Dayton celebrates Christmas with a selection of holiday light shows

By Ehron Ostendorf

Photo: A look above from underneath the Carillon Tower aglow

Carillon Historical Park

Nov. 30 – Dec. 30

A Carillon Christmas

The Carillon Historical Park is the newest to these events. It was only in 2015 that Carillon lit the tower in honor of the first concert that was held there in 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor. “We lit the tower just to see if the community would be drawn to it — to see how they’d react,” says Brady Kress, CEO and president of Carillon Historical Park. Kress says Carillon hopes to keep this as a new tradition and call it “A Carillon Christmas.” The park hosts the largest tree of light, which is 200 feet tall. Both staff and volunteers help decorate and man stations during the events. As far as the event itself goes, on the first ceremonial day the tower is lit manually. They wait until 5:30 p.m. to make sure the sun is really down. After that, the lights come on automatically every day at 5:00 p.m. Why is Carillon so unique? “It really is magical looking,” Kress says. “Having the park lit up and having activity at night here is a very special thing to witness and experience. You don’t get to see that often.” With thousands of historical facts and decorated trees, Carillon will truly be a winter wonderland this season.

The price for attending is as follows: $8 for ages 18–59; $7 for seniors (60+); $5 for ages 3–17. Children three and under are free.

Clifton Mill

Nov. 25 – Dec. 31

The Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill

Clifton Mill is proud to celebrate 29 years in a row of their Legendary Lights event. The staff members are the ones who take the time to set it all up. “Primarily, it’s the owner and one guy that’s been here for 10 years that mostly helps him set everything up,” Jessica Noes says, general manager of the Clifton Mill. The day after Thanksgiving is when the lighting ceremony begins. At 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 25, the area is opened, the lighting begins sharply at 6 p.m., and the gates are open until 9:00 p.m. — there are light shows every hour on the hour, which play for about four minutes synched with music. “I think my favorite part is the miniature village we have here,” Noes says. Clifton Mill has had this event as a way to keep a family tradition alive and they want to share that tradition with the community. “I think what’s unique is that it can’t be duplicated. All the displays are hand made and we have over a million lights here. It’s a historical mill with a vintage toy collection from the ’50s and ’60s, as well as a Santa that comes out of the chimney every 20 minutes,” Noes says. “Its a great way to kickoff the holiday season.”

The price for attending is $10 for everyone age seven and above. Children six and under are free.

Fort St. Clair

Nov. 25 – Dec. 31

Whispering Christmas

The Whispering Christmas all started in 1987 with just 800 lights. Today, it has grown to well over two million lights. “The community support we receive from local businesses, churches and various groups is outstanding!” Connie Sturgill says, who is the committee co-chair of Whispering Christmas. The park is composed of 77 acres of land with picnic areas, large grassy fields, and woods. The park has been happy to announce that almost all of their lights are now LED, not only to save on energy, but also to provide a brighter glow. Viewers can drive down a winding path to see all the beautiful lights, but there are also several parking areas if someone wanted to stop and take a closer look. “We also pride ourselves with the fact that as you travel through the park on the mile-long drive, the displays are separated into themed areas,” Strugill says. Volunteers provide the entire set up and take down process; they also gladly accept new volunteers. During the weeks, there will be a Santa Claus every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday including every day of the week leading up to Christmas. Refreshments are served in Santa’s cabin on a donation basis as well as coffee mugs for $5. “I have to say my favorite part would be seeing all the children’s faces light up with excitement at seeing Santa Claus and all of the many lighting displays we have,” Sturgill says.

The price for attending is free with a suggested donation. Donations help them with maintenance fees to keep this tradition alive.

Countryside Park

Nov. 25 – Dec. 23

Woodland Lights

Woodland Lights offers holiday lights and displays along a half-mile wooded path for its 24th season. “People seeking a quiet, reflective walk among thousands of lights can find that; those wanting a more interactive, dynamic experience can find that in the myriad of park attractions,” says Mark Metzger, Washington Township recreation facilities director. Woodland Lights offers the beauty of lights sparkling along a half-mile wooded path that reflects against a woodland pond. “Without a doubt, it’s the reaction of our visitors when they enter the park, especially the children,” Metzger says, recounting his favorite part of the festivities. “There is nothing more heartwarming than a wide-eyed child trying to take in all the lights and attractions at the festival.” Every night until Christmas, children can visit Santa Claus in the historic log cabin. This year is different because there will be a laser light show, tunnel of lights, and a trackless train ride presented in partnership with Carillon Historical Park. Every night features kid-size amusement rides, costumed characters, live animals, and a Grinch world experience. There are also bonfires and concessions. There are multiple other activities to explore as well. “Woodland Lights has been a fun, safe, and affordable way for people to celebrate the holidays with their family, friends, and neighbors. The event offers the community an opportunity to come together in a joint celebration of the season,” Metzger says.

The price for attending is $8 per person. “Lights only” participation is $4 per person and will run from Dec. 26-30. Children two and under are free.


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Reach DCP freelance writer Ehron Ostendorf at

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