Top Holiday Lights Celebrations Across America

The winter holiday season is one of the most family-together times of the year and, with schools closed and parents nesting at home to bake, wrap presents, and prepare to celebrate, there's a little extra free time to take in local celebrations. For some families, it may be cutting down their own tree; for others, their holiday tradition is oohing and aahing over the light display in a favorite city, botanic garden, zoo or theme park.

TakingtheKids columnist Eileen Ogintz notes in her popular blog that some families may opt to see the holiday lights in far-flung destinations with grandparents (Tauck offers these multigenerational groups with their special Bridges trips, for example) or head out together for holidays in Hong Kong as she did last year!   Please check out our fun online magazine, below, packed with her favorite celebrations.

Holiday Lights Magazine

Click on this 52 Holiday Light Delights cover to "open" the magazine/tablet friendly version or read on for the online version of this comprehensive directory of US Holiday Lights displays.

 

Top Destinations in America for Great Holiday Lights Displays

Many thanks to Eileen for sharing her top 55 places in the United States to light up the holidays. If we forgot any, please post your favorites in the Comments field below.

 

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1. ALBUQUERQUE, NM –

The Rio Grande Botanic Garden hosts New Mexico’s largest walk-through holiday light show, “The River of Lights” featuring giant sculptures of plants, animals and seasonal themes created by millions of lights in over 150 displays. Visit between November 24 and December 28 (closed on December 24 and 25).
 

2. ANNAPOLIS, MD –

“Lights on the Bay”is a drive-through holiday light show at Sandy Point State Park along Chesapeake Bay, where there are stationery and animated displays including a glowing lighthouse, Navy midshipmen, oysters and blue crabs. Visit between November 19 and January 2.

3. AUSTIN, TX –

Zilker Park’s “Trail of Lights,”a mile long stretch with seasonal scenes composed of multi-colored twinkling lights, will be on display from December 16-23.
 

4. BOSTON, MA –

Beantown features the largest Christmas Tree in New England, and the 70thannual lighting ceremony will take place on December 1. Take a Freedom Trail Holiday Strollwith a costumed guide, learn how Christmas and holiday traditions evolved in Boston and end your tour with hot chocolate or tea with Boston Cream Pie at the Omni Parker House Hotel. This tour is offered at 3:30pm, Thursday to Sunday from November 17 to January 20.
 

5. BRANSON, MO –

Silver Dollar Citycelebrates “Old Time Christmas” with a 5-story special effects Christmas Tree and millions of lights from November 3 to December 30. 
 

6. BROOKLYN, NY –

twinkles with the “Lights of Dyker Heights,” a neighborhood (between 83d and 86th streets from 11th to 13th Avenue between Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst) that attracts 100,000 visitors to view amazing decorations. Visit between 5 and 9 p.m. for the most intense lighting
 

7. CHARLESTON, SC –

This southern Belle celebrates the “Holiday Festival of Lights” in James Island County Park where you will drive (or take a train ride) three miles through over two million lights and hundreds of displays. Visit from November 9 to December 31. And also enjoy Santa's Village and Winter Wonderland which have attractions and activities including marshmallow Roasts, festival train rides, carnival rides, Santa’s Sweet Shoppe and more.
 

8. CHARLOTTE, NC –

Charlotte Motor Speedway is excited to bring the holidays to life this winter season with the return of “Carolina Christmas,”a spectacular drive-through Christmas light park and village located at the legendary superspeedway. Featuring more than 600 light displays boasting 3 million lights, the event also offers a Christmas Village with a realistic Bethlehem-themed village, a Festival of Trees, photos with Santa and areas with food and music. This year, the route of twinkling lights is extended, giving visitors extra miles of Christmas cheer! Come experience it from November 23 to December 31, excluding Christmas day.

9. CHATANOOGA, TN –

Rock City Garden’s“Enchanted Garden of Lights” celebrates its 17th year with more than 30 holiday scenes and over a million lights. Visit from November 18 to December 31 (closed Christmas eve). Enjoy hot cocoa, gingerbread cookie decorating, face painting and costume dress up with Sugar Plum Fairy Makeovers and nightly entertainment.  
 

10. CHICAGO, IL –

This great city boasts “The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival” with a Mickey and Minnie Mouse Parade on November 17 and more than one million lights along Michigan Avenue. The Museum of Science and Industryilluminates “Christmas Around the World” and “Holidays of Light” with more than 50 trees and displays to reflect worldwide holiday traditions from November 15 to January 6. “Christkindlmarket,” a German-American Holiday Market is celebrating its 16th year in Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago from November 21 to December 24. 

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