Walk Instead of Riding to Admire Christmas
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Dazzling Christmas Light Displays to Visit in All 50 States

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Walk Instead of Riding to Admire Christmas
kokkai/istockphoto

Some Light Entertainment

Driving around to view Christmas light displays is a time-honored tradition for many families. Here's a roundup of some of the most extravagant in every state that are worth a visit. Just be thankful you're not paying the electric bills, which one homeowner estimated at hundreds of dollars a month. Got room in your holiday calendar for more than one festive outing? Check out The Most Christmas-y Towns in All 50 States.

Note: As the pandemic has altered some usually scheduled light displays, please be sure to check in advance to confirm availability and timing before heading out.

Galaxy of Lights
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Huntsville, Alabama

The Huntsville Botanical Garden offers an annual Galaxy of Lights, a glimmering 2.5-mile drive-through course that features more than 200 light displays that change yearly. The drive-through option begins Nov. 27 and continues through Jan. 2. Admission is $25-$30 per car depending on the night, or pre-purchase for $23. 

Blue Christmas spruce and birch tree light display, downtown in the snow, Anchorage, Alaska, USA
Blue Christmas spruce and birch tree light display, downtown in the snow, Anchorage, Alaska, USA by Wonderlane (CC BY)

Anchorage, Alaska

The Alaska Botanical Garden is hosting its second annual Holiday Lights in the Garden in 2020 on Thursday through Sunday evenings, Nov. 28-Jan. 31. Visit the gardens from 4:30-8 p.m. to experience glittering light displays and more. Face coverings are required this year and outdoor ventilated warming stations will be provided. Admission is $6 for members, $8 for non-members, and kids 6 and younger get in free.

Related: In Full Bloom: Photos of Gorgeous Botanical Gardens in All 50 States

Scottsdale, Arizona
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Scottsdale, Arizona

The Holiday Lights at Salt River Fields event is brand new in 2020 and involves driving through 1.2 miles decorated with 5 million lights while tuned to an FM radio station simulcast. It runs Nov. 23-Dec. 31 and admission is $36-$51 per vehicle, depending on the night; fast pass and VIP packages are also available. 

DJT_6336
DJT_6336 by Dave Thomas (CC BY-NC)

Batesville, Arkansas

In Arkansas this holiday season, head to Batesville, northeast of Little Rock. From Nov. 25-Dec. 31, Batesville's Christmas Tour of Lights illuminates downtown and Riverside Park with about 1 million Christmas lights, as well as animated displays and a 32-foot snowman. Touring options include driving your own car, taking a carriage ride, or riding the White River Wonderland Express train. 

Los Angeles, California
matteusus/istockphoto

Los Angeles, California

From Nov. 30-Dec. 23 and Dec. 26-30, check out WonderLAnd, a Woodland Hills "holiday drive-thru adventure" put on by the folks who organize the popular Haunt’Oween. Expect millions of lights, themed decorations, elaborate sets, hologram installations, and more — all from the safety of your car. Entry fee is $70 per car. 

Castle Rock, Colorado
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Holiday Light Fantasia, Goodwin Park, Hartford, Connecticut
Emily C./Yelp

Hartford, Connecticut

A 2-mile drive through Holiday Light Fantasia at Goodwin Park in Hartford uses more than 1 million lights and displays to celebrate cross-cultural festivities, with sections devoted to Hanukkah, New Year's, and Three Kings Day, along with Christmas. Unlike most other displays on the list, this one charges for entrance: $15 per car. Proceeds benefit the local Channel 3 Kids Camp.

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

Lewes, Delaware

The annual Winter Wonderfest's Light Spectacular is held at Hudson Fields from 5 to 10 p.m. through the end of the year. This year, there's a one-mile trail of lights and an interactive scavenger hunt. Admission $20-$25, depending on the night. 

St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches VCB

St. Augustine, Florida

For the 27th year, this north Florida community is celebrating its Nights of Lights through Jan. 31. Expect millions of "tiny white lights" that light up around 20 blocks from the "ground to the rooftops." The lights can be toured by foot, trolley, train, harbor tour, and more. 

Rock City Enchanted Garden of Lights '09
Rock City Enchanted Garden of Lights '09 by Kevin Oliver (CC BY-NC-ND)

Rock City, Georgia

The Enchanted Garden of Lights is an annual holiday tradition in this town just south of the Tennessee-Georgia border. Visitors can wander through six holiday-themed zones illuminated by more than a million lights, including Yule Town, the Arctic Kingdom, the Magic Forest, and more. Admission for adults is $17 to $27; kids are $9 to $15. The venue is open Nov. 20 through Jan. 2.

Hawaii Christmas
Don White/istockphoto

Keaau, Hawaii

Stan Oshiro once told a local newsletter he spends five months of the year on his Punalights display at 15-2053 18th St. in Keaau, using vacation time for some of the 21 eight-hour days needed for the most intensive work. He has reported collecting thousands of pounds in food donations and thousands of dollars for charity. Oshiro estimates that his display will be open Dec. 4 at the earliest this year. 

This house spends $1500 per month on electricity for this display.
This house spends $1500 per month on electricity for this display. by Stephanie D (CC BY-NC-ND)

Boise, Idaho

Boise residents take their holiday lights seriously. In several neighborhoods, there are longstanding Christmas light displays that draw crowds year after year. The Boise Christmas Lights Facebook page contains information on participating homes throughout the city.

Nativity Scene in Yard
constantgardener/istockphoto

Aurora, Illinois

In this city west of Chicago, the residents of Lehnertz Avenue join forces to offer a religious Christmas experience. Visitors can drive through the neighborhood nightly from Dec. 13-Jan. 2 to see displays focusing on New Testament stories (enter from the west to get the story chronologically) with each house narrating a different part of the story and playing Christmas music.

Related: Vintage Christmas Photos: A Century of Celebrating the Holidays

Christmas lights
Nicola Colombo/istockphoto
Trees tightly wrapped in LED lights for the Christmas holidays. Each tree is wrapped in one color.
Aneese/istockphoto

Keokuk, Iowa

Keokuk hosts a City of Christmas attraction in Rand Park that runs Nov. 26 through Jan. 3 and features a village devoted to religious and non-religious aspects of the holiday. Keokuk has put on this festival for three decades. The 2020 schedule can be found here.

House decorated and lighted for Christmas
Thomas De Wever/istockphoto

Wichita, Kansas

There are about a dozen homes in Wichita that are truly something to see each Christmas. Take a tour around town and keep warm with this map of the best Christmas light displays and nearby coffee shops.

Related: The Coolest Coffee Shops in America

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

Louisville, Kentucky

Go Christmas caving at the Louisville Mega Cavern. Between Nov. 13 and Jan. 3, this tourist attraction is transformed into an enormous holiday light display. The half-hour drive through "Lights Under Louisville" spans 17 miles and features more than 2 million lights and 850 illuminated characters. Visitors must pay $30 per carload, this year via an online, contactless ticketing system. Or take an open-air, socially distanced "Christmas Express" tram tour Nov. 16-Dec. 23 that runs around $25 per person.

DSC03327
DSC03327 by nsuengineer06 (CC BY-NC-ND)

Natchitoches, Louisiana

The historic city of Natchitoches, the oldest settlement within the 1803 Louisiana Purchase area, has thrown a Christmas Festival for more than 90 years. The iconic festival was even featured in the film "Steel Magnolias," and its charm makes it easy to see why. Residents use more than 300,000 lights and around 100 set pieces to decorate their homes and properties along Cane River Lake, and visitors can tour the displays free Nov. 21-Jan. 6. Some special events cost a few dollars per person.

Related: 18 Holiday Movie Locations You Must See

Christmas snowman
4u4me/istockphoto

Wells, Maine

Locals love the Norton Lights display at 213 Canterbury Lane, begun in 2008 when brothers Jon and Stan competed to see who could make the best yard display. Now family members run Christmas and Halloween light shows using computerized animation and radio syncing. 

Stylish christmas golden star illumination and fir branches with red and gold baubles, golden lights bokeh on front of building at holiday market in city street. Christmas street decor
Bogdan Kurylo/istockphoto

Columbia, Maryland

Drive or walk through the Merriweather Symphony of Lights celebrating 27 years in 2020. From Nov. 25-Jan. 2, check out more than 300,000 bulbs arranged in animated and stationary displays. Drive-through nights are open daily this year ($20 per vehicle) and walk-through nights will happen on Nov. 28, Dec. 7, and Dec. 31. Entry for the walking tour is $10-$15 per person, depending on the night.

Round colorful christmas tunnel made of christmas lights in city streets
Wierzchu/istockphoto

Marshfield, Massachusetts

The Marshfield Holiday Light Show bills itself as "the only drive-through holiday light spectacular on the South Shore." In 2020, it will feature dozens of themed displays over a more than one-mile route. It's open on select nights through Dec. 30 and tickets can be purchased online or at entry. 

Downtown Rochester 1
Downtown Rochester 1 by Teknotika (CC BY-NC-ND)
high-voltage
high-voltage by Tina Vega (CC BY-NC-ND)

St. Paul, Minnesota

It's hard to pick the best of the best local displays, but the holiday lights on York Avenue in St. Paul — with the Schultz Family Lights at 1526 York Ave. at the center — feature 11 yards decorated with Christmas figures and more than 60,000 lights choreographed to music at 91.5 FM, "The Rockin' Rudolph." The households show the lights from 5 to 10 p.m. daily through Dec. 31.

A tunnel of festively lighted Christmas arches decorates a walkway on a small town public square
PapaBear/istockphoto

Cleveland, Mississippi

Now through Dec. 31, come celebrate in this small western Mississippi town with the free 50 Nights of Lights event. Over 100,000 lights make Cleveland sparkle and visitors can experience the extravaganza by walking or driving through. 

christmas light display
HannamariaH/istockphoto
christmas light tunnel
PapaBear/istockphoto

Wentzville, Missouri

Starting Nov. 27 through Dec. 30, you can visit Rotary Park's Holiday Night Lights display in this town northwest of St. Louis. Opportunities for viewing the lights include drive-through, sleigh hayrides, carriage rides, and more. Or, on Dec. 14, you can pay to walk through the display and check out live reindeer along the way. Drive-through admission is $10 for vehicles with up to six passengers and $1 per additional person; walk-through admission is $3 in advance, $5 at the gate.

Holiday Christmas Tree Lights in the park
Kathy Byrd/istockphoto

Kearney, Nebraska

For the third straight year, this south-central city will be hosting the Holiday Lights Festival at Yanney Heritage Park. The event is free and runs from Dec. 5-12, showcasing lights in 31 different areas of the park with unique holiday themes.

Glittering Lights, Las Vegas, Nevada
Cheryl L./Yelp

Las Vegas, Nevada

The Strip isn’t the only place in Sin City that glitters this time of year. The annual Glittering Lights show features more than 3 million lights and 500 animated displays. This year, the show at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway runs until Jan. 5. Admission is $25-$35 per car, or get a fast pass and skip the lines for $55. Want to go more than once? A season pass is also available for $85.

Related: 36 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Las Vegas

Gift of Lights, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, New Hampshire
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Loudon, New Hampshire

The Gift of Lights at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway gets rave reviews for its elaborate decorations and setting. This is a drive-through light show with more than 1 million lights stretching over two miles. The event is in gear through Jan. 3, and admission is $25 per car.

Holiday in the Park at Six Flags Great Adventure, NJ.
Holiday in the Park at Six Flags Great Adventure, NJ. by Joshua Siniscal (CC BY-ND)

Jackson, New Jersey

Six Flags Great Adventure celebrates the holidays with Holiday in the Park, open weekends through Jan 3, 2021. The entire park will be decked out in colorful lights and decorations, plus there are holiday games, fire pits for making s'mores, and and a new section for littler kids called Wild Lights National Park. And don't forget the rides! Tickets start at around $30 when bought online in advance.

christmas illumination on the streets
Liia Galimzianova/istockphoto

Albuquerque, New Mexico

From Dec. 1 through January 2021, visitors can experience Lights of Enchantment, a drive-through holiday lights experience featuring more than 350 displays and over a million lights. Admission is $20 per car.

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

New York, New York

The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is an icon that Big Apple visitors can enjoy for free, but the outer boroughs have holiday spectacles, too. In Brooklyn, Dyker Heights puts on a neighborhood extravaganza (83rd to 86th streets between 11th and 13th avenues) that inspired a PBS documentary called "Dyker Lights." The Pelham Gardens area of the Bronx is the site of the strange and wonderful home of the Garabedian family, collectors of dolls, nativity scenes, and curios stylized as a holiday soiree since 1974 at 1605 Pelham Parkway North at Westervelt Avenue.

CHRISTMAS TOWN USA McAdenville, North Carolina
CHRISTMAS TOWN USA McAdenville, North Carolina by Kreg Steppe (CC BY-SA)

McAdenville, North Carolina

With a nickname like "Christmas Town USA," McAdenville, a small town outside Charlotte, had better deliver on holiday decor — and it does. This town's massive winter overhaul, begun in 1956, involves 375 lit trees and hundreds of thousands of lights maintained by local volunteers, including most of the area's 650 or so residents. The free display will be Dec. 12-26.

Related: The Best Winter Home Rentals in America

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

Fargo, North Dakota

The "Holiday Lights in Lindenwood Park" features more than 65 displays along the park’s Roger Maris Drive. Sponsored by a local civic group, the event runs Nov. 26 until Dec. 31, with viewing from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Admission is $8 per car or van or $7 with a donation of canned goods.

Fairview Park, Ohio
ArtBoyMB/istockphoto

Fairview Park, Ohio

Impressive options abound throughout the state, but Seabury Avenue in Fairview Park, outside Cleveland, takes the fruitcake. This street is the epicenter of Christmas cheer, but some 700 homes throughout the town are expected to be decked out in holiday lights this year. 

christmas lights house
Thomas De Wever/istockphoto

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

For the 14th consecutive year, the Downs family will string up more than 18 miles' worth of lights at 2900 72nd Ave. SE, debuting on Nov. 26 at 6 p.m. The show is synchronized to a playlist that can be downloaded ahead of time. 

Keizer Lights Photowalk 1112-21 - 26
Keizer Lights Photowalk 1112-21 - 26 by Sean Fornelli (CC BY-SA)

Keizer, Oregon

The Gubser neighborhood in this town just north of Salem has been putting on the Keizer Miracle of Christmas Lights Display since the 1980s. It involves about three miles of lights on homes beginning at 14th Avenue N.E. and Lockhaven Drive. 

Miracle on 13th Street
Miracle on 13th Street by Molly Des Jardin (CC BY)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The 1600 block of 13th Street in South Philadelphia, called the Miracle on South 13th Street, has most residents participating in decking out the block with lights, inflatable characters, and all sorts of festive decor from late November and into January.

Macro of colored christmas lights
lewinmg/istockphoto

Warwick, Rhode Island

Residents in the Providence area can find pockets of holiday joy throughout the region. In Warwick, the  Lewis and  Picozzi families both put on exceptionally elaborate displays, with synchronized lighting and music. Both collect donations for charities.

Holiday Festival of Lights, James Island County Park, Charleston, South Carolina
Sheila R./Yelp

Charleston, South Carolina

The Holiday Festival of Lights, hosted by James Island County Park, will be a drive-through only event this year, with a holiday scavenger hunt and drive-up concessions stand offered as well. Admission is $20 per vehicle online or at the gate. 

The cathedral in the distance
The cathedral in the distance by Jerry (CC BY-SA)

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Falls Park on the Big Sioux River may merit a visit any time of year, but the holiday season adds a particular enchantment. Besides hanging more than 350,000 lights and decorating hundreds of trees and landmarks, the park brings in live reindeer and sets the mood with holiday music for car radios at 97.7 FM. Entrance remains free during the Winter Wonderland (through Jan. 10).

Christmas decorations.
StefiRaich/istockphoto

Chapel Hill, Tennessee

Christmas lighting enthusiasts in the Nashville metro area used to unite for massive residential displays in two locations: Sparrow Street in Spring Hill and Old Charlotte Pike in Franklin. This year, for the first time, the two events have been combined into one massive computerized display, Hoover Lights. Viewing is free, but donations are requested to benefit the nonprofit GraceWorks Ministries. 

Related: 50 Best Small Towns to Visit in Winter

Austin Trail of Lights
Austin Trail of Lights by MarkScottAustinTX (CC BY-SA)

Austin, Texas

The Texas capital city offers residents a Trail of Lights, a 1.25-mile drive-through tunnel made of lights; all told, 40 displays of 2 million lights up from Nov. 28 to Jan. 3 in Zilker Park. Admission is $25-$35 per car, or get a Dash Pass for $60, which allows for early entry between 5:45-7 p.m. along with a box of holiday cookies and an ATX Lights Savings Card.

Tree of Light Holiday Lights, Draper City Park, Draper City, Utah
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Draper City, Utah

Many homes fall far short of putting up 65,000 lights, but Draper City hits that mark on a single tree in its Draper City Park. The Tree of Light Holiday Lights attracts people seeking a stunning selfie or landscape shot throughout the holiday season. The lights stay on from the Monday after Thanksgiving through Jan. 1.

Christmas fair outdoors. blurred background due to the concept
EvgeniiAnd/istockphoto

Woodstock, Vermont

On Dec. 5 and 12, Wassail 2020 will offer visitors "twinkling lights, historic decorated homes and unique local shops filled with wonderful gifts." There will also be wagon rides that explore the 19th-century charm of the town and nearby Billings Farm. The event is from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. both days.

Christmas decorations and lights with fresh snow at a house on Stone Heather Drive in the Chantilly Highlands section of Oak Hill, Fairfax County, Virginia
Christmas decorations and lights with fresh snow at a house on Stone Heather Drive in the Chantilly Highlands section of Oak Hill, Fairfax County, Virginia by Famartin (CC BY-SA)

Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Sure, the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. throw up some pretty decent holiday decor. But the residents of the surrounding suburbs give them a run for their money. The website Holly's Tacky Christmas Lights features some of the biggest spectacles, as well as some professional displays, in Fairfax and beyond — the 2020 map is already filled with more options than you can possibly fit into one season. 

The Lights of Christmas, Stanwood, Washington
Craig F./Yelp

Stanwood, Washington

Billed as "The Largest Christmas Festival in the Pacific Northwest," The Lights of Christmas is about an hour north of Seattle and takes place on select days from Nov. 27-Dec. 30. The drive-through event this year features more than 1 million lights and the chance to wave to Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Admission is $20-$25 per car. 

Related: 20 Holiday Markets to Visit Across America

christmas light path
PapaBear/istockphoto

Bluefield, West Virginia

For a spectacular lights display, visit the drive-through Holiday of Lights at Bluefield City Park from thanksgiving through Dec. 31. More than 1.2 million lights decorate more than 100 acres of the park. Admission to the Holiday of Lights is free, but the park will accept cash donations.

WPS Garden of Lights, Green Bay Botanical Garden, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Chuck A./Yelp

Madison and Green Bay, Wisconsin

Madison's Olin Park hosts the free "Fantasy in Lights," a 30-year tradition open dusk to dawn through Jan. 3, while the Green Bay Botanical Garden hosts the WPS Garden of Lights, where there are 300,000 lights, including four new light displays and horse-drawn carriage rides this year. Tickets range from $5 to $18. 

christmas light house
kokkai/istockphoto

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Cheyenne hosts a slew of holiday events, including a Holiday Lights Tour Dec. 11-24 where visitors can catch a trolley spotlighting the most lavishly decked out houses in town. Buy tickets in advance ($12 for adults, $6 for children) for evening tours leaving from the Cheyenne Depot.

Related: 15 Classic Destinations for an Old-Fashioned Christmas