Zapf's Iconic North College Hill Christmas Light Display is a Must-See

Zapf's Christmas Display has been lighting up their niche of Cincinnati with twinkling, dreamy lights since 1970. The tradition lives on.

click to enlarge Zapf's Christmas Display - Photo: Provided by Bill Zapf
Photo: Provided by Bill Zapf
Zapf's Christmas Display

Every Christmas, a slice of suburban North College Hill becomes awash in a glorious twinkling, festive glow. Zapf’s Christmas Display has been lighting up the neighborhood since 1970, originally created by Bill "Santa Z" Zapf.

After Bill died in 2008, his son — who has the same name — kept the tradition alive. Roll up to 2032 Galbraith Road and you’ll be greeted by an an array of illuminated figures: reindeer, cheery snowmen, suited-up Santas and candy canes. Twinkling lights pepper trees and line the house’s borders; even an iteration of A Christmas Story’s infamous leg lamp glows in a window.

Splayed out in all-caps block lettering with white light, several greetings trim the house, from "Happy Holidays" to an aptly named "South Pole," the latter of which doesn’t feel like a stretch. It’s a display that Zapf says his father put up with care — and one he ultimately created for kids.

click to enlarge Zapf's Iconic North College Hill Christmas Light Display is a Must-See
Photo: Provided by Bill Zapf

“He knew what it felt like to not have material things on Christmas Day coming from a family with eight siblings, but his family always drove around looking at other people's houses lit up in Christmas lights,” Zapf says of his dad via a Facebook exchange. “That was their Christmas tradition.”

For him, the display is a gift to the families who frequent the neighborhood holiday icon, many of whom return year after year. “Before my dad passed, the display was something we always put up together. So it’s bittersweet,” Zapf says. “I miss my dad. But now it’s my children helping me put up the display. I know I can’t fill my dad’s shoes, so to speak, but I will do my best to do what he asked and carry on.”

click to enlarge Zapf's Iconic North College Hill Christmas Light Display is a Must-See
Photo: Provided by Bill Zapf

The home’s porch is filled with “toyland surprises” like trains, stuffed animals and over 100 glowing blow-mold figures. Visitors can feast their eyes on thousands and thousands of lights. Zapf says the best way to experience their lights is to visit the porch and walk about the concrete areas.

Every year, a new trinket is added, be it new or different lights on the trees or anywhere else. If they can, Zapf says they try to add new characters to the yard or porch.

If you want to take in the dose of (very bright) Christmas cheer for yourself, viewing hours are 6-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 6-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday, with Jan. 6 being the last night. The show is free. For more info, visit their Facebook page. 

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