Experiencing the magic of driving around to look at holiday lights has been made easier through the popular Cincy Xmas Lights list. The list features the best-decorated homes throughout Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and South Eastern Indiana.
Throughout the years, families have looked to the custom express routes to find the best displays in their part of town. However, many have wondered, who is this Secret Santa that keeps the list? In this article, we pull away the curtain to reveal the person behind Cincy Xmas Lights and how it all began!
How Cincy X Mas Lights Began
The Secret Santa behind Cincy Xmas Lights is Ryan Simpson of North College Hill. He was inspired to start Cincy Xmas Lights after his love of Christmas lights and holiday displays. He grew up with Channel 12 doing the 12 Lights of Christmas and the Cincinnati Enquirer highlighting displays around town, but he knew there had to be more remarkable displays.
Ryan knew how much work went into these holiday light displays and the homeowner’s desire to share their Christmas spirit with everyone. Many of the homeowners who put on beautiful displays were not on a busy street. Therefore, he wanted to put something together that would allow these houses hidden in different neighborhoods to have their shine.
Putting on his own elaborate light display yearly, Ryan was frequently asked if he knew where other great Christmas displays were. This was the beginning of the list. Ryan kept a list of displays that he knew off the top of my head. From there, the list continued to grow through word of mouth. However, at that point, Ryan knew it would be easier to post a list online to give more people access.
In 2013 Ryan created the Cincy XMas Light Facebook Page featuring only a few addresses. Fast forward nine years and the list has grown to cover three states with many beautiful displays for people all over the Tri-State to enjoy.
Great Childhood Memories
Ryan’s love of Christmas lights runs deep, with many great memories of seeing iconic Cincinnati light displays such as the Bill and Billy Zapf’s and Roy Dixon’s “Brownsway” display. Growing up in North College Hill, Ryan would stare in amazement, passing those two incredible displays while going to his Grandma’s house nightly. These two houses inspired his love for Christmas and who he is today.
“The porch at the Zapf’s, the train room at the Dixon’s were to me, the same as Ralphie looking in the windows at Higbee’s in The Christmas Story. They were awesome! There was so much to see, and no matter how many times you went, you would always find something new. Without them, I wouldn’t be Mr. Christmas and definitely no Cincy Xmas Lights. I’m thankful every day for the childhood memories they gave me and so many others.” Ryan Simpson.
The list continued to grow as Ryan, and his family often went out and saw light displays all over the city. They would scout displays that they heard about. Would find others by accident, and from people sending pictures of houses to check out. Some of their favorite displays that they made yearly visits to were:
- The Peluso house in Newport
- Pleasant Valley Road in Florence
- West Maple Avenue in Ft. Mitchell
- Mantell Avenue in Deer Park
- Ridgedale Drive in White Oak
- Watch Creek Drive & 8 Mile Road in Anderson
- Gail Avenue in Fairfield
- Pleasant Avenue and Tyler Point in Hamilton
- Grouse Drive in Amelia
- Fairpark Avenue in Carthage
- Weaver’s lights in Indiana
- The Zapf’s in North College Hill.
The Rise Of Cincy Xmas Lights
We asked Ryan to share a timeline of how Cincy X-Mas Lights became the iconic page it is today. It is challenging, as this is not a paid job. We do it because we love to spread the light of Christmas to everyone. Same for the homeowners to create beautiful displays for everyone to enjoy.
Timeline Of Cincy Xmas Lights
For four years, Ryan and his family searched Cincinnati and found lots of houses. However, in 2017 Channel 12 and Brad Underwood contacted him about the page and wanted to do a story. They did a Ride along to highlight some houses around town. After that story aired, the page took off. We had submissions from anywhere, and everywhere of displays we had never seen. We went out and found all these houses and added them to the list. Lo and behold, the Great Christmas Light Fight found out about the page and contacted us to see if we could help find a home in the Tri-State area worthy of being on the show. We started asking homeowners who would be interested, and we would eventually find someone in 2019.
In 2018 while out of town, Ryan got a message from Friends about 2-year-old Brody Allen from Colerain Township, that was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. His family wanted to have Christmas for him early because he might not make it until December. He reached out to his mom Shiloh and told her he would come over and give them the lights and decorations I had.
Once he met the family, Ryan knew he had to do more to help. He used Cincy Xmas Lights to spread Brody’s story far and wide. Telling folks what he was going through and his family wanting to have the best Christmas ever for him in September. What transpired after that still amazes him to this day. Brody Allen went viral worldwide, and support came from all four corners of the Earth. Seeing the outpouring of love and support from folks thousands and thousands of miles away and here in Cincinnati to help a little boy celebrate Christmas was heartwarming.
The outpouring of love is something he will never forget and something he was so honored to be a part of. Brody, unfortunately, passed away in October of 2018. Many folks around town dedicated their Christmas displays that year in memory of Brody.
The Great Christmas Light Fight
In 2019 The Great Christmas Light Fight came calling again, looking for houses for their upcoming season. Ryan put them in touch with Mark Koors in Independence, Kentucky. Mark contacted me a few weeks later to let me know they would be filming and on the show in 2020. The reason he started the page had finally paid off. One of the houses on the list would finally get to be seen by a national TV audience.
In 2020 the reigns were handed over to Sarah, Captain of the Kids. She continued running Cincy Xmas Lights after Ryan had moved out of town. Sarah did an incredible job for two years highlighting so many displays all over the city. It’s a tough job, and you must rely on folks to help you. We’re so grateful for the light scouts that let us know about displays we can’t make it to.
In 2022 we again switched up and added another person to the mix with Stephanie from Consistently Curious.
“I can’t thank Sarah and Stephanie enough for the hard work they have put in. Next year is the 10th anniversary of Cincy Xmas Lights, and we have so much in store for next season. Finally, thank you to all the homeowners and families working hard to put up these displays. Your hard work is not taken for granted and is truly appreciated by so many families around the tri-state. You make complete strangers happy with your hard work and dedication, and we can’t thank you enough. And last but not least, the loyal page followers, without you, the word wouldn’t spread about these homes, and the joy of Christmas lights and decorations wouldn’t reach as many people as it does. Thank you, everyone, and Merry Christmas!” Ryan
Who Is Stephanie At Consistently Curious?
Stephanie Taleghani is a lifelong Cincinnatian who runs the Consistently Curious Travel Blog. Shehighlights fantastic things to do in Cincinnati, great weekend trips from Cincinnati, and all things travel. Adventure is always right around the corner as she explores unique destinations and small towns and enjoys being a tourist in her city of Cincinnati.
As much as she loves traveling, she enjoys spending Christmas at home because there is nothing like Cincinnati during the holidays.
Ryan would agree, as the thing he misses most about Cincinnati during the holidays is spending time with friends and family. It is those memories of spending time with everyone that are something he will always cherish. He misses Cincy’s iconic holiday foods like hanky panky’s, Skyline chili dip, buckeyes, Servatti’s pretzels, NCH Bakery tea cookies, goetta balls, and UDF peppermint ice cream!
Ryan has guided Stephanie as she steps into the new role as the head elf of the Cincy Xmas Lights List. She is the only person at the moment maintaining the list. Therefore, she relys heavily on the help of all the fabulous light scouts and homeowners to help spread the word!
How Does A House Get Added to the Cincy Xmas Light List?
Everyone does not get automatically added to the Cincy Xmas Light list. Light counts, inflatable counts, and overall WOW factor plays a part in getting on this nice list. Photos must be submitted so that Santa and the elves can ensure it is worthy of being added to the list.
Just as Santa moves kids to the naughty list, Cincy Xmas Lights can take houses off the list if their display is not up to the standard of Cincy Xmas Lights. The golden rule: Is the house drive worthy? Would you be happy driving 20-30 minutes to see that display?
If you know someone or think your own home is worthy of Cincy Xmas Lightt? Send us a DM over on our FB Page with the following:
- Address and part of town
- A couple of photos and videos of the display
- Description of the display and why it should be on the Cincy X Mas Lights list.