It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The holiday season has arrived in the United States, and according to a 2023 survey by Deloitte, more than half of Americans will travel for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or both.
Instead of just visiting loved ones, Deloitte reports travelers seek experiences, making trips to see Christmas light displays the perfect opportunity to travel and connect with loved ones.
Alexandrea Sumuel from Wander with Alex recommends travelers consider a trip to Norfolk, Virginia, where the city decks out the decommissioned U.S.S. Wisconsin battleship every winter with over one million holiday lights.
She boasts, “This celebration, known as Winterfest, is held at the Nauticus maritime museum and welcomes families to wander through the ship’s glowing tunnels and sparkling footbridges. Beyond the ship’s shimmering attractions, families can enjoy holiday shopping at Mistletoe Marina while watching snowflakes fall, creating the perfect waterfront winter wonderland. Don’t forget to check out the live entertainment schedule, as this year’s shows include Santa’s tree lighting, juggling acts, and the puppet version of A Christmas Carol!”
Visiting Rhema Lights in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, is a holiday tradition for many families in the Tulsa area. Beth Mueller from the Pear Tree Kitchen visits the display annually with her family. “The holiday season can’t begin without a trip through the campus,” she says. “Rhema Lights welcomes over 500,000 visitors yearly to enjoy over 2 million lights on a 110-acre church campus.”
Rhema Lights welcomes over 500,000 visitors yearly to enjoy over 2 million lights on a 110-acre church campus. Visitors can walk through the main display for an immersive experience, drive through, or take a carriage ride. The show is synchronized to Christmas music and includes many lighted sculptures, a Nativity scene, and a gingerbread house covered with lollipops and gumdrops.
Christmas Lights on Holt Road
Mikkel Woodruff, editor at Sometimes Home, recommends a trip to Apex, North Carolina, to see the Christmas Lights on Holt Road.
She says the exhibit “is a truly spectacular display of holiday sparkle. This family decorates their home and property with thousands of lights in Apex, North Carolina, adjacent to Raleigh. They power the lights and allow the public to take a ten-minute drive through their property every year from Thanksgiving weekend through the end of the year to take in the view.”
Lights Under Louisville
Kimberly Bedford from Keep Dazzling recommends a trip to Louisville, Kentucky, for some Christmas cheer. She reports that Lights Under Louisville is one of the most spectacular displays she has ever seen. Guests enjoy a 30-minute ride through the world’s only known underground holiday light show. Visitors are immersed in a 17-mile megadose of holiday cheer with 40 themed displays, 900 lit characters, and over 6.5 million lights.
Cincinnati Zoo’s Festival of Lights
According to Scott McConkey, with Miles with McConkey, the Cincinnati Zoo Festival of Lights is a “unique holiday experience where guests can see animals while walking under four million LED Christmas lights. Now in its 41st year, the event offers seasonal culinary treats, scavenger hunts, giant animal lanterns, carousel rides, and an opportunity to meet Santa.”
Cincinnati has many other holiday attractions for visitors. Guests can ice skate in Fountain Square while enjoying the decorated holiday tree surrounded by towering skyscrapers. Cincinnati’s Playhouse in the Park presents A Christmas Carol, and the Cincinnati Ballet performs The Nutcracker at Music Hall. The area has holiday train rides, Christmas tree farms, and many neighborhoods with unique holiday light displays.
American Christmas in Mount Vernon, New York, will open its 110,000-square-foot warehouse and showroom for the public for a one-of-a-kind spectacular Christmas experience through Dec. 22.
Dan Casterella, the CEO of American Christmas, says, “Holiday Lane by American Christmas was designed to provide a magical Christmas experience for visitors in a setting that is as beautiful as it is comfortable and accessible. There isn’t any other venue like it in the New York area, so it is ideal for travelers who want a holiday photo op experience close to Manhattan.”
The event showcases over 100,000 lights and more than 100 animatronics and figurines in nine uniquely themed areas.
Until Dec 30, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Desert, California, will transform into a radiant wonderland adored by Southern Californians and out-of-towners alike.
Alison Krupp, VP of Marketing and Communication says, “The Holidays are made for traditions and Wildlights at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is the Coachella Valley’s premiere holiday event. The annual holiday tradition celebrates 31 years of 3 million dazzling lights that transform the Zoo into a sparkling winter wonderland. We invite guests of all ages to come and discover the Zoo in a whole new light!”
This year, not only will the zoo have its featured activities like Santa’s sleigh, a tunnel of lights, s’more roasting, and specialty hot chocolate drinks, but attendees will also get to experience the magic at a whole new level with the introduction of a 30-foot Christmas tree. In line with true WildLights tradition, the G-scale model trains, with over 3,300 feet of track, will be adorned with festive holiday decorations.
Holiday celebrations are underway at the Equestrian Hotel’s Winter Wonderland celebration in Ocala, Florida, with dozens of weekly activities, shows, and events throughout the month.
Justin Garner, Senior Director of Marketing & Brand Strategy, emphasizes, “Winter Wonderland is truly a one-of-a-kind family-friendly holiday experience with something for everyone: Sip n’ Shops for mom and dad, jump roping toy soldiers and acrobats, breakfast with Santa and even a hot chocolate bar for the kids. This is the place to make lifelong memories — with over a million lights illuminating the Grand Plaza, a life-sized lighted carriage, and a 45-foot walk-through Christmas tree.”
The Equestrian Hotel, located on the grounds of The World Equestrian Center, is a 248-room hotel with seven restaurants, a luxury spa, a one-of-a-kind toy store, and high-end retail experiences. Stroll through the Christmas Tree Maze before roasting s’mores and cozying up with a cup of over-the-top hot cocoa with all your favorite toppings from the North Pole Cafe.
Rotary Lights at Riverside Park in La Crosse, Wisconsin, features the state’s biggest light show – with over 3 million lights glistening throughout the park. Pat Stephens, founder, says the event “is expected to host approximately 130,000 people. Visitors will be in awe of the nativity scene, Santa village, live reindeer, s’mores, and entertainment every night.”
Guests can drive, walk, or take a carriage ride through this free holiday tradition for an unforgettable view. The festivities kick off with a parade on the Friday after Thanksgiving and last through December 23 with free admission. Voluntary donations of cash and non-perishable food items are accepted.
Light Up Bardstown
Combine one part Whoville, one part Polar Express, and a strong splash of bourbon seasoned with Southern charm, and the result is the perfect holiday getaway to Bardstown, Kentucky, the Bourbon Capital of the World. In this small town, there is something to make everyone’s season bright, whether it’s sipping cocoa with Santa aboard the North Pole Express or caroling with a Victorian flair.
Randi Mouser, Executive Director of Bardstown Main Street Program, claims, “Light Up Bardstown is such a wonderful event that brings families together to share in this magical moment, making memories for generations to come.” Everyone in the tiny town of Bardstown comes out to decorate during the annual Hanging of the Greens, culminating in the whole town flipping the switch and making Bardstown a dazzling display of festive lights. The light-viewing route has more than 20 stops spanning entire blocks and many businesses guests can walk through.
Holiday Lights at the Beach
Home to the world’s longest pleasure beach, Virginia Beach’s annual Holiday Lights at the Beach display stretches along the city’s award-winning oceanfront Boardwalk. Visitors enjoy twinkling lights and animated displays reflected in the ocean waters, a surfing Santa, fixtures that pay tribute to the region’s Armed Forces community, and a 40-foot Christmas tree with dancing lights. Just once each year, vehicles are allowed on the merry mile that features a new 600-foot LED light tunnel to see more than 25 individual large displays added this year.
Something for Everyone
The holiday season is a magical time. One of the best ways to be present and get into the festive spirit is to visit one of the best Christmas light displays in the United States. From coast to coast, cities and towns are transformed into winter wonderlands, with millions of twinkling lights illuminating the streets and buildings. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly activity or a romantic date night, there’s something for everyone.
This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.