Our horse-drawn carriage rides have long been an annual holiday tradition for families and couples in Columbus, and beyond. Since starting in 2002, thousands of guests have lined up for the chance to experience the holiday beauty of Easton’s North District in the most magical way.
This year, carriage rides will run Fridays and Saturdays from 6-10 p.m., and Sundays from 3-7 p.m., through December 23 (weather permitting). The cost for a ride is just $10 per person, and free for children 15 and under who ride with a paying adult. The pick-up location is outside of Zara on Gramercy Street.
So, what makes these rides so special? We sat down with Mary of Willow Wind Carriage & Limo to learn why people travel from far and near to experience this beloved holiday tradition. Here’s what she had to say:
How has the horse-drawn carriage experience evolved at Easton over the years?
I’ve been running the carriage rides at Easton since the tradition started sixteen years ago! We started out with two carriages—one in the north district and another in the south. As the years went by and we drew more and more attention, we added a third carriage, and later a fourth.
This year, we will be running 3-5 carriages each day to ensure as many people as possible have the opportunity to enjoy this magical experience that’s unique to Easton.
Throughout the years, our carriage rides have become a holiday tradition for many families. I even see families as far as West Virginia make the drive for an Easton carriage ride experience each year.
What is your favorite part of being the guide for horse-drawn carriage rides at Easton?
My favorite part is seeing people who have never touched a horse, walk up and pet them. They’re often amazed at how soft, warm and loving they are, being such large animals—but that’s how my husband and I raised them!
What got you interested in working with horses?
I was horse crazy from the time I was two years old. I was determined from a very young age to own a horse. Horses aren’t something my family was ever involved with, so I set the goal myself. I worked as a registered nurse for 19 years, but I trained and bred horses and gave riding lessons on the side. When I got married, my husband and I bought our first carriage in 2000, and the business grew to be so successful, I quit my nursing job and pursued it full-time.
Can you share a favorite memory you have from your time as an Easton carriage ride guide?
The engagements are probably the most memorable. I usually see around 10-15 proposals every year, and each one is so special to watch!
One year, a family came up and asked specifically if they could ride in our white carriage. It turned out that, eight years ago, the husband proposed on that carriage, and they now wanted their two little girls to ride on it. Luckily for them, the carriage featured the same horse and everything! It just goes to show how deeply rooted the carriage ride tradition is at Easton.
Why should people add an Easton horse carriage ride to their holiday to-do list?
Riding in a horse-drawn carriage gives you a far different viewpoint of Easton than walking or driving in a car. You go at a perfectly slow pace, get to ride under the beautiful lights and have time to look around and see things you wouldn’t normally see. The clip-clop of horse hooves on the pavement and jingle of the sleigh bells makes the rides even more unique and special.
Is there any pre-planning that people should do before they start their Easton carriage ride adventure?
Yes! If you’re going to take a ride, be sure to dress warm because you’ll be standing in line for a bit. While Easton provides patio heaters, the colder weather warrants full winter dress. Also, the carriage stand takes cash only, so remember to stop at the ATM before you stand in line.
Carriage rides are weather dependent, so if you have any questions about a particular day, be sure to call Easton beforehand. If there are high winds, or if it’s really cold, we won’t work the horses. Snow is not a problem as long as the roads are clear.
We try to limit the horses work to four hours a day, so if the line is really long, we may shut it down early to prevent from going over too long.
Can you tell us a bit about the horses used for carriage rides at Easton?
We use several different horses for the carriage rides each year. Here are the four we’ll be featuring this year:
One of the crowd favorites is Max. He’s twelve years old and has been giving rides at Easton for eight years. He’s a grey Percheron and does all kinds of different events when he’s not at Easton.
Flora is another twelve-year-old. She’s a black Percheron and loves apples, carrots and peppermints. A couple weeks ago, oddly, we found out she also likes Banana Now n’ Later taffy!
Butch is a black Percheron—also twelve years old—and has been giving rides at Easton on and off for the past four years.
Rounding out the group is Cherry. She’s 25 years old and still in great health! While she doesn’t work as many days as she did in the past, she gets depressed if she’s not giving guests rides. She enjoys the exercise and loves having people pet her.
These horses aren’t just a piece of equipment for our business, they’re part of our family! We love them dearly and take good care of them. In fact, people say our horses look better than some kids they know! A big part of the nurturing side from me being a nurse goes into caring for my animals.
We’re excited to welcome Mary and her merry carriage crew back to the Town Center for their sixteenth season. Will you be celebrating the holidays with a carriage ride at Easton this year?