It’s safe to say that Christmas 2020 will be unlike any other that came before it. We may not be able to celebrate in the same ways we did last year, but there are some things that will continue as normal. There are hundreds of light displays still going ahead in towns all over the US, but to start off there’s at least one option here for every state, so we hope there’s some inspiration for everyone. Some are now drive-though and there’s a sprinkling of virtual displays too.
Not all of the displays on this list, compiled by Parade are free to enter but many of them are, and check availability of tickets before you travel, and be sure to follow appropriate coronavirus guidelines on your trip.
Alaska, Huntsville – Huntsville Botanical Garden
The Galaxy of Lights Festival at the Huntsville Botanical Garden in Huntsville, Alabama is a must-visit if you live nearby. Spanning 2.5 miles and featuring classic holiday themes, characters, and even scenes from nature, the Huntsville Botanical Garden Christmas lights display is now 25 years old. It’s open now to January 2, can be driven or walked, and tickets start at $23 for the public, $18 for members.
Alaska, Anchorage — Alaska Botanical Gardens
Alaska Botanical Gardens in Anchorage is worth visiting at any time of the year. But particularly during the holiday season, the gardens transform into a winter wonderland worthy of the Santa Claus himself. Tickets start at $6 for members ages 7+ and kids 6 years old and under are free.
Arizona, Glendale — Glendale Glitters
With a name like Glendale Glitters, how could you not want to visit?! Glendale Glitters is home to the largest free light display in Arizona, boasting a whopping 1.6 million LED light. It runs from now until January 11. This year marks the 26th anniversary of Glendale Glitters and the display illuminates 16 blocks of the town’s Historic Downtown District.
Arkansas, Hot Springs — Garvan Woodland Gardens
Garvan Woodland Gardens hosts the Winter Garden Festival every year on its 18-acre property. Featuring an ice palace and an animated light show. Tickets start at $39 for members and $42 for non-members.
California, Los Angeles — Festival of Lights at The Mission Inn
Sadly in California, the institutions of El Segundo’s Candy Cane Lane or LA Zoo Lights have been cancelled for the first time in decades because of covid-19. Instead, head to The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa in LA to witness the castle’s gorgeous interior decor.
Colorado, Denver — Denver Botanic Gardens
Blossoms of Light is the Denver Botanic Gardens’ annual holiday lights event that has been held for three decades. Visitors walk through the Blossoms of Light pathway and can stop by the Hive Garden Bistro for hot cocoa and other holiday treats. Tickets start at $18 for non-members, $16 for members, and each ticket is limited to a 30-minute time slot.
Connecticut, Thomaston — Northern Lights Limited Santa Express
The Northern Lights Limited Santa Express, is a whole experience rather than a display, you’ll board a train sponsored by the Railroad Museum of New England, in Thomaston, then take a ride to the North Pole. Along the 1 hr 20 minute journey, riders will see seasonal decorations (both inside and out), visit with Mrs. Claus, Santa Claus, and the elves.
Delaware, Odessa — Historic Odessa Candlelit Tours
Tours of the Historic Odessa Candelit Tour in the 18th century hamlet of Odessa span throughout the month of December on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and you must have a reservation. On the tour, you’ll walk past Historic landmarks and buildings and of course, bear witness to a plethora of beautiful light displays.
Throughout the First State, Christmas light displays are abundant and in fact, Frampton Realty has put together an amazing stop-by-stop road trip for light-seekers that spans all of Delaware.
Florida, St Augustine — Night of Lights
Known for its famous white light display along 20 blocks of Historic buildings, Night of Lights is celebrating its 27th year in 2020. Parade’s Pro tip: The event is best witnessed, according to the website, from either the Plaza de la Constitución or The Bridge of Lions.
Georgia, Pine Mountain — Fantasy in Lights
National Geographic have actually voted this display in Georgia one of the top ten Christmas lights displays in the world. Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, which claims to feature the tallest Christmas tree in the south, a 10-story tall Christmas tree. This year, Fantasy in Lights is introducing a new scene called the Magical Field of Lights to its 2,500 acres of light-up decorations. Admission is free and while you’re there, don’t forget to hop on the Jolly Trolley.
Hawa’ii, Honolulu — Honolulu City Lights
Honolulu City Lights usually kicks off with an electric light parade and the annual lighting of the town’s Christmas tree. This year, Honolulu City Lights is inviting guests to partake in a TV Broadcast Special of Honolulu City Lights past.
Idaho, Caldwell — Winter Wonderland Festival
The Winter Wonderland Festival takes place at the Indian Creek Plaza every year in Caldwell, Idaho and features all kinds of festive activities. Downtown Caldwell is lit with over a million lights and will stay lit from now until January 10.
Illinois, Chicago — Christkindlmarket
Chicago, Illinois is home to many various Christmas light displays, but an annual favourite has to be Christkindlmarket. An authentic and traditional German-style holiday market, Christkindlmarket is still running this year, From November 1 to December 31, though this year it’ll be a virtual experience called “Home for the Holidays.” The experience features an online marketplace, family-friendly events and interactive activities.
Most other Chicago-based light displays seem to either have been postponed until 2021 or have gone virtual, including the Magnicifient Mile Lights Festival and Winter Wonderfest, too. However, it appears that ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo is still running now from January 3.
Indiana — Santa Claus
In a town aptly named Santa Claus, you’ll find Indiana’s 1.2-mile long Christmas LED-light display called Shining Story of Rudolph at Lake Rudolph Campground. The drive-through display runs every night from December 11 to December 27 (but is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).
Iowa, Altoona— Adventureland Resorts
In Altoona, Iowa, you’ll find the Jolly Holiday Lights at Adventureland Resorts. Open from now until December 30, the Jolly Holiday Lights display features 2.5 miles of stunning lights to get in the festive spirit. What’s more, 100% of the admission fee goes to Make-A-Wish Iowa, which sponsors the event annually. The event is also offering virtual meetings with Santa Claus amidst the coronavirus pandemic as well.
Kansas, Witchita — The Arc’s Lights
In Sedgwick County, Kansas, The Arc’s Lights is one of the most unique Christmas light displays throughout the Sunflower State. While the drive-through light display, featuring more than 1.5 million glittering lights, offers free admission on weekdays, a $10 fee is charged when you visit The Arcs on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from now until December 28.
Kentucky, Louisville — Lights Under Louisville
From now until January 3, the Lights Under Louisville Christmas light display is open for business in Louisville, Kentucky. One ticket for a passenger vehicle costs $29.99 and the event starts at the Louisville Mega Cavern. Known as the world’s only underground lights show, the tour rides along 17 miles of lit-up underground passageways throughout the city.
Louisiana, Natchitoches — Holiday Trail of Lights
The Holiday Trail of Lights is Louisiana’s statewide light display with several towns included on the trail. However, if you’re going to visit just one, check out Natchitoches, the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase Territory. Approved this year by the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office and Louisiana Department of Health during the time of covid-19, you’ll find 300,000 lights and more than 100 set pieces on display in Natchitoches alone.
Maine, Boothbay — Coastal Maine Botanical Garden
Every year, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens hosts Gardens Aglow in the Boothbay peninsula of Maine. This year, it’s a driving tour, and families can drive by all the participating businesses that light up for the event. Tickets are $40 for non-members, $30 for members and the event runs from now until January 2.
Maryland, Hampden — 34th Street
Nearby Baltimore, 34th Street in Hampden, Maryland—also known as Christmas Street—is known for its holiday decorations come December. This year, the pandemic is definitely impacting 34th Street’s ability to run as usual, however the website contends that the light display associated with 34th Street each year will go on in 2020.
Massachusetts, Waltham — Greater Boston Celebration of Lights
Though Massachusetts is a state saturated with historical significance, one of the state’s most beloved Christmas light displays is in fact one of its newest. The Greater Boston Celebration of Lights stretches across 1 mile of road in Waltham, MA and features 1 million LED lights and animatronic scenes to entertain both kids and grown-ups alike.
Michigan, Rochester — The Big Bright Light Show
The Big Bright Light Show in downtown Rochester, Michigan, is quite a sight. From now until January 3, as you walk through the downtown area, you’ll bear witness to every single building covered in more than 1 million lights in rainbow order.
Minnesota, Canal Park — Bentleyville Tour of Lights
The goal of Bentleyville’s Tour of Lights this year is to bring people together while staying apart during the holiday season. The free, walk-through light display features more than 5 million lights and 20-acres of park to walk through, as well as free hot cocoa and treats.
Mississippi, Canton— Victorian Christmas Festival
Many of Mississippi’s holiday light displays have been cancelled this year due to covid-19, but it appears that the Victorian Christmas Festival in Canton may be operating as usual (though it’s recommended that you call beforehand to confirm). With more than 200,000 lights glowing from the town’s historic buildings, the Courthouse Square carousel, trees, statues, structures, and 150 life-size antique animated figures. Also be sure to check out the town’s Animation Museums for an animated Polar Express train and stop by Frosty the Snowman’s igloo for some roasted marshmallows.
Missouri, Ann Arbor— The Arcs
Each year in Ann Arbor, Missouri, Christmas lights on Arcs over the roadway light the way for cars, as pictured above. If you’d instead prefer a more formal drive-through experience, the Wayne County Lightfest in MI might just be right up your alley. On your way through the four-mile drive through Hines Park, MI, you’ll see 50 animated themed displays and more than 100,000 lights. The entrance to Lightfest can be found on 7651N. Merriman Road and admission costs $5 cash per vehicle.
Montana, Billings— Billings Christmas Lights
Throughout Billings, Montana, you’ll find residential home after residential home lit to Christmastime perfection. Featuring more than 35 glowing locations throughout the drive, the 2020 Billings Christmas Lights Map includes everything from residential homes and lanes to landmark houses. There’s also a downloadable scavenger hunt to make the drive all the more interactive for families.
Nebraska, Omaha— Omaha Holiday Lights Festival
L I G H T S O N ✨✨✨
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Just in time for the holidays!
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Lights will shine bright through January 4 in the Old Market AND North Omaha & South Omaha along 24th Street 💛 pic.twitter.com/K5BaRdQb3s
— Holiday Lights Festival (@LightsFestival) November 21, 2020
If you live in the Cornhusker State, check out the Holiday Lights Festival in Omaha this holiday season. Running from now until January 4, the Omaha Holiday Lights Festival lights up 40 blocks of downtown Omaha with twinkling, glowing lights, running from 10th to 13th Streets and from Harney to Jackson Streets. Come New Years, the tradition continues, with the Holiday Lights Festival also setting off fireworks. This year, the festival will not include its annual ice skating rink event due to coronavirus.
Nevada, Las Vegas — Glittering Lights
From the safety, warmth, and comfort of your car, Nevadans can celebrate the season by driving through Glittering Lights in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Tickets for the drive-thru start at $25 and tickets for the Santa Selfie Station start at $75.
New Hampshire, Enfield — La Salette Christmas Festival of Lights
The website for the Shrine of Our Lady La Salette reads, “We need to be reminded that, despite these challenging times we are experiencing, the ‘light from afar’ is still shining ahead of us all.” Running from now until January 3 the Festival of Lights is one of the oldest light displays throughout the Granite State. Set on 20 acres of hillside, the display features nativity scenes, thousands of multi-colored lights, and hundreds of decorations.
New Jersey, Egg Harbor Township — Storybook Land
In the quaint Egg Harbor Township of New Jersey, you’ll find Storybook Land—a timeless, enchanting children’s park that has been around since 1995. Despite cancelling all of its summertime events due to the pandemic, Storybook Land is now open for the holiday season, offering the Christmas Fantasy With Lights event. Santa turns the park’s thousands of lights every night at 5pm.
New Mexico, Alburquerque — Lights of Enchantment
Throughout the U.S., there is no Christmas lights display quite like the River of Lights in Alberquerque, New Mexico; however, this year the event has been officially postponed by concerns over coronavirus. Instead, you may want to check out Lights of Enchantment, which is taking place at the Sandia Speedway from now until January 3.
New York, Manhattan — The Shops at Hudson Yards
In New York, everyone tends to flock to the illuminated angels at the Channel Gardens at Rockefeller Center because they’re free. But if you want to beat the crowds and escape the weather, check out The Shops at Hudson Yards instead. Outside of The Shops, the lights display continues with over 2 million twinkling lights across The Plaza, Edge, and Vessel, as well as almost 1,000 decorated trees across The Plaza.
Other magical lights mentions throughout the Big Apple include visiting the Saks Fifth Avenue outdoor light display and taking a quick trip on the D train to Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.
North Carolina, Asheville — The Biltmore Estate
The 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate in Asheville is in fact America’s largest home, built back in 1895. It’s worth visiting all year-round for its historical significance, but come the holiday season, it’s all the more magical. From November 6 to January 9, visitors can explore the estate’s more than 45,000 lights, 150 candles, and warm, flickering fireplaces but the magic comes with a not so small price tag at $114 per ticket.
North Dakota, Spring Lake Park — Holiday Lights Drive in
This display in Spring Lake Park is one of most unique light displays there is. After all, the Holiday Lights Drive has several different themed nights—from LEGO Night and Snoopy Gives Back to Dinosaur Night and the Grinch Gives Back Night.
Ohio, Clifton — Clifton Mill
The Historic Clifton Mill, one of America’s largest water-powered grist mills, has been a historical staple of Clifton, OH since 1802. Every holiday season, the Clifton Mill goes all out by transforming into a Christmas village featuring a Santa Claus museum, a vintage toy collection, and lots and lots of lights.
Oregon, Portland — ZooLights
One of Oregon’s most beloved Christmas lights displays is Peacock Lane in Portland, OR; however, due to covid-19, Peacock Lane is remaining closed this season. If you live in Oregon and still want to enjoy a nearby lights display, Portland is also home to ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo. While walking through the zoo’s display of more than 1.6 million colored lights, you’ll also see some of the zoo’s most beloved wildlife.
Pennsylvania, Bernville — Koziar’s Christmas Village
If ever there was a place that really, truly felt like it could be the real North Pole, it’s certainly Koziar’s Christmas Village in Bernville, PA. Nestled in the Pennsylvanian countryside, Koziar’s appears as a quaint and festive village lit up by more than a million lights glowing in the night. In town, you’ll find a toy workshop, a bakery, and a post office that only goes back and forth to Santa’s address. Tickets start at $10 for kids, $12 for people ages 11+, and children 3 years old and under can attend for free.
Rhode Island, Bristol — Bristol Christmas Festival
Christmas in Bristol, Rhode Island is unlike any other place… Light displays as part of the Bristol Christmas Festival and Grand Illumination event have been a part of Bristol since 1987. Throughout town, buildings, churches, trees, and residential homes are lit up in celebration of the season. This year, the Grand Illumination event kicks off on December 5 and the festival’s annual Christmas Story Time event is going virtual on December 12.
South Carolina, Charleston — Holiday Festival of Lights
At James Island County Park’s Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston, SC, you’ll drive through three miles of a wonderful Christmas lights display. The festival features all kinds of lights and animatronics and runs from now until December 31. For an additional experience, you can also book a visit with Santa Claus himself and walk away with a 5×7 souvenir photo.
South Dakota, Rapid City — Christmas Nights of Light
Come December, the park at Storybrook Island turns into a winter wonderland as part of the city’s Christmas Nights of Light event. Kids will love the storybook characters walking around, drinking cocoa or cider, and looking at all the charming lights. Admission is $3 per person and runs until December 31.
Tennessee Nashville— Cheekwood Estates & Gardens
The Holiday Lights event at Cheekwood Estates & Gardens in Nashville was voted the best local event and festival in 2019. In spite of covid-19, this year is no different! Still a beloved lights display by plenty of locals, Cheekwood Estates & Gardens offers one mile of glowing lights against a backdrop of the gardens. Kids will also enjoy meeting the on-site reindeer, writing letters to Santa and dropping them in the mailbox to the North Pole, and taking pictures by the iconic pointsettia tree. The Holiday Lights event runs from now until January 10th.
Texas, Austin — Austin’s Trail of Lights
The Lonestar State is home to Austin’s Trail of Lights —a literal trail of lights that features more than 40 Christmas-themed displays, 2.5 million lights, an artisans marketplace, and some of the city’s most beloved food trucks.
Utah, South Jordan — Christmas in Color
This year, Utah’s Christmas in Color drive-through display has adapted to the times, ultimately becoming the socially safe, Drive-Thru Animated Light Show. Millions of lights twinkle against the backdrop of the Salt Lake County Equestrian Park as you drive by giant candy canes, through lit-up tunnels and cruise past dancing snowflakes synchronized to the holiday music.
Vermont, Woodstock — Wassail 2020
This year, the annual Wassail Parade is going virtual (you can join the virtual Facebook event, which goes live on Saturday, December 12) but the Historic homes and local shops throughout Woodstock, VT will still be lit for the season. Events take place on both December 5 and December 12.
Virginia, Richmond— Tacky Light Tour
The Tacky Light Tour is a residential lights display that acts as a self-guided tour families can drive through in nearby neighbourhoods, you’ll see some of the gaudiest decorations homes have to offer. Think the movie Deck the Halls, but IRL.
Washington Stanwood — The Lights of Christmas
This year, The Lights of Christmas is still on but has been modified to A Drive-Thru Christmas due to the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout the festival, there are six different themed areas that participants can enjoy.
West Virginia, Wheeling— Oglebay
Light tunnels, Peanuts characters, and wintry scenes galore is what you’ll find at Oglebay’s Winter Festival of Lights: Sounds of the Season. Running from now until January 10, Oglebay’s Winter Festival of Lights is celebrating its 35th year with its annual six-mile drive over 300 acres. There are 90 lighted scenes throughout Oglebay’s Winter Festival of Lights, utilizing more than 1 million energy-efficient LED lights.
Wisconsin, Pewaukee — Country Christmas
Country Christmas is the largest outdoor drive-through Christmas light display in Wisconsin. It’s open from now until January 2. With several different locations to explore—from the Country Christmas Trail featuring a mile-long drive through animated figurines and holiday scenes to the Christmas Village—tickets start at $20 and range to $40 depending on vehicle type.
Wyoming, Cheyenne — Street Railway Trolley
Ride in festive Christmas style while you take your Christmas lights display tour this year in Wyoming. Board the Street Railway Trolley in Cheyenne and then be transported throughout the neighbourhood to check out the local lights. It’s $12 a ticket for adults, $6 for children, and each ticket should be purchased in advance.