The Return of the Shillito's Elves - A Cincinnati Tradition
The restoration of the elves has been headed up by Cincinnati natives Jerry Gels and Bill Spinnenweber. Bill purchased the elves when they went up for auction in 2005 and had been keeping most of them in storage. Along came Jerry Gels with plans for a fundraiser to restore and repair the elves and get them back on display. My co-author and I had met Jerry through his other business, American Legacy Tours, and were made aware of the restoration effort. We signed on as a Scene Sponsor and are helping to promote this family-friendly tradition and help introduce a new generation of Cincinnati kids to the Shillito’s Elves.
The elves have been fully restored and are now on display at Newport on the Levee. The admission ticket includes not only the elf display, but also a huge LEGO train display, a Dickens village, and 30 minutes of game play at GameWorks. That’s at least an hour’s worth of entertainment for your $7 admission fee.
The first area you’ll visit is the LEGO Train Display. This giant display can be appreciated both for its size and for the little details.
Shillito's Elves LEGO Train Display
We enjoyed details like the nativity scene, a banjo-playing ice skater, and a LEGO man on a ladder decorating a Christmas tree. A parade down a street includes a group of kilt-wearing bagpipe players and ends with Santa Claus in his sleigh. Ships float in the sea and a UFO has landed in a farm field. A one-horse open sleigh carries a group of people through a tiny village.
Shillito's Elves Newport on the Levee - LEGO Train display
Upon leaving the LEGO display, follow the signs to the Elves. The first scene you will encounter upon entering is the mailroom. Elves are busily sorting mail. You can even spot a few copies of my book, Adventures Around Cincinnati.
Shillito's Elves Mailroom
The scene that my co-author and I sponsored has a couple elves playing cornhole and another elf ice-fishing. When the elf leans back, he pulls the fish out of the water while a happy squirrel watches. So cute!
Shillito's Elves Ice Fishing
The wood shop is my childhood vision of elves at work constructing toys.
Shillito's Elves Wood Shop
Another room has sewing machines and wrapping stations. Signs posted all over provide additional amusement. Those mischievous elves obviously need to be reminded not to play in boxes and to be careful with paint.
Shillito's Elves Painting
The candy cane factory is also adorable.
Shillito's Elves Candy Cane Factory
The scenes show the complete process of how letters written to Santa result in presents under the tree. You’ll see the warehouse and the amusing control center that keeps the operation running. Kids of all ages will find something to make them smile.
Upon leaving the elf displays, you’ll pass through a room with a giant Dickens village.
Shillito's Elves Dickens Village
After you leave the exhibit, don’t throw away your ticket. Take it down to GameWorks where you can redeem it for a card good for 30 minutes of game play. The clock starts ticking with the first swipe of the card in a machine. If you’d rather come back another time, the card is good for 90 days.
Shillito's Elves Gameworks
Everyone in my family enjoyed our visit to the Shillito’s Elves display. I can easily see this becoming a family tradition. I am thankful for Bill and Jerry’s efforts to preserve this Cincinnati tradition for future generations.
Ready to visit?
Shillito’s Elves - shillitoselves.com/
Newport on the Levee – Mezzanine Level
1 Levee Way
Newport, KY 41071
Terri Weeks is a family travel writer in the Cincinnati area, a mom to three terrific kids, and the Cincinnati Editor for Wandering Educators. Terri is a local travel guru in Cincinnati. She and co-author Laura Hoevener have been exploring locations in and around Cincinnati for the last ten years. Together, they compiled all of their favorite adventures into their book, Adventures Around Cincinnati: A Parent's Guide to Unique and Memorable Places to Explore with your Kids. Additionally, her family is on a mission to visit all 50 states by the time her kids graduate from high school. She blogs about family travel in the US at www.travel50stateswithkids.com.
All photos courtesy and copyright Terri Weeks or Tim Jeffries (tcjphoto.com)