Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Still Going Strong at 30

Poinsettia Wreath and Candles display at the Oglebay Festival of Lights

One of the Festival’s favorite displays, the Poinsettia Wreath and Candles, is nearly 60 feet tall.

One of America’s largest holiday light shows, the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay in Wheeling, West Virginia, will begin November 13, 2015 and continue through January 3, 2016. 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.

Every year new displays are added and one of this year’s new displays will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Winter Festival of Lights.

Candy Canes display at the Winter Festival of Lights

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Festival of Lights at Oglebay. The show started in 1985 with just 5 light displays including the Candy Canes display.

Doug Dalby, President & CEO of the Wheeling Park Commission said the special 30th anniversary edition of the show is being supported by WesBanco. “Over the years financial support from our community has played an important part in the growth and operation of both Oglebay and Wheeling Parks,” said Dalby. “WesBanco’s support of the 2015-16, 30th anniversary of the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay, is the latest example of this community support. Thank you to Wesbanco for their decision to be a part of this year’s Winter Festival of Lights.”

“WesBanco has a rich heritage of 145 years of community support and are proud to be associated with one of the nation’s largest holiday light shows that has over the past 30 years attracted millions of visitors to Oglebay and the Wheeling area,” said Todd Clossin, WesBanco President & CEO. “As WesBanco has grown, so has the attraction of the Winter Festival of Lights, drawing visitors from areas into which WesBanco has expanded including Pittsburgh and Columbus.”

“Our relationship with Oglebay Park goes back nearly as far as it does with the city of Wheeling and the communities that we have served along the Ohio River,” added Clossin. “WesBanco is proud to have offered customer and community-focused banking since 1870. We are more than a diversified financial services company, we are corporate and community citizens and our partnership with the Winter Festival of Lights allows us to reach the members of our communities and grow in our relationships with our customers in a new and different way.”

Rainbow Tunnel at the Oglebay Festival of Lights

The Rainbow Tunnel was introduced to the show last year. One of 3 light tunnels at the Festival of Lights, it is 100 feet long and changes colors as you drive through.

Other new displays at this year’s Winter Festival of Lights include a 60 foot, animated Christmas Tree and a Penguin Display on Schenk Lake. “The lake area is always a highlight of light show as the displays on the lake are made even more electrifying by their shimmering reflections on the water,” said Caren Knoyer, Marketing Director for Oglebay. Knoyer said the Penguin display was the winning design in last year’s new idea contest.

The new animated Christmas Tree Display features programmable RGB technology. Knoyer explained that this new technology uses Red, Green and Blue colors, RGB, and when the three colors are combined and programmed to vary in intensity, they can produce over 16 million different colors. “We introduced programmable RGB last year with the addition of the Rainbow Tunnel, and this tunnel quickly became a show favorite,” said Knoyer.

Other favorite displays from previous years include the Poinsettia Wreath and Candles, Dinosaur Dell, Ferris Wheel, The Carousel and the extravagant Cinderella Display.

Seven 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.

Rocking Horse Display at the Festival of Lights at Oglebay

The animated Rocking Horse Display was first added to the Festival of Lights in 1992, using 85 amps of electricity with traditional light bulbs. Updated in 2008 with LED lights, this display now uses just 12 amps of electricity.

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 another 30 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 takes place nightly on the zoo patio with nearly 40,000 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 $8.95 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 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.

Specialty Shops at the Festival of Lights

The Festival of Lights is a great time to explore the 8 specialty shops at Oglebay.

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. “The Treats Shoppe features a very large selection of chocolates, plus other candy and regionally produced food products, and custom gift baskets.” said Knoyer.

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, Garden Center Gift Shop and the newly-located Christmas Shop. 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.

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.

Wilson Lodge at Oglebay during the Festival of Lights

A visit to the Winter Festival of Lights wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Oglebay’s Wilson Lodge. The Lodge is festively decorated, inside and out, and bustling with activity including nightly live entertainment.

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 shops on The Hilltop, Oglebay has the Resort Shop and West Spa Boutique at Wilson Lodge and Nature Express at the Good Zoo. Gift cards are available at all shops, at the Visitors Center and online at Oglebay’s website.

The Winter Festival of Lights 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.

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.

Oglebay, and the Winter Festival of Lights, is located 4 miles from I-70 at Exit 2A in Wheeling, West Virginia. The resort is 60 miles from Pittsburgh via I-79 south and I-70 west; 120 miles from Columbus via I-70 east; and 150 miles from Cleveland via I-77 south and I-70 east. For more information about Oglebay and the Winter Festival of Lights, call 800-624-6988 or 304-243-4000 or visit