Legendary Lights at Clifton Mill

Photo courtesy of the Dayton Daily News.

Photo courtesy of the Dayton Daily News.

If you enjoy Christmas lights, are anywhere near Ohio and haven’t experienced the Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill, you need to drop what you’re doing and go right now.

Seriously kids, it is a beautiful experience.

On a regular day, the historic mill in the village of Clifton is home to a nice restaurant. The mill was built in 1802 and there’s a very pretty covered bridge on site as well

But during the holidays it becomes a popular destination for kids of all ages. In addition to being adorned with four million lights, the property is home to a miniature village, vintage toy display and Santa Museum.

The lights are turned on with a single switch, making for a dramatic opening at 6 p.m. each night. But never fear if you can’t be there at 6. They turn off the lights twice an hour each evening, submerging the crowd into darkness, before flipping the switch and turning it on again. This allows everyone the opportunity to experience that special moment when everyone goes “oooh.”

They even have a laser light display that’s timed to the dramatic music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

As much as I loved the lights, I may have loved the miniature village and Santa Museum of 3,600 unique Santas best.

This event is nationally recognized and they actually received a ton of publicity last year after winning a $50,000 prize on a tv show.

The introverts in the crowd will understand when I say that I didn’t love the crowd. I stopped here last year on my way home from an after Christmas road trip the last Saturday in December.

This was extremely poor timing.

My goodness, there where people everywhere and parking was a real challenge. While event parking is free, some enterprising neighbors sell yard and driveway parking so I happily tossed ten bucks at the problem in favor of parking just a block or two away.

I will absolutely go back but I would want my next visit to be on a weeknight when it’s not so busy.

If you go, they take plastic and cash. The cost is $10 per person but kids three and under are free.

I would aim for a weeknight as opposed to a weekend because it was almost too crowded to truly enjoy when I was there. I was fine on my own but would have worried about little kids getting stepped on or lost in the crowd.

While they do sell light concessions like hot dogs, popcorn and hot chocolate, the restaurant is closed and there’s nothing with any nutritional value. In other words, eat dinner before you go. Personally, I would go to Young’s Dairy about ten minutes up the road. They have a really good menu and a delicious veggie burger.

Visit the Clifton Mill website for a full history and all the details you need before you go. It’s under an hour from Columbus, thirty minutes from Dayton and ninety minutes from my community in Vinton County. And it’s well worth the drive.

If you want to make it an overnight adventure, there’s plenty to do in Dayton plus outlet mall shopping at nearby Jeffersonville and acres of planes at the Air Force Museum. Not to mention a gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright Home in Springfield and an overwhelming amount of antiquing to be had in Springfield.

Geeze Louise, guys! I haven’t told you about any of those things. I’ll make a note to take you along on a Springfield antiquing trip and to the Wright house that happens to have a fun story of its own.

Please note that the above be picture is not my own. I thought I had taken pictures but am finding none so I borrowed a photo from the Dayton Daily News.

Now go and play your trip to see the big light display at Clifton Mill!

Mickey and Minnie

I spent part of Saturday wandering around the Christmas festivities in Lebanon, Ohio. I’ll tell you about their horse parade soon but thought you’d enjoy this picture today!

It was taken outside a local barbershop that was once a filling station called A Man’s Place.

Breakfast at Bakn

The Pittsburgh neighborhood of Carnegie boasts the cutest local restaurant called Bakn.

Their logo is a little carton pig. It’s used in the wall art, menu and all through the restaurant. Nichola laughed as we discussed what an unorthodox choice this place was for a plant based eater. While they don’t have much on the menu for a vegan eater, there were a few vegetarian choices. This worked great because I’m not super strict, especially when I travel.

I was perfectly happy with my hot cakes, a real treat that I like to indulge in while traveling.

They are Food Network endorsed with good reason. My breakfast was tasty and there was plenty of it. even the menu is fun to read here.

In the neighborhood? Hungry? Just enjoy dreaming over a good restaurant menu? Here you go!

Tomorrow we leave Pittsburgh and move on to other topics. Hope to see you back then!

At Home with the Frick Family

Imagine being so wealthy that your child’s playhouse is a full size home with a bowling alley addition.

When you buy a Rolls Royce, you have your monogram added to the door. You buy one, not just for yourself, but for your wife and daughter at the same time.

Your art collection is museum worthy and your homes are decadently furnished with the most expensive decor of the day.

As a contemporary of industrialists like Andrew Carnegie, you dabble in manufacturing and financing and build an empire the envy of businessmen everywhere.

This is the story of Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick. His family’s story is fascinating and it’s told every day thanks to the forethought, planning and generosity of his daughter Helen who saw to it that the family’s Pittsburgh home and art collection would be accessible to all.

Today, it’s simply known as The Frick. You can walk the grounds, enjoy the hot house flowers, marvel over their car collection and be inspired by their art collection for free. For just a few dollars you can tour the family home as well as whatever special exhibition they have at the time.

When I was there, it was decorated for the holidays and the docent related stories of how the family celebrated Christmas as well as stories of their everyday life.

They also had the traveling Katherine Hepburn exhibition for which there is an additional fee.

I benefited from the generosity of my friend Nichola who purchased a membership for her family, gaining me free access to everything.

If I lived in a city like Pittsburgh, I would have memberships to the Frick and many of the museums I love. Alas, I live in the sticks where museums are rare.

If you go, allow plenty of time to enjoy everything. House tours sell out pretty quickly so it’s best to arrive early to schedule your tour. There’s plenty to do including a cafe and gift shop. However, we had lunch in nearby Shadyside which I wrote about earlier this week. Check it out!

I’ll soon tell you more about the Katherine Hepburn exhibit as well as my friend’s happy place – the Phipps. Come back tomorrow for more!

Shadyside Sweets, Nerd Stuff and a Diner!

If you ever find yourself in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh, make your way to Prantl’s Bakery.

It’s a quaint landmark for good reason. Truth be told, I’ve only ever had their Burnt Almond Torte, a delicious little treat that literally melts in your mouth. However, if this decadent morsel isn’t your speed, there’s more to choose from. Lots more.

And while you’re in the neighborhood, there’s a host of cute stores including a fantastic little nerd shop called Kards Unlimited. It’s packed with books, games, stationary and some of the most unique gift items you never knew you needed.

My big splurge this trip was a pretty little pair of green turquoise earrings to match a necklace I purchased there last year. Plus I finally found a black cat Christmas ornament that I couldn’t live without.

Next door to Prantl’s is a Pamela’s Diner. Click here if you want to read about my experience with this funky local chain.

In addition to places to eat and shop, you’ll find that Shadyside is walkable and is home to some talented buskers. This gentleman made my day.

Quirky shopping, sweets and music in the air? Sign me up! In fact, I told Nichola this should be a stop every visit! The neighborhood is also just a stone’s throw from the Frick and some other attractions to keep you entertained.

Want to visit Shadyside? Read more on the Visit Pittsburgh site. If you go, I expect to hear all about it!

Christmas, Friendship and Fun in Pittsburgh

I spent the weekend adventuring through Pittsburgh with a friend who lives there.

We kicked off the weekend at Light Up Night, a true Pittsburgh tradition that marks the start of the holiday season. Tree lightings, fireworks, music and food headline a host of activities throughout downtown.

We packed a lot of fun into the weekend and did a good bit of gabbing and eating too. There’s lots to say so I’ll get busy telling these stories soon.

She loves her town and I can certainly see why. Her insider’s tours of the city’s neighborhoods and museums always make me wish for more time – but this means there’s always an excuse to visit again.

How do you know you had a great weekend away? You don’t want to come home and you miss your friend terribly when you do.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about my favorite feature of Light Up Night! Stay tuned!