25 over-the-top Christmas displays from across America
Published 3:30 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2023
25 over-the-top Christmas displays from across America
As soon as the final slice of pumpkin pie is served (and sometimes before), radio stations start playing Christmas music around the clock, wreaths crop up on neighbors’ doors, and twinkly lights shine in storefronts. While many folks who celebrate Christmas put up something festive for the holiday season, some residents go all out with light shows set to music and larger-than-life, winter-themed inflatables.
To celebrate holiday lovers whose decorations rival the North Pole, Stacker scoured the internet to find 25 incredible Christmas displays across the United States. Some are neighborhoods that band together to put on a blockslong show in December, while others are holiday-themed landmarks that keep their festive spirit going year-round. Admirers can visit some of the displays on this list for free, just by driving or walking through the neighborhood, while others are ticketed attractions.
Each of the Christmas displays included puts its spin on the holiday season. From an open-air Santa tram to a holiday light tour focusing on intentionally tacky displays, each landmark on this list takes an altogether different approach. Read on to discover where you might be able to check out an incredibly elaborate light display nearby.
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Arthur Street in Danvers, Massachusetts
On a quaint street in Danvers, Massachusetts, one family lights up their home at Christmastime for a good cause. The Elliotts on Arthur Street spend about 100 hours putting up their decorations, according to CBS News Boston. The family collects donations from those eager to see the spectacular display, which has been going on for nearly two decades. All donations benefit the nearby Boston Children’s Hospital, which has helped the Elliotts’ kids and many others they know.
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Koziar’s Christmas Village in Bernville, Pennsylvania
William M. Koziar was an early adopter of outdoor Christmas lights—he began decorating his family home with the twinkly bulbs in 1948, right around the time festive light displays became more popular in North America. Each year, his display would grow and expand. Today’s decorations, now set up by third- and fourth-generation Koziars, include more than 1 million lights covering the entire valley surrounding the familial homestead.
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Candy Cane Lane in Woodland Hills, California
The intersection of Lubao Avenue and Oxnard Street in the Southern California community of Woodland Hills has become known as Candy Cane Lane, thanks to the residents’ propensity for staging elaborate Christmas displays every winter. Since 1952, displays have included allusions to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Peanuts,” and even “Star Wars.” Just drive through the neighborhood to take in the holiday magic—but not past 10 p.m. on weeknights or 11 p.m. on weekends.
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Zoo Lights at Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon
One-and-a-half million twinkly bulbs shine at Zoo Lights at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, one of the city’s most popular holiday traditions. While the menagerie’s hundreds of animals aren’t available for viewing at the after-dark event, paying patrons can enjoy plenty of holiday-themed snacks and drinks.
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St. Augustine Nights of Lights in St. Augustine, Florida
The nation’s oldest city shows off its Spanish Colonial architecture to a spectacular degree during the St. Augustine Nights of Lights. Nearly every building in town is lit with twinkling lights from mid-November through most of January. Visitors can walk around St. Augustine Nights of Lights for free or pay to book a boat tour to see the sparkling display from the water for an even more breathtaking view.
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Village of Lights: Christmastown in Leavenworth, Washington
With its Bavarian-style buildings and gazebo-filled squares, the Village of Lights: Christmastown in Leavenworth, Washington, feels like the set of a Christmas movie year-round. But when more than 500,000 LED lights cover every square inch of the village’s storefronts and trees, it truly becomes a Hallmark-worthy destination.
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ZooLights at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington DC
The Smithsonian National Zoo’s ZooLights experience isn’t just a light show. There are still enough lights to cover nearly every square inch of the park’s grounds—but there is also live music, a holiday market, and enough refreshment stands that visitors can forgo dinner. The event costs $6 per visitor, who can reserve their spots online for Friday-Sunday admission, with some added nights the week of Christmas.
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Gardens Aglow in Boothbay, Maine
With more than 750,000 lights, Gardens Aglow in Boothbay, Maine, is the state’s brightest and biggest holiday light display. The 14-acre Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens transform into a mesmerizing, twinkling spectacle for the festive season. Tickets run from $10 per child for botanical garden members to $48 for a family of four with two adults and two children.
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Christmas on Knob Hill in San Marcos, California
For more than 30 years, Bill Gilfillen on Knob Hill Road in San Marcos, California, has been lighting up San Diego County. About 10,000 visitors come from all over Southern California to check out the displays Gilfillen has been putting on since the late ’80s, growing to more than 80,000 lights, 100 plastic figures, 80 snowmen, and 100 candy canes—and the list goes on and on. Typically, Christmas lovers can check it out free of cost from Black Friday through New Year’s Eve, but in 2023, Gilfillen, the 85-year-old man known to locals as “Mr. Christmas,” is taking a break due to surgery, according to Fox 5 San Diego.
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Miracle on 34th Street in Hampden in Baltimore, Maryland
Neighbors on 34th Street in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood have decked their homes in Christmas lights for 75 years, according to CBS News Balitmore. Decorations range from traditional angels, Santas, and candy canes to uniquely Baltimore additions like crabs made out of red twinkling lights, Orioles and Ravens decor, and even a Christmas tree made of hubcaps. Anyone who wants to take in the festive street can walk by for free from the Saturday after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.
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An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri
Missouri theme park Silver Dollar City goes all out during the holidays. Attractions at the Ozark park’s Old Time Christmas celebration include an eight-story Christmas tree, a singalong steam train ride, and a Rudolph-led parade. But the most popular by far is the incredible light display, Christmas in Midtown. Silver Dollar City boasts more than 6.5 million lights, and anyone who visits through Dec. 30 can soak up the holiday magic, starting at $89.
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Glittering Lights in Las Vegas
Glittering Lights, a holiday drive-through light show at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, features more than 5 million LED lights, a living nativity scene, and an open-air Santa tram. The ride with Santa costs just under $30 for a family of four (hot cocoa and kettle corn included), while a ticket to Glittering Lights in your car will cost $39.
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Dyker Heights Christmas Lights in Brooklyn, New York
Residents of this Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood—between 11th and 13th avenues and 83rd and 86th streets, specifically—decorate their houses in over-the-top light displays and life-size characters every holiday season. Decorations usually go up the weekend after Thanksgiving, and anyone can view them on foot for free between dusk and 9 p.m. daily until the end of the year.
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Clifton Mill in Clifton, Ohio
The Clifton Mill, an Ohio grist mill that dates back to the 1800s, gets a Christmassy makeover every winter when more than 4 million lights go up on the mill, riverbanks, trees, and bridges. The display takes about three months to build every year, and visitors can take in the stunning light show set to music every night between Thanksgiving and Dec. 30 for $15 per guest. There is no charge for children 3 and under.
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Thoroughbred Holiday Lights in Rancho Cucamonga, California
About 40 miles east of downtown Los Angeles sit the quiet Thoroughbred and Jennet streets in Rancho Cucamonga, California. For nearly four decades, this ordinarily sleepy neighborhood has come alive in December with visitors looking to see the light displays put up by residents, some of whom even sell holiday snacks and drinks in front of their homes.
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Peacock Lane in Portland, Oregon
This Portland, Oregon, neighborhood filled with quaint Tudor homes has been decorating for Christmas as a group since 1932. Visitors can check out the festive decor from Dec. 15 to Dec. 31 from 6 to 11 p.m. Occasionally, the street closes to car traffic, so pedestrians can wander on foot, sipping hot cocoa and cider all the while.
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Winterlights at Naumkeag in Stockbridge, Massachusetts
The Trustees of Reservations in Massachusetts lights up three of its historic estates around Christmas as part of its Winterlights series, the most famous of which is Naumkeag in Stockbridge. The displays at the expansive home and gardens, named one of the top light displays in the country, are open in the evening from Thanksgiving through early January on Wednesdays through Sundays. Visitors can reserve tickets online for $25 to $30 per adult and $12 per child.
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Austin Trail of Lights in Austin, Texas
With more than 160 displays and 2 million lights, the annual Austin Trail of Lights in Zilker Park draws visitors from all over Texas. Revelers can also buy snacks from local food trucks, get photos with Santa, and even participate in a yearly “fun run” through the park. Entrance is free seven days out of the 14 operating days, and parking passes cost $25.
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Christmas on Temple Square in Salt Lake City
Starting the day after Thanksgiving, Temple Square in Salt Lake City becomes decked out with 1 million lights and a plethora of Christmas displays, including multiple nativity scenes. Anyone can take in the daily Christmas concerts and guided tours.
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images // Getty Images
Glow Holiday Festival in Saint Paul, Minnesota
From mid-November through New Year’s Eve, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, shines thanks to the Glow Holiday Festival. CHS Field transforms into the wintertime playground, complete with more than a million lights, a 150-foot snowy tube slide, tons of snacks, and Santa himself. Tickets cost about $13 for kids and $21 for adults.
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Winter Wonderland Festival in Caldwell, Idaho
The city of Caldwell in Idaho decorates Indian Creek Plaza annually for Christmas with over a million lights—and it’s completely free to visit. Holiday lovers can spend time ice skating, chatting with Santa, shopping, and eating during its opening weekend. The holiday lights sparkle from Nov. 17 to Jan. 8, starting at dusk nightly.
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Blossoms of Lights at the Denver Botanic Gardens in Denver
Denver Botanic Garden employees take 13 months to develop, plan, and execute Blossoms of Light, the annual Christmas lights display that has transformed the grounds into a twinkling winter wonderland since 1988. Twinkling lights cover the 24-acre property, and families can wander through the park from mid-November through the first week of January each year. Tickets cost $25 for adults and $21 for kids aged 3 to 15.
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Festival of Lights at The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, California
For the past three decades, the Festival of Lights at The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa has been a must-see winter spectacular in the inland community each year. Aside from the millions of lights covering the buildings and landscaping, there is ice skating and plenty of food vendors to round out the Hallmark-worthy experience that’s free to see from mid-November through the first week of January.
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Enchanted Forest of Light at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge, California
The Enchanted Forest of Light is an interactive event held yearly at the Descanso Gardens near Los Angeles from mid-November through the first week of January. A one-mile stretch of the grounds is divided into several sections, each with its own theme—a town of stained-glass houses, an area filled with geometric installations, a flower power show, and an ancient forest lights portion—to name a few. Guests purchase timed tickets in advance—starting at $35 for adults and $25 for kids—ensuring they’ll see everything fully without crowds blocking every jaw-dropping view.
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Celebration in the Oaks in New Orleans
The biggest fundraiser for city parks in New Orleans is the Celebration in the Oaks light show, which people can enjoy in two different ways. Attendees can elect to drive through a 2.25-mile route while listening to a local radio station that syncs festive tunes with the lights on display, or they can choose to participate in the walking tour, which includes access to 18 amusement park rides. Whichever way you decide to enjoy the more than 30-year-old event, you’re sure to have a magical time.
Additional writing by Jaimie Etkin. Story editing by Carren Jao. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn.