You’ll find the best holiday lights in the US in these 13 towns
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There are Christmas lights, and there are Christmas lights.
You know the ones: You can’t drive by without saying “whoa” and slowing down your car to take in the scene. In fact, you may have went out of your way to drive and see them in the first place.
Well, these Christmas lights put those to shame.
We’ve rounded up some of our favorite Christmas installations from around the country to get you into the holiday spirit. No matter what part of the country you’re in, there’s likely something for you here — and if not, it sounds like it’s time for a road trip.
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Glow Holiday in Nashville, Tennessee
GLOW Holiday is one of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit this season. Here, you’ll find a skating rink, tube park and even Santa’s workshop, among plenty of other activities. The centerpiece, naturally, is a massive Christmas tree, a 100-foot-tall sculpture (more than 20 feet higher than the Nashville Sounds’ iconic guitar scoreboard). Make sure to catch it before it closes on Dec. 31.
Night of Lights in St. Augustine, Florida
It may not snow in Florida, but the Night of Lights sure does make it feel like Christmastime. Every evening through Feb. 2, visit the Plaza de la Constitución and the Bridge of Lions to see one of National Geographic’s top 10 holiday light displays. There are even live music performances in the plaza during weekends and holidays. It’s free to everyone and sure to please children and adults of all ages. Better yet, you don’t even need tickets to see it. You can tour by trolley, train, boat — or even do a wine and carriage tour or luxury golf cart.
Lights of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, New York
Move over, Rockefeller Christmas tree. Some of the best Christmas lights you’ll find in the Big Apple are in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn — specifically from 11th Avenue to 13th Avenue and between 83rd and 86th Streets. About an hour from midtown Manhattan, these massive, professionally-done light displays shine brighter than the top of the Chrysler Building. In fact, some of them are expected to cost more than $20,000.
ZooLights at Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
No visit to the nation’s capital during the holidays is complete without a trip to see the ZooLights. Until Jan. 1, the National Zoo is decked out with more than 500,000 (environmentally-friendly!) LED lights. This year, you can also enjoy dozens of large, glowing animal lanterns and stroll through thousands of reflecting lights. It’s all part of the interactive art exhibit called “Entre Las Rangs.”
Hershey Park’s Sweet Lights in Hershey, Pennsylvania
What’s sweeter than chocolate? Not much, but if we had to guess, we’d say something that has to do with chocolate and the holiday season — and at Hershey Park‘s Sweet Lights, you’ll get just that. Here, you can take a drive through two miles of wooded trails as you enjoy nearly 600 animated and illuminated displays. Tickets start at $19.15 for a single car. Times vary by day, but generally run from 5 p.m. to as late as 11 p.m. You’ll want to check out the schedule here first.
Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights in Wheeling, West Virginia
The Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights in Wheeling, West Virginia dates all the way back to 1985 and currently stands as one of the nation’s largest holiday light shows. In fact, it’s so popular it attracts more than one million visitors a year! The festival features three hundred acres of twinkling lights over a six-mile drive, plus 90 lighted attractions made up of more than one million energy-efficient LED lights. It gets better: You can now experience it all in 3D with the aptly-named “Sleigh Bans.” The festival runs through Jan. 5 and is free to the public, although they suggest a donation of $30 per car.
Christmastown USA in McAdenville, North Carolina
A town called “Christmastown“? You’ve got our attention. McAdenville, North Carolina is celebrating its 64th year of well, celebrations. In fact, it’s frequently nominated as one of the best holiday light displays in the nation. There’s even an annual production of the Nutcracker Ballet. This year, it’s happening on Monday, Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. At Christmastown, you’ll find over 250 evergreen trees covered with more than 500,000 red and green lights; 160 decorated homes; and seasonal music at its historic McAden Mills Bell Tower. It’s free and open to the public, and you can walk or drive through as many times as you’d like.
Glittering Lights in Las Vegas, Nevada
Glittering Lights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a Christmas tradition — and it’s not just because of the millions of twinkling lights. This drive-through light show also hosts different initiatives to support local charities, churches and schools. Speedway Children’s Charities in particular receives a portion of each ticket sold. According to the site, “Glittering Lights and the PJ5K makes up the largest portion of money the charity grants each year to 50 plus children’s charities in Southern Nevada.” We love a holiday tradition that also gives back to the community. Tickets start at $20 for both weekday value tickets and the Santa Tram; you can view more information here.
An Old Time Christmas in Branson, Missouri
An Old Time Christmas, at the Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson, is a tried-and-true fan favorite. Here, you’ll find a brand-new, eight-story Christmas tree display — the centerpiece to the Joy on Old Town Square exhibit. Be sure to check out the Christmas in Midtown Light Spectacular, too. It’s a 6.5-million light parade featuring Rudolph™ The Red-Nosed Reindeer that’s sure to bring out the Christmas spirit in the biggest Grinch you know. Just note, though, that Silver Dollar City is closed Mondays (through Dec. 16), Tuesdays (through Dec. 10) and select Wednesdays (Nov. 6, 13 & Dec. 25). Tickets start at $50.
Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston, South Carolina
Find another spirited festival that’s open nightly until Dec. 31 in Charleston, South Carolina. You can park your car and explore a 50-ton sand sculpture, an up-close look at the lights on board a holiday train, sweets from Santa’s Sweet Shoppe and even a visit with Santa Claus. Of course, there are plenty of light fixtures (hello, dancing Christmas trees!) to delight your entire family. There’s also a calendar filled with performances and activities, such as magic shows and story time. Admission starts at $20 per vehicle. It’s open from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m Sunday to Thursday, and 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Christmas Village in Baltimore, Maryland
If you can’t make it to one of Germany’s famous Christmas markets this year, don’t worry. The aptly-named Christmas Village in Baltimore is the next best thing — in fact, it’s even modeled after the famous Christkindl Market in Nuremberg. It features 50 vendors selling authentic European food, ornaments and arts and crafts from all over the world. There’s also plenty of shopping to do, with international holiday gifts, ornaments, jewelry and arts and crafts up for sale. You’ll want to go sooner rather than later, though: It only runs through Dec. 24.
Garden Lights, Holiday Nights at Atlanta Botanical Garden
At Garden Lights, Holiday Nights, you’ll find thousands of lights spread out across 30 acres of gardens. Yes, it’s even more magical than you’re imagining. It’s all part of the Nature’s Wonders exhibit, the largest curtain of synchronized light and sound in the world. You can also visit the Skylights Lounge where you’ll find several larger-than-life plants from Imaginary Worlds: Alice’s Wonderland. Pair that with some s’mores and warm beverages, and you’re looking at a great way to spend a date night or family outing. Tickets start at $19.95 for adults and $16.95 for children. The event runs nightly through Jan. 11.
Christmas Boat Parade in Newport Beach, California
California may not be getting a White Christmas anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean they’re not getting in the holiday spirit. From Dec. 18 to Dec. 22, you’ll want to catch a glimpse of the 111th Christmas Boat Parade. Over a million people come out to watch the decorated boats, yachts, kayaks and canoes. The best part? It’s totally free, although you’ll want to give yourself some extra time for travel and parking.
Featured photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images.