When it comes to beloved holiday traditions, dazzling twinkling lights are high on the list.
Dayton and Cincinnati are home to some pretty remarkable community displays of Christmas lights that are worth the drive.
Here are some of our favorite places to go to see Christmas light displays throughout the holiday season:
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>> BEST OF DAYTON: What’s your favorite Dayton holiday tradition?
Unlike other lighting festivals where the lights are already on when you arrive, Clifton Mill stages a dramatic opening where people who arrive at 6 p.m. get to see all four million lights turn on at once, producing a Fourth of July-like “ooh and aah” moment. Throughout the evening, either on the hour or every half hour, the lights will be turned off and then turned on again so the later-comers can experience it as well. Don't miss the Santa Claus Museum on site. Refreshments for sale.
When: Nov. 23 – Dec. 31
Times: 5-9 p.m. Lights go on at 6 p.m. Closes at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.
Location: 75 Water St., Clifton, OH 45316
Cost: $10. Kids 6 and under are free. Parking is free.
The Cincinnati Zoo will once again be transformed into a “Wild Wonderland” for the 36th annual PNC Festival of Lights. The display voted the best holiday zoo lights by USA TODAY features 3 million LED lights and giant animal lanterns. Visitors can watch a Madcap black-light puppet show, ride the BB&T Toyland Express, search for fairies in Fairyland, see the spectacular Wild Lights show on Swan Lake. Santa will be available for visits starting at 4 p.m. through Dec. 23, an hour before the rest of the festivities begin.
When: Nov. 17 – Jan. 1
Times: Sundays to Thursdays from 5-9 p.m. & Fridays and Saturdays from 5-10 p.m.
Location: 3400 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH 45220
Cost: Packages start at: Adults: Online $17(Gate $19) Child/Sr: Online $21 (Gate $22).
Ticket deals: New this year, Plan-ahead Pricing allows guests to save by purchasing tickets for select dates online in advance. Prices for traditionally lower traffic nights, such as Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, will be as much as half less than those purchased for the most popular nights. Prices will go up based on demand for certain nights, so buy early to get the best rate. Discount tickets are available at any area Kroger, good for $2 off adult and $1 off child admission any night of the event.
Woodland Lights celebrates its 26th anniversary season with the lights and sights people have come to love and a month of holiday activities. The half-mile wooded path is perhaps the signature feature of Woodland Lights, featuring lighted holiday-themed figures and vignettes such as reindeer, elves and snowflakes, but also regular objects such as airplanes and helicopters. In addition to the lights, the event includes carriage rides, amusement rides, live animals, concessions and activities for kids. Santa and his elf welcome children nightly through Dec. 23 to their historic log cabin that’s decorated for the holidays. Costumed characters visit many nights and local arts organizations take the stage on weekends.
>> HISTORY: How Woodland Lights got its start
When: Nov. 23-Dec. 23. The display is open Friday through Sunday, Nov. 23-Dec. 2 and nightly Dec. 7-23.
Hours: 6-9 p.m.
Location: Countryside Park on the Washington Township Recreation Campus, 895 Miamisburg-Centerville Road, Washington Twp.
Cost: Tickets are available at the gate, any Washington Twp. recreation facility or online. Tickets are $8 age 3 and up. Tickets are free for children 2 and younger.
🎄🚶WINTERFEST AT KINGS ISLAND
WinterFest, one of the Cincinnati area’s beloved annual traditions returned in 2017 after a 12-year hiatus. Visitors throughout the Southwest Ohio Region and beyond can experience Snowflake Lake Ice Skating on International Street, take in Charlie Brown’s Christmas Town, and enjoy Rivertown Wonderland as part of Kings Island’s WinterFest celebration. The park is transformed into 10 enchanting winter wonderlands featuring ice skating on the Royal Fountain, the Eiffel Tower will be transformed into a magical 314-foot tall Christmas tree, and there will be a number of rides to enjoy including Mystic Timbers. New this year – Carriage rides will allow you to take in the lights and sights of WinterFest atop a horse-drawn carriage. The experience features more than 5 million lights.
When: Nov. 23 through Dec. 31 on select dates
Hours: Hours are 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Saturdays. The Lighting Ceremony with Snoopy and the Kings Island Holiday Singers will kick-off WinterFest nightly at 5:30 p.m. from the International Street Stage.
Where: Kings Island, 6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason
Cost: Ticket packages start at $25.99 per person
See Carillon Historical Park’s 65-acre campus transformed into a winter wonderland of sparkle, magic and holiday cheer. The Carillon Tree of Light with thousands of lights stands at 200 feet, affixed to the top of 151 foot tall Deeds Carillon that was dedicated in 1942 by Col. Edward A. and Mrs. Edith Walton Deeds as a gift to the Dayton community. The first concert played on the Carillon took place on Christmas Eve, 1941, just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Tree consists of over 20,000 light bulbs on nearly 100 separate strands that come to life each night at dusk and blaze through until dawn for the entire month of December. Special activities include photos with Santa, carolers, model train displays, plus train ride, carousel ride and scavenger hunts for extra fee.
When: Nov. 28 through Dec. 30 (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)
Times: Sunday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 5-10 p.m.
Location: Carillon Historical Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd., Dayton
Cost: $10 per adult (18-59), $9 seniors (60 and older), $7 children (3-17), free for children under 3 and Dayton History members.
🎄🚗LIGHT UP MIDDLETOWN
With over a million sparkling lights, themed displays and Santa, Light Up Middletown has been a part of the holiday tradition for two decades. Some guests return two or three times each season. This drive-through light display offers themed displays, such as a floating Sea Serpent in the reflecting lake, Whales giving Santa’s Reindeer a ride, Santa’s Workshop, an American Flag, a Penguin Village and more. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available in the Santa House from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings through Sunday, Dec. 23. Admission by donation. Open nightly, 6-10 p.m., Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve, including holidays and regardless of the weather.
When: Nov. 22 – Dec. 31
Times: 6 P.M. – 10 P.M. every day regardless of weather
Location: 500 Tytus Ave., Middletown
Cost: Donations accepted.
New this year, Brave Berlin, the creators of Lumenocity and BLINK Cincinnati, will have an art installation in the pavilion as part of Holiday Lights on the Hill at Pyramid Hill. This popular drive-through display will offer guests a holiday light experience that brings art and nature together in the 300-acre sculpture park. A few of the traditional features will include decorated ponds with swans, a skating pond with a sequence of skaters that light up and doves overhead.
When: Nov. 16 through Jan. 1. Open holidays
Hours: Hours are Monday through Thursday 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday through Sunday 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Location: Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park, 1763 Hamilton Cleves Road, Hamilton
Cost: Monday through Thursday $20; Friday through Sunday $25 (Per carload). Admission for Pyramid Hill members presenting a current membership card is $15 every day.
🎄🚶THE CHRISTMAS RANCH
Find out why this walk-through display has received national attention. Walk through more than 1 million dancing holiday lights synchronized to holiday music. Stroll through seven Christmas shops and stop in Santa’s Bakery. Get your picture taken with Santa and take a train or wagon ride. Be sure to pick up your 3D glasses.
When: Open Nov. 16 through Dec. 23. Closed Thanksgiving Day.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 5-9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5-10 p.m.
Location: 3205 S. Waynesville Road, Morrow
🎄🚗CHRISTMAS NIGHTS OF LIGHTS AT CONEY ISLAND
This two-and-a-half-mile, drive-through light display features more than one million LED lights synchronized to festive holiday music. Features include larger than life trees, glowing snowflakes, dancing candy canes and tunnels of lights.
When: Open every night Nov. 9-Jan. 6, including holidays
Hours: Dusk until 10 p.m.
Location: Coney Island, 6201 Kellogg Ave., Cincinnati
Cost: $6 per person. Children 3 and under free. Tickets are available online or at the gate. Local charities will benefit from Christmas Nights of Lights: Salvation Army, The Ruth Lyons Children’s Fund, St. Vincent DePaul, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Starshine Hospice and Toys for Tots.
Celebrate the season at The Christmas Glow, a mile of 3 millions lights at the Christmas Around the World drive-thru experience. If you’re willing to get out of your car, you can visit Santa at the Christmas Village Santa Workshop and warm up by the fire pit. There are also shops and a kiddie train ride.
When: Nov. 21-Dec. 30
Hours: Monday-Wednesday drive-through only 6-10 p.m. Thursday to Sunday drive-through and Christmas Village open 6-10 p.m. Thursday and Sunday and Friday and Saturday 6-11 p.m.
Where: Land of Illusion, 8762 Thomas Road, Middletown
Cost: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday drive-through only $16 per carload. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday drive through and village tickets $20 per carload. Bring a canned good for $2 off park admission and it will be donated to The Hope House Mission of Middletown. There is also a Toys for Tots drop-off location. Group tickets by bus load are $35 Monday to Wednesday drive-through only and $45 per bus load Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (drive-through and village)
🎄🚗HOLIDAY IN LIGHTS AT SHARON WOODS
This drive-through lights display is built over a mile of wooded roadway and has been a Cincinnati family tradition for over 28 years. Holiday-themed displays depict everything from Santa Claus and his elves to every animal on the ark. If you’re up to getting out of your warm car, stop by Santaland for warm beverages, carolers, baked good, a gift shop, a train display and photos with Santa.
When: Nov. 16 through Dec. 31 (Santaland closes after Dec. 23)
Hours: 6-9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Location: 11450 Lebanon Road, Route 42, Sharonville
Cost: $15 per vehicle ($45 for buses/large passenger vans). A portion of proceeds will go to Hands Against Hunger.