8 Best Cities for Holiday Lights and Decorations

Let's just put it this way: Clark Griswold would highly consider moving after seeing these displays.

Nan Bauroth
On Friday, November 20, 2015 - 06:00
Best Holiday Lights

‘Tis the season for communities across America to deck their halls with holiday lights that draw people near and far. Hotels, gardens, zoos and even boat docks get into the Christmas lights act with showy decorations to share the festive spirit. Here are eight cities with holiday light displays that give a wow factor worth a trip:

1. McAdenville, N.C. – Christmas Town U.S.A.

Half a century ago the Men’s Club in this small town decorated eight trees around the community center. Today, 375 trees up to 90 feet tall are ablaze with lights, and every home is decorated for Christmas Town U.S.A. Admission is free, and the display runs from Dec. 1-26, weeknights from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., and weekends until 11 p.m.

2. Marion, Ind. – Christmas City Walkway of Lights

One of the oldest and largest light displays in the midwest, the Christmas City Walkway of Lights runs four miles, with 120 individual displays along the Mississinewa Riverwalk. Admission is $5 per car, and the display runs from Nov. 19 to Dec. 31, from 6 to 10 p.m.

3. Pine Mountain, Ga. – Callaway Gardens Fantasy in Lights

Dubbed one of “The World’s Top 10 Places to See Holiday Lights” by National Geographic, Callaway Gardens Fantasy in Lights transforms the wooded landscape with 8 million sparkling lights depicting Christmas stories and Snowflake Valley. Guest cans drive through themselves or take the Jolly Trolley. Admission ranges from $10.50 to $14 for children and $21 to $28 for adults, and the display runs from Nov. 18 to Jan. 7.

4. Chicago, Ill. – The 25th Annual BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

A million people travel to see the Annual BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival that kicks off with a nighttime parade of floats, marching bands and musical performers magically illuminating 1 million lights on the famous avenue’s 200 trees the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Admission is free. 

5. Coeur de Alene, Idaho – 30th Annual Coeur d'Alene Resort Holiday Light Show

Rated by Good Morning America as one of America’s top family holiday destinations, the Annual Coeur de Alene Resort Holiday Light Show offers a 40-minute Journey to the North Pole cruise to see 255 displays and an animated floating Christmas tree. Admission is free for children under five, $7.50 for kids ages 6-12, and $22.25 for adults. The display runs from Nov. 26 to Jan. 2.

6. Colorado Springs, Colo. – Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Electric Safari 

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Electric Safari, an unusual holiday light show amidst zoo creatures, celebrates with twinkling trees, animated animal sculptures, fires and a Mountaineer Sky Ride to catch breathtaking views of the city’s Christmas lights. The safari runs Dec. 9 to Jan. 1 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Admission starts at $6.75 for children and is $9.75 for adults.

7. Hershey, Penn. – Hershey Sweet Lights Holiday Drive-Thru Spectacular

The Hershey Sweet Lights Holiday Drive-Thru Spectacular takes visitors 2.3 miles through woodlands aglow with 600 themed light displays, accompanied by the sounds of the season on a customized radio broadcast. The cost is $19.15 per auto Sundays through Thursdays, and $24.15 per auto Fridays and Saturdays. The display runs from Nov. 11 to Jan. 1.

8. Newport Beach, Calif. – Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade

Now in its 108th year, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, a waterborne Christmas light display, features multimillion dollar yachts, kayaks, and other small boats decorated with animated Christmas scenes accompanied by music and costumed carolers. Boats wind 14 miles around the harbor for viewing. The event runs from 6:30 to 9 p.m., Dec. 14-18. Admission is free.


A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Nan Bauroth started her career as Director of Advertising and Promotion for Doubleday Publishing.