Edward Johnson, credited with creating the first strand of electric holiday lights in 1882, would be astounded at what professional light-show artists are doing with his invention today. Ohio’s Holiday Lights Trail alone, for example, includes 55 sites set aglow with millions upon millions of glimmering lights.
Immerse yourself in some of the best illuminations in the region with these holiday lights displays.
Wildlights; Photo by Grahm S. Jones/Columbus Zoo
November 17–January 7, 2024
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Powell, Ohio
When cold winds blow, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium dresses up for its Wildlights celebration with millions of LED lights guiding visitors through a wild and magical wonderland. Meet Santa’s reindeer and The Man in the Big Red Suit himself, ride the “12 Days of Wildlights” themed train, roast a giant marshmallow and more.
Pro tip: There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. This is an outdoor walking adventure, so dress accordingly.
Legendary Lights of Historic Clifton Mill; Photo courtesy of Ohio, The Heart of It All
LEGENDARY LIGHTS OF CLIFTON MILL
November 24–December 30
Historic Clifton Mill Clifton, Ohio
The 1802 Historic Clifton Mill is one of the largest water-powered grist mills still in operation. Today, people visit the mill for behind-the-scenes tours, its old-time restaurant serving all-day breakfast, and the striking views of the Little Miami River and Clifton Gorge. The real show, though, happens during the winter holidays when the mill, riverbanks and gorge are lit up by more than 4 million twinkling lights in a holiday light display ranked among USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards every year since 2016.
Pro tip: Standout scenes include the synchronized light-and-music show on the old covered bridge.
Festival of Lights: Photo courtesy of Oglebay Resort
FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
November 9–January 8, 2024
Oglebay Resort Wheeling, West Virginia
Oglebay, one of West Virginia’s premier resorts, has been celebrating its Festival of Lights since 1985. This self-guided auto tour covers 6 miles and features more than 300 lighted displays. The display is so over the top that the Travel Channel featured it during its “Extreme Christmas Celebration” series.
Pro tip: If you hope to overnight at the resort, book your winter holiday stay many months in advance.
LIGHTS UNDER LOUISVILLE
November 10–January 1, 2024
Mega Cavern Louisville, Kentucky
Lights Under Louisville takes place deep inside a former limestone quarry. Drive your vehicle through the Mega Cavern to experience the only underground holiday light show in the world. It’s a 30-minute journey through miles of underground passageways decked with 6 million lights and more than 900 displays.
Pro tip: This drive-through show is always dark, so you can visit day or night.
There’s nothing like the dazzle of a holiday light show to make you feel like a kid again.