Toledo has a ton of fun in store for a magical holiday outing (or two) this season!
Tis the season for gathering with family and friends visiting from out of town! And after all the home-cooked meals, it’s time to go out and explore the array of holiday events in the Toledo area. From luminous holiday light displays, to horse-drawn sleigh rides and historic homes decked out for the holidays, there’s plenty of variety to please every member of your family.
Lights Before Christmas
The annual Lights Before Christmas at the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium, voted Best Zoo Lights two years in a row by USA Today Readers, will once again dazzle visitors beginning Friday, Nov. 23 through Dec. 31. The Toledo Zoo is once again in the running for the 2018 USA Today’s 10 Best Reader’s Choice Contest among 20 other amazing zoos from across the country. That speaks volumes to the commitment our zoo has in bringing visitors the best darned lights show in the land.
But it’s not just about the amazing lights that wind their way throughout the zoo. There are tons of family activities too! Glide down the Ice Slide in your own personal inner tube, or get cozy with your sweetie on an inner tube for two. Hop on the holiday railway for a family train ride tradition (weekends only) and then warm up on the indoor African animal carousel. Kids will love trying their hand at the Arctic Blast snow ball launcher – even if it’s not snowing!
And 2018 marks a very special year for the Lights Before Christmas, as it will be remembered as the anniversary of the re-opening of the “tunnel”! Closed over 20 years ago, entering the zoo through the tunnel under Anthony Wayne Trail was a tradition kids looked forward to as the start of their zoo adventure, with lots of jumping, shouting and echoing voices.
Lights Before Christmas hours run Sunday through Thursday from 3-8 p.m. and Friday through Saturday, 3-9 p.m. The Zoo remains open for one additional hour after gates close to allow guests to complete their visit.
A newer holiday season tradition returns to Toledo’s Warehouse District in downtown Toledo. The Hensville Lights kicked off Nov. 17 and will be on display through January 6. Take a stroll through the Hensville entertainment district while enjoying a winter wonderland of more than 200,000 twinkling lights adorning every building on St. Clair Street between Washington and Monroe Streets with a special dancing light show in Hensville Park synced to music.
If you're heading to watch Toledo Walleye take to the ice at the Huntington Center, we highly recommend taking a walk through lights before or after the game. Hockey fans and first-timers alike will experience the undeniable energy from a Walleye game that invokes a concert-like feel and sets the mood for a great time. Be sure to stop in Hensville Park to admire the 45 feet tall Christmas tree on display!
Your lights adventure is great time to try out some local eats in Hensville like the newly opened casual/cool Holy Toledo! Tavern. A must-try starter are the loaded tater tots topped with braised beef, house smoked bacon, three-cheese sauce and vegetable relish. Check out Fleetwood’s Tap Room with 48 beers on tap including local craft choices - and they just added some tasty pizzas to their menu! There are also plenty of choices to nibble and nosh and maybe catch some live music including Ye Olde Durty Bird, Tin Can, Blarney Irish Pub, Packo’s at the Park, Ye Olde Cock ‘n Bull, Black Cloister Brewery and more. If you're not afraid of the cold, you can event grab your cold one to-go from any DORA (Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area) location.
And mark your calendar for Dec. 20 to celebrate the final Art Loop of 2018. It’s a great way to combine two holiday events into one special evening. The third Thursday Art Loop titled Light Up Toledo!, features last minute gift shopping at local businesses and with local artist vendors, as well as holiday-themed exhibitions and light art and projection installations.
There’s no one right way to experience Hensville Lights, just make sure to see them before they disappear!
Holidays in the Manor House
Holidays in the Manor House has become such a popular holiday family tradition, Metroparks Toledo extended the exhibit to 16 days. This year’s holiday tours run Dec. 1-16 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. A bonus? Admission is free!
Set in Toledo’s most popular Metropark, Wildwood Preserve, decorating the Manor House is a true labor of love by dozens of volunteers who transform 30 areas of the 30,000 square-foot mansion into a winter wonderland that is visited by more than 25,000 guests each year. And there’s tons of family activities that are unique and free to all! Enjoy ice skating from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily throughout Holidays in the Manor House. Monday through Thursday, it’s bring your own skates, and Friday through Sunday, skates will be available from Noon to 8 p.m.
Stop at the welcome tent to make s’mores, then wander over to Metroparks Hall, just a short walk from the Manor House, to warm up while enjoying family-friendly fun amidst even more decorations. Food will be available at the Hall courtesy of a local food truck. Other activities include family movie night with holiday snacks, lit walking trails and Santa and Mrs. Claus sleigh rides!
Once home to the founder of former Toledo-based Champion Spark Plug, Robert Stranahan, the Georgian Colonial manor house has been preserved for the public to enjoy year-round. But you’ll have to plan a future visit if you want to see the shooting gallery tucked away in the lower level, or hear the storied history of the wealthy Stranahan family, as they are not part of the holiday tours.
For those early birds who plan to hit Holidays in the Manor House during the daylight, we recommend you get back to nature and take a holiday hike on the old horse paths behind the Manor House – one used by the Stranahan family – that have long since been converted to winding nature trails. A perfect family outing! Note: Dec. 5, Holidays in the Manor House closes at 3 p.m.
More Holiday Fun in Northwest Ohio!
Many of us have more free time around the holidays, and with guests visiting from out of town, a short trip just outside Toledo is a fabulous idea! Here’s a few suggestions to discover new traditions while enjoying a change of scenery.
Sauder Village Holiday Lantern Tours
Head about one hour west of Toledo to Archbold, Ohio and step back in time at Sauder Village. The living history village offers their annual Holiday Lantern Tours on Dec. 1, 7 and 8. Tours last about 90 minutes and take place every half hour from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Reservations are required.
Hop on a trolley as you make your way through the village, stopping to help set the dinner table along the way – circa 1880 – before creating a festive craft. Your journey continues over to the Depot to learn about train travel in the 1920s before you head over to help decorate the family Christmas tree, frost cookies and sing Christmas carols.
Make Christmas shopping with your children a memorable event this year at the Kids Christmas Shopping Event on Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Sauder Village gift shop and general store will offer special gift items, kid-friendly prices, and free gift-wrapping.
Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides in Spiegel Grove
Ride through the gorgeous grounds of Spiegel Grove during the Horse Drawn Sleigh in Spiegel Grove at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums, just like President Hayes did when he lived here. Located in Fremont, Ohio, it is less than an hour from Toledo and worth the trip alone to experience the grounds, museums and library. Sleigh rides take place whether or not there is snow or not and are offered Dec. 26-31 from 1-4 p.m.
Hayes Home Holidays
After your sleigh ride, take an evening tour of the historic Hayes Home and discover the holiday traditions of President Rutherford and First Lady Lucy Hayes during a unique new holiday event at the Hayes Presidential Library & Museums. Hayes Home Holidays take place Dec. 20-23 from 5-8 p.m. in the Hayes Home and museum.
Costumed greeters will welcome you into the home in the evening, a time of day that is usually off limits. Visitors get a special home tour, access to view the “Hayes Train Special” model train display, hands-on activities for kids and refreshments.
While the newest gadget might wrap up nicely under the tree, consider a new experience and opportunity to make memories this holiday season. A trip to Toledo to enjoy some of these holiday happenings is a gift the whole family can enjoy! Of course, be sure to share your adventures in the Glass City with us by tagging @ToledoCVB using #ThisIsToledo.