December 17, 2020

15 Greater Cincinnati Drive-Thru — and Walk-Thru — Holiday Light Shows

As the nights get darker (and colder), we could all use a little cheer in the form of elaborate light displays. These light shows — new and classic — are open as either drive-thru or walk-thru experiences to illuminate your spirits and brighten your December.

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Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo
3400 Vine St., Avondale
The PNC Festival of Lights — which has been named the No. 1 light display in the nation by USA Today for the past two years — returns Nov. 21, with reservations required. The zoo will be open daily from 1-9 p.m. and they say if you'd like to see the animals during your visit, make reservations between the hours of 1-5 p.m. The Festival of Lights will continue through Jan. 3, and then will be open for "bonus nights" Jan. 8-10 and Jan. 15-17. This year, the fest will feature "socially-distanced outdoor visits with Santa" at 4 p.m. daily (through Dec. 23); three s'more stations; North Polar Express train rides; Fiona fairy statues in Fiona Fairyland; giant animal lanterns; and fun and festive photo ops throughout the park. Visitors ages 6 and up are required to wear masks while inside in the park.
Photo: Vincent DiFrancesco

Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo

3400 Vine St., Avondale
The PNC Festival of Lights — which has been named the No. 1 light display in the nation by USA Today for the past two years — returns Nov. 21, with reservations required. The zoo will be open daily from 1-9 p.m. and they say if you'd like to see the animals during your visit, make reservations between the hours of 1-5 p.m. The Festival of Lights will continue through Jan. 3, and then will be open for "bonus nights" Jan. 8-10 and Jan. 15-17. This year, the fest will feature "socially-distanced outdoor visits with Santa" at 4 p.m. daily (through Dec. 23); three s'more stations; North Polar Express train rides; Fiona fairy statues in Fiona Fairyland; giant animal lanterns; and fun and festive photo ops throughout the park. Visitors ages 6 and up are required to wear masks while inside in the park.
Photo: Vincent DiFrancesco
The Christmas Ranch
3205 S. Waynesville Road, Morrow
Take a drive up to Morrow to visit the Christmas Ranch, a winter wonderland that features one million lights synchronized to music. Drive along an animated, illuminated route or park the car to visit the Christmas village with seven shops, a bakery and café, and a toy factory. Check the calendar at thechristmasranch.com for information on reduced holiday hours. Open through Dec. 23. Admission is $15 per carload and $30 for vehicles of 10 or more visitors. A portion of proceeds benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Little Miami Food Pantry, Neediest Kids of All and Shriners Hospital for children. 
Photo: facebook.com/TheChristmasRanch

The Christmas Ranch

3205 S. Waynesville Road, Morrow
Take a drive up to Morrow to visit the Christmas Ranch, a winter wonderland that features one million lights synchronized to music. Drive along an animated, illuminated route or park the car to visit the Christmas village with seven shops, a bakery and café, and a toy factory. Check the calendar at thechristmasranch.com for information on reduced holiday hours. Open through Dec. 23. Admission is $15 per carload and $30 for vehicles of 10 or more visitors. A portion of proceeds benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Little Miami Food Pantry, Neediest Kids of All and Shriners Hospital for children.
Photo: facebook.com/TheChristmasRanch
Journey BOREALIS at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum
1763 Hamilton Cleves Road, Hamilton
Hamilton's Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum is upping the wow factor of this year's drive-thru holiday light display. Transforming from Holiday Lights on the Hill to Journey BOREALIS, this year's illuminated spectacle will be a "visual art experience that showcases local and regional new media and light-based artists," says Pyramid Hill. Overseen by light design company Brave Berlin — part of Cincinnati's BLINK art and light festival — for the past two years, the show has previously included two-and-a-half miles of creative, glowing scenes and projection-mapped sculptural installations. This year's multimedia drive-thru experience will expand to include 1,000,000 lights and immersive holiday art installations, soundtracked to music by the Cincinnati Boychoir and Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. Hours are 6-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 6-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday through Jan. 3. Cost is $20 per carload Monday-Thursday; $25 per carload Friday-Sunday; $15 Pyramid Hill members; and free for Hamilton residents on Tuesdays.
Photo: Vincent DiFrancesco

Journey BOREALIS at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum

1763 Hamilton Cleves Road, Hamilton
Hamilton's Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum is upping the wow factor of this year's drive-thru holiday light display. Transforming from Holiday Lights on the Hill to Journey BOREALIS, this year's illuminated spectacle will be a "visual art experience that showcases local and regional new media and light-based artists," says Pyramid Hill. Overseen by light design company Brave Berlin — part of Cincinnati's BLINK art and light festival — for the past two years, the show has previously included two-and-a-half miles of creative, glowing scenes and projection-mapped sculptural installations. This year's multimedia drive-thru experience will expand to include 1,000,000 lights and immersive holiday art installations, soundtracked to music by the Cincinnati Boychoir and Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. Hours are 6-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 6-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday through Jan. 3. Cost is $20 per carload Monday-Thursday; $25 per carload Friday-Sunday; $15 Pyramid Hill members; and free for Hamilton residents on Tuesdays.
Photo: Vincent DiFrancesco
Light in the Forest at the Cincinnati Nature Center
4949 Tealtown Road, Milford
This 1-mile walk-thru light display will "sparkle with gentle lights reflecting a theme of peace, tranquility, and inspiration," says the Cincinnati Nature Center. Walking trails and nature paths have been artistically lit and will feature three light installations by OBLSK, a creative agency that took part in the BLINK art and light festival. The Krippendorf Lodge and Abner Hollow Cabin will also be decked-out in "period-specific decorations." This will all be complemented by live music, bonfires and shopping opportunities. Held 5-9 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays from Dec. 3-Jan. 3, guests need to pre-register for a certain time slot. Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for children with discounts for Cincinnati Nature Center members. Capacity limits are in place due to COVID and the center says "all adults and children Kindergarten age and up must wear masks."
Photo: Provided by the Cincinnati Nature Center

Light in the Forest at the Cincinnati Nature Center

4949 Tealtown Road, Milford
This 1-mile walk-thru light display will "sparkle with gentle lights reflecting a theme of peace, tranquility, and inspiration," says the Cincinnati Nature Center. Walking trails and nature paths have been artistically lit and will feature three light installations by OBLSK, a creative agency that took part in the BLINK art and light festival. The Krippendorf Lodge and Abner Hollow Cabin will also be decked-out in "period-specific decorations." This will all be complemented by live music, bonfires and shopping opportunities. Held 5-9 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays from Dec. 3-Jan. 3, guests need to pre-register for a certain time slot. Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for children with discounts for Cincinnati Nature Center members. Capacity limits are in place due to COVID and the center says "all adults and children Kindergarten age and up must wear masks."
Photo: Provided by the Cincinnati Nature Center
Legendary Lights of Historic Clifton Mill
75 Water St., Yellow Springs
Prepare to be amazed by the dazzling lights of Clifton Mill — 4 million of them. The mill, trees, riverbank, covered bridge, and more will all be illuminated from bottom-to-top in colorful lights. Hours are 6-9 p.m. daily, through Dec. 30, with special hours 6-8 p.m. Dec. 24 and 25. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the mill is operating at 25% reduce capacity, so they say to expect longer lines. Masks are mandatory. Tickets are $10 per person. Children 3 and under are admitted for free.
Photo: facebook.com/clifton.mill

Legendary Lights of Historic Clifton Mill

75 Water St., Yellow Springs
Prepare to be amazed by the dazzling lights of Clifton Mill — 4 million of them. The mill, trees, riverbank, covered bridge, and more will all be illuminated from bottom-to-top in colorful lights. Hours are 6-9 p.m. daily, through Dec. 30, with special hours 6-8 p.m. Dec. 24 and 25. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the mill is operating at 25% reduce capacity, so they say to expect longer lines. Masks are mandatory. Tickets are $10 per person. Children 3 and under are admitted for free.
Photo: facebook.com/clifton.mill
Holiday in Lights in Sharon Woods
11450 Lebanon Road, Sharonville
The nostalgic mile-long holiday spectacle returns this year, but with some pandemic-related changes. Featuring more than 1 million lights decorating over 250 vignettes along a woodland path, "the holiday-themed displays showcase everything from Santa Claus and his elves, to every animal on the ark," says the website. There's also an option to buy some special effects glasses ($2 for one pair and three pairs for $5) to enhance the drive. Santaland will be closed this year (for obvious health and safety reasons). The park is also offering walkable tours of the lights. Walks are by reservation only and take place every 15 minutes on Wednesday, Dec. 2 and Dec. 30. No cars will be allowed on those nights. Holiday in Lights runs through Saturday, Jan. 2 with hours 6-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5:30-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $15 per vehicle, with an upcharge for buses (entry for those costs $45). Walk-thru tickets are $5. The show is going cashless this year due to COVID, and all tickets are available in advanced online.
Photo: facebook.com/HolidayinLights

Holiday in Lights in Sharon Woods

11450 Lebanon Road, Sharonville
The nostalgic mile-long holiday spectacle returns this year, but with some pandemic-related changes. Featuring more than 1 million lights decorating over 250 vignettes along a woodland path, "the holiday-themed displays showcase everything from Santa Claus and his elves, to every animal on the ark," says the website. There's also an option to buy some special effects glasses ($2 for one pair and three pairs for $5) to enhance the drive. Santaland will be closed this year (for obvious health and safety reasons). The park is also offering walkable tours of the lights. Walks are by reservation only and take place every 15 minutes on Wednesday, Dec. 2 and Dec. 30. No cars will be allowed on those nights. Holiday in Lights runs through Saturday, Jan. 2 with hours 6-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5:30-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $15 per vehicle, with an upcharge for buses (entry for those costs $45). Walk-thru tickets are $5. The show is going cashless this year due to COVID, and all tickets are available in advanced online.
Photo: facebook.com/HolidayinLights
Winter Nights, River Lights
425 York St., Newport
Winter Nights, River Lights will illuminate the Purple People Bridge with 1,000 purple-and-white lights, a 25-foot Christmas "wish" tree, projections and seasonal music played over speakers spanning the bridge. North American Properties, the team behind Newport on the Levee's redevelopment, and some other local contributors stepped up to secure the funding for the illumination. The display will be up through Jan. 15.
Photo: facebook.com/newportonthelevee

Winter Nights, River Lights

425 York St., Newport
Winter Nights, River Lights will illuminate the Purple People Bridge with 1,000 purple-and-white lights, a 25-foot Christmas "wish" tree, projections and seasonal music played over speakers spanning the bridge. North American Properties, the team behind Newport on the Levee's redevelopment, and some other local contributors stepped up to secure the funding for the illumination. The display will be up through Jan. 15.
Photo: facebook.com/newportonthelevee
Coney Island’s Christmas Nights of Lights
6201 Kellogg Ave., California
Coney Island transforms into a drive-thru Christmas show during the 10-week-long Christmas Nights of Lights. Enjoy the warmth of your car while lights manipulated to resemble dancing candy canes, glowing snowmen, colorful tunnels and giant holiday trees are synchronized to Christmas tunes both classic and new, available via your car radio. The two-and-a-half-mile long display features more than one million lights and runs every night beginning at dusk until 10 p.m. The event is open Christmas Day and other holidays. Admission is $7 per person over the age of 3. Through Jan. 9.
Photo: facebook.com/ChristmasNightsofLightsConeyIsland

Coney Island’s Christmas Nights of Lights

6201 Kellogg Ave., California
Coney Island transforms into a drive-thru Christmas show during the 10-week-long Christmas Nights of Lights. Enjoy the warmth of your car while lights manipulated to resemble dancing candy canes, glowing snowmen, colorful tunnels and giant holiday trees are synchronized to Christmas tunes both classic and new, available via your car radio. The two-and-a-half-mile long display features more than one million lights and runs every night beginning at dusk until 10 p.m. The event is open Christmas Day and other holidays. Admission is $7 per person over the age of 3. Through Jan. 9.
Photo: facebook.com/ChristmasNightsofLightsConeyIsland
Zapfs Christmas Display
2032 W. Galbraith Road, North College Hill
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. Check the Zapfs Christmas Display Facebook page for hours. The display is typically up through Jan. 6.
Photo: Provided by Billy Zapf

Zapfs Christmas Display

2032 W. Galbraith Road, North College Hill
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. Check the Zapfs Christmas Display Facebook page for hours. The display is typically up through Jan. 6.
Photo: Provided by Billy Zapf
Light Up the Fair
5819 Idlewild Road, Burlington
Located at the Boone County Fairgrounds, this Northern Kentucky drive-through light display spans two miles long with over a half a million dazzling lights and is synchronized to music through each visitor’s car radio. Admission is $6 per person with children under 3 free and available for purchase online at lightupthefair.com. The event runs through Jan. 2 and is open on all holidays. Hours are 5:30-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday,
Photo: facebook.com/LightUpTheFair

Light Up the Fair

5819 Idlewild Road, Burlington
Located at the Boone County Fairgrounds, this Northern Kentucky drive-through light display spans two miles long with over a half a million dazzling lights and is synchronized to music through each visitor’s car radio. Admission is $6 per person with children under 3 free and available for purchase online at lightupthefair.com. The event runs through Jan. 2 and is open on all holidays. Hours are 5:30-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday,
Photo: facebook.com/LightUpTheFair