The best way to spread Christmas Cheers is to…go to Medina, OH’s Castle Noel! On Black Friday, while everyone else was trying to find some Christmas deals, my friends and I took a drive to Medina, OH. I know… where’s Medina? I grew up just over an hour away and had no clue! It’s just a little under an hour, SW of Cleveland, this little, tucked away town is full of Christmas Spirit.
Friends of mine (the Griswolds of Akron, OH) have been wanting to go to Castle Noel for a while, but haven’t been able to make it. During the winter holidays, the four of us try to get together for a movie and lunch, but this year, Auston & Molly suggested Medina.
The town square was quant and cozy, surrounding a gazebo holding a beautiful Christmas tree, and lined with coffee shops, local restaurants, and cute, local businesses! We started with some lunch at a great little cafe, Marie’s Cafe. Most of us are huge breakfast eaters, and Marie’s didn’t disappoint! The breakfast sandwich was delicious (try it with the sourdough!) and the hash was a hit! After filling our bellies, we took a walk around Uptown Park, ending in getting a caramel apple for me and donuts for the rest of the crew! I know I said we were full, but we weren’t dessert full yet!
Now…to the main event! I was a little skeptic of this attraction…we have something called Christmasland in my hometown, in which you walk through the store viewing different Christmas displays. It’s ok, and maybe amazing to kids under the age of 9, but nothing to write home about. I went into Castle Noel with the same image in mind…
I was completely wrong! The sheer size alone, over 40,000 square feet of Christmas extravaganza, dwarfed my little town’s Christmasland 10 fold. I’m not even exaggerating – Christmasland is 300 ft long, so let’s say 3000 sq ft. So, heads up, be ready to be on your feet for a few hours!
During high season (between Thanksgiving and Christmas), your best bet is to make a reservation (I’ll provide the link and instructions at the end). We didn’t, but we got extremely lucky that the line wasn’t out the door. Even when inside, it took about 30-45 minutes of waiting before our group of about 10-15 was ushered to start the tour. During our wait though, the owner, Mark Klaus, entertained the crowd by asking Christmas movie/tv show trivia. If you get an answer right, you get a treat, so brush up on those holiday movies!
Now, I could write a whole other blog post on Mark Klaus…so I just might. Just know that this man is multi-talented in the most extreme way! And his holiday cheer is infectious!
We started our tour in a media room. Mark Klaus, himself, comes in to welcome you (which I find amazing and wonderful that he’s there to greet everyone that comes into his shop!), before starting the little movie about how Castle Noel came to be. I won’t give everything away, since hopefully you’ll be making the trip to see it, but Mark started with a single snowflake and made an Ice Castle. He works with New York City’s most recognizable storefronts to collect their Christmas displays before they’re destroyed. He also has an impressive amount of movie props and costumes, and some of your favorite toys that will throw any age back to a nostalgic Christmas.
Outside, you get up close and personal to Cousin Eddie’s RV and can witness Mark Klaus’ talent of building immense props.
But get ready…you’re about to head into blizzard vortexes and chimney squeezes for the next few hours inside. This will be your last outdoor experience for awhile as your transported into what is an organized, chaos of all things Christmas.
Mark Klaus weaves you in through the fabrics of time and creates almost an amusement park ride through Christmas. His helpers are all so enthusiastic, and share his affinity for all things Christmas.
His movie props range from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Elf, Jingle All the Way, and all three Tim Allen’s Santa Claus movies, plus many others. They’re meticulously preserved and displayed – and you can even yell into Cousin Eddie’s RV pipe…If you know the quote, leave it in the comments!!
Sprinkled throughout the walkthrough, are some of Mark Klaus’ creations. They tower over you as you head into Castle Noel, they memorize you with their intricacy, and if you see a mural on the wall? That’s probably his amazing artwork as well! Make sure you ask, as all the helpers are pretty up to speed on all the details! He also restores a lot of pieces that come in, and it was really neat to get to go through the “attic” of Castle Noel to see all the pieces he’s collected and currently restoring to add to the already huge walkthrough!
Now, the crown jewels of Castle Noel…at least for me! The window displays from NYC! The story behind the displays is that the stores in NYC – Bloomingdales, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, and Lord & Taylor – is that they would spend millions of dollars on these store front windows and then destroy them after the holiday season…wait, what? You heard right – they’d destroy and trash millions of dollars worth of time, material, and art!
Mark Klaus has been working with these stores to capture, restore, and display they were always intended. Walking through these hallways couldn’t compare to seeing it in the bright lights of New York, but it comes as close as it gets. You wouldn’t be able to see these outside of NYC, other than Castle Noel, so here’s your second chance if you haven’t gotten to NYC for Christmas. Actually, after seeing these displays in Ohio, it’s made me want to hop on the next train to NYC to see these in real life! Might have to be another blog post…yeah…I think that feels right!
Most of the expensive window actually wasn’t one of the flashy ones…it was a simple, but beautiful. It was an award winning window by Lord & Taylor, which took 1.5 years and approximately $2.4M to make. You read that right…$2.4 MILLION DOLLARS. I couldn’t believe how much money and work goes into these windows, but when you see them up close, you can definitely see why. They bring so much joy and Christmas cheer (and let’s not forget, foot traffic into the stores), so they’re totally worth it!
So, I’ve also decided not to show you the last room. They make such a big deal out of it, with a grand entrance, that I feel I would kind of ruin it for you by posting the unveiling. You do get to get a photo taken with Santa and take a ride down a slide, reminiscent of The Christmas Story! OH! And they have a wall of fame of those over 80 years old who have taken the ride – the oldest person being 101! Castle Noel is truly a place for any age!
All in all, a wonderful day spent with my amazing friends! We each bought the corkscrew Santa hats and bounced around the town square, listening to Christmas songs, trying to spread some Christmas cheer! If you’re nearby, I would totally recommend a stop in Medina, OH and Castle Noel!
Ok, now the details & tips:
- Open nearly all year long – closed Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. Hours differ by day and time of year, so I’d check on the website.
- Cost: $18 – includes a ride down the slide at the end. You can purchase tickets there or online. Highly recommend making reservations between Thanksgiving to Christmas! You can do this online.
- It’s about a 1.5-2 hour walking tour, with a possible wait time prior to starting. Wear your comfy shoes!
- Take the time to visit the town square! A lot of cute shops are there, and some great lunch and dinner spots!
- Parking is for 3 hours. If you go to lunch or dinner prior, go check the car and see if you can move it before going to Castle Noel. We parked passed 3 hours and didn’t have a problem, but I think we just got lucky.
Get out there and have some fun!