December 2006 Issue
Ohio's small towns and big cities show off their seasonal spirit with lavish displays.
It's a scene that plays out about this time every year in every neighborhood - hearty souls braving the elements armed with their trusty ladders, hammers, handfuls of nails and balled-up messes of cords that take at least three hours to untangle. Fortunately, all their hard work is rewarded when the final strands are plugged in and bright lights shine for all the neighbors to see.
While your block undoubtedly has its share of this twinkling holiday spirit, even the best efforts likely can't hold a candle to the stellar displays staged by communities, businesses and other entities in and around Ohio every holiday season.
Along the Little Miami River in Greene County, you'll find some of the most breathtaking natural scenery Ohio has to offer. Add 3.5 million lights and a 200-year-old mill and you have all the ingredients for a picturesque holiday postcard.
Through the years, the venerable Clifton Mill and its annual holiday light display have captivated and fascinated visitors of all ages. White lights outline the windows and the roof of the mill while red bulbs cascade like waterfalls to the river below. The wandering branches of leafless trees are brought to life by twinkling lights, and even the cold ground glows with electric illumination.
This year, for the first time ever, the covered bridge on the mill's grounds is blanketed by special bulbs that dance in time with some popular sounds of the season. Without missing a beat, the lights move to "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from The Nutcracker and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Christmas in Sarajevo."
The lights shine from 6 to 9:30 p.m. every night from now until January 1. Clifton Mill, 75 Water St. in Clifton, is located between Springfield and Xenia just off St. Rte. 72. Admission is $7; children younger than 6 are admitted free. Call 937/767-5501 or visit www.cliftonmill.com for more information.
All Decked Out
Akron's only National Historic Landmark has been made over to celebrate one of the most identifiable traditions of the holiday season -- Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. With the help of the Akron-based Children's Ballet Theatre, select rooms throughout Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens' massive Manor House have been dressed up to bring to life various scenes of the classic ballet for the museum's annual "Deck The Hall" celebration.
Elegant holiday lights are in place across the museum's 70-acre grounds, complementing the meticulously landscaped gardens and Tudor Revival architecture of the Manor House. Inside the Manor House's Music Room, you'll find young dancers from the ballet company performing vignettes from The Nutcracker each night.
Completed in 1915, the country estate was built by F.A. Seiberling, founder of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., whose family donated it to a nonprofit organization in 1957.
Self-guided tours of the Manor House and grounds, 714 N. Portage Path in Akron, are $14 per person for adults, but admission is free for accompanying children 12 and younger. Adult admission for a grounds-only tour is $8. The event runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. daily from December 8 to 30, but is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas. More information is available at www.stanhywet.org or by calling 330/836-5533.
Lights, Tigers and Bears
For some of the most impressive light displays in Ohio, gather the family and head to your nearest zoo.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St. in Cincinnati, will once again host the PNC Festival of Lights, with 100 displays illuminated by 2.5 million lights. Like the Clifton Mill, the zoo has added a choreographed component to its show this year. Set to a medley of popular holiday tunes, the Holiday in Lights show features candy canes, snowflakes and other colorful patterns that bounce back and forth in rhythmic patterns on a 21-foot-tall computer-controlled tree. There are six shows every night.
This year, the PNC Festival of Lights has revved up its entertainment value with the addition of ice carvers who craft cool creations with their chisels and chainsaws. Carving demonstrations take place every evening at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. near the zoo's Swan Lake.
As you would expect, there are plenty of animals to see, including polar bears and reindeer, reveling in the cool winter climate of southwestern Ohio. Meanwhile, more than a dozen heated indoor exhibits house creatures that prefer more tropical temperatures and offer you some opportunities to warm your fingers and toes.
The Cincinnati Zoo's light show runs from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday through December 10 and is open daily from December 14 through January 1. It's closed December 24 and 25. Admission is $12.95 for adults, $10.95 for seniors, $7.95 for children ages 2 through 12 and free for children younger than 2. Visit www.cincinnatizoo.org or call 800/94-HIPPO for more information.
Head north up I-71 and you'll find the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, 9990 Riverside Drive in Powell, which is once again staging its spectacular Wildlights show. With more than 2 million lights, the display illuminates the zoo's grounds along the Scioto River nightly through January 1. Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. beginning December 18) Sunday through Thursday, and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The zoo is closed for Christmas Eve and Christmas.
As in years past, the 2006 version of Wildlights features ice skating, holiday carolers, cookie decorating and other fun. New this year is a model train display and the zoo's Asia Quest exhibit, where you can tour a simulated Himalayan village and learn about the conservation of endangered species.
Admission prices are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $6 for children 2 through 12 years old and free for children younger than 2. Call 614/645-3550 or visit www.columbuszoo.org for more information.
In northwestern Ohio, the Toledo Zoo doesn't disappoint with its Lights Before Christmas display. More than a million lights shine, with many arranged to create bright and colorful images of more than 200 animals. The lights are on nightly (from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday) through December 31. The Toledo Zoo, 2700 Broadway in Toledo, is also closed Christmas and Christmas Eve.
Admission is $9 for adults and $6 for seniors and children ages 2 through 12. Children younger than 2 are free. Visit www.toledozoo.org or call 419/385-5721 to learn more.
From fireworks on the Fourth of July to festivals and fairs celebrating everything from sweet corn to strawberries, communities throughout Ohio show their pride in style. It's no different during the holiday season.
In the north central Ohio community of Upper Sandusky, more than a million lights cover the grounds of the 33-acre Harrison Smith Park on Wyandot Avenue. This is the 10th year for the Fantasy of Lights display, which runs from December 1 through December 30, 6 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
For a donation of $5 per carload, you and your family can take in the drive-through show while you stay warm in your vehicle. Most of the 50 displays are designed by local artists and volunteers who lend their time to dress up the park's log cabin, covered bridge, pond and other attractions with luminescent likenesses of snowmen, Santa and other seasonal icons. Call 419/294-3349 for more details.
If you head to the Dayton suburb of Washington Township, you'll find a holiday light display that allows you to get in touch with nature. In its 14th year, Woodland Lights takes visitors on a hike along a half-mile wooded path to see an array of illuminated displays at Countryside Park, 895 Miamisburg-Centerville Road. Along with carriage and carnival rides, there's also a log cabin where the children can stop by and visit with Santa.
Woodland Lights is open from 6 to 9 p.m. December 1 through December 30, but closed Christmas Eve and Christmas. Admission is $2 per person on Monday and Tuesday and $5 Wednesday through Sunday. There's no charge for children younger than 3. Call 937/433-0130 or visit www.washingtontwp.org for more information.
Located in the rolling hills of eastern Ohio near the Pennsylvania and West Virginia borders, picturesque Carroll County is home to friendly folks who know how to put on one heck of a holiday light show. Around 80 illuminated exhibits comprise more than a half million twinkling bulbs in the Carroll County Holiday Lights show on the county's fairgrounds, 106 Kensington Rd. NE in Carrollton. If you're hungry or looking to buy a unique gift, head under the grandstands, where you'll find refreshments and a craft show featuring the work of local artisans.
Admission to the drive-through display is $5 per carload, $10 for a minibus and $20 for a motor coach. The lights are on from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday now through December 31. The display will be open every day from December 22 through December 31. Call 887/727-0103 for more details.