Last Updated on November 13, 2021 by Jeremy
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Drive-through Christmas lights in Pittsburgh are all over the place these days including Christmas at the Zoo, Shadrack's at the Butler County Fairground, Overly's Winter Wonderland in the Laurel Highlands, and the drive-through lights in Clinton, PA, to name a few.
These experiences can be hit-or-miss to us as there is always a value proposition to keep in mind. Namely, how much you have to pay versus how many lights you get to see (and how long you get to spend on-site) as well as any possible wait you have to enter outright. To put it bluntly, what you can get for your money really does vary with these attractions and your experience can be especially impacted based on when you visit as peak crowds can detract from the experience immensely.
We mention this purely to set the stage for Dasher's Lightshow. This one opened up in several cities around the country in 2021, and in Pittsburgh can be found in the back parking lot of the Pittsburgh Mills Mall just off 28. We went shortly after they opened and drove away with one thought and one thought only- this one was an overpriced mess.
A Short Drive Through Christmas Lights
As Dasher's Lightshow is found in the parking lot of Pittsburgh Mills Mall, it feels like what you'd expect a Christmas light show in a mall parking lot to be. It is contained in a relatively small footprint, you can see the entirety of the lights from the main road in the drive in, and there is never any particular illusion that helps you forget that you are, in fact, still in a mall parking lot.
Perhaps if there was a fair bit of snow on the ground to hide the parking lines and cables the experience may be different, but considering the region doesn't typically get that much snow until after the holidays, that is something you really can't plan on. Throw in the fact that there are no trees, no dividers, and no other barriers to help block off the light show's turns to surprise you on what you'll see next and you can literally see everything before you even enter the show.
But as far as the lights are concerned, the course includes several lighted tunnels to drive through (some significantly better than others), lighted objects in the shapes of Christmas presents, candy canes, and guitars to name a few, and a few ~20-foot tall lighted trees which dance in coordination to holiday music broadcast on FM radio.
Apart from the coordinated lights, the only other technical aspect of this show to note is the simple animated characters on the LED screens at the end of each aisle which are designed to mouth the words to the songs you are listening to. That is, well, really about all there is to say for this experience in terms of what to expect beyond the gate.
The Biggest Problem with Dasher's Lightshow? The Price
When it comes down to it, we can get behind holiday light shows even if done poorly (to a degree, at least). Throw a million lights up in a parking lot? Fine. Make us drive 60 minutes out of the city? Sure. We can suspend some disbelief when it comes to shows like this, especially if we can make a night out of it.
But the $35 per car price (plus just over $6 in tax/fees) for what amounted to a roughly 12-minute drive through the lights was the real gut-punch of it all (and I made sure to try and drive at the suggested speed limit of 3 mph). It was roughly an hour of driving from downtown and back to check out lights in an approximately half-mile course, if my math holds up at least, for a grand total of 12 minutes. Ouch.
Oh, and that was the early-in-the-season, discounted weeknight price, too!
As the season is set to go on, prices are looking to surge to $40, $45, and even $50 per car (plus tax) on prime nights. I know my disappointment paying $35 for this show at the start of the season, but can only imagine what thoughts I'd have if I went the weekend before Christmas, dropped $50 plus tax for a carload, and perhaps even had to wait a sufficient amount of time to get in like is generally expected during surge hours. It'd not be pretty.
Had Dasher's Lightshow been the best light experience we've ever had, we probably wouldn't be talking about the price at all. But because this is truly one of our least favorite light shows in the area, the fact that is also among the most expensive just hurts.
But then again, perhaps this is what happens when you put a holiday light show in the parking lot of a mostly dead shopping mall. Maybe we should've seen this one coming.
Dasher's Lightshow is located at the Pittsburgh Mills Shopping Mall at 590 Pittsburgh Mills Blvd in Tarentum. In the 2021 season, Dasher's Lightshow is running from November 5th to January 2nd. Please note prices are variable by day of the week, relative distance away from Christmas, and possibly even by time nightly (early and late sessions may be slightly cheaper).