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. Celebrating its 50th year in 2022, the festival offers family-friendly holiday fun in downtown Dayton during November and December!

Started by Mrs. Virginia Kettering in 1972, so that all children could enjoy the holiday season regardless of their economic means, the festival continues today with free attractions for the community. This year’s festival includes some special additions and surprises to celebrate half a century of making holiday memories in downtown Dayton.

Grande Illumination Tree Lighting

The festival kicks off Thanksgiving weekend, with the Grande Illumination and Dayton Children’s Parade, taking place on Friday, November 25, 2022, 4-9 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, 4-7:45 p.m.
  • Meet two of Santa’s reindeer on Courthouse Square, 4-8 p.m.
  • View all the delicious entries in the Gingerbread Homes for the Holidays Contest, 4-8 p.m.
  • Enjoy free rides and other activities for kids at the Street Fair on Third, 4-9 p.m.
  • Take a Horse-Drawn Wagon Ride through downtown, 4-7:30 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, 4-9 p.m.
  • The Holiday Adventure offers a scavenger hunt for kids around the festival, 4-8 p.m.

Dayton Holiday Festival: Tree LightingThe tree lighting takes place at 7:55 p.m., as the switch is thrown on approximately 50,000 gold lights that will brighten the two-story-tall tree on Courthouse Square in honor of the festival's 50th anniversary.

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 18 through December 31.

Memory Lane on Main

Relive 50 years of the Dayton Holiday Festival with a special display of historical photographs and other memories, November 25-January 1 along Main Street between Monument Avenue and Fourth Street.

Downtown Jingle Lights

From November 25-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 25-January 2.

This is only a small sampling of everything the 50th anniversary 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 50 Favorite Things about being downtown during the holidays.

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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