I love the holidays. Christmas time is by far my favorite – shopping, shimmering lights, snow, Santa with the kids, all of it. Seeing the magic in my kids’ eyes during this time is so satisfying. We recently strolled down the streets in Downtown Hamilton, Ohio, for their all-new event, Holly Jolly Hamilton with events happening weekends through New Year’s Day. This evening was hands down the most fun we’ve had all season.
We were lucky to experience one of the first evenings that kicked off Holly Jolly Hamilton – Illuminating Hamilton. The streets were lined up with glowing luminaries, and the city hall presented a special light display. The kids were captured by all of the holiday lights throughout the city! This was such a magical feeling all in itself, and something I absolutely love to experience during the holidays, and I believe all of us need a little extra holiday cheer this year.
This was our first stop. Our evening began with pottery painting at the The Studio, where you can choose from an array of pottery, canvases, ornaments and more! When you arrive, you get to choose the artwork of your choice, including colorful paints. We couldn’t wait to get our hands dirty! My youngest, Eva, chose a Beauty and the Beast piggy bank; my oldest, Will, opted to paint a dog bowl for his grandma’s new puppy, and mine is a secret (Shhh! A special gift for a family member). We all walked in with the grand idea to start our Christmas shopping a little early this year. This was the perfect opportunity to make a special gift for a friend or family member!
Once our masterpieces were complete, the kind workers at The Studio will gladly add the final touch to your creation in their pottery kiln for a shiny finish for you to pick up at a later time, or, you can choose to take it home with you as-is that day. During the challenging time, The Studio is offering curbside pickup for you to paint your own project at home (the benefit to this is, you can choose a more complicated project and finish on your own time!) In addition, they offer party packages and classes – walk-ins are welcome but you can absolutely reserve your spot on their website!
We really worked up an appetite after our painting adventure – for treats that is! Everyone knows that Henry’s Candy Co. has the best candy in town!
“Where are you headed next?” Asked the store clerk.
“We are going to grab some candy before dinner!” I laughed.
“Oh! You’re going to Henry’s Candy store, aren’t you?”
I had this conversation more than once! The kids eyes lit up just gazing through the window from the outside – Lego creations, toys and holiday lights are displayed in the window, and when you walk in, it’s candy galore. From chocolate dipped pretzels (dark to milk chocolate) to every flavor gummy bear you can imagine, kids and adults will go crazy. You might even find some cool childhood knick-knacks and treats, Mom and Dad! My favorite thing about this mouth-watering candy shop was you can choose one-time dipped chocolate, double or three! The store clerk recommended the one dip if you don’t want it too rich.
Treats before dinner? Sure why not! Yes we may have snuck a few treats before our delicious dinner at Basil 1791, but that didn’t stop us from devouring all of the delicious Asian cuisine! Luckily Will loves sushi, so we went to town. For the littler kids, they have a simpler menu that included Eva’s favorite, Sweet and Sour Chicken. We haven’t been to many restaurants since the pandemic, but the high walls behind our booth and cleanliness really put my mind at ease. The hostess and waitress couldn’t be more friendly and overall, we had a blast. At the end of our meal, we grabbed some glowsticks on our way out the door to celebrate the theme of the evening – Illuminating Hamilton.
The festive evening definitely wouldn’t be complete without some holiday shopping! It was off to Made to Love, and honestly, I had no clue I would be walking into such a fantastic local shop that gives back to kids in need. As I browsed the ornaments, clothing, handmade jewelry, scarves, hats and more, I noticed they were all made in Haiti. When I saw that 100 percent of proceeds go toward sending a Haitian child to school, my heart melted just a little more. Yes, I definitely bought a handmade ornament and a bit more. I loved speaking with the founders and owners of the shop as I learned about their nonprofit store, vision and journey. Their products are actually items people love to buy, and it goes toward a cause – win, win! I was pleased to get a little more holiday shopping done and feel good about it, too!
Strauss Gift Shop (220 High St., Hamilton, Oh)
And for our final stop of the night, the one and only, Strauss Gift Shop. Not just a gift shop, it is also home to a picturesque art gallery by talented local artists. In fact, it used to only be an art shop and is now combined into one! I browsed the artwork and again, all of the local goods throughout the shop – from coasters, to T-shirts, handmade jewelry, candles, home décor, postcards, record art, carvings, small sculptures, stickers – should I go on? We shopped until we dropped, and that was a wrap!
The good news is, Holly Jolly Hamilton has special events happening through New Year’s Day, and each and every one of the these shops LOVE to participate in the fun! The next couple weekends you can look forward to Reindeer Games, help Santa find his reindeer and save Christmas (head to hamilton-Ohio.com/hrg to gather the clues); Holly Jolly At Home, activity kits to take home and enjoy all season long (visit the Holly Jolly Hamilton
Facebook event for the full participant list); Craft & Cocktail Quest, visit 10 Hamilton DORA locations and win a medal (download the interactive pass at
TravelButlerCounty.com/Quest; Santa House, Santa’s house returns to the Courthouse starting December 4 and tons more!
Find the full list of events on their Facebook page at fb.me/e/1GRGlyJoh.