The Single Best Spot to See Holiday Lights in All 50 States
The holidays are lit at these renowned holiday light displays, drive-thrus, and festivals around the U.S.
The holidays are here again and if you’re feeling grinchy, there are literally hundreds of places around the country where you can see colorful lights and soak in the spirit of the season. We’ve rounded up the best of the best spots to visit this holiday season, so gather your crew, make some hot cocoa (don’t forget the marshmallows!), and get in the car for these holly jolly holiday displays.
Silver Dollar City
Magic Christmas in Lights
WHERE: Theodore, Alabama
Sixteen colorful holiday scenes created using more than 3 million lights illuminate the walking path at Bellingrath Gardens and Home’s Magic Christmas in Lights. You can also tour the fully decorated historic Bellingrath Home for an additional fee.
Courtesy of Bellingrath Gardens & Home
Santa Claus House
WHERE: North Pole, Alaska
It’s Christmas every day at Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska. You can write a letter to Santa and meet his reindeer, but you won’t see the typical holiday light displays. If you time your visit right, however, you may see nature’s holiday lights, the aurora borealis.
Sherman Hogue / Santa Claus House
WHERE: Phoenix, Arizona
Most of the Phoenix Zoo animals might be snoozing during Zoolights Phoenix, but there’s still plenty to see, including colorful lights, animal sculptures, and more. You can also snap a photo with Santa, sip hot cocoa, and view musical light shows that take place nightly on the zoo’s main lake.
Lights of the Ozarks
WHERE: Fayetteville, Arkansas
Lights of the Ozarks transforms Fayetteville’s Downtown Square into a glittering winter wonderland. There’s also a vendor fair with food, beverages, and gifts, and Santa makes appearances on select dates.
WHERE: Palm Desert, California
WildLights is an annual tradition at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Along the zoo’s walking paths, you’ll encounter brightly lit, life-size animal lanterns, a tunnel of lights, and an elaborate model train display.
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
Blossoms of Light
WHERE: Denver, Colorado
Blossoms of Light is a dazzling holiday light display at the Denver Botanical Gardens. While you stroll through the gardens, you can sip hot chocolate, cider, or a cozy latte to stay warm.
Courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens. © Scott Dressel-Martin
Fantasy of Lights
WHERE: New Haven, Connecticut
Fantasy of Lights is a mile-long drive-thru holiday light display at Lighthouse Point Park. Ticket sales benefit the Goodwill of Southern New England and you can enhance your visit with a pair of 3D glasses.
M.E. McKeown Photography
Night of a Million Lights
WHERE: Kissimmee, Florida
Give Kids the World Village is a storybook-themed non-profit resort that provides cost-free vacation to critically ill children and their families. During Night of a Million Lights, the entire resort becomes a winter wonderland of lights, Santa visits, photo opportunities, and snow.
World of Illumination
WHERE: Marietta, Georgia
World of Illumination is a drive-thru holiday light and music show that takes place at Six Flags White Water water park. For an additional fee, you can take part in a 3-D Treasure Hunt and don special glasses that will reveal hidden images during your adventure.
Tim Peluso/World of Illumination
Honolulu City Lights
WHERE: Kaneohe, Hawaii
Honolulu City Lights, now in its 40th year, is held in downtown Honolulu. The entire Honolulu Hale (the city hall) area is decorated with lights and there are indoor and outdoor tree displays. Giant Shaka Santa and Tūtū Mele sculptures are there, too, with their bare feet in the water because they definitely don’t need snow boots in Hawaii.
Phillip B. Espinasse/Shutterstock
Coeur d’Alene Resort Holiday Light Show
WHERE: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Coeur d’Alene Resort Holiday Light Show takes place nightly during the holiday season on Lake Coeur d’Alene. Guests can watch from the shore onboard a “North Pole cruise” that travels past light displays and a floating Christmas tree on the way to Santa’s workshop.
The Coeur d'Alene Resort
Light Up the Lake
WHERE: Chicago, Illinois
Light Up the Lake is held indoors at Chicago’s Navy Pier, so you can enjoy the holidays even when it’s too cold and snowy to be outside. You’ll find twinkling light sculptures, train rides, a beer garden, ice skating, and, of course, the jolly ol’ man in red.
Chernise Taylor/Courtesy of Navy Pier
Santa Claus Land of Lights
WHERE: Santa Claus, Indiana
The small town of Santa Claus, Indiana never stops celebrating Christmas, but it gets even more Christmassy during the holiday season. One example is Santa Claus Land of Lights, a 1.2-mile drive through the Lake Rudolph Campground that tells the story of Rudolph and his bright red nose using colorful LED light displays.
Mt. Pleasant Festival of Lights
WHERE: Mt. Pleasant, Iowa
Mt. Pleasant Festival of Lights is Southeast Iowa’s largest drive-thru holiday light event, with over 100 brightly lit displays. You can ride through in your car or opt for an old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage ride.
Christmas City of the High Plains
WHERE: WaKeeney, Kansas
Wakeeney, Kansas, has been known as the Christmas City of the High Plains since 1950. A four-square block area surrounding the main downtown intersection is done up with greenery and lights, with a 35-foot fully-decorated tree at the center.
Doug Stremel/Kansas Tourism
Lights Under Louisville
WHERE: Louisville, Kentucky
Kentucky is well known for its caves, but Lights Under Louisville is the only cave you can drive through to see holiday light displays. You tune into a radio station that plays holiday tunes as you enter the cave and displays are themed to everything from local sports teams to classic holiday movies.
Louisville Mega Cavern
Covington’s 12 Days of Christmas
WHERE: Covington, Louisiana
Covington’s 12 Days of Christmas takes visitors on a journey around historic downtown Covington, Louisiana, searching for 12 lighted displays that depict scenes from the classic Christmas carol. Download the free map online, hit the roads, and create some Christmas memories.
Cheryl Gerber for LouisianaNorthshore.com
WHERE: Boothbay, Maine
Gardens Aglow at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens uses more than 600,000 lights to create its holiday displays, but that’s not all. You can make an evening of it by visiting local homes participating in the holiday light contest (a downloadable map is available on the website) and voting for your favorite.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens | Tory Paxson
Christmas at Gaylord National
WHERE: North Harbor, Maryland
Christmas at Gaylord National is so much more than holiday decor in every corner of the resort (though they do have that, too). Visitors can view a nightly laser light show in the atrium, participate in activities like gingerbread house decorating and snow tubing, and jump into interactive scenes from their favorite holiday movies at the resort’s signature event, I Love Christmas Movies.
Courtesy of Gaylord Hotels
WHERE: Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Winterlights takes place at three different gardens around Massachusetts, but the event at Naumkeag in Stockbridge allows visitors to peruse the decorated walking paths and explore the interior of the onsite historic home.
David R. Edgecomb
The Big, Bright Light Show
WHERE: Rochester, Michigan
During The Big, Bright Light Show, the buildings of downtown Rochester, Michigan, are draped with more than one million holiday lights. You can see the lights while you’re passing by in your car or you can hop out and visit the local businesses that are participating.
Downtown Hattiesburg Window Tour
WHERE: Hattiesburg, Mississippi
The Downtown Hattiesburg Window Tour is a self-guided tour of holiday-themed window displays in downtown businesses. Thanks to a “go-cup ordinance” put in place to bolster local business, visitors are permitted to grab a drink from one of the area bars or restaurants and sip while they stroll.
An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City
WHERE: Branson, Missouri
From early November through the end of the year, Christmas takes over Silver Dollar City with food, decor, entertainment, and more. Highlights of An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City include a Dickens’ Christmas Carol Broadway-style show, Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade, and a living nativity scene.
Mike Williams Photography/Silver Dollar City
Downtown Bozeman Christmas Stroll
WHERE: Bozeman, Montana
The Downtown Bozeman Christmas Stroll takes place on the first Saturday in December as the city’s official kickoff to the holiday season. Santa will be there, of course, along with decorations, lights, a gingerbread house contest, and festive window displays.
Courtesy of Downtown Bozeman Partnership
Holiday Lights Festival
WHERE: Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha’s Holiday Lights Festival takes place across three locations around Omaha, the Old Market, South Omaha, and North Omaha. All three areas are fully decorated and select locations collect nonperishable food items and monetary donations to support the local community.
Glittering Lights Las Vegas
WHERE: Las Vegas, Nevada
Glittering Lights Las Vegas is held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but you won’t want to drive through at top speed or you’ll miss the millions of glittering lights along the 2.5-mile track. You can drive your own car or purchase a ticket for the open-air Santa tram experience.
Gift of Lights
WHERE: Loudon, New Hampshire
Held at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Gift of Lights features more than 3 million lights, 520 displays, and 80 festive holiday scenes along 2.5 miles of track. Before you leave, you can toast marshmallows and make s’mores over the pre-lit fire pits.
NHMS and Vinny Orest
River of Lights
WHERE: Albuquerque, New Mexico
River of Lights is held at the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden and has a large collection of lighted sculptures and displays made by local craftsmen. Santa will also be present at this walk-thru experience, so make your list because he’ll be checking it twice.
New Mexico BioPark Society
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
WHERE: Brooklyn, New York
Dyker Heights is a neighborhood in Brooklyn that just so happens to get very excited for the holiday season. You can drive through the neighborhood to view the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights on your own or book a number of different bus or limousine tours that’ll do the driving for you.
WHERE: Concord, North Carolina
Speedway Christmas takes place at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and it’s probably the only time most of us have any business being on a race track. All of the light displays along the 3.75-mile course are synchronized to holiday music.
Spring Lake Park Holiday Lights Drive
WHERE: Williston, North Dakota
From just after Thanksgiving until the end of the year, Spring Lake Park in Williston, North Dakota, lights up the night sky with its Spring Lake Park Holiday Lights Drive decorative displays. On select nights, guests can see reindeer, watch an ice carving demonstration, take-home craft kits themed to a Christmas Luau, the Grinch, and more.
Clifton Mill Legendary Christmas Lights
WHERE: Clifton, Ohio
Clifton Mill Legendary Christmas Lights covers the mill and surrounding trees, riverbanks, and bridges with over 4 million lights. There’s also a miniature village, Santa Claus Museum, a toy collection, and an opportunity to peek inside Santa’s workshop.
Chickasha Festival of Light
WHERE: Chickasaw, Oklahoma
Chickasha Festival of Light is a drive-thru experience that takes place in Shannon Springs Park. There are more than 100-holiday scenes along this scenic drive, along with a brightly-lit 172-ft Christmas tree and an ice skating rink.
Courtesy of Chickasaw Country
Christmas Festival of Lights
WHERE: Portland, Oregon
Christmas Festival of Lights is an outdoor walkthrough experience with lights draped around trees and bushes and numerous colorful holiday scenes. Visitors can also listen to holiday concerts, shop for gifts, and take in a puppet show.
Courtesy of The Grotto
Hersheypark Sweet Lights
WHERE: Hershey, Pennsylvania
You can’t hop on Hersheypark’s coasters during Hersheypark Sweet Lights, but you can see them as you drive along the two-mile trail of animated holiday displays. 3-D “holospec” glasses to make the experience even more magical.
Rhode Island Holiday Light Show
WHERE: Hope, Rhode Island
The Holiday Light Show has multiple locations across the Northeast U.S., including Hope, Rhode Island. Visitors drive through a series of holiday light displays, all from the comfort (and warmth) of their cars.
The Great Christmas Light Show
WHERE: Little River, South Carolina
Held at the North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex, The Great Christmas Light Show is a drive-thru experience with animated displays. The event runs most days through the end of the year, with a special Santa’s Village open on weekends.
North Myrtle Beach Parks and Recreation / Great Christmas Light Show
Falls Park Winter Wonderland
WHERE: Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Sioux Falls gets the full Christmas treatment during Falls Park Winter Wonderland. Trees, light poles, buildings, and basically anything that can’t get up and run away are covered in lights.
South Dakota Tourism
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas
WHERE: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
There’s not much more beautiful than winter in the snow-covered Smoky Mountains. In fact, the only thing we can think of is Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas. In addition to Dollywood’s attractions and shows, the entire park is decorated for Christmas and there is a holiday fireworks spectacular at night.
Curtis Hilbun / Dollywood
Holiday Lights on the River Walk
WHERE: San Antonio, Texas
If you’re visiting San Antonio during the holiday season, take a walk to see the Holiday Lights on the River Walk. Walking the path is free, but if you’re feeling festive you can spring for a holiday caroling boat tour.
Visit San Antonio
WHERE: Salt Lake City, Utah
The Gallivan Center welcomes holiday visitors to downtown Salt Lake City each year with glittering lights, ice skating, and a towering Christmas tree.
Christopher Eugene Lee [Public Domain Mark 1.0]/Flickr
Christmas at the Farm
WHERE: Woodstock, Vermont
Christmas at the Farm is held annually at Billings Farm. In addition to holiday lights and trees, visitors can roast s’mores, make candles, go on a sleigh ride, and take a snowshoe trek by the river.
Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce
WHERE: Sterling, Virginia
Tinsel! Is a fully immersive holiday experience with activities for all ages. Yes, there’s plenty of decor, but there’s also wine tastings, food trucks (and heated tents in which to enjoy your meal), crafts, carolers, and more.
Skipper Films Productions
Oglebay Festival of Lights
WHERE: Wheeling, West Virginia
The Oglebay Festival of Lights has been a Wheeling, WV mainstay since 1985. Today, the event uses more than one million lights to create 90 light displays. While you’re there, don’t miss the animated Magical Mansion Show and 70-foot-tall Christmas tree.
Village of Lights: Christmastown!
WHERE: Leavenworth, Washington
Every single day from Thanksgiving through February, the city of Leavenworth (which is also on this year’s Go List) is lit up with holiday decor. On select days during Village of Lights: Christmastown!, guests can also roast chestnuts, take photos with Santa, and participate in other family-friendly activities.
Mark A Lee/Shutterstock
Garden of Lights
WHERE: Green Bay, Wisconsin
Garden of Lights embellishes the natural beauty of the Green Bay Botanical Garden with more than 325,000 holiday lights. You can walk the paths on foot or take a horse-drawn wagon ride for an entirely new experience.
Cheyenne Street Railway Holiday Trolley
WHERE: Cheyenne, Wyoming
The Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley takes residents and visitors around the city’s landmarks all year round. The Cheyenne Street Railway Holiday Trolley tour showcases areas homes that go all out for the holidays.