50 Best Christmas Light Displays in America

Best Christmas Light Displays


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Best Christmas Light Displays

Making Spirits Bright

The holidays aren't just about spectacle, but it certainly helps enhance the magical, celebratory qualities for which the season is so beloved. That's why, despite the pandemic, most communities around the nation are stringing up lights (if not holding tree lighting ceremonies) this year. To help enhance your holidays, we've compiled a list of the most sparkling, wondrously excessive Christmas light displays happening throughout the U.S. in 2020.

Related: 20 Holiday Markets to Visit Across America

Magic Christmas in Lights, Bellingrath Gardens, Theodore, Alabama
Sulley W./Yelp

Theodore, Alabama

As many as 3 million lights and 1,000 set-pieces go into the Christmas display at Bellingrath Gardens, a 65-acre estate home and garden open to visitors year-round. From Nov. 29 to the end of December, they're hosting their 24th incarnation of their Magic Christmas in Lights ceremony featuring hors d’oeuvres, hot chocolate, and musical entertainment. Admission starts at $16 per adult.

Winter Solstice Celebration, Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks, Alaska

The sun doesn't really set in Fairbanks in the summertime, so when the winter solstice comes around on Dec. 21, Fairbanks residents do what cannot be done in July — they set off fireworks. The Winter Solstice Celebration also features live music and reindeer, as well as holiday decorations and light posts adorned with "charming, lit-up snowflakes."

Glendale Glitters, Glendale, Arizona

Glendale, Arizona

Glendale Glitters, the state's largest light display with free admission, celebrates the season in 16 historic downtown blocks with 1.6 million LED lights, a 30-foot Christmas tree, horse-drawn carriages and thousands of visitors seeing how they sparkle. The display stays up until Jan. 11.

outdoor christmas light display

Sherwood, Arkansas

Sherwood is hosting the Enchanted Forest Trail of Lights, a mile-long, drive-thru light display running Nov. 20-Dec. 30. Admission is free, though donations for future displays are accepted. And everyone who comes gets a candy cane. 

Festival of Lights, Mission Inn Hotel and Spa, Riverside, California
Zeela D./Yelp

Riverside, California

The Festival of Lights at Riverside's historic Mission Inn Hotel boasts many holiday highlights you wouldn't expect in sunny southern California — including fresh-fallen (fake) snow and horse-drawn carriage rides. Four million lights, hundreds of animated figures, an enormous man-made mistletoe, and festive confectionary offerings all go into the six-week holiday celebration frequently heralded as one of the country's very best. This year, there will not be a switch-on ceremony, however. 

Denver Zoo's Zoo Lights, Denver, Colorado
Dawn K./Yelp

Denver, Colorado

Though the state's many mountains towns nearby have plenty of gorgeous holiday displays, few can compete with the Denver Zoo's Zoo Lights event, for which 80 acres are illuminated by creative LED animal sculptures. Admission for the nightly festivities starts at $15 (separate from standard zoo admission) for members. Tickets are limited to five to meet pandemic regulations and are expected to sell out quickly.

Related: 18 Off-the-Radar Mountain Towns Across America

New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Loudon, Connecticut

The New Hampshire Motor Speedway gets a holiday makeover Nov, 26-Dec. 3. A drive-thru light display stretches 2.5 miles and features the 130-foot long Tunnel of Lights, 520 displays, and 80 different scenes. Admission is $25 per car or bus up to 15 people.

fanciful float
fanciful float by Mike Mahaffie (CC BY-NC-ND)

Lewes, Delaware

The Light Spectacular at WonderFest in Cape Henlopen State Park has a Christmas village in addition to a light display, so expect to linger. Tickets for carloads of up to 7 people start at $20, and there's a $2 discount if purchased online in advance.

2015 St. Augustine Nights of Lights
2015 St. Augustine Nights of Lights by Joe Ross (CC BY-SA)

St. Augustine, Florida

For its annual Nights of Lights, St. Augustine, the nation's oldest continuously occupied settlement, lights up its historic sights with as many as 3 million (all-white) bulbs for a long holiday season from Nov. 14 to Jan. 31. Visitors can enjoy a Florida-style white Christmas by foot, boat, pedicab, or horse-drawn carriage any night for free.

Related: Best 'Main Street' Shopping Districts in All 50 States

Light the Station, Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia

Though the Atlanta Botanical Garden's display may be more impressive for its light tunnels and model trains, the holiday lights and festivities around the Atlantic Station neighborhood — coined Light the Station — offer a free alternative. Though it's still possible to visit, the tree lighting, Parade of Lights, and fireworks show is only available to watch on TV Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. The Southeast's largest outdoor ice rink is also open for ice skating.

Related: Embrace the Season: Holiday Attractions in All 50 States

Honolulu City Lights
City and County of Honolulu

Honolulu, Hawaii

While all events that might attract crowds are cancelled, the Honolulu City Lights holiday display will continue as a drive-thru event. Residents can still climb in the car to see Shaka Santa, a 50-foot Christmas tree, a fully-decorated Honolulu Hale, and displays and lighted trees along King Street. The wreath contest and visits with Santa will be shared online.

Christmas Lights in a snowy park
lavin photography/istockphoto

Lewiston, Idaho

Downtown Lewiston by the Washington state border glitters in the snow for the season, as trees, tunnels, and gingerbread homes in Locomotive Park are lit up with vibrant and elaborate lights until the weekend after New Year's. 

Larsen Christmas Lights in Elburn
Vaishnavi S./Yelp

Elburn, Illinois

Here's one of the few occasions where driving a long distance to see a single home's holiday display may be well worth it. Larsen Christmas Lights in Elburn is a large countryside home that has stunning hour-long light shows featuring lasers, more than a million LED lights, 2,400 strobes, synchronized holiday music, and 10-foot-tall Nutcrackers. 

Land of Lights, Santa Claus, Indiana

Santa Claus, Indiana

It's predictable that the town of Santa Claus would go all out for the Christmas season. What's more surprising is just how unique its largest display, Land of Lights, truly is — a drive-through outdoor tunnel of LED lights telling the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer across 1.2 miles. Admission is $15 per car.

Related: From Santa Claus to Mistletoe: 20 Towns With Festive Names

Keokuk, Iowa
Joe Morgan, Mississippi Valley Photography

Keokuk, Iowa

The citizens of Keokuk create original displays for their annual City of Christmas light show at Rand Park. Until Jan. 3, the drivable route winds through over 150 Toyland exhibits depicting a Nativity scene and Santa's workshop among others, decorated with approximately 1 million lights.

christmas lights park

Great Bend, Kansas

Christmas lights wind all through the town of Great Bend for their annual Trail of Lights, where Veteran's Park, Jack Kilby Square, and Brit Spaugh Park all host unique displays, many designed and built by parks department employees. There's also an ice skating rink and Santa House for children to sit on Santa's lap.

Holiday Lights-2
Holiday Lights-2 by laserbub_Drew (CC BY-NC)

Louisville, Kentucky

Housed in a former limestone mine, the Louisville Mega Cavern is a unique attraction any time of year, but especially for Lights Under Louisville, the world's only fully-underground drive-through light show, featuring 3 million lights and 850 displays. Tickets are $30 per car admission.

DSC03291 by nsuengineer06 (CC BY-NC-ND)

Natchitoches, Louisiana

Fireworks light the sky every Saturday in December in Natchitoches, only one of eight cities celebrating the state's Holiday Trail of Lights. Vibrant lights and holiday set pieces are strung up along the Cane River and celebratory events continue until Jan. 6, and this year limited tickets will be sold on Saturday nights, and masks are encouraged. Tickets are $10 per person.

Related: 18 Holiday Movie Locations You Must See

Norton Lights, Wells, Maine
JT Media/YouTube

Wells, Maine

With Norton Lights in the town of Wells, what began as a competition between brothers has now ballooned into one of the state's best holiday displays — they've even partnered with Make-A-Wish of Maine with a donation box at the end of the driveway at 213 Canterbury Road. Stop by in December until Christmas to see a truly impressive, oft-heartwarming music-synced light show in the snow.

Christmas Street, Baltimore, Maryland
Clint U./Yelp

Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore has its own Miracle on 34th Street starting Nov. 30, when strings of lights span the festive avenue in Hampden and every resident decks out their home with unique holiday displays. Some are classic, featuring candy canes and nutcrackers, while others show city pride by employing local icons like Edgar Allen Poe or Chesapeake crabs.

2017 La Salette Christmas Festival of Lights
2017 La Salette Christmas Festival of Lights by Heartlover1717 (CC BY-NC-ND)

Attleboro, Massachusetts

The Festival of Lights held by the La Salette Shrine in Attleboro has been centered around a gorgeous Nativity scene since its inception in 1953, though today it also includes 300,000 lights across 10 acres. Also onsite is an international crèche museum boasting hundreds of unique and themed crèches (Nativity scenes) from around the world.

Horse rides at Greenfield Village
Horse rides at Greenfield Village by Deb Nystrom (CC BY-NC-ND)

Dearborn, Michigan

Lanterns illuminate the snowy streets of Dearborn weekends throughout December, when Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village emulates an old-fashioned Christmas atmosphere. Though Model-T train rides, ice skating, and caroling are cancelled this year due to the pandemic, Santa and his reindeer will also appear and carousel rides are free. It's best to buy tickets, which cost $30 for non-member adults, in advance online.

Duluth's Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth, MN
Duluth's Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth, MN by Aaron Fulkerson (CC BY-SA)

Duluth, Minnesota

Bring a toy or nonperishable food to donate before seeing the 12-story-tall, light-animated Christmas tree at Duluth's Bentleyville Tour of Lights. For the drive-the event, more than 5 million lights are strung across the 20-acre Bayfront Festival Park. Tickets are $10 per car and can only be bought at the gate. Children 10 and under will receive a free knit winter hat.

Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival

Gulfport, Mississippi

If this festival looks familiar, it was featured in the 2017 film aptly named "Christmas in Mississippi." Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival features 1,200,000 lights, and visitors can walk though the festival or ride on heated trolleys that run back and forth from Nov. 27 to Dec. 31. Tickets are $10 for adults.

Kansas City Country Club Plaza - Scene 2 of 4
Kansas City Country Club Plaza - Scene 2 of 4 by brent flanders (CC BY-NC-ND)

Kansas City, Missouri

The neighborhood of shops and eateries housed in striking Spanish architecture that is Kansas City's Country Club Plaza turns on their tasteful Christmas lights for thousands to see on Thanksgiving night. The area keeps their free festive displays lit until Jan. 13.

christmas light display

Billings, Montana

There are many homes in and around Billings that go all out for their holiday decorating, which is why there are also maps made online annually to help visitors find them all. There's also a "scavenger hunt" checklist of sights you can expect to see, among them a moose, a palm tree, the Grinch, and giant ornaments.

Related: Great Winter Vacation Rentals Under $100 a Night — If You Share

The Christmas City - Minden, NE
The Christmas City - Minden, NE by Tim O'Brien (CC BY-NC)

Minden, Nebraska

Nebraska's Christmas City is Minden, a small town whose holiday season kicks off with the annual "Light of the World" pageant performed at the courthouse square the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The courthouse itself is the beautifully illuminated hub for more than 12,000 bulbs that make the square well-suited for the season.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Las Vegas, Nevada

Far from the Strip but no less flashy, Glittering Lights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a drive-thru display with 2.5 miles of "millions and millions of twinkling lights" as well as custom light displays Nov. 23 to Jan. 10. Tickets start at $25 per carload.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The historic seaside town of Portsmouth starts celebrating Nov. 28 for their monthlong Vintage Christmas. It all starts at the city Historic Society with a kickoff party and gingerbread house competition (whose entries are available to view through December 22. On select weekends in December, the grounds of Strawberry Banke Museum light up with hundreds of candle lanterns, and house doors and railings display handmade decorations true to the period. Visitors will come across costumed role players and performers to get into the vintage mood. Tickets are $15 for adults and must be purchased in advance.

Related: The Most Christmas-y Towns in All 50 States

Turtle Back Zoo, West Orange, New Jersey
Angie Y./Yelp

Smithville, New Jersey

The Light Show on the Lake puts a different spin on the traditional Christmas tree. From Thanksgiving until Jan. 5. 120 "trees" made of over 50,000 lights will magically float on Lake Meone. A light show begins (complete with music) as darkness falls, and previous guests claim it looks as if the trees are dancing or chasing one another in time to the music. Pro tip: watch the show from the bridge over the lake. 

ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden

Albuquerque, New Mexico

The River of Lights, the largest walk-through holiday show in the state, has over 550 light displays, animated sculptures and plenty of twinkling lights to see. Located at the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden, the light display is a fundraiser for the garden and promises a new light show set to holiday classics this year.

Dyker Heights Lights, New York, New York
Vladimir Korostyshevskiy/shutterstock

New York, New York

There's no shortage of iconic seasonal hangouts in Manhattan, but the Dyker Heights lights in Brooklyn may have them all beat. In the spirit of friendly competition, residents keep outdoing themselves and each other with beautifully coordinated, professional displays with the best ones found from 11th Avenue to 13th Avenue and from 83rd Street to 86th Street.

Christmas Lights, Forest City, North Carolina
Aaron Hawkins/istockphoto

Forest City, North Carolina

Forest City becomes North Carolina's Christmas town from Nov. 28 to Jan. 1, with a tree lighting ceremony on Thanksgiving and light displays coloring the fountain and live oak trees downtown. 

Holiday Lights in Lindenwood Park, Fargo, North Dakota
John M./Yelp

Fargo, North Dakota

Holiday Lights in Lindenwood Park has over 75 light displays and has been a hometown hit for the last 20 years. This year the event, which cars can drive through for $8 per vehicle, is Nov. 26-Dec. 31. 

Clifton Mill, Clifton, Ohio

Clifton, Ohio

One of the largest water-powered grist mills still in existence, the historic Clifton Mill lights up in a distinctly modern way for its Legendary Lights holiday event — with more than 4 million lights adorning the nearby trees, riverbanks, gorge, and a covered bridge decked out for a synced light-and-music show. 

IMG_2879 by Michael (CC BY-NC-ND)

Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

In its 38th year, Rhema Bible Church's Christmas light display has grown from 60,000 to more than 2 million lights, drawing approximately 200,000 visitors annually. Central to the free display are the LED-enclosed Rhema Park bridge and a "Christmas tree forest" with one 22-foot-tall fir surrounded by smaller, illuminated metal trees.

ZooLights, Oregon Zoo, Portland, Oregon
Michelle Pearl G./Yelp

Portland, Oregon

More than a million-and-a-half lights — many in the shape of tunnels or animated animals — guide visitors through the Oregon Zoo for the annual ZooLights festivities, beginning each day at 5 p.m. Nov. 23 until Jan. 10. For $18-$23 per person, the whole family can enjoy seeing the lights Thurs.-Mon. This year, a drive-thru option will be available Tues. and Wed. nights for $30-$40 per car. 

Hershey Sweet Lights Spectacular, Hershey, Pennsylvania
Ping F./Yelp

Hershey, Pennsylvania

The drive-through Hershey Sweet Lights spectacular runs from now until New Year's Day at Hersheypark, where visitors can see nearly 600 animated light displays — illuminated by around 4 million lights — as they drive through miles of wooded trails. Ticket prices vary, depending on how many days you plan to attend.

christmas lights strand

Warwick, Rhode Island

The National Chain Group has been putting up a massive Christmas display for over 40 years, and it just keeps growing with lights and lawn ornaments added every year. The switch is flipped over Thanksgiving weekend, then the display is on from 5pm-5am through New Year's Day. 

Holiday Display at Hopeland Gardens, Aiken, South Carolina
Kristian J./Yelp

Aiken, South Carolina

Almost 2 miles of lighted pathways lead visitors through the walk-through holiday display at Hopeland Gardens in Aiken. Park on the grounds to visit an area illuminated by more than 100,000 lights, with nearby businesses offering complimentary refreshments and seasonal activities for children.

Related: Gifts That Are Made in America

Christmas Trees at State Capitol, Pierre, South Dakota

Pierre, South Dakota

As many as 100 meticulously decorated Christmas trees donated by local volunteers reach for the ceiling of the State Capitol in Pierre. From Nov.26 until Dec. 26, Christmas in the Capitol lets visitors roam the light-strewn grounds and then enter to see the public display from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Gatlinburg, TN
Gatlinburg, TN by Jason A G (CC BY-ND)

Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville, Tennessee

Small towns throughout the Smoky Mountains celebrate Winterfest all the way through Feb. 15, with millions of lights sparkling throughout snowy town squares in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and more. Guests can stroll beneath over-the-top displays outdoors or see over 5 million holiday lights as you cruise along Pigeon Forge Parkway.

Related: The Most Beautiful Main Streets in Every State

37th Street Lights
37th Street Lights by That Other Paper (CC BY-SA)

Austin, Texas

The Trail of Lights sees Austin's Zilker Park neighborhood erect the nation's largest man-made Christmas tree, along with 2 million lights and 41 unique displays. This year the trail will be a drive-thru event, with timed-entry passes costing $30 and up. A little extra will add the cost of the 2020 Austin Fun Run registration to your ticket. 

Salt Lake City, Temple Square Christmas
Salt Lake City, Temple Square Christmas by Micah Sheldo (CC BY-NC)

Salt Lake City, Utah

Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City is most beautiful when adorned with holiday lights that reflect in the park fountains and fallen snow on the 35-acre Temple Square. While here, look for a life-size Nativity scene, paper lanterns promoting "peace" in different languages, and the 70-foot-tall Cedar of Lebanon — covered for the season with 75,000 red LED lights.

Christmas trees outside

Shelburne, Vermont

Winter Lights, put on by the Shelburne Museum, decorates local landmarks in hundreds of lights for visitors to enjoy. The steamboat Ticonderoga, the Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building   twinkling tunnel, and an illuminated labyrinth are lit for three time periods between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on select days between Nov. 27 and Jan. 2.  Tickets are $10 for adults.

Related: 50 Best Small Towns to Visit in Winter

200,000 Christmas Lights
200,000 Christmas Lights by terren in Virginia (CC BY)

Richmond, Virginia

Each holiday season, the Richmond Times-Dispatch gives residents and out-of-towners a helpful list all the city's "Tacky Lights." See all the excessive holiday displays around the historic city using their guide, making sure not to miss unique homes like 6444 Little Sorrel Drive, which competes on ABC's 2019 "Great Christmas Light Fight," and 1411 Pennsylvania Ave., where a live Grinch shows up in place of the usual Santa.

Seattle during Christmas

Seattle, Washington

The historic Victorian mansions atop Queen Anne hill near downtown Seattle are especially beautiful during December, when every nook and cranny is decorated with LED-lights. End with a stop at Kerry Park for a view of the seasonal skyline, with cranes lit up and a real Christmas tree shining atop the Space Needle.

Oglebay Park Christmas Lights
Oglebay Park Christmas Lights by Mark Cameron (CC BY-ND)

Oglebay, West Virginia

More than 300 acres and six miles of the Wheeling Resort in Oglebay light up with 90 unique displays in December for the Winter Festival of Lights, now one of the nation's largest and most visited holiday shows. Tickets for this drive-thru experience are $25 per vehicle, which includes four 3D glasses to enhance the ride. 

Christmas Carnival of Lights, Caledonia, Wisconsin
Alisha M./Yelp

Caledonia, Wisconsin

For $25 per vehicle containing up to eight people, visitors can drive the mile-long, snow-strewn Christmas Carnival of Lights at Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Caledonia. After passing more than 2 million lights illuminating the forested setting, the route ends at a workshop where children can see Santa, adults can peruse the gift shop, and both can sip hot beverages.

Governor's Historic Mansion Christmas 2010
Governor's Historic Mansion Christmas 2010 by Larry Jacobsen (CC BY)