Last Updated on December 8, 2021 by Jeremy
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When it comes to Christmas lights near Pittsburgh, one spot comes up as a must-see again, and again, and again- Oglebay's Festival of Lights near Wheeling, West Virginia.
For many years, we had never visited this resort for their holiday display as we generally keep all our exploration of the Pittsburgh metro area confined to within Pennsylvania proper. But due to the popularity of this holiday event, especially within the Pittsburgh marketplace, we made an exception for this gem.
So one chilly early December evening we hopped in our car, made the 75-minute drive to Oglebay, and checked out the Festival of Lights in all its glory!
What You Can See at Oglebay's Festival of Lights
To put it bluntly- Oglebay's Festival of Lights truly has a lot going on.
At the heart of the show is the light experience, which primarily features static and animated scenes made of lights. While there were other light setups, like conventionally decorated trees and light tunnels, most featured scenes like those shown in this article.
Many had movement in it (like Charlie Brown kicking a football or toy soldiers marching). Some were quite tall (like gymnasts forming a pyramid). A few even had local music synchronized to them (so be prepared to roll your windows down at times), and others work in some cool depth-of-field elements that you simply do not see at other spots (like lights out on Schenk Lake or others vastly off in the distance making you question just how large they are- we'll let you be surprised by these).
So while we'd say that the lights here are much more spread out than at other light shows, you do have many elements that make you stop and appreciate their designs- some for complexity and others just for being a bit ingenious.
It is worth noting that Oglebay's also has three distinct areas for lights over the roughly six-mile course. The main entrance to the resort starts the light show just off Route 88 near the Good Zoo. This route loops down to the Welcome Booth (where you pay, more on that below), and back up to The Hilltop. From there, you exit back on Route 88 where you'll see more lights along the main road, and then finally do a quick loop around the Speidel Golf Club for even more lights! The golf club was perhaps our favorite section of all, so don't miss this one.
Beyond the driving route for lights, the property also has several spots where guests can get out and see some other indoor and outdoor holiday experiences. The Good Zoo has their own holiday light show (extra charge), Wilson Lodge has character meet & greets and more, and The Hilltop has a life-sized nativity scene as well as a spectacular Welcome Tree that has choreographed shows to music to name a few (during our stop at the tree it was synchronized to a Led Zeppelin and Christmas music mashup that was simply wonderful).
That being said, these indoor experiences are less than obvious when you are there as the signage could be much more prominent. We highly recommend checking out Oglebay's website to learn about all of these attractions prior to your visit to ensure you don't miss any!
All this comes together for a pretty enjoyable holiday light experience!
As with most shows, when you visit may be just as important to your experience at large, however. Peak weeknight and weekend timeslots can often have long waits and will result in a much slower experience for all visitors. On our Tuesday visit in early December, we arrived right at dusk, drove through with barely any traffic, and only saw the car volume pick up significantly around 6:30 pm. This, of course, will vary considerably night-to-night, but if you are making the trek from Pittsburgh, do yourself a favor and go as early as possible if you can.
A Note on Pricing at Oglebay's Festival of Lights
When it comes to the price of visiting Oglebay's Festival of Lights, we cannot simply state that the drive-through lights are a set fee and move on. It is a bit more complicated than that (but, surprisingly, in a good way).
To get technical, Oglebay's holiday lights are free to all those who wish to visit. Yes, you can enjoy the lights without paying if you so choose. But, the resort does offer a suggested donation of $25 per car in order to help keep the show funded and maintained for future years. Considering we drove through at a fast pace and still managed to spend over an hour on the property, the suggested fee was well worth it for what we got.
For those who do pay, you are given a pass for the rest of the year, a coupon book to enjoy many more amenities of the property (some appear like they could be used during your visit and some only can be used later on, so be sure to flip through it right away), and a paper map to name a few.
Beyond this, the resort has a few other premium experiences where you have to pay separate admission fees to enter. The zoo is a good example as they have extra lights and even a light show inside, but you have to pay an extra fee to get in (we passed, but we were told that since many of the animals are unable to be seen at night we'd also get a ticket to return during the day- so this could be a good option if you go to Oglebay more regularly than we do).
Other experiences, like the guided trolley tours, must also be purchased in advance- so be sure to look over Oglebay's website before you visit if these optional extras are for you.
Overall, we really enjoyed our experience at Oglebay's for the Festival of Lights. This is definitely one of the finest light shows in the area and it shows. The fact that you can visit this one for free (if you need it) or with a reasonable donation makes it even better. Our only regret is that it is quite far away from Pittsburgh at all! But for some things, a little bit of a drive never hurt anyone either.
Oglebay's Festival of Lights is located at 465 Lodge Dr in Wheeling, WV. The show generally runs from early November to early January.