As we head into the holiday season, there is no shortage of events happening all over Dayton, from family-friendly festivals and parades to fundraisers that are as much fun as they are helpful to the community. If you’re looking for something to do in the Dayton area this fall and winter, consider these options that will help you make the most out of the season.
(Writer’s note: There are a few events that have already taken place since the original submission. I just placed them at the bottom under “recently held events” for your reference and added a handful of new upcoming events to make the article more useful.)
Austin Landing Christmas Tree lighting, Nov. 10:
For those ready to get the holidays started a little early, the colorful splendor of the season is on full display at Austin Landing for the tree-lighting ceremony put on by the Kettering Physician Network. The lighting ceremony is the main event, although there are a host of other activities as well, including the Light Up the Landing Parade, dance performances from the Jeanie Morland Dance Theatre, the arrival of Santa, and much more. You can even stick around for a special outdoor screening of a classic like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the iconic 1966 TV special based on the beloved book by Dr. Seuss. With something for all ages and interests, the Austin Landing Christmas Tree Lighting keeps getting bigger and better for a reason.
(Other noteworthy tree lightings include one at The Greene Nov. 15 and the Grand Illumination during the Dayton Holiday Festival on Nov. 23)
Big Beers Barley Wine Beer Fest, Nov. 10:
If you love craft or vintage beers, you’re definitely on the right track if you head to the Big Beers Barley Wine Beer Fest. The region’s very best craft-beer makers come together to showcase their tastiest nectars in an event that is a great hangout for (21+) adults of all ages and beer-tasting experience levels. Benefitting the Resident Home Association, the event has live music and offers food from a variety of different local restaurants, making it a great place to spend an afternoon with friends or to meet other locals from the area.
North Pole Express Train Ride, Nov. 16-Dec. 30:
A timeless classic that is ideal for families, the hourlong North Pole Express Train Ride by LM&M Railroad continues to excite every holiday season. Travelers start by eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate beneath the glitz of a train station decked out in Christmas lights, then hop aboard for a festive, hourlong loop around Greater Dayton. Along the way, families should expect Saint Nick and his team of elves to drop by for stories and photo ops, making it an excellent way to slip into holiday mode with a unique family-friendly activity that is a surefire hit with younger kids. The schedule varies, but the train is mainly in operation on weekends from mid-November through the end of December.
Dayton Holiday Festival, Nov. 23:
One of the biggest holiday events in Dayton, this long-running festival in Courthouse Square started with a simple mission: allow local children to enjoy the holidays regardless of their economic background. The Dayton Holiday Festival first got started back in 1972 and has grown dramatically ever since, although the biggest parts of the event remain free to the public to stay in the spirit of its founder, Mrs. Virginia Kettering.
One of the highlights of the event every year is the Grande Illumination tree-lighting ceremony, which turns into a children’s parade that makes the square pop with more than 100,000 lights. Participants also enjoy meeting reindeer, inspecting the gingerbread house contest at the Old Courthouse, and a variety of other forms of live entertainment that take over the square. For anyone ready to kick-off the holiday season, the Dayton Holiday Festival is simply not to be missed.
Woodlands Lights, Nov. 23:
This annual tradition has dazzled since it was first started in 1993, delivering a true winter wonderland of creative light displays and decorations that continues to inspire. Once you see the magnificent blend of holiday lights around the sprawling Countryside Park in Washington Township, it’s not hard to believe that it was all originally designed by a famous lighting consultant, Frank LaGiusa, who helped create the ambiance for Washington D.C.’s National Christmas Tree. The Woodlands Lights display also offers the perfect segue from Thanksgiving into the holiday season, as it first lights up the day after Thanksgiving and runs through Dec. 23.
Though it’s the majestic collaboration of white, green, and red lights that tend to draw the eye, there is also a lot more to do than just get lost within the main display (though that’s fun, too). Patrons can enjoy carriage rides, costumed characters, bonfires, and more at an energetic holiday showcase that remains one of the staples of the Dayton area.
(Woodland Lights is open Friday through Sunday from Nov. 23 through Dec. 2 and then nightly from Dec. 7 through Dec. 23)
Turkey Trot, Nov. 25:
If you’ve never participated in the Turkey Trot, it’s time to change that by joining the biggest Thanksgiving running festival in the world (literally). Not only will be you be joining locals as you jog or walk briskly along the beautiful Miami River, but you’ll also be virtually competing with runners from all over the country while you track your progress on a national leaderboard. Benefitting the YWCA, the Turkey Trot has become one of Dayton’s most celebrated Thanksgiving events and has an assortment of prizes and activities. Grab a team, run solo to meet other locals, or simply volunteer and enjoy the festivities from the sidelines.
Christmas in the Park, Dec. 8:
In addition to being another excellent lighting ceremony, Christmas in the Park at Bellbrook Sugarcreek Park is a great way to get into the giving spirit for the holidays, as the popular festival collects winter clothing for local Daytonians in need. In addition to having a terrific cause at its heart, Christmas in the Park has a decade-old gingerbread house contest that lets three different age groups compete for supremacy with other aspiring artisans. There are also crafts programs, Santa meet-and-greets, Christmas caroling, and plenty of homemade hot chocolate making the rounds.
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