Here's Where to Go to See Trees Get Lit this Holiday Season

From local events to ongoing light shows

click to enlarge PNC Festival of Lights at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden - Mark Dumont
Mark Dumont
PNC Festival of Lights at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

It’s all very Gilmore Girls. Begin scene: You’re clad in a fashionable beanie, cozy flannel and a scarf strewn across your shoulders. You clutch a classic hot cocoa with teenie marshmallows floating at the top. Twinkling lights spark the otherwise dusky skies. Nearby, you hear a group arguing about the latest Starbucks cup debacle. “Why are they taking away Christmas?!” They cry. But, uh, dude — they’re just cups.

But you’re all here for the same reason: To see some trees get hella lit. How twee. How affectionate. How very holiday spirit of you.

If you want to catch these annual ceremonies, here’s the lowdown on when and where to see them.

Neighborhoods

Liberty Township // Nov. 17

Liberty Center’s fourth-annual holiday celebration starts with a parade and ends with the lighting of their 51-foot tree. The festivities will unfold in the shopping center. Rise early and snag shopping deals starting at 10 a.m.; at noon, relax in the center's "Living Room," unwind to classic holiday tunes and warm up by a roaring fireplace. Some reindeer will drop by at 2 p.m. for a meet and greet before the parade takes off at 6:30 p.m. Stick around — the tree will be lit at 7:30 p.m. And yes, Santa will make an appearance. 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Free admission. 7100 Foundry Row, Liberty Township, liberty-center.com.

Hyde Park // Nov. 24

Unfurling in Hyde Park Square, the block will become abuzz with the hum of lights, underscored by classic caroling tunes and a giant, lush evergreen. Santa will arrive via firetruck to light the tree at 6 p.m. Bonus: Warm up with hot chocolate from nearby Awakenings Coffee & Tea Co. 6-8 p.m. Free admission. 2700 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, hydeparksquare.org.

Downtown // Nov. 28

As its name suggests, Macy’s Light Up the Square will usher in Xmas vibes on Fountain Square. Live music from the 2nd Wind Band will make you feel cheery and bright. Plus: Santa will be there. But the focus of this shindig is lighting the very, very large tree in the center of the square. Skate your heart out (but no Tonya Harding hijinks, please) at the Fountain Square ice rink. 6-11 p.m. Ice rink admission is $6 with a $4 skate rental. 520 Vine St., Downtown, myfountainsquare.com.

Price Hill // Nov. 30-Dec. 1

The West Side’s tradition stretches through multiple dates during Holiday on the Hill. Events commence with Light on the Hill — which unfolds at Seton High School’s front lawn at 6 p.m. Nov. 30. With the flip of a switch, the hill lights up in a warm, dazzling display. Come Dec. 1, a music, art and craft show will take place at Elder High School. Prior to that, locals were able to participate in an annual window-painting contest — all designs had to be completed by Nov. 22. Participants are assigned a local business to paint in holiday cheer and winners can snag cash prizes for the best window in adult and high school categories. Various locations and times, Price Hill, pricehillwill.org.

Mariemont // Dec. 1

The Village of Mariemont consistently looks like a storybook town straight out of a Hallmark special. But even more so come December. Their annual Luminaria event sets the streets aglow in warm candlelight as the community gathers in the Old Towne Square for a traditional lighting of the village’s tree. Horse-drawn carriages will add to the fairy tale vibes, soundtracked by the wafting tunes of carolers. Plus there will be a visit from Santa, a Bell Tower Carillon concert, various food trucks — including BGs Grill and Just Qin — and more. Luminaria kits are sold by the Mariemont Village Boy Scouts and all proceeds go toward supporting community projects, like park improvements, library material for kids, etc.  5:30-8 p.m. Carriage tickets $2. Old Town Square, 6907 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, mariemont.org.

Anderson Township // Dec. 1

Head to the East Side for Anderson Township’s annual event, which features free horse-drawn wagons to carry visitors around the streetscape. For the kiddos, there’s a cookie decorating station, crafts and the man in red himself, Santa. Visit Towne Center businesses, get your holiday passport stamped and get entered in a raffle. Plus: Wood carving, ice sculpting demos and outdoor fire rings. 4-6:30 p.m. Free admission. Anderson Center, 7580 Five Mile Road, Anderson Township, andersontownship.org.

Ongoing displays

Holiday in Lights at Sharon Woods // Through Dec. 31

For 28 years, this annual event has transformed into a staple Cincy holiday tradition. Kick back in your car and take a joy ride through a mile-long stretch of Sharon Woods. Dial the radio to Warm 98 — the lights are synchronized to the music. After or before, take the kiddos to the wonder-filled Santaland, open through Dec. 23 (just in time for him to get his sleigh in gear.) 6-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5:30-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. $15 per vehicle. Sharon Woods, 11450 Lebanon Rd, Sharonville, holidayinlights.com.

Holiday Lights on the Hill // Through Jan. 1

This year, the creators of BLINK — Brave Berlin — are behind this annual two-mile light display, which snakes through Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum. 6-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; $20 per carload; 6-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday; $25 per carload. Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum, 1763 Hamilton Cleves Road, Hamilton, pyramidhill.org.

PNC Festival of Lights at Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden // Through Jan. 1

Say hey to critters as the zoo becomes a wild wonderland of twinkling, winking lights — 3 million of them to be exact. Now in its 36th year, you’ve probably seen cute couple pics on Instagram backdropped by the displays at this event. Plus: A Madcap black-light puppet show, the Toyland Express will be a-chuggin’ and s’mores will be available for snacks. 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Included with zoo admission: $19 adult; $13 children and seniors. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, cincinnatizoo.org.

Christmas Nights of Lights // Through Jan. 6

Grab some cocoa to go, tune into your car radio and drive through Coney Island, now aglow with over a million lights you can see grooving from the interstate. Move through arching tunnels of lights, witness towering trees, jivin’ snowflakes and candy canes as the whole fam sings along to tunes — as if you’re living the Chevy Chase dream. Begins at Dusk. $6 per person. Coney Island, 6201 Kellogg Ave., California, coneyislandpark.com

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