By: Jeremy Morris
A year ago, Bob Peckenpaugh — an interviewee for Wheeling Park Commission President & CEO position — walked among the Festival of Lights. He and his wife Jennifer were impressed with the scope and scale of the park’s signature event.
Now as CEO, (he took over the park’s top position at the beginning of the year), Peckenpaugh has a completely different view of the event — from the inside.
“It’s been a special experience this year to see the amazing work of our Festival of Lights team and others from around the resort; to have 90 displays across six miles of roadway is no small task,” Peckenpaugh said.
For 36 years, Oglebay Park’s Festival of Lights has made the most wonderful time of the year a bit more magical for everyone. This holiday season, that tradition will continue with over 300 acres of twinkling lights, fabulous food, and, of course, visits from jolly ol’ St. Nick.
New Sights and Sounds
As always, the Festival of Lights will add a holiday sprinkling of new activities for visitors and residents to enjoy. This year, Wilson Lodge Drive becomes Candy Cane Lane as the trees and grounds leading to the lodge are delectably decorated with the iconic candies of the season.
The ever-popular Sounds of the Season will provide guests with the opportunity to roll down the windows and soak in their favorite holiday tunes as they cruise the lights. There are 14 NEW audio selections to accompany thousands of dancing lights from dusk to midnight.
The newly renovated Carriage House gift shop has become home to the larger-than-life Nativity Display. The Nativity features meticulously appointed figures with fabrics imported from Israel and weaves together the story of the nativity through an audio presentation.
And the most impressive addition to this year’s festival is the 70-foot-tall Welcome Tree that features thousands of dancing lights. Reaching a whopping seven stories into the night sky, the tree has the ability to entertain with an infinite combination of color, music, lights, and animated imagery.
Return of Holiday Dinner Shows
An old holiday favorite returns to Glessner Auditorium this holiday season with a new experience for visitors as West Virginia Public Theatre brings its latest production, “Jingle This,” to Oglebay. This upbeat production features songs and storytelling by five talented actors from around the country with new takes on holiday classics and some favorites from the American songbook. Adults: $49; Children: $39. Sunday-Thursday, 5:30–7:30 p.m. Nov. 14-18; Nov. 28-Dec 2; Dec. 5-9; Dec. 12-16. For tickets, call 877-436-1797.
Winter Carnival with the Kids
Pack your mittens and toboggan for a family adventure at the Winter Carnival. It’s a wonderland of family-friendly activities and carnival-inspired foods located at the Levenson Shelter. The Kids’ Snowflake Express Train is a festive, child-sized locomotive suitable for smaller tykes. Hop on the Holiday Wagon for a hillside ride among the twinkling lights and then warm your bones with some hot chocolate and other carnival treats.
A Rockin’ Good Time at the Zoo
Get ready for a jolly good time with your furry friends at Oglebay’s Good Zoo. Admission includes access to select animal habitats, the Rockin’ Holiday Light Show on the Good Zoo’s outdoor patio, access to Santa’s Workshop, nightly Wish For Snow experience, and more! Admission: Adults: $11.95; Children (3-12): $7.95; Children 2 and under: free. Sunday–Thursday, 11 a.m.–8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, 1- 8 p.m.; Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Christmas Day, 3- 8 p.m.
Time for Santa
Santa’s sleigh will pull in nightly to the Good Zoo, and Santa himself will be available to hear the Christmas wishes from all kids, young and old. One free digital photo is included with zoo admission; personal cameras are welcome, too. Santa stops in nightly from 6-8 p.m.
Enjoy a full Oglebay breakfast experience at Wilson Lodge as the North Pole’s jolliest fella in a big red suit joins guests for a morning of food and fun at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Dec. 5, 11, and 18. Adults: $24.95; Children (4-11): 18.95; Children 3 and under: $3.95. Reservations required, call 304-243-4090.
The Magical Mansion
Holidays at the Mansion means elegantly appointed Christmas décor in each of its 13 period rooms. “Oglebay Institute operates the museum and is such a great partner,” says Peckenpaugh. If you have never experienced Earl Oglebay’s mansion, then Christmas is the season to make your first venture. Complete your tour by stepping outside for the dazzling show of light and sound cast upon the mansion’s façade.
The Glass Museum located on the lower level of the Carriage House Christmas Shop will also be open for tours with glassblowing demonstrations daily. Adults: $15 for both museums or $10 for one museum. Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Christmas and New Year’s Eve, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Dining and Refreshments
This holiday season brings a new menu to the Ihlenfeld Dining Room that promises to offer a steakhouse feel and experience to Oglebay’s premier dining room. And as always, the Glassworks Grill will have some seasonal additions to spice up its menu. The Ice Lounge at the Garden Bistro returns this year to serve up toasty s’mores and spiked hot chocolate from 5-9 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Visitors can find other dining experiences tucked away at Speidel Grill, the Winter Carnival, Sarita’s Coffee Bar, Farmhouse Sweets & Treats, and the Zoo Refreshment Stand.
The nightly dinner buffet at the Ihlenfeld Dining Room is offered from 5-9 p.m. Adults: $35.95; Children (4-11): $15.95; Children 3 and under: free
Cap Your Night with a Cordial
Candy cane cordials are the drink of choice at Hickman Lounge each evening from 7-10 p.m. Join other guests around the fireplace for free holiday programming and complimentary refreshments. Live music is offered Thursday through Sunday throughout the holiday season.
Make Your Plan Today
The lights officially began twinkling Thursday November 4, at 6:15 p.m. as presenting sponsor WesBanco Bank representative Christopher Criss joined Bob Peckenpaugh, the Wheeling Park Commissioners, and Santa Claus in flipping the switch to kick off this year’s festival.
To ensure the Festival of Lights shines brightly for years to come, a $25 donation per vehicle is suggested. Every $25 donor receives a NEW Oglebay rewards book with more than $500 in money-saving coupons, in addition to the 2021 Festival of Lights Season Pass that is good for the entire festival season.
For a full list of activities and pricing, see the Festival of Lights Brochure.
Click here to book lodging or call 877-436-1797.