The nights are growing longer and there’s a chill in the air, but there’s a twinkling in the darkness that guides your way. It’s winter in Cincinnati and it’s time for holiday lights! We looked high and low for the best and brightest light displays in the tristate, and compiled our top 10, for your viewing pleasure.
Here are 10 Cincinnati Holiday Light Displays that Dazzle — even on the coldest nights!
Bundle Up and Take a Stroll
Is there anything more wonderful that strolling through a winter wonderland? Bundle up the kids and enjoy one of these walk-through displays!
Cincinnati’s longest-running holiday tradition shines for its 35th season, “Wild Wonderland.” The Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo is packed with entertainment. Dazzle in the Wilds Lights show over Swan Lake and ride the BB&T Toyland Express. New this year, meet Santa at 4 p.m. before the festivities begin. Open Sunday-Thursday from 5-9 p.m. and Friday–Saturday from 5-10 p.m. through January 1.
This tiny light display packs a big punch, featuring kid-sized, decked-to-the-nines Victorian houses that are cuter than little doll houses. Walk through the beautifully lit display and see Santa at the end on Dec. 1-2, 7-8! The lights will be lit through December.
A sea of red lights cascade down the riverbanks. The historic covered bridge comes to life in a synchronized light show. Cross the bridge and travel back in time to the 1800’s. The water powered grist mill is all aglow! There’s even a miniature village with tiny replicas of Clifton Mill’s historic buildings. Open 5-9 pm through December 31st, closing at 8 pm on Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Twinkling lights guide you along the wooded path in Countryside Park. Every night features amusement rides, costumed characters and live animals. You can also visit Santa and warm up by the fire in his cozy log cabin. A laser light show, trackless train ride and tunnel of lights are new this year. Open nightly 6-9 pm from December 8-30 (excluding Dec. 24 and 25).
Christmas Without Leaving the Car
The thing about a winter wonderland is … it’s winter! So here are five drive through light displays you can tour from the comfort of your car.
Enter through a tunnel of lights into a luminous fantasyland. Sparkling reindeer leap over your car as you drive through the 100 acre park. Catch Santa zipping around on a jet ski, Rudolf ice fishing and a mysterious sea monster in the reflecting pond. Open 6-10 pm through December 31. Santa visits Friday and Saturday through December 23. Admission is by cash donation.
This drive-thru light display takes you across more than a mile of wooded roadway. See Santa and his elves. Discover scenes from A Christmas Carol, Babes in Toyland and It’s a Wonderful Life. After the driving tour, visit Santaland in the Sharon Centre for music, holiday trains and pictures with Santa. Open Sunday-Thursday 6-9 pm and Friday–Saturday 5:30-10 pm through Dec. 31.
This is not only an incredible light display, it’s also in an amazing, one-of-a-kind park. Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum is an outdoor gallery on a monumental scale. Dozens of sculptures by world renowned artists cover the 265-acre park. From now through Dec. 31 the sculptures are illuminated in more than a million lights and laser light displays. Open Monday-Thursday from 6-9 pm and Friday–Sunday from 6-10 pm.
The Christmas Ranch (pictured)
To call this a ranch is an understatement. This is a country all its own. More than 350,000 animated lights are synchronized to music. Most of the ranch is accessible by car but there’s also a pedestrian-only Christmas Village with six shops. Train and wagon rides run most evenings and Santa visits for pictures from 5-9 pm. Open Sunday-Thursday, 5-9 pm and Friday-Saturday 5-10 pm through December 23.
Coney Island offers an enchanting drive-thru ride through its historic park — and this year, they’ve added an extra half mile to make 2.5 miles of a twinkling Winter Wonderland! Larger-than-life trees, glowing snowflakes, dancing candy canes and a tunnel of lights are all synchronized to music. The show begins at dusk and runs every night through January 1.
Perhaps the most nostalgic holiday display is the one you stumble upon. We’re talking about the neighbor who starts with a string of lights and just can’t stop.
One of the most memorable is Zapf’s Christmas Display at 2032 W Galbraith Road in North College Hill. The home is a mash-up of blinking lights, glowing candy canes and Nativity scenes. An army of illuminated Santas and snowmen stand guard. There’s even an iconic leg lamp from A Christmas Story on the front porch. The real jaw dropper is inside. The home is packed floor to ceiling with teddy bears, train sets and Christmas trees. The tradition has been going strong since 1940, passed down from father “Santa Z” to his kids.
Now it’s your turn to pass along the tradition! Make one of these dazzling lights displays a part of your family’s holiday every year.