Everyone loves looking at lights during the holidays. The twinkling lights in the dark winter evenings, Christmas music playing softly in the background, a thermos full of hot chocolate, and the holiday spirit takes you, no matter how far away from the North Pole you may live.
Not all Christmas light displays are created equally, however. While you could travel for hours to go to an expensive theme park for an outlandish lights display, why not try these five attractions instead?
Franklin Square Holiday Festival & Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show
It shouldn’t come as a shock that a park named after someone who famously may have used a kite and a bolt of lightning to discover electricity would have a beautiful holiday light display. The lights begin November 10th through New Year’s Eve, with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas. This display contains over 50,000 ornately twinkles and dazzles to a holiday soundtrack by the city’s own Philly Pops orchestra. The lights are just one piece to the Philly’s other holiday offerings, and the display even has two alternating shows every half hour.
Crown Point Parkway Festival of Lights
In a Ron Swanson-meets-Clark Griswold turn of events, this annual Christmas light display takes place with almost an entire cul-de-sac of private homes which is opened to the public free of cost. Best of all, it is recommended that you find a place to park and walk through the transformed street. This isn’t your grandfather’s home light displays either – the neighbors use over 32,000 lights in 30 moving displays and contains over 150 different parts altogether. Even Santa himself makes a weekly visit on Friday and Saturdays. Since 1988, this display has been running from Thanksgiving night to New Year’s Day, and is not to be missed.
Magical Winter Lights, Houston Lantern Festival & Holiday Celebration
First, the bad news; unlike some of the other offerings on this list, this is a ticketed event, with prices running from $13 to $22, and that doesn’t include parking or amusement park rides. The good news is, you can save a couple bucks by purchasing ahead of time, and they’re worth the cost of admission.
This display looks like Texas’ response to Epcot in Florida. Scaled attractions of famous structures such as the Eiffel Tower and other famous landmarks, character meet and greets, and carnival rides can all be found here, as well as life-size dinosaurs. The displays are a mix of Chinese Lantern Festival, traditional big budget Christmas lights, and Texas whimsy.
Talkeetna is already a huge name in skiing destinations and a surprisingly popular choice for winter getaways. While other people may be trying to escape the cold winter weather, others prefer a truly unique winter experience. In addition to the other sports and tours, Alaska stays dark most of the time in December. This means having the unique opportunity for light viewing, both on display and above. A large draw for winter tourists is the ability to see the Northern Lights undisturbed by city lights. You can also enjoy the manmade lights during the annual December-long festival, which also includes a parade of lights, live entertainment and music, and a special winter bazaar. This may be as close to a real North Pole village as you could get, minus the elves.
Nights of Lights
St. Augustine & Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
While it can be difficult to get into the Christmas spirit in Florida, St. Augustine makes it a little easier to do so. The historic city dazzles with an annual display of over three million white twinkling lights. The city not only uses traditional displays, but illuminates some of their most famous historic landmarks, including Flagler College, the Plaza de la Constitucion, and the Lightner Museum. The twinkling begins November 19th and runs through the end of January. Although they run through most of the town’s main centers, the three core displays are Downtown, St. Augustine Lighthouse, and St. Augustine Beach. Most of the lights are available to view for free, although it’s worth the extra money to see them from the special evening trolley tour.