There’s still time to catch special holiday attractions

Beating the post-holiday blues as the holidays end and January looms ahead can be a challenge, but several venues within reach are keeping the lights on and the cheer alive into the new year.

From Columbus to Pittsburgh and the Appalachian region in between, the opportunities to stay in the holiday spirit are just a car trip away.

In Cambridge, Debbie Robinson, the executive director of the Cambridge/Guernsey County Visitors and Convention Bureau, says there are still plenty of festivities to enjoy through this weekend.

“Our Dickens Victorian Village is up 24/7 through Saturday, so it can still be enjoyed any time,” she said.

Downtown Cambridge is a festive scene regardless of the season, as its many shops and restaurants offer a rich historical history. The Dickens village adds to that history for the Christmas season.

“There are 86 different scenes, and each scene has a plaque that explains the history of that scene, like the police officers or fire brigade or the wash women, that are all dressed as what they would have worn at the time,” Robinson said.

Hundreds of visitors make the trip to Cambridge around Christmas, both to see the Dickens Village and for the Guernsey County Courthouse Holiday Music and Light Show.

In downtown Cambridge, the historic courthouse building comes alive with a computer-controlled light show with 36 animated displays and 30,000 lights, all to the tune of a holiday soundtrack.

The light show begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and lasts until 9.

“The whole building and trees lights up, and hundreds of people show up,” Robinson said.

In Pittsburgh, the Phipps Conservatory continues to offer its Winter Light Garden and Flower Show.

Thousands of LED lights sit among festive holiday flowers and plants for the conservatory’s Flower Show. The outdoor Winter Light Garden comes alive after 5 p.m. with a light-filled fountain, colorful orbs and decorated trees.

Liz Fetchin, director of marketing and communications, said the conservatory made the decision this year to extend the Winter Light and Flower Show through Jan. 12.

“It’s really festive and beautiful,” Fetchin said. “The Flower Show features glass work from some regional artists that are lit up from the inside with LED lights and it looks spectacular at night.”

Visitors can enjoy mulled wine and cider as they stroll through the gardens.

“We encourage people to come once during the day and at night because both are totally different experiences,” Fetchin said. “A lot of people will come during the day with friends and at night as a date.”

This is only the second year of the show, but Fetchin explained that it’s quickly becoming a Pittsburgh holiday tradition.

Columbus also has plenty to offer for those seeking more post-holiday fun.

In Bicentennial Park, located along the Scioto Mile downtown, is the city’s Grand Illumination.

Through Jan. 11, the park is illuminated by 200,000 energy-efficient LED lights on 150 trees, a contributing part of Columbus’ initiative to stay green. Visitors can also enjoy the Scioto Mile Fountain, which is lit with projected holiday images.

“The walkway can be enjoyed from dawn until dusk,” said Eddie Weeks, a Columbus Recreation and Parks representative.

Weeks explained that Milestone 229, a downtown restaurant with an all-glass lookout, is a popular destination during the season.

“A lot of people go to the restaurant to eat with a great view of all the lights,” Weeks said.

Nearby, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is still running its own wildly popular holiday tradition that has attracted about 4.2 million total visitors since its inception.

Wildlights 25, the 25th anniversary edition of the spectacular holiday light display and show at the zoo, runs through Sunday.

The whole display boasts millions of lights, including an animated show of 250,000 lights over Conservation Lake that takes place every half hour, beginning at 5 p.m.

Jennifer Wilson, communications director for the zoo, said the growth of the event has made the attraction quite a destination.

“This is the 25th anniversary, and when we started in 1988 Wildlights featured 125,000 lights,” Wilson said. “Now we have somewhere between one and two million, enough that we can no longer count.”

Twenty-five lit trees are also on display to represent each year of Wildlights.

“People like to come in the late afternoon to see the animals, then they stay for the lights at night,” Wilson said.