Twinkling trails: where to find holiday light displays (and more) this holiday season

The holiday season seems to start earlier every year–but considering what fun festivities the Greater Sandusky region has in store, we aren’t complaining! From tree-lighting galas to cocoa-fueled train rides, we’ve rounded up the merriest must-knows about this season’s celebrations.


Holiday Train Ride:
Noon- 5 p.m. Nov. 25-26, Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10, Mad River & NKP Holiday Train, 253 Southwest St.

Celebrate the season with the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum at the annual holiday train event. The 10-minute ride culminates in a visit to the dining car for hot cocoa and cookies in the 1927 Nickel Plate Diner. After the ride, Santa will be waiting at Monument Station at the museum, and the gift shop will be open for holiday shopping. Tickets are presale only for $6 per rider. All proceeds benefit the museum, which is a 501(c) non-profit organization that operates with an all-volunteer staff and is funded by donations.


Lights of Spiegel Grove:
6-7:30 p.m. Nov. 30, Spiegel Grove, the grounds of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums 

Sip hot chocolate and snack on popcorn by the campfire, check out the “Hayes Train Special” model train display in the museum, and visit with Kris Kringle, the name President Rutherford B. Hayes called Santa. The large Christmas tree in the museum rotunda, as well as the rest of the lights around the Grove, will be turned on at 6:15 p.m. Carolers will sing holiday songs throughout the event. Admission is free.


Huron Winter Fest:
Dec. 2, Huron Boat Basin & Amphitheater, 330 N. Main St.

The festivities kick off at 12:30 p.m. with the holiday parade and continue with a 1:30 pm. Visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, carriage rides, holiday shopping. Fireworks cap off the night at 6:30 pm. Admission is free.


Light Up Norwalk:
4-8 p.m. Nov. 25, Suhr Park, uptown Norwalk

Kick off the holiday season with the annual Christmas tree lighting, live music, food, kids’ events, and more. Events will take place throughout town, including a Barbie holiday display, trackless train, and bounce houses. A sensory-friendly event at the Perkins Family Gym, 32 W. Monroe St., will include snacks, holiday crafts, photos with Santa, and games. Sensory-friendly features include no loud music, sensory break areas, and headphones, sensory tools and social stories available. Admission is free.

Port Clinton

Downtown Christmas Tree Lighting:
6 p.m., Nov. 18, downtown Port Clinton

Come downtown for the annual Sip n Shop, taking place from noon-8 pm., and stay to help kick off the holiday season with the lighting of the Christmas tree.


2023 Holiday Lighting Ceremony:
6 p.m. Nov. 24, Washington Park, downtown Sandusky

The annual event kicks off with music from the Sandusky High School Brass Choir and continues. Santa will arrive at his Cookie House – in a 1933 Plymouth Rumble-Seat Roadster – at 6:30 p.m. At 7 p.m., the Sandusky High School Keynotes and Bell Choir will perform inside the Regional Center for Arts & Academic Studies, 125 E. Adams St.

Annual Christmas Light Show at Ghostly Manor Thrill Center:
6 p.m., every 30 minutes until midnight, Thanksgiving through New Years, 3319 Milan Road

To enjoy this free light show, park in the back of the parking lot of Ghostly Manor, dim your headlights and tune your car radio to 99.7 FM. 

Carousel Christmas Ride-a-thon:
10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 9, Merry-Go-Round Museum, 301 Jackson St.

Enjoy free admission with $1 carousel rides, children’s crafts, wood carvers, a large-scale train display, and a visit from Santa.

Firelands Adventure Tours:
Throughout the holiday season

Join Firelands Adventure Tours for a 90-minute, family-friendly guided tour filled with holiday lighting displays, seasonal attractions, and holiday landmarks – see the very best that the Firelands has to offer. Learn about holiday traditions around the world, sing along with holiday songs, and enjoy special holiday treats. Visit for dates, times, and to reserve your seats.

Lake Erie in Lights:
5:30-8:30 p.m. Nov. 16-Dec. 31 Thursday-Sunday, Erie County Fairgrounds, 3110 Columbus Ave.

New for this year, the drive-through light display will feature more than one million lights. Admission is $20 per car. Proceeds benefit local non-profit organizations. The Christmas Workshop will be held from 1:30-5:30 p.m. the weekend of Dec. 9 in the Main Event Building at the fairgrounds and will feature food, hands-on crafts for kids, and other community booths. 

Winter Wonderland:
5 p.m.-10 p.m. Dec. 8, noon- 6 p.m. Dec. 9, Jackson Street Pier and downtown Sandusky

Enjoy ice skating, live music, a holiday market, and more at this year's Winter Wonderland. Partake in the downtown storefront contest and the Let's Clause a Scene shopping experience. Don't forget to stop by and visit Santa and his reindeer!


Light Up Vermilion:
5-9 p.m. Dec. 1, Downtown and Exchange Park 

Santa will arrive downtown at 6 p.m., with the community tree lighting following at 6:15 p.m. at Exchange Park. Enjoy a free Christmas concert by the Vermilion Community Band at 7 p.m. at Ritter Public Library, 5680 Liberty Ave. Also check out the stores and restaurants that will be open for extended hours that evening, and vote for your favorite window display after picking up your ballot at Main Street Vermilion, 685 Main St. Throughout the evening, visit the Public Art Vermilion Buoy Tree, which will be on display through Ice A Fair on Feb. 3 in the Fulper Lot, 5599 Liberty Ave., and visit the Christmas alpacas in their pen at Exchange Park.