Happy New Year, dear readers! I hope that you all had a fantastic holiday season and that 2019 has gotten off to a great start for you. And before we reach the 12th day of Christmas, I do have just one more holiday post to share with you all.
Some of you may not know this, but I grew up in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, otherwise known as the Ohio Valley. Each year, I go home for Christmas to visit family, and there are plenty of holiday traditions that I enjoy experiencing from one year to the next. One new tradition, though, that I hope we’ll continue in the future is to visit the Nutcracker Village & Advent Market across the river in Steubenville, OH.
The Nutcracker Village started in 2015 as an idea of two local businessmen who hoped to help revive local commerce in the struggling small city and to attract more visitors to the area. The Nutcrackers are all clustered together in Fort Steuben Park, where you can walk through and see all the unique designs while enjoying a beautiful view of the Market Street Bridge all lit up in its blue and gold lights over the Ohio River.
Over the past few years, their life-sized Nutcrackers have grown in number from the original 37 that debuted in 2015 to the 170 that were on display in the 2018-2019 season. And their visitors continue to grow in number as well!
The design of the Nutcrackers themselves varies quite a bit, from local celebrities to the Rat Pack to Christian saints and athletes. Each Nutcracker is sponsored by local businesses who, depending on their level of contribution, can either claim an existing Nutcracker to sponsor for the season or have a specialty Nutcracker designed for them.
If you’re not from the area, you may not know the local businesses and the individuals that some of these custom-designed Nutcrackers are meant to depict, but there are plenty of Nutcrackers you’ll immediately recognize. And best of all, it’s completely FREE to visit the Nutcracker displays!
Each Nutcracker has been handmade by a local Steubenville business called Nelson’s, which is a small, family-run manufacturing company. Mark Nelson’s daughters have been instrumental in helping to design the Nutcrackers, and one of their woodworkers, Brodie Stutzman, carves the final product. Check out their website to see a video on how they design and create the 6-foot tall Nutcrackers.
In addition to walking through and seeing all the Nutcrackers themselves, there is also an Advent Market available Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays where you can shop and buy yummy snacks. Sadly, we visited on a Wednesday and missed the market, but the little stalls looked really cute, and the descriptions for what they normally have available at the market sounded like it would be worth checking out.
The Jefferson County Visitor Center, located in Fort Steuben Park as well, also has an indoor Christmas Market on the weekends, as well as a few additional Nutcrackers inside. And if you’re looking to make a whole evening out of it with the kids, there are also hayrides and “Polar Express” trolley rides on the weekends, too. Combine that with the market stalls and a stroll through the Nutcrackers and you have a fun and festive local holiday activity!
But if you want to check out the Village this year, you only have a couple days left. This season wraps up on Saturday, January 5th, so get there while you still can! And if you miss it this year, be sure to check it out next season. They’re already taking applications for next year’s sponsors, and the event typically kicks off in late November, just before Thanksgiving.
Have you visited the Nutcracker Village already yourself? Let me know what you think!
Plan Your Own Visit
Where to Go
- Steubenville Nutcracker Village and Holiday Market: Fort Steuben Park, 120 South 3rd Street, Steubenville, Ohio 43952
When to Go
- Anytime! The displays are open to the public 24 hours a day and seven days a week during the season, which runs from just before Thanksgiving through early January.
- There are plenty of activities during the season, including the local Christmas parade, theatrical performances, hayrides and trolley rides, and indoor and outdoor markets as well. Check the Village’s schedule in advance if you want to plan your visit around one of their special events.
Tips for Visiting
- If you just want to see the Nutcrackers, visit during the week to avoid the crowds. But if you want to make more of a trip out of it, be sure to visit on the weekend when the market stalls are open, food and drinks are available, and additional activities can be enjoyed.
- There is parking right next to the Park, or you can park nearby on the street if the lot is full.
- Each Nutcracker has a number on it so you can keep track of the order and ensure you’ve seen them all. Number 1 starts at the Visitor Center, and you’ll end there as well.
- Finally, if you’d like to support this fun, local attraction, they’re always looking for volunteers and donors to keep this event an annual holiday tradition. Check out their homepage for more details.