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Seasonal light displays attract visitors

Dec. 06, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Whether you like it in night bright and energy right, L.E.D.'s or in those big chunky retro bulbs, nothing says Christmas like tripping the light fantastic at a crazy cool display that features more lights than should be legal.

To root out some of the best Christmas light shows in the region, the Dave Trippin' mobile has been Griswolding their way over hill and dale to pass on some of our favorite displays both near and far.

Here's a look at just a few, great Christmas light displays.

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo

Located about three hours north of Huntington and just north of Columbus is the renowned Columbus Zoo, which is home to Wildlights running from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday through Jan. 1.

This is a great weekend to hit the lights as Jungle Jack Hanna, who has made a couple of visits in the past few years to the Marshall Artists Series, will be performing live at Wildlights on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7-8.

Hanna, will do a live TV broadcast on Friday night and on Saturday hosts Jack Hanna's "Home for the Holidays" with two live shows with his animal friends that evening.

There are 14 daily attractions including some not-to-miss ones such as the Global Celebrations, an animated light show that takes place every 30 minutes at Conservation Lake.

Twice nightly (6 and 8 p.m.) Thursday through Sunday until Dec. 24, you can watch "Diving Claus," a SCUBA Santa that dives into Discovery Reef to feed the fish. (Newport Kentucky's Aquarium does this as well). Get there at least 30 minutes early for the Diving Claus as the room gets packed to the gills (pun intended).

Outside, you can also take the Bob Evans Polar Bear Express train ride for a great way to see many of the lights.

Go online at www.columbuszoo.org for more info.

Whirling up to Wheeling

Up nightly through Jan. 6, the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Resort and Conference Center in Wheeling (about 3 1/2 hours from Huntington) has been the state's premier holiday light display that consistently gets tossed into Top 10 lights in America lists and was featured on the Travel Channel's Extreme Christmas Celebrations.

That's no night light hype, the Lavender crew checked out this six-mile driving tour that's packed with more than a million lights sprawling over about 300 acres of rolling hills in and around Oglebay and all of its amenities from the Wilson Lodge and the Good Zoo to the Speidel Golf Club.

While the lodge offers $9 trolley tours that depart Wilson Lodge hourly with talking tour guides, we turned up the light's Christmas radio station and took the self-guided driving tour ($15 per car) to be shocked and awed by the tunnels of lights and the sheer creativity of the 78 lighted displays that include a new volcano added to the dinosaur display, a golfing owl, a pancake chef, tennis players, a Conestoga wagon and Charlie Brown kicking a football.

As our eldest said, wow, somebody must have been incredibly bored to come up with such imaginative displays that include a cardinal feeding its babies (strategically placed in front of the lodge which boasts its nightly buffet).

There's a slew of activities from paint your own pottery to of course, a visit to the Good Zoo, which has an 18-minute long laser light holiday show running hourly noon to 9 p.m. on weekends.

If you can't make it to Wheeling over the holidays, be sure to check out their four-season display, the Gardens of Light, which features more than 150 hanging baskets of lights and thousands of lighted flower and trees.

Go online at www.oglebay-resort.com for more info.

Anchor down in Ashland

There's holiday spirit to spare over at Ashland's Winter Wonderland of Lights that's got the gorgeous Central Park chunked, covered and smothered in about 850,000 lights.

In its 24th year, the Winter Wonderland of lights is open dusk to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from dusk to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, through Jan. 6 and is now popping with about 95 percent L.E.D. lights.

As part of the festivities, there's a karaoke and pizza with Santa from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Transportation Center (99 15th St.) for children from kindergarten through sixth grade. Afterwards enjoy a trolley ride tour of the Central Park lights.

Although the flat Central Park loop makes for a fantastic way to get some nightly exercise on the walking path, you can also enjoy the sights and sounds of the season on the Winter Wonderland Express Train Ride that runs 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 7-9, Dec. 14-16, Dec. 21 and 22. The cost is $3.

And for a sans mall Santa visit in a more natural habitat (Central Park log cabin), Santa is in the house on the weekends 6 to 8 p.m.

Go online at www.winterwonderlandoflights.com or on Facebook.

And if you're over Ashland way and up for a double-shot of lights, don't forget about Coal Grove's Paul Porter Park.

The circular drive up through the steep hilly park is packed with great displays including a giant nativity scene as well as a brand new display, a Santa Claus-driven twinkling blue pickup truck that was put up to honor park volunteer Hayward Roush, who died earlier this fall.

Over the valley and through the parks

A mighty fine double-shot of lights can be found in the valley as St. Albans Festival of Lights, is perhaps the Tri-State's biggest display with about a mile of its hilly St. Albans City Park packed with that lights that include everything from Spongebob Square Pants to a sternwheeler.

Open 6 to 9 p.m. nightly through Dec. 26 (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), the St. Albans lights feature a bunch of new displays including a massive Peace on Earth sign, a nod to its 25th anniversary, new Marshall and WVU displays and a series of five-foot-tall L.E.D. lit candy canes.

Scott Tweedy, St. Albans Parks and Recreation director, said they're now up to about 80 percent L.E.D. lights at the display which also features nightly pictures with Santa ($5) with hot chocolate, coffee and cookies.

Admission to the lights is a donation of either money or canned goods which Tweedy said they dole out to local churches giving away food to the needy.

Go online at www.salights.com for more info.

For a lights appetizer, be sure to stop by Hurricane's Valley Park, which has its annual Yuletide in the Park that runs nightly through Jan. 1.

They ramp up the fun this weekend with two unique events. From 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7 is a Colonial Christmas at Valley Park with wagon rides, tree decorating and story telling.

And at 10 a.m. Saturday, the almost famous, Reindog Parade, with best costume awards in small, medium and large dog categories.

All dogs must wear antlers and be on a leash. Registration at 9:30 a.m. Call 304-562-0518, Ext. 10 for more info or go online at www.putnamcountycvb.com or contact 304-562-0727 for additional information.



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