I can think of countless ways to usher in the Holiday Season, but none better than a Christmas Lighting Extravaganza. Couple over 3.5 million lights with the gorgeous backdrop of Clifton Gorge and the Little Miami River at Clifton Mill and your Holiday Season can officially be declared as having begun. Clifton Mill has been celebrating the Christmas season for almost 20 years with an extraordinary lighting display that takes a crew of six roughly 3 months to set up.
The Mill is located at 75 Water St. in Clifton, Ohio just 9 miles south of Springfield. Follow OH-72 south (Exit 54) off of Interstate 70 and you can’t miss the Mill on your right. Parking is free. Gates open daily at 5pm. Admission is $8 (children 6 and younger are free).
The weekends are definitely the busiest time, so you may want to keep that in mind when visiting. Loosely translated, you will have a much more relaxed and leisurely visit if you can swing a trip during the week. This is really important when you travel, as I do, with a horde of small children. The area is accessible to strollers but they are not allowed in some of the buildings.
The lights go on at 6:00 pm with the flip of a single switch. It’s absolutely amazing to see the darkened gorge and mill come to life with the brilliant lights. A definite, “Ooh” and “Ahhh” moment. My kids often prefer to just scream, “WOW!!!” There’s even a synchronized light show set to music. Each hour the lights go out leaving visitors standing in the darkness and slowly they dance back to life as music echoes through the gorge. It’s captivating, really!
While at the Mill you’ll want to check out the Santa Claus museum, home to over 3000 Santas and Santa memorabilia, the Miniature Village and the spectacular views from the Covered Bridge which spans the gorge and river below. Concession style meals are served (soups, hot dogs, hot chocolate, cookies) during the evening.
Hours of operation for the lighting display are from 5:00 pm until 9:00 pm. The display starts the day after Thanksgiving and runs every night until January 1st, closing at 8pm on Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Years Eve.
I suggest, though, that a trip to Clifton Mill should encompass the whole day. The Millrace Restaurant located inside of the Mill is open for breakfast and lunch 9:00 am until 2:00 pm. There’s no better way to start your day than with a stack of fresh pancakes. The flour, of course, was milled fresh on the premises probably just hours earlier. (Normally closing at 4:00 pm, 5:00 pm on weekends, the restaurant observes abbreviated hours during the Christmas lighting season.) Afterward, you may wish to tour the mill, which boasts itself as the largest water powered grist mill still in operation in America, for a firsthand look at one of America’s earliest industries.
You’ll have plenty of time in the afternoon to do some antiquing at Weber’s Antique Mall in Clifton or maybe just a leisurely hike at nearby Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve. It offers incredible views of the gorge from several bridges and platforms. If you’re looking for a truly unique gift idea or collectible check out The Fish Decoy Company on the corner of Dayton St. and OH-72.
After having explored Clifton’s charm you’ll have plenty of time to make it back to the Mill, grab a cup of hot chocolate and welcome the Christmas Season with the Legendary Lights at Clifton Mill.
Photos courtesy of Clifton Mill website and Bret Arnett (creative commons).