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Let it glow: Pittsburgh’s best holiday light displays

Sally Quinn
December14/ 2017

Kids love peering through car windows and admiring the bright lights of neighborhood displays.

We do, too!

So we can just imagine the looks on their little faces when they see these amazing holiday extravaganzas. Each is special in its own way. And many include family-friendly activities for even more fun.

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When visiting Kennywood Park’s Holiday Lights, kids can indulge in their favorite amusement park concessions.

Kennywood Park

In its seventh season, the sparkling display of Holiday Lights at Kennywood Park has grown to nearly 2 million lights. Kids can watch the nightly tree-lighting ceremony of the tallest Christmas tree in Pennsylvania, measuring a towering 90 feet, plus a 10-foot tree-topping ornament. At the lagoon, a light show choreographed to music runs every 30 minutes.

Stop in the Penny Arcade, which houses the Pittsburgh Independent Hi-Railers model train display, or hop a ride on the Gingerbread Express for a train tour of the park.

Up to 10 Kiddieland rides will be in operation for the little ones. Even more thrills can be found on favorites like the Paratrooper, Kangaroo, and Pirate Ship. And for a seasonal touch, catch “The Polar Express 4-D Experience” in the theater.

Holiday Lights is open Fridays through Sundays through Dec. 23, then nightly from Dec. 26 to 30.

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A dusting of snow adds to the beauty of Phipps’ outdoor garden display.

Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

The spectacle of Phipps’ Winter Flower Show and Light Garden: Holiday Magic! runs through Jan. 7. The tropical indoor display with 2,000 poinsettias, fragrant amaryllis, and more lights than ever.

Kids will have fun exploring the new pirate-themed miniature railroad exhibit and its interactive features. The outdoor Discover Garden and grounds take on an enchanted aspect with a tunnel of lights to walk through, glowing orbs, magical trees with light dripping from the tips of branches, and paths lined with bright stalks of crystal colors.

Family Fun Days run Dec. 26 to 30 with lots of activities to keep kids engaged during their holiday break. The educational and entertaining fun includes pot planting and crafts.

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Play miniature golf within a holiday light display at Fun Fore All.

Fun Fore All

Through Jan. 2, kids can play 36 holes under the bright glow of Fun Fore All’s Holiday Lights Mini Golf in Cranberry. Fun Fore All’s two courses are glammed up to a shimmering walk-through display with tunnels of light and animated themes, like under the sea, Victorian Christmas, and penguins. A 20-foot Christmas tree is accompanied by a musical show that plays several times an hour. Hot chocolate, cider and s’mores are available for purchase.

Check out the schedule with daily specials, discounts, and giveaways. You might score a fee Santa hat, a $10 Fun Pass, or free admission to the National Aviary. Watch for Santa’s Send-Off Night and have a blast at the New Year’s Funtastic Eve.

The whole shebang benefits The Caring Place.

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The snow-covered mountain setting gives Seven Springs’ Holidays in the Highlands a special touch.

Seven Springs

At Seven Springs’ Holidays in the Highlands, visitors enter through a brilliant tree-lined passageway of more than a million lights. The Laurel Mountain setting is a beautiful one, with a scenic background of snow-covered slopes.

From the resort’s Main Lodge, the whole family can ride the Santa Express Holiday Train through the Holiday Village, where thirty-some crafters have set up shop. Santa will be waiting for photos at the Town Square. And kids can sharpen their maker skills at the craft zone.

The Holiday Village is open Fridays and Saturdays, the Holiday Light Display runs Fridays through Sundays, both through Dec. 23.

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Henny Hemlock, the talking Christmas tree, makes a new friend.

Overly’s Country Christmas

Henny Hemlock, the talking Christmas tree, is the darling of kids visiting Overly’s Country Christmas in Greensburg. Henny strikes up conversations and elicits giggles with his corny jokes. (What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Frostbite!) Kids have fun on horse-drawn carriages, in Santa’s Workshop, and riding the Kids Express train. Roasting marshmallows at the bonfire is another highlight.

Every display in this walkable Christmas wonderland was conceived and built by community volunteers, school groups, and clubs. Visitors are guided through 1.5 miles of fencing, all dolled up with more than 16,000 LED lights and 85 bows. The village and light displays number over a million lights, with four miles of audio cable connecting speakers to the central sound system.

The tradition started in 1956 at Harry Overly’s beautifully decorated home. The grandeur eventually expanded into the surrounding seven acres, attracting visitors from all over. Through the first 35 years, $1 million was collected from visitors and donated to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and children’s medical services at Westmoreland Regional Hospital. Since its move to the larger space of Westmoreland Fairgrounds in 1993, the charitable nature continues with donations benefitting a number of organizations through Share the Magic, Family Giving, and community outreach.

Overly’s operates daily through Jan. 1.

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Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland in Pittsburgh is one of six locations across the country.

Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland

Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland at the Big Butler Fairgrounds is one of six locations across the country. The drive-through light show is elaborately choreographed to holiday music played on your car’s radio.

Admission includes a stop at Santa’s Village, where hot cocoa and a kid-friendly menu of snacks are available. Carnival-style amusements like a Teacup ride and Polar Express Train are part of the lineup.

Locally, Shadrack’s benefits Project Bundle-Up and the Dollar Energy Fund. The light show operates daily through Jan. 7, including holidays.

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Kids can stretch their legs as they explore the Gardens of Light at Oglebay.


The Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights, a skip and a jump across the border in Wheeling, W. Va., is one of the largest light exhibits in the country. The 6-mile, drive-through display covers more than 300 acres with lines of lights and 89 features. The new Christmas Chameleon and Kaleidoscope Christmas Tree join old favorites like the animated Snow Flake, Snoopy, and Dinosaur.

Fidgety kids can be released from their booster seats to wander through The Hilltop. Lighted hanging baskets and flowers line the brick pathways of the Gardens of Light. The Christmas Tree Garden glows with three dozen lighted trees. The Hilltop offers shops, too, where a sweet tooth can be indulged.

Oglebay’s Good Zoo offers encounters in Santa’s Reindeer Training School (reservations suggested). The zoo patio is the site of the Light and Music Extravaganza with lights dancing in time for holiday music.

There are loads more activities for kids at the Crispin Center with straw mazes, holiday train and wagon rides, and shop. All tuckered out? Relax in front of the crackling fire.

The Festival of Lights operates through Jan. 1.

Sally Quinn

Sally Quinn is an award-winning writer and editor who has been covering her favorite city for more than 20 years. She welcomes comments and story ideas for Kidsburgh.

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