11 Drive-Thru — and Walk-Thru — Greater Cincinnati Holiday Light Displays

Some festive fun you can enjoy from the warmth of your car, or while you’re all bundled up outside.

click to enlarge Journey BOREALIS - Photo: Vincent DiFrancesco
Photo: Vincent DiFrancesco
Journey BOREALIS

Here’s some festive fun you can enjoy from the warmth of your car, or while you’re all bundled up outside. Pro tip: Some displays may be closed Christmas Eve or Christmas Day; check their websites.

Journey BOREALIS at Pyramid Hill

Hamilton’s Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park is lighting up the holiday season with a brand new drive-thru show: Journey BOREALIS. For the last 20 years, Pyramid Hill has offered a drive-thru experience that is often ranked among the region’s best holiday light displays. But this year, Holiday Lights on the Hill has done a glow-up into Journey BOREALIS, an illuminated spectacle and “visual art experience that showcases local and regional new media and light-based artists,” says a release from Pyramid Hill. Overseen by light design company Brave Berlin — part of Cincinnati’s BLINK art and light festival — for the past three years, Pyramid Hill’s light show has previously included 2-and-a-half miles of creative, glowing scenes and projection-mapped sculptural installations. This year’s multimedia drive-thru has expanded to include more than 1 million lights and immersive holiday art installations, soundtracked to music by the Cincinnati Boychoir and Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. 6-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 6-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday through Jan. 3. $20 Monday-Thursday; $25 Friday-Sunday; $15 for Pyramid Hill members; free for Hamilton residents on Tuesdays (must bring proof of residence). 1763 Hamilton Cleves Road, Hamilton, journeyborealis.com.

Light in the Forest at the Cincinnati Nature Center

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. Guests need to pre-register for a certain time slot. Capacity limits are in place due to COVID and the center says “all adults and children Kindergarten age and up must wear masks.” 5-9 p.m. Thursday-Sunday through Jan. 3. $12 adults; $7 children. 4949 Tealtown Road, Milford, cincynature.org.

Holiday in Lights at Sharon Woods

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 Holiday in Lights. The park is also offering walkable tours of the lights. Walks are by reservation only and take place every 15 minutes on Dec. 2 and Dec. 30. No cars will be allowed on those nights. The show is going cashless this year due to COVID, and all tickets are available in advance online. There’s also an option online to buy some special effects glasses to enhance the drive. Santaland will be closed this year (for health and safety reasons). 6-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5:30-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday through Jan. 2. $15 per vehicle; $45 for buses; $5 walk-thru tickets. 11450 Lebanon Road, Sharonville, holidayinlights.com.

Winter Nights, River Lights

Winter Nights, River Lights illuminates 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. Through Jan. 15. Free. 425 York St., Newport, facebook.com/newportonthelevee.

click to enlarge Festival of Lights - Photo: Vincent DiFrancesco
Photo: Vincent DiFrancesco
Festival of Lights


Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo

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. 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 and timed tickets are required. The zoo says to make reservations between the hours of 1-5 p.m. if you want to see the animals. 1-9 p.m daily through Jan. 3. Bonus nights Jan. 8-10 and Jan. 15-17. 3400 Vine St., Avondale, cincinnatizoo.org.

Christmas Nights of Lights at Coney Island

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 2-and-a-half-mile long display features more than 1 million lights. Dusk-10 p.m. daily (with extended hours weekends) through Jan. 9. $7 per person; free 3 and under. 6201 Kellogg Ave., California, christmasnightsoflights.com.

Light Up the Fair

Located at the Boone County Fairgrounds, this Northern Kentucky drive-thru light display spans 2 miles with over half a million dazzling lights, synchronized to music through your car radio. 5:30-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5:30-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday through Jan. 2. $6 per person; free 3 and under. 5819 Idlewild Road, Burlington, lightupthefair.com.

Christmas Glow at Land of Illusion

Land of Illusion — a haunted horror town during Halloween and a family-friendly splash zone during the summer — transforms into a drive-thru holiday light display this winter. Christmas Glow offers “over 3.8 million lights at the 2-mile long Christmas Around the World drive-thru experience,” as well as a mobile petting zoo, Christmas Village (with hot cocoa, fire pits and a 45-foot Christmas tree), Santa’s workshop and a gift shop. 6-10 p.m. daily through Dec. 30. $7 per person. 8762 Thomas Road, Middletown, landofillusion.com/glow.

Light Up Middletown

This “fantasy drive-thru light display in Middletown, Ohio’s downtown 100-acre Smith Park” not only decks the halls with tons of glowing holiday displays, it also serves as a fundraiser for Middletown City Parks. 6-10 p.m. daily through Dec. 31. Admission is by cash donation; you set your own price. 500 Tytus Avenue, Middletown, lightupmiddletown.org.

ChristmasTown at the Creation Museum

The Creation Museum transforms its botanical gardens into a special ChristmasTown each year. Discover thousands of lights and displays along the garden trails — including several life-size dinosaurs — a live nativity, a petting zoo, an ice skating rink, gift shop, holiday food and a zip line (to get a bird’s eye view of the lights). 5-8:30 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday through Dec. 20. 5 p.m.-8:30 p.m. daily Dec. 21-30. The outdoor exhibit is free; skating is $7.99 and parking is $10. 2800 Bullittsburg Church Road, Petersburg, Kentucky, creationmuseum.org.

The Christmas Ranch

Take a drive up to Morrow to visit the Christmas Ranch, a winter wonderland that features 1 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 cafe, and a toy factory. 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. Check their website for hours. Through Dec. 23. $15 per carload; $30 for vehicles with 10 or more. 3205 S. Waynesville Road, Morrow, thechristmasranch.com.