Whether you’re craving freshly roasted chestnuts, fabulous holiday shopping, or ice skating sessions under the glow of twinkling lights, the cities and small towns of Ohio are full of holiday cheer. Admire the dynamic light displays that will dazzle and amaze. After settling into your Ohio vacation rental, head out to local parks and downtown areas to discover some of the best Christmas light displays in the state.
Every year in late November Cleveland’s Public Square presents a beautiful holiday display with a giant tree as its centerpiece. Travel to Cleveland to see the show including the many illuminated buildings throughout the downtown area anytime during the holiday season, but for an over-the-top holiday party, plan your visit during Cleveland’s Winterfest celebration, with free horse and carriage rides, live musical entertainment, and a fabulous fireworks display in the evening. Family ice skating, children’s activities, and visits from Santa occur during weekends throughout the holiday season. Continue your light-viewing indoors with a visit to The Arcade Cleveland for shopping and dinner. Your whole family is sure to love the beautiful decorations inside the Arcade’s historic building plus dinner at The Chocolate Bar with its extensive kids menu, fabulous chocolate desserts, and rich, decidedly grown-up chocolate drinks, such as chocolate martinis and spiked hot chocolates.
If your family includes animal lovers, head to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for Wildlights, an annual holiday event running from mid-November through the new year. Enjoy the many animated displays with a stroll around the zoo’s Conservation Lake and through Shore Park. Then, visit with Santa and sample some holiday treats in Conservation Courtyard. Your kids are sure to love a ride on the zoo’s Polar Bear Express train and beautifully restored 1914 Mangels-Illions Carousel, and you’re likely to want to join them in their fun. Check the event schedule for the chance to take a camel ride or meet Rudolph. Extend your Columbus holiday-lights getaway with a day at Easton Towne Center, Columbus’s largest indoor-outdoor shopping center. A spectacular digital tree rises 56 feet as the focal point of Easton’s expansive outdoor light display, and horse-drawn carriages are ready to carry you through the illuminated wonderland. Santa is available to hear your children’s requests on the second floor of Easton Station Building, and live entertainers put on a show each evening.
For an awe-inspiring display of over 3 millions twinkling lights, head to the Historic Clifton Mills. This fantastic display cascades over the mill, lines the scenic gorge, and twines its way through the trees. Vacation rentals in the area make it easy to spend the afternoon taking in all the site has to offer, including a Santa Claus Museum, an antique toy collection, and a miniature Christmas village, and then to stay late into the evening to see the light show at its finest. Don’t worry about dinner. Historic Clifton Mills offers concessions during the event, including scrumptious pulled pork, kid-friendly choices like hot dogs and hamburgers, decorated holiday cookies, and hot chocolate. The display remains up throughout December, but the Santa-themed exhibits close after Christmas. Monday through Thursday is the best time to stop by if you want to avoid crowds.
The Christmas Ranch in Morrow is a true Christmas Wonderland with over 1 million animated lights choreographed to holiday music. This walk-through display runs from mid-November through Christmas Eve, and trains and wagons are available for those who prefer to ride. An oversized animated Toy Factory is at the center of the festivities, and numerous illuminated tunnels make every portion of your journey through the display extra exciting. Santa visits on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings for photo ops, and a village of holiday shops is open for gift buying, souvenirs, and supplies for creating your own festive light display after you return home. When you get hungry, step into the Reindeer Room at Santa’s Bakery and Cafe for homemade pizza or a walkin’ taco, and be sure to save room for the holiday desserts, such as Christmas bread pudding and assorted holiday cookies.
For an artistic light display integrated throughout a 300-acre sculpture park, head to Holiday Lights on the Hill at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum in Hamilton. The museum’s drive-through display includes two miles of festively-themed areas that both light up and decorate the park’s fabulous sculptures. The event runs annually from mid-November through New Year’s Eve, but check the official schedule if you want to attend during one of Santa’s visits. While you’re at Pyramid Hill, be sure to take a look at the exhibits inside the museum, including hands-on art activities for kids. For more gorgeous holiday displays, stop by the historic Benninghofen House and Lane-Hooven House in town to see them adorned with historical holiday decor. Downtown Hamilton also offers a festive display outdoors with the city’s official tree and many decorated shops throughout the district. Stop in InsideOut Studio to select a handcrafted ornament as a souvenir of your trip. Then, grab some great Italian-style pizza at Chester’s Pizzeria for dinner, or opt for a more upscale meal featuring local wines at WG Kitchen and Bar.
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