Dazzling Christmas Light Displays to Visit in All 50 States
Driving around to view Christmas light displays is a time-honored tradition for many families. Here's a roundup of some of the most extravagant in every state in recent years. Just be thankful you're not paying the electric bills, which one homeowner estimated at hundreds of dollars a month.
Alaska has brutally long nights during winter, but that means the holiday lights stay on longer in North Pole, a suburb of Fairbanks. Through Jan. 5, the Christmas in Ice festival features illuminated ice sculptures -- including "twirlers," which spin kids around for a unique light-viewing experience -- and other holiday-themed activities for all ages.
In the desert city of Gilbert, six households on the 3600 block of Comstock Drive join forces to produce a huge daily show of lights and music. On certain days, the residents invite guests for hot chocolate, caroling, and marshmallow roasting. The Christmas on Comstock group says all donations are contributed to the local branch of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Planning to be in Arkansas this holiday season? Head to Batesville, northeast of Little Rock. During December, Batesville's downtown and Riverside Park are illuminated with hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights, as well as animated displays and a 34-foot snowman.
Homeowners at the intersection of Oxnard and Lubao streets in the Woodland Hills neighborhood in Los Angeles have coordinated every year since 1952 to hold an informal "Candy Cane Lane" competition for outdoing one another with Christmas, displays starting the second Saturday of December and lasting through the end of the year. Elsewhere in the state, the Fabulous Forties in Sacramento (bounded by 40th and 48th streets and J Street and Folsom Boulevard); Eucalyptus Lane in San Carlos; Thompson Avenue in Alameda; and "Christmas Card Lane" in San Diego all get high praise from Thrillist.
Denizens of The Meadows in Castle Rock, halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs, channel "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" by holding an annual Winter Night Lights Home Lighting Contest. Guests can drive through the community to see the creative, over-the-top designs of homeowners trying to top their neighbors. The driving path begins at 3692 Meadows Blvd. on a date set when all the entrants have signed up.
A two-mile drive-through "Holiday Light Fantasia" at Goodwin Park in Hartford uses more than 1 million lights and displays to celebrate cross-cultural festivities, with sections devoted to Hanukkah, New Year's, and Three Kings Day, along with Christmas. Unlike most other displays on the list, this one does charge for entrance: $15 per car. Proceeds benefit the local Channel 3 Kids Camp.
The Faucher family has achieved renown for 30 years of dedication to extravagant Christmas shows, using about 100,00 lights to illuminate their home for an impressive holiday scene at 1054 Red Lion Road in New Castle, dubbed the largest private show of Christmas lights in the state.
Mark Messingschlager and his family have been building their display at 1131 SW 9th Ave., Fort Lauderdale, for nearly three decades. With some 200,000 lights, it takes about two months to set up, but draws crowds that happily put money in a bucket for Kids in Distress, a charity that treats abused and neglected children.
"Christmas in the Grove" might sound familiar; its creators, Tony and Katie Paradowski, competed on ABC's "The Great Christmas Light Fight" in 2013 -- winning a $50,000 grand prize. They've kept up the tradition of outfitting their home at 1428 Oak Grove Drive in Decatur with more than 115,000 lights and snowflakes, giant constructions of trees, and digital animation. Visitors can tune in to 87.9 FM on a car radio for music synced with the display. The family says proceeds are donated to the nonprofit ALS Association.
The Yoshida family synchronizes 20,000 solar-powered lights to "dance" with holiday music at 94-226 Anapau Place, Waipahu, with visitors encouraged to donate money that helps buy toys for children at a shelter in Kaka'ako, Honolulu.
A Hayden resident has had to fight for his right to decorate. The local homeowners association threatened to sue over the noise and traffic generated by his elaborate Christmas display, which included a live camel and scores of lights and carolers last year. The region's CBS affiliate reports that the association is backing down, and the show is set to go on during the five days before Christmas.
In Aurora, outside Chicago, the residents of Lehnertz Avenue join forces to offer a religious Christmas experience. Visitors can drive through the neighborhood to see displays focusing on New Testament stories -- enter from the west to get the story chronologically -- with each house narrating a different part of the story and playing Christmas music. Commenters on Facebook say the drive is a beloved family tradition for many folks in the area.
In Indianapolis, scouts for Christmas light displays have lots of options. For the past couple of years local experts have cited these addresses as guaranteed to impress: 9424 E. 25th St., 2405 Tulip Drive South, and Reynolds Farm Supply at 12501 Reynolds Drive in Fishers.
Iowa wins the day in literalism for hosting a "City of Christmas." This holiday attraction -- in Keokuk at Rand Park -- runs through late December and features a village devoted to religious and non-religious aspects of Christmas. Keokuk has put on this festival for about three decades.
Kansas City makes a good showing for free residential holiday displays. The Deckard family tends to outdo themselves -- and their neighbors -- at 3141 South 46th Terrace, and there's an unusual all-roof display at 9525 West 47th St. in neighboring Shawnee. With every winter season, families seem to get more and more involved in the informal competition, and Kansas Travel keeps tabs on the best. Prepare for some traffic, as these are beloved institutions in the area.
Go Christmas caving at the Louisville Mega Cavern, an underground limestone quarry converted into a tourist attraction with a zip line and ropes course. Between Nov. 20 and Jan. 3 it also gets transformed into an enormous holiday light display. The half-hour drive through "Lights Under Louisville" spans 17 miles and features more than 2 million lights and 850 illuminated characters. Visitors must pay $25 per carload, though coupons are available at local Wendy's restaurants. USA Today named the attraction one of the top 10 spots across the nation for families to see Christmas lights.
The historic city of Natchitoches, the oldest settlement within the 1803 Louisiana Purchase area, has thrown a Christmas Festival for nearly 90 years. Residents use more than 300,000 lights to decorate their homes and properties along Cane River Lake, and visitors can tour the displays free. Some special events (through Jan. 6) cost a few dollars per person.
Locals love the Norton Lights display at 213 Canterbury Lane in Wells, begun in 2006 when brothers Jon and Stan competed to see who could make the best yard display. Now family members run Christmas and Halloween light shows using computerized animation and radio syncing. Donations at the Christmas show, which runs from mid- to late December, have gone to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Maine.
Known as "Christmas Street," West 34th Street in the Hampden area of Baltimore has made a tradition of glitzy displays for 69 years. The online real estate brokerage Redfin has repeatedly named it one of the country's top five displays, noting that visitors will find the most lights at the 700 block between Keswick Road and Chestnut Avenue through Jan. 1.
Lynn Fells Parkway in Saugus stands out among light displays in the Boston area. Several residents along the road transform their houses for the holidays, starting with numbers 7, 16 and 22 (which share a driveway), and 401. They've received local media coverage and have established themselves as a sightseeing draw between Thanksgiving and New Year's.
David Mikowski of Traverse City makes a science out of Christmas decorating. He formerly wowed crowds in Alaska, and has returned to the hobby since relocating to northern Michigan. He has engineered a computer system to orchestrate a 10,000-light and music show at his house at 9061 Kimberly Lane. He told a local newspaper it takes about 50 hours to set up, and he has even bigger plans -- unless neighbors protest.
It's hard to pick a best of the best local displays, but the Burnsville neighborhood south of St. Paul-Minneapolis encourages one-upmanship by holding an annual contest that includes gift card prizes for winners. Check out Knob Hill Road and Aspen Drive, to the west of Parkwood Drive, for some of the top competitors.
Every year the Langley family turns their home at 7004 Bentwood Drive in Moss Point into a display dubbed "The Lights Before Christmas." Before driving by, be sure to first check the traffic cam on the attraction's website -- and turn car headlights off to watch the light show, which is choreographed to music. Donations are collected for the charity Backpack Buddies, dedicated to ending children's hunger.
Much of this list includes private residences, but "An Old Time Christmas" at Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson deserves a mention. Every November and December, the park -- which incorporates many aspects of Ozark culture and heritage -- throws a Christmas celebration including something like 5 million lights and a holiday tree five stories high.
Anyone near Missoula will want to stop at 320 N. Washburn St., the home of Dave and Ricki Koch. The couple has been adding to their festive display since the 1980s. While there, check out the nearby loop down South Russell Street at South 8th Street, where many other residents also participate in the holiday fun.
The capital city of Lincoln features several houses noteworthy for their holiday décor. In the southeast, 5521 Pawnee St. transforms into "The Enchanted Forest" each year, with more than 11,000 lights draped over the trees, lawn, and fences. In the northeast, 2430 Dorothy Drive is particularly kid-friendly, usually featuring cartoon characters and trains.
Las Vegas gets its fame largely from the lights on The Strip, but locals also know how to put on holiday light shows. The honor of must-see house has to go to Sin City Holiday Lights, in the Sun City Summerlin neighborhood. Each year the owners put together a lavish display of more than 25,000 lights (including spotlights), music, and more at 4434 Rehoboth Bay St.
The Gift of Lights in Loudon at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway gets rave reviews from Yankee magazine for its elaborate decorations and setting. This is a drive-through light show with more than 1 million lights stretching over two miles. The event is in gear until Jan. 2, and tickets are $5 cheaper per car on select weekdays.
New Jersey does grandiose, showy Christmas décor right. In Hamilton, don't miss 21 Phillips Ave., where owner Bob Martel's self-named "Winter Wonderland" continues to impress. The Pitman Grove area features another "Winter Wonderland" -- that of the residents of North Avenue, headed by the Hagerty family but now spread across at least eight yards. Santa stops by both.
Lots of magical events transpire in New Mexico in December, but at the top of the list is Glow, the holiday light extravaganza at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden. There is live music on select nights and Santa visits for photos. Admission prices for the event (Dec. 3 to Jan. 2) are $9 or less.
The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is an icon, but the outer boroughs have holiday spectacles too. In Brooklyn, Dyker Heights puts on a neighborhood extravaganza (83rd to 86th streets between 11th and 13th avenues) that inspired a PBS documentary called "Dyker Lights" in 2001. In Queens, the lights at 166th Street and 23rd Avenue in Whitestone get increasingly elaborate every year. Finally, the Pelham Gardens area of the Bronx holds the strange and wonderful home of the Garabedian family, collectors of dolls, nativity scenes, and curios stylized as a holiday soiree since 1974 at 1605 Pelham Parkway North at Westervelt Avenue.
With a nickname like "Christmas Town USA," McAdenville, a small town outside Charlotte, better deliver on holiday décor -- and it does. This town's massive winter overhaul, begun in 1956, involves 375 lit trees and hundreds of thousands of lights maintained by local volunteers, including most of the area's 650 or so residents. The free display (Dec. 1-26) draws some 600,000 visitors a year.
While braving the Dakotan winter, guests can check out "Holiday Lights 4 U" on Columbine Lane in Bismarck. Designed by a mechanical engineering student, the show runs on a loop nightly through New Year's Day and features tens of thousands of lights twinkling to a genre-hopping soundtrack.
Impressive options abound throughout the state, but Seabury Avenue in Fairview Park, outside Cleveland, takes the fruitcake -- thanks to resident Bill McVicker, continuing work his grandfather began more than five decades ago. Close to 50 households participate, chipping in a bit to extend the light show farther every year.
A display on the 2100 block of North Markwell Avenue in Oklahoma City has spread across seven houses, while the Downs family strings up more than 18 miles' worth of lights at 2900 72nd Ave. SE and collects donations for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. Both are synchronized to music that plays on car radios -- FM 102.3 and 99.9, respectively.
Peacock Lane in Portland has earned an online fan base and about 10,500 Facebook likes for street decorations dating to the 1920s. Expect lights, trees, nativity scenes, Santas and more -- along with record-breaking crowds that have recently compelled police to take over traffic management while the heavily attended attraction is open, Dec. 15-31. The nights of Dec. 18-20 are reserved for pedestrians only.
The 1600 block of 13th Street in South Philadelphia, called the "Miracle on South 13th Street," was named one of Redfin's top five displays in the country in 2013. Most residents participate in decking out the block with lights, inflatable characters, and all sorts of festive décor. The 18-year tradition includes a car radio broadcast to 105.5 FM.
The Crazy Christmas House at 265 Maple Valley Road in Coventry puts on a spectacular annual light show seven evenings a week during the holiday season. Fanatics Joey Conway and Tyler Horrocks have combined forces to build amazing structures -- such as Queen Elsa's fabulous tower from "Frozen" in 2014 -- and take advantage of computer technology to put on a drive-through display until January.
Public parks throughout the state put on lavish Christmas light parades, but residential efforts include the simple "Light Bright" house at 158 Pendock Lane in Piedmont (which boasts a 20-foot "mega tree") and "The Sound of Lights" at 527 Sumter St. in Greenville, with some 40,000 lights. Both have synchronized music broadcast to car radios.
Falls Park on the Big Sioux River may merit a visit any time of year, but the holiday season adds a particular enchantment. Besides hanging more than 350,000 lights and decorating hundreds of trees and landmarks, the park brings in live reindeer and sets the mood with holiday music for car radios at 97.7 FM. Entrance remains free during the Winter Wonderland (through Jan. 10).
Christmas lighting enthusiasts in the Nashville metro area unite for massive residential displays in two locations: Sparrow Street in Spring Hill and Old Charlotte Pike in Franklin. Viewing is free, but donations are requested to benefit the nonprofit GraceWorks Ministries. The two events use a combined 80,000-plus lights.
The Hyde Park neighborhood in Austin gets top marks for its holiday lights. Participating houses line 37th Street between Guadalupe and Home streets, drawing tens of thousands of visitors a year. Reflecting Austin's quirky, eclectic vibe, residents consider the tradition an extravagant art form rather than a religious celebration.
The green and red sign hung between streetlights proclaims a cul-de-sac in Salt Lake City "Christmas Street" every December. In the neighborhood of Sugar House, starting at 1500 East and 1735 South, this string of festively lit homes can be driven or walked. It borders Bible Street, where the households display Biblical stories on illuminated signs in their lawns.
Vermont seemingly prefers to keep Christmas simple and classic. Neither Yankee magazine nor the Tacky Light Tour website could find a showy light display to feature in the state. The Hoskings' home at 355 River Road in Essex Junction drew local attention a few years back with an annual yard display of 11,000 lights.
Sure, the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. throw up some pretty decent holiday décor. But the D.C. area has much more to offer. In Virginia, Alexandria's Collingwood Road has received accolades. Don't miss 1601 Collingwood, where owner Bill Vaughan put up no less than 88 leaping deer shapes one year, among thousands of other lights, or 2507 Fairview Drive and 5601 Hereford Court.
Hip Seattleites know to head to the Olympic Manor neighborhood near Greenwood for a holiday light spectacle. Inflatables, lights, and Christmas trees line the streets, and dozens of homes in the area participate starting in mid-December. Start at NW 85th Street and 23rd Avenue NW. It's common to see limousines making the rounds through the neighborhood.
For a spectacular lights display in Bluefield, visit the Holiday of Lights at Lotito City Park. More than 600,000 lights decorate more than 40 acres of the park and a 1.5-mile driving path. This year, guests can also enjoy walk-through nights every Sunday, and there are hayrides with hot chocolate every Saturday for $3. Besides that, admission to the Holiday of Lights is free, but the park will accept cash donations for operational costs and canned goods for the Bluefield Union Mission.
Some of the most celebrated homeowner Christmas light displays have gone up in East Madison, at 2550 Upham St. and 2218 Center Ave., and in Monona, at 907 Progressive Lane and 4205 Maher Ave. Madison's Olin Park hosts the free "Fantasy in Lights," a 27-year tradition open dusk to dawn through Jan. 3.
Cheyenne hosts a slew of holiday events, including a Holiday Lights Tour Dec. 12-24 where visitors can catch a trolley spotlighting the most lavishly decked out houses in town. Buy tickets in advance -- $12 for adults, $6 for children -- for evening tours leaving from the Sears at Frontier Mall. The Historic Governors' Mansion at 300 E. 21st St. has a free light display and historical exhibit of old-fashioned gifts.