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 Two Beguiling Attractions Make Wheeling a Christmas Season Destination

 By Dave Zuchowski   Photos by Bill Rockwell

  Think of Christmas towns and places like Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Frankenmuth, Michigan and Santa Claus, Indiana come to mind. But Wheeling, West Virginia isn’t one that usually pops into anyone’s mind.

A recent visit to the former steel-making town on the Ohio River opened my eyes, at least, to the Christmas spirit after visiting two captivating sites. The first, the Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum fills a gorgeous, four-story, brick building with a bell tower that was completed in 1906 as a schoolhouse (1906-1991). Now renovated, the historic building serves as home to close to a half million items, about 100,000 of which are on display. How’s that for Christmas-ish?

On the day of my visit, I met founder Allen Robert Miller outside in the parking lot doing chore duty. Before long, he led me inside the ground floor of the museum where I was visually accosted by the sight of the largest Snoopy collection in the world, said number 15,000 items. Surprisingly, a collection of 500 colorful neckties, dangling in a vibrant arrangement from above, added an unexpected vibe. (Yes, there’s more to the museum than toys and trains).

A shot of the Snoopy Collection
    After breezing through another collection, this time of some 480 bobble heads, we headed upstairs to see one of the world’s largest production jigsaw puzzles. Obviously something Miller is proud of, the 6 by 20-foot-long puzzle has 40,320 pieces and covers an entire wall in ten different cells, each representing a scene from a Disney film.
The 40,320-piece Jigsaw Puzzle
    With ten different rooms to explore on two floors of the museum, you might want to start in the Doll Room, just to the right of the ticket booth. Arranged chronologically, the dolls include Barbies from the 1950s up through today’s American Girl dolls and include older dolls dating back to the early 1900s.
    One of many unique items in the room, a large dollhouse, built from scratch, permits children to move touchy-feely the furniture around in new configurations as they see fit.
Well Hello Dolly!
    If you’re into vintage board games, one room is stocked with favorites like Cootie, Trivial Pursuit, Clue, Skunk, Allies and Axis as well as 400 versions of Monopoly, thought to be the largest collection on the East Coast. The room also has displays of marble games, Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em robots and other things that date back to the 1920s.
    Are you fond of miniatures? Another room is devoted to everything from toy soldiers and cowboy and Indian play sets to a set of miniature U.S. presidents made by the Louis Marx company.
In the K-Land Room
    My personal favorite room is the K-Land Room, made up of working miniature amusement park rides. It took over 250,000 pieces to make the 6-foot-tall Ferris Wheel, roller coaster and other pieces, all colorfully lit. The overhead lights are timed to represent an entire day, and the nighttime version is especially dazzling.
    In the room devoted to transportation, you’ll find a four-lane slot car set up in the middle of the room, an operating horse and carriage and, moving on in time to outer space, a rocket ship and a Mars rover. The room includes virtually anything that can move on land, air, and sea from the 1,800s to the present.
The 4-Lane Slot Car Display in the Transportation Room

 Train lovers can take heart in knowing there are three rooms devoted to trains. One focuses on an O-Gauge display representative of the Marcellus and Utica shale oil and gas fields. Other rooms feature an O-scale layout while another is devoted to historical toy trains.

The Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum, located at 144 Kruger St. in Wheeling is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Santa will be on site Saturdays in December from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is $15, $7.50 for students 4-17. Phone 304-242-8133 or toyandtrain.com.

Welcome to the Festival of Lights

If you’re looking for something holiday-themed come evening, consider the Festival of Lights in Oglebay Park. This six-mile-long drive features over 100 lighted attractions highlighted by a 70-foot tall Welcome Tree, a larger-than-life winter globe at Schenk Lake and a light display of Wheeling’s iconic suspension bridge.

Admission is a suggested donation of $30 per car. If you’d rather take a guided trolley tour, which departs from Wilson Lodge hourly from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., the cost is $20 per person, Monday – Thursday, and $30, Friday – Sunday. Phone 877-436-1797 for reserved tickets.

At Levenson Shelter, you can ice skate or take a stroll through the tree decorated trail, then sip some hot chocolate.

A Patriotic Display

    At Oglebay Park’s Good Zoo, enjoy a dazzling Rockin’ Holiday Light Show on the outdoor patio that features 40,000LED lights choreographed to the music of legends like Led Zeppelin, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and more!  Access to the Rockin’ Holiday Light Show is included with Good Zoo admission. Adults: $13.95; Children (3-12): $9.95.

Santa will also be at the Good Zoo nightly from 6 – 8 p.m. to hear all your holiday wishes. Good Zoo guests will receive one free digital photo with admission throughout the holiday season.

A 70-Foot-Tall Christmas Tree

Additional Christmas season events include a Nightly Candy Cane Cordial with free refreshments on the second floor of Wilson Lodge, a nightly dinner buffet in the Ihlenfeld Dining Room, Breakfast with Santa (some days only), holiday dinner shows and Magical Mansion Shows.  For more information, phone 877-436-1797 or www.oglebay.com.

For more information on Wheeling, phone 800-828-3097 or wheelingcvb.com.

For a Place to Stay, Oglebay’s Wilson Lodge, at 465 Lodge Drive in Wheeling, features 250 rooms and 54 cottages. From single rooms to eight-bedroom estate houses, Oglebay provides all the amenities you need to feel right at home.

A Cozy Nook at the Wilson Lodge

The lodge also offers fine and casual dining options, wireless Internet, retail shops, a business center, an indoor pool with Jacuzzi, a game room, a fitness center, a movement studio with wellness programming and the famous West Spa.

Phone 877-436-1797 or oglebay.com.

Later, Alligator

For a Place to Dine, Later Alligator, 2145 Market Street, is a casual, funky restaurant that specializes in both savory and sweet crepes but also serves soups, salads, wraps, burgers and sandwiches. Housed in an 1869 saloon, the restaurant is filled with artifacts related largely to Wheeling Steel.

A Christmas Tree Made from Bottles of Grolsch Beer

The most popular savory crepe is the Wallie, a combination of chicken, spinach, ricotta, grilled tomatoes, and cheddar topped with raspberry sauce and walnuts. For dessert try the Banana-to-Fana, bananas, granola, honey, peanut butter and whipped cream. Phone 304-233-1606.

The Wallie

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