Franklin Park Conservatory Aglow

Friday night found me shivering in the cold outside at Franklin Park Conservatory. I was there with friends to look at the pretty Christmas lights.

It’s called Conservatory Aglow and features thousands of lights throughout the property. You enter through the wonderful rainbow tunnel above.

Then you can meander through lights, through a giant model railroad and even step inside a gingerbread house.

This tree is made with hand blown glass balls.

There is one area inside that’s nicely decorated too. I really wish they did more inside but this was all lovely.

You can warm up by walking through a gingerbread competition and enjoy the rest of the Conservatory which is filled with interesting plants and Dale Chihuly glass art.

It was freezing cold and there were snow flurries in the air, making it even more festive. It was a great night to be out with friends! This spot was my favorite both because it’s pretty and because they play classical music here. It’s like an oasis where you just might meet the man in the moon.

Want to see more pictures? Check out the Make The Journey Fun Facebook page! Plus, it’s not too late to visit this year! Click here to visit the Conservatory online.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Italian American workers quietly began a New York City tradition on Christmas Eve 1931 when they decorated a tree on the construction site of Rockefeller Center. The twenty foot tall balsam fir was adorned with strings of cranberries and paper garlands made by their families. It was here on a cold Depression era night that they lined up to collect their paychecks.

Little did they know that this act of cheer would inspire generations of travelers like myself to make the pilgrimage to the city for a glimpse of what is now a landmark.

The first official tree went up two years later and an ice skating rink opened in 1936. This year’s tree is an 82 foot tall Norway Spruce from Queensbury, New York. It positively glows under 50,000 LED lights and a Swarovski crystal tree topper.

The trees are always handpicked and come from all over the country. Trucks, cranes and scaffolding are required to transport, place and decorate the annual tree which is dedicated with an official lighting ceremony the Wednesday after Thanksgiving.

Seeing the holiday decorations was the main point of going to New York at Christmas and this iconic tree didn’t disappoint. However, I would note that going on a Saturday in December wasn’t ideal because there was an absolute crush of people in all directions through the touristy areas like Rockefeller Center.

I’m not a big fan of crowds but this was one of those “when in Rome” moments where I tried to just appreciate the experience for what it was. We would have loved a closer view but it really didn’t seem worth fighting the crowds for a different angle.

They estimate that 125 million people visit each year and it felt like about 25 million of them were there Saturday night.

I wondered later what it would be like really late at night or just before sunrise. Is it just as bad? I can’t help but wonder what it would be like in Rockefeller Center at daybreak.

Perhaps another time.

Meanwhile, I’ll be grateful to those construction workers some 91 years ago for thinking to brighten their worksite with a beacon of hope and holiday cheer.

Reflections In Lights And Death

A man I know passed away last week after bravely battling a terrible illness. I met Tom in 2020 when I joined the local Educational Service Center board and we became colleagues.

He was always quick with a joke, eager to put a newcomer at ease, and a smart man who was respectful of others. He liked to travel and learn. His wife Fannie also attends our meetings and is a kind soul. The two seemed perfectly matched.

But that’s the end of what I knew about Tom till I read his obituary and learned things that made me wish I had asked more questions while he was living.

Tom was a fan of lifelong learning, a Scout leader and a Sunday school teacher. He was a longtime Civil War reenactor and lifelong history buff. He enjoyed the outdoors, gardening and yard sales. Tom was an inventor who made an ice cream machine that operated by pedaling a bicycle. He even built a 1965 Plymouth from the frame up.

I always liked Tom but had no idea he was such a character. Old photos in a slideshow projected on the wall played while we waited in line. If I didn’t know it by then, it was clear that Tom packed as much living into his life as he possibly could.

I had a newfound appreciation for Tom’s zest for life.

It made me a little sad to think of all the great learning I missed out on because I knew none of this. Of course, when getting to know someone, you don’t know what you don’t know and have to rely on them to give you some clues. I suppose that’s why we often learn so much about people from their obituaries.

As I looked at Tom’s wife and son, their family and so many friends lined up to say farewell, I started thinking about how Tom left a mark on us all. Every person there knew Tom for a different reason and everyone had different stories to share. Every one of us is richer for knowing him.

Later in the evening I strolled through the holiday lights at the Gallipolis City Park and stopped to visit the war memorial. I’m typically so taken with the statue above me that I fail to notice much else.

But on this night I saw the face of the soldier reflected in the marble wall of names below. It made me pause.

It occurred to me that something of Tom is reflected in everyone fortunate to know him. It’s nice to think that humans can live on through the influences we have on others. I won’t soon forget Tom or the lessons learned during the brief time we knew each other.

One of those lessons is to do a better job listening and paying attention so I can learn something I never knew I wanted to know.

Conservatory Aglow

With a gentle nudge from my friend Terri, I finally made it to Conservatory Aglow last night. This special holiday event is held at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus through January 9.

There are plenty of things to see both inside and out including Christmas floral displays inside and beautiful lights outside. There was live music too.

It has been unseasonably warm here in Ohio but the temperature dipped well below freezing in time for our visit so it was quite cold wandering around in the dark.

I always visit this fellow who guards the Children’s Garden.

This arch is even more spectacular in person.

These trees are made of glass.

The purple!

My favorite spot was here, walking through this lighted tunnel.

Poinsettias are just so festive and happy.

They sell timed tickets and we opted for 5:30 thinking that it might be less crowded. This was smart as it seemed to get busier with each passing minute. All the same, it wasn’t terribly busy so we were able to mostly wander freely without interference from crowds.

Yoctangee Park At Christmas

Last night found me in downtown Chillicothe so I took a quick detour into Yoctangee Park. It has been a city park since 1875 but got its name in the 1890s. Yoctangee is the Native American word for paint, a reference to the skin and clothing pigments they once used in this area.

That bit of history isn’t all that relevant to Christmas except the festive lights that currently illuminate the park reminded me of the meaning of that name.

They have just a few lights this year but it’s free to drive through and quite pleasant. In fact, all of the historic downtown is worth a look as it’s all dressed up for the holidays. Not to mention all the shops and restaurants would be thrilled to have your business.

These two images are my favorite from the park.

This one in particular is meaningful as the lake at this park is known for its swans.

It wasn’t that long ago that this historic district was dead on a typical Tuesday night. It’s amazing to see how it has grown, to enjoy the lights, have to stop for pedestrians and see restaurants packed with guests.

I have written some about downtown Chillicothe. Try the Search box to find more about this great town.

Holiday Lights At National Trail Raceway

After years of meaning to visit the drive-thru Christmas light show at National Trail Raceway, I finally did it this week. I loaded up my parents and an aunt to go check out this much hyped holiday event about 30 minutes north of Lancaster on Tuesday.

The bad news is that I learned after buying the ticket that it’s a new operator and the lights aren’t nearly as good this year. The good news is that we had nothing to compare it to and had a great time anyway.

I’m not a fan of crowds so we chose to visit on a non-peak day and to book an early time slot in the 5:30-6:30 hour when it wouldn’t be too busy. Consequently, there were just a handful of other cars and I didn’t even have anyone behind me until the very end.

If you go, it’s $20 for a carload Monday through Thursday and $30 Friday through Sunday. They have some snacks for sale like cookies and hot chocolate and their event radio station plays an excellent variety of new and old Christmas music.

I was driving so the pictures are poor but you can get the gist. If you go, you must buy your ticket online here.

Do you have a favorite place to see Christmas lights? I would love to hear about it! Here’s something I wrote about Gallipolis in Lights last year. I’m looking forward to heading that way again soon!