Sparkling light displays are one of the most magical parts of the holiday season. Here's where to find the best and brightest.
Amid all the expensive gifts, parties and festive new outfits, Christmas lights offer a (usually) free and festive way to celebrate the holidays without breaking the bank. It’s impossible not to get into the holiday spirit when strolling down a street adorned in colorful, sparkling lights. With that in mind, we went on a quest to find the small cities and towns across the country that take Christmas lights very seriously. Without further ado, here are the top 10 small towns to get your Christmas lights fix this holiday season.
1. Branson, MO
The world’s second largest Christmas lights display illuminates the small town of Branson, located just south of Springfield. While the whole city goes all out come November, its main attraction is in Silver Dollar City, an 1880s theme park that spans 100 acres. Come Nov. 3, the city flips the switch to 6.5 million LED Christmas lights throughout the park. If that’s not enough sparkle for you, the park’s “An Old Time Christmas” festival includes a nightly parade, a five-story Christmas tree and, new for 2021, Home for Christmas, a Broadway-style show.
2. Hershey, PA
Just when you thought it couldn’t get bigger, better or brighter, meet the Hershey Sweet Lights Holiday Drive-Thru Spectacular. Almost 600 illuminated displays can be admired as you drive through 2 miles of wooded trails, all accompanied by the sounds of the season on a customized radio broadcast. While you’re there take a visit to the Christmas Candyland and see more than 5 million lights and Santa Claus and his reindeer.
3. McAdenville, NC
Dubbed “Christmas Town, USA,” this small Southern town does not disappoint in the lights department. McAdenville first lit up nine trees in 1956, and each year it has grown. This year, 375 trees and nearly every home in town is coated in twinkling lights. More than 600,000 annual visitors enjoy the Christmas magic as they walk along the wreath-lined light display. Be sure to stay for the residents’ favorite Yule Log Parade, where a log is dragged through the streets and finally placed upon a big fire in Legacy Park.
4. Natchitoches, LA
Louisiana’s oldest little city is home to one of the South’s most glittery light displays. Dotting Cane River Lake are more than 300,000 lights and 100 large, lighted set pieces. The city’s Festival of Lights lasts a dizzying 45 nights beginning the Saturday before Thanksgiving, so you can return time and time again. The unique annual Christmas Parade occurs on the river with lighted barges slowly chugging by. Topping off all the festivities is the Natchitoches‘ largest fireworks display of the year.
5. Solvang, CA
Charming year-round, this Danish town is extra beautiful during its annual Julefest celebration. Copenhagen Drive, Solvang’s main street, is absolutely dripping with lights and festive window displays. While walking around and viewing the lights yourself is always free, the city offers guided Christmas light and VIP candlelit tours to those willing to shell out a few bucks. If you want to get your Glogg on, 4-hour food tours offer offers tastings of authentic Danish fare plus sips of local wines and beers while taking in the festive light displays.
6. Boothbay, ME
There’s just nothing like Christmas on the water. One of the main attractions of Boothbay’s Festival of Lights is the Harbor Lights Festival, where boat captains decorate their hulls and parade around the harbor late at night.
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The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens Aglow is touted as Maine’s largest holiday lights display with lights spread all over the garden’s 14 acres. If you get hungry while strolling, there are several s’mores and hot chocolate stops to fill you up.
7. Santa Claus, IN
Your city may have a drive-through Christmas lights display, but it’s not North America’s largest drive-through campground Christmas lights display. That can be found in none other than the aptly named Santa Claus, IN. The 1.2 mile drive-through adventure tells the story of Rudolph in vivid LED detail. Meanwhile, residents of Christmas Lake Village each go all out decorating their homes for 9 miles of pure holiday enjoyment.
8. Jackson Hole, WY
This popular ski town does it right for Christmas. Thousands of twinkly lights are strewn around the town’s famous elk Antler Arches in the town square. Santa visits during the annual town square lighting, and cookies and hot chocolate flow freely.
For a different type of lights, if you’re around for New Years, professional Jackson Hole skiers slowly ski down the mountainside with fiery torches in hand. A grand fireworks display completes the light show.
9. Williamsburg, VA
Beating out Branson for North America’s largest Christmas lights display, Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town boasts more than 10 million lights. Williamsburg celebrates its historic roots each December with the Grand Illumination show – a fireworks display that truly dazzles.
10. Bernville, PA
It’s a magical experience when you first see Bernville’s Koziars Christmas Village in the distance lighting up the countryside. For 71 years, this Bernville tradition has drawn in visitors from far and wide to gawk at the one million lights strewn across the farm’s barns, buildings and bushes. A lake in front of the Village reflects the scene for twice as much sparkle. We won’t judge you if you come back time and time again.