Eight Local Holiday Light Displays That Are COVID-Friendly


Bundling up in the safety and warmth of the car to check out holiday light displays is one safe way to celebrate the holidays in 2020. These Greater Cincinnati area businesses and neighborhoods feature some stellar light displays, perfect for COVID-friendly (and in some cases mask-free) fun—assuming, of course, you travel with others in your quarantine bubble.

Photograph by K.A/stock.adobe.com

PNC Festival of Lights

The lighting display at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is nearly synonymous with the holidays in Cincinnati. This year marks the 38th annual PNC Festival of Lights, complete with a North Polar Express train ride, a Wild Lights show on Swan Lake, socially distanced Santa visits, and, of course 4 million LED lights.
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale; 1 to 9 p.m. through Jan. 3, and Jan. 8–10 and 15–17; closed Dec. 24 and 25

The Legendary Lights of Clifton Mills

Nominated as one of the country’s 10 best holiday lights displays by USA Today, The Legendary Lights of Clifton Mills is a 32-year tradition. Its light display includes a 100-foot lit “waterfall”; more than 4 million lights across the bridges, riverbanks, the gorge, mill and trees; and a synchronized music and light show featuring the Covered Bridge.
Clifton Mill, 75 Water St., Clifton; 6 to 9 p.m. through Dec. 30, except Dec. 24 and 25, which runs 6 to 8 p.m.

Whispering Christmas

This 33-year-old Eaton tradition started with 800 lights. Today, Whispering Christmas boasts more than 2 million. Through December 23, guests will even be able to give a little wave to Santa in the gazebo at this drive-through display.
Fort St. Clair State Park, 135 Camden Rd., Eaton; 6 to 9:30 p.m. through Dec. 31

Journey Borealis

Journey Borealis winds through the 300-plus acres at Hamilton’s Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum. The 2.5-mile drive-through light show has attracted more than 40,000 guests over two decades. Plus, it’s free on Tuesdays for Hamilton residents with proof of residence.
Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum, 1763 Hamilton Cleves Rd., Hamilton; 6 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays through Sundays, through Jan. 3, 2021

Christmas Nights of Lights

As Cincinnati’s largest synchronized light show, Christmas Nights of Lights at Coney Island syncs more than 1 million lights to modern and traditional Christmas tunes played through your car stereo.
Coney Island, 6201 Kellogg Ave., Cincinnati; dusk to 10 p.m. through Jan. 9, 2021

Holiday in Lights

What sets Sharon Woods’ Holiday in Lights apart from its competitors? The special effects glasses, which you can purchase at the gate. The drive- or walk-through event takes visitors through more than 250 displays over a mile of wooded street.
Sharon Woods Park, 11450 Lebanon Rd., Sharonville; 6 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through Jan. 2, 2021; no car traffic Dec. 30, closed Dec. 31

Light Up Middletown

This drive-through lighting display won four awards in 2019’s Best of Middletown: best local attraction, best festival or event, best place to take a visitor, and best time or place to take a selfie. In its 21st year, Light Up Middletown’s funds raised will benefit Middletown City Parks.
Smith Park, 500 Tytus Ave., Middletown; 6 to 10 p.m. through Dec. 31

Village of Mariemont 

Mariemont hosted a lumeria event, tree lighting, and house decorating contest earlier this month, letting area light peepers reap the benefits. If your idea of a fun night looking at holiday lights includes a little bit of wandering, no specific destination in mind, head over to the Village of Mariemont and see if you can spot all the homes that participated in the decorating contest.
Village of Mariemont, 6907 Wooster Pike, Mariemont

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