The Best Christmas Light Displays in Every State

Snow-covered decorations at Dyker Heights - a neighborhood in Brooklyn known for its extravagant displays every Christmas.
Photo: Getty Images

Whether you live in Texas, Oregon, or North Pole, Alaska, it just wouldn't be Christmastime without twinkling lights. Bulbs blinking red and green or classic white have become a part of our identity, a symbol of prosperity, holiday cheer, and end-of-the-year celebration.

Christmas lights actually have a history that dates all the way back to the pagan rituals of northern Europe. The custom of the Yule Log, a bonfire of sorts, was first recorded in the 12th century, and is thought to have served as a representation of hope that the sun would once again shine brightly, ending the darkness of December. The winter light traditions have come a long way since the 12th century, from early Yule Logs to candles on the German Christmas tree — perhaps the most flammable Christmas light iteration — to the LED displays we have today.

While travelers fly halfway around the world to see the European Christmas lights illuminating holiday markets, we have some exquisite displays right here in the U.S. Whether you prefer a sophisticated tea light-lined spectacle or a drive-through LED extravaganza, here are the best Christmas lights in every state.

Related: More holiday travel

01 of 50

Alabama

ARE13E Alabama Theodore Bellingrath Gardens Mirror Lake Magic Christmas in Lights. Image shot 2014. Exact date unknown.
© RosaBetancourt 0 people images / Alamy Stock Photo

For more than two decades, Bellingrath Gardens and Home has been the place to see holiday lights in Alabama, and their display lives up to the reputation with more than 1,100 set pieces and 3 million lights spread throughout the 65-acre estate. The Bellingrath Gardens' Magic Christmas in Lights display, now a 26-year-strong tradition, runs from the day after Thanksgiving to January 5 and is closed on Christmas and New Year's Day.

02 of 50

Alaska

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Christmas in Ice

In the town of North Pole, going all out on Christmas decorations is a given. Stop by Santa Claus House where "It's Christmas every day!" for photos with the world's largest Santa, his whole reindeer team, and the big man himself.

03 of 50

Arizona

EB32XY A Christmas tree made of tumbleweeds.
© National Geographic Image Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

No pines or spruces in your state? Simply make do with what you have à la Arizona's Tumbleweed Tree. A tradition more than 50 years running in Chandler, Arizona, the community centerpiece is, quite literally, a pile of nearly 1,000 tumbleweeds formed into a tree shape, sprayed with white paint, dusted with 65 pounds of glitter, and adorned with 1,200 lights. It's truly a sight to be seen.

04 of 50

Arkansas

Garvan Woodland Gardens in Arkansas during winter
Courtesy of Garvan Woodland Gardens

Garvan Woodland Gardens is both an architectural and botanical phenomenon, seeing as the gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas are affiliated with the University of Arkansas' School of Architecture + Design. The garden's annual Wonderland event takes place daily from mid-November to New Year's Eve and features holiday-themed art installations, plenty of lights, and nine creatively themed "worlds" within the garden.

05 of 50

California

Holiday lights decorating a boat in the Dana Point Harbor light show
Courtesy of Dana Point Harbor

When you're on the water, it doesn't get any better than a boat parade of lights. And the Southern California boat (or, let's be real, yacht) displays are pretty exceptional. The Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights is a Southern California favorite, as is the King Harbor Yacht Club parade in Redondo Beach.

06 of 50

Colorado

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
telluride.net

Colorado is known for another unusual "tree" tradition, the lighting of the ski tree. Every December, the Telluride, Colorado community gathers to light their 17-foot-tall ski tree, which is made from recycled skis and sits in the center of town. Prefer a more traditional display? Check out the Denver Botanic Gardens for their annual Blossoms of Light event.

07 of 50

Connecticut

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Holiday Light Fantasia

Hartford, Connecticut's Holiday Light Fantasia is a full-blown winter celebration with larger-than-life scenes depicting Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year's Eve. Drive through the animated displays in Goodwin Park, and keep an eye out for Flurry, a puppy donning a Santa hat, hidden amongst the lights.

08 of 50

Delaware

Delaware Christmas Tree
Courtesy of VisitDelaware.com

In Delaware, the name DuPont holds some serious weight, and that goes double when it comes to Christmas decorations. Many of the best displays in the state can be found in DuPont mansions. One of the best: Yuletide at Winterthur, featuring a Christmas tree decorated with more than 60 varieties of dried flowers.

09 of 50

Florida

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - DECEMBER 01: In this handout photo provided by Disney, Mickey and Minnie Mouse wave to the crowd while taping the "Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade" TV special in the Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World on December 1,2012 in L
Getty Images

Disney World might be called "The Most Magical Place On Earth" all year-round, but it certainly kicks the pixie dust up a notch during the holidays. Hotels and theme parks are decked out in holiday decor, and guests will find tasty seasonal snacks and festive entertainment that can only be enjoyed during the most wonderful time of the year.

10 of 50

Georgia

Atlanta's Botanical Garden with Winter Holiday Light Display
Joey Ivansco/Courtesy of Atlanta Botanical Garden

For the best Christmas lights display in Georgia, look no further than the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Their two-month Garden Lights, Holiday Nights exhibition illuminates the plant and flower-filled outdoor space. Don't miss a visit to the Skylights Lounge in the Skyline Garden.

11 of 50

Hawaii

Visitors view the annual Honolulu City Lights, a holiday season tradition, at the Honolulu City Hall grounds
Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

If you're on the island of Oahu, the best light display takes place during the month of December in Honolulu. Each year, downtown Honolulu becomes aglow with dazzling lights and Hawaii-themed holiday displays at the Honolulu City Lights, an event guaranteed to get even holiday Scrooges into the celebratory spirit.

12 of 50

Idaho

Coeur d'Alene Resort Image Library 2012
Joel Riner

Setting itself apart from the other displays in the state, Idaho's Coeur d'Alene Resort features lights on the sparkling Lake Coeur d'Alene. Take one of the resort's "merry cruise boats" to see the site's massive floating Christmas tree and the 1.5 million bulbs reflected in the water.

13 of 50

Illinois

CC5C9T Lincoln Park Christmas Zoo Lights festival. Chicago, Illinois.
© Todd Bannor / Alamy Stock Photo

Go wild this holiday with a visit to the Lincoln Park Zoo's ZooLights in Chicago. An annual Windy City tradition, the zoo features a 40-foot tall Christmas tree, 30 lit animal silhouettes, and family-friendly activities like train rides and a s'more station.

14 of 50

Indiana

This Family Light Adventure Is A 1.2-Mile Driving Journey Through Brilliant Displays Telling The Story Of Rudolph in Santa Claus Land Of Lights
Courtesy of Spencer County Visitors Bureau

As you might expect from a town named Santa Claus, this community in Indiana really goes all out for Christmas. The main event is a three-weekend-long Santa Claus Christmas Celebration that includes the story of Rudolph told in brilliant LED lights. The holiday story is told over a 1.2-mile drive near — wait for it — Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort.

15 of 50

Iowa

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Jolly Holiday Lights

Iowa's Jolly Holiday Lights reign supreme in the Hawkeye State. Featuring a 2.5 mile-ride through more than 100 light displays, a trip to Jolly Holiday Lights is also a gift to charity as 100 percent of admissions fees are donated to Make-A-Wish Iowa.

16 of 50

Kansas

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Wichita Illuminations

The honor of best Christmas lights in Kansas undoubtedly belongs to Illuminations at Botanica. Each year, more than 2 million lights completely overhaul the gardens into a Christmas-themed show.

17 of 50

Kentucky

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Lights Under Louisville

Kentucky's lights shine the brightest quite literally underground. At Lights Under Louisville, the Louisville Mega Cavern (a former limestone mine) is transformed into a 30-minute Christmas-themed car ride lit by more than 4 million points of light.

18 of 50

Louisiana

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Celebration in the Oaks

It just isn't Christmas in New Orleans until the lights at Celebration in the Oaks flip their switch. Every year, thousands of visitors pour into City Park to see the hundreds of thousands of lights twinkling throughout the oak groves.

19 of 50

Maine

Best Christmas Lights in Maine
Courtesy of Coastal Maine Botanical Garden

Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is more than your typical Christmas light experience, it's a magical, glowing forest lit by nearly 60 miles worth of lights. Gardens Aglow is open from mid-November to January 1, giving visitors the chance to see nature come to life through hundreds of thousands of lights.

20 of 50

Maryland

AMA6EJ Neighborhood Christmas decorations 34th Street Hampden Baltimore Maryland
© Vespasian / Alamy Stock Photo

Christmas descends on Annapolis in a haze of beautiful lights lining the Chesapeake Bay. The SPCA annually hosts Lights on the Bay at Sandy Point State Park, from mid-November to January 2. Pile the whole brood into your vehicle (entry is $20 per car) and drive through the stunning displays that light up Sandy Point each holiday season.

21 of 50

Massachusetts

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Bright Nights

Massachusetts' Bright Nights at Forest Park, a collaboration between the City of Springfield and Spirit of Springfield, a private non-profit organization, has been bringing light to Forest Park for over 25 years. Can't make it out this year? Check out the site's live webcam, or the virtual tour of glowing displays.

22 of 50

Michigan

BFAT78 Huckleberry Railroad and Crossroads Village, Flint, Michigan, United States of America
© Michael Snell / Alamy Stock Photo

A real-life Polar Express, Michigan's Huckleberry Railroad takes guests on a holiday-themed ride, passing by Christmas lights, and ending at the Crossroads Village. This year, visitors can take in the sights from the comfort of their cars during the Crossroads Holiday Magic Drive Thru. It runs annually from the day after Thanksgiving to December 30.

23 of 50

Minnesota

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Bentleyville

Minnesota's best holiday display is in Bentleyville — the Bentleyville "Tour of Lights" features 5 million lights spread over 20 acres. If you can make it for opening night in November, you'll catch Santa skydiving down to the event.

24 of 50

Mississippi

Canton, Mississippi Welcome Center
Courtesy of Canton Tourism

In Canton, Mississippi, the Canton Christmas Festival lights up the holiday season year after year. The festival typically begins the weekend after Thanksgiving and runs through the month of December.

25 of 50

Missouri

AJH0DD Branson Missouri Silver Dollar City
© Ilene MacDonald / Alamy Stock Photo

Branson, Missouri's Silver Dollar City is regularly hailed as one of the best Christmas destinations in the country, a title well-deserved considering the park features over 6.5 million lights. Plan your visit to Silver Dollar City's An Old Time Christmas, where every nook and cranny is illuminated by those six million lights, and don't miss the nightly Christmas In Midtown Light Spectacular, a nightly parade where good ol' Rudolph makes an appearance. An Old Time Christmas runs from early November to the end of December each year.

26 of 50

Montana

Illuminated Christmas tree in snow at dusk
Stephen Simpson/Getty Images

Here's a fun fact: Bozeman, Montana is known around the state for having the best Christmas lights. From Shadow Glen Drive to West Babcock Street to Powder Ridge Avenue, there are a handful of must-visit Bozeman streets where you'll find some of the best Christmas lights in the state. Tune into the local radio station (XL Country 100.7) where they'll guide you to the city's best lights.

27 of 50

Nebraska

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Holiday Lights Festival

The tagline for the Omaha Holiday Lights Festival is "see downtown dazzle," and with over 40 blocks of bulbs, it certainly lives up to that promise. While the event's main location, Gene Leahy Mall, is under construction, get your fill of twinkly lights at Old Market or the North and South Omaha lighting displays.

28 of 50

Nevada

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
© ShotsFiredPhotos.com

Kick your Christmas up a notch at Glittering Lights at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a 2.5-mile course featuring over three million lights and 400 animated displays. But lead-foots, take a breath before you floor it —the event isn't on the racing track, so speed limits are still enforced.

29 of 50

New Hampshire

Goodwin Mansion Garden in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Courtesy of Portsmouth

Few things beat Christmas in New England, from the idyllic snow-capped homes to the surplus of hot cider. In New Hampshire, find the coziest, hygge-esque holiday cheer in Portsmouth at Strawbery Banke Museum. The museum's after-dark celebration is right at the heart of Portsmouth's famed "Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth" and takes place on select days in December.

30 of 50

New Jersey

Light display at Storybook Land in New Jersey
Courtesy of Storybook Land

For some of the best Christmas lights in New Jersey, head to Egg Harbor Township to experience the magic of Storybook Land. Here, Santa lights the park nightly, bringing to life over one million lights that instantly spread cheer across the Garden State.

31 of 50

New Mexico

EAMCPP Albuquerque, NEW MEXICO, USA. 17th Nov, 2014. 111714.A man walks in front of the gates of the Moorish Garden that is part of this year's River of Lights at the Albuquerque Bio Park Botanical Garden .Photographed on Sunday November 16, 2014. /Adolph
© ZUMA Press Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

There are a few neighborhoods New Mexicans trek to see during the holidays, like Cabezon, a neighborhood outside Rio Rancho that goes all out with light displays, and Sandia Heights, in Albuquerque, where the upscale houses are lavishly decorated for the season. But one of the best light displays is in Old Town Albuquerque, where the historic storefronts and buildings are decked out with holiday spirit. At the Old Town Holiday Stroll in early December you'll feel like you're ambling through a southwestern Christmas postcard.

32 of 50

New York

DWAKRX Christmas lights in Brooklyn New York
© Randy Duchaine / Alamy Stock Photo

Move over Rockefeller, the real highlight of New York's Christmas spirit is out in Dyker Heights. Homeowners in the Brooklyn neighborhood are said to have an unspoken competition, continuing to up the ante annually with over-the-top lights, professionally-created displays, and inflatable lawn ornaments.

33 of 50

North Carolina

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Tanglewood Park

The Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights is extremely popular, and with good reason. The beautiful North Carolina countryside park is filled with over a million lights, which visitors can explore by car, tractor-pulled hayride, or horse-drawn carriage. While you're in the area for the festival between mid-November and January 1, stop by Wake Forest University to see the stunning traditional Moravian star lit above Wait Chapel.

34 of 50

North Dakota

Spring Lake Park in Williston, North Dakota
Courtesy of Williston CVB

Every December, Spring Lake Park sparkles with thousands of twinkling lights, all a part of the annual Holiday Lights Drive. Guests to the park can enjoy themed nights and even catch one of the ice carving demos scheduled throughout the season.

35 of 50

Ohio

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Flickr

At Ohio's famed Clifton Mill, over 4 million lights illuminate the building, the gorge, and nearby trees, but the real highlight is a 100-foot "waterfall" of twinkling lights. After experiencing the Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill, which are illuminated from the day after Thanksgiving to December 30, peek inside Santa's Workshop, where you might find the big guy checking his list.

36 of 50

Oklahoma

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Jeremy Charles

Three million lights decorate Rhema Bible School during the holidays, with walk-through tunnels, an illuminated Nativity scene, and a Christmas tree forest delighting the more than 500,000 visitors they expect each year.

37 of 50

Oregon

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Peacock Lane

The Umpqua Valley Festival of Lights is a hit among Disney-loving kids (and adults with a soft spot for Frozen). The display of 500,000 lights and 90 animated displays features Frozen characters. The drive-through exhibition costs just $10 per car with all proceeds going to worthy local organizations.

38 of 50

Pennsylvania

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Getty Images

Koziar's Christmas Village in Bernville is a cozy annual tradition that comes to life in early November and continues through January 1. When the event started in 1948, it featured William and Grace Koziar's gorgeous decorated "Christmas House," but over the years, the Koziars have expanded, decorating nearby barns, walkways, and trees to create an entire Christmas Village.

39 of 50

Rhode Island

Newport Mansions in Rhode Island decorated with holiday lights
Courtesy of Newport Mansions Preservation Society

For many, the more Christmas lights the better. But a holiday trip to the Newport Mansions offers up a refined and subtle approach to the holiday magic. The event features 28 themed Christmas trees, including an impressive, 15-foot poinsettia tree made up of 150 poinsettia plants.

40 of 50

South Carolina

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Getty Images

Candles might not burn as bright as LED lights, but that doesn't mean Brookgreen Gardens' Nights of a Thousand Candles are any less magical. Grab a warm apple cider and stroll through the grounds, which are illuminated by more than 2,800 hand-lit candles (in addition to thousands of sparkling lights).

41 of 50

South Dakota

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Capital Pierre

A winter wonderland awaits in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. For the 18th year, 23-miles of light strings, 250 decorated trees, and multiple animated light features will put the holiday loving city of Sioux Falls on the map. The event runs from mid-November to early January, and the best spot to take it all in is from the five-story viewing tower, which gives guests a 360-degree view of the spectacle.

42 of 50

Tennessee

F00XXJ Christmas at Opryland's Delta Atrium, Nashville, Tennessee
© J. Carlee Adams / Alamy Stock Photo

Home to the original Country Christmas, Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Resort has evolved from a simple light display to a veritable winter wonderland. At the holiday-light-laden resort you'll experience more than 17 hours of holiday themed activities, shows, and events — and of course, a visit with Santa.

43 of 50

Texas

December 3014 Zilker Park Trail of Lights Austin, Texas
EUGENE BROTHERMANROUND

The Austin Trail of Lights is more carnival than Christmas light display. At the drive-through event, you'll see more than 2 million lights and 60 displays in the beautiful Zilker Park.

44 of 50

Utah

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Christmas In Color

While the concept of a drive-through display is nothing new, Utah's Christmas in Color is taking the idea to a whole new level with light tunnels, giant candy canes, and synchronized music-and-light sequences featuring more than 1 million holiday lights. Drive through from mid-November to early January.

45 of 50

Vermont

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Wassail Weekend

Large-scale displays are few and far between in Vermont, but Woodstock's Wassail Weekend, a holiday celebration that borrows tradition from the 19th century, features seasonally-inspired a capella performances, luminaries, and plenty of activities. Don't look now, but there are the chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Jack Frost nipping at your nose.

46 of 50

Virginia

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Flickr

Sure, Virginia has plenty of pristine houses decorated with all-white strands, but Richmond's famed Tacky Lights Tour is just so much more fun. For years, the Richmond Times-Dispatch has published a list of the best tacky lights in town. Cruise by all the tacky light hotspots in your own car, or book a Tacky Lights Tour via bus or even limousine.

47 of 50

Washington

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
The Lights of Christmas

With over a million lights spread across 15 acres, The Lights of Christmas in Stanwood is a drive-through event that features dazzling light displays, Santa and Mrs. Claus, and plenty of yummy snacks for the drive.

48 of 50

West Virginia

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Oglebay

Oglebay's Winter Festival of Lights is one of the country's largest displays, with more than a million LED lights stretching across 300 acres at Wheeling Park. From early November to early January, cruise the full scene (which includes light tunnels and 90 lighted attractions) from the comfort of your car.

49 of 50

Wisconsin

The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
Wisconsin Tourism

With half a million lights, carriage rides, and Santa's workshop, the Oshkosh Celebration of Lights is one of the hottest tickets in town. Even better, the event donates to the Salvation Army and other nonprofit organizations that support local families in need. The Menominee Park celebration runs from the day after Thanksgiving until early January.

50 of 50

Wyoming

Downtown city at Cheyenne Wyoming WY
Dennis Macdonald

Upgrade your Christmas light tour experience with a trolley ride on the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley during the annual Holiday Light Tour. From early December to early January, grab a ticket and hop on board to see some of the best light displays in Wyoming.

Updated by
Evie Carrick
Evie Carrick

Evie Carrick is a writer and editor who's lived in five countries and visited well over 50. She's skied out of a camper van in the Japanese Alps, overcome dengue fever in Indonesia, lived in a tent on a beach in Martinique, and studied yoga in India. Evie began writing for Travel + Leisure in 2019 while living in Paris. She started as a daily news writer and has since transitioned to becoming a regular contributor, covering everything from après-ski hot spots to tips for camping with your dog. Her true passion is affordable travel and travel hacks, especially when it comes to pricier destinations like Paris and Tokyo, two of her favorite cities in the world. She now splits her time between a small town outside Telluride, Colorado, and Paris, France. In addition to Travel + Leisure, Evie covers travel for BuzzFeed and Outside, and was a regular contributor to Vice. She is also the editorial director for magazines in Jackson Hole, Park City, and Telluride. * 10+ years of experience working as a writer and editor * 5+ years of experience covering travel — specifically ski destinations, flights, travel hacks, mountain town lifestyle, and all things Japan and France * Editor for print magazines in Jackson Hole, Park City, and Telluride * Studied journalism at the University of Denver and publishing at New York University

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles