COVID-19 pushed holiday home tours online and outside last year. This Christmas season, most of the mixing and mingling is back inside. There still are outdoor and online options as well. Marietta’s candlelight tour reaches its 55th year Dec. 5. After an outdoor tour last year, organizers were excited to resume the normal tour, says Jason Spickler, co-chair of the event.
Planning started in February, so the group forged ahead, choosing to not have larger group activities. Instead, people can tour homes built from 1810 through the early 1920s. Three of the homes have never been on the tour, something that surprised Spickler.
“After 55 years, you’d think that every house would have been used,” he says.
Plans were underway for a return of the Manheim Holiday Tour of Homes, when organizers saw the increase in COVID cases. They decided to pivot to a tour of outdoor lights.
“We’re not going to let COVID stop us from doing something special,” says Linda Karns, chairman of the holiday tour committee.
Here are six home tours to explore this holiday season plus more outdoor tours.
Yuletide at Wheatland
What: Tour President James Buchanan’s Wheatland decorated for the holidays and learn more about Buchanan and Christmas traditions during the mid-Victorian era.
COVID-19 changes: After a year of virtual tours, Wheatland’s 2021 tours are in-person. The tours will be smaller (10 people, half of pre-pandemic groups). All visitors, regardless of vaccination, must wear a face mask. Virtual tours can be booked by appointment.
When: Wednesday, Nov. 24 through Dec. 30, tours are Wednesday through Saturday every 30 minutes starting at 10 a.m. The final tour starts at 3 p.m. Additional tours will be Dec. 20, 21, 27 and 28. No tours Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve.
Tickets: $17 for ages 14 and older. $8 for ages 6-13. Buy tickets at lancasterhistory.org/yuletide or by calling 717-392-4633. A family pass (two adult and two child tickets) is $40. Advance tickets are highly recommended.
Did you know? Tickets for the yuletide tour at Wheatland include admission to LancasterHistory’s museum exhibits, including “Lancaster in the ’60s” and “Season’s Greetings from Lancaster.” The seasonal exhibit focuses on how the holidays were celebrated in Lancaster County and showcases historic and holiday-centric artifacts.
Holiday Open House
What: Mount Hope Estate and Winery will be decorated for Christmas. The historic mansion will be open for self-guided tours 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
When: Nov. 26-28, Dec. 4-5 and Dec. 11-12.
Tickets: Admission is free.
Did you know? Join a carol sing and games at noon, 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Seasons, a duo playing Celtic and American folk music will perform as well.
Zimmerman Center Open House
What: Tour the center in Wrightsville, decorated for the holidays. Take a winter hike, visit the new outdoor nature space and warm yourself by the 18th-century hearth and fire circle.
COVID-19 changes: Visitors are encouraged to wear a mask while indoors.
When: Friday, Dec. 10, 5-7 p.m. plus Saturday, Dec. 11, and Sunday, Dec. 12, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Tickets: Free. S'mores kits are available for purchase.
Did you know? Saturday, visit Columbia Crossing River Trails Center across the river in Columbia to make tree ornaments from natural materials. The suggested donation is $3 per person. Sunday, decorate your own wrapping paper and gift bags at the Columbia Center from noon to 4 p.m.
Marietta Candlelight Tour of Homes
What: Tour eight homes plus historic buildings in Marietta.
COVID-19 changes: After a year outdoors, this tour takes people inside homes and historic buildings. Activities such as the roving carolers and the in-person decorating workshop will not be part of the tour.
When: Sunday, Dec. 5, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Tickets: $25 the day of the tour. Advance tickets are $20 and can be purchased at Mariettarestoration.org or at several local businesses.
Benefits: Marietta Restoration Associates
Did you know? Take a break from the tour at 5 p.m. to watch Santa and Mrs. Claus light the tree outside Old Town Hall. This is a change from past years, when the tree lighting was the weekend before the tour. Walk the tour or take the bus to each stop. Extra parking will be available at Donegal Intermediate School.
Christmas Candlelight Tour
What: Tour the 1792 Johannes Mueller House and the museum next door to learn about Mueller holiday traditions of Lititz’s Moravian community in the 18th century.
COVID-19 changes: Tour groups will be limited to eight people.
When: Friday, Dec. 10, 5-9 p.m. The final tour begins at 8:20 p.m.
Where: Lititz Historical Foundation, 145 E. Main St.
Tickets: $5 per person. Pre-registration is required in-person at the museum Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. or by calling 717-627-4636.
Benefits: Lititz Historical Foundation
Information: Facebook.com/LititzMuseum or call the museum at 717-627-4636, Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Did you know? Traditionally, the decorations inside the home are natural: pine, holly, sage and chestnuts. Moravian stars outside light up the night.
Candlelight Open House
What: Ephrata Cloister lantern tours led by high school students return in-person in small groups.
COVID-19 changes: Advance tickets are required and attendance is limited with small tour groups. Tickets go on sale Dec. 1.
When: Dec. 27-30.
Tickets: $10, $9 for age 65 and older, $7 for ages 6-17 and $5 for ages 3-5.
Benefits: Ephrata Cloister
Did you know? Tour Ephrata Cloister by candlelight, Saturday, Nov. 27 ($7 per person age three and older). After a virtual year, the the Christmas at the Cloister musical program will be in person Monday, Dec. 13, and Tuesday, Dec. 14, with performances at 6:30 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $7.
Let's Come Together and Light Up Lititz
What: Take this driving tour of decorated homes in and around Lititz and vote for your favorite location in this event organized by Lititz Springs Park.
When: Vote Dec. 10-24.
Tickets: Not required. Voting is free.
Did you know? Participants were asked to decorate for daytime and nighttime so you can take the tour in daylight if you’re an early bird.
Women's Club of Manheim Holiday Outdoor Lighting Tour
What: Take this driving tour of five decorated homes in and around Manheim.
COVID-19 changes: This home tour was canceled last year and is outdoors this holiday season.
When: Houses will be decorated during December.
Tickets: No tickets are required.
Information: Brochures with tour stops will be distributed at Manheim businesses and shared on the club’s Facebook page, lanc.news/WCoM.
Jingle Bell Tour
What: From a trolley, see decorated homes and businesses throughout Ephrata.
COVID-19 changes: This year, trolley tours are back. Last year’s self-guided tour is also an option. Tickets for the self-guided tour are $5 and will be available Dec. 1. They include coupons from local businesses. The tour can be taken through Dec. 24.
When: Friday, Dec. 10, 5-8:30 p.m. (family night) and Saturday, Dec. 11. (adult night, trolley tours start at 6 p.m. and continue on the hour until 9 p.m.).
Tickets: $12 for family night and $15 for adult night. Buy tickets at mainspringofephrata.org.
Benefits: Mainspring of Ephrata
Did you know? Before Friday’s tours start, arrive early at Ephrata Church of the Brethren to meet Santa, make a craft and grab refreshments. Saturday’s tour (which usually sells out) starts at Old Republic Distillery Tavern and comes with one free drink.