One of America’s largest holiday light shows, the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay in Wheeling, West Virginia, will begin November 14, 2014 and continue through January 4, 2015. This holiday tradition began in 1985 with just five light displays and landscape lighting covering about 125 acres over a three-mile drive throughout the resort. Since then, the show has grown into one of the nation’s largest light shows, covering more than three hundred acres over a six-mile drive throughout the resort. Eighty larger-than-life light displays are now part of this glowing show including the new Rainbow Tunnel.
Every year new displays are added and the placement of the existing displays change to keep the show fresh. “We are very excited about this year’s new addition, the Rainbow Tunnel,” said Caren Knoyer, marketing director. “We currently have two light tunnels and they are both very popular.” The new tunnel is 100 feet long with multi-colored lights. “Thirty arches will span the road leading down to the lake area,” said Knoyer. “We are certain this tunnel will be a big hit.”
Favorites from previous years include the festival’s tallest display, “Poinsettia Wreath and Candles” which stands close to sixty feet tall and spans fifty feet in diameter. Other display favorites include the “Ferris Wheel”, “The Carousel” and the extravagant “Cinderella Display.”
Six years ago, the Winter Festival of Lights entered a new “green” era with the commitment to use energy-efficient LED lights in all new displays and to begin converting all existing displays to LED.
LED lights use 85% less energy than traditional bulbs and last five times longer. “We want to ensure that the Winter Festival of Lights will be glowing for many more years!” said Knoyer. “For example, the animated Rocking Horse Display was first added to the Festival of Lights in 1992, using 85 amps of electricity with traditional light bulbs. Now that the display has been updated with vibrant LED lights and it uses just 12 amps of electricity.”
The popular Light and Music Extravaganza returns to the Good Zoo and has been updated this year with new music and choreography. The Light and Music Extravaganza takes place nightly on the zoo patio with more than 35,500 LED lights. The zoo at Oglebay will also have their annual holiday model train display at the state’s largest O-Gauge Model Train Exhibit and holiday laser shows at the zoo’s Benedum Theater. Admission to the zoo is $9.00 for adults and $5.75 for children ages 3-12, and this admission includes the Light and Music Extravaganza on the zoo’s patio.
The Gardens of Light is located in the Oglebay hilltop and gardens area, and features 150 hanging baskets of light plus thousands of lighted flowers, trees and shrubs, combined with distinctive holiday music. Knoyer said that the best way to enjoy the Gardens of Light is to take a stroll along the brick path that leads from Carriage House Glass to the Mansion Museum.
Carriage House Glass, the first stop on the Gardens of Light tour, features a large selection of decorative glass and other collectibles. Carriage House Glass is also home to the sparkling Oglebay Institute Glass Museum featuring an extensive collection of West Virginia glass and glassblowing demonstrations. The Gardens of Light continues next door to the Visitors’ Center and the Farmhouse Sweets and Treats Shoppe. “This shop features a very large selection of chocolates, plus other candy and regionally produced food products,” said Knoyer. “Custom gift baskets are also available at Farmhouse Sweets and Treats.” Just outside the Visitors’ Center lies the magical Christmas Tree Garden. Introduced in 2003, the Christmas Tree Garden consists of 30 live trees decorated with various colored lights. Situated in the center of the Christmas Tree Garden is the Nativity Display. The life-size Nativity was designed and created by a local artist, and has been a much-loved display at the Winter Festival of Lights since 1985.
The red brick walking path leads from the Christmas Tree Garden to the Greenhouse, Palm Room and Garden Center Gift Shop, where visitors can find live holiday flowers, garden gifts and silk floral arrangements. The final stop on the Gardens of Light tour is the Mansion Museum. The Mansion is the former summer home of the Oglebay family and is elegantly decorated for the holidays.
The 270-room Wilson Lodge at Oglebay offers special overnight packages during the Winter Festival of Lights. Many changes have taken place at the lodge over the years but it is still the centerpiece of Oglebay. It is festively decorated, inside and out, and bustles with activity including children’s events, delicious holiday dining, cordial gatherings and live musical entertainment.
There is plenty to do and see at Oglebay while waiting for the lights to come on. The Ihlenfeld Dining Room at Wilson Lodge offers a popular holiday buffet nightly and the family-friendly Glass Works Grill at the lodge is open daily for lunch and dinner. The Winter Festival of Lights is also a special time at all of the Oglebay specialty shops. In addition to the Carriage House Glass, Farmhouse Sweets & Treats, Palm Room and Garden Center shops in the Gardens of Light area, the Resort Shop and West Spa Boutique at Wilson Lodge, Nature Express at the Good Zoo, and the Christmas Shop at the Speidel Golf Club are all fully stocked for the holiday season. The Christmas Shop is open only during the Festival of Lights and offers a large selection of one-of-a-kind decorations, ornaments and holiday collectibles. Gift cards are available at all shops, at the Visitors Center and online at Oglebay’s website.
The Winter Festival of Lights is will continue nightly through January 4, 2015 and is viewable Sunday through Thursday until 10:00 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday until 11:00 p.m. There is no admission to the Festival but a per car donation of $20 is suggested and is valid for the entire festival season. Visitors making a $25.00 donation will receive a DVD of the Festival of Lights and Oglebay story.
Knoyer said that visitors who prefer a guided, narrated tour through the light show, will enjoy one of the trolley tours that are offered several times each night beginning at Wilson Lodge. “There is also a free mobile app for iPhones and iPads available in the Apple App Store,” added Knoyer. “The app has detailed information about each display and also includes photos, maps, and audio and video about the Festival of Lights.”
The Winter Festival of Lights was listed as one of the 10 Best Christmas Light Displays in the US according to AOL Travel and has been featured on the Travel Channel’s “Most Extreme Christmas Celebrations.” The show is also listed on the American Bus Association’s Top International Events, was named as a top 100 event by Eventcrazy.com and was recently listed as one of the top 200 events in the country by Discover America.