The holiday season is upon us, and many festive Dayton traditions get underway this month. One of the longest-running and most beloved is the Dayton Holiday Festival, presented by AES Ohio. As the air turns crisper and the scent of winter spices fills the city, downtown Dayton is a great place to come together to celebrate the spirit of the season.

This cherished tradition, kindled by the generous spirit of Mrs. Virginia Kettering, has been bringing joy to Dayton since 1972. Its heartwarming story began to ensure that every child could relish the holiday season, regardless of their means. Today, it continues to spread warmth and holiday cheer with an array of free, family-friendly attractions. Each year, the festival kicks off Thanksgiving weekend, but for those who are regulars to the event, please note that this year's kickoff events have a new schedule, from 3 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Grande Illumination Tree Lighting

The festival kicks off with the Grande Illumination and Dayton Children’s Parade, taking place on Friday, November 24, 2023, 3-8 p.m., on Courthouse Square at Third & Main Streets in downtown Dayton. The evening of family fun includes:

  • Enjoy holiday songs and other live entertainment on the Courthouse Square Main Stage, 3-7 p.m.
  • Meet two of Santa’s reindeer on Courthouse Square, 3:30-6:30 p.m.
  • View all the delicious entries in the Gingerbread Homes for the Holidays Contest, 3-7 p.m.
  • Enjoy free rides and other activities for kids at the Street Fair on Third, 3-8 p.m.
  • Take a Horse-Drawn Wagon Ride through downtown, 3-6:30 p.m. (Festival organizers note that the wagon rides are very popular and lines can be long)
  • The Holiday Village in the lobby of the Stratacache Tower offers festive activities, music and surprises for kids, 3-8 p.m.
  • The Holiday Adventure offers a scavenger hunt for kids around the festival, 3-7 p.m.

Dayton Holiday Festival: Tree LightingThe tree lighting takes place at 7 p.m., as the switch is thrown on approximately 50,000 gold lights that will brighten the two-story-tall tree on Courthouse Square.

Immediately following the tree lighting, the Dayton Children’s Parade Spectacular in Lights steps off from the corner of Second and Main Streets to start its route through downtown, sparkling with more than 100,000 lights! The parade features decorative floats, horses, drill teams and bands, as well as some special holiday treats. 

The Dayton Holiday Festival continues throughout December with a wide variety of events and activities, including:

Rike’s Holiday Windows

The Rike’s department store holiday window displays, a longtime downtown Dayton tradition at the corner of Second & Main, are recreated in the Schuster Center Wintergarden from November 24 through January 3.

Downtown Jingle Lights

From November 24-January 1, you can see downtown Dayton streets transformed into an interactive, drive-through lights display, choreographed to the beat of your favorite holiday tunes. Tune your radio to 105.3 FM as you drive the route.

Virginia Kettering’s Holiday Train Display

 The Stratacache Tower lobby at the corner of Second & Main Streets will host this one-of-a-kind model train display, given to the community by Mrs. Virginia Kettering. The trains will be on display November 24-January.

Metroparks Ice Rink

Nestled beneath the sheltered pavilion, the MetroParks Ice transforms into a winter wonderland right in the heart of downtown Dayton. You can embrace the season's charm by taking a spin on the ice November 24-March 1. And while you're there, treat yourself to delightful concessions, perhaps a steaming cup of hot chocolate, making your skating experience even more enjoyable. Be sure to explore the fun skating activities offered, including lessons and themed skating nights, for a complete winter adventure.

Family Movie SeriesSanta with Holiday Movie Series Poster

Gather your loved ones and head to The Neon for a jolly good time with holiday favorites:

  • December 2: Delve into the icy wonderland with "Frozen."
  • December 9: Get ready for some hilarious home hijinks in "Home Alone."
  • December 16: Join the Muppets for a heartwarming rendition of "The Muppet Christmas Carol."


This is only a small sampling of everything the Dayton Holiday Festival has to offer. For more information go to, and click here to download a calendar of holiday events. Be sure to also follow the Downtown Dayton Partnership (@DowntownDayton) on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as they share all things holiday related in the downtown area!

What are your favorite Holiday traditions? Let us know in the comments! We’ll also be featuring Carillon Christmas and the Woodland Lights (Dayton definitely has some of the best Christmas lights in Ohio!), as well as Dayton holiday shopping, in upcoming blog posts, so check back for more holiday fun! 

For more information on things to do in Dayton, contact the Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau at 937-226-8211 (Monday-Friday) or download the free Visit Dayton App from Google Play or the Apple Store. Be in the Know on All Things Dayton!

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