Just because the days get shorter and the weather gets colder doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun during the winter in Ohio. In fact, you don’t have to go very far at all in the winter to find Ohio winter festivals & events.
Whether you’re looking for a steamy cup of hot chocolate or a tasty beer, looking to check out some meticulously crafted ice sculptures, or looking for ice skating rinks, winter festivals and events all over the Buckeye State offer something for everyone — young and old.
Winter Festivals Near Cleveland Ohio
WinterLand | Cleveland
November through February
One of the best things about winter in Cleveland is that the festivities don’t stop for the holidays. The city’s annual winter festival (formerly WinterFest) lasts from the end of November to the end of February and is jam-packed full of special events, including a tree-lighting ceremony, hot food truck vendors, ice skating, and live entertainment.
From late November to early January, there are nativity shows to check out, and there’s no shortage of events. Visitors to downtown Cleveland can go ice skating at University Circle, experience “The Real Black Friday” at Tower City, take part in the polar plunge, or have a meal in a seasonal igloo.
It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy donuts, and if you love these sweet treats, you must check out this festival dedicated to all things donuts. Different businesses submit their best donut entries and are chosen as winners in categories such as crowd favorite and judge’s choice.
This annual February event can be thought of as a Slovenian Mardi Gras, which is traditionally held the weekend before the beginning of Lent. Festivalgoers can enjoy Slovenian food and drink, watch cultural performances, and will likely see many Kurents (traditional fuzzy carnival figures) at this festival.
Other events during the weeklong celebration include a strudel-making contest and a Slovenian Dinner in the Dark.
Located in downtown Cleveland between the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center, Ice Fest is free and takes place along the pier and inner harbor. Festivalgoers can enjoy ice-carving demonstrations, meet and greets, free hot cocoa and cookies, and kids’ crafts.
It’s not a festival or event. But if you’re talking about Christmas and the holidays, visiting the “A Christmas Story” house in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood is an absolute must.
If you’re a fan of the movie, you’ll be amazed at seeing the house just as it appeared on the big screen — both inside and outside. It’s open year-round and has a museum across the street where you can see many props from the movie, including an original Red Ryder BB gun.
This event is relatively new, but there’s lots of fun to be had at Civic Center Park. The park is transformed into a winter wonderland with open ice skating, Zamboni pulls, ice sculpting, snowman building, and a Popsicle eating contest. After a day of fun, you can warm up by testing entries in the chili cook-off.
Ohioans can shake the winter blues at this January festival, which features some of the best ice carvers from around the country. Festival attendees can watch these pros compete in speed competitions, carving demonstrations, and woodcarver vs. ice carver demonstrations.
Families can beat the winter weather by warming up with hot cocoa and s’mores by one of several fire pits. The night ends with a fire and ice battle among many other family activities.
Kids can play in an indoor play area or learn all about animals, such as cow milking in the Dairy Parlor and horse grooming and harnessing in the Arena.
Paczki Day | Parma
If you love donuts, you’ll love these Polish pre-Lenten donuts, which can be found around town on Fat Tuesday. Visitors to Rudy’s Strudel’s Paczki Day celebration will find live polka music, local brewers, pirogi food trucks, as well as nearly three dozen varieties of paczki.
This annual affair transforms Main Street into a winter paradise. As the name suggests, there are more than five dozen ice sculptures, as well as ice-carving demonstrations. Guests can take narrated tours of the city on Lolly the Trolley. But the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down either.
A Fire and Ice event is held in the center of town that’s truly a sight to behold. A giant chimney carved out of ice stands in the center of downtown and attendees can watch to see whether the fire burning inside topples the ice or the ice puts out the fire.
Also, the event offers a pretty neat collection of raffle items. There are themed raffle baskets with Cleveland Guardians tickets, six months’ worth of car washes, and a chance to win cold hard cash — Literally money that’s frozen in a block of ice.
Medina’s downtown square heats up each February with this free festival that includes more than 100 ice creations and carving competitions for both individuals and teams. The crown jewel of the festival is the Fire and Ice Tower, which lights up the city.
If you love the Beatles, head to Kent in February for BeatleFest. You won’t get to see the original Beatles lineup, but you can watch performances by over 20 bands and soak in the atmosphere of all things John, Paul, Ringo, and George.
If you love to dance the day or night away, this is a place you can get your groove on.
Ohio Winter Events Near Columbus
Beer enthusiasts will love this annual event, which is traditionally held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Festivalgoers can sample at least a hundred different craft beers with thousands of others who love craft beer. Proceeds from the event support a local animal shelter.
Maple Syrup Festival | Lucas
Festivalgoers can experience what it’s like to be in a sugar camp with wagon rides, fiber art demonstrations, live historical demonstrations, and walk-through house tours at Malabar Farm State Park in Lucas Ohio. Of course, you can also find great food and plenty of maple products to sample and buy.
In January, you can head to Loudonville for Mohican WinterFest, which features exquisite ice sculptures, a model train expo, a stuffed animal workshop for kids, and a Snowball Dance among other seasonal activities.
The festival is always adding new events and has recently added a vintage snowmobile show and a Poker Walk. The iconic ice sculptures are on display all weekend and ice sculptors show off their skills during that time.
November to December
Residents of Logan, which is south of Columbus, can enjoy the beauty of Hocking Hills State Park for the annual Holiday Treasure Hunt, which takes place from Nov. 1 to the middle of December.
Residents can embark on the annual hunt and find special gifts for friends and family while collecting stamps from participating stores. Those who fill out their treasure maps can turn them in and be entered for prizes, including a weekend getaway grand prize.
Santa Christmas Train Ride | Nelsonville
November to December
From late November to mid-December, anyone can head to Nelsonville for one of the most popular events of the holidays. The Santa Christmas Train Ride has been running strong for more than three decades.
It offers riders a two-hour ride through the Hocking River Valley with decorated, heated coaches with Christmas music playing. Youngsters are encouraged to finalize their Christmas lists so that they can share them with Santa.
There are more than just Central Ohio winter festivals & events to experience. Check out other winter things to do in Central Ohio for adults and kids alike.
Great Cincinnati Ohio Winter Events
This is one of the traditional holiday kickoff events in Cincinnati and is held at Fountain Square the day after Thanksgiving. Along with a tree-lighting ceremony, there are fireworks, an ice-skating rink, and live music.
As anyone who lives around Cincinnati knows, Cincy is Red’s country, and Redsfest is the perfect winter warmup for avid baseball fans. It’s held every year in downtown Cincinnati and gives attendees the chance to mingle with current and former stars.
It’s also a great place to soak in the fan experience with games and activities. You can even stock up on baseball memorabilia.
You don’t have to go far to find a beer festival in Ohio, especially in the winter. The annual Cincy Beerfest, which is also held downtown, features more than 500 craft beers from many of the best Cincinnati breweries to sample all in one place. Is there anything better for a lover of craft beer?
If you’re looking to get into the Christmas spirit, head to the annual Over-the-Rhine Christmas Saengerfest. This annual event offers a look back to Cincinnati’s history as the origin of Saengerfest, a German tradition that celebrates saengerbunds (choral groups). Your ears will delight in the sounds of more than a dozen choirs as they fill churches, breweries, and other venues.
Ugly Sweater Bar Crawl | Cincinnati
If you’re looking for a fun winter activity with friends, especially before Christmas, participate in the Ugly Sweater Bar Crawl. The setup is simple — don a goofy sweater, and do a guided tour of various bars throughout Cincinnati.
November to February
Another sign that the winter months are here is when ice skating rinks begin to open. For skaters of all ages, there’s nothing like lacing up a pair of skates, stepping onto the ice, and forgetting your worries as you glide and spin on the ice.
Cincinnati’s Fountain Square sets up an annual ice skating rink that’s open to the public from November to February. Plus, it’s the site of other fun holiday events, such as the annual tree lighting.
Lebanon has been feeling the holiday spirit for more than 30 years. Christmas magic fills the air on the first Saturday of December and more than 100,000 people descend on Lebanon for this event.
The carriage parade is still thought to be the nation’s largest and normally features more than 100 parade entries. It’s known to feature a wide variety of horses, including Morgans, Arabians, Standardbred horses, and miniature donkeys and ponies.
IceFest | Hamilton
This free, biannual event happens every other January in downtown Hamilton. What can you expect? You can enjoy yummy hot chocolate, ice sculptures, ice-carving competitions, and other family-fun activities.
In fact, 200 blocks and 40 tons of ice are needed for the event, which brings national cravers to produce awe-inspiring works of art. Other activities include human sled dog races, competition carving, and a Technicolor ice walk.
Northwest Ohio Winter Festivals Near Toledo
February couldn’t get any better at this free festival, which packs three days of fun into Toledo’s Promenade Park. This outdoor festival features ice skating, ice sculptures, video games on the big screen, a mobile escape room, hot chocolate stations, and lots of other activities.
The icing on the cake is an awesome fireworks display to end the festival!
November to December
Christmas lights are one of the surest signs that the holiday season is here, and Lights Before Christmas is an annual delight for Toledo area residents. During the more than monthlong celebration, over 1 million lights are spread throughout the Toledo Zoo & Aquarium.
In addition, more than 200 animal images are illuminated by lights throughout the zoo and on the Big Tree, which is the zoo’s Norway spruce that’s estimated to weigh 7 tons at more than 85 feet tall. This event runs from late November through December and is the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit.
The Holidays at the Manor House event has been going strong for more than 40 years and is one of the most festive celebrations to ring in the holidays in Northwest Ohio.
Each year, community volunteers transform more than two dozen areas of the manor into a holiday paradise. The decorations are a sight to see, considering that more than 40,000 people make the event part of their holiday tradition.
Here are a few more winter things to do in Toledo for you to enjoy.
On the campus of Lourdes University, you can get all of your holiday shopping done during the Winter Festival of Crafts. You’ll find dozens of handcrafted items made by members of the Toledo Craftsman’s Guild.
You can peruse paintings, photos, wreaths, fabrics, home decor, and more. If you love finding unique gifts for friends and loved ones, this is one festival that you don’t want to miss.
This has been a tradition in Northwest Ohio for more than 50 years and usually runs all through December. Children can delight in the dozens of exhibits on display, take train rides, and get their pictures taken with Santa Claus.
Downtown Perrysburg is transformed into a magical winter wonderland each February with ice sculptures, a beer and wine event, and tons of family fun. This tradition attracts over 10,000 visitors annually and is the perfect winter celebration for families to make fun memories.
Adults can sip tasty hot chocolate and watch amazing ice sculptures come to life. Meanwhile, kids can have fun on the Polar Bear Slide.
Amid the deep chill of winter, Bowling Green is the place to be during its annual Chillabration because the city pulls out all the stops.
One of the biggest attractions is the Frozen Swamp Tent — a tent surrounded by an ice garden with carving demonstrations, live entertainment, craft beer and wine, carriage rides, and a winter market.
Past events have included a youth dodgeball tournament, public ice skating, curling competitions, and a chocolate crawl. Sports have played a big part in past Chillabration’s too, with both the Bowling Green hockey and men’s and women’s basketball teams hosting games against conference rivals.
What better way is there to say goodbye to winter than with the burning of a 30-foot giant snowman? That’s what you’ll find in Port Clinton.
High school wood tech students create the burning snowman to display on the beach to cap Family Freeze Night. Kids can get their photos taken with the Big Guy, and there’s face painting, s’mores on the beach, hot cocoa, and Ohio Burn fire dancers.
These Northwest Ohio winter festivals & events aren’t the only attractions for the region. Check out other winter things to do in Northwest Ohio that make the season enjoyable.
Southeast Ohio Winter Festivals & Events
November to January
The Nutcracker Village features the largest display of life-size nutcrackers, almost 200, in the United States. The nutcrackers are usually on display from late November to early January.
Additionally, the event includes vendors, caroling, Christmas lights, a model train exhibit, and more at Fort Steuben Park. The fort is also open for tours, so visitors can get a glance at what life was like in the 18th century on the Ohio frontier.
Find Even More Ohio Winter Festivals & Events
Believe it or not, Ohio has more than 2,000 festivals spanning all four seasons. Each of them is fun and unique in its own way, but the winter festivals in the Buckeye State are definitely worth checking out.
Whether you head to Steubenville for the Nutcracker Village, Lebanon for the Horse Drawn Carriage Parade, or Cleveland or Cincinnati for the holiday tree-lighting ceremonies, you can’t go wrong by grabbing a steaming cup of hot chocolate and soaking up the winter atmosphere.