Come explore the best Christmas light displays in the United States!
It’s almost time for the season for sparkle, holiday cheer, and family! Visiting Christmas light shows is a great way to celebrate the Christmas season. Here are some of the top Christmas light shows across the US that will take you into a winter-wonderland!
Where to See the Best Christmas Light Shows and Displays in the United States
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights in Brooklyn, New York
Most people flock to NYC during the holiday season to ooh and ahhh over all the amazing Christmas decorations and festivities around Manhattan, but one of the best Christmas and holiday displays in the city is actually in a residential neighborhood in Brooklyn.
The neighborhood of Dyker Heights attracts over 100,000 visitors each holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Years to see the huge mansions and homes who decorate their homes with loads of Christmas decorations and lights like something you’d see in a Christmas movie!
There are several blocks you can walk and tour this neighborhood any day of the week from dusk until about 10 pm checking out all the homes with crazy amounts of decorations!
We recommend taking the subway, which is about 60 minutes from many Manhattan locations and even closer if you’re already in Brooklyn and walking the 15 minutes to where all the action is at stopping at one of the local coffee shops to grab a hot cocoa as we you walk around and enjoy the festive homes.
Some say that there are over millions of lights used each year for these homes and its gotten so famous that there are businesses of professional Christmas light decorators who decorate the homes and use these homes as advertisements of such to promote their decorating services!
Each year is a little different, so you’ll want to come year after year! There’s nothing else like it in the city!
Contributed by Megan of Your Brooklyn Guide
Leavenworth, Washington Christmas Town and Lights
The town of Leavenworth in Washington State, also affectionately referred to as “Christmas town in Washington”. Leavenworth at Christmas puts on the best Christmas light show in the Pacific Northwest (& probably the US!). Leavenworth is a Bavarian styled town in the Cascade mountains just over 2 hours east of Seattle on US Highway 2. It’s easy to take the scenic route through the mountains or you can take the Amtrak snow train from Seattle to Leavenworth which includes breakfast, Christmassy entertainment and dinner on the return journey.
Come December, the town of Leavenworth is decked out in 500,000 twinkling Christmas lights. The songs of carollers fill the streets accompanied by the smell of Gluhwein and roasting chestnuts. Every Saturday and Sunday in December there’s a lighting festival at dusk where crowds gather to watch the lights be switched on. During the day you can shop for gifts at the Christmas market, enjoy some skiing on the nearby Leavenworth Ski Hill, or take a snowy sleigh ride. Admission to the Christmas light festival in Leavenworth is free but there are some paid activities such as tubing and sledding, sleigh rides and skiing. The lights stay illuminated from the first weekend in December until Valentine’s Day in February, but the lighting celebration (where crowds watch the lights switch-on with music) only happens on the first three weekends in December around 4.30 pm. There’s parking available throughout the town but the best plan is to stay the night in one of the cute hotels in Leavenworth and leave your car at the hotel if you’re driving to Leavenworth.
Contributed by Hannah of That Adventurer Blog
Milwaukee, Wisconsin Holiday Lights
Christmas is a festival that brings the whole family together, and if you are planning to take yours on Christmas vacation, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is the town you should consider. During December, every street is lighted up in the colors of Christmas. One of the well-known places in the city where you get to experience Christmas’s true feeling is in Henery Vilas zoo, as the whole area gets makeover by holiday lights. You can visit the craft market place or take your kids on a zoo train tour. Thousands of illuminating lights transform the zoo into a winter wonderland.
On the other hand, one of the tourists’ main attractions is Milwaukee’s downtown colored lights and animated display, which is a part of the community’s holiday lights festival. From couples to families with their little elves. The light show brings joyfulness among people of all ages. Once the sun sets down, the Mitchell park conservatory domes are light up and turn into dazzling lanterns. The fun doesn’t end here. The domes have their light show making domes come alive.
One of the things to do in Milwaukee in winter is to spend your holidays in the historic third ward. You can get all your holiday shopping done from the locally owned shops. Some of the unique Christmas gifts you can find for your family and friends are available at great prices. Town’s favorite holiday shops, such as Mrs. Claus and her live reindeer and Jolly’s outdoor gingerbread house, are present in the third ward. Also, if you want to grab a picture with a Santa, you can get it clicked outside the Jolly’s gingerbread house as Santa is waiting for you on the bench. got tired with all the strolling and fun activities, take a breather by sipping the hot chocolate and coffee from local cafes.
Contributed by Paulina of Paulina on the Road
San Antonio Christmas Lights
For beautiful Christmas lights with extremely mild weather (seriously, you may not even need a coat), head south to San Antonio during the Christmas season! Texas’ most visited city is known for its beautiful, shaded Riverwalk year-round, but the area gets a fantastic makeover during the Christmas season, when 100,000 lights cover the cypress trees that line the river and hang overhead as boats float by in the river under them, turning the entire area into a fantasyland.
To visit the Riverwalk Christmas lights, all you need to do is head to the Riverwalk in the evening, during the time period between Thanksgiving and the beginning of January–they are free to visit and well worth a stroll (and walking along the Riverwalk is a good way to digest all the delicious TexMex San Antonio has to offer!). Consider walking a block off the river as well, to admire the beautiful decor at the 18th-century San Fernando Cathedral! For a special Christmas treat, consider snagging tickets to the Ford Holiday River Parade, when San Antonio’s colorful riverboats that normally carry tourists instead transform into a festive parade. This is a paid event, but well worth the effort if you can make it!
Contributed by Kate of Our Escape Clause
Christmas Lights Around New York City
There are actually several different Christmas lights shows in NYC. The most popular is the enormous real tree at Rockefeller Center and the light show on the façade of Saks Fifth Avenue opposite. The Christmas tree is lit early December through the beginning of January. There is a display of smaller trees, angels and baubles opposite the tree, and this is a very popular spot for photos and the perfect Instagram picture. On the façade of Saks is an elaborate light show that plays to music every ten minutes. Both of these are free.
Another place to see Christmas lights is Dyker Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. You can take the subway there (plus a 15-minute walk), though tours also go there. For several blocks, all of the houses try to outdo each other with elaborate, garish displays of lights, inflatables and other Christmas decorations. It is free to wander around the streets. The best lights are on 11th Avenue to 13th Avenue and from 83rd to 86th Street.
Another option, seasonal though not strictly Christmas, is the Winter Lantern Festival at Snug Harbor on Staten Island. Dozens of awe-inspiring three-dimensional ‘lanterns’ are spread out over an enormous lawn. You can wander past and, in some instances, even through, them. There is also a performance of Chinese acrobats on the stage and food trucks selling hot chocolate and snacks to keep you warm. Parking is available on site.
Contributed by James Ian of Travel Collecting
Palm Springs, Florida Light Displays
If you visit during the holidays, one of the best things to do in Palm Springs is to check out all the fabulous light displays in and around town. The Greater Palm Springs area goes all out when it comes to holiday lights! From streets you can drive to attractions you can tour, the holiday lights in Palm Springs are truly magical. (Palm Springs’ most famous lights attraction, Robolights, moved last year to Detroit, but the artist has promised to bring it back to the city in the future.)
Drive Candy Cane Lane (on Minerva Road in nearby Cathedral City), where almost every home is decked out with lots of lights, displays, and decorations. Including lots of candy canes, both lit and plain. There are no official hours, since it’s a residential street. Go any time after dark, but not too late, and be respectful. You can drive through with care.
The Living Desert in nearby Palm Desert features “Wildlights,” on select nights through the month of December. The displays, of more than one million lights in total, are gorgeous, making the zoo a magical wonderland. Life-sized luminescent animal lanterns and a tunnel of lights flashing to the strains of holiday music make for a festive atmosphere, and kids can enjoy animal encounters even though it’s night. The show generally runs from 6 until 9 p.m. and there is an admission fee.
Downtown Palm Springs, especially Palm Canyon Boulevard, also wears a festive look for the holidays, with lights strung around the palms and holiday decorations along the street.
Contributed by Dhara of It’s Not About the Miles
Biltmore Candlelight Christmas Evenings
From the first weekend in November through the first week of January, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC shines as a beacon of Christmas magic! Dreamy any time of year, the estate’s Candlelight Christmas Evenings are a twinkling wonder to behold.
Biltmore House opened on Christmas Day, 1895: a 250-room mansion with banquet hall, library, bowling alley, and indoor swimming pool, and is covered every Christmas, from roof to basement, with thousands of classic white lights, hundreds of real trees, wreaths, and garlands, and Gilded Age decorations.
A giant Norwegian spruce Christmas tree greets you on the front lawn as you approach the magnificently lit House for your evening tour. The House glows from every window, beckoning you inside.
Live music fills the first floor with a Christmas ambiance, complementing the luxurious surroundings as you begin your self-guided tour. While the House has always had electricity, the wood-burning fireplaces and candles galore add that special touch of dancing firelight.
Every room showcases individually decorated trees, and the classic Christmas decorations like popcorn balls and cranberry strings make you think you’ve stumbled onto the set of Downton Abbey. The kitchens feature a gingerbread house replica of the mansion, complete with rock candy trees and a gumdrop roofline!
Complete your House tour and end your visit at the Stable Courtyard for a hot chocolate or spiced cider. Step inside the Christmas Shop (open year round) for your own Biltmore Christmas ornament!
Reservations required: $114 to $124 per person, depending on day of visit (2020 prices). Admission includes parking, parking shuttle to House, self-guided walking tour of the House in the evening with live music, and day of or day after access to the entire 8,000 acre estate: beautiful gardens, grounds, and Antler Hill Village and Winery! Stop in for a wine tasting!
Contributed by Rachel of Means to Explore
Las Vegas, Nevada Christmas Lights
You probably wouldn’t imagine getting away to Sin City with your family for a Christmas getaway. However, don’t let that fool you, notoriously known for its gambling scenes & as an adult’s playground, Vegas is also ideal for families or anyone who wants to spend the holiday season here. There are so many fun and free things to do in Las Vegas around the holiday season. Sway to the tunes of Christmas songs & carols with the famous Bellagio water fountain show taking place every 30 minutes starting from noon and then every 15 minutes from 8 pm till midnight. Go hotel/resort hopping with your family and gaze up at the 65-foot tall Christmas tree at The Venetian. Stroll the lobby’s and foyers of hotels and marvel at the beautiful Christmas themed decorations with giant polar bears, trees, igloos, and much more made out of floral arrangements. The best part is these activities are not only a treat to the eyes but free as well.
You can also indulge and devour hearty Christmas treats laid out at the several buffets in Las Vegas or head to The Cosmopolitan and enjoy some ice-skating over their pool that gets converted into an ice-rink made of real ice during the Holiday season.
So head to this always glowing and shimmering city of Las Vegas to enjoy a magical holiday season with your family. If anyone knows how to put on a grand celebration and a show, then it has to be this party city of Las Vegas.
Conributed by Harshi (an island girl) and Aman (a city dweller) together they travel and write about exotic tropical getaways, offbeat experiences, travel recommendations & guides over at Trot.World.
Descanso Gardens, Los Angeles
Located in the suburbs of Los Angeles county, specifically in the mountains of La Cañada Flintridge, lies Descanso Gardens. This botanical garden is famous in the Los Angeles area for its festive light displays and gorgeous holiday decorations with a unique warm weather flair.
Known as Descanso Gardens: Enchanted Forest of Light, the display is usually available each holiday season between the months of November and December. You’ll get a chance to see various light displays including a tulip field of beautifully lit flower-shaped bulbs, an Asian inspired garden, and an interactive pathway that lights up as you walk on it.
Some of the displays also include art by local artists as well as colorfully lit exhibitions synchronized to music. There is also a festive Christmas exhibit with stars lining a path, strike a pose there for next year’s holiday card photo.
The light displays are innovative and it’s the perfect way for families of all ages to celebrate the holiday season. Keep in mind that the event is outdoors so it can be a bit chilly even though Los Angeles is well known for its warm winters.
The event occurs after dusk and tickets are timed to ensure proper crowd control. Tickets are usually $30 per person and parking is plentiful within their gravel lot. Light refreshments and snacks are sold however be sure to eat before visiting Descanso Gardens.
Contributed by Constance of Adventures of a Panda Bear
Oglebay Festival of Lights, West Virginia
The Oglebay Festival of Lights in Wheeling, West Virginia attracts visitors from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio for its impressive displays of thousands of twinkling Christmas Lights. The display started in 1985 and has grown into the one of the top Christmas light displays in the country!
In this 6-mile drive-through display, you can see a multitude of animals, holiday characters, and pop culture figures in the form of Christmas lights! The Festival of Lights runs from late November until after the New Year. One of the best parts of the Festival of Lights is that you can purchase a pass for $25 that is valid for duration of the season! So you can go back as a many times as you would like. In addition to the light show, the Oglebay Resort offers multiple overnight packages that include other Christmas and holiday themed fun! You can tour the holiday decorated Oglebay Mansion, visit the reindeer at the Good Zoo, and much more!
ZooLights at the National Zoo, Washington DC
If you’re looking for a unique Christmas light experience, considering strolling through the ZooLights at the National Zoo in Washinton DC. This free Christmas light display is themed with zoo animals and creatures! Parking at the zoo is available or you can ride the Metro to Woodley Park/Zoo stop.
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens Festival of Lights
The Cincinnati Zoo’s Festival of Lights is another amazing Christmas light display in the United States that will dazzle you this Christmas season. The Festival of Lights features thousands of lights themed with animals. You can also take a train ride around the zoo to see the lights as well!
The United States is full of amazing Christmas light shows and displays that will dazzle your holiday season. Which one will you visit next?!