For holidays that are merry and bright, you need plenty of Christmas lights shining. These are some of the best places to live or visit if you absolutely love seeing incredible holiday light displays.
The Magnificent Mile: Chicago, Illinois
Chicago’s Michigan Avenue is a top shopping destination, but during the holidays, it also offers a stunning light display. To enjoy the full effect, attend the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival when the lights are first turned on to mark to start of the holiday season. A huge parade follows, and the event concludes with a breathtaking fireworks display over the Chicago River.
Even if you miss the festival, you can see the holiday lights, which number over one million on more than 200 trees, every evening through the holiday season. For an added treat, travel just a couple of miles north to Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo to see ZooLights, a free event featuring thousands of holiday lights throughout the zoo.
Pigeon Forge Winterfest: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
One of the most majestic holiday light displays in America is found in the Great Smoky Mountains. At the Pigeon Forge Winterfest, over five million lights sparkle and shine, attracting thousands of visitors each year. Many attendees take a tour on one of the festival’s heated, enclosed trolleys to get the best view of the lights along with historical information, folktales, and more fascinating facts about this area of the Smokies.
While you’re visiting Pigeon Forge, more lights can be seen at Dollywood‘s annual Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival. In addition to beautiful light displays and the popular Parade of Lights, the festival also features several family friendly attractions, like Dollywood’s “A Christmas Carol.”
An Old Time Christmas: Branson, Missouri
Known for its celebrity theaters, thrilling theme parks, and family-friendly activities, it’s no surprise this entertainment destination goes all-out for the holidays. Branson’s An Old Time Christmas festival feature more than 1,000 decorated Christmas trees (including a five-story special effects tree) and over 5 million holiday lights.
While seeing the lights is worth a trip to Branson on its own, the festival ensures that visitors have plenty of reasons to make it a memorable holiday trip. See a production of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” attend the Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade, hop aboard theme park rides, or visit home-style buffets filled with Christmas goodies.
River of Lights: Albuquerque, New Mexico
If you’d like to enjoy holiday lights in a slightly warmer climate, don’t miss the River of Lights in Albuquerque. This annual event at the city’s botanical gardens includes hundreds of thousands of holiday lights. Unlike many other festivals of this kind, brand-new sculptures and displays of animals and plants are featured each year. Around 90,000 visitors attend each year, with growing attendance every year as the festival has gained more national recognition.
If you’re around for Christmas Eve in Albuquerque, there’s another light display you won’t want to miss. On December 24 each year, the Old Historic Town area transforms with the placement of thousands of luminaries along the streets. A leisurely walk or drive through the area promises to be both peaceful and magical.
What local light displays make your holidays brighter? Share your suggestions in the comments.