(This article may or may not contain affiliate links. What does that mean?)
It’s a time-honored holiday tradition: parents googling “holiday light displays near me” to try to make winter magic come true for a carload of kids. In this busy time of year, finding the right display of festive lights can slip to the bottom of the list behind shopping, shipping, and watching A Christmas Prince over and over. But have no fear: we’ve put together a list of some of the best places to see holiday lights throughout the U.S. These holiday displays and winter wonderlands will bring a smile to the whole family.
NO TIME TO ENJOY THIS ARTICLE NOW? PIN IT! OR BOOKMARK FOR LATER!
Cambria, California: Christmas Market and Lights
Fans of traditional European holiday markets will want to visit the Cambria Christmas Market, about four hours north of Los Angeles. The market features traditional German cottages and artisan vendors, along with train rides, live music, and an impressive display of holiday lights. Cambria offers several lodging packages that include great places to stay just steps away from the event. Grab some stollen bread and Gluhwein (plus hot cocoa for the kids) and huddle around the fire pit enjoying the festive glow of millions of twinkling lights. And don’t forget a quick visit to Santa!
Dates: November 23 through December 23, 2023
Admission ranges from $15-$35, depending on the day. Admission is free for children ages 6 and under.
Concord, North Carolina: Speedway Christmas
If you or your kids secretly want to drive race cars, then this is the event for you. Visitors to Speedway Christmas get to drive a lap on the Charlotte Motor Speedway just like the NASCAR greats! You’ll follow a four-mile course to see over five million holiday lights synchronized to music on 101.3 FM, plus watch a classic holiday movie at the gigantic Speedway TV every Thursday through Sunday night until Christmas. On weekends, families can also visit Christmas Village for s’mores and shopping.
Dates: November 17, 2023, through January 7, 2024 from 6pm-10pm – closed on Christmas
Tickets are $45 – $175
Lines can be long on weekends, so consider springing for a $70 Express Lane pass to skip the wait.
Newport Beach, California – Lighting of the Bay
During the holiday season, Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort and Marina invites the public to not only watch the Lighting of the Bay every night from late November until New Year’s Day, but this year, they’re also introducing a new winter program, the Fire and Ice Festival. Each evening at dusk, floating holiday decorations and Christmas trees are illuminated, casting a festive glow across the water. Families can also visit the holiday tree lot at Newport Dunes to pick out a fresh, Oregon-grown Christmas tree, then stop by the market and purchase s’mores supplies to use at the resort’s fire pits.
To add even more festivities, visit December 13 through December 17, when, just a couple of miles away, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade takes place, or try a Christmas Day Premier Brunch Cruise.
Dates: November 24, 2022, through January 1, 2023
Peak hours are $25 for a 90-minute skate session. Off-peak hours are $20 for a 90-minute skate session. Ice skate rental is included in this price.
Off-peak hours include Monday – Friday, November 27 – December 22 from 10 am – 2 pm.
Light show is free but parking is only free for the first 30 minutes. After that it’s 30 minutes to 2 hours: $10, 2 to 5 hours: $15, 5 to 8 hours: $20, 8 to 24 hours: $25.
Mount Vernon, New York: A Christmas Experience
This year’s spectacular light display at Holiday Lane at American Christmas is the biggest in its history, over twice as large as last year’s extravaganza. A leading manufacturer of Christmas lights and displays, American Christmas is saving the best for its own guests. More than 100 animatronic creations adorned by 100,000 twinkling lights amaze young and old as they stroll through the nine areas.
The company is responsible for the holiday decor at Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center’s iconic angels. Visitors can see where many of New York City’s famous Christmas displays are assembled and walk through Santa’s Village. At the end of the tour, families can stop in the American Christmas store to take home their own bit of holiday fun.
American Christmas is donating 100% of its net profits to three area charities (Mt. Vernon Boys & Girls Club, Northeast STEM Starter Academy of Mt. Vernon, and Youth Community Outreach Program of Mount Vernon). Last year, American Christmas donated a total of $81,213, equating to a $27,071 donation to each organization.
Dates: November 1 through December 22, 2023
Holiday Lane will be open Wednesdays and Thursdays from Noon through 7:00pm; Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00am through 8:00pm and Sundays from 10:00am through 6:00pm. Santa will pay visits to Holiday Lane on Wednesdays from 4:00 through 7:00pm and Fridays from 5:00pm through 8:00pm. Tickets are $12 Wednesday and Thursdays for ages 2 and up, $20 Friday through Sunday and visits with Santa are $35 per ticket. Children 2 and under are always free. Note: there is no photographer on site, but visitors are welcome to take all the photos they want during their stay.
Nashville, Tennessee: Zoolumination
Billed as the country’s largest Chinese lantern festival, Zoolumination at the Nashville Zoo opens in November and goes all the way to February 4 (so yes, it’s a terrific way to ring in the Lunar New Year or even New Year’s Eve). Walk through the beautiful Nashville Zoo grounds to see over 1,000 custom-made silk lanterns illuminated with environmentally friendly LED lights. Filled with bright, mythical creatures that light up each corner of the site, the three-mile lantern path is a breathtaking work of art. (Also, got any Wings of Fire fans at your house? DRAGONS!). Until December 24, guests can also explore North Pole Village, filled with lights, trees, and holiday fun.
Dates: It runs nightly from November 17, 2023, to January 7, 2024 then Thurs. – Sun. January 11- February 4
Admission for Adults and Teens: $23/26 – depending on the night
Admission for Kids (Ages 2-12): $19/22
There are also season passes for adults at $39 and $29 for kids
Parking is $8.
Nashville Zoo members park free and receive an additional $2 off each ticket!
Riverside, California: Festival of Lights
Each year, the historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa hosts their Festival of Lights, one of the largest light displays in the nation. The annual event started in 1992 as a way to give back to the community. It now attracts over 500,000 visitors each year and has been voted as one of the best Christmas lights displays by USA Today. The hotel and the town itself are decked out in holiday cheer, with Christmas trees, elaborate decor, and – of course – selfie stations! There’s plenty more to see and do as you enjoy the lights, including rides, an artisan market, and vendors selling festive treats such as gingerbread and tamales.
Dates: November 11, 2023 through December 31, 2024
Admission is free.
San Francisco: Entwined
Sometimes, we need a little holiday spirit long past New Year’s, and Golden Gate Park has just the thing to brighten up winter days with Entwined, which runs until mid-March most years. The artistic light installation features elaborate art by San Francisco artist Charles Gadeken as well as miniature works by other local artists. Throughout December, Entwined will host holiday-themed live entertainment, including appearances by the Christmas Tap Dancing Trees.
Dates: Check the website for dates
Admission is free.
Phoenix, Arizona: Las Noches de Las Luminarias
The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is celebrating the holidays with Las Noches de Las Luminaries, featuring luminarias and holiday lights lining the park’s paths and gardens. The event also includes musical performances and a chance to see the sculptures of German visual artist Rotraut throughout the trails. Families can enjoy the traditional Mexican holiday La Posada with singing processions, piñatas, and traditional food and drinks.
DATE: Nov. 24, 25 | Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 19-23, 26-30
TIME: 5:30 – 9:30 p.m.
PRICE: Members: Adult $34.95, Youth $14.95 | General Admission: $39.95, Youth: $16.95
San Antonio, Texas: Lightscape
The San Antonio Botanical Gardens are hosting Lightscape, a holiday display with a unique Texas flair: bluebonnets, the Texas state flower, created with Christmas lights. The one-mile Lightscape trail winds through the gardens, with light installations including “Winter Cathedral,” “Winter Wonder Tree,” and “Fire Garden.” After strolling through over one million lights, families can roast s’mores over fire pits or enjoy other food and drink.
DATES & TIMES
Nov. 17, 2023 – Jan. 1, 2024
Entry times are available every 15 minutes from 5:30 – 9 p.m. Most guests finish the trail in 90 minutes.
It’s a time-honored holiday tradition: parents googling “holiday lights” to make winter magic come true for a carload of kids. But have no fear: we’ve put together a list of the best places to see holiday lights throughout the U.S.
Santa Monica, California: Winterlit
Santa Monica is hosting Winterlit when the downtown area is transformed with colorful lights and decor into a holiday wonderland. Families can enjoy ice skating, visits with Santa, and lots of holiday shopping. The annual Santa Monica Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony occurs on December 1, and nightly menorah lightings will take place at sundown on December 18 through December 25.
Dates vary depending on the activity.
Admission is free, with extra tickets required for ice skating and breakfast with Santa.
San Jose, Kansas, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Scottsdale, St. Petersburg, and Washington, D.C.: Enchant
Kids will love tackling the World’s Largest Christmas Light Maze at Enchant, a holiday celebration taking place across the country. The highlight of Enchant is the expansive maze, filled with 4 million lights forming amazing displays. Nashville’s Enchant event hosted our family, and my son loved searching to find all of Santa’s reindeer in the maze and then stamping his “passport” at each reindeer station. And we were all fascinated by the color-changing LED dance floor tucked away in a corner of the labyrinth. If you want to make a night of it, add ice skating tickets to your admission and enjoy the winding ribbon of ice next to the maze. Once you’re ready for a break, head to the Christmas Village for snacks, shopping, and Santa Claus! Each event takes place on a major sports field, meaning this is your chance to see MLB and MLS fields up close.
Dates: November 24, 2023, through the end of the year.
Admission varies depending on date and location, but adult tickets start at $33.
Glendale and Tempe, AZ, Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City: World of Illumination
With two million lights synchronized in time to music, World of Illumination might be the best place to enjoy themed light experiences from the comfort of your car. This drive-through spectacle is great for families who want a weather-proof plan: with shows taking place seven days a week, rain or shine, you won’t have to worry about getting the kids out in the rain or the cold.
Dates vary according to location, but all sites run through January 1, 2023.
Admission starts at $39.99 per car but buy them on pre-sale to save 20%!
Denver, Orlando, Nashville, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.: Gaylord’s So. Much. Christmas.
Gaylord Hotels turn their iconic glass atriums into winter villages each year, filling them with strings of sparkling lights. Some locations even expand the holiday cheer to their fountain light shows, which are choreographed to festive songs of the season. At Gaylord Texan, Gaylord Palms, and Gaylord National, light shows feature giant Christmas trees bedecked with thousands of lights that dance in synch to holiday hits. The Gaylord hotels also offer additional winter-themed activities for visitors, including larger-than-life ICE! sculptures, carriage rides, stage shows, ice tubing, and ice skating. Across all the properties, the light displays use over seven million lights and 600 Christmas trees.
Dates: Vary by location; mid-November through the end of the year.
Admission: Light and fountain shows are free; tickets to other events can be purchased on a per-activity basis.
And for our neighbors in Canada, here’s one especially for you:
Bonus: Vancouver, British Columbia: Canyon Lights
Enjoy holiday lights up among the trees at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in Vancouver’s winter wonderland. The park’s holiday display, Canyon Lights, features lights from the treetops all the way down to the floor of the forest. Walk across the illuminated bridge to see thrilling views of the Capilano River all decked out for the holidays. And at the end, families can sip delicious hot chocolate and try the Snowy Owl Prowl Scavenger Hunt.
Canyon Lights continues its support of the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund with partial proceeds from admissions donated to fire and burn education in schools throughout British Columbia. To date, Canyon Lights has donated over $450,000 to this worthy program. Admissions also help Capilano continue to host the Twelve Nights of Christmas, offering passes to local charities.
Dates: November 17, 2023, through January 21, 2024
Admission is $62.95 for adults, $34.95 for teens, and $24.95 for children ages 6 to 12. Children under 6 are admitted free, and discounts are available for senior adults and students.
Often, the best holiday tradition is time spent together. If you’re looking for festive ways to have fun as a family, try this list to capture that holiday spirit and create memories that last a lifetime.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE CONSIDER PINNING OR SHARING IT!