CBUS Dads’ Holidays Activities and Traditions

CBUS Dads blogger Mike Liddy checked out the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival with his kids

We’re in the home stretch before the holidays. You may be off work, and the kids may be home from school. Regardless, you may also be looking for some activities that don’t include going to the mall to best maximize this special time of the year.

We polled our CBUS Dads for some of their holiday traditions and go-to activities that may be a little less mainstream than the ones that are typically top of mind:

The Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival is a unique holiday experience. The Ohio Expo Center & State Fairgrounds are decked out with almost 40 displays of traditional (and some non-traditional) Chinese lantern displays all lit up. There are tons of fun things for the kids: a Finding Nemo display, a Christmas display, huge dragons, and tons of pandas. But, the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival also has flowers, fruits and a long walk through the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Don’t miss the performances, the shopping and the food either. The paths can be a little difficult to navigate with a stroller, but they’ve placed hard plastic matting over the grassy areas to make it a little easier to traverse. The Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival goes until January 2, so there’s plenty of time to experience it, even if you can’t squeeze it in before the big one.
-Mike Liddy, Contributor


The older I get, the more I can relate to Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation. It’s easy to get caught up in the holidays, putting a ton of pressure on ourselves to make the holidays super special for our kids. I can’t be the only that’s been here, right? Each year, Erika and I dig for the holiday event that our kids will remember forever. However, there’s one simple tradition that we look forward to every year. On Christmas Eve morning, we go out for breakfast, just the four of us. In the midst of rushing and endless family gatherings, there’s something awesome about just having a simple breakfast together. The location is flexible, but the last two years (and probably this year) we hit up DK Diner in Grandview. The diner atmosphere allows for sweatpants and they always have fresh donuts. Sure, the big Christmas events are awesome, but I encourage you to find a few simple Christmas traditions as well.
-Billy Fischer, Contributor

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Every year, the Farkas family takes an afternoon to make Christmas cookies. I’ve done this for 40 years; the only exception was when I was two months old, and I think that seems like a fair excuse. Making cookie with the kids is pure chaos. Aprons don’t help. Eggs end up broken in wrong places. Often, the weight of the frosting on top of the cookie far eclipses the weight of the actual cookie. The end product won’t end up on the Food Network, but I appreciate it more than any Bobby Flay product.
-Dan Farkas, Contributor

My family and I are reserving December 23 for a Christmas day spent downtown. Every year we try to stroll through State Auto’s Christmas Corner that includes a historic life-sized Nativity display. We are also going to stop by the brand spanking new Main Library for the Huntington Holiday Train, which we’ve never checked out before. Both activities should captivate our energetic two-year-old. From there, we’ll grab a bite, aiming for somewhere with that warm, hearty fare that seems appropriate on a cold day. Maybe Press Grill or Jack’s Diner.
-Steve Michalovich, Contributor

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For the past several years my family have grabbed dinner at Milestone 229 or Columbus Brewing Company a few days before Christmas and then walked our fullness off through Bicentennial Park to see and enjoy the holiday lights at the forefront of our wonderful city skyline. This pleasant hike has recently expanded to include Columbus Commons since that area is also a “can’t miss” now in terms of a beautiful downtown holiday spectacle. To add to the mystique and nostalgia of the holidays here in Columbus, I then take my family on a stroll through the State Auto nativity display to enjoy their reaction to this wonderful scene as I used to experience when I was a child.
-Steve Swift, Contributor




We also caught wind of a Christmas Cave a couple hours south of town. Has anyone been there and would recommend?

Grocery Shopping and Survival

Whenever possibly, CBUS Dads blogger Steven Michalovich tries to do his grocery shopping at Kroger during happy hour.

Just when I felt I could survive a trip to the store with my daughter, sure enough, we had another kid.

I remember the first time I braved a trip to the grocery store with both kiddos like it was yesterday. It was only a few months ago, but a few months can feel like a few hours when you’re a parent.

Like many good Ohioans, we are loyal to Cincinnati-based Kroger. We weren’t intentional about the day of the week, but our first trip as a family of four to Kroger was on a Friday afternoon. If you shop at Kroger, you may know that they do happy hour on Fridays. It may sound lame, but they offer full glasses of wine for a quarter. That’s right, 25 cents. Goes without saying, but I highly recommend you do your Kroger shopping during happy hour. It makes the whining and mischief much easier to tolerate.

The happy hour is strategically located as you enter the store. I could sense that the next hour of my life could be better served with a little booze, so I quickly scooped up a glass for me and my wife, and we proceeded in.

Kroger does a great job catering to kids. Starting in the produce section, they offer free bananas for children. We always make this our first stop, because a banana will keep a two-year-old busy and peaceful for about seven minutes.

Kroger also offers free cookies from the bakery. When we first started taking kids grocery shopping, the first order of business was to get that free cookie. As our daughter has grown, we dangle the cookie as the carrot for good behavior. She is well aware that a trip to the store equals a cookie for her, so she is more apt to behave and listen knowing a cookie is the reward.

My toddler is going through a phase where she loves to “help Daddy” (let’s hope this continues for the next 30 years). Giving her assignments like pulling items from our list off shelves and putting them in the cart, keep her happy and agreeable most of the time.

None of the above even accounts for our infant. Hopefully you catch yours right when they’re ready for a nap, but anyone who’s had a newborn baby knows there’s no planning when they’ll want to cozy up for a snooze.

Children, of all ages, will always be a challenge in stores, and no amount of cheap wine will change that. When it’s just me and the kids doing the grocery shopping, my wife likes to add to the challenge by sending me on an endless quest for three different kinds of nutrition bars that are all conveniently scattered in different aisles of the store.

In my short time as a dad, I’ve learned getting through any errand requires a savvy combination of distraction, motivation, inclusion, and shameless bribery. This saga will never end, so if you have any tips for how you get through your shopping adventures with kids in toe, please share them here.

Side note: the following picture was posted exactly two years ago today. A day after I turned 30. One of the early trips to Kroger with children.



By Steven Michalovich, Contributor

Places We Love: Timbuk Farms

CBUS Dads blogger Steve Michalovich has been to Timbuk Farms the last two years with his family for the full holiday experience.

This time of year, my wife loads our calendar with as many holiday activities as our schedule will allow. To say she loves Christmas would be an understatement. And I’m totally fine with it, because I dig the season too.

And being able to experience the holidays through the eyes of your kids makes this time of year that much more special.

Last weekend we ventured out to Granville for the second December in a row to visit Timbuk Farms.

For a little history, Timbuk Farms has been open since 1952, making it one of central Ohio’s oldest and largest Christmas tree farms. Granville is certainly a healthy drive from I-270 (close to 30 minutes), but the ability to distance yourself from the city is what makes it an appealing destination and worth the driving time. In fact, this lengthy distance from Columbus is how Timbuk Farms got its name (people compared it to a trip to Timbukto).

On this Saturday, Timbuk Farms was hopping. This isn’t shocking as three weeks before Christmas is prime time for live Christmas tree chopping.

Timbuk Farms feels like a farm in every sense. Sitting on 300 acres, it evokes all of the holiday feels. Included in the main barn are some crafts for purchase and a counter you can order hot chocolate and sandwiches (which were delicious I might add). If you’re like us, you avoid the malls for your kid’s annual visit to Santa Claus. Timbuk Farms has their very own Santa and Mrs. Claus on the premises eagerly awaiting your child to tell them what they want for Christmas and to pose for pictures.

Sadly, we are currently on hiatus for cutting down live trees for our holiday needs. In the past, we’ve gotten a little overzealous with the size of our trees, causing some damage to our house when it came time to dispose of the tree.

Despite this, it didn’t stop us from hopping on the bus (literally an old school bus) and trekking out to the fields. Because my daughter loves buses, there was absolutely no way we were going to leave there without riding the bus. So we took the ride – minus the saw – to stroll through the tree farm.

Their whole operation is superior to other Christmas tree farms I’ve been to. Each bus has a trailer, where you place your cut tree, and they take care of hauling and wrapping.


Since we were just there for the experience, my daughter enjoyed collecting loose branches and smelling them. Doubt any other children will find this as exciting as she did, but a possible option for some amusement.

We had as much fun as we would’ve actually selecting and cutting down a tree, but after a second straight year to Timbuk Farms, we were probably inspired enough to end our hiatus in 2017. Whether or not you have your tree already, Timbuk Farms is a great weekend destination. Bonus to Granville for being an amazing, quaint town with enough shops and restaurants to make a whole day of it.

By Steven Michalovich, Contributor

Inside the Mind of a Dad Turned Runner

Are you ready? (Not really)

Get set! (I’m still not really ready)

Go! (Like now….)

There’s who you are in life and what you do. I’m Leah and Will’s dad. When in doubt, they take priority. It’s what parents do, right?

This commitment comes with consequences. In my case, it was a lack of commitment when it came to exercise. In short, I stopped.

So when my wife asked me to run a Turkey Trot, I played the “avoid the question and hope she would forget” card. Ten days prior to the race, she informed me that we were signing up for the race, even though I hadn’t ran in months. So much for avoiding the question.

Thank goodness my ploy failed. The immediate time before, during and after the race reminded me a great deal about the realities of being a dad.

The Before:

One of these things is not like the other. My sister-in-law usually finishes second or third in her age group. My nephew can hit a baseball 350 feet and tech me about SnapChat. My wife has fashion sense.


This photo made me realize I really am turning into my dad. I never had much fashion sense, but good gracious what was I thinking?

  • The jacket is from my last television job in 2007
  • The ear warmer came from the trunk of our minivan

Then there was the fake TV anchorman smile. Deep down I was horrified. I crammed like a college student during exam week in the hopes to boost my running acumen, only to realize I somehow lost it in the midst of having two kids, driving an hour-and-a-half to teach twice a week and trying to keep consulting work in check. It’s easy to let yourself go. It’s important to get yourself back.

Was I ready? (No)

Did I know how to get set? (Not particularly)

Go. (Here goes nothing)

The During:

As parents, we learn to expect the unexpected. This helped deal with the realities of a rookie runner.

I had no idea cold air could impact a human this much. Running on a treadmill at the gym is boring but predictable. I have a hot shower 100 feet away and can hop in the sauna at a moment’s notice.

Running outside made me feel like I was being stabbed in the lungs for two miles. And while the water station was nice, I felt more frozen than Olaf on the North Mountain.

That’s said, sometimes you just have to let it go. You can’t control what you can’t control. Hills suck. I couldn’t fix that problem. I could spend a mile of the race looking at people’s yards and feeling better about the mulch situation at our home. Really, I’m turning into my dad.

You’re also never alone: About 400 people participated in the race. I believe 384 may have passed me. I was floored by how many people encouraged me to keep going and how I thought of my kids being proud of their dad for doing something different. And as I felt like pure goo in the final quarter mile, this song came on my phone and made me realize a higher power had my back. Of all the songs that could pop up, this is the one. Seriously.

The After:

The first thing I looked at was the clock. I bet my nephew I could beat his time if he gave me 10 minutes. I didn’t realize he could haul through one of these in 23 or 24 minutes. I lost by 8 seconds. Eight stupid seconds. Leah and Will were convinced I had no chance and got a kick out me losing.

They also got a kick out of me trying. As parents, we just want our kids to try. Soccer. Asparagus. Sleeping without a light. If they like it, great. If not, at least they know it’s OK to try something new.

We tell our kids to try things all the time; as parents shouldn’t we live that notion? Running this race made me feel like my best wisdom comes from actions, not words. Even my teenage nephew, who hasn’t stopped mocking my jacket, hair and car, congratulated me on the effort.

I ran two days later, inside of course. I knocked four minutes off my time with the hopes of avenging my holiday loss. The only difference was I wore an Homage shirt to feel a little cooler in my skin. Am I born to run? No. Am I here to be a dad? Yes. If running and being active makes me better at that, then I guess there are some new answers to old questions.

Am I ready? (We’ll get there)

Get set! (If you say so)

Go! (OK)

By Dan Farkas, Guest Contributor