Where to Bring the Kids to See Holiday Lights

Luminarias in Albuquerque
Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau

Thousands of twinkling holiday lights in the dark has tremendous appeal for families at Christmastime. We rounded up some top spots to see holiday lights. Typically, holiday lights displays start mid-November and last until early January.

East Coast Holiday Light Displays

Pennsylvania: Hershey's Sweet Lights
With a nickname like "Chocolatetown USA," Hershey, Pennsylvania has a lot going for it. The town was built by a chocolate empire and is a popular place for families, thanks to Hersheypark theme park and Hershey's family-friendly hotels.

Take a two-mile drive through the woods past dozens of sparkling displays, and play Christmas carols on your car stereo.

Pennsylvania: Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights
60 miles from Pittsburgh, this festival attracts more than one million visitors to the largest holiday light show in the US. A six-mile drive passes by one million lights and 60 displays, including perennial favorites such as a massive Polyhedron Star. Open from early Nov. to early Jan.

Washington DC: Holiday Lights
Displays are at several venues, including the Winter Festival of Lights at Watkins Park in Maryland, a drive-through with more than a million holiday lights that's open from late November through January 1.

Florida: Holiday Lights
Here's a round-up of light displays. Orlando, of course, has millions of twinkles, but other places are also dazzling. For example, St. Augustine, the oldest city in the US, offers Nights of Lights all through January.

Central U.S. Holiday Light Displays

Illinois: Chicago's Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
These holiday lights get started the Saturday before Thanksgiving with a Festival and Mickey Mouse Parade, that illuminates over one million lights. Music, ice sculpting, fireworks show.

Wisconsin: Milwaukee's Holiday Lights Festival
Kick-Off Extravaganza has tree-lighting and fireworks.

The Festival has animated displays and elaborate storefronts, plus performing arts, sports events, family attractions. Board the Jingle Bus to see the sights.

Minnesota: Holiday Lights in the Twin Cities
Here are the biggest and best light displays during the holiday season.

Missouri: St. Louis' Winter Wonderland
Employees with the St. Louis County Parks Department have turned Tilles Park into a Winter Wonderland for 30 years. You can drive through the display, but the best way to see the lights is by horse-drawn carriage. Runs from Thanksgiving to New Year's.

Texas: Austin's Trail of Lights
A Grand Opening and Parade start up this annual tradition in December, which has dozens of displays and 300,000 twinkling holiday lights.

Lousiana: Festival of Lights
Held in the original French colony in Louisiana (which dates to 1714); and one of the oldest holiday celebrations, held since 1927. Christmas Festival, too, with parade, food fair, life entertainment, fireworks. Natchitoches is a small town near Shreveport, in northwest Louisiana.

West Coast Holiday Light Displays

New Mexico: Albuquerque River of Lights
A lovely aspect of Christmas in New Mexico are the "luminarias", Spanish for "little lanterns": each little paper bag contains a small candle that sits in sand (for stability).

These small flames line streets, staircases, doorways, in hundreds of thousands... You can enjoy luminaria displays in Albuquerque's Old Town or at the "River of Lights"; or in hyper-photogenic Santa Fe.

Arizona: Phoenix's Holiday Lights
Several events are recommended, including Las Noches de las Luminarias, a sellout event at the Desert Botanical Garden, which lines the paths of this extraordinary desert garden with thousands of luminarias.

Arizona: Red Rock Fantasy
Sedona is famed for its surrounding Red Rock landscapes. This festival of more than a million holiday lights has displays created by families in competition: you might find cartoon favorites, or whatever the imagination dreams up; and visitors can cast a vote for the "People's Choice" award. The event benefits local charities.

Washington: Seattle's Christmas Lights
Several local holiday light displays are recommended, including Bellevue d'Lights, a walk-through display of more than a half million lights at Bellevue Botanical Garden.

All the displays are botanical—giant butterflies, flowers, spiders set in beautiful twinkling webs, peacocks with shimmering tail feathers, and more.

California: San Diego's Best Light Displays
There are a dozen and a half holiday light displays in the San Diego area. 

– Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher