By Kristina Smith

Publisher’s Note: Each fall, we bring you details of Christmastime doings at Spiegel Grove in Fremont, the home of Delaware native President Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife Lucy. Here’s what is taking place this year.

The holidays are upon us! Whether that thought makes you cling to your Halloween decorations and pumpkin spice everything or you’re the type who’s already put up your tree and turned on Christmas music, The Hayes Presidential Library & Museums is here to help with stress-free planning for the season.

Make memories with a variety of events here at Spiegel Grove, the wooded estate of President Rutherford and First Lady Lucy Hayes, from beloved traditions, such as sleigh rides, to some new offerings. We can also help you with finding the perfect gifts, such as a Hayes Presidential Library & Museums membership that keeps giving all year to unique finds in our Museum Store.

Things kick off the day after Thanksgiving, which is Friday, Nov. 24, with the opening of the “Hayes Train Special” model train display, a holiday tradition at Hayes Presidential since 1994. Every year, the layout includes multiple trains winding through a Victorian winter wonderland reminiscent of President Hayes’ day.

The display is interactive, and visitors of all ages can press buttons to blow the train whistle, move one of the trains, send the ice skaters across the pond and more. This display truly delights all, and generations come and bring their kids and grandkids and friends. Admission to the train display is free.

Also on Nov. 24, we’ve added a new event to go with the “Hayes Train Special.” Romick Railway of Findlay will be here from 1 to 4 p.m. to offer trackless train rides around the outside of the museum. Come see the model train, and then take a ride on a train, which fits kids and adults. Rides are offered from 1 to 4 p.m. and will last about 5 minutes. Tickets are $5 for ages 12 and older, $4 for ages 3-11 and free for ages 2 and younger. They are available online in advance, and walk-ins are also welcome.

The festivities continue the following week with Lights of Spiegel Grove on Thursday, Nov. 30. See the 25-acre wooded estate/arboretum light up for the holidays, and watch Santa light the large Christmas tree in the museum rotunda.

Visit with Santa, enjoy the warmth of the camp fire and popcorn and hot chocolate, see the “Hayes Train Special” and enjoy the lights. Admission for those activities is free.

For a fee, ride the horse-drawn trolley from South Creek Clydesdales around the arboretum while Mrs. Claus reads a story to the riders. Tickets are $6 per rider ages 3 and older and free for kids 2 and younger. They will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis the night of the event.

Also for a charge, take a holiday-themed tour of the first floor of the Hayes Home, which will be lightly decorated for Christmas in a historically accurate manner. Tours last about a half hour, and tickets are available online and will be sold at the front desk the night of the event, pending availability.

Non-member tickets are $10 for adults 19 and older, $8 for ages 6-18 and free for ages 5 and younger. Tickets for Hayes Presidential members are $8 for adults 19 and older, $6 for ages 6-18 and free for ages 5 and younger.

If you can’t make it to any of the evening events, you can still see the Hayes Home lightly decorated for Christmas when you take a regular tour of the home during the day throughout December. (The Hayes family and Victorians did not decorate as heavily as we do today, and historical accuracy is important to us.)

Then on Saturday, Dec. 2, we are offering our annual Model Train Clinic. This year, we’ve moved it up to before the holidays in response to requests to have it earlier so you can get help and have your trains in tip-top shape for the holidays. The clinic is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and model train enthusiasts will help with repair recommendations and answering questions. Admission is $5 per person ages 6 and older and free for ages 5 and younger.

Tickets can be purchased at the museum front desk the day of the event.

As we get closer to Christmas, take a special evening tour of the Hayes Home during our annual Hayes Home Holidays on Thursday, Dec. 21, and Friday, Dec. 22. This year, guests will be treated to festive stories about the Hayes family’s Christmas celebrations, from President Rutherford and First Lady Lucy Hayes to some of the later generations of the family, who lived in the home until 1965.

Throughout the tour, guests can interact with costumed characters and may even be asked to assist with the holiday preparations. The experience also will feature surprise guests. Participants will depart the Hayes Home with a comforting cup of wassail, a hot spiced cider that was a popular holiday drink during the Victorian era. Tour times are 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. 

Tickets for non-members are $18 for adults ages 19 and older, $10 for kids 6-18 and free for kids 5 and younger. Tickets for Hayes Presidential members are $15 for adults 19 and older, $8 for ages 6 -18 and free for kids 5 and younger. Advance tickets are recommended.

The celebrations don’t stop on Dec. 25. Throughout the week after Christmas, South Creek Clydesdales will offer horse-drawn sleigh and trolley rides through Spiegel Grove.

This experience is unique and is one that President Hayes loved himself. He often rode in a horse-drawn sleigh here at Spiegel Grove, as well as other places he lived over the years, and wrote in his diary about how much he loved it.

Sleigh and trolley rides will be offered from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 26 – Sunday, Dec. 31. The sleigh can hold up to four people. The trolley can fit 16 to 18 people. Sleigh rides cost $7 per rider ages 3 and older and free for ages 2 and younger. Trolley rides are $6 per rider ages 3 and older and free for ages 2 and younger.

Advance tickets for the sleigh are recommended. Tickets will also be sold the days of the rides at the museum front desk, pending availability. In-person sleigh and trolley ticket sales end at 3:45 p.m. each day the rides are offered.

Please join us this holiday season! If you have any questions or need help with event tickets, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 419-332-2081.

Source: Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museum; Photo: Creative Commons License

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