Craziest Christmas Displays in Cincinnati...and Beyond!


Holiday light shows are all the rage, and you'll find no shortage of them in Cincinnati and the surrounding area. From the Zoo, to Old Coney, to the Creation Museum, you'll find numerous displays celebrating the holiday season. You can even road trip into neighboring Kentucky and Indiana for a few very unique displays.

PNC Festival of Lights, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
It's the 34th year for one of America's oldest and most expansive holiday light displays. Over 2.5 million lights cover the zoo, forming a variety of interesting and dazzling displays. The kids can meet Santa, get a photo, and/or take a selfie with the man. Mrs. Claus is on hand to read stories to the kiddos. You can also see if reindeer can fly (spoiler alert...), ride the train through the lights, see a puppet show, a 4-D showing of The Polar Express, and more. Runs through Jan. 1.

Sharon Woods, Sharonville
Running almost as long as the Festival of Lights, this display can be enjoyed from the cozy comforts of the family trickster. It has been an annual tradition for more than two decades. Vehicles wind through a mile of lights, with displays synchronized to a local radio station for your sing-a-long and dancing pleasure, depending on how big your car is of course. Easily accessible form I-275, Sharon Woods is a popular holiday destination. The lights come on 6:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The display runs through Jan 1.

Coney Island Christmas Light Show
New for 2016, it's a dazzling light show at the area's oldest amusement park. This too is a drive through display and vehicle occupants can enjoy music brilliantly synchronized to the lights via the car's FM Radio. They tunes are mostly a contemporary take on the standards--- very contemporary. Think of David Guetta having a go at holiday music. One track is a mash-up of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and The Who's "Baba O'Riley" performed by New Jersey band Spiraling. Way cool! Conveniently located right off I-275 in Anderson Township, this drive through display is over two miles long and features over two million lights, all synchronized to music. It all begins at dusk and runs until 10:00 p.m. through Dec. 31.

Christmas Ranch, Lebanon, Ohio
North of Cincinnati on I-71, is the historic town of Lebanon, home of the Christmas Ranch. In addition to the over one million lights synchronized to music, visitors can also enjoy wagon and train rides, half a dozen shops, and a bakery.

Clifton Mill, Ohio
While nearby Yellow Springs gets a lot of attention for its small-town feel, artisans, and unique eateries, Clifton Mill, just a few miles to the east, is the place to be during the holiday season. The big attraction is the Legendary Lights. Saturdays of course will find you shoulder to shoulder with holiday celebrants, while Monday through Thursdays, have fewer visitors. Open through the entire season, the attraction closes at 8:00 p.m. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

Creation Museum
The controversial, but fascinating, Creation Museum hosts a light display from Dec. 16 through Dec. 30. Just off I-275 in Kentucky, a few miles from the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Airport, the Creation Museum is located off State Route 8. The light display, called Christmas Town, is set in the walking trails surrounding the facility. Bundle up, take a stroll, and maybe have a (holiday) spirited debate. It's open 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m., closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Lights Under Louisville
For those who reject the mainstream there's this underground attraction. And it's literally underground! Just road trip it about 90 miles southwest of Cincy to Louisville where you'll find Lights Under Louisville. It's in what is known as the Mega Cavern just off I-264. It's a 17-mile, 30-minute drive through an underground winter wonderland of lights. It features over two million lights and runs through Dec. 31.

Santa Claus, Indiana
Head west out of Louisville down I-64 for about an hour and you'll arrive in Santa Claus, Indiana. While its best-known attraction, Holiday World & Splashin' Safari is closed for the season, there's plenty of holiday themed activities including two different drive-through light shows.

The main light show is at the Lake Rudolph campground, next to Holiday World. Over 300 lighted displays tell the story of Rudolph, based on the original book as opposed to the famous TV special. The 1.2-mile display is synchronized to music. On the weekend, you can rent a lovely cabin at Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort.

On Saturday Dec. 17, the Christmas Lake Village, a gated community where most of the residents of Santa Claus live, opens to let folks see the light displays of the private homes within. A small donation is all that's required. It's a long drive, but an interesting one. Be sure to stop at the halfway point and take a break. Then continue on and enjoy the variety of houses, large and small, decked out in all their holiday glory.

Arriving before dark? Check out the huge Santa Claus Christmas Store, Candy Castle, and historic village while you wait for the sun to set. And if the holiday season seems to short, Santa Claus Christmas Store, Holiday World, and Lake Rudolph all re-open in the spring.

P.F. Wilson is a freelance writer who has lived in Cincinnati for over 20 years. He's been published in magazines and newspapers across the country and hosts his own comedy podcast.