One of our favorite holiday activities is driving through neighborhoods glittering with Christmas lights. And when it comes to Christmas lights, the more the merrier. So we’ve rounded up the best Christmas light displays in the United States based on very "scientific" criteria like how many lights are used and how festive they look. Featuring twinkling displays you can walk through or drive through, these Christmas light destinations offer thrilling holiday experiences for the whole family. Along with lights, many also offer food (and hot chocolate!), entertainment, and a visit with Santa himself.
On our list, some of the larger displays featuring more than a million lights are set up at zoos, resorts, and public spaces. We’ve also included actual neighborhoods famous for their light displays. From 8 million lights at the Callaway Resort & Gardens in Georgia to the veritable winter wonderland that is Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood, these are the best Christmas light displays across the country.
Note that as the pandemic continues, the specific festivities held at each of these light displays may change. Make sure to check the event websites to confirm what's going on as we get closer to the holiday season!
Though Alabama’s more well-known cities like Birmingham and Mobile have plenty to offer in terms of bright holiday lights, nothing rivals the whimsy of Theodore’s Magic Christmas Lights at Bellingrath Gardens. Adorned with more than 3 million lights, 1,100 set pieces, and 16 Christmas scenes, the 65-acre estate is filled to the brim with twinkling lights and Christmas cheer.
If you need help getting into the holiday spirit, Glendale Glitters is the place to go. Not only will you find the largest free light display in Arizona on your trip downtown, but in the past, there have been great performances, yummy food, and, of course, pictures with Santa.
Grab a cup of free hot chocolate and experience the beautiful estate at Garvan Woodland Gardens during their holiday lights event. On your walk through 18 acres featuring 5 million lights, you’ll find a giant koi fish, an animated light show, an ice palace, and more.
The City of Angels has plenty to offer when it comes to seasonal lights—and it’s not just up to the professionals to put on a good show. Residential displays like the appropriately nicknamed “Candy Cane Lane” in Woodland Hills are an easy (and free) way to get your holiday light fix. If you’re looking to pay a little for your experience, you can check out illuminated grounds at L.A, Zoo Lights.
Wherever else you may opt to go for some gorgeous lights, don’t forget to stop by the Mission Inn to take in their breathtaking display. It may not be within L.A. city limits, but seeing the charming castle-like hotel draped in over 5 million lights and watching the accompanying fireworks is totally worth the trip.
There are tons of fabulous light displays in and around the Denver area, but the one you absolutely can’t miss is Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens. The lighting is a little less winter wonderland and a lot more Alice in Wonderland, but the interactive design and reactive sounds make the experience incredibly magical nonetheless.
On a two-mile stretch of Hartford's Goodwin Park, you can drive through Connecticut's Holiday Light Fantasia. The beautiful collection of 1 million lights features 200 individual displays with everything from whimsical holiday scenes to familiar characters and local tributes.
Historic St.Augustine offers visitors a special holiday treat: Each year, the city is draped in millions of dazzling white lights. Along with the stunning lights (they’ll be on from November 20 to January 31 in 2021) you’ll find tons of events that coincide with the holidays, so make sure to check their event calendar before you go.
Considered one of the top 10 light displays in the world by National Geographic, the Fantasy in Lights event at Callaway Resort & Gardens is one of the best ways to ring in the holidays in Georgia. A ticket gets you a ride on the Jolly Trolley through 2,500 decorated acres, complimentary admission to Callaway Gardens, and access to the Christmas Village where you can meet Santa.
Every year, Honolulu’s city hall Honolulu Hale puts on the Honolulu City Lights, a month-long celebration of Christmas lights and decorations. It starts off with an electric light parade and a lighting ceremony of the city’s 50-foot Christmas tree. Tropical beaches and holiday festivities in the winter? Sounds like a dream Christmas vacation.
From the pretty white lights at the Christkindlmarket, to the completely lit Ferris wheel at Winter Wonderfest, to the all-out Christmas parade and celebration at the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, there’s Christmas cheer for every taste in Chicago. But the best display is undoubtedly at Lincoln Park Zoo Lights. With the glow of 2.5 million lights, the zoo takes on an extra magical feel during the holidays and features attractions for the whole family. A ticket lets you wander around in awe at the lights, take a ride on the carousel, get lost in a light maze, and meet Santa.
The town’s name says it all. In addition to the year-round Santa stores and attractions, the town has a three-weekend Christmas celebration in December. To see 1.2 miles of Christmas lights that tell a shining story of Rudolph, drive through Santa Claus Land of Lights at Lake Rudolph Campground.
You can drive through 2.5 miles featuring more than 100 dazzling light displays at the Jolly Holiday Lights in Adventureland Resorts. Visiting the light displays will also help raise money for a good cause since 100 percent of the admission fees go directly to Make-A-Wish Iowa.
The entire state of Louisiana is big on Christmas, so much so that they have a Holiday Trail of Lights that takes visitors from town to town to look at one amazing light display after another. But the best town on that trail is easily Natchitoches. Stop by for dazzling Christmas light scenes on the water, carriage tours through the historic district, shopping, and fireworks every Saturday.
Always a great attraction, the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden is especially wonderful during the holiday season when it transforms from a regular botanical garden to a sea of lights. Last year, it was transformed into a driving tour to accommodate safety protocols during the pandemic.
There’s one street in Baltimore that’s more festive than the rest. Every holiday season, 34th Street in the city's Hampden neighborhood is decked out in Christmas lights and festive displays. From a tree made of hubcaps to classic candy cane fixtures, each house is uniquely decorated.
Every holiday season in Danvers, Massachusetts on Arthur Street, residents deck out their homes in dazzling light displays to raise money for Boston Children’s Hospital. It's open to the public and free to check out, but donations are highly encouraged!
So many light displays in the Detroit area, so little time! If you have the chance to take a small trip out of the city we recommend you swing by The Big Bright Light Show in downtown Rochester, where you’ll find every building completely covered in lights to make one giant rainbow out of downtown.
If you prefer to stay within city limits, make sure to check out Wild Lights at Detroit Zoo. With more than 5 million LED lights illuminating trees, buildings, and 265 sculptures (most of which are animals), there’s plenty for you to enjoy at this one-stop. While there, don’t forget to check out the Polar Express 4D Experience and ice skating rink.
Duluth’s Bentleyville proudly claims to be America’s largest free walk-through lighting display, and with more than 5 million lights, we’re pretty sure they’re up there. Stop by this lovely 20-acre park on the shores of Lake Superior and take in all the dazzling lights, while enjoying complimentary hot cocoa, cookies, popcorn, and roasted marshmallows.
Branson’s crown jewel is Silver Dollar City, an 1880s theme park that attracts visitors year-round. But this crown jewel is especially shiny during the holidays when the park transforms into a bright Christmas destination. With over 6.5 million lights, a special effects Christmas tree, and a nightly parade featuring the likes of Rudolph the Reindeer, it’s easy to see why this theme park is such a holiday hit.
More than 40 blocks of downtown Omaha are illuminated with twinkling lights during the holiday season, making it a prime destination to get in the festive spirit. The Omaha Holiday Lights Festival not only includes lights, a concert, a skating rink, and fireworks on New Year's. Guests also have the opportunity to donate non-perishable items to local food banks.
Perhaps the only Nevada destination that shines as bright as the Vegas Strip is the Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the holiday season. Give your own car a spin down the speedway as you take in more than 3 million lights that adorn the course. Not into driving yourself? Catch a lift on the Santa Tram and focus on the experience—taking selfies and meeting Jolly Old Saint Nick—instead.
Get your fill of holiday lights at the River of Lights Holiday Light Show in Albuquerque. Featuring over 550 light displays including glowing cacti, a giant pirate ship, and glittering dinos, this show has a little something for everyone. Last year, the show was postponed. Hopefully it'll be back this year!
Sure, Manhattan has Rockefeller Center with its huge tree, ice skating rink, and giant decorations. Plus, it's right near big hits like the light show on the Saks Fifth Avenue facade. But for a truly quaint and cozy Christmas light experience in New York City (and with a lot fewer tourists), you’ll have to head to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn. For years the entire neighborhood has transformed into a winter wonderland replete with decorations and lights. Stop by and tour the neighborhood on foot to see life-size reindeer, huge inflatable snowmen, more Santas than you can count, and of course, thousands of lights.
With a name like Christmas Town USA, you know this town has some serious holiday charm. Unlike other Christmas-centric towns, however, McAdenville keeps it simple with more than half a million lights, traditional wreaths, and big red bows adorning the gorgeous homes. It feels like a town straight out of your favorite Christmas story! To aid you in getting into the holiday spirit, the town has all your favorite holiday classics playing through its speakers, too.
Nothing says Christmas like millions of red and white lights, which is why a visit to the Clifton Mill, covered in 4 million of them, is the perfect Christmas tradition. On your trip, you’ll find the mill, a 100-foot “waterfall” of twinkling lights, a miniature village, a Santa Claus museum, a vintage toy collection, and Santa working at his workshop.
There are many spots to catch twinkling lights in Oregon, but the reason Portland is on this list is Peacock Lane. Self-proclaimed as Portland’s Christmas Street, it's a place where residents go all out to live up to their neighborhood's name, as they have done for decades. The mostly Tudor-style homes are decorated with dazzling lights, nativity scenes, Christmas trees, and tons of Frostys and Santas. Park your car a few blocks away and wander from house to house to get into the Christmas spirit. Note: The display was canceled last year, so be sure to check its website for updates!
Driving up to Koziar’s Christmas Village is an exercise for your eyes, as more than 1 million lights adorn the entire village. Tour the charming grounds and take in the lights, sounds, and tastes of Christmas by making stops at the toy shop, old-fashioned bakery, and Christmas post office (where you can write a letter to Santa).
For a truly magical evening, make your way to James Island’s Holiday Festival of Lights. Drive through three miles of lights, booths, and animated displays, all while listening to your favorite holiday tunes on the festival radio station. After you’re done taking in the lights, check out Santa’s Village to see giant greeting cards, roast marshmallows, and take a picture on Santa’s sleigh.
Nashville has plenty of holiday events, but a clear favorite is the Holiday LIGHTS event at the Cheekwood Estates & Gardens. One million lights adorn the grounds at these gorgeous gardens, making for a lovely walk full of holiday cheer. Bring the whole family and get into the spirit of the season by not only admiring all the lights but also meeting real reindeer, listening to carolers, and getting toasty by the s’mores pit.
Head to the heart of Texas for more than 40 displays and 2.5 million lights at Austin’s Trail of Lights. In Texas tradition, the Trail of Lights goes big with tons of Austin’s famous food trucks and a marketplace with unique gifts made by local artisans.
You know a city has a lot to offer in the way of lights when it has tours dedicated to beautifully decorated homes and tacky ones. Each year the local newspaper puts together a list of the tackiest decorated homes in the city, known as the Tacky Light Tour, and residents go all-out to land a coveted spot on the list. What does that mean for you? Tons of Clark Griswold-style, over-the-top homes for you to take in and get into the Christmas spirit.
With more than one million lights in its dazzling holiday displays, The Lights of Christmas festival is one of the largest festivals in the Pacific Northwest. The whole family will love checking out the festive displays in the six different themed areas.