A storybook holiday escape in the mountains
Thousands upon thousands of tiny glistening lights unite in one of America’s largest light displays: the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Resort.
On any given night mid-November through December, 300 acres of rolling hills shimmer alive with jovial activity— an ethereal white swan reflects off of Schenk Lake, a volcano erupts among a crew of prehistoric pals, a poinsettia and candle tower 50 feet above the earth, and a lively carnival illuminates the hillside.
After cruising through 6 miles of mind-blowing light displays, you might not want it to be over. Good thing it doesn’t have to be:
- Park it on the patio of The Good Zoo, where you can marvel in nearly 40,000 LED lights choreographed to music, or take in a laser show at the zoo’s Benedum Theater. Santa might even stop in!
- Wander through the resort’s famed Bissonnette gardens, draped with ornate Christmas decorations and sparkling hanging baskets.
- Climb aboard the hayrides or choo-choo loving train as you check out the resort’s unique model train display. The 1,200 square-foot exhibit snakes around an Appalachian landscape and even features a working river.
- Be sure to remember your trip with a special keepsake or one-of-a-kind gift from the Christmas Shop.
This unique mix of classic and cutting-edge light displays comes together stunningly and seamlessly, year after year. And when you add in the skiing, shopping, dining, world-class spa and more, it’s a truly magical winter escape.
The hills all aglow
The award-winning light display is continually named one of America’s biggest and best, and it’s still growing.
“Winter calls for special rules in lighting,” said Dick Bosch, the word-renowned lighting expert who highlights the beauty of the Mountain State with his displays. “There is a play of light, shadow and silhouetting effects that must appear natural, and it’s more difficult to achieve in winter.”
Marvel at the Peanuts characters, which were the brainchild of the late Robert Otten, Oglebay’s longtime creative director. Otten worked personally with the widow of Charles M. Shulz to light up West Virginia’s own hills with Schulz’s nationally known comic strip.
It all began in 1985 with 5 glittering light displays.
Otten continued to carefully add to the stunning display for the rest of his life, bringing more than 50 additional displays to the Festival of Lights.
The resort has carried on his tradition, adding new scenes every year so families can always enjoy their ol’ favorites together, but also keep discovering something new.
While visitors continue to enjoy the nostalgic scenes, the awe-inspiring Rainbow Tunnel, which was added in 2014, has proven to be quite a show-stopper. The jaw-dropping 30-arch span uses programmable RGB lights to flash 16 MILLION different colors!
Our state’s strong, community-oriented pride shines through at this gigantic holiday display. Local students have deeply involved in the festival since it began, and they help work on the display frames and create electronics for animation. In fact, a lot of the displays were actually designed by local students. “Christmas Tree Farm,” which just joined the show in 2013, was created by a local 12-year-old who was inspired by neighbors bringing home Christmas trees in the backs of their trucks.
Oglebay’s mountain magic doesn’t end at the Festival of Lights.
The grand lodge is adorned in decorations and handcrafted gingerbread houses, and cheerful carols ring through the halls.
It’s a high-spirited seasonal wonderland— like visiting the North Pole.
Cozy up at in the cottages or other elegant lodging (with winter discounts!), then bundle everyone up for a day on the ski slopes. If you’d rather stay in, the kiddos can splash and play in the heated indoor pool, while you sink into the world-class spa.
Warm up with a hearty holiday feast, every day. You might even pull up a seat next to Santa. His elves have crafted unique gifts for everyone on your list, too, from artistic glassware and collectibles to soothing bathworks to sweet chocolates and treats.
This post was last updated on March 16, 2022