The Best and Brightest of America’s Holiday Light Shows

Travel Lists America
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Photo by Sam Howzit CC BY

Many Americans aspire to have their decorations seen from space. Why they bring embarrassment and high electric bills upon themselves, we’ll never know. But, their odd enthusiasm gives us something cool to look at.

However, not everyone lives next door to Danny DeVito’s character from Deck the Halls, which is why some cities and parks put on their own light shows.

Here are 11 of the best and brightest light shows in the United States. Take that, DeVito.  

1. Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, Florida

This is the last year for the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (pictured above). The 20-year tradition is giving way to bigger and better attractions at Walt Disney World, including Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land. Fans are already nostalgic for the millions of lights strewn across the Streets of America in stunning coordination with a Trans-Siberian Orchestra-based soundtrack. The last day to catch the glow is Jan. 3, 2016. 

2. Celebration in the Oaks, Louisiana

Taking place in New Orleans City Park, this celebration attracts more than 165,000 visitors every year. Displays are set up throughout the park’s 25 acres, including Storyland and Carousel Gardens. Guests can take a two-mile train ride through the exhibits and celebrate New Orleans-style with features like an animated “Cajun Night Before Christmas” display. 

3. Bentleyville Tour of Lights, Minnesota

Photo by Sharon Mollerus CC BY

Smack dab in the heart of Duluth, Minnesota, Bentleyville is America’s largest free walk-through holiday light display. Spanning 20 acres on the shores of Lake Superior, guests can enjoy a leisurely stroll while indulging in complimentary hot chocolate, popcorn and roasted marshmallows. The adventure begins daily at 5 p.m. 

4. Old Time Christmas, Missouri 

With more than five million lights and a five-story tall special effects tree, Branson prides itself on having an old-time Christmas, which doesn’t quite make sense to us, but, whatever. Enjoy a steaming mug of hot chocolate while walking through 1,000 decorated christmas trees. As if that weren’t enough, they’ve recently added a Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade featuring Rudolph and his buds.

5. Newport Beach, California 

This year marks the 107th Annual Newport Beach Boat Parade. Over one million viewers are expected to tune in to watch everything from decked out multimillion dollar yachts to decorated canoes parade to this year’s theme, “Seas the Holidays.” There’s also a Ring of Lights competition for all waterfront homes.

6. Fantasy in Lights, Georgia

With over eight million lights and 15 different illuminated scenes including Christmas Tree Lane, March of the Toy Soldiers and 12 Days of Christmas, Fantasy in Lights is five mile fan favorite.

7. Mission Inn Festival of Lights, California

Want winter magic in summer weather? Head to Riverside’s Annual Festival of Lights, Southern California’s most popular holiday celebration. There are more than four million bulbs at the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa but celebrations span all of Main Street until Jan. 6. Guests can admire the illuminated palm trees and kiss under the world’s largest man-made mistletoe.

8. Hershey Park, Pennsylvania  

Photo by Art Straub CC BY-ND-NC

Once the sun goes down, head over to Hershey Sweet Lights, where guests can drive through two miles and over 500 Christmas light displays at their leisure. Of course, the hot chocolate here can’t be beat.

9. Magic Christmas in Lights, Bellingrath Gardens, Alabama

Gaze up at over 1,000 installments and three million holiday lights decorating Bellingrath Gardens and Home, a 65-acre property in Theodore, Alabama.

10. Country Club Plaza, Missouri

The holiday season kicks off with a bang at the Country Club Plaza. What started as just 15 lights over a doorway in 1925 has now turned into a 15-block community celebration. This year, author Gillian Flynn had the honor of flipping the switch, but guests can still enjoy the show every day after 5 p.m.  

11. Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado 

The Denver Botanic Gardens are beautiful during the day, but at night they are enlightening. Patrons can visit both Blossoms of Light, a 45-minute walking trail through the garden lit up in for the holidays, and the Trail of Lights, a family-friendly celebration at Chatfield’s Farm. The former is a dream for nature lovers while the latter features hayrides, a children’s play area, fire pits and a warming hut. Guests at either event can purchase 3-D HoloSpex glasses to transform any lights seen into different holiday shapes.

Jen Ruiz is a Fort Lauderdale-based lawyer and blogger.