When it was first suggested we go check out the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay a few weeks ago I was against it. I didn’t want to spend my Saturday night loading up the family, driving to West Virginia to look at Christmas lights and then driving back a car of people snoring. As the nights came and went we would drive around the South Hills and my kids would gawk at the lights on houses. Yeah, you can see where this was leading. Either they really loved the lights or mommy bribed their butts.
Last week while picking up my youngest from preschool he asked me if we could go look at lights some night because they really make him happy. Looking at the calendar the only date we had open that would work was December 6, my dad’s 8th anniversary. I felt a blanket of peace come over me and knew this would be a fitting tribute since the man was crazy obsessed with Christmas lights and going all out to decorate. He was the Clark Griswold of Erie.
The drive felt faster than I expected and while the wait in the car might seem long (see the list below) what you’re going to experience is worth it. Oglebay does a great job of traffic control and making sure you don’t have many bottlenecks along the way once you’re in the park. The use of LED lights over the old bulbs when I was growing up made the designs brighter but also helped the displays with moving parts appearing more lively.
It’s hard for me to talk about what I loved without ruining the trip for you so I’ll leave you with this. The glow on my kids faces were the brightest I have ever seen. Every turn was “WHOA! LOOK!” and at the end Teaspoon said thanks for taking him because it was really cool.
Here are a few thoughts.
Know Before You Go
This isn’t just a quick “wham-bam-nice lights ma’am” kinda trip, it’s an adventure and you need to be ready for it especially if you’re taking kids.
- Easy drive – From Greentree to the exit right off I-70 was approximately 1 hour. All you need to know is I-79 to I-70 and be able to read signs. It really is THAT easy to get to. Once you exit and turn right onto National Rd/rt40 stay in the left lane. You turn at Sheetz unless…
- OH MAH GAWD! TRAFFIC! – Here’s how you get around the first wave of cars. Weekday nights won’t be as bad but Fri/Sat/Sunday is a mess. Stay in the right lane and pass Sheetz. You can turn around at the plaza a block away and then when you come back you’ll have the right turn on red.
- OH MAH GAWD! TRAFFIC pt 2 – If traffic is backed up at Sheetz you will wait for at least 75 minutes in traffic. Traffic moves at a crawl and there are very few places to pull over on the way. Plan ahead for road trip food.
- Bring your wallet – Suggested donation is $20 per car (great price!) and there is a DVD for $5 which is worth it. The kids have played it to death plus we got to learn more about the resort. There is also a cool gift shop and activities for families.
- Christmas Jams – They have a radio station to tune in to for music while you’re touring the area along with info breaks to tell you more about the displays.
- Bring a camera but don’t stress over pics – Unless you’re stopping for pics don’t sweat it if you can’t get that perfect blurry picture of lights. Enjoy the moment with the people you’re with.
- Beer in Sheetz – It’s mostly macros but if you want to feel what it’s like to live in just about every other state in the U.S. and buy beer at a convenience store, this is your chance. There’s also a Kroger’s at the exit but their selection is really weak.
- Drive back is really fast – We had no idea how close Wheeling really was. I mean we KNEW it was a short distance but if you haven’t been there, you need to experience it.
The trip was a great experience for the family and next year I think we may make a full weekend out of it. There was so much to do we didn’t know about and next year I think getting a group of us together would be a blast.