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 light extravaganzas. Each is special in its own way. And many include family-friendly activities for even more fun.
- Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens
The spectacle of Phipps’ Holiday Magic: Let It Glow! runs through Jan. 6. The tropical indoor display numbers 2,000 poinsettias, fragrant amaryllis, and more lights than ever. Visit the newly restored Palm Court where trees are mounted on giant music boxes and check out the nutcrackers, toboggans and tea sets in the Serpentine Room.
The outdoor Winter Light Garden takes 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.
New this year are limited-edition Holiday Hologram Glasses that use the science of holographic diffraction to reveal festive snowflakes while looking at the LED light displays.
Kids will have fun exploring Garden Railroad’s “Memories in Motion” model train exhibit and its interactive features. Free-with-admission activities include Santa visits, live performance nights and Discovery Programs for kids with crafts, story time and pot-a-plant activities.
Timed tickets are required to help plan your visit and prevent overcrowding.
- Kennywood Park
In its eighth 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 Journey with Thomas for a train tour of the park.
Thomas Town attractions, up to 10 Kiddieland rides, plus Noah’s Ark and the Merry-Go-Round will be in operation for the little ones. Even more thrills can be found on favorites like the Turtle, Kangaroo, Pirate Ship and Ghostwood Estate. For a seasonal touch, catch “The Polar Express 4-D Experience” in the nice, warm theater.
Holiday Lights is open Fridays through Sundays through Dec. 23, then nightly from Dec. 26 to 30.
- Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland
Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland at the Big Butler Fairgrounds is one of six locations across the country. The 3-mile, drive-through light show is elaborately choreographed to holiday music played on your car’s radio. Check out the new “Santa’s Safari” display, where Santa and his buddies frolic while on vacation.
Admission includes a stop at Santa’s Village, where hot cocoa and a kid-friendly menu of snacks – kettle corn, funnel cakes and hot pretzels – are available. Write a letter to Santa during your visit. Carnival-style amusements like Tubs of Fun, the Elephant Ride and Polar Express Train are part of the entertainment lineup.
Locally, Shadrack’s benefits the Dollar Energy Fund. The light show operates daily through Jan. 6, including holidays.
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.
New technology has been introduced this season with the 3-D Sleigh Bans — think Ray-Bans — family four-pack. The holographic technology magically transforms lights. The four-pack includes $25 worth of coupons redeemable at park shops and attractions.
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 to holiday music.
There are loads more activities for kids at the Crispin Center with a straw maze, holiday train and wagon rides, and shop. All tuckered out? Relax in front of the crackling fire.
- Seven Springs Mountain Resort
At Seven Springs’ Holidays in the Highlands, visitors enter through a brilliant tree-lined passageway of more than a million lights over two miles. 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.
- 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 several organizations through Share the Magic, Family Giving, and community outreach.
Overly’s operates daily through Jan. 1, except for Dec. 3, 10, 24 and 25.
- 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 – the Holly Jolly Cave Course and Very Merry Lighthouse Course – are all 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.
Watch for the Winter Princess Dessert Party, Santa Spectacular Cookie Party and have a blast at the New Year’s Funtastic Eve.
The whole shebang benefits The Highmark Caring Place.