For many people, the Christmas season is a whirlwind of shopping.
By the time you take a breath, the gifts are being opened and the holiday is practically over.
Fortunately, there are a few Dayton events that prove that “getting into the Christmas spirit” is not just a cliché.
When you feel like hitting the pause button, here are some beloved holiday traditions that will truly help you feel Christmas in the air.
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1. GRANDE ILLUMINATION AND HOLIDAY FESTIVAL
The Dayton Holiday Festival sets the holiday spirit alight in Dayton. The live entertainment and reindeer, the gingerbread homes contest, street fair, horse-drawn carriage rides, and holiday village climax with the lighting of the big tree in Courthouse Square, followed by a nighttime parade featuring seasonal floats, horses, drill teams and horses decorated with 100,000 lights. You can even grab some special “magic glasses” to see the lights in a new way. And that’s not all. In keeping with (festival founder) Virginia Kettering’s original vision of inviting Dayton children to enjoy Christmas whatever their economic means, the festival continues with free attractions throughout December.
>> PHOTOS: Dayton Grande Illumination 2017
WHEN: Friday, Nov. 23, 2018
WHERE: Courthouse Square, Third and Main streets, Dayton
MORE INFO: Website
2. WONDERLAND WINDOWS
To many Daytonians, both old and young, it’s not Christmas without the animated characters whose antics once delighted shoppers at Rike’s department store.
The window displays date back to 1943 when NCR placed five scenes from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” in their New York City office windows, according to Dayton historian Curt Dalton.
The figures, dressed in period attire, were incorporated into elaborate backgrounds built by NCR carpenters.
In 1945 Frederick Rike, owner of the Rike-Kumler company, successfully campaigned to move the display into the windows of his department store at Second and Main streets in downtown Dayton.
Visiting the windows became a holiday tradition for many Dayton families over the decades. The department store closed in 1991, but the tradition lives on every holiday season at the Schuster Performing Arts Center.
New this year: Some of the windows have been redesigned!
>> PHOTOS: Old Rikes’ window displays at Schuster
WHEN: Nov. 23-Dec. 31; Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday noon-4 p.m.; closed on non-performance Sundays
WHERE: Schuster Center Wintergarden, Second and Main streets, Dayton
MORE INFO: Website | 937-228-7591
3. A TALE OF TWO NUTCRACKERS
For some, seeing “The Nutcracker” is an indispensable part of their holiday season. Fortunately, Dayton residents get to choose between two productions. The South Dayton Dance Theatre is celebrating its 25th anniversary performing “The Nutcracker” with young, non-professional dancers. Then there’s the annual Dayton Ballet production, which includes not only the full professional company, but dancers from Dayton II, the Dayton Ballet School, and over 100 children from the Dayton area. There will also be a post-performance Q&A with the dancers.
WHAT: “The Nutcracker — Celebrating 25 Years!” presented by South Dayton Dance Theatre
WHEN: Dec. 8-9; 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Dayton Convention Center, 22 E. 5th St., Dayton
WHAT: “The Nutcracker,” by the Dayton Ballet
WHEN: Dec. 14-23
WHERE: Schuster Center, 1 W. 2nd St., Dayton
MORE INFO: 888-228-3630 or www.daytonperformingarts.org
4. CARRIAGE RIDES
Take a romantic or fun family carriage ride at The Greene in Beavercreek on Saturdays Nov. 17, Nov. 24, Dec. 1, Dec. 8, Dec. 15, Dec. 22.
WHEN: Rides will be offered from 8-10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15 and 6-10 p.m. Nov. 17, Nov. 24, Dec. 1, Dec. 8, Dec. 15 and Dec. 22.
WHERE: Pick up and drop off is located on the south side of the Town Square on Glengarry Drive.
COST: $10 per person or $15 per couple, cash only. Children 15 and under ride for free with a paying adult.
5. OUTDOOR ICE SKATING
Nothing says winter fun like outdoor ice skating. The RiverScape MetroPark Ice Rink is the perfect setting for a date or fun with family and friends. All skill levels are welcome, and you can even take lessons if it’s that bad. Warm up with hot chocolate from the concession stand or at the outdoor fireplaces. No registration required.
WHEN: Open daily Nov. 23 through Feb. 28. Hours vary.
WHERE: Riverscape Metropark Ice Rink, 111 E. Monument Ave.
COST: $5 plus $2 for skate rental. Skaters ages 3 and younger are admitted free with a paying adult.
MORE INFO: Website
6. HOLIDAY LIGHTS
Nothing says date night or family fun night this holiday season than a trip to see some holiday lights. Here are a few must-see displays:
Woodland Lights: The annual holiday display kicks off Nov. 23 with a half-mile of lights and a month of fun including carriage rides, amusement rides, live animals, concessions and activities for kids. Woodland Lights offers a walk through eight acres of lights sparkling along a wooded path and a whimsical view of illuminated characters preparing for the holidays. Santa and his elf welcome children nightly through Dec. 23 to their historic log cabin that’s decorated for the holidays. Costumed characters visit many nights and local arts organizations take the stage on weekends.
WHEN: Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays Nov. 23 through Dec. 2 and nightly Dec. 7-23.
WHERE: Countryside Park at Washington Township Recreation Center, 895 Miamisburg-Centerville Road, Washington Township.
COST: $8 admission, free ages 2 and younger.
MORE INFO: 937-433-0130 | Website
The Legendary Lights of Clifton: For more than two decades, people throughout the region have celebrated the Christmas season with a massive holiday display featuring more than 3.5 million lights illuminating the mill, the gorge, the riverbanks, trees and bridges. While you’re there, be sure to check out The Santa Claus Museum, a private collection with more than 3,000 examples of Santa Claus on display dating from as far back as 1850.
WHEN: Open Nov. 23 through Dec. 31. 6 to 9 p.m. daily (gates open at 5 p.m.). Closes early at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.
WHERE: Clifton Mill, 75 Water St., Clifton.
COST: $10, free for children 6 and younger. Parking is free.
MORE INFO: 937-767-5501 | Website
Carillon Tree of Light and A Carillon Christmas: Dayton’s newest holiday tradition returns. Carillon Historical Park’s 65-acre campus will transform into a winter wonderland. The annual lighting ceremony will take place on Nov. 28 and will kick off a month of seasonal programming at Carillon Historical Park, Dayton.
WHEN: Nov. 289-Dec. 30, 2018. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Open 5-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 5-9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays.
WHERE: Carillon Historical Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd., Dayton
COST: $10 per adult (ages 18-59), $9 per senior (ages 60+), $7 per child (ages 3-17). Free to children under 3 and Dayton History members.
MORE INFO: Website
7. NORTH POLE EXPRESS
Surely, you know the classic book. Well, experience the real deal every holiday season at the Lebanon Mason & Monroe Railroad. Board the train and enjoy the classic story “The Night Before Christmas” complete with sleigh bells and Santa and his elves during this one-hour-plus train ride. The look on your child’s face will make it worth the drive to Lebanon, trust us! Train rides will be available on select dates and times Nov. 16 through Dec. 29. Some key dates sell out quickly, including Christmas Eve and the date of the Lebanon Christmas Parade (Dec. 1. Advance ticket purchases recommended. Tickets can be purchased online.
WHEN: Nov. 16-Dec. 29, 2018. Departure times vary. Click here for the schedule.
WHERE: LM&M Railroad, 127 S. Mechanic St., Lebanon
COST: Prices vary based on date and seating selection, but ticket prices start at $19 for youth and seniors and $24 for adults.
MORE INFO: 513-933-8022 | Website