12 Great Reasons to Visit Lancaster, Ohio This Holiday Season

A new post by award winning travel writer Kathy Witt, author of Cincinnati Scavenger; Secret Cincinnati: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful & Obscure; The Secret of the Belles; and Atlanta, Georgia: A Photographic Portrait.

A new Christmas event based on a German tradition. The largest nativity display east of the Mississippi. And Mike, Carol and the “whole bloomin’ Brady Bunch.” See them all this holiday season on Fairfield County’s Tinsel and Traditions Trail in the Pressed Glass Capital of Ohio – Lancaster – once the world headquarters for the Anchor Hocking Glass Company.


See the grooviest Christmas toys, togs and traditions around at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio at A Very Brady Holiday, part of A Storybook Christmas exhibit, on display through December 31. From Carol Brady’s mod Grand Canyon pantsuit to the Brady Kids’ 1970 album, “Merry Christmas from the Brady Bunch,” to Greg’s fringed Johnny Bravo costume, you’ll step into a time capsule of seventies flower power.

See the Rock’em Sock’em Robots, original Barbie, an Etch A Sketch and other iconic toys and boardgames from the past piled beneath the aluminum tree with color wheel illumination. The exhibit also features 1950s-era pop-up books, vintage Christmas cards and ornaments from beloved storybooks and shows, including “The Wizard of Oz” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Christmas shopping highlights along the Tinsel and Traditions Trail are distinctive and diverse. One-of-a-kind glasswork and barware at Gay Fad Studios, which tells the story of legendary glassware artist and entrepreneur Fran Taylor, who made her mark in the 1930s and 1940s, is stunning and affordable. Loosely translated, the studio’s name means fun, happy designs – and the new and vintage mid-century-inspired glassware, stemware and gifts are all that and more.

If candymaker Alice DuBois seems more like a kid in a candy store, chalk it up to the Candy Cottage owner’s irrepressible love of her job. DuBois is happy to help visitors choose from among the small-batch chocolates made onsite, novelty treats and holiday goodies – for yourself or as gifts. A coffee bar was recently added, and a cappuccino or latte sipped with the confectioner’s dark chocolate buttercreams is a sublime experience.

The Humble Crate is a veritable makers market of handcrafted gift items from more than 70 Ohio artists: soft and sweet baby afghans, original hand-painted snowman creations, Smelly Jellies scented soy candles, hats and fingerless gloves by But First, Crochet, aromatic Kampfire Coffee and more. You could find the perfect gift for everyone on your list with one visit to this hodgepodge of homespun.

Trail experiences include the holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” on Dec. 1, 2 and 3; the month-long Fontanini Nativity Display at the Crossroads Ministry Center, with life-size figurines made in Italy set in a finely detailed Neapolitan-style nativity featuring temple ruins in place of a traditional stable; and several Christmas tree farms with both pre-cut and cut-your-own firs and pines, and offering an array of extras like hot chocolate and crafts, petting zoo and horse-drawn wagon rides.


Crisscrossing the Tinsel and Traditions Trail is Fairfield County’s 12 coffee shop-strong Java Trail. Bring the little ones to the family-friendly Well and sip a deliciously fragrant turmeric chai latte from a comfy nook while the kids romp in a four-level playhouse. Pair an espresso at Provisions Bakery & Deli with its no one-can-eat-just-one chocolate chip cookies – and pick up a good cab from the shop’s wall of wine for enjoying later.

Slip behind a case filled with t-shirts and other souvenirs and into the secret game room and workspace hidden beyond at L-City, where you can grab a macchiato and pastry. Across the hall is the Downtown Bistro & Bar 123, a favorite gathering place serving salmon and sirloin, burgers and small bites in a casual, comfortable setting. Located in a historic, circa 1940s hotel in the heart of downtown Lancaster, the bistro is known for a staff that feels more like visiting with old friends.


A new holiday event makes its debut in Lancaster on December 1: The Advent Window Walk features 24 consecutive Big Reveals of brilliantly colored holiday scenes lighting up the windows of two dozen grand and gracious homes in Lancaster’s Square Thirteen Historic District. Think of it as a large-scale advent calendar, with a new window lighting up each successive night during the countdown to Christmas.

The brainchild of resident Joseph Taylor, who will flip the switch on his home’s window on Christmas Eve, the Advent Window Walk was inspired by similar Christmas events in Europe –  and just might be the only one of its kind in the United States.


On New Year’s Eve, Lancaster celebrates its glass heritage with the Glass Town Countdown, a family-friendly street party held downtown at Zane Square and followed by a fireworks show. The centerpiece of the event is the Giant Glass Globe, which is raised rather than lowered, and comprises hundreds of hand-blown glass ornaments, each individually hand-painted. Prior to New Year’s Eve, the Giant Glass Globe may be seen inside the Ohio Glass Museum, which offers glassblowing classes for those wishing to create their own glass ornaments.

If You Go

For more information about things to see and do on Lancaster’s Tinsel and Traditions Trails and the Glass Town Countdown New Year’s Eve celebration, visit www.visitfairfieldcounty.org or download the Visit Fairfield County app (iPhone, Android) and find shopping, attractions, activities, accommodations, restaurants and more.


Christmas cookies and Christmas candy. Is there anything sweeter during the holidays? Here are two recipes from Fairfield County’s Tinsel and Traditions Trail.

Provisions Bakery & Deli Chocolate Chip Cookies


  • 2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 C packed light brown sugar
  • 2/3 C granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 12 oz chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Beat the butter and both sugars together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to medium and add flour mixture. Mix just until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips with rubber spatula.

Using a tablespoon, scoop 12 heaping scoops of cookie dough 2 inches apart on lined baking trays. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cool and serve. Makes a dozen cookies.

The Candy Cottage Buckeye Candy


  • 1 cup Parkay margarine
  • 2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 lb. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 lb. milk or semisweet chocolate flavored coating


Cream margarine and peanut butter. Add vanilla. Stir in powdered sugar, a cup at a time until consistency is not sticky.

Roll in 1 1 /2-inch balls or use cookie scoop for consistent size. Dip with a toothpick into melted chocolate coating. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.

Pinch to cover hole made by toothpick. Place into paper cups and serve. Makes about 90 pieces.

About Guest Blogger Kathy Witt

Writer and author Kathy Witt is a member of SATW Society of American Travel Writers and the Authors Guild

She is the author of Secret Cincinnati; The Secret of the Belles; Atlanta, GA: A Photographic Portrait

NEWCincinnati Scavenger: The Ultimate Search for Cincinnati’s Hidden Treasures arriving October 2022.

NEWPerfect Day Kentucky: Daily Itineraries for the Discerning Traveler arriving Fall 202

Soul: A Chef’s Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes

Photographer Greg DuPree, Food Styling Torie Cox, Prop Styling Mindi Shapiro

          While most days I want something quick, easy and delicious to make, there are also times when I love to spend an afternoon cooking and when I do, I often turn to a cookbook I haven’t used before. This weekend it was Soul: A Chef’s Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes by Todd Richards which won the IACP award for Best Cookbook in America of 2019. It is indeed a soul food cookbook, but the recipes are sophisticated, taking this type of cooking in a different direction than is traditional. Richard’s recipes are organized by ingredients such as corn, tomatoes, melons, stone fruit, berries and roots (as well as other categories such as eggs and poultry, pork and beef) make it easy to pair them with what’s in season.

          If you’re trying to save time in making any of the recipes below, go with pre-made pie crust for the Blueberry Fried Pies. I guess you can also cheat and buy some great fried chicken already made for the Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Waffles, it avoids the mess of frying though you’ll miss out on Richard’s great tasting version. Or you can skip the fried chicken and just make sweet potato waffles which are delicious all by themselves. Though these recipes seem long, once you start cooking, I think you’ll find they really aren’t difficult, just a little more time consuming than throwing hamburgers and un-shucked corn on the grill.

Photographer Greg DuPree, Food Styling Anna Hampton, Prop Styling Thom Driver

          Richards, who was nominated twice for the James Beard Award as the Best Chef of the Southeast, competed on Iron Chef, is originally from Chicago. His culinary heritage stems from classic soul cooking.

“It then progressed forward,” he says.

His mom loved Chinese food and typically ordered yakamein—noodles, broth and pork bell with a soft-boiled egg and scallions. Because his dad was frugal, when they ordered take-out any leftovers in the kitchen had to be used as well. His recipe for Collard Green Ramen which is in the cookbook harkens back to when there were collard greens on the table along with the yakamein.

“It/s a dish I was eating when I was 5, 6 years old,” says. Richards. “The way that I interpreted it is a little bit different because of my background in cooking, but it’s the exact same dish I was eating as a kid.”

His Blueberry Fried Pie has similar roots. Chicago had a Hostess factory and what Richards describes as a “whole Hostess culture.”  He has a vivid memory of tearing the paper off their fried pies and so his recipe is, for him, like being a kid in Chicago again.

‘I interpret this recipe a little bit differently: Instead of cooking the blueberries to mush, you make the liquid and then you put the blueberries inside of it,” says Richards, who is the owner/chef of Richard’s Southern Fried in Atlanta, Georgia. “That way when you bite into the fried pie you get all this fresh blueberry flavor, one that’s not overly sweet. What I’ve done is taken my childhood memories and progressing them to fine-dining dishes.”

Photographer Greg DuPree, Prop Stylist Claire Spollen, Food Stylist Torie Cox

The following recipes are courtesy of Soul by Todd Richards (Oxmoor House, $35).

Blueberry Fried Pies with Meyer Lemon Glaze

Chef’s note: Leftover filling is great on pancakes, waffles, or ice cream. 

Makes about 20 pies

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3⁄4 cup (6 ounces) water

1⁄4 cup (2 ounces) dark rum

1 teaspoon orange zest (from 1 orange)

1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Pinch of kosher salt

1 thyme sprig

4 cups fresh blueberries (about 1 1⁄4 pounds)

Erika Council’s Piecrust (recipe below)

All-purpose flour, for dusting

1 large egg

4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable oil        

Meyer Lemon Glaze (recipe follows)

Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Add 1⁄2 cup of the water, and whisk until combined. Whisk in the rum, orange zest, vanilla bean paste, and salt. Add the thyme sprig. Cook over medium, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thickened, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the heat, and fold in the blueberries. Let stand for 30 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme sprig.

Cut the piecrust in half. Refrigerate 1 portion until ready to use. Roll out remaining portion to 1⁄8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into 10 circles with a 4 1⁄2-inch round cookie cutter, re-rolling scraps once. Repeat with remaining dough half.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of each dough circle. Whisk together the egg and remaining 1⁄4 cup water. Brush the edges of the pies, and fold over so the edges meet. Press the edges together with a fork to seal. Repeat the process with the remaining dough, filling, and egg wash.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium to 375°F. Fry the pies until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook about 2 more minutes. Drain on paper towels, and let cool  20 minutes. Drizzle with Meyer Lemon Glaze.

Serve with: Ice cream, lemon sorbet

Meyer Lemon Glaze

1 cup (about 4 ounces) powdered sugar

2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice

1 to 3 teaspoons heavy cream

Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Whisk in the heavy cream, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Makes 1⁄2 cup

Erika Council’s Piecrust

This basic piecrust is by Erika Council, a talented baker in Atlanta and founder of the blog Southern Soufflé, where she shares Southern Soul food recipes and her family’s legacy. Her grandmother is the legendary Mildred Council, owner of Mama Dip’s, a 40-year-old restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This piecrust recipe can be used for both sweet and savory pies.

Makes enough for 2 (9-inch) piecrusts

3 cups (about 12 3⁄4 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

6 ounces (3⁄4 cup) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces

1⁄3 cup very cold vegetable shortening

6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse a few times until combined. Add the butter and shortening, and pulse until the mixture resembles small peas, 8 to 12 times.

With the processor running, drizzle 6 tablespoons of the ice water through the food chute, and process until the dough begins to form a ball. (Add up to 2 more tablespoons, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed, to reach desired consistency.)

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface, and shape into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

To use: Cut the dough in half. Roll each half into 1 1⁄8-inch-thick round on a well-floured surface.

Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Waffles

This recipe is as American as apple pie. Yet most every culture has a version of it. I prefer to brine all birds before cooking for best flavor and texture. 

Serves 4

4 cups (32 ounces) water

1 cup (8 ounces) whole buttermilk

6 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons hot sauce

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons granulated garlic

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 1⁄2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

1 (4-pound) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces

5 cups (40 ounces) vegetable oil

Seasoned Flour (recipe below)

Sweet Potato Waffles (recipe follows)

Maple syrup

Stir together 4 cups water, buttermilk, and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl; add the chicken pieces to the brine. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours and up to 28 hours.

Heat the oil in a deep cast-iron skillet over medium. Remove chicken from the brine, and let any excess liquid drip off; discard the brine.

Dredge chicken in Seasoned Flour to coat; add to the hot oil, 1 piece at a time. Cook, turning every few minutes, until golden and a meat thermometer registers 165°F. Drain on paper towels. Serve chicken on Sweet Potato Waffles with maple syrup.

Sweet Potato Waffles

Makes 4 (8-inch) round waffles.

1 medium-size sweet potato

1⁄4 teaspoon blended olive oil   

2 cups (about 8 1⁄2 ounces) all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk

1⁄2 cup (4 ounces) whole buttermilk

3 ounces (about 1⁄3 cup) butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1⁄2 teaspoon maple extract

2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Rub the potato with the oil. Bake in the preheated oven until tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, and cool for 20 minutes.

Preheat a Belgian waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions. Stir together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.

Peel and mash the sweet potato and stir into the milk mixture. Stir milk mixture into the flour mixture. Pour about 1⁄2 cup of batter onto hot waffle iron and cook according to manufacturer’s instructions until golden brown.

Serve with: Egg dishes, green salads, braised vegetables   

Seasoned Flour

Every Soul and Southern kitchen has a good all-purpose seasoned flour to use for frying. This will keep for months in a cool, dry place or even longer in the freezer.

Makes about 2 1⁄4 cups

2 cups (about 8 1⁄2 ounces) all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 1⁄2 tablespoons granulated onion

1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, and store in an airtight container.