tip: Since this ride often sells out, check the CVSR website for cancellations.
Ohio Village’s Dickens of a Christmas
Imagine strolling through a Victorian village on a frosty evening, sipping wassail, and listening to “The First Noel” and other time-honored carols. The Ohio History Connection’s living history museum re-creates “Christmas á la” Dickens with storied dinners, buffets, and decorations.
This year’s holiday show at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens evokes mid-century America with pink and blue horticultural displays reminiscent of aluminum and pastel-colored Christmas trees. Old-fashioned Christmas bulbs bathe evergreens in retro hues on the Conservatory terraces, and “trees” cleverly created from glass ornaments blown in-house deck the Courtyard.
Holiday Lights at Columbus Commons and Scioto Mile
Thanks to two different but complementary displays, Columbus hosts the ultimate downtown lighting tour. Some 300,000 lights make Columbus Commons totally merry and bright, while thousands of additional lights cascade though Scioto Mile’s extensive parklands. Tip: Quickly connect to both events by walking down Town Street to view vintage “Twelve Days of Christmas” window displays in the old Lazarus department store building.
State Auto’s Christmas Corner
In 1931, State Auto’s founder began decorating the insurance company headquarters as a gift to the community. Today, Christmas Corner is one of Columbus’s most enduring holiday traditions with giant wreaths festooning State Auto’s building; choirs singing joyful tunes; and a Nativity with life-sized figures.
Toledo Zoo’s Lights Before Christmas
Northwest Ohio’s beloved holiday lights show features a glorious “Big Tree,” hundreds of glowing animal images, Ice Slide rides, reindeer, and the zoo’s famous hot chocolate and fudge.
Located near the stadium where the Mud Hens play baseball, the new Hensville entertainment district transforms Hensville Park and the rehabbed buildings that now house pubs and restaurants into a fantasy of gleaming lights and good cheer.
Wildwood Preserve Metropark’s Holidays in the Manor House
Dozens of different displays adorn every nook and cranny of the Champion Spark Plug co-founder’s Georgian Colonial mansion. Be sure to see the basement’s model trains and the courtyard’s fanciful fairy garden.