The Most Magical Holiday Light Show in Every State (#32 Is on Our Bucket List)

Join us on a coast-to-coast tour of the nation's most breathtaking holiday light extravaganzas.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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‘Tis the season for bundling up for a walk under the twinkle of holiday lights. Many families make it a tradition to visit their city’s most impressive lights display every year.

With a hot chocolate in hand and a chill in the air, strolling beneath the festive lights of winter seems like the official start to the holiday season.

Whether you tour a downtown display or seek the peace of a botanical garden lit up for the holidays, you can step up your travel game by visiting one of these iconic holiday light shows.

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Alabama: Galaxy of Lights, Huntsville

GENETTICA/Adobe family looking at chistmas tree

The Galaxy of Lights in Huntsville, A, brings a dazzling display of lights to the magic of the Huntsville Botanical Garden.

You can walk through or drive, and there are even nights to bring your festive pups.

Alaska: Downtown Anchorage Holiday Lights

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The holiday tree in downtown Anchorage is a favorite of Alaskans, and it’s the cherry on top of a beautifully decorated downtown area.

You can stroll around admiring the colorful lights, hot chocolate in hand, and feel like you’ve truly found the holiday spirit.

Arizona: Glendale Glitters

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Glendale Glitters has lit up the Arizona sky throughout the holiday season for three decades.

With a tree and a wonderland of lights, in addition to a night market and ice skating, this is one of the most festive spots in Phoenix.

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Arkansas: Garvan Woodland Gardens Holiday Lights, Hot Springs

Richard/Adobe christmas lights in hot springs

The holiday lights in Garvan Woodland Gardens are one of the most magical spots in Arkansas throughout December.

Grab a hot chocolate at the Chipmunk Cafe, then take in the beauty of all the colors.

California: Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn, Riverside

Kit Leong/Adobe historical mission inn

For 31 years, the Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn at Riverside has been a favorite of Californians, and it’s even been voted "Best Public Lights Display" by USA Today.

From the nutcrackers that greet you at the door to the unique mission-inspired take on lights, this is a must-visit.

Colorado: Blossoms of Light, Denver Botanic Gardens

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You’ll find a twinkling wonderland of colorful lights at the Blossoms of Light display at Denver Botanic Gardens.

Make an evening of it by grabbing holiday treats and warm drinks at their Offshoots Café or the Hive Garden Bistro.

Connecticut: Fantasy of Lights, New Haven

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The drive-through Fantasy of Lights display is a holiday tradition beloved by those in New Haven, CT, who love bringing their families back year after year.

The Goodwill of Southern New England runs the event, so you know your ticket purchase is going toward a good cause.

Delaware: Holiday Magic at Riverbright, Wilmington

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A two-mile stretch of Wilmington’s Riverwalk is transformed into a vibrant and festive celebration at the holidays.

Depending on the day, you may meet Santa or stop by Merry Mugs at the mini-golf course to pick up a seasonal hot chocolate.

Florida: St. Augustine's Nights of Lights

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National Geographic says it’s one of the top ten light displays in the world, and that’s reason enough to check out St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights.

This magical celebration feels even more festive, set against the backdrop of one of the country’s oldest cities.

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Georgia: Atlanta Botanical Garden's Garden Lights, Holiday Nights

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Illuminated metal birds and deer by Cédric Le Borgn and a white rabbit in the Skyline Garden Pond are two of the installations that make Garden Lights, Holiday Nights in Atlanta, one of the most unique holiday lights experiences.

Hawaii: Honolulu City Lights

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It doesn’t need to be cold to have a wonderful holiday lights display! Honolulu’s City Lights is a festive occasion that brings locals and tourists alike to admire the color and magic.

As they say in the Aloha State, “Mele Kalikimaka!”

Idaho: Winter Garden aGlow in Idaho Botanical Garden, Boise

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Boise’s Winter Garden aGlow event has all the magic of the holidays, from twinkling lights with cookies and hot chocolate to a Snow Globe Bar, letters to Santa, and a Gingerbread Village.

Illinois: Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden

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While the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is a favorite in Chicago, the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lightscape goes all season long.

This enchanting trail is a modern, artful spin on the traditional botanical garden lights festival.

Indiana: Christmas at the Zoo, Indianapolis

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For 55 years, the Indianapolis Zoo has welcomed visitors to enjoy the zoo underneath the twinkle of lights.

There’s also Santa’s Village, featuring the Polar Pathway, Penguin Encounter, and more.

Iowa: Jolly Holiday Lights, Des Moines

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Sponsored by Make-A-Wish Iowa, Jolly Holiday Lights is celebrating a quarter century of bringing joy to Iowans.

This holiday event includes displays like Twinkling Snowflakes and Dolphins Pulling Santa.

Kansas: Illuminations at Botanica, Wichita

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With everything from a 62-foot Christmas tree that’s programmed to show festive images timed with music to a Candyland walk and the beloved carousel, Illuminations at Botanica is a favorite family event.

Kentucky: Lights Under Louisville at Mega Cavern

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One of the most unique holiday light displays, Lights Under Louisville, takes you literally under Louisville as you enjoy a truly breathtaking light display in a former limestone mine.

There’s even a holographic Santa that is one-of-a-kind in the United States.

Louisiana: Celebration in the Oaks, New Orleans

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Celebration in the Oaks is New Orleans’ City Parks’ largest fundraiser of the year, and it puts on an incredible 2.25-mile show with over a million twinkling lights.

You can even ride the amusement park rides while you’re there.

Maine: Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay

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With 50,000 LED lights twinkling throughout 14 acres of central gardens, it features illuminated trails and special effects.

The brilliant display of Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is one of the most vibrant and impressive that you’ll see in New England.

Maryland: Miracle on 34th Street, Baltimore

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Hampden is a neighborhood that does Christmas like no other, and its Miracle on 34th Street display is now in its 74th festive year.

Each house puts on a show, and there are performers, music-themed houses, and more.

Massachusetts: Christopher Columbus Park Trellis

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The blue sparkling trellis in Boston’s Christopher Columbus Park is one of New England's most iconic light displays, and it’s the site of proposals, wedding photos, and more each winter.

Michigan: Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo

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The annual holiday lights show at Detroit Zoo is a holiday tradition for families in Michigan.

This sparkling display features millions of lights and lets guests experience the zoo in a new way — through illuminated buildings, trees, and even a light tunnel.

Minnesota: Bentleyville Tour of Lights, Duluth

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The Bentleyville Tour of Lights is celebrating its 20th anniversary of bringing vibrantly colored holiday lights to the area.

They have attractions like Santa and Rudolph and live music from local artists and school groups.

Mississippi: Christmas in Canton

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The Canton Christmas Festival is known for its amazing and festive events and attractions.

These include Rudolph’s Playground, fire truck rides, the Christmas Village, stories with Mrs. Claus, and other festivities worthy of the North Pole.

Missouri: Anheuser-Busch Brewery Lights, St. Louis

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Brewery Lights at Anheuser-Busch is a fun way to experience the brewery like never before.

You can even buy a fire pit package to stay warm outside in the middle of winter and fully embrace the cozy, magical season.

Montana: ZooLights at ZooMontana, Billings

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10 million lights and large-scale displays make up ZooLights at ZooMontana in Billings, MT.

This winter Christmas village features areas at the zoo, including Winter Wonderland and Christmas at the Farm, as well as Frosty the Snowman and Crafts with Mrs. Claus.

Nebraska: Holiday Lights Festival, Omaha

Jacob/Adobe holiday lights illuminate the old market

For 24 years, downtown Omaha has lit up at the Holiday Lights Festival.

From a spectacular Lighting Ceremony to celebratory fireworks downtown on New Year’s Eve, the city embraces all things glittering throughout the holiday season.

Nevada: Glittering Lights, Las Vegas Motor Speedway

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As you might expect, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway lights display is a drive-through experience where you get in your car and marvel at the millions of twinkling lights surrounding you.

You can also ride an open-air tram through the 2.5-mile trail.

New Hampshire: Gift of Lights, New Hampshire Motor Speedway

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For 13 years, New Hampshire has brought festive holiday cheer to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Holiday revelers can drive through 2.5 miles of impressive, twinkling outdoor light displays.

New Jersey: Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show, Augusta

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Whether you want to roast s'mores on the fire pit, sip hot chocolate, or visit the Christmas Village, there’s something for everyone at Skylands Stadium Christmas Light Show in New Jersey.

New Mexico: River of Lights, Albuquerque

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Go on a walking tour through New Mexico’s vibrantly colored River of Lights display, which winds through Albuquerque’s beautiful botanical garden.

New York: Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting, New York City

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This is the holiday lights display to beat all holiday lights displays. Everyone should have it on their bucket list to visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree once, ideally at the lighting.

Then, lace up your skates and get the full NYC at the holidays experience.

North Carolina: Speedway Christmas, Charlotte Motor Speedway

Юля Бурмистрова/Adobe winter holidays

You can drive through or walk through this holiday lights experience at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Enjoy an illuminated walking trail, a 360-degree selfie camera in Victory Lane, and fire pits for s’mores.

North Dakota: Holiday Lights at Lindenwood Park, Fargo

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Visit Fargo’s fairgrounds for a drive-through light tour perfect for getting in the holiday spirit. There are animated displays and illuminated tunnels, and it all goes towards a good cause.

Donations go to the Fargo-Moorhead Sertoma Club, which has owned and operated the holiday lights for years, as well as to the non-profits who help work the lights display.

Ohio: Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

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Experiencing holiday lights at both a zoo and an aquarium is something that children and adults alike will enjoy.

Visit the 12 Days of Wildlights Train Ride, the Reindeer Corral, and more throughout the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Oklahoma: Rhema Christmas Lights, Broken Arrow

Igor/Adobe little girl rests on top at christmas

The dazzling Rhema Christmas Lights in Broken Arrow include millions of lights throughout a 110-acre campus, a 50-figure nativity scene, Noah’s ark and animals, horse-drawn carriage rides, and more magical holiday experiences.

Oregon: ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo, Portland

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See your favorite lights lit up in vibrantly colored displays at ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo in Portland. This is a magical experience that also lets you see the real animals after hours.

Pennsylvania: Kennywood Holiday Lights, West Mifflin

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Kennywood Holiday Lights has over two million lights, but it also has Santa and seasonal food and drink offerings that make the entire experience feel like stepping into a winter wonderland.

Rhode Island: Winter Lights Spectacular at the Providence Zoo

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Grab a gooey s’mores straight from the fire pit, then take a stroll through the stunning lights of the Winter Lights Spectacular at the Providence Zoo.

There are eye-catching and magical animal displays for when the real animals are sleeping.

South Carolina: Holiday Festival of Lights, Charleston

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From watching carolers to visiting with Santa to listening to Mrs. Claus tell stories, there’s no shortage of reasons to visit the Holiday Festival of Lights, one of the most festive events of the year in the Holy City.

South Dakota: Winter Wonderland at Falls Park, Sioux Falls

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Falls Park turns into a winter wonderland each holiday season, with 270 trees decorated, 275 light poles decorated, and 25 miles of light strings.

It’s truly a magical experience for anyone who makes this their holiday tradition.

Tennessee: Gatlinburg Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights

Irina Schmidt/Adobe preschool girl on a carousel train

Go by trolley or car to see the Gatlinburg Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights. This celebration in the mountains has light displays, animated characters, and Christmas scenes.

Taking the trolley means your hands are free to take photos and marvel at the magic of the season.

Texas: Trail of Lights, Austin

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The Trail of Lights in Austin’s Zilker Park is a beloved experience now in its 59th year.

This festive and colorful event has dazzling light displays, 90 lighted holiday trees, and over 70 other magical scenes.

Utah: Temple Square Lights, Salt Lake City

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The impressive Temple Square Lights are one of the glowiest displays in Salt Lake City, and they are open to anyone to admire on the grounds.

Vermont: Shelburne Museum Winter Lights

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Light and music come together at the Shelburne Museum Winter Lights in Shelburne, VT, with an artistic take on lights you’d expect from a museum.

You’ll find a 220-foot steamboat, Ticonderoga, an 1871 lighthouse, and installations throughout the Beach Woods and Bostwick Garden.

Virginia: Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights, Richmond

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This year’s Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has a new theme, Rhythms of Nature.

However, it still has the holiday model trains and decorations that families come for year after year.

Washington: Leavenworth Village of Lights Christmastown

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Discover an actual Christmastown in Leavenworth with carolers, a mailbox for letters to Santa, gift wrapping, choirs, and other holiday festivities.

You’ll instantly feel the warmth of the holiday season as soon as you step foot in the Village of Lights

West Virginia: Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Resort

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This 6-mile drive-through is possibly the longest of the driving winter lights experiences, and it takes you through installations, including the suspension bridge and welcome tree.

You can also bring your ice skates, try your best spins on Schenk Lake, and warm up with hot chocolate afterward.

Wisconsin: Country Christmas at the Ingleside Hotel, Pewaukee

Syda Productions/Adobe family on winter holidays

Over one million holiday lights are sprinkled throughout the mile-long trail of Country Christmas.

There’s also a Christmas Village, complete with a model train, and The Streets of Bethlehem, where you’ll find a near life-size Fontanini nativity display.

Wyoming: Jackson Hole Town Square

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If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, then visit the Jackson Hole Town Square, where you’ll likely find the snow you’ve been wishing for, along with twinkling lights that transform the town into a magical village.

Bottom line

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Every state has a holiday lights display that’s as colorful as it is festive.

So, grab your top travel credit cards and make this the year you start a family tradition of visiting the lights and strolling or driving through with a hot chocolate in hand.

Taking a moment to savor these moments is what makes the holiday season special.

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Heather Bien

Heather Bien is a writer covering personal finance and budgeting and how those relate to life, travel, entertaining, and more. With bylines that include The Spruce, Apartment Therapy, and mindbodygreen, she's covered everything from tax tips for freelancers to budgeting hacks to how to get the highest ROI out of your home renovations.