The Best Holiday Lights Displays in the US
With its short days and long nights, it’s easy to think of winter as a time of cold and darkness—so thank goodness for holiday lights. Across the country, communities, organizations, and businesses hang billions of brilliant lights and chase the darkness away with holiday light displays. We sought out the seven most glorious lights tours in the US, discovering everything from a subterranean wonderland to a field of sparkling cacti.
Lights Under Louisville
Louisville MegaCavern | Louisville, KY
The Louisville Mega Cavern is a manmade cave with 17 miles of underground passages that you can drive your car through. For Christmas, the 100-acre cavern lights up for Lights Under Louisville, an entirely underground lights tour with pirate ships and toy soldiers around every turn.
- Pro-Tip: It’ll take you about 30 minutes to drive through the holiday light display, so cue up a playlist in the car of your favorite holiday music.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Rockefeller Center | New York, NY
If there’s one Christmas tree everyone needs to see, it’s the 85-foot Norway spruce, aglow with holiday lights, that stands at Rockefeller Center. Tens of thousands of people now line the sidewalks to witness the tree-lighting ceremony, but it all started with a humble, 20-foot tree erected by construction workers in the midst of the Great Depression.
- Pro-tip: Once you’re done marveling at the tree, lace up your skates for a spin around the famous Rockefeller Center ice-skating rink.
The River of Lights
Rio Grande Botanic Garden | Albuquerque, NM
If a traditional holiday spruce or fir isn’t exotic enough, search for the illuminated cacti that dot Albuquerque’s Rio Grande Botanic Garden during the River of Lights. More than 400 giant sculptures dazzle visitors every year at the holiday lights festival, depicting everything from a giant T. rex to a flying pegasus.
- Pro-tip: Get there before 8 p.m. on Wednesday–Sunday, and you’ll get to see model trains chug their way through the Garden Railroad exhibit.
Blossoms of Light
Denver Botanic Gardens | Denver, CO
The Blossoms of Light show at the Denver Botanic Gardens highlights the beauty of nature. Rather than set up glowing Santas, the garden drapes holiday lights across pedestrian paths and illuminates the flowers and trees that grace the winter gardens.
- Pro-tip: Be sure to grab a pair of HoloSpex glasses, which take the displays to the next level by adding floating imagery to the colored lights.
Holiday Light Show
Smith Point County Park | Shirley, NY
The Holiday Light Show is presented by the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County, so proceeds from the event benefit the Girl Scouts’ outreach programs. During this drive-through lights tour, you’ll see festive, glowing renditions of a lighthouse, an enchanted castle, and even a replica of the Empire State Building.
- Pro-tip: Tickets are only sold at the gate, and they don’t accept cash—so make sure to have a credit or debit card on hand.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway | Las Vegas, NV
At Glittering Lights, millions of twinkling holiday lights guide visitors along a 2.5-mile drive. The custom light displays change each year, so you’ll see some new additions alongside old favorites. And on certain nights in December, local churches present a Living Nativity.
- Pro-tip: Sign up for the Santa Tram, and you can ditch your car in favor of an open-air tram complete with caroling elves and hot cocoa.
Hydrobike Holiday Lights Tour
Long Beach Hydrobikes | Long Beach, CA
For a decidedly different lights tour, hop on a floating hydrobike for this trip down the Naples canals. During the Hydrobike Holiday Lights Tour, you’ll get to ogle at the holiday light displays that bedeck the area’s million-dollar homes, and enjoy a festive snack of cookies and hot chocolate.
- Pro-tip: The hydrobikes are so buoyant you don’t need to worry about capsizing, so feel free to dress up in your favorite holiday sweater.