Who doesn’t love Christmas? It’s the time of year when houses are lit up with lights, hot chocolate is plentiful, and the baking of special treats seems non-stop. And of course, there’s the presents. Those beautifully wrapped boxes carefully hiding a spectacular treasure inside.
Like most families, various cities have cherished holiday traditions shared by many. Toledo, Ohio is no exception. Host to both indoor and outdoor seasonal activities, Toledo offers the opportunity to create some special seasonal memories.
In a year where everything seems turned upside down, it’s comforting and reassuring to be able to enjoy these treasured events, despite being modified for safety.
Lights at the Zoo
You can’t live within 50 miles of this city and not know about the Toledo Zoo & Aquarium’s annual Lights Before Christmas. Celebrating its 35th year, this spectacular outdoor display features over one million lights and 200+ illuminated animal images spread out over 72 acres. The most prominent photo spot in the entire exhibit has to be in front of the 85-foot Norway spruce adorned with over 35,000 lights.
In addition to the awe-inspiring light extravaganza, the zoo offers several other outdoor activities. Train enthusiasts can hop on the Holiday Railway (weather permitting) for a ride through the zoo. And new this year, they’ve added horse-drawn carriage rides through Walbridge Park.
If ice is your thing, you can watch an ice carving demonstration or fly down the ever-popular Ice Slide on either a personal inner tube or one built for two.
Need a break from the cold? Step inside and take a spin on the African Animal Carousel or visit the Carnivore Café for a snack or cup of delicious hot chocolate.
While there won’t be visits with Santa this year, there will still be Santa dives in the Aquarium twice daily. Yes, Santa in scuba gear, swimming with the fishes. Need I say more?
Holidays at the Manor House
One of the most popular and beloved parks in Toledo is Wildwood Preserve Metropark. Originally the sprawling estate owned by R.A. Stranahan, co-founder of Champion Spark Plug Company, the well-groomed landscape, and towering trees continue to surround the 30,000 square foot mansion where Mr. Stranahan and his family once lived.
For 45 years, more than 30 areas in this Georgian Colonial home have been lovingly and uniquely decorated for the holidays by countless volunteers. From the Lolli-pop Forest to the Ugly Sweater Room, no two rooms are ever decorated alike.
Each year over 25,000 visitors come through the Manor House to witness its transformation into a true holiday wonderland. For many, it’s an annual tradition for the whole family.
While this year only virtual tours are available, the house is still filled with the magic of the season.
A Northwest Ohio holiday tradition for over 50 years, this indoor display brings out the kid in everyone. Visitors can take a climate-controlled walk through the 30+ classic exhibits illuminated with hundreds of bright Christmas lights. There are plenty of beautifully decorated trees and Victorian houses to admire and much amusement is provided by the many animated wildlife creatures.
Little ones can take a train ride through the snowy Wonderland town, participate in a variety of activities such as crafts and games, and of course, visit with Santa. The Children’s Holiday Wonder Shop offers kids the opportunity to do their own shopping for gifts for their parents and siblings.
Although Children’s Wonderland is not open this year due to concerns and challenges surrounding COVID-19, the staff is already making plans for 2021.
Head downtown Toledo for a stunning view of more than 200,000 twinkling lights that decorate the buildings along St. Clair Street with a special dancing light show synced to music on the side of the Fleetwood’s building. If that isn’t enough to get you into the holiday spirit, standing 45 feet tall is the Hensville Park Christmas tree lit with more than 10,000 lights. Talk about a photo op!
With numerous restaurants and pubs in the area, it’s easy to make visiting the Hensville Lights a yearly tradition.
The Toledo Ballet has been performing Nutcracker for 79 years. For its 80th year, their performance of the longest-running continuous production in the nation will be both in-person (with a limited audience) at the Stranahan Theater and via a new streaming platform.
Nutcracker tells the magical story of a young girl, her Nutcracker Prince, and their adventures with toy soldiers, mice, dancing snowflakes and a Sugar Plum Fairy in the dazzling Land of Sweets.
Christmas Music & Carols
The beauty alone of Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral is breathtaking. Add to it the experience of listening to the glorious voices of the Cathedral Choir, and you’re guaranteed to remember the experience for years to come.
Built amidst the Great Depression in 1931, Rosary Cathedral was designed with Toledo’s Sister City, Toledo, Spain, in mind. It has a basilica floorplan and is constructed of Massachusetts granite with Indiana limestone accents. Its mosaic works of art were meticulously restored to their original brilliance in 2000. Today, it still houses its crown musical jewel, the Ernest M. Skinner pipe organ, virtually unaltered from its original installation.
In the Peristyle at the Toledo Museum of Art, the Toledo Symphony Orchestra has performed joyful sounds of the season for many years. This year, the Christmas at the Peristyle concert will be offered virtually, rather than in-person.
Formed in 1943, the Toledo Symphony Orchestra has grown from twenty-two part-time musicians to a regional orchestra made up of sixty-five professional musicians. They perform year-round in venues throughout Toledo, including the Valentine Theater, Stranahan Theater, and the Toledo Zoo Amphitheater.
Grand Aire is proud to be a part of this talented and entertaining community. If your travels include Toledo, let us put our 30+ years of air charter experience to work for you. Visit us online or give us a call at 1-800-70-GRAND.