CAMBRIDGE - Those looking for a day trip to a unique holiday destination the whole family can enjoy - and a great way to offer a 200th birthday salute to author Charles Dickens to boot - can travel the short distance (45 miles from Marietta via Interstate 77) to downtown Cambridge for the city's annual Dickens Victorian Village.
Inexpensive, imaginative and interactive, the Victorian village boasts a new trolley tour, a brightly colored light show at the Guernsey County Courthouse, re-creations of 88 scenes from Charles Dickens' novels and more.
"It's very family friendly and a very inexpensive destination," said Jonett Haberfield, Dickens Victorian Village co-chair.
"It's a warm, fuzzy kind of story book kind of atmosphere," she added.
The sights, sounds and activities evoking the Dickens' era at the Dickens Victorian Village run through January, with most events scheduled for late November and into December.
The reels, jigs, polkas and waltzes beloved by those in the Dickens' era will have guests tapping their toes-and perhaps even dancing to the beat-at the Holiday Victorian dinner and dance that begins at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Rumors have flown around Cambridge that Dickens himself will attend the dinner and dance.
"Yes, I think he will be making an appearance, even though he's 200 years old," said Harriette Orr, a Dickens Victorian Village board member.
The dinner/dance event will be held at the Deerasic Park Education Center on Ohio 22/Cadiz Road.
"It's a beautiful log building with a huge stone fireplace that's always lit," Orr said.
"We go in and decorate it with trees and all kinds of holiday decorations, so it's very seasonal," she added.
Dancers come in costume and invite guests to dance with them, said Orr.
"The women dancers have big hoop skirts and the gentlemen wear tuxedos," she added. "They are just pleasing to watch."
The dinner, catered by Theo's Restaurant, is served at 6 p.m., with dancing to follow from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
About 30,000 pulsating lights synchronized to a holiday soundtrack come alive every night for the Guernsey County Courthouse holiday music and light show. The light show runs from 5:30 to 9 p.m. nightly through Jan. 5, with extended hours until 11 p.m. Dec. 24 to 26 and Dec. 31 to Jan. 1.
To get an overview of historic downtown Cambridge and the Dickens Victorian Village, visitors can hop aboard a big red-and-green trolley featuring oak bench seats and brass handrails.
Trolley tours will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Nov. 24 and Dec. 15, at a cost of $10 per person. The trolley stops at eight spots, including Kennedy's Bakery and a High Tea at the Colonel Taylor bed and breakfast (high tea costs $18 per person).
Local gingerbread artisans will compete in the Gingerbread House contest and display held Nov. 24 to Dec. 24. Contest categories include youth, teen, adult, group special People's Choice award and historical Guernsey County buildings.
"We had 12 entries last year. I'm hoping to get up to 18 or 20 this year," said Karen Googins, contest chair.
Past entries have not been limited to houses. They have included a church, baseball field, barns and a schoolhouse scene, Googins noted.
"In one house, you could look in the back and see they had furniture in there. There was even a table with a table cloth and bowl of fruit on it," she added. "It's amazing how people can come up with these things."
Music plays an important role in any celebration of the Christmas holiday, and the Dickens Victorian Village offers plenty of it.
Local featured singers, a chorus sing along and even a visit from Santa Claus will be part of the free Cambridge City Band holiday concert on Nov. 24.
Favorite holiday music will be the focus of the Southeastern Ohio Symphony Orchestra Holiday Pops concert, scheduled for 1 p.m. on Nov. 29 and 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 1. The cost is $10 per person.